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May 27th 2020
COVID. How was it for you?
Coronavirus has been the dominant fact of life for months now, and it feels like time for some kind of state-of-the-nation about how I've been doing during lockdown. We seem to have moved on from starting every conversation with "how are you coping?", but in case anyone asks me again, I'll be able to point them to this blog post for more detail than they could ever possibly want.
Let's get the emotional stuff out of the way up top. Coronavirus, I have started to theorise, merely exacerbates the worst feelings we already had in life. Anxious about health matters? You'll hear a ventilator behind every cough. Fearful of loneliness? Welcome to not being able to see anyone, ever. Angry about the government? Let's see 'em try to deal with the biggest crisis since World War II. Feeling directionless or helpless? How about a few months where any plans you might have had get put on hold, and there ain't nothing you can do about it. All of which is to say, if you want to know how I'm feeling, it's how I'm always feeling - but dialled up to eleven.
I'm not someone who worries about health matters, in particular. Indeed, this aspect of my personality is gonna be what kills me, because (in common with many, though not all, men) I tend to regard going to the doctor as rather making a fuss, and my first, second and third reactions to any and all symptoms is to wait a while and hope they go away. On the plus side, I'm not anxious about getting coronavirus; on the down side, I hurt my knee months ago and have done nothing about it. Physio? Now that's a proper fuss.
But let's not shy away from the bad affects of COVID. I am more fortunate than most in that: (i) neither I nor my loved ones have suffered directly; (ii) I can work from home without a significant loss of productivity; (iii) I live in nice house with a garden, and fields a few minutes' walk away. But COVID has been a right kick in the teeth nonetheless. Living alone, I haven't seen anyone I know, in person, for months. My dream to direct a play that I've written has had to go on hold for up to a year (it was due to be performed last week). More trivially, Wolves' first season in Europe since 1980 might be annulled, and I haven't felt able to get anyone to fix my fence (although, in fairness, my attitude to fences is much like my attitude to my health - it's quite possible I'd have waited for it to get better by itself in any case). All in all, though, I have less to complain about than most.

So let's talk the good stuff. The silver linings of the dark, dark cloud. Firstly, Zoom has been wonderful: we've been Zooming church for ages now (great to see such a take-up by the congregation) and I quickly subscribed to the pro version - thanks to Mills for pointing this out - using it for quizzes, board games, family Taskmaster, church home group, church finance & trustee meetings, church men's group, a murder mystery party, meeting up with uni friends, birthday greetings, some improv (although not as much as I'd like), and more. Two of the highlights of this have been weekly catch-ups with uni friends, and the weekly Quarantine Quizzes. Let's zoom in (ho ho) on those briefly.
Ant, Rob and Rich are three of my best friends, whom I met on that first day at Warwick University back in 2004, and generally I've seen them maybe two or three times a year over the last few years; since lockdown began, we've been catching up every Sunday, usually to play a bit of Codenames (check out horsepaste.com; thanks Zijian for that tip) and generally just to say hi. In a weird way, COVID has meant I'm seeing a lot more of them than I did before.
And then there's the quiz - even before lockdown began, the regular Tuesday night quiz at the Gloucester Old Spot bit the dust, and so I set up a Zoom quiz in which I'd be quizmaster, inviting my quiz team and a bunch of improv people. Phil won the quiz, so he was quizmaster for the second one. I won that one, and rather than do it all again, I asked for six volunteers to write a round each for next time. So far we've had 11 quizzes, it's still working with six people writing rounds each week, and the attendees list has grown and grown - not too many improv people are still coming, but friends from church, work & uni, as well as former housemates, (current) family members and friends of friends have joined the fun. There have been a wide array of quiz rounds, taking full advantage of the sharing capabilites that Zoom has to offer - so we've had PowerPoints, music rounds and a video (see below) as well your usual spoken rounds. Well, I say 'usual', but even there we've had an exciting range: translated-and-back-again movie quotes, the human body, emotions, name-the-artist (both my parents did this, independently, in the same quiz), Hitchhiker's Guide vs. Alice in Wonderland, movie taglines, Cadbury's, band name derivations, celebrities drinking beer, obscure flags, EU member nations, castles... you name it. If you're reading this and would be interested in joining in, give me a shout.

The other thing that has kept me sane during lockdown is having projects on the go. You'll already have seen my Stuck In With Nothing To Do video (here if you haven't), which is one of the things I'm proudest of making, and there's also the movie scene re-enactment video you see above, which I made ostensibly for the weekly quiz, and had a lot of fun creating. Other projects have included sorting out the house - two wheelie bins full of rubbish! - and, as documented extensively here last time, reading Lord of the Rings in a day. Unfortunately the jigsaw I spent way too much money on several weeks ago has yet to arrive. Of course, there's also revision - I have an exam in a couple of weeks - but, since coronavirus means that I'll get almost a full 24 hours to do it from home, I'm feeling relatively confident about that.
So, that's me. Coronavirus has made us all lose something: for some people that's been a world-shattering, life-changing loss; for most of us (including me) it's just been a patina of grey covering the year. I'm glad I've been able to stay in touch with a number of people - Steve! I met your lovely son Nathan! - and it's been a shame to lose some contact with others. There's a lot of talk of what will change when we get "back to normal" and what we'll keep: personally, I hope we'll get back the relationships we've lost, and keep up the ones we've solidified in this time. I've written this partly to remind myself of that fact, partly to document how it was for me, and partly to remember that, however anyone else feels - I really didn't have more time on my hands.

what am I listening to?
White on Blonde - Texas
what am I reading?
Dune - Frank Herbert
what am I watching?
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
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