Review of the year: 2020
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.
Coronavirus: Shielding paused
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.
Life after lockdown
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.
Coronavirus: Week four in self-isolation
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.
Coronavirus: Week three in self-isolation
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.
Coronavirus: My first week in self-isolation
“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