Since I last blogged, it’s safe to say that life has changed somewhat.
I’ve become fully immersed in my now not-so-new job, got married, moved house and am now on the most impressive chapter of my life so far. If I was a J.R.R. Tolkien series, I’d like to at least think I was on Return of the King, the good bits, you know what I’m saying? I’m on Mount Doom. Sinister name aside, I think I’m where I’m supposed to be.
Strangely and unexpectedly, Mount Doom seemed to erupt with the giant pyroclastic cloud called Covid-19, and there’s probably no one in Middle Earth who doesn’t know what that term means. Five months ago, it was unheard of here. Four months ago, it was just labelled coronavirus. Now, it’s Covid-19 and has touched the lives of every single human being on this earth.
I remember first hearing about the ‘coronavirus’ on the news back in January/February. They said it started in a Chinese market in Wuhan where the virus supposedly jumped from a bat, to a pangolin, then to humans. There are so many theories but nothing is listed as fact just yet. All I knew was that it was infecting people left, right and centre. There are approximately 5,635 miles between Wuhan and Swansea, my home. That’s far enough away to be safe, right? My curiosity and addictive personality took over and I glued myself to Sky News. I found myself whistling the theme tune most days as it was the only music I was listening to at the time! I read every news article that mentioned it and worldometer.com became my go-to webpage. How many people were getting it? How quickly is it spreading? What’s the death rate? Are we safe?
Back in February, I found myself talking about it to anyone that would listen. People were starting to get sick of it even that early on. In true British style, most people I talked to brushed it under the carpet. Far too big a deal was being made out of this. More people die of flu every year. Shut up Stace. Sing a different song. Mostly, my concerns fell on deaf ears, which was actually strangely encouraging – perhaps I was over-reacting. I mean, was I?
I’m no scientist – I’m in Communications for goodness sake! I did have an app on my phone however – a game I had played for years and had become obsessed with, called ‘Plague Inc.’ On the face of it, the objective of the game sounds completely twisted, but boy, I loved it. You have to create your own disease, bacterial or viral etc. and infect a starting country. I’d always choose somewhere hot with an enormous population and good transport links – somewhere that was the perfect incubator for what was to eventually become a deadly, worldwide virus. The aim was to create a virus contagious enough that it would infect the whole world, but not too deadly that everyone would die before it had a chance to infect all seven billion people. I was fascinated by the science of the game and learned all about transmissions, infections, symptoms and research. After several months, I mastered it and succeeded in wiping out the human race with my homemade virus. Told you it was twisted! At this point I’m just going to put a little disclaimer – I have no secret fantasies about wiping out the human race, I just loved the science. Like when I go driving, I don’t lay banana skins on the road behind me or summon lightning to shrink the cars overtaking me like I do in Mario Kart – they’re just games.
The reason I brought this game up (which has since been removed from the Chinese app store I might add) is that it gave me an excellent understanding of what was to come. I knew from the news how infectious this was and the damage that it would cause if just one person brought it over to the UK. I immediately prepared myself for the worst. I can honestly say that I never panic-bought anything, I just started spending a little more in my weekly shop a lot sooner than the people around me. I told friends to do the same – not to panic-buy (that’s incredibly selfish) but just to make sure they had enough food for a couple of weeks in their houses instead of the usual week. That way, they could limit the amount of times they had to venture out which could put their lives at risk. Some did it but others didn’t. I remember having arguments with people and how frustrated I got when they didn’t take it as seriously as I did. In hindsight, I probably should have just accepted their differing views and let them tackle life the way they wanted to but all I could picture in my head was that game and the loud, terrifying noise it made when a new country was infected.
My work colleague and I started categorising people (it’s a comms thing!). Camp One knew that what was coming was bad and were getting prepared (this was us). Camp Two were the cynics who thought this was one big over-reaction. Camp Three were something else altogether – these were gathering two of every animal and preparing to never see loved ones ever again – think zombie apocalypse! Although I was scared and had an inkling of what was coming, I had faith in the human race and had every confidence, however bad it got, that we’d get through it. I had faith.
March arrived and so did the increased threat of the coronavirus, now named Covid-19. There were more and more local infections and worryingly more and more deaths. Suddenly, I was living the game I’d played for years. I was one of those people terrified that I would catch this disease or worst still, give it to a vulnerable loved one. When people were dying of this virus, this was no game, it mattered. They weren’t abstract – they were fathers, mothers, grandparents, siblings, cousins and children. I’m an only child and extremely close to my mother and father. They’ve seen me at my best and my worst and always have been my best friends. I couldn’t bear the thought of catching this virus and passing it on to them to deal with, not a chance in H.E. double hockey sticks. I knew then that the time would soon come that I, along with billions of others, would not be able to throw my loving arms around my parents the way I always did. I wouldn’t be able to catch up with my new in-laws… it was just us.
