Living with the pandemic

2020-03-18 10.29.07It’s been a funny old week. Last weekend was just about normal and now through the week we’ve had daily briefings from Boris Johnson as he imposes ever tighter controls on public activity so that we as a country can get on top of the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

Last Saturday was a regulation Saturday with breakfast at Don Pasquale in Cambridge and then, as a treat, lunch at one of its sister restaurants: the Plough in Coton. I guess then the writing was on the wall as the owner told us of all the cancellations he’d had. I speculated that for the first time I could go out for lunch on Mother’s Day without needing to book. I was to be proven wrong.

Then on Sunday I went to the gym as is my habit but I consciously washed my hands on entry and departure and studiously cleaned all the equipment I’d used. I noted one prolific sweater doing a more superficial clean of his equipment than I’d have liked. Just yesterday I’ve had an email from the owners of the gym telling me that they would be remaining open but that their classes would be limited in size so that participants could spread out. That email was to be overtaken by events within hours.

It was on Monday that we were told to start ‘social distancing’ and steadily throughout the week meetings have been cancelled or replaced by virtual ones and companies have been encouraging their employees to work from home when that is possible.

I’ve experienced a full range of virtual meetings using Skype, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Hangouts. None of these has been perfect and much depends on the discipline of the participants and the quality of the hardware being used but Zoom seems to have been the best. However they all worked surprisingly effectively and to some extent begat less conflict and more constructive behaviour. I was chairing one meeting which was quite a challenge.

And then a meeting yesterday (Friday) was rearranged to be a plain old-fashioned conference call because the organisation involved had run out of bandwidth. It was the least satisfactory with the absence of video and the inconvenience of not being able to use the speakers and microphone which I would do with the others.

I’ve done my best to go along with the spirit of the guidance. I have stopped going into the office of the company which I am supporting through a difficult period and I no longer walk into Histon each morning to buy my paper and fresh bread for breakfast. I now get the paper delivered so that at least preserves that part of my daily ritual.

Unsurprisingly my Cardio 4 class on Wednesday morning was cancelled. I guess that was inevitable because we’d all be classed as vulnerable by definition and most of us are over 70 which the government uses as its cutoff for ‘elderly’. The vulnerable and elderly are supposed to take extra care. I substituted this class with my first run outside of the year and ran a perfectly respectable, for me these days, 3.2 km in 22 minutes. I reckon I’ll get to 5 km without difficulty but it won’t be as fast as the 27 minutes which I recorded at the Wetherby ParkRun in 2018.

Increasing restrictions have been announced during the week along with the support which has been announced yesterday for companies and people affected by them. We have started with people been encouraged not to socially associate and then progressively we’ve had sports bodies cancelling events, schools partly shutdown and then yesterday it’s been announced that all pubs, bars and restaurants and other non-essential social amenities must close at midnight tonight. That means no more breakfast at Don Pasquale and no more visits to the gym.

Who knows how long this will go on. I reckon we’ll have some idea as to whether or not the current constraints are enough in a couple of weeks but that it’ll be 6 weeks before we can be confident and see trends heading in the right direction. There seems to be an implicit assumption that there will be a partial return to normality in 3 months, that’s mid June, but that the threat of a flare up will mean that this will have to be done carefully. Who knows.

For me the constraints on my life are fairly modest and for that I must be grateful. There’s plenty of food about and our larder is well stocked without any resort to panic buying. Like many I suspect I’m so far enjoying staying at home and not being involved in meetings which seem to go on for ever. However I recognise that life is going to be tough for many people and the uncertainty around the end-game is what’s most unsettling. But: life goes on.

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