Things had come crashing down to Earth after the Mars adventure. It had become obsessive – visiting Mars at the design museum, reading the ‘Moving to Mars’ book from cover to cover and following the SpaceX journey.
I decided to Google short story competitions – surely there were others out there? It’s not for a moment that I thought I could win anything – I marvel at everything else I read – just the vocabulary that other people seem to know astounds me – I’m constantly looking up words that other writers use. I needed practice at writing, I needed some sort of portfolio and I needed deadlines. Competitions and taking up any opportunities that came my way seemed like a good place to start.
I wasn’t disappointed. There were hundreds! All sorts. From flash fiction (where you were given a photo to write a short dialogue for), to high profile magazines and publications, and then a competition from the BBC to write the opening scene for an episode of their hit noughties series ‘Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.’
I’d loved that show at the time and thought that would push me in another direction. To write dialogue as a script. So I got involved. Luckily I-player streamed all 9 seasons (9 seasons – who’d’ve thought?) so that was my evenings for the next few weeks – although I only got as far as season 6 before the effects of covid 19 really hit home.
WHO had now declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and by Saturday 21st March the UK had confirmed 225 deaths.
My own personal introduction to covid 19 was a bumpy one. I was working on that Saturday and didn’t have my phone on me – it’s a retail thing. On my lunch hour I had a voicemail from my father in law asking in a small voice, if I was aware of my husbands condition.
I’m not one to worry, but after trying his mobile four or five times, AND THERE BEING A PANDEMIC AT LARGE, I thought I can’t just work for the afternoon not knowing about ‘his condition’. His condition, after a quick check in with said father in law was apparently throwing up and a temperature. So I grabbed a cab home – it was still my lunch hour. Anyway said husband was propped up in bed noting ‘Oh, you’re home early.’
At which point I gave him a kiss and trotted back to work.
The following Thursday my protein breakfast was going down as normal when I noticed a text from my boss. He and his wife both had had flu symptoms which could be covid 19 so they would’t be in work and could I ‘phone so we could discuss the rota.
My mind jarred. I had worked pretty closely with my boss the previous day. I work in a workshop with a retail space where we give one to one consultations with customers. There was a large piece that we’d worked on together. At that point I can’t say social distancing was a thing we’d really got our heads around. We’d been discussing anti baccing surfaces, not sharing work phones anymore and pushing online sales in light of the recent pubs, bars and restaurants closures. But if he had got it, I honestly thought there was a good chance I had it too.
I asked my husband what he thought and we both agreed. I’d be happy to go in and work but not to have contact with the public. It didn’t even seem like a grey area although the NHS weren’t advising you to self isolate if you’d been working with a colleague who then became ill, just if it was someone you lived with. My concern was that I worked with the general public.
Apparently this wasn’t the answer my boss was expecting / needed to hear from his shop manager. His first priority was to the business that he’d built up and ultimately his, and our, livelihoods.
So I didn’t go to work and started 14 days of isolation.
My husband, we figured, could go out, as I hadn’t actually displayed any symptoms. He was already working from home for the charity he runs.
In less than a week, full lockdown of all non-essential businesses had been put in place.
I didn’t come down with any covid 19 symptoms.