Author Archives: Katy Booth
Today’s the 10th anniversary that World Radio Day has been marked. It was set up by UNESCO to celebrate how the medium keeps communities connected. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel that this is as important as ever.
Whether on a local, national or a worldwide scale, radio has been innovative and evolved to allow a diverse range of voices to be heard. Evolution, innovation and connection are very appropriate themes for this year’s event.
“Radio is a powerful medium for celebrating humanity in all its diversity and constitutes a platform for democratic discourse. At the global level, radio remains the most widely consumed medium.
This unique ability to reach out the widest audience means radio can shape a society’s experience of diversity, stand as an arena for all voices to speak out, be represented and heard.
Radio stations should serve diverse communities, offering a wide variety of programs, viewpoints and content, and reflect the diversity of audiences in their organizations and operations.”UNESCO
I was at a conference run by the Community Radio Association at the University of Salford, about eight or nine years ago, when a guest speaker talked about communities around the world that would otherwise have not had access to the medium. By listening to radio there was a connection felt, by those invisible waves travelling through the air.
The talk had a profound effect on me – how a radio station’s content has the ability to directly impact people’s lives. Examples of this happening over years are endless and every station will have its own. Access to radio itself is the first step to this feeling of connection. For instance, Trevor Baylis’ invention of a wind-up radio relaying information to communities around the world that had limited access to electricity and / or batteries.
Then there are the calls to action that can be elicited by what’s broadcast. The most recent example of many that I can recall from the station where I work happened during BBC Radio Cumbria’s ‘Make a Difference’ campaign this week.
A volunteer from Silloth Community Hub, a shop where people pay what they can afford for food, had been speaking on Mike Zeller at Breakfast. Listening on his way to work was the manager of a local supermarket who was put in touch with the hub and agreed to make regular deliveries of food donations.
Radio has evolved to survive, listening today will sound very different to that of a decade ago, as the medium moves along to reflect the lives of the audiences that are served by it. It will sound different again in 10 years’ time too. Innovation is as apparent as ever currently, as stations adapt to keep broadcasting while staff work from home during the coronavirus pandemic and will continue to do so.
Happy World Radio Day! #WRD2021
Memories of five years ago popped up on Facebook. I was on holiday in Tenerife at the time. On previous days I’ve also been reminded of times at the theatre seeing shows or eating a lovely meal in a restaurant. All of which seem a world away in lockdown, while staying at home.
The view has been dusted with snow in a winter wonderland. Part of me thankful actually – that I don’t have to attempt to walk or drive anywhere on the icy, slippery ground! Having an open fire makes everything all the more cosy during the cold weather too. Toasted marshmallows, a bonus.
It may feel like Groundhog Day but the reasons why everyone needs to stay at home are just as stark, arguably even more so, with new variants of the virus able to spread more than when the Covid-19 was novel.
In my circle of friends, I’m hearing of more of loved ones who have died after contracting the virus. There are those who do recover too but, taking people I know personally as a straw sample, the virus seems incredibly prevalent. The number of deaths in the UK is nearing 100,000. Each person is so much more than a statistic, leaving behind heartbroken family and friends. My thoughts are with everyone affected.
Watching the series of reports by Clive Myrie on BBC News this week gave an eye-opening insight of what it’s like for the NHS workers on the frontline of the pandemic. It’s an emotional watch but important to report on the reality of what’s happening. Exemplary journalism, showing the hard work of these key workers.
There’s a lot of information to process daily. During tough times, like these, there’s general consensus that it’s sometimes good to switch off the news and take a break. Of course, for journalists, this is impossible. It’s good to see a new platform has started recently called Newsbreak, set up by Tom Hourigan. It urges journalists and people involved in the media industry to take a break from the news:
Over the past 10 months, I’ve become much better at this sort of self care. After work, I try to do something completely different. Watch a film or TV show to get lost in, I find sitcoms particularly good for this. Play a computer game or read a book, anything really. I’m not that skilled at cooking or baking (I wish I was!) but can understand why that’s become a popular lockdown pastime, because it’s great to focus on something completely different.