As time went on, the public started panic-buying left, right and centre. Toilet rolls, pasta and anti-bacterial gel become rarer than diamonds. My Sunday netball games were all cancelled and I knew I wouldn’t see my team, The Milkshakers, for a long time.
On 23 March, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced he was putting the country on lockdown. An action taken by many countries by this point, including our immediate European families, France, Italy and Spain. Shizz just got real. I was sent home to work (which I was extremely lucky to do as so many people were about to become seriously, financially affected by this decision). Yes, I’d be home on my laptop with no one to talk to around me but I was safe. I had technology which allowed me to work and communicate with my colleagues and I could set up shop in my lovely, still new house. Being in the police force, my husband was considered a key worker and had to go into work every day as he always did. Every day I’d worry that he’d come into contact with someone with the virus and bring it home. It would make me sick to my stomach. I’d also worry about what he’d face – what if people start acting irrationally and violently in all their fear? I quickly dispelled those thoughts from my head – mainly because I knew we were in this for the long haul and I couldn’t live every day worrying about his safety. A change in mindset was needed. He’s well-trained, he’s got protection, they know what they’re doing. I chanted this over and over until I believed it.
As well as my family, I couldn’t stop thinking about our Health, Care and Emergency Services choir we both run, the Hospital Notes. These are a fabulous group of people we’ve got to know and love since joining as Musical Directors back in 2018. The sang at our wedding back in October 2019, a surprise that will go down as one of the best we’ve ever had.
All of a sudden, these weren’t just our choir and friends, these were the superheroes fighting the virus on the front line. Our friends were suddenly risking their lives every day to take care of the sick. What I quickly noticed was that not one of them complained about it, which says a lot about them as individuals. The worked long hours, sometimes stepping in to other jobs as numbers were needed. Every Thursday at 8pm, we would go outside and clap for our carers – this became a clap for all key workers as so many others had to risk virus exposure to keep everything running. I remember the first Thursday night as if it was yesterday. I stood on my drive with tears pouring down my face. Not tears of sadness or fear but tears of pride for our nation. For a few minutes, we came together to thank them all and there was no more powerful feeling. It’s something I will never forget and I’m sure one day, will tell my grandchildren about.
Fast-forward to now, week 12 of lockdown. Some rules have been adjusted to ease us out but not much. The threat is still out there and I’m still not allowed to hug my parents. You know what though? They’re still around. They’re still safe. My husband is still safe. Our families are fine. Our jobs are secure. Our house is still standing and our hearts still beat. I’ve saved a packet on petrol. I’ve got to know the area I live a lot more. I have a new hobby in gardening. I’m closer to my neighbours. The air I’m breathing feels that much cleaner. The world looks that much more beautiful. I have never felt more alive than I do now. Yesterday, I heard the sound of a baby crying for the first time in three months. Generally, it’s never a sound anyone wants to hear but boy, did it feel good – I had forgotten what new life sounded like!
Since lockdown began, we’ve grown our first plants, cooked our first Sunday dinner together, raised over £700 for the National Emergencies Trust by singing in our lounge and broadcasting over Facebook, run choir rehearsals via Zoom most Monday nights and checked in with our NHS friends, walked hundreds of miles around where we live, cycled together for the first time from our new home, got to know our neighbours’ cats really well, went viral on TikTok with a stupid video we’d made in the supermarket and the hubby even started a new job in the force.
The human race really is remarkable. We’ve lived through so much in our time on this planet. This was no ice age or world war, but it was still a world-wide threat, a global pandemic as named by the World Health Organisation. Days of standing in crowds at concerts and football matches seem a thing of the past already. As a species however, our ‘bouncebackability’ is second to none. We will bounce back from this. We are financially, the worst off than we have ever been. What’s worse though is that hundreds of thousands of loved ones have been lost to Covid-19 – some of these are family members of friends of mine – it’s so close to home, for everyone, and it’s devastating. This scar will be eternal and no doubt will be talked about for centuries to come – much like how we learn about the plague in schools today. This is one of the main reasons I’m writing this blog. I want to have something to reference when I tell my grandchildren of the heroism of their grandfather and my friends.
We lived through the coronavirus era. We probably wish we didn’t but really, we should be thankful that we LIVED through the coronavirus.