I’m late posting the blog this week – and it will be shorter – because, when you’re in lockdown the days merge and blur into one another and before you know it – boom, it’s Saturday evening and you haven’t even thought about the blog and, to be honest, what are you going to write about anyway, because nothing has happened, and you’ve done nothing.
Well, that’s not strictly true, of course I’ve done something. I’ve breathed, and ate, and moved around, and slept – I have done a lot of sleeping. I’ve been working a lot on my books and, yes, I know I only just did that, but this is a final final polish where I’m changing fonts and adding dropped capitals and other twiddly bits and going through each book word by word to ensure it’s as perfect as it can be. It’s time-consuming and whole days can go by without me really being aware of them. But then, the only day I must keep a handle on is bin day, and then I rely on hearing the neighbours putting their bins out.
There doesn’t seem an end in sight for lockdown yet. Although they are distributing the vaccine as quickly as possible – about five million done so far – when you consider the UK population is almost 68 million it is only a drop in the bucket. To get everyone vaccinated is going to take years if they ever manage to get around to everyone. And I guess that is the issue. Yes, vaccinate the old, the vulnerable, and the key workers. Of course, they should be done first. But the new strains of the virus now cropping up are attacking younger and younger members of the population and are more contagious. When we come out of lockdown, which I guess must be soon because of the economy, the majority of people actually out there – in the shops, the factories, on the streets, and in the schools – won’t have been vaccinated so will be vulnerable to the new strains, and the whole cycle will start up again.
I received an email from my company this week informing me that they are clawing back one week of holiday off every employee. My company are very generous with holidays and even though I only work part-time I do still get six weeks paid holiday a year – so giving up one week in exchange for at least two, possibly three, months paid time off seems a fair deal. Last year they took two weeks off me and in exchange I had four months off. The week’s holiday is to commence on the 22nd of February, so it seems my company, at least, fully expect us to be in lockdown until March.
Miss F is stressed at the moment, because no decision has been reached yet as to whether they will be taking their vocational exams or not in March. The Board of City and Guilds who are responsible for making the decision were supposed to have made an announcement two weeks ago. They made the announcement this week that the decision they made during those two weeks was to give themselves another two weeks to make their minds up.
This is a big deal for the thousands of students due to take their vocational exams in March. If they are cancelled and grades are going to be assessed on coursework and teachers reports, then at least the students know where they stand – that their future and whether they get into university or not will be decided on the work they have done to date and any they do between now and March. However, if they decide to go ahead with the exams – which seems unfair seeing as GCSEs and A’Levels which aren’t due until the summer have already been cancelled – then those thousands of students will effectively have been thrown under the bus.
They haven’t had any proper education since last February. Relying on shoddy, lackadaisical and sporadic online teaching, the hours of tuition they require to pass their exams have simply not happened. Miss F is doing her best, spending hours each day on self-directed study, she struggles to make sense of the poorly worded assignments the teachers give them. Very often, the teachers simply don’t bother to turn up for online lessons – leaving Miss F and her classmates staring at a blank screen for 45 minutes wondering where their teacher is. I have looked at the assignments, presentations, and lesson plans, the teachers have given her, and even I can see they are lacking in structure, information, and guidance.
Then, of course, being a vocational course, they have all missed out on the practical, hands-on, side of the tutoring. Part of her vocational exam will require hours of practical demonstration – how is that going to be possible online? The vocational students are being treated appallingly compared to the academic students taking their GCSE’s and A’Levels. They should be given the same consideration. Their exams need to be cancelled and control of grades handed over to the teachers – to the people who have taught them throughout their course – to those who know each individual student, have interacted with them, marked their coursework, and know what they are capable of so can confidently give them the appropriate grade.
The extended two weeks the City and Guilds Board took to make their minds up will be over next week, and I really hope they make the fair and logical decision to cancel the exams. If they don’t, I think another petition will be in order, as the one raised to cancel BTEC exams worked so well.
I will keep you all posted.
Life in lockdown has jogged on smoothly. I have left the house precisely three times since last Sunday morning. I drove to the supermarket in the afternoon to collect all my shopping which was there waiting for me – gotta love click and collect. Then on Friday morning I finally went to collect my hayfever medication.
Normally, I don’t need to begin taking it until late February, but this year my allergies seem to have kicked in earlier – of course they have – so I telephoned the doctor’s surgery the week before and requested a repeat prescription. They were due to be collected Wednesday, but somehow the days slipped by and it was Friday morning before my itchy eyes and runny nose became too much to bear and I went to collect them.
