After 11 weeks of self-isolation due to the coronavirus, restrictions have been eased by the UK government sufficiently so that we can at least start to think about what life after lockdown could be like.
I’m classed as ‘vulnerable’ because of having underlying health conditions. It’s something I would never ordinarily describe myself as, but these are not ordinary times. I was never officially part of the shielding group but that’s basically what I ended up doing as a precaution. Working from home, getting shopping delivered, that kind of thing. Then, at the end of last month, the advice changed and people shielding were allowed outdoors.
Well, I haven’t been outside the perimeter of the house just yet but the easing of restrictions mean that I’m able to take small steps towards a ‘new normal’. Yesterday, my parents were able to visit us in the back garden, while maintaining the mandatory two metre social distance. It was a joyous occasion, as I hadn’t seen them in person for about three months. During that time we missed celebrating together Mother’s Day, Dad’s birthday and their 37th wedding anniversary.
We’re a tactile family, so not being able to hug each other is strange. You also have to go against instinct at points: when something drops on the floor and someone else goes to pick it up. Or when our cat comes close, it’s very hard to resist the temptation to pet her! Luckily, after some weather forecasts predicted wind and rain, the day turned out nice. We had to get our umbrellas out at points, but it was an opportunity to see the back garden in bloom. Even the birds getting food from the flutter butter holder weren’t put off by our presence.
At the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be updating this blog as frequently as weekly, but I think documenting my period of self-isolation has been a good thing to do. It’s been cathartic to write about, as a way to try to make sense of an uncertain situation and hopefully it’s made for interesting reading too.
As we emerge from lockdown, I don’t anticipate I’ll update this page quite as frequently. My diary style tweets on Twitter curtailed after about 70 day because all the days were starting to blend into one large mass of time! I’ve always aimed for quality rather than quantity of posts. Also, focusing on other things will give me a chance to write about various topics, most of which are a commentary on the media industry, which have been a feature of my site for the past nine years and something I want to continue.
This period in time that we have been experiencing is probably something future students will learn about in their history lessons and something our generation will tell their grandchildren. Key workers will be remembered for keeping the country going at a challenging time. The tragedy of loved ones lost will also stay in our thoughts. At the time of writing, the global death toll of COVID-19 stands at about 393,000, according to statistics from the World Health Association. More than 40,500 of those deaths have been registered in the United Kingdom. To put the UK figure into context, that’s about twice the capacity of London’s O2 arena.
Of course, the virus hasn’t gone away; the reproduction rate or ‘R number’ isn’t as high as it was in the middle of lockdown, when the peak was at its highest but it could potentially rise again. We must continue to be careful; coronavirus can still infect people indiscriminately and the consequence of that could be fatal. Be mindful, stay safe and, if you’ve followed my story of self-isolation over these past 11 weeks, thanks for reading.
I’d like to start this week’s reflection in tribute to our nephew George W. Dyson, who passed away in Canada at the age of 41. He was a lovely person, whose inspirational spirit transcended countries, was felt by all fortunate enough to know him and was taken too soon. I send my love to all his family and friends at this, the most difficult of times. The death wasn’t coronavirus related but the horrible reality of restrictions surrounding the virus is that we cannot attend a funeral at this time.
One of the things George loved, when he visited his family in England, was the garden at our home. We will plant a memorial tree in his honour. Since I’ve been staying at home more than usual I’ve been able to appreciate it too, becoming aware of the subtle changes over time. Normally, I wouldn’t be so attuned to when certain plants bloom but that’s one of the positives to come out of lockdown. Spring blossoms are now transforming, getting ready for the summer season.
You can see the changes to the flora in the front garden in comparison to an earlier photograph I took on the first day my precautionary self-isolation started. When asked to submit a photograph for one of BBC Radio Cumbria’s social media posts documenting life in lockdown I knew that snap was what I’d use. The reflection from the glass in the shot was a ‘happy accident’ but encapsulates my view of the world, carrying on outdoors, while I stay inside. You can see what it looks like in the video here… (Post continues below.)