While working from home, I usually don’t have weekend shifts. I keep an eye on major developments but use this time to disconnect. Push notifications that pop up on phones and tablets can be distracting, so I switch my phone off and don’t look at social media. It means I’m relatively hard to get hold of for a day or two, but it feels liberating. Another tip is to take annual leave when you can. It doesn’t matter that we can’t go on holiday, a break from the intensity of what we’re going through is important.
I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I can get the vaccine. As someone with underlying health conditions, it’ll give me a bit more of my life back. I expect restrictions will continue to be around for a while yet but it’d be a step back closer to normality at least.
At work (from home), I’ve continued on the shift of late producer of Mike Zeller at Breakfast for BBC Radio Cumbria. A great mix of all the latest news and fun features of what’s happening around the county. One of the guests I set up for the programme recently was Dr Mark Toshner, who was involved in the clinical trials for the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine. He gave an extended interview on the programme, which was an informative and insightful listen. You can hear a snippet of it here:
I’m glad to say that my website has been successfully updated and can now be accessed through www.katybooth.com If you missed my review of last year that’s available here. I’ll continue to update this blog throughout 2021, perhaps not as regularly as I did last year when experiences of the pandemic were new. It’s a way to document these strange times at least. Cathartic to write about and, I hope, interesting for you to read too.
Take care and stay safe x
Covid-19 has dominated the headlines this year and will continue in 2021. Mostly unrelated to the pandemic, it has been been a year where much-loved friends and family have passed. Like everyone, social contact has been limited, unless it’s taken place over a screen. There has been a lot of sadness, that’s for sure. It doesn’t need dwelling on, which is why I thought I’d make this review a look back at things to be grateful for.
JANUARY – MARCH
Life continued relatively normally up until March, although the virus was starting to spread more widely. At work I was out and about, reporting on stories. Then, the week before lockdown, I achieved a long-held dream which was to studio produce the breakfast programme.
A holiday of a lifetime had been planned for April to visit New York City to watch a Broadway show and see the sights. It wasn’t to be this year but I’m glad to have took the plunge to book something I had wanted to do for so long. The plans will hopefully not go to waste, when life gets a bit more normal and holidays can resume.
STAYING AT HOME
I started working from home on 19 March 2020, shortly before Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the nation to do the same, during the first lockdown. Underlying health conditions mean I’m classed as clinically vulnerable to coronavirus. As restrictive as staying at home for such an extensive period may seem there are advantages.
Not having to commute to work gave me extra time in each day. It’s been lovely to spend this with my fiancé, who has been shielding with me. When we both worked together in Blackburn we were able to take our lunch breaks together and it’s been nice to do this again, usually with our cat sitting on one of our knees!
In a busy life it’s all too easy to overlook some of the simple things that bring joy. I’d never paid too much attention to the changing of the seasons before. Noticing the plentiful flora and fauna around us and the way it transforms and continues – despite what nature throws at it – became a metaphor for the year. This enhanced awareness of the world around us is something I hope to take with me beyond 2020.
One of the best things I did at the start of the first lockdown was to set my parents up on an iPad. Something we won’t look back on because it’s been a great way to communicate. I normally visit my family in Manchester a lot and vice versa. To have this contact restricted has been difficult. Video calling on FaceTime has helped massively to feel a sense of connection, for which I’m grateful.
Using Zoom and Microsoft Teams has kept me connected to colleagues too. I was delighted to give a talk to journalism students at my former university, UCLan, remotely using this technology. Video conferencing also enabled me to be involved in BBC’s England’s Diversity Action Group. Connecting people and ideas across the north. I’m passionate about diversity, inclusion and equality and am glad I can be involved in this important area, alongside my job as a journalist.
This blog was updated more than I expected, as a way to document and diary my time, particularly as I was shielding. It’s been cathartic to do this and I hope one day I can look back on these posts when Covid-19 is a distant memory. This year has allowed me time to expand the pages on this website and very soon the content will all be able to be accessed by visiting www.katybooth.com.
