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Lockdown? Day? Whatever the fuck day it is …

by Penny Feltham

I live in Stockport, just outside Manchester. It's 10 minutes by train away, but I’m not sure if the trains are running – and in any case I’ve not actually been in my office in Central Manchester since February 20.

That got complex. I was in Iraq for work and came home in early March with a virus. Just not that virus but they wouldn’t test me because Iraq (you know, right next door to Iran) wasn’t on the WHO list.

So. Context. We live in a suburban semi-detatched house with a garden (big for Edgeley). There’s me. Matt the husband. Oscar the 13 year old kid, two dogs, five rats and a couple of fish. The husband is currently not in paid work. The kid is on Easter holidays. I am still working from home. We are lucky. We don’t live in a one-bedroom flat in a high rise. We have access to a green space. We still have an income. I might be furloughed at work from next week, but will be on full pay.

The main thing we have noticed is that our lives have slowed right down. Little is urgent. Schools are closed. The lack of commuting gives me more time to do the stuff I like doing – listening music, talking to friends. There isn’t that much road traffic and I am happier with the kid being out on his bike though I am having to re-explain to him why he can’t cycle to see his mates. I think he gets it, though the big numbers don’t seem to phase him very much.

As we live on one of the flight paths into Manchester airport, the lack of aircraft has been a definite thing. The boy dog is sad about this as he likes chasing them (I am not kidding). I am enjoying the huge increase in birdsong in our garden.

We’re still doing tabletop gaming via Zoom or Skype. It works, but just not the same. Many overseas Skype calls around games and yesterday Matt was at the usual monthly board game session – via software. No Live Action for a good long while. Maybe not until late August. The urgency to get new kit made for Oscar has fled the building. Life has slowed down …

The panic buying. It was a real thing. We went to the supermarket on the last day of school before home-schooling started. No toilet paper [cos obvs], kitchen roll or tissues. dried pulses, rice, pasta, fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, flour, fresh meat and fish. Apparent aggression in some places including Unicorn in Chorlton – normally a bastion of brown rice kindness and sensibilities. Huge queues to get into the supermarket that I usually shop in. And good-humoured, except when I glared at the guy who got too damn close in the queue.

There has been far more contact between people, either by phone or on social media. Folk checking up on each other generally or sharing dark meme number 9038. Lots of discussion and disgust at the behaviour of some of the Sheeple. My getting angry of the claim of ‘Blitz spirit’ when it never existed in the first place. Going out to clap for the front line workers at 8pm on a Thursday night whilst swearing about the Tories having torn the hellout of the NHS in the first place. Watching the Government swing the blame game onto the Sheeples. "It spread because you wouldn’t self isolate. Not because we fucked up our response for a month … "

Parts of communities really looking after each other. Shopping for house bound folk. Prepping extra meals to share. A great chat with my lovely neighbour from either end on our front path both stopping mid-conversation to admire various dogs on their walks. The guy who knocked on our door asking formoney last night. I refused him money but gave him food. Its all getting a bit medieval and we don’t have a stable or a straw barn to offer him. There is some shitty behaviour going on. The usual thefts, assaults and domestic violence – but that’s Blitz spirit for you.

Manchester is bizarrely quiet. There are few takeaways open in Stockport – many Manchester restaurants shifting to deliveries and collections, but 10 minutes out of Manchester is far too far away. No live venues, but lots of streaming of old gigs or various people producing stuff to be heard and danced to in the quiet of your kitchen.

Radio – which I rely on far more than TV – has also changed. Marc Reilly’s Show (my lifeline) on Radio 6 seems subdued with no live music. In fact, maybe subdued is the word for the past few weeks. My listening habits have got got really weird. Listening to American country music recommended to me by a new friend in Toronto. And I keep finding the Monkees cropping up.

Tomorrow, the schooling wars start anew. Moodle and Teams is being used to teach. Just gotta persuade the 13 year old to not skip off onto YouTube. Sigh. This is the new normal and Gods only knows what is to come.
Never have the media been more important.

Penny, Stockport, April 2020

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