Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Coronavirus – Bored and Locked Down in London

I work in the public services and have been working from home since last Tuesday, which I can do, but have not done for any kind of extended length of time, before. I have been designated as a key worker, category business critical. I am needed to make sure local government gets its funding, which is crucial at this time, as local authorities are to shoulder much of the response to the pandemic. I have been told I will be working from home for 12 weeks, at least.

I live in north London, and the local Tesco has very little in it, a tiny amount of food with no rice or pasta, no toilet rolls or kitchen paper, but if I’m lucky I might get some fresh chicken, or pork, and fruit and vegetables, but precious little else. I have to shop around for what we need, in the small local shops, and have by and large managed to get the items that I can’t get from Tesco. 

I only venture out once a day to get provisions, so I have been following the governments instructions, announced Monday night, already. I'm trying to get hold of an effective face mask, and think we have two coming, but don’t know when.

I live with my partner and we went for a walk on Saturday in a local large park, and it was packed with people. It was difficult to social distance because there were so many other people there, and the grass was muddy, so you really had to stick to the paths. Most people attempted to social distance, but I as I say, it wasn’t easy. It looks as though a total lock-down may be in force soon, but they will need to get the on line shopping sites up and running, we need to eat.

Reports from friends around the country suggests that London and other urban areas have been worst hit in terms of food/provisions shortages and London has the quickest rising cases of people contracting the virus. The worst may be a few weeks away, as the rate of infection in the UK is rising faster than other countries, like Italy, which has been the most badly hit by the pandemic.

Mutual help groups have formed in my area, and have done in some other areas of London that I have heard from. This is a good sign as we will need to help each other if we are get through this in any kind good shape. 

The government at last seems to be getting its act together after delaying measures for too long, probably weeks, and they have announced some sensible things now, so belated credit where it is due. More needs to be done though, especially for those workers not on PAYE and for those on Statutory Sick Pay, benefits and the homeless.

There is a bit of a dystopian feel about things. My local London Underground station is closed and shuttered up. The local pub, which stayed open until Friday, now has all the windows and doors boarded up, there are only the grocery shops open. People seem to be as good humoured as the situation allows, but there is a strange feeling in the air.

The worse thing for those of us feeling fine, is that there is just nothing do after work, except watch TV, listen to the radio or music, and look at things on the web. My partner who is a ferocious reader of novels is beginning to run out of books (even e-books) to read, and this is after only one week. Total boredom is likely quite shortly, but what can you do?

There has never been a time quite like this, but it is similar to the restrictions during World War II, but even then the pubs and entertainments stayed mostly open in Britain. These are unprecedented times that we live in.

I’ll leave you with Buzzcocks ‘Boredom’ from 1976 – it rather sums up my mood at the moment, other than being scared.

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