Virtual School – volunteers

1 April 2020. No one is much inclined to April Fool’s jokes today.  Winner was a great Twitter feed called @thoughtofdog. I love him, so does the dog. Posted ‘I wasn’t a good dog today.’ Shock horror. ‘April Fool! Yes I was’. Dog is trying so hard to understand and so hard to be good but just doesn’t know why he can’t play with other dogs or say hello when he meets human friends that he loves. Yesterday he cried and cried when a friend exchanged greetings from several meters away and he had to sit by me, with his lead at its shortest.

Husband has just finished a zoom conference with the other committee members of the group of the Motor Neurone Disease Association that he volunteers for. Great trouble throughout the MND community because it is not included on the government’s list of extreme at risk groups, despite many members relying on respirators in their daily lives. A hideous, cruel disease. Turns out it is included under ‘respiratory illnesses’ – which baffled everybody since it is neurological and the respiratory bit is a side effect. So difficult to think in categories instead of in specifics. Much discussion on how to support and communicate with such seriously ill people.

Last year, husband’s particular team was given The Queen’s Award for Volunteers in the Birthday Honours – the highest award for voluntary work. Now we are all volunteers.  More than 750,000 nationally have come forward to support the NHS. Every town and village seems to have organised its own community support group and is checking on the elderly and vulnerable. At school, more than 100 colleagues have joined the team to help in Radley village and the boys are being urged to do their bit wherever they are. Very grateful to receive a card through our door in Abingdon with times and phone numbers if we have to go into total lock-down. And friends from various parts of our lives have extended their support networks to include us, with regular phone calls and emails. Society may come out of this with a greater sense of community.

And at the end of the day one of those friends messaged with good news. Faringdon, the small market town where we lived for 25 years, is too far from the local hospitals so maintains a team of first responder volunteers for medical emergencies. One of them is the first person I know personally who has been in ITU with COVID-19. A man now well into his 70s. He became infected when he helped a patient. Tonight, news that he is recovering. We don’t hear enough about the survivors, especially the elderly. Congratulations, Gof!

This is an important time in our history as we become a virtual school during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will probably never operate in quite the same way again. The Archive is about us now.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone in the Radley College community to join in to create a group record for our Archive.

© Clare Sargent