After a week that has been very eventful in the world – yet insignificant on a personal level – we are spending our first weekend back in lockdown. It feels the same as last weekend spent under tier four restrictions, and I am guessing it will feel much the same as the weekends going forward until it is considered safe enough for us to leave lockdown – whenever that may be.
This week saw the UK climbing to over 1300 deaths per day – the highest ever – and gaining us the dubious honour of being the country with the most deaths per capita in the world.
There was civil unrest in the USA, with a strange group of individuals dressed like the Village People storming the US Capitol and gaining admittance. I usually aim to keep this blog as non-political as possible, especially when it comes to other countries affairs, but will say that I am a writer and even I couldn’t make this stuff up.
America seems to be at a crisis moment, and I can only hope that sense will prevail and under its new management some sort of stability and level-headed leadership will be reached. Although it is slightly concerning that a man who has been banned from Twitter because he is so unstable, still has access to the nuclear codes.
Personally, it has been a draining and exhausting week for me. Normally, I am a practical and pragmatic sort of person, and during the last lockdowns soldiered on with the long list of household chores I always have and using the gift of time to work on my books. But somehow things feel different this time around.
Maybe because it is Winter, it’s dark and cold and the days are shorter. We can’t enjoy the beautiful weather and sit in our gardens the way we did before. Maybe because we’ve all been here before and did not expect to be here again almost one year later. It feels like the year we have all lived through was a waste of time – that all the lockdowns, restrictions, and self-denial that most people exercised was all for nothing – because here we are again. Still in lockdown. Still with a rising infection and death rate. Still with selfish idiots not obeying the rules and thinking the restrictions can’t possibly apply to them. One has to ask – is it because of such selfish idiots that the rest of us are in lockdown again – well, I think that is definitely a hard yes.
At least this time the government has finally seen sense and closed all the places of education to none but children of essential workers. Apparently – and this will shock you as much as it did me – the government have discovered that if you cram hundreds of people all together with no social distancing and no mask wearing and then let them mingle at will with family and friends –
IT WILL HELP SPREAD THE VIRUS!
Gosh. Are you shocked? I know I was. I mean, really, who would have thought it?
Even if they had stayed open my daughter would have returned over my dead body. If the country is in lockdown with a new, twice as contagious strain of a potentially lethal virus being carried by at least one in thirty people, then there was no way I was going to send my precious child into an unsafe environment to mix with hundreds of other strangers – none of them wearing masks.
But the college is closed so she is home safe and is busy studying online – wondering what the situation will be in March when it is time for her to take her exams.
All GCSE’s and A’Levels which were due to take place in the summer have already been cancelled to ease the pressure and stress on all the poor students due to take them. But all those students due to take their BTECs over the next three months were not offered the same consideration.
In a blatant and breath-taking example of elitism by our all Oxford educated parliament, they decreed that BTECs were obviously so easy that no such concessions needed to be offered. This effectively damned this year’s crop of potential nurses, vets, engineers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and many other trades – to taking exams under unsafe conditions. Exams they have not been adequately prepared for. In a lot of ways, BTEC students are worse off than those studying for GCSE’s and A’Levels, in that BTECs are for practical, hands-on trades which require practical, hands-on training – training it is impossible to gain online – whereas most A’Levels and GCSEs are for academic, desk bound jobs which can be learnt online.
In an extremely short-sighted move the government dismissed all BTEC students’ needs, to focus purely on the elite needs of the academic students. Precisely who they think is going to man the hospitals and construction sites of the country in the future, is puzzling. Without vets, plumbers, mechanics, bricklayers, nurses, plasterers and all the other hands-on trades, how exactly do they see this country being able to function? A nation cannot be run only with accountants, solicitors, and teachers – it needs people who make and do things.
A petition was immediately started as soon as the announcement was made – both Miss F and I signed it – and by that evening it had over 175,000 signatures. The very next day, the government did another massive U-turn, washed their hands of the whole affair and it was announced that each college would have autonomy over whether their students took the BTEC exams or not. So, some students are being forced to take exams in the middle of the worst of the pandemic, when infection rates are rising.
The exam conditions are shocking – there is no social distancing outside the exam rooms (the press have been full of pictures of students crammed into small hallways waiting to go in). There has also been no declaration about what will happen to those students who choose not to risk infection by taking the BTEC exams now. There could be many reasons why they do not wish to take the exam aside from personal fear of contagion. Perhaps they are in lockdown with a vulnerable person and are simply being responsible for family members. They are also afraid of what will happen if they don’t take the exam, afraid of what consequences that will have for them. Will their entire future be affected by this decision?
