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Life in a time of covid-19 - part 12: dreaming

You know that lazy afternoon feeling - sitting on a hillside/beach/boat/at a table on the pavement outside a cafe/bar - mug/glass of something hot/chilled in your hand - clouds slowly sliding across a blue sky - a gentle zephyr of a breeze dancing through your hair - and nothing to do but sit and stare? That feeling when your thoughts succumb to day-dreams and your eyes close and real dreams start to unroll inside your head.  Has anyone else noticed that social isolation has a similar effect - all-be-it one laden with anxiety and punctuated - like big fat rain drops tumbling out of the sky - with frustration? The lazy afternoon bliss of holiday freedom replaced by the lazy afternoon en-trappment of a global pandemic, but both tipping us into our dreams. So, this becomes another day for dreaming. Like yesterday. And the day before. And then for dreaming about dreaming. And perhaps for asking, 'What is a dream?'
Dream - definition: noun - a fantasy of the imagination occurring …

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 11: earth day and apples

I have posted an i-phone photograph of the sunrise, on Instagram, every morning, for the past 22 days. And I am exhausted. But not so exhausted that I am tempted to stop. Not yet. Small things give purpose to the day. Particularly, when day after day we are in lockdown and the world looks more different than we could ever have imagined. There is something anchoring in seeing the sunrise. Maybe, it harks back to a deeply-rooted instinct that looks to the sun for reassurance. Maybe, it is my way of finding a constant - if the sun rises then I can too. I can begin my day.


The coronavirus has altered the world we live in, but the earth hasn't changed. Or has it?

Arguably, the earth has changed -
Across the industrialised world, industry has shut down and commuting to work has all but ceased. As a result, pollution levels have collapsed. The WHO estimates that the smog caused by air pollution kills over 1.5 million people a year in India. Now the air is so clear that the Himalayas can …

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 10: being first

There's a first time for everything. Some firsts are met with deserved celebration. Some with derision. Some with despair. Some with a 'Huh,' and a shrug and a 'well, there you go - it was bound to happen.' That my laptop didn't try to correct covid-19 in the title above, or just now for that matter, is one of those shrugging, almost sighing but actually can't be bothered to expend the energy that a sigh would require firsts. It was inevitable. Say something or type something enough times and it becomes the norm. Which is an intriguing thought - maybe we could invent a word and see how long it takes to get picked up by others. But hang on a minute this happens already. Lexicographers such as those working for the OED make their living out of tracking the evolution of language - the appearance of new words and the loss of old ones. As the coronavirus pandemic marched across a stricken world, covid-related words splurged all over our inboxes; social media; n…

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 9: storytelling

When you're a parent you do anything, absolutely anything, to help and nurture and protect your children. This is seldom easy. Currently, it's even harder and we are left dreaming of the seldom easy days.

I just read the lyrics to Paul Simon's song, Bridge Over Troubled Water and yes - that; all those words. That is exactly who I am. Those words, written 1969, encapsulate what I aspire to be, today, as a parent with every atom of my being. This is me - I will dry your tears; I will comfort you; I am there when you need a friend.

I don't want to breach copyright law so I thought it best not to print the whole song. It's easy to find on the internet though - search for it, read it, and see if you weep like I did. These days tears seem to be closer - lingering always nearby - ready to run at the smallest trigger. I observe a collective erosion of resilience in those around me at work, online and at home and in response, a steady growth of mindfulness, yoga and mental…

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 8: constants

Constants - those rooting things that never change. Those things that we depend upon. That ground us firmly in who and where we are. The things that if removed would be replaced by chaos.

When I was thinking about what to write,  I clumsily started to input c-o-n- into my phone and up popped the suggestion 'consonants.'

Consonant - definition: any speech sound that is produced by stopping the air flowing freely through your mouth - 'f', 't', 'z', 'm' ... etc, and also any written letter that is not a vowel.

By substituting the t in constant with the on in consonant my phone unwittingly suggested something that at first glance might appear to be constant but is not. Language evolves and changes - even its letters; its building bricks. Not all of the vowels and consonants we take for granted today are the same as the ones known, for example, by Shakespeare. If we go further back in the history of the English language, to Chaucer, they are differ…

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 7: self help

Self and help, as in the title above ... we all know what self is. It's me. It's who you are to you. And help? We understand that too. But self help. Do we really know what that is? Or more importantly, do we know how to practise self help? Or where to find it? Or if we find it, what to do with it? And why we should bother?

Let's start at the beginning; with a definition -

Self help is the assistance one gives to oneself. This assistance is achieved through the solving of personal problems ... what does that mean? Basically one turns into a hunter-gatherer, tracking and trapping helpful resources which are then used to benefit oneself. Hmmm ... there are too many ones and oneselves here ... essentially you search for things that will help and then do whatever those things are.

