Part Two (of two) of my lockdown diaries. Another long one but I couldn’t stop writing. Turns out I had a lot to get off my chest. Something a bit cheerier next week, I just haven’t decided what yet.
Just as I was feeling that I was getting a grip on things and a direction and focus that I was happy with, just as I was ready to start giving MaadWeb a real push, life as we knew it ended.
A horrible disease with a peculiar set of symptoms that some people had and some people didn’t, but you could pass it on all the same. And that was the terrifying part – you might not know if you had it or not. Either way, we’d been hearing rumblings coming out of China for a while but I don’t think anyone expected it to hit the UK. I thought it would just be like SARS, swine flu, bird flu, etc – you know, a lot of talk but no real, substantial effect on the UK.
However, it started feeling different when we saw what was happening in Italy. Hospitals overflowing, oxygen shortages, exhausted healthcare staff, coffins stacking up, mass graves. And, although since Brexit, Italy has never felt so far away, on a global level, it’s pretty much just down the road. This was getting scary.
I’m not ashamed to say I took my kids out of school in the week before the schools closed for everyone. I was prepared to take the fine I could have been given on the chin. Don’t get me wrong, I would have fought it, but this was literally a case of life and death after all. And you know what happened next. Lockdown.
It was quite fun in the early days – the novelty of the kids being off school and everyone working from home. Yeah, I put my business on the backburner for a bit for the good of Queen and country, but hey, people were being furloughed everywhere. The government was putting its hands in its pocket for millions of people all over the country, I’d get my share soon. After all, the whole household were now working in my office and I’d been seconded to be a primary school teacher. It was just a matter of time…
I tried; I really did. I’d actually applied, unsuccessfully, to be a teacher about five years before. I fell apart at the interview stage. With hindsight, even before the pandemic, I knew this had been lucky. I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher. Two weeks work experience at a school had showed me that. Children are great – you can always rely on them to say something profound without realising; they’re genuinely hilarious, and it must feel great to be like that really inspiring teacher we all remember from school. But they smell. Maybe not individually, but collectively. And maybe it’s not the kids, but the school itself. Who knows? I’d forgotten all about the smell, but school hall’s really smell at lunchtime. It’s a very particular smell that took me right back to my school days. I can’t even describe it. It must be a mixture of a thousand different packed lunches, hot school dinners, the children themselves, and a musty old school hall. Maybe its those long floor-to-ceiling mega-curtains that cling onto those smells for years. Whatever it is, it’s odd. And horrible.
It must have been Week Two when my lad realised he could be really difficult from the start of the day, cause a blazing row and then go and play X-Box for the rest of the day. I found it so difficult. On the one hand, I wanted to be the best person I could be and give my son the best education I could give him; on the other hand, I didn’t have the patience or energy. I woke up every morning dreading what the day would bring. I was putting time into my monthly MaadWeb customers, but that was it. Nothing else. Zero. All my plans for 2020 had ceased.
It felt even more helpless when our government abandoned Test & trace and kept the borders open. It seemed obvious to me that this was the route to successfully tackling the issue, and, belatedly, they agreed too. When this was announced, it was obvious that we’d be in it for the long haul. But I digress…
As you’ll know from your own experience, every day was Blursday. The same, dull, monotonic nothing. I never had enough time to start something new, to really push MaadWeb, and I was worried that if I did, I wouldn’t have enough time to commit to any promises that I made. Although every day was the same, the promise that tomorrow may be different was always hanging in the air. And that hurt. Those pesky, daily briefings! Next slide, please.
It was at this time that I started to make digital art. What began as a way to pass the time and to calm me down when I was stressed soon became something that I really enjoyed. It was having a positive effect on my mental health, and I think (although my family may beg to differ) making me a nicer person (I think about it like one of those adult colouring books). I posted some pictures on my personal Facebook profile and they were quite well-received (given the subject topic). Yes, the topical, political ones in my shop were mainly my earlier works. I was angry. I was one of the 3 million forgotten, self-employed people that the government decided weren’t worthy of any financial support. My days were being spent playing teacher to an un-co-operative pupil; the virus was spiralling out of control; public money was being handed out willy-nilly to MP’s bessie mates while nurses only got a 1% pay rise (after all they’d been through!!), and we learned later, Funtime Boris (allegedly) thought it was preferable to let the bodies pile up than have another lockdown. Yes, I was angry. I won’t apologise for these works because they represent how I felt at the time and my whole life was revolving around the decisions these guys made. I will probably do less of this type in the future because I’m just numb to it all now. It’s out of my hands, I can’t control it, people seem to like them, I don’t understand it, we live in a democracy, the opposition is woeful, I’m numb.
Soon, the focus of MaadWeb began to change in my mind. I enjoyed (and still do) web design, and I’ve spent far too long learning about it to just drop it, but I also really loved creating stuff, too. If I’m honest, probably a little but more.
The second lockdown/school closure was actually less painful than the first. The school did timetabled lessons on Microsoft Teams and this was a massive help and benefit to both my son and I. Although I still hated it, I will be forever grateful to the school for everything they did in 2020/21. I still didn’t have much time to concentrate on MaadWeb, but I did have time to dip into creating.
When Lockdown 2.0 finished, I realised that I had some work to do. Over 300 non-essential (I would never keep a customer waiting) emails that I had to action, and a website that was, let’s be honest here, hardly a good advert for a web design company. Websites are very much like a building – they can be perfectly fine, but if you only do the bare minimum of maintenance, they will become very old, very fast. Things start to look terrible and, if left too long, fall down completely.
I had my work cut out.
Today’s boxset: Those Who Kill
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