At work I’m becoming a whizz with Zoom, an app I’d never used before. Seeing team members is a great way to stay connected with more than one person at a time. I’ve also taken part in BBC training over Zoom which allows me to now record interviews with contributors, while still working from home.
Meanwhile, the radio industry itself continues to change. It was announced earlier this week that stations which had been acquired by the Bauer group will be rebranded as Greatest Hits Radio, as reported by the industry news website Radio Today.
This includes many UKRD stations, a group where I worked on staff for nearly two years, as well as stations in the Wireless group like Wish, Wire and Tower FM that I freelanced at in Wigan. Going forward, there will be fewer job opportunities available for broadcasters and journalists. You can read my thoughts on the changing landscape of local radio in a blog post I wrote in March last year HERE.
It’s also the end of an era for travel news; today’s the last day BBC local radio is taking voiced bulletins from the traffic data company INRIX Media. From tomorrow, bulletins will instead be provided in-house, using scripts.
I had a great time in my four years as part of the weekend team at INRIX, working in the Altrincham office. My highlight was delivering travel bulletins for BBC Radio Manchester’s ‘80s programme because I got to chat to Clint Boon from the band Inspiral Carpets each week. Another was when I was going to a fancy dress party shortly after work, so spent the last bit of my shift dressed as a Blues Brother! BBC Radio Cumbria was also one of my regular stations, which is where I now work.
To broadcast travel news well takes skill which is quite niche – similar but essentially different to presenting or news reading. Travel broadcasters assimilate information from various sources to bring you what you hear on-air, without verbatim scripts and often with only a short amount of time between bulletins for various stations around the country. I know I’m a better broadcaster having worked at INRIX, alongside many talented colleagues. My thoughts are with those affected by the changes.
Back in December 2016, during a busy Christmas party season, I recorded myself delivering a travel bulletin on BBC Radio Manchester for a Facebook live video. If you want to see what it was like ‘behind the scenes’ in the travel news centre, here it is…
I’ve been out of the house for the first time! Was it for a lovely walk? A delicious take-away meal, perhaps? No, neither of those; I had to visit the emergency dentist. A literally painful reminder that the outside world, as well as the one inside my mouth, is continuing regardless of any precautionary quarantine for Covid-19.
Some context: In January I had a wisdom tooth taken out by the wonderful team at the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal. When lockdown restrictions came into force, I was grateful to have had the procedure done before it got any more serious.
Flash forward to this week, and the partially erupted wisdom tooth on the opposite side didn’t feel right, followed by a headache and sore throat. Then, in the middle of Monday night, the pain started. Swelling also meant I wasn’t able fully open my jaw. I couldn’t eat solid food or talk properly, without looking like a ventriloquist.
I tried home remedies to ease the pain and swelling and was going to wait to see if it got better. No such luck until my neighbour rang about something completely different. She’s a dentist and, while on the phone, was able to diagnose me. She said I must call the emergency dentist. I was wishing I’d had both bottom wisdom teeth pulled out when I was in hospital, but I’d only recently had an x-ray which showed the tooth was fine. I’d also been for a dental check-up, just before this self-isolation started.
Dental surgeries aren’t yet open for business, understandably, but I was able to contact mine. My dentist prescribed some antibiotics and we met in the surgery car park to pick them up. A surreal socially-distanced situation. The pills were put on a tray, which was placed on the ground to pick up and we kept two metres apart.
I’m still working from home, which has been a godsend with these dental issues, to be honest. This week in May is the third anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing. I edited an interview with a young woman from Cumbria who was there at the Ariana Grande concert.
Thoughts of the 22 people who were killed and those who were injured are never far from my mind. I’m proud of my Mancunian roots and went to school with Martyn Hett, who was one of the people who died. I wrote more about my thoughts in this blog post at the time. Three years on and the aftermath is that people are living with grief and some of the survivors with with physical or mental health conditions as as well. Even now, it’s hard to comprehend this act of terrorism.
