Sunset

What a lovely sunset.

Last night Hawklad reminded me that this Sunday last year was when we first talked isolating. I remember it quite well. A Sunday evening. I was sorting out the school bags for Monday morning. Hawklad came into the room and asked how did we know that this new virus wasn’t already in school. How did we know the bus was virus free. Should we stay off school until it passes. I tried to reassure him but I could sense his anxiety. I emailed the school to let them know that he was anxious. When he’s anxious it can throw off his ability to sit still and concentrate.

He did get to school the next day but not by school bus. He asked to be driven in. A few days later school proved too much for him and our family lockdown started. Soon the world changed.

It’s odd looking back. Its hard to believe that we have been isolating for nearly a year now. I wouldn’t have dreamed that I could have coped with that much isolation fit that long. A world suddenly constricted to our garden and house.

But we have…….

We can do this.

Mist

I don’t know why but as soon as I saw our morning sky I immediately thought of two opposing medieval armies preparing for battle. Just waiting for the mist to lift before they crash into each other.

Our area has had so many bloody battles dating back to Viking times. Who is to say that these very fields have not witnessed that grim sight.

Today’s grim sight was restricted to this unshaven, unkempt Bloke with zero fashion sense leaning against the fence. Coffee cup in hand, exposing his partly covered hairy legs to potentially the ghosts of the past. I guess in years gone by I would have opted for the kilt look. Need to get the air onto those ‘airy knees.

Mist is an apt way of describing my current thinking this morning. After a year of lockdown (now just two weeks short of that anniversary), I still can’t see the way forward. No nearer establishing when (or if) Hawklad will feel able to return to the outside world. Is it school or permanent homeschooling. Will my job survive. When will be our next holiday or excursion. Are my dreams on hold or permanently cancelled. Will I ever get to where my heart desperately wants to go. Is that it for concerts or football for us. When will we see friends and family. Is that it for hugs. Is the world still out there. Has anyone even noticed that we aren’t part of the crowds anymore.

A pandemic year and I still can’t answer those questions.

Mind and hope mist.

That is not a great feel.

Cars

The Head Gardener seems to be enjoying his work…..

Don’t you just love cars. My car went into the garage to get its breaks fixed, the petrol tank made less corroded and then pass its annual test. The brakes and tank have been delayed since February due to parts being on back order. They can only be sourced from China for my car. Getting the parts was a tad difficult because of the pesky virus. Well a year later we tried again.

All good until the dreaded phone call. The petrol tank needs another part which is still unavailable from the Chinese supply chain. So the car has been partly fixed and partly patched up. It’s somehow fudged its way through the test. So I can drive it but not too far until the other part turns up.

Oh what fun. But as the car is doing about 0 miles a week at present. It’s not an issue.

However

What the Head Gardener is doing to the garden might be an issue.

Weather

It’s horrid weather today so let’s go back a few weeks. That’s better.

I heard someone from the Government brush off a parent talking about her daughters genuine fears and phobias about returning to school. Her daughter doesn’t think her classroom and school is safe enough. From the sound of it her daughter is in a similar place to Hawklad. Really struggling. The interviewer cut off the parent saying that she was in the minority and the vast majority would see things much more positively. The message from the Government followed instantly. People and kids who had concerns and fears needed to listen to the majority. Schools are completely safe, just get on with it. Parents have an obligation to send their children into schools when they open.

Meanwhile back here the NHS Psychologist is just at the early stages of a treatment programme to try and help with Hawklad’s deep seated anxieties. No guarantee that the programme will ever work. This week’s task is for Hawklad to try and stand in the front garden for 1 minute. The message is don’t worry if you can’t do that. Even a few seconds will be a massive leap of faith. And if he can’t do it at all then we can try another week. Pushing people with significant fears and ingrained anxieties can do so much harm to their long term mental health.

The Government and the ‘Majority’ are not trained mental health practitioners. They have absolutely no idea what some people are going through. On this issue they can stand out in the rain and whistle for all I care.

Garage

Who would have thought a year a go that a trip to the garage would so resemble a decontamination scene from the movie Outbreak. You arrive and you are greeted by someone in a full face Perspex visor and gloves. A clear bag is held out at arms length for me to drop my car keys into. They are sprayed with something before the bag is closed. I’m asked a number of health questions and told to keep my face mask on at all times. Then ushered into the building through a roped off side door. I’m then directed to a clear screen and the masked service engineer discuss my 4 wheeled bag of rust. I’m then pointed to a tray with a car key – clearly recently sprayed. After I have picked the key up another person with full head protection takes through a separate door and pointed towards the service pool car parked in a separate roped off part of the car park. I’m then given verbal instructions on how to return with the car. I have to park next to the car wash in the roped off return zone.

Wow.

Kind of makes me wish I had cleaned my car now. It is a right state. Feeling guilty about that….