A DREAM COME TRUE
In this challenging year, for so many reasons, a career ambition of mine was realised…
I’ve had such a varied career in broadcasting and journalism which has given me valuable experience. For the majority of time, this has either been as a freelancer or via fixed term contracts. I’m at a point in my life where I want to settle, which is something I can now do thanks to becoming a permanent member of BBC staff on a continuing contract. I’m delighted this can be in Cumbria – part of a talented team at a fantastic radio station.
The positive reactions to my posts on social media about this step in my career have been phenomenal. Thank you to everyone who has got in touch with kind comments It’s been nice to share such a joyous moment with so many people.
2020 has taught me not to take anything for granted – to take a day at a time. My thoughts are with everyone who has lost loved ones to Covid-19 or other causes. Just because the date changes doesn’t mean the problems of the pandemic will go away. We all need to be as vigilant as ever. However, a new year brings new hope. I wish you health and happiness in 2021. Stay safe.
We’re more than halfway through England’s second lockdown now… or are we? Time will tell whether it gets extended or not. Here’s an update on how it’s been for me so far. Earlier in the year, I was self-isolating for shielding purposes. In lockdown 2.0 this hasn’t been compulsory so, while I’ve been staying at home as much as possible, I haven’t been keeping a weekly diary. Instead this blog post will be a whistle-stop tour.
I’ve been working from home for eight months. I joined BBC Radio Cumbria in August 2019, so I’ve actually now been home office based for the station longer than I was based in Carlisle. I’m still producing content for the breakfast programme, making audio packages and able to broadcast live reports.
When I eventually go back to the newsroom in person, it will feel quite a different place because there have been colleagues who have retired or left the BBC recently by taking voluntary redundancy. All will be greatly missed and I wish them the very best of luck in the future.
Outside of work, I’m pleased to say that I’ve been organised this year to have completed all my Christmas shopping well in advance. Although it is a stash of gifts that is getting perpetually added to, depending on the different things I spot! Even though non-essential shops are shut, for the time being, many have an online presence that you can support and buy items from.
There’s also the rise of Virtual Christmas Fairs. One of the biggest I’ve seen on Facebook has been set up by a woman from Kendal who is raising money for the NHS Morecambe Bay Trust charity. It has more than 270 online ‘stalls’ selling handmade products, via pages like Etsy for about 8,000 members on the page – and that number is rising.
More restaurants seem to be set up to provide take aways now. Recently, for example, I enjoyed a boxed afternoon tea which was put together to raise funds to provide elderly people in our village with a festive meal. I’m glad to have been able to support local businesses in this way, in what are extremely challenging times.
That’s not to say the kitchen has been empty. There may have been the trend of baking banana bread in the first lockdown but I feel that my culinary skills have gone up a gear, having baked a Christmas cake. I’m yet to discover how successful it is, because this will be ‘fed’ with brandy and iced in the lead up to the big day. With so much alcohol and fruit in there though, it hopefully shouldn’t taste too bad!
I was delighted to be invited to speak to journalism students at my former university, UCLan in Preston, about how I work from home for BBC Radio Cumbria. Also, how the broadcast industry has adapted to the changes we’ve seen this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ve been working from a back room in my house for more than seven months due to underlying health conditions. In keeping with the topic of the talk, it was delivered via video call to the students who were watching in their own homes on Microsoft Teams. An enjoyable session with about 40 people watching, who asked excellent questions at the end. Some of the salient points of the discussion are included here.
As a key worker, it’s a privilege to continue to contribute to the radio station throughout the pandemic in an important role. There’s a wide range of things you can do in the broadcasting industry, while working from home. I mostly produce items for the breakfast programme but can also record and edit reports as well as broadcast live, using specialised apps and software.
Here’s political correspondent, Paul Rowley, doing exactly that on BBC Radio Cumbria. Even with disruptions, it turned out to be a memorable moment and Tweet!
