My Virtual School – staying in

9 April 2020. Thursday evening and for the third week a mass ovation for the NHS and key workers at 8pm. These seem to be becoming more elaborate. As though people look forward to it as the major event in the week. Friends reported what happened in their streets: bagpipes in one, a trumpeter in another, and somewhere else a boy had brought an entire drum-kit onto the pavement. That’s a lot of work for five minutes. Here people were talking about it in the street yesterday, as in ‘see you tomorrow.’

I don’t think this is about a mass thank you anymore. At least not completely. It probably was when it began but now it is much more about us. A moment when everybody is outside, or at least visible. All doing something together that isn’t just the immediate household. Almost a moment of drawing breath and saying, ‘here we all are, everybody has made it through another week, and we are all still here, and we can shout and sing and play the bagipes and bash the drums in one glorious trumpet fanfare of noise.’ Our collective primal scream.

A survey out today reports that 90% of the country support the lockdown and have been attempting to observe social distancing. But nearly 49% report greater anxiety and depression than normal, while 15% say they are barely coping with being inside for most of the day. It is particularly difficult for those aged 16-24. Adults have coping mechanisms, find activities to do around the house, but it takes years to achieve that kind of equilibrium. Small children are constantly being attended to, stimulated, having lessons. Even the dog has advice thrown at him for constructive play, including hiding his food all around the house – there’s a recipe for frustration and mice! But most teenagers haven’t yet acquired resilience or patience, and activities around the home are all chores to them. Frankly I’m surprised it’s only 24%. 76% of them are managing OK – supposedly.

Poor dog had a failed social distancing encounter today. A family was walking past us on a narrow path, parents with two toddlers. The dog is super-friendly but has learned, poor boy, that he must no longer greet strangers. We stopped and stood back to let the family pass. Mother exhorted the children not to pet the doggie. Children manfully obeyed. Dog doggedly obeyed. Father patted doggie. We as a household have to observe the strictest measures we can short of total lock-down. Poor dog had to be shepherded home to a bath, which he loathes, and then hours shut in the kitchen drying out. Father was getting a good earful as they went out of sight.

This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community,  to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.

© Clare Sargent