And if you think that’s decontamination. It’s not a patch on what I had to go through on my return to our house. Hawklad wasn’t taking any chances.

It’s a plan

So the Government has set out the way forward. A roadmap. Starting with all schools opening on the 8th March with parents able to play golf or tennis is socially distanced way as soon as the school buses have left the street. Ending with getting the bunting out just before summer with every adult having been offered at least one shot of vaccine and virtually all restrictions lifted. That’s the plan.

This time they have introduced some gaps between the various stages to check on the impact. It’s an improvement on the first lockdown release. Not great but an improvement on the last shambles.

I’m already hearing people talk about booking summer holidays, binning the masks, going to nightclubs. The message is ‘soon it will be over, we will have won….’.

Sadly I’m not convinced yet….

  • Schools are being fully reopened against the advice of many of the Government’s own scientific advisers. Reopened with no meaningful additional safety measures put in place.
  • No plans to prioritise front line groups like teachers or police for vaccines. Apparently this will just complicate things.
  • No thought given to the Health and Care sectors that have been stretched to breaking point for a year now. They can’t keep functioning like this.
  • No plans for under 18 vaccines at all as schools are ‘perfectly safe’ and the kids can develop herd immunity without getting too sick. Yet no mention of the increasing number of under 18s suffering long covid symptoms. No mention of school outbreaks that are already happening even with 3/4 quarter empty schools. No mention of overcrowded classrooms with no ventilation. No mention of the scores of children going down with associated diseases which have been brought on as a result of a seemingly mild Covid bout. No investment in home schooling resources to take pressure off classrooms and create another avenue for education – just threats of fines for parents.
  • The plans assume that the vaccine is the way out of the crisis. No mention of virus related mutations becoming resistant to the vaccine. A real risk when you have high infection rates and delayed second shot vaccine delivery. The vaccine is good but it’s not 100% effective. Plus we just don’t know how long the protection will last for in individuals.
  • The plan is in tatters if a change in the virus makes current vaccines less effective. In that increasingly like scenario the vaccine programme has to completely reset and start again.
  • No thought on making changes to how we work, study and play to make them safer going forward. We seem to be happy going back to the status quo which so spectacularly failed only a year ago.
  • The plan assumes an acceptable level of Covid infections and casualties. This is not a zero virus plan.
  • No mention of the mental health crisis facing young and old in this country.
  • The Virus will still be here…..

So no I’m not planning for a pandemic free future just yet. I hope we are fortunate and the plan does work. But when do things ever go to Plan.

Pop Art

And still it shrinks. I’m going to miss it when it’s gone.

Back to school at home and back to the daily fun…. Started with the usual happy pep talk from a teacher. To paraphrase.

‘Remember I’ve set some work before the week off. It’s voluntary but I can see what people have done and how long you have spent on it. I am checking….I’m about to do your assessment….”

Ok….

Then I accidentally phoned the school. Who hasn’t done the ‘put the mobile in your back trouser pocket just to see how long it takes for your bum to unlock the phone and dial a number’ trick. The mobile can’t have been in the pocket for 2 minutes before suddenly I heard a strange voice coming from my nether regions. How is it that it takes me hours to figure out how to unlock the mobile, find the phone app, then repeatedly fail to type in the number. Yet my butt can unlock the phone and successfully call someone in a fraction of that time…..

So after I had apologised to school reception it was back to the usual fight with submitting pieces of work and trying to find the class work on Teams. Fights with explanations, hidden meanings and unclear instructions.

Quickly followed by the ritual Dad humiliation.

Dad apart from Andy Warhol what other Pop Art practitioners can you name.”

Erm……..

Ok can you at least name a few famous Pop Art pieces and before you say it, NO Godzilla doesn’t count.”

Erm there was that picture with about 100 Madonna’s replicated.

Dad. You mean Monroe and it was 50 times…”

That’s the one. Then there was the soup tin. Erm Andy Warhol was in Men in Black 3, does that count?

So basically no help…….

But maybe my backside could become Pop Art. Probably not. Not sure how big the canvas would have to be to get 50 replicas of my butt on. But if they could then I could literally be sat on an important piece of avant garde culture. Sat on a fortune.

Monster

Unbelievably some snowdrops have survived the paws of the mad one. Flowers are always welcome especially when they herald the arrival of Spring. They are even more welcome when they sort themselves out. We just have to enjoy and try to stop the dog trampling them into the ground.

This morning was felt like another Groundhog Day here in our family lockdown. Very like every other morning. Doing the same things. That included trying to find some socks to wear. Where do they go. Ok I will reframe that question. Where does the sock monster put them. It’s not as if we live in a big house with loads of rooms. Only a month ago I had to buy 7 more pairs to boost the numbers floating round our little world. Sill struggling to find a matching pair.