Without a commute of over an hour each day, I have a lot more time. I’m able to read for pleasure a lot more than I used to. There’s also more time to spend with family and pets… Even if my cat does seem to know when I’m on an important phone call because that’s exactly when she’ll meow for Dreamies! For parents, arrangements can be flexible to allow for childcare and appointments.
Technology has increased our connectivity; people from across the organisation can connect in an instant with the likes of Zoom. That’s something I do weekly for a diversity and inclusion steering group that I’m part of. I’ve had training sessions, without the need to travel or meet face-to-face, and even taken part in a Pilates session during a lunch break.
One of the main aspects I miss is the social side of going to work. Those ‘water cooler moments’ where you get to know colleagues personally in the little chats in the kitchen or corridor. Bouncing ideas around with others and having a banter in the office is great… it’s not quite the same over email! Our weekly team Zoom call to catch up with each other is something I look forward to.
The amount of screen time has, understandably, increased. Usually face-to-face meetings provide a break from this, but not so on a video call. It can be tempting to avoid taking breaks and just plough through but it’s actually even more important to do so when working from home, to prevent eye strain. Try to move around, rather than stay completely sedentary, too.
It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from work when there’s no commute to provide a mental break and a chance to assimilate all that’s happened. My tip is to try to have a separate workspace that you can leave at the end of the day. If you only have something like a dining table to work off don’t sit in the same place to eat as well. If you use a laptop, pack that away once you’ve finished using it.
When the computer is only in the next room it can be tempting to “just do a little bit more” work – something I have been guilty of on occasion! Set boundaries so that you will only work the same amount of hours as you would, if you were physically in the office.
Our ability to work from home will probably be with us, long after this pandemic. It would be a shame not to take the positives of what has been learnt to become more effective in future. Without the need for as much travelling, it gives us more productive time in the day – and it’s better for the environment too. Our homes are now the equivalent of district offices.
As broadcasters and journalists working in the media, being adaptable is what we do. It’s how the industry has developed into what it is today and we shouldn’t fight this. We’re currently in a period of great change at the moment anyway, but the possibilities of what can be achieved when we put our minds to it are still limitless.
A recent example of how working from home has become a ‘new normal’ was evident in how the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing was broadcast. Showbiz reporter, Betty Redondo, Tweeted that it was actually directed by crew members from home. You wouldn’t have known any different while watching the show live on Saturday night either:
Finally, you can claim tax relief of £6.00 a week for job expenses, while working from home. More information is available HERE.
“The show must go on”, as the old adage of theatre goes. Although, during the coronavirus pandemic, this has been incredibly difficult for the arts and entertainment industry. Any ticketed indoor venue has to weigh up the social distancing and sanitising costs against any potential profit they can make by putting on a show with a reduced audience. For a lot of theatre companies, it’s currently not a viable option.
Therefore, for many of us, we have to think back to pre-lockdown times to remember the last occasion when we were sat in an auditorium together, watching a live performance on stage. However, this past week offered a chance to see the latter streamed live into our own homes. On Tuesday, this was supporting theatres across the north of the UK, where the doors have been closed to the public for at least the last six months.
The performance was Romantics Anonymous, put on by the Wise Children theatre company. The story is based on the French-Belgium romantic comedy film Les Émotifs Anonymes, which has been adapted into a musical by Emma Rice. The plot is predominantly set in a chocolate factory. It follows the lead characters: Angélique – a shy chocolatier, and Jean-René – the factory manager, as they fall in love despite their social anxieties.
All the actors have been in a bubble together, which meant there was no social distancing necessary on stage – they could sing, dance and kiss each other, just like in old times. The performance was streamed live from Bristol Old Vic and each night this supported theatres in a specific region of the UK or the USA, with the funds generated in the price of a virtual ticket. Theatres close to my heart, as well as geographically, that were hosting the show that I saw were Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, The Lowry in Salford and Home, Manchester.