I had been warned that my doctor’s surgery was the only place locally that was giving the Covid-19 vaccination, so be prepared for a long queue, and it was true that when I drove into the carpark it was unusually packed. But as I parked and got out of my car, I realised each car was full of elderly people all clutching their phones.
The only space left for me was right at the end of the carpark, so I had to walk past all the parked cars, feeling all eyes watch me as I went up to the door. Now, my surgery has its own pharmacy attached and when I reached the doors, a big notice informed me the surgery was closed and was appointment only, and that if someone were there to see their doctor or have a Covid-19 vaccination, they were to telephone to let the receptionist know and then wait in their car to be summoned. That explained all the phones clutched tightly in all those wrinkled hands. If I wanted to go to the pharmacy, I was to walk straight in.
I walked straight in. Two minutes later I walked back out with my medication and had to do the long walk all the way back to my car, passing all those cars and feeling the eyes watch my progress. I was very pleased to have my meds, I hadn’t realised how much my allergies were affecting me until I started taking them again.
The only other place I have been was a quick, ten-minute car journey last night, to run Miss F around to drop off a congratulations card and present on the doorstep of her best friend. She had just received a conditional offer from her university of choice and Miss F wanted to mark the occasion. It’s the same university Miss F has applied for, so now she is anxiously waiting and hoping for a similar email.
You may remember before Christmas I told you that Miss F had the exciting opportunity of doing work experience at a local zoo for one day a week? Well, unfortunately, that has been cancelled. I did have a feeling it would be. It’s such a shame, it would have been wonderful experience for her and something worthwhile to include on her resume, but it is what it is.
Because we have effectively been almost constantly home for a year now, I think we’ve triggered separation anxiety in our cat. She has always been a sweet-natured and friendly little thing but was very used to being alone – what with me working three days a week and Miss F either at college or work placement – there were many days when she would be alone for long hours. She never seemed to mind, in fact, I think she just slept through them – oh, to be a cat! But recently we have both noticed a personality change in her. She’s become very clingy and very needy. During the day she must be with one or the other of us – scrapping at doors and crying until she is let in. She barely goes out anymore, although it is freezing cold out there, so that’s not surprising. Instead, she simply must be where we are.
If I’m in the bathroom, she’ll be right outside, scrapping at the door and letting out the occasional mournful squeak. The second I emerge she’s under my feet begging to be picked up and cuddled. We’ve begun to carry her around from room to room with us, like a baby. In the evenings when we relax in the front room, she’ll climb into my lap and go to sleep, and I can’t move until she awakes. And so, I sit, in numb leg, full bladder misery, until finally I must move, and I gently, carefully try to lift her and lay her on the sofa. But she always wakes and stares at me reproachfully. If I leave the room without her noticing, Miss F says the moment she realises I’m not there she panics and stares intently at the door until I come back.
What have we done to her? I think we’ve broken our cat. When this all ends – which eventually it must – and we all go back to college and work, how is she going to cope? Will she adopt dog behaviour and we’ll come home to find our sofa shredded and that she’s pooped on the floor? I hope not.
I do have some exciting news for you all. I have been asked to guest on the podcast of the lovely author and book blogger, Sarina Langer. The interview is being recorded Monday morning and will be aired sometime in early February. The main topic of the podcast is being a multi-genre author and if you have any questions you wish to ask me on that subject, then please either post it in the comments, email it to me, DM me on my Instagram page, or you can send it to me by Messenger. If you have a question that is author or book related, but not specifically about multi-genres, then ask it anyway and we’ll try to fit it in.
For many of you, it will be the first time you hear what I sound like – apparently, so British you can almost taste the tea – and I’m really looking forward to it. I love giving interviews, but this will only be the second podcast one I’ve given so I’m nervous as well. I will post the link to the interview in the next blog after it has been aired, so if you missed it you can catch up then, and don’t forget to leave any questions you want to ask today so I can pass them onto Sarina ready for inclusion in the interview tomorrow.
Right, it’s now 9:30am and the six people who read my blog – although I have been reliably informed it’s now up to eight, ooh – will be wondering where it is and if I’ve forgotten again, or simply couldn’t be bothered. I will post this immediately and hope to receive lots of lovely questions from you, but keep it clean folks, this will be a family friendly interview.
So, that’s all she wrote for now, and remember, wherever you are and however your life is going, stay safe and stay well.