Looking back at the last few years, from where we currently stand, life was fairly easy. The UK stayed afloat without any wars happening on the island, we avoided famine, most major disasters, earth quakes, massive land fires. Lucky lucky. Till this month, when our luck ran out.
The shit storm has well and truly landed and it looks like it’s here for the foreseeable future. Or maybe for three months if we all get on board. Or maybe for a year if we don’t.
I am not going to preach the superiority and wisdom of those staying in, or berate those going out, as we are all different, we digest information differently and if we were all smart, we wouldn’t need police to separate us when fighting over a box of pasta.
I am going to go back to basics, and write a post (or maybe a few) about the week in the life of your photographer. I have been meaning to write it for ages, and on any given day in 2019 it would have been much more exciting than right now, but there is some odd beauty in the struggle to stay sane being locked indoors, and if you manage to see it, I will be over the moon.
We are past week one of a lockdown. Officially it’s not quite a lockdown just yet, but we chose to stay in to keep my husband safe.
With two underlying issues and a lung infection from last year that is only just looking like being ok, he is the poster boy for the 3% death rate and as much as he annoys me occasionally, I would not want to bury him just yet. We are about to exchange on a new house and the amount of paperwork to go through again if he was to die would be horrendous. He is also the one responsible for knowing all the passwords at home, where bills are coming from and how the TV remote works. There are many reasons I would rather have him alive, but the main one is quite ordinary: he makes me smile.
So here we are, locked in with a five-year-old. She is actually spot on so far, no bother at all, but working from home with children is a myth. Anything that requires focus is out of the window. I could maybe do knitting, it seems fairly automatic or peeling potatoes. I could probably do that having my daughter around. Anything more and it’s a struggle. Or maybe it’s me. I struggle. We are definitely all different, and I never found parenting easy, so considering the circumstances, I am a ticking time bomb. But one cannot explode. I haven’t finished writing my eulogy yet.
So here we are. Schools are officially closed from tomorrow. We are being told to teach our children at home. Those are exceptional circumstances, but no armageddon will ever turn me into a teacher. Which is quite ironic, given I travel around the country to teach adults. Kids however are another species. They don’t listen (to me), they goof about, and you can’t shout at them as they will start crying and use this traumatic experience from their childhood to explain all their future failures. Nope. Not on my watch. I will actively let them run wild for now, and hope this hell ends quickly. It’s not due to lack of trying. I gave homeschooling a go. Just like turning vegetarian, or joining the gym, this also didn’t last long.
When shit hit the fan, we got the essentials (more on that later) and head over to Smyths toy store to stock up on time fillers. Armed with toys, games and gadgets, we joined the queue of folks having the same idea. At home the plan met the reality and our one month of toy supplies got dismantled in a day. Tip for you all if you have younger kids: we all want to think our offsprings are gifted, but 1000 piece puzzle set for a five-year-old is an overkill.
As I am writing this, Amazon delivery knocks on the door. There is a tiny girl standing there with our parcel. In case you wonder, it was a box of lighters for when the world ends and we go off-grid and need to camp in the woods and start fires to heat up the can soups from the pantry. According to my husband, if it ever comes to this, we would have bigger problems than lighters, but I ignore this. It’s one man’s opinion. I like to be prepared. We have the lighters. But I digress. The girl!
She was about eight years old, standing there with our delivery. Her mum, the delivery driver, was down the drive, in the car. She must have figured out since children are pretty immune to this crap, she is safer sending her daughter to do the face-to-face job. The flaw in his plan made me feel as though I was a cast of the “Idiocracy” movie, but maybe she was just tired. Or maybe she was teaching her the value of work and she was in fact earning her keep and doing it for her pocket money. Who knows.
I mentioned the prep shopping. Being in a self-inflicted lockdown, we had to prep for a couple of weeks (recommended). My survival experience extends to watching Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic Channel, so most likely you would not want to be stranded with me when the days come to an end. Unless you like wine and chocolates. And Coco Pops. I unconsciously stocked up on those purely because I did not read the number of units properly when ordering those on Amazon. But this resulted in having a sugar stash every sugar-addicted alcoholic would be proud of, so I take it.
Tuna and pasta also made an appearance as there was little to no point getting things that required proper cooking skills. I would die of hunger way before anyone in my house was to eat a warm creation consisting of more than five ingredients.
So armed with canned tuna, Coco Pops and lighters, we are ready to face the unknown. It’s so mind-boggling, that every day when I wake up, I hope the world resets overnight and things come back to normal. It’s so surreal, and so far from our everyday reality, I cannot even blame the youngsters who go out and ignore it. They were never in a situation remotely similar to this and with less negative life experiences overall, there is no comparison, no experience to fall back on.
In theory, there was never a better time to be locked indoors than in the current day and age. We are warm, with access to entertainment, books, internet, close family, with food, music. In theory, it’s not bad. But we are in most cases also locked in with children, and between them bouncing around and our head filled with the thoughts of potential imminent unemployment or a business collapsing, it’s not the best place to be. Also, as strange as this may sound, not all of us are fans of our own company. We socialise to distract ourselves from the very steady existence. If our hobbies are limited to pub visits and football, isolation can feel painful.
The first couple of days we did a lot. The fact that this may be our new reality for the foreseeable future did not quite sink in.
Eva made clay earrings, we went out for a walk in the fields, and she drew a lot. It almost felt like a great family weekend.
The reality dawned on me when in the evening, we FaceTimed Eva’s best friend from school. The girls were chatting away, running around showing each other toys and laughing at us, it was great. After the call was over, Eva burst into tears, because she couldn’t have a real play date with her friend. She knew why we are in isolation, but at five years old, it didn’t matter. All she wanted was to be able to spend time with her best friend, who she used to see every day. She wanted to show her the newest, wobbly tooth. Tell her about her new haircut that mommy “committed” on her head (if photography doesn’t pick up after this hell is over, I am opening a hairdressing salon you guys). My heart broke. At that very moment, if I was to face the person who started it all, whether it was eating the goddamn bat or a squirrel, I would rip their throat open with my bare hands. As parents, we want to protect our children from any heartache. Some of those are good, and teach us things. This one was unnecessary and avoidable.
Kids are resilient. She will be fine.
In the evening I sat down at the computer to write a cancellation email to the folks at the Pig Hotel in Oxfordshire, where we were booked for a few days to celebrate my husband’s upcoming birthday in April. Pressing “send” on that was as surreal as starting the email with “Due to the pandemic”. Out of all the reasons to cancel a party, never have I expected to use those words.
I sat on the sofa, with a cup of coffee, pondering what needs cancelling now. Spa day with my girlfriends got rescheduled. Workshop I was due to run in Liverpool on the 24th March got moved to online. We were booked in an amazing venue, with awesome food, and it’s now looking like a PJ day with a cup of tea flavoured with long-life milk.
In theory, we should use this time to up-skill, do an online course we never had time to do, watch some good movies, so I logged in to masterclass.com to do an interior design course by Kelly Wearstler. We have the opportunity to create a beautiful home from scratch, if the purchase doesn’t go on “lockdown” next week. Could a mortgage company withdraw the offer due to pandemic? I missed that point in the contract.
In all this uncertainty, there was a tiny glimpse of light. Not being able to photograph my beautiful clients (and I genuinely miss it more than I expected), I took my daughter into the studio. We goofed around a bit, but apparently in my professional four walls, I always turn into a photographer, and the mum-me stayed at home. I was focused and determined to make this time count. We came out with a few images, that I will always look back on with love because they show the reason why I pick myself up when all hope looks faint and daily life turns into God’s waiting room.