But here’s the thing. Here’s another reason to be thankful of the lockdown. No one will see what I’m wearing. It doesn’t matter. Odd socks rule….

Let’s be honest

Could I argue that this was a Golden Eagle catching fish over a mountain lined lake. I could but others might have a different view. If we don’t listen then we often get the wrong answer….

I was listening to a member of the Government being interviewed about schools on the BBC. The interviewer listened politely to the answers agreeing with everything that was said. Never asking for the evidence or questioning the view. All very friendly and very smily. Then a scientist was interviewed with a differing view. The interview was very different. The scientist was constantly interrupted, never allowed to answer fully. Often basically accused of being biased. Part of the problem. A very hostile interview.

That’s the problem we are not allowed to have a balanced open discussion anymore. It’s very much you are with us or against us. It’s not just Covid, it’s everything. I heard a leading Government MP say that any Firm that doesn’t support Brexit fully would be penalised.

So where are we with schools. They largely remain shut until the 8th March. Next week our so called Leader will tell us the plan. There seems to be a media blitz telling parents that schools are perfectly safe. Children have to be in schools as no other options exist. Nothing to worry about. The only change needed is to get pupils to wear a mask in a few more shared areas but definitely not in classrooms. Parents will be issued with Covid test kits so they can test their family regularly. The evidence from Europe and here shows that schools don’t spread the pandemic at all. Children are getting infected only in households. Infection rates are falling. More people have been vaccinated. Doubting parents will be subjected to a Advertisement campaign to reassure them. Those still doubting will be warned about fines and penalties to if they fail to send their children back.

That’s one view….

There are other views.

  • Respect individual children views. Some will be keen to return others will not feel safe. It’s a personal judgement about risk.
  • People are being vaccinated but most only with one of the two required shots. This runs the risk of reduced effectiveness and virus resistant mutations.
  • The vaccine varies on how much protection it provides to individuals, how long it is before the protection starts to tail off and how effective it is at stopping people spreading the virus.
  • There are NO plans to vaccinate children. The Government believes they are a key way to develop herd immunity. A strategy which has little expert support.
  • Comparing UK schools with many of the European ones misses a key point. UK classrooms are much more overcrowded with less opportunities for social distancing than European ones.
  • Infection rates are falling but still are higher than under the first wave. The death rate is still daily well over 500 a day. So falling YES but no where near under control.
  • The number of virus mutations being detected are rising rapidly.
  • The virus is now spreading fastest amongst the young and under 18 age groups.
  • Even with a lockdown and with schools only accepting a small number of pupils (essential worker children), Public Health England are still reporting that about 100 schools a week are still encountering pandemic outbreaks.
  • Our Leader only a few weeks ago called schools completely safe and told parents to send their children into school. 8 hours later he was saying schools were Vectors for Transmission and had to be closed. Make your mind up….
  • Children are getting serious long term Covid. They are being hospitalised.
  • Children are being admitted to hospital with associated serious diseases which are linked to an initial mild Covid infection.
  • The quick self administered tests which are going to be used are not particularly accurate or reliable. Only really effective as a guide not a determinate.
  • Many scientists and experts are arguing for caution on school reopenings. For the foreseeable future they are arguing for investment in homeschooling to allow for more classroom space. This would also allow time for schools to implement change to permanently move away from overcrowded learning environments.

Different views but we are only supposed to hear one. Just maybe the best way going forward is to be open with what we know and what we don’t know. Let individual schools work with the local health services, parents and pupils. Develop local solutions that work the local circumstances. Give them the support to make long term changes. Provide an enhanced national home schooling resource pool. Then trust parents and children to make the right call for them. Surely that’s a better route out of this mess.

Shrinkage

The snow has gone. The temporary lake is starting to shrink. Signs that Spring is on its way.

Another work call confirming that the work plans involving me are as empty as the tyres on my bike which hasn’t been used since 2019. Thats completely airless. Not going to loose any sleep over that. No point. Maybe next year. A quick scan of the new job situation indicates a job market that is as fiat as my last loaf of bread which actually reduced in size when it should have risen. It really is just a case of battening down the hatches until things pick up again.

In our case that is not a band thing.

Hawklads fears are still there. If anything a bit worse. Absolutely zero chance of him being able to cope in the outside world any time soon. Getting through the front door is too much at present for him. Even me venturing out into the front garden really spooked him. So that’s stopped. The Front Door has not been unlocked in days. Once a day I sneak out the back gate and feed the birds, check on the rust bucket car, put the rubbish into the bin and pick up any deliveries that are sat on the front step.

Our world has shrunk further. The house and the back garden now is all that’s left. So no work allows me the time to focus on Hawklad. Try to give him the support he needs. Try to give him a reasonable quality of life and as much fun as can be found.

Hopefully Spring will arrive and the garden will become more enticing. It will be nice to sit outside with a coffee without 25 layers on. But I will miss our lake…. miss the world.