It was great escapism to watch this musical; for a couple of hours, life felt normal again. The story was sweet, just like chocolate, and I particularly liked the stylised elements of the staging – there were hardly any doors used on set, for example. The car chase scene was also performed innovatively without a physical car, as such. No spoilers – but there was mini remote controlled version!
Another adage of theatre is “the smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd” – or is it the other way around? There was a socially distanced show performed to a seated audience at the end of the week. However, for the majority of the shows, there may not have been an audience in person to see the performance but it will have been enjoyed by many people, viewing over a screen as part of 2020’s ‘new normal’.
It’s a strange time to be writing a review of the past year but, let’s face it, 2020 has been a strange year! August is also a month of anniversaries. I’ve worked four years consecutively for the BBC, (a bit longer in total but I left, came back and also freelanced for a while) and I’ve spent the past year of that service with BBC Radio Cumbria.
It was a tough decision to leave my previous station, BBC Radio Lancashire. I’d worked in most roles in the newsroom there, my last substantively was producing the drive time programme. I had a great working relationship with the presenter; we were a small and effective team of two, who reformatted the programme. It was going down well with listeners and that was reflected in the listening figures.
I feel like I ‘left on a high note’, as the idiom goes, which is always good to do. The team gave me a brilliant send off and I’m still in touch with many former colleagues. Another saying is ‘life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’ and my life was taking me further north. The time was right for my fiancé and I to live together, so moving base coincided with moving home to beautiful Cumbria.
Carlisle’s a historic city: on one side of the studios is a castle and the other a cathedral. It has a particularly familiar feeling for me because of the aroma that comes from the nearby McVities factory. I grew up close to a biscuit factory near border of Stockport and Manchester. There’s nothing quite like it! The scent is very reminiscent of home. Even though the two are more than 130 miles apart.
After my first day, I was reporting in Kendal about work on Victoria bridge. As I was recording that report news broke that a lorry had hit a nearby railway bridge and I ended up being one of the first reporters on the scene, which demonstrates how important it is for news outlets to have a local presence.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know a new patch and developing contacts. In the months that followed I did a range of shifts. Filming and editing social media videos was something I’d never done before joining BBC Radio Cumbria and that’s been a useful skill to develop in an ever increasing multi-media industry. Here’s one of them… (Post continues below.)
Producing the overnight election programme in December has been a highlight – powered by pizza and coffee! I worked with two experienced presenters who took direction well, with a team of talented reporters based at counts across the county and inserts from political experts. Even the technology worked well. As a producer, you can’t ask for much better than that.
I’ve stood in for the news editor, covering the comings and goings of the news desk and I’ve read bulletins. I can recall when coronavirus was in the running order when I was on shift on New Year’s Day. I knew it was a big story but I didn’t realise then how life-changing it would eventually become for us all.
The week before I began working from home I was the early morning producer of the weekday breakfast show. A career milestone for me, as it was something I hadn’t done done before and I enjoyed having overall editorial responsibility for the programme. Covid-19 was high up the news agenda then, as the first cases of the virus had been identified in Carlisle.
Shortly after that I started working from home, which I’ve documented on this blog previously. I’ve been doing that for 20 weeks now. When it began I never thought it’d be something that would last for five months, but here we are! I actually thought I’d be back in the office so quickly that I almost left my headphones in my locker. I’m glad I did think to bring them with me because I use them everyday.
While I obviously don’t have the range of shifts available than the likes of what I’ve described above, I’m classed as a key worker. It’s felt like an important time to make a contribution to the radio station, during the pandemic. Mostly as ‘late prod’, the afternoon producer of the breakfast programme. I can also edit audio from home too, so I’ve been able to record audio remotely on my computer and package it up.
My first year with BBC Radio Cumbria has been amazing, I packed a lot into the seven months I was in the newsroom and the five months of working from home have been a learning curve that I’ve adapted to. There’s exciting things on the horizon as well. I’m part of BBC England’s Diversity Group North which focuses on inclusivity and equality, an area I am incredibly passionate about.
