It was another one of those Yorkshire days. Cold, wet, windy, brooding.
That weather combined with a pandemic, homeschooling and our enforced lockdown is a heady mix. A mix which gets me pondering life. Probably too much pondering some days.
I was sat looking out through the window at that dark sky. Sat alone while Hawklad did his school work in the bedroom. I was suddenly taken back to before 2016. The old small conservatory had finally fallen to bits. We had found the money for a replacement one. I think we planned for years of sitting in there, spending time together. But here’s the thing. We never really did. Life always got in the way. We always seemed to be too busy. If only we had found a way of slowing life down. Creating time at home. Seemingly having too much time on our hands. No excuses to not sit together in that new conservatory. At the time it kind of never really mattered. We had so many years ahead of us to do that.
Well that plan didn’t go well.
Here’s the irony that 2020 presents. Suddenly time has slowed down. Often a feeling of too much time on our hands. A lockdown enforcing time together. No outside distractions this time. A perfect time to sit with my partner and look at that dark sky. Thinking how lucky we are to have that time together. The irony is not lost on me.
Another day and another email from school. Another pupil has tested positive. I’ve lost count of the pupils isolating now. One year has about 80 isolating out of 130. Another year has about 60 isolating. Countless teachers can be added to the list. Sadly that’s what happens when a cramped and old fashioned school tries to operate at full capacity during a pandemic.
Unfortunately it’s a story being repeated across the England. The latest figures show that last week 400000 pupils were have to isolate. 50000 pupils had either tested positive or were suspected as having the virus. It’s almost as if the Government is trying to get as many of our children infected as possible.
Surely it’s time to bring in better controls within our schools. For a start opening up online education options to all pupils has to be done as a matter of urgency. That would instantly create space in classrooms. Cramped and overcrowded classrooms have to be consigned to the bin.
So many pupils from our son’s year group are isolating. I’m also hearing that other pupils are being asked to isolate in other year groups as well. Many teachers are off. It’s all a bit of a mess really. Many schools are like this in the UK. They don’t feel like environments conducive to learning at present.
These are stressful times for many. I’m not sure the Government understands this. Or chooses to ignore this. Bland statements that ‘schools are the best place for children’ are recited everyday. It might be in terms of the Economy but….
Some children need to be in school. Some need to be at home. They definitely need to have the chance to have a childhood. A good childhood. It’s often too easily forgotten how much stress and anxiety they are under. Unable to see friends. Unable to do some of the stuff they love. Living in a stress filled world with so much confusion. Told to wear masks in buses and shops, yet told not wear them in classrooms. Frequent enforced teacher switches. Many sadly forced to isolate or deal with the actual virus. Living in a small world with few holidays and adventures. Watching never ending grim news reports. How much stress are many of our children under. We have to do something about this. To me that’s more important than the short term needs of the economy.
Our son is racked with anxiety. Too much to allow him to venture through the front gate. A significant part of his precious childhood is being spent in isolation. That’s hard to take as a parent. All I can do is to keep him feeling safe, try to shutout the bad stuff from the world and to try to find ways to help him still enjoy his childhood. He’s had a tough one already. Loss of his mum, coming to terms with Aspergers and now a Pandemic. That’s why I’ve got to work all the more harder. There’s still a childhood to be enjoyed.
So today our so called Government announced that our local city is to be moved up the pandemic risk table. It’s now a tier 2 area risk. That’s officially HIGH. As a result additional rules will apply to those living in the city. One rule is that I can’t now visit my sister at her house in York. But here’s the thing.
Under the rules I could go to work with anyone from York – no issues there. But after work finishes I would then not be allowed to go for a coffee with those same co-workers. Suddenly mixing with them becomes too risky. Well that will fool the pesky virus…..
Bizarrely I have just noticed that my next nearest sister who lives in another city 100 miles away has also been classed as living in a high risk area. So I can’t visit her as well. Well this is going well…..
I was checking my diary. It’s now officially 7 months since our own little family lockdown started. Seven months, that’s a long time. Yes there have been some bleak and lonely periods. But we are still here. Still grinding onwards. That gives me hope.
With our son’s anxieties, with a pandemic showing no signs of ebbing, with increasingly random government – we just have no idea how long this family isolation will go on for. Possibly for many months to come.
Yet we have already survived 7 months. We have made some new memories. Still had fun times. Technology allowed friendships to flourish
We have more than just survived 7 months, did manage to live a bit as well. We can certainly cope with a few more months of this.
It’s wet. It’s cold. It’s dark. It feels like winter. At least the leaves are still in autumn mode.
It’s going to be a challenging few months.
School has now contacted all parents following the recent in school positive covid cases. Our sons year group have been instructed to return to school. However a further 57 pupils are being asked to self isolate for 14 days. It’s not just our school. Another 5 local schools have at least one year group isolating, with another school reporting its first cases today.
This is on the same day that the government once again stressed the civic responsibility to attend school. Schools are perfectly safe and the risk of infection is extremely low.
Are we supposed to believe you Boris?
I remember you telling university students to go back to college as it was their civic duty, it was perfectly safe and students would risk losing places if they refused. Just a few weeks later and in one local city 1600 of the 2200 new infections are from university students. Nationally over 10000 students have now gone down with the virus In another city a number of the university students have required intensive care treatment due to the virus. Many other students are now on lockdown, confined to their rooms.
