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Cabin fever

Lockdown? What lockdown? The sun is shining, the sky is blue, there’s a gentle hum of lawnmowers and people are enjoying their gardens. But look out into the street and you won’t see cars or people. It’s all a bit, well, odd.

We’re coming to terms with the loss of our usual routines. Shops closed, pilates class cancelled, my tahini and kumquats replaced in the online shopping order with inferior substitutes. But jokes aside, there has been a horribly serious impact on livelihoods with redundancies, cancelled contracts, uncertain future workflow, and of course school closures. Parents around the country will have uttered a collective “Umm?” on Monday as we began the gargantuan task of attempting to take over our offsprings’ education. My initial smugness over easy yr 2 spellings and the wealth of online resources (thank you Joe Wicks, Gareth Malone and Steve Backshall), has been quickly replaced by hours spent removing air-drying clay from the carpet, paint from every surface, and scouring the house to find the only functional eraser. And what on earth is a fronted adverbial? How about a unit fraction? Who would win out of honey bear versus hippo? I am on Mastermind, I have passed on every hideous question, my time is up and nobody is clapping.

Fortunately I am kept sane by my superb and hilarious friends and family, also enjoying precious time with their kids, also struggling, also flitting between happy and sad. We chat on the phone or online. We sing or play music. One friend posts hilarious film clues for us to wrangle over. One friend taught me to knit! It’s amazing how many things can be done communally online and there are many platforms by which to have a face-to-face conversation with one or more people. Even here at OSMP it's great to see what can be achieved with telephones or photos in medical consultation (although it goes without saying that sometimes your friendly GP may absolutely need to examine you in person).

Personally the thing I’m missing the most is being able to hug my mum. Because COVID19 is so very contagious we cannot safely get close to anyone outside our own household. Each infected person will probably spread the virus to 3 others. And you might have it but not get any symptoms at all. Yes this is mind-boggling, but you could feel totally well yet still pass it to others. So no visiting Great-Aunt Mildred, no jaunts into town, no picnic in the park with friends. Spring as we know it is cancelled.

Look there are some silver linings. Air pollution has reduced. Listen to the fabulous birdsong outside! If you can’t hear it, you’d best make an appointment to see me and I’ll check your ears (after a thorough telephone triage of course!). And we have become very good at using technology in the workplace to allow people to work from home. Video conferencing is on the increase. In fact I took part in my very first sustainable healthcare meeting online last night along with 10 other GPs around the country. Friends will confirm I hate being videoed, generally ending either in giggles or apologetic grimaces. And last night I was of course, the only one with no audio. “Dial in!” they said. Dial what now? It was painful. But I will get slick at it, and post-COVID19 video conferencing will remain more popular as it provides a very respectable alternative, with no need for carbon-emitting transport and no time wasted travelling.

In the words of the 1920s American songwriter B.G. DeSylva “A heart full of joy and gladness will always banish sadness and strife”. So let’s continue to offer e-kindness and spread hope, until we meet again in person on the other side.

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