Manchester is a truly fantastic city – it’s the spirit of the people that make it so. The Oasis song Don’t Look Back in Anger was cathartic for many after the attack and still is. I listened to the track again on 22 May and lit my bee candle in honour of the 22. They will never be forgotten and are always in our hearts. #WeAreManchester.
“We’ll meet again”, Dame Vera Lynn’s war time classic song that’s been given a new sense of importance. People all over the UK and Europe commemorated the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe day) during lockdown, because of the coronavirus pandemic. I tried to mark the occasion as best I could, while staying at home. I even added to my baking repertoire with a batch of scones for an afternoon tea. How quintessentially British…
In my day job, I produced some items for BBC Radio Cumbria’s Bank Holiday programmes and news output this week. As ever, working from home, while sometimes challenging, is providing great structure to my days in self-isolation and offers a chance to immerse myself in the output.
Due to the wonders of technology, I was able to report live into the breakfast programme, for something we call an ‘illustrated two-way’ in radio. This is where the presenter asks the reporter questions about a news story and the answers are punctuated with audio clips. While these often sound like off the cuff chats, they actually require a great deal of research.
It was lovely to be back live on-air again, all from the comfort of my living room (while sitting as close to the router as possible) and connecting via a special app on my iPhone. The range of broadcast journalism work you can actually do while working from home is amazing. Something I’m very grateful for.
On a personal note, I was gutted to miss seeing my Dad on his birthday this week. It was a landmark one and, had circumstances been different, I expect my whole family would have been getting together for a celebration. Instead, it was subdued and I tried to make it as special as I could from afar. No delivery of a present can ever compensate for a hug though. The best way to think of it is that the celebrations are just being postponed, until life gets back to some sort of normality.
The weather’s been warm again this week and it’s been nice to spend time in the garden. I’ve planted some tomato plants in the greenhouse for the first time and they’re already springing into life. A reminder though, if you are spending time in gardens, there are ticks around. As a former ‘city girl’ I hadn’t much experience of this, until one latched onto my partner and I had to get it out. That saved a trip to the doctors, which would have been the first time either of us has been out of the house for more than 50 days.
Later today, (Sunday, 10 May) Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to address the nation. There’s all kinds of speculation about what this might be, perhaps relaxing of certain restrictions? We’ll find out shortly. Whatever it is I’m still going to be sticking with my precautionary self-isolation as best I can. As someone with two “underlying health conditions”, I don’t want to take any chances.
For many people, the lockdown has been difficult, I’m well aware of that. There are many facets to each individual situation. For me, the prospect of contracting Covid-19 and what may happen because of that is just as scary now, seven weeks on, as it was on day one when my self-isolation started.
Reflecting on the past week, I remember a friend of mine who has died after becoming ill with coronvirus. Every day the death toll is rising and behind each number are family and friends who are grieving. All coronavirus related deaths would not have happened had this virus not existed and it’s heartbreaking to think how many people across the world have lost loved ones.
I have known Geoff most of my life; he was a fellow Manchester City fan who I knew from our supporters’ club and he went to games with my Dad. He was always kind to me and interested in my career. I shall remember him with affection. Only close family can attend his funeral, due to social distancing measures. It is with great sadness that I cannot pay my respects in this way.
This past week has also been lamentable because I should have been on holiday in New York. It became all too easy to think of “what if” scenarios – what I might have been doing at certain times had the pandemic not swept across the world. I actually saw the hotel I was meant to be staying in on Times Square in a shot used on a BBC news report about how New York has been severely affected with cases of the virus.
The lights are out on Broadway, where I was due to see the production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical comedy Company, after missing its run in London’s West End last year. The ticket price has been refunded but I am still waiting to be reimbursed for the flights and hotel bookings, which could take anything up to 90 days.
Musicals are great escapism during these uncertain times and I’ve been able to get my fix with a subscription to Disney Plus, which isn’t just about animated classics. There’s the Star Wars back catalogue, Marvel universe and National Geographic documentaries included too. During my annual leave, I’ve watched another of Sondheim’s works Into the Woods as well as Mary Poppins Returns. Two very different films, both I’d recommend.