Apparently this is all the fault of the students…..
Another email from school. Another confirmed case. This time sadly a pupil in our son’s year group. The pupil had been in a class with a member of staff who had previously tested positive this week .
The headteacher had sought advice from the authorities but was told that they were unable to help until after 9am on Monday. As its currently impossible to work out which other students may have had close contact with the new positive case it has been decided to go against government advice and keep the whole year group off school until further notice. From Monday all pupils in the year (including Hawklad) will switch to online classes.
This is at the same time as research is now indicating that the fastest rising age group for new infections in the UK is the 10-19 group. This is also at the time that the government is sticking to its line that schools are perfectly safe in the UK and contact tracers have been told not to trace school based infections.
It really is time for the government to act. Yes schools do need to reopen but with appropriate safeguards and changes. The UK has some of the largest class sizes in Europe. Add that to cramped classrooms and it’s asking for trouble. We should have done two things before the schools reopened. Seek to secure additional classroom space by allowing schools to utilise additional accommodation options in the local area. Exactly the same way as the country quickly put in place the recent Nightingale Hospitals. The second key change should have been to give parents a viable online schooling option – if families are able and willing, let them be schooled at home. Together both approaches would have created much needed space in our classrooms. Space means enhanced social distancing, which means a reduced risk of virus spread.
Sometimes you just have to sit back and see what the wind brings.
Drying clothes outside is proving a bit of a nightmare. Every few minutes the wind brings in another shower. Thankfully the bench cover is just about big enough to quickly chuck over the clothes horse. Given the dirty state of the cover rather defeats the purpose of washing. But needs must.
Sometimes you just have to sit back and see what the wind brings.
Further lockdown measures are set to be announced for northern areas next week. For the last month our part of the north has been an island. Surrounded by areas having significant pandemic outbreaks. Here it’s been reasonably calm. That means that things like shopping and daily life have continued without too much disruption. But is that about to change. Has our area succumbed.
Sons school has had confirmed cases. The local cafe had had to close due to a local outbreak. All public events are being cancelled (that includes Christmas events). Now the local city is reporting a huge growth in cases. 79% rise in 7 days, our rural area has gone up by 60%. Higher than some of the areas already under lockdown. Police are starting to enforce lockdown laws.
It’s the confusion that makes it so much harder for people. One week the PM tells people to grow a backbone and get out. Then suddenly the PM tells us it’s our fault fir getting out. Some places (often government supporting areas) have high infection rates but are excluded from lockdown while other areas with lower rates are forced into lockdown.
Feels like we as an area are about to be forced into a tough, restrictive extended period. All we can do is continue with our own family approach. Try to shield son from as much of the negative, doom loaded news. It’s the last thing he needs to hear. Much better for his (and my well-being) to sit in the back garden and see what the weather brings in.
Over the last few days nature has been providing its very own washing service.
Many people are doing more and more washing over the last six months. Especially hand washing. That’s certainly the case here in our little corner of the world. Since about the age of 6 son has had anxieties relating to touching unclean objects. This would result in fairly frequent hand washing exercises. Thankfully only a few seconds of soap and water was sufficient to calm the fears.
That all changed in 2016 when his mum died at a relatively young age. Suddenly the world was filled with uncertainty and unseen dangers. His hand washing rapidly spiralled out of control. It became more frequent and went on for up to a minute at a time. Thankfully he started working with a wonderful nurse counsellor who over a couple of years brought his hand washing back under control. He was taught to wash like a nurse and get it done in under 20 seconds.
Then a pandemic hit. All the reassurances, all the hard earned confidence was blown out of the water. His fears re-emerged worse than ever. Life is now an ‘avoid touching anything and hand washing’ fest. He will wash his hands several times an hour. When he starts washing, he will wash for anywhere up to 5 minutes. All without trying to touch the tap and only using elbows (usually my elbow).
Any delivery or letter has to be taken into the garage for several days of quarantine before it is opened. After I have touched the item then I need to change my clothes completely and be seen to wash my hands. If I venture out then almost full decontamination procedures have to be followed.
Welcome to 2020.
This time it feels different. More engrained. The health professionals agree. All we can do is try to manage the situation until he sees that the pandemic is under control. A vaccine works and he has had it. But even then there are no guarantees. His fears and anxieties may never truly fade. Maybe they will but only until the next killer bug emerges. The future is uncertain. It is uncertain for many.
I was asked about if our son was any closer returning to school. This is his fourth week at home since the school returned full time. Well two things from today really paint the picture.
First an email from school advising that the school had now had its second confirmed case. This time a member of staff. Apparently the confirmed cases so far are not considered to be linked. A small number of individuals have been asked to isolate for 14 days and the school remains fully open.
The second was a conversation with our son. His words need no more elaboration.
“Dad Igo into meltdown if the bedroom window is open. In fact I can’t even touch the window handle to close it. I just can’t go back. Can’t go back for some time to come.”
And there is our answer in a nutshell. At present government ministers are telling parents to ensure there kids go to school as it’s perfectly safe and is in fact our civic duty. To not do now apparently makes you a bad parent, someone who is not acting responsibly. Must get those words on a T-shirt.
I will continue to act irresponsibly and avoid doing my civic duty. Our son will return to school when he is ready to do so, when it is safe and when he is comfortable doing that. Until then – Viva La Revolution…..