My Virtual School – £3 for a cabbage

12 May 2020. A panic-striking email this morning: your network password expires today, reset your password to continue to access everything you need. Instructions on the helpdesk webpage. Instructions say I can only do this from the computer on my desk at work. Network password controls email, email controls zoom. Life is run on email. Sanity depends on zoom. Desktop computer is locked inside inaccessible building. Password expires TODAY. Briefly consider whether life could actually continue just via Twitter. Helpdesk Heroes to the rescue. Possibly the most essential workers the school has. Password reset by remote. And breathe.

Lock-down restrictions are easing. Longer journeys are allowed. And the housing market is restarting.  One friend (an estate agent) has suggested putting her own house on the market so that she can book her family in to view it. No other way to see said family but strangers can potentially be shown around the house. Those who have bought new homes can begin to arrange removals. A couple of visits to our new home to draw up lists of maintenance work before we move in. Small independent building trades are keen to get back to work but anxious how to do this. All we contact will only work in unoccupied houses. Good for us. Long chat about flooring with a carpenter. Electrician due out on Monday. Need to find a decorator. Then need to check when the curtain-maker we like will be back to work. What is very unclear is when we can get to shops to choose light fittings, paint colours, fabrics – online shopping doesn’t answer all questions.

Meeting our new neighbours in the small village. People call out hello from gardens. Some pop out of their houses to greet us across the street. One offers newspaper deliveries. Another invites us to a BBQ – ‘when all this is over.’

The gastro pub in the village is closed but has set up a take-away service – looks scrumptious. Also has a notice about the village shop. Good news. We didn’t think there was a village shop. No village shop in sight. Stop to ask two women sitting chatting in their respective front gardens. No village shop. Just a temporary one at the pub while the virus lasts. And not recommended – ‘all fancy breads and 50p for a carrot. They charge £3 for a cabbage!’ – my witty quip about getting serious with cabbage-cooking not received with approval.

The big debate is when schools will go back. Government has said 1 June for some primary years  – IF…. Horror on all fronts. NEU up in arms. The Union has been up in arms for weeks – first demanding that schools be closed, then demanding that teachers don’t teach online, and clearly out of contact with what is happening in the independent sector.  And a lot of teachers angry at the language of ‘closure’ – no schools are ‘closed.’ At our school, discussions on how to hold a parents’ meeting and for which years? A Virtual Open Day for prospective pupils happened a week or so ago. And one of the boys has challenged everyone to a lock-down photography competition. But it looks like we won’t be back until September and the next half of this term will be a long, hard slog.

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