Self help - done properly - results in improved resilience and wellbeing. Thus, self help is good. It sounds easy-ish. But the -ish becomes more heavily weighted when the world is being throttled by a…

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 6: the unseeing eye

Crime drama usually has that pivotal scene where a witness is asked to recount what they saw. For the reader or television viewer this is an expected and hotly anticipated part of the story - the part where the detective will hopefully discover some small nugget upon which the investigation will turn. The unfolding story hinges entirely upon an accurate recall of what was seen. Skilled storytellers, who understand human psychology, will show how tortuous this recall can be. Ask yourself what colour of shirt and tie, or dress, the newsreader on television last night was wearing - you watched him or her speaking, between newsreels, for the half an hour or so of the programme. How accurately do you recall - not what he or she said - but exactly how they looked? When the police ask, 'What was the suspect wearing?' they don't expect their witnesses to give accurate answers 100% of the time. Witness testimony is notoriously unreliable; in cases that were overturned after DNA ev…

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 5: switching off

How to switch off.

Switching off is hard at the best of times, but as this is the furthest from the best of times that any of us has ever experienced, right now switching off is well nigh impossible. Or is it just me? Despite Life in a time of covid-19 - parts 1 to 4 and my advice to find our happy place; practise the ten daily gratitudes; and to be kind to ourselves, I find that I am not very good at practising what I preach. My mind jumps from one thought to another and my actions start and stop in a desperate attempt to keep up with my thoughts.

Maybe meditation ... or regular exercise ... or a good book ... or gardening ... or a walk with the dogs ... or baking ... or sorting through the freezers ... I'm doing it again: sprinting towards a finish line along a track filled with distracting potholes and all the time having to find different ways of not falling in. Or if these ways are unsuccessful, of actually falling in - I walk into a room and find I don't know why I'…

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 4: kindness

Do you remember that tight feeling in your hand at the end of exams - the clawed, feels-like-I-dipped-them-in-cement-three-hours-ago stiffness of fingers clamped round a pen; the numb divots in finger pads, and the heavy, whole arm and shoulder ache? I remembered it yesterday. First we had loo-roll shortages, swiftly followed by a complete disappearance of pasta and paracetamol and dog food and nappies, now there are shortages of medicines. But before you panic ... yes, there's a shortage of some things, but most common medicines are available in many different brands or there are 'similar enough' medications to make logical swaps. Though by the end of yesterday, logic was beginning to give way to desperation as our pharmacists started calling patients to check if they had really run out or could wait a couple of weeks. We live in very strange times. These shortages are a small and probably temporary part of that strangeness and will be lost as the bigger picture comes in…

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 3: fear and gratitude

First - no I didn't: have to don PPE at work yesterday (... see the Life in a time of covid-19 - part 2 blog if you're confused). This was a huge relief. But I have vastly more than huge respect for all those who did. As GPs ... I've never admitted to being one here before but hey ho times change ... we are usually on the frontline but right now the frontline has washed into the A&E departments and we are left with phone calls; lots of them. We're doing what is called telephone triage which basically involves speaking to many worried well; issuing too many prescriptions for antibiotics to sore throats and earaches; and trying to diagnose rashes from descriptions of how red or sticky they are. Video calls are coming but what looked like plain sailing last week has veered off into choppy waters with messages not sending properly or sending twice or the process freezing on screen almost like its afraid of something; maybe its moment of being the rabbit in the headlig…

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 2: happy place

The words 'happy place' probably turn the title of this blog into an oxymoron, coming after the eight words and numbers that precede them. I don't think many of us are feeling particularly happy at the moment. Me - I'm anxious; nervous; and sitting on the edge of my chair (which is possibly more to do with the general decrepitude of the chair and its broken undercarriage than any agitation I'm feeling).

Why ... am I anxious - not why do I persist with a broken chair?

Well - partly the obvious, the p word ... pandemic; but also two other words beginning with p. Might I have to put on PPE (personal protective equipment) at work tomorrow? Personal and protective.

Personal - to me; to keep me safe.
Protective - is it?

I'll park that particular worry for now and deal with it tomorrow. There's nothing I can do about it today.
You see, this is why I need to focus on my happy place. Why I need to escape.
If I step back for a moment from the anxious little beetles …

Life in a time of Covid-19 - part 1: a rant against idiots

It feels like we are stuck in the opening credits of a disaster movie. But this is a cinema we cannot leave. And there are too many directors trying to tell us - the extras - what to do. So we stop listening and follow each other. And as the cameras roll, the dystopian world of the film descends into chaos and panic. The problem is this film is real.

So what are our options?

Well, it appears that a lot of people have selected option 1. The panic option. The option driven by an escalating drip drip of confused and contradicting information. The rabbit hole we hurtle down in a frenzy of wide-eyed suffocating fear as we search and search and search for information on the internet; read terrifying tweets and skip the too doom-laden headlines that we see, but are too scared to open.

Some have selected option 2. The it-won't-happen-to-me option. The we-suddenly-find-ourselves-on-a-paid-and-mortgage-free-holiday option. The scientists-are-jargon-spouting-nerds option. The irresponsible,…