Other than that, it’s quite difficult to predict what the future may hold. Could there be a second wave of the virus? What will happen to the radio industry in this uncertain time? A lot can happen in a year and if this past one’s anything to go by, it has reinforced my outlook to take it a day at a time and not take anything for granted.
I had a wonderful time at college and each year that A-level results day comes around it brings back fond memories. Thoughts of the choices that lay ahead, the nerves, the anticipation. It was also the first time my voice was ever heard on the radio. Yes, I was one of the students who opened their results envelope on-air. It was August 2007 at Parrs Wood Sixth Form in Didsbury, Manchester. As well as the usual hustle and bustle in the common room, there were also a lot of journalists gathered.
The circumstances why were tragic; A member of our year group, Kesha Wizzart, had been murdered in her home a month earlier, along with her mother and brother. I didn’t know Kesha very well but we had both been awarded the same scholarship to study at the University of Manchester and I got to know her through that. I went on to study English language, linguistics and film studies, whereas Kesha would have studied law. After news of the 18-year-old’s death broke, it sent shockwaves among our tight-knit student community. Kesha was never far from our thoughts on results day – she had taken her exams but never got to find out the results. Balloons were released in her memory.
That’s why there was a lot of media attention, as well as covering the tribute to Kesha, the journalists also collected vox pops from students, like me, opening their results. I was interviewed on my local commercial radio station in Stockport, Imagine FM – a station I actually freelanced at years later. There were so many people being spoken to that day I never thought a clip of me would even be included in news bulletins. Then, as I was driving home, off to celebrate with a few friends, my name was introduced and a clip played. It must have only been short – I couldn’t really make it out – because there was so much screaming from everyone I was with! Meanwhile, my mum managed to record my 15 seconds of fame onto a cassette tape, which is a memento of the day she still has.
In my career, I’ve had the chance to be on the other end of microphone on A-level results day. I’ve reported live on location into programmes for 2BR and The Bee in Lancashire. As a journalist, I love the buzz about results day – all the excitement and expectation. It’s been a privilege to be small part of the students’ memorable day. I wonder if, like me, any of the students I spoke to will end up working in radio one day? I hope so.
A-level results day is something that comes round each year and is a challenge in newsrooms in terms of how to keep the storytelling fresh. The colleges, understandably, want to showcase the year’s high achievers but I think we need to try to keep it as representative and realistic as possible, in terms of how we portray attainment. Not every student studies A-levels; there are a range of other vocational further education qualifications. Of course, there are a lot of happy people on results days – and congratulations to them. However, not everyone achieves the grades they wanted and that’s also absolutely fine too. Exam results do not define us as people, it’s what we do with or without them that counts.
This year’s coverage of results day will be different and there’s no disputing where the story will go in running orders. Due to coronavirus, students weren’t able to sit their final exams and grades have had to be based on predicted results and other formula. That’s why I’m sure we’ll remember the class of 2020 in years to come – I wish them all the best for the future.
It’s a sign of the times now that some entertainment is offered drive-in style. Concerts, stand-up comedy gigs and movies, like Danny and Sandy go to in the film Grease. Well, this past weekend, as well as the one before, I went to a drive-in kite display at the Westmorland Showground in Cumbria. It’s been a good opportunity to build up confidence again, as I ease out of lockdown.
This display was organised by the company SmileFactor10, which is based nearby in Preston Patrick. The same people behind the St Anne’s kite festival, something I know about from my time with BBC Radio Lancashire.
With another radio connection, I came across the most recent event when setting up a piece for BBC Radio Cumbria about an alternative Westmorland Show that’s being held at Crooklands, near Milnthorpe, instead of the usual event that can attract crowds of about 30,000 people. While researching the piece I found out there was some drive-in kite displays coming up.
The event had to be booked in advance on the website and upon arrival at the showground gate you showed your QR code and it was scanned through the car window. Each parking spot on the field was five metres wide, which allowed for space beside the car for a picnic at a safe social distance from others.