Friday night YouTube screenings of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical have also been something to look forward to, while staying at home. This week’s was Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. As a fan of the original I didn’t know what to expect of a new iteration but I loved it and may even catch it again before the link on the ‘Show Must Go On’ page expires this weekend.
Having more time on my hands, while in self-isolation, has also given a chance to bake more often than usual. (With usual meaning not at all.) I was previously quite daunted by it, after seeing elaborate showstoppers on the Great British Bake Off and other cookery programmes, I’d find any excuse to buy ready made baked goods from a shop. However, I’m amazed how simple some recipes are.
It’s easy to see why there’s a shortage of flour because it seems every man, woman and dog have been having a bash at baking banana bread. I’ve perfected my own version (pictured below) which has oats in and caramelised banana on top. Other tasty recipes that have gone down well include a tea loaf that’s made with marmalade and homemade ginger biscuits.
I’m back working from home this coming week, all that’s left to do now is finish wiring up the work computer and, all being well, I’ll be able to log in and access the internal BBC network. That should help workflow massively. I’ll let you know how it goes in next week’s update. Stay safe.
The Easter bank holiday gave chance for a short break. My partner and I made the decision to do everything as close as possible to what we usually would. A nice meal, with a leg of lamb, flowers and an egg hunt around the garden. The biggest absence were the wider family but video calls meant that everyone could feel connected virtually.
Our family became a bit bigger on Easter Monday, as we welcomed new member George Patrick into the world. A symbol of hope in uncertain times, an appropriate Easter metaphor too.
The joyous occasion is also a reminder that, alongside helping coronvirus patients at increased capacity, NHS staff are still dealing with all the usual hospital admissions and doing so to an incredibly high standard. The service which Britain is so proud of.
We can’t visit baby George, he’s home and well, but has to isolate with his parents for 12 weeks. I’m further along the self-isolation timeline at four weeks plus. It’s going as well as it can do. The main side effect for me has been swollen feet. I’m not the most avid of walkers at the best of times but even walking around work and Carlisle city centre offers more daily exercise than working from home in a bungalow does.
As I’ve taken the decision not to leave the house at all during lockdown, I can’t make use of the Government mandated daily walk but have been trying to exercise at home. One thing I will never take for granted is how lucky I am to live so close to Morecambe Bay. There’s so many places I could aspire to visit once the peak of the virus has passed. What I would really like is to walk along the coast and soak up the views of the a Lake District fells in the distance once again. That’s first on a long list of things to do. Visiting the local takeaway for a kebab comes a close second though, I must admit.
A computer from work has now been delivered so, when that’s set up, I’ll be able to access the internal BBC systems a lot easier than I do currently, while working from home. A big thanks to my colleagues back at base who have input audio and scripts into the play out system and enabled me to help produce the breakfast show. When I’m up and running on the new kit I’ll be able to do everything I can usually do in the office.
However, I’ll be spending my fifth week of self-isolation on annual leave. It’s been booked for a long time because I was meant to be flying to New York. Once it became apparent that my holiday of a lifetime wouldn’t be taking place yet, I decided to keep the annual leave because it’ll be good to have time off and mental break, if nothing else.
My week “off” will mostly be spent in the back garden, where the weather forecast looks good. It offers time for quiet contemplation, to make sense of this strange period of time we’re living through. Those personal admin type tasks, that always seem to get put off. And to jump on the baking bandwagon, after managing to somehow get hold of some flour. I’ll share how successful my attempts are with you next week. Until then, take care.
I can’t help but feel reflective while in “lockdown”. Last Good Friday, I was buzzing after presenting a music special on the radio called Eclectic 80s. This year I haven’t left the house for three weeks. It puts everything into perspective about how different life can be from one period of time to the next.