It is grossly unfair and hugely stressful for these young people. Let’s face it, taking exams is a colossal strain on them anyway – but factor in all these other conditions and the stress levels go off the scales.
There are also a huge number of students taking vocational exams which have been left in limbo. No consideration has been made for them at all. Their exams are due in March, but as yet no one seems to know if they will be cancelled – the way A’Levels and GCSEs have been – so thousands of young people have been left dangling.
With so much uncertainty, I feel deeply for all young people trying to study, take exams, or make any kind of sense of their educational life right now. It cannot be easy for them, and whilst I fully support the decision to close all places of learning for the foreseeable future to try and halt the spread of the virus, until the vaccine has been effectively administered to all and the death rates are falling, I think every effort should be made to help the students affected.
If only stricter measures had been imposed last March, if only clear and definite rules had been put in place and firmly enforced, maybe we wouldn’t all be here again, almost one year later, back in lockdown.
On the home front – this week I made an effort to start spring cleaning my kitchen. When I announced my intention to do so, Miss F commented – “didn’t you just do that?” Well, it may feel that way, but really it was last March, so guess what, it needs doing again. I pulled everything out on Wednesday, half-heartedly cleaned out a couple of cupboards, a-n-n-n-d, that’s as far as I got. Like I said, seriously lacking in the motivational department at the moment.
I’ve been working on my existing books as well. They are all fine, but I’ve discovered new formatting tricks and little things that can be done to make them even better, so am using the time at home to do that.
I’m sleeping for Britain. Normally, I am a six hour a night girl and have been for years, but for the last couple of weeks I’ve not been waking until nine o’clock and even later. You would think with all that sleep I would be feeling better and more alert, but weirdly I’m waking feeling muggy and disconnected, and it’s taking me ages to get going in the mornings. How I’m going to go back to getting up at 6am every morning when things eventually go back to normal, I don’t know.
Several of you have messaged asking about the lodger situation. Well, we still don’t have one. As you know, our young French lodger left last Saturday. In order to be allowed to return to France, he had to take a Covid test and he text me Sunday morning to let me know the test was negative – so that was a relief. Since then, I have washed all the bedding and aired the room. I did look on the spare room website to see if anyone suitable was looking for a room, but there were hardly any listings. Of those, most were not suitable – either smokers, couples, or owning pets they wished to bring – the rest all wanted the world, including a private bathroom and their own parking space, for £250 per month. Hmm, good luck with that.
I will wait another week, thoroughly clean the room and the public parts of the house, and then see about running the add again. Maybe I could specify that initial viewings will be conducted remotely. It would be one way to cut down the amount of people traipsing through our home potentially bringing the infection with them. So, I guess that means I need to go and finish cleaning the kitchen.
Is lockdown lethargy a thing? Asking for a friend.
We finished watching the latest season of “The Crown” this week, and I think it must be my favourite season to date. As it has now reached the eighties, it means that I remember the events they portrayed happening – the slow disintegration of Charles and Diana’s marriage, the fall of Margaret Thatcher – are all things I lived through. I wonder how the Royal Family feel about it. Apparently, they loved the early seasons but this one – not so much! It doesn’t show them in a very good light, in fact the only characters I liked this season were Princess Margaret and Princess Anne – and even they had moments of such out-and-out bitchiness it made my jaw drop. The acting in this is superb, especially that of the fabulous American actress Gillian Anderson – you may remember her as Scully in the X-Files – who managed such a convincing portrayal of Margaret Thatcher that we were several episodes in before I realised it was Ms Anderson behind the blue suit and the affected accent.
We started a new series last night – “The Queen’s Gambit” – as I had heard nothing but good things about it. The first two episodes were amazing and even Miss F put down her phone to watch it. Whoever would have though a series about chess could be so riveting.
Thank heavens for on tap entertainment throughout all of this – can you imagine what life would have been like without the many TV channels most of us now have access to.
It’s a shorter blog this week. I wasn’t even sure I would have enough to talk about, seeing as I haven’t left the house in over a week, but wanted to touch base with you all. I hope wherever you are, and whatever levels of restrictions you are living under, that you are keeping safe and well.
See you next week.