The first weekend was so enjoyable it prompted a visit again the week after. One thing you can’t plan for though is the wind speed and this was stronger the first time around, which enabled bigger kites to take to the skies. Giant teddy bears, Chinese dragons and big manta ray fish, for example. The second weekend allowed a glimpse of some smaller and more delicate kites including Little Red Riding Hood and Superman.
Whatever normality is, being at the kite-display felt a bit closer to that. It was good to be out and about again, even though it’s a small and tentative step it feels like a step in the right direction. A way to support local businesses and feel the sunshine… I even have a sunburnt arm to prove it!
Guidance for people who have been shielding throughout lockdown changed at the beginning of August. In summary, this means that:
– You can go to work, but should carry on working from home wherever possible.
– You can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low.
– You should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and that you maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace.Source: UK Government.
If you’ve followed some of my posts this year, you’ll be aware that I have underlying health conditions and took the decision in March to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. I’m classed as “vulnerable”, rather than “high-risk”, but have been following shielding advice as a precaution.
For almost five months, I’ve tried to make the best of the situation. As a key worker, I’ve also been able to work throughout lockdown producing content – and sometimes broadcasting – from a home office set up for BBC Radio Cumbria. I never take a day that I work in this, an ever shrinking, radio industry for granted. I’m grateful to be able to make a contribution to the station’s output during lockdown.
I always do my utmost to make sure that my quality of life is on a par to that of everyone else around me. Feeling ‘different’ has never really been an issue for me, until the pandemic hit. I was reluctant to work from home initially, because I didn’t want to be treated separately to most of my colleagues. In hindsight, the decision to work from home, that was made at the beginning of lockdown, was absolutely the right one for me.
This Tweet by fellow journalist Lucy Webster sums my thoughts up well and, judging by the amount of engagement the thread has had on Twitter, many others feel the same way too: (Blog post continues below.)
After a chat with my manager, not much will change for me going forward and I won’t be returning to my main base in Carlisle yet. I’ve adapted to working from home very well and have everything I need at my fingertips. More and more meetings are being held virtually, I used Microsoft Teams for the first time last week too, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much.
Although I would like to build my confidence up again, I don’t intend to venture out much either. Of course, I want to get back to life as close to normality as possible but I will do so at a time and rate of change that feels right for me.
We’re in the middle of the school holidays at the moment, so there are a lot of people enjoying Cumbria’s beautiful landscape. Some will be having staycations after cancelling foreign holidays this summer. Therefore, I will probably wait until it’s a bit quieter around the Lake District before I reacquaint myself with the local area.
In terms of further afield, the majority of my family and friends are included in the tighter lockdown restrictions that have been brought in for all of Greater Manchester and parts of East Lancashire. This means that any potential visits are now, sadly, postponed for the time being too. (Blog post continues below.)
There are two perspectives to the approach of shielding being paused, which I was able to garner for the breakfast programme. We spoke to a lady who had been shielding her 89-year-old mum and didn’t feel comfortable changing anything. On the other hand, there was another lady who celebrated her birthday during lockdown and was going to see her daughter for the first time since February – she was looking forward to getting out and about again.
Neither of those perspectives are right or wrong; these are personal judgements that we all have to make on a daily basis. The government has issued guidance on shielding, rather than rules that are enforceable. Everyone’s personal circumstances are different and we all must assess the level of risk that each individual situation poses, while coronavirus is still being transmitted in society and may well be for sometime.
A nice side note to end the post on though: Since working from home, my office faces a window looking out to the back garden. Usually, in pre-coronavirus times, I wouldn’t be at home on weekday mornings let alone facing the back of the house. It’s usual to see wild rabbits and an array of birds here in south Cumbria. However, this past week, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a deer that had jumped over the wall in the daytime – it’s one of the advantages of living next to a wood. I’d been keeping my camera close in anticipation of a moment like this and I was able to capture it, as you can see in the snaps below.
A gentle reminder that a greater appreciation of the nature that surrounds us is at least one of the good things to come out of time spent in lockdown, for me personally, and hopefully many others too.