My fiancé was due to present a radio programme this Good Friday. He’s usually always on-air on Bank Holidays, that’s how we met when I studio produced one of his shows almost four years ago. The programme was postponed this year, due to alternative arrangements made because of the coronavirus pandemic. I know first-hand how much time and effort goes into planning these programmes, so hopefully it’ll make it to air after the outbreak is over.
For the past few years, Easter has always been very special. Not just for religious reasons but also because it allows for precious family time. As I spend Christmas Day with my parents at Easter I spend it with my partner and his children. It’s always an enjoyable time. Due to social distancing the family can’t be together this year, so it’ll feel strange. We’ll have a video call meet up instead and have plans to celebrate together as soon as possible, once the peak of the virus has passed and it’s safe to do so.
Lockdown during the pandemic is difficult for everyone; it’s something many of us have never experienced the likes of before. I’m trying to keep positive about my own situation in self-isolation but one of the reasons why it is hard is because, for the first time in my life, ‘underlying health conditions’ have literally stopped me in my tracks.
I’ve spent years making sure my quality of life can be on a par with anyone else’s and I’m fortunate that, usually, that is the case. However, at the moment, I can’t do what I want which is to go out and about and be part of a bustling radio newsroom. I can actually do quite a lot for the station from home though and soon a computer from work will be delivered, so I can access the internal network and that’ll aid my workflow even more.
I’ve got four days off over the Easter period and, while this would usually be a very busy time, I’m using the time it to relax and recharge. It’s been great to dig out my DSLR camera again to reacquaint myself with my hobby of photography. One of my garden wildlife pictures was used on a social media video for BBC Radio Cumbria this week and I was able to get a great shot, using an extended zoom lens, of the supermoon.
I wish you a peaceful Easter at home. This year’s will be a memorable occasion but probably not for reasons anyone could have anticipated. However, the religious comparisons are quite pertinent during this “lockdown”. These unusual times will pass and we will get our lives back again. A new beginning will come.
If you would have told me by April I wouldn’t have left the house for a fortnight then, I’d have thought it was an April Fools joke! However, we’ve living through unusual times and we must all do our bit to stop the spread of coronavirus.
At the time of writing, I’m on my 18th day in quarantine and I’m taking it well. For a lot of people who have ‘underlying health conditions’, like myself, we’ve already been through quite a lot in our lives and I think that helps build up a resilience which helps deal with challenging circumstances.
My accounts of life in self-isolation were featured on the hospital radio station Bay Trust Radio last Saturday. I was flattered to be asked because I wasn’t sure the experiences I’ve been tweeting and blogging about have been very interesting! I have been wondering how long I may be able to keep up my daily Twitter diary, because the days are becoming quite similar and blending together, but I’ll try to keep it up as long as possible.
This time last year, I was a guest at a beautiful spring wedding in Cheshire. It seems like that was in a parallel universe to now, with gatherings banned. We all must not lose sight of why we are doing these social distancing measures though. The unpredictability of the virus means that none of us know how it would affect us, if we contract it.
My social media timelines are full of harrowing accounts of people who have lost loved ones to this virus, which really hits home the reasoning why we need to stay at home to stop the spread. I had a bad bout of asthma earlier this week, which can usually be rectified with an inhaler. I couldn’t help but think how frightening it must be for people who struggle for breath, if they have severe symptoms to coronavirus.
I’ve been working from home again this week, helping to produce the breakfast programme on BBC Radio Cumbria. It helps during self-isolation to provide structure and a purpose to my days. I’ve also been back broadcasting this week too; I sent over a report about birdwatching from the back garden, in honour of the RSPB’s ‘Big Garden Birdwatch’.
I live within the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the location certainly lives up to that name. There’s a plethora of birdlife to gaze at from nuthatches to chaffinches and lesser spotted woodpeckers. Roe deer from woods behind also make an appearance some evenings too. They’re so graceful to see that I can forgive them for munching on the plants.
