14 April, Exeter, UK

By Anonymous

Today was the first of the two official “rest days” the University gave us to extend the Easter long weekend. I had gone into isolation on Saturday 14th March with what may or may not have been mild symptoms of COVID-19 and from Tuesday, 16th March the campus closed down. And, it had been non-stop since then: daily morning meetings of the senior team, getting glimpses of partners, children, kitchens and lots of cats and, after that, back-to-back meetings on Microsoft Teams all day long. I suspect quite a few of us will come out of this with eye strain, backaches and UTIs. If that’s all we end up with, that will make us the lucky ones. Two colleagues have already lost family members, both live miles away and I daren’t ask about funeral arrangements.

But today is Tuesday and I don’t have to log in. Clearly the break is helping, I sleep in for the first time in ages and this morning at least I am not worrying about anything work related. My routine on waking is still the same though. First check for any updates on pandemic, next do my daily entry for the King’s College London COVID-19 app (no symptoms today) and then indulge in my new habit of having a daily dose of Vitamin C, multivitamin, cod liver oil and antihistamine tablets. Except today I have to open a new bottle of Vitamin C, there are only 30 tablets in each.

Twitter plagues me. I can’t stop the cycle of checking it, getting angry and putting it away only to check it again 5 minutes later. Today I am angry at Trump’s press conference yesterday, angry at some ITV presenter who was apparently unwilling to discount the role of 5G on this pandemic and I feel so so angry that we don’t actually know how many people have died of COVID-19 in the UK. I know this is also a global issue and there are, of course, time lags depending on when deaths at home are registered. But the daily Government press conference only include deaths in hospital where that person was tested and if people go to hospital with obvious COVID-19 symptoms, they are not always tested. Today, the Office of National Statistics released all registered deaths up to and including 3rd April. That would be eleven days ago. I pore over it, trying to make sense of it and to reconcile it with the numbers being bandied about yesterday. It turns out it doesn’t include the data for Scotland or Northern Ireland. I make a decision then not to watch today’s Government press conference.  Journalists don’t get a chance to challenge any of the responses. A friend in Rio texts me. Sao Paulo is in a dreadful state, he says. Rio seems better according to the data but that just might be because of the lack of testing. He works in finance and is disgusted by the people shamelessly profiteering.

I also spend much of the day thinking about a family Zoom call we had yesterday. My two sisters and I caught up with a cousin, my dad’s sister’s daughter, in Chicago. I’ve not seen her in person in 36 years but these last few weekends we have had weekly Zoom family reunions for my mother’s side of the family and my father’s side and from that came this. We talked about our lives since we last met, our work and our families and how she lived with us for a while in New Delhi. Mainly we talked about our parents and what we know about our shared grandfather, his quite tragic life and its impact on his children. She filled in the gaps in knowledge we have and we filled some of hers; I am still amazed at how easy and comfortable it felt. We talk about planning a family reunion. Her mother, who lives in Australia, turns eighty next year and our uncles in Australia also seem strangely frail. We don’t want to meet for a special celebration, we want to come together just because. Our feelings of urgency are unsaid and don’t need explanation.

I clean the kitchen. Now that I am constantly at home, it feels as though I am always washing mugs and teaspoons. I suddenly realise the time and rush to have a shower. I have a date this afternoon! I have only been seeing him since November and I have now not been in the same room as him for 34 days. He dropped off paracetamol and ice cream in that first week when I was unwell and I waved from the doorstep; a week later I dropped off treats and a game, he waved from a window. He doesn’t like the telephone and will just about tolerate a video call. He definitely does not want to talk about being put on furlough in a zero hour contract job. Welcome to a COVID-19 romance: we chat and use identical Connect 4 boards to play contentedly for two and half hours. Every time he concentrates on his next move he does something strange with his hand and tilts his phone upwards at a weird angle. All I can see is his forehead, his eyebrows and his hair. He has cut his hair himself, it makes him look quite boyish and it’s surprisingly pretty good.

Today was not productive but, for the most part, it was strangely restful.