My Mum and Dad are set up on their iPad now and have picked up using the technology very quickly and video calling them is a joy. Despite being adamantly against it, that shows what kind happen if you’re mind is put onto something. Speaking of which, I’ve dusted off the exercise bike to try to burn off some calories from the chocolate I’ve been eating. Apologies in advance but, in a weak moment, I have to admit that our Easter egg stash has been broken into.
The peak of the pandemic has not yet passed yet in this country, so this way of life is likely to continue for some time. I was speaking to a radio contributor earlier this week who said she doesn’t feel like she is helping the situation because it feels like she’s doing nothing. Staying at home is helping though and the more of us do this, only going out when absolutely necessary, the sooner this will pass.
“Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”
I’ve been self-isolating for more than a week due to government advice during the coronavirus pandemic and so far, so good. I have two ‘underlying health conditions’ and, while not in the more severe group that need to be “shielded” from the virus, the advice for me was to social distance, as much as possible. I don’t have any symptoms and feel healthy, it’s just a precaution.
The fantastic team at BBC Radio Cumbria have enabled me to work from home so I took the decision to self-isolate, as I didn’t want to take any chances. I haven’t been out of the house since last Wednesday, 18 March. As with ‘flu, if I catch coronavirus, the risk is I’d need to be hospitalised. At a time when the NHS is pressured, I think self-isolating is the responsible thing to do. Not just for myself but to stop the spread and help others.
Working from home has been brilliant; it gives me something to focus on. I’m listed as a ‘key worker’ in the category of public service broadcasters and journalists and I’m glad to be able to play a part in supporting the BBC’s news output. I have an office space to work in and find it helps to mentally separate work from home life… although I’m sure my cat would prefer it if she could sit on my lap constantly!
With a team back at base supporting me to input cues into the internal BBC system, I’ve helped produce the breakfast programme, can record audio / broadcast using my phone and am in touch with colleagues regularly, so I don’t feel out of the loop. I miss reading news bulletins and studio producing programmes but those roles need to be done on site. I’m looking forward to getting back to that, as soon as possible.
My partner’s isolating with me, so we’ve not been able to physically shop for food for a while. I take it as a good sign that home delivery slots from the supermarkets are full for weeks in advance because it means other people are heeding the advice to stay at home. We’ve been able to get items from a local newsagent, which leaves the deliveries on doorsteps and neighbours have offered to help too.
It’s important to look after mental health at times like this and I’m in good spirits. I’m fortunate to have lovely views of south Cumbria to look at and a big garden that I try to get out in as much as possible for some fresh air. It’s where I’m writing this now. I don’t feel the need to get out and about to exercise. We have equipment we can use here anyway, I just need to motive myself to do it!
I find it difficult to read novels lately; I’m too interested in the latest news developments, but have found audio books a useful distraction to everything that’s happening in the outside world. Radio has been a great companion, as always. I have BBC Radio Cumbria on constantly while working from home and it helps to feel connected to those back at base. The importance of public service broadcasting shouldn’t be under-estimated.
Mothering Sunday was heartbreaking because I had made plans to see my Mum and Dad, all of which were put on hold. They don’t yet have video calling capabilities, but I’ve bought them an iPad so that’ll soon change. We’re in touch over the phone all the time and I was lucky to have been able to see them recently.
In terms of the future, who knows how long this will last? I was due to travel to New York after Easter which now won’t be happening. Although, the flights are still showing as going ahead. Even if the US travel ban is lifted, I wouldn’t want to go there so soon and Broadway is still on lockdown. Hopefully we can get some money back because, if we can’t get a refund, we stand to lose thousands of pounds.
Only a few weeks ago, my partner and I were in a chippy when a group of American tourists came in. It made us think ahead with excitement to our holiday in the USA. A week later we were in same chippy, the Americans had gone and it then seemed highly unlikely that we’d be going abroad at all. Fast forward another week later and we weren’t even leaving the house.
The speed the virus is spreading is shocking but we’re all in this together. The more of us who follow the advice to stay at home, and only go out when absolutely necessary, the sooner it’ll be over.
Stay strong, stay safe and take care. X