So, this blog post has been brewing for a while and it’s not as fun as my usual ones, so I beg your patience and indulgence as I sort my thoughts.
When I started this blog, it was based on my identity as a Black woman who is a daughter of immigrants, a mother and wife and a teacher.
And this pandemic has sharply thrown all of those aspects of my identity under the microscope globally and nationally. At the same time, I’ve been nervous this past year and a bit to talk from the perspective including all the nuances of my identity for appearing too ‘niche’.
Friends, explore with me. I’m going to work chronologically.
By the 10th of March, we were already wondering how long schools would be allowed to stay open. Other countries had locked down and we were expecting to follow suit, waiting on the announcement from the government.
And then toilet roll and pasta started selling out as people began to prepare for what was the inevitable. This did not affect me personally because
a) I don’t really like pasta (#TeamRice) and
2) I already had a long standing subscription order with Who Gives A Crap. Our order was due this month, and I wondered whether to delay it to allow other people the opportunity to buy.
A colleague at work and I discussed this – our communities and families already tended to buy in bulk due to having big families and core staples: 10kg bags of rice and 20 litres drums of oil are part of the building blocks of my childhood memories. Plus, she pointed out that her community used water, no toilet roll, so as long as the taps kept running, they were good and in no rush or need to buy toilet roll for guests that would no longer be coming over.
I knew the government would try and get schools open again before the summer holidays, so assumed things would reach a level of normalcy around June/July. That was what my initial planning was based on.
Thus, the only thing I made sure I bought was….leave in conditioner. And I’ve about run out now (since we’re past my invisible deadline) and, as I predicted, since it’s an American product, I can’t find it anywhere here in the UK and it’s not available in the supermarkets (before anyone makes that well-intentioned suggestion). I also went and maxed out our library cards with books to keep the Hatchling entertained during this lockdown.
I think…that’s it? Leave-in and library books.
Anyway, that leads me to the lockdown which came into play on the 23rd of March and then I’m just going to zoom forward to April, because why the heck not, eh?
It was this month that the anxiety really set in.
I listen to the radio a lot and Covid-19 was clearly on the top of everyone’s agenda as they kept us up to date with the daily death toll (which they’ve stopped now in a bid to encourage more people to go out and shop but peeps are still dying, so whatever).
“You don’t have to worry if you don’t have any pre-existing conditions!” Chirped the radio presenter.
“You’re more likely to die if you’re of a certain age and have pre-existing conditions.”
Beesh, I have a pre-existing condition!!
And I started to notice the names of those mentioned on the radio.
Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab – at that point, he was the youngest person to die of Covid, aged 13.
Manjeet Singh Riyat, a Sikh doctor from Derbyshire.
Alfa Saadu, a doctor who had returned from retirement part-time.
Mary Agyeiwaa Agyapong, a pregnant nurse whose child was saved through C-section but she died.
Belly Mujinga, who died of Covid after being spat at by a commuter who claimed to have Coronavirus (I think it’s assault at the very least whether he had Covid or not but guess what! No prosecution).
The names they read out on the radio who died filled me with a sense of dread. If ever there was a situation I didn’t want us to be over-represented in, it was in death from Covid.
“We’re dying more. It’s looks like this virus is disproportionately affecting Black and Asian people. Why? They’ll find a way to blame us though.”
Every Thursday, people were clapping #clapforourcarer, clapping for the NHS – built on the backs of immigrants over the last 73 years. Two videos spring to mind when I think of April in Covid season: Gina Yashere’s blistering critique of the whitewashing of the NHS in the national media and the You Clap for Me Now campaign to point out that many of the immigrants that are so unfairly railed against in the national media and discourse are – surprise, surprise – working in the NHS and as key workers, and saving the lives of so many whilst putting the lives of themselves (and possibly their families) at risk.
Oh! And guess where both my parents work? That’s right! Hospitals!
We immediately put the kibbosh on my dad coming out of retirement to ‘help’ (“BUN THAT!” I hotly cried in earnest) but my mother is a stubborn, wilful and independent woman (gee, who does that sound like?) who will not be told what to do by her children and who then inevitably caught it.
Spoiler alert: She survived.
Being at home so often with the Hatchling means that routines and systems I’d previously put in place (or had been putting in place) are either slowly unravelling or being blown out the water with my usual supports gone.
No childcare options (even grandparents which…remember in April where my parents are exposed to the Coronavirus? Yeah, that) and the piecemeal aspect of my job as a distancing teacher (because my line manager is a joke of a manager at the best of times, never mind at a blimmin’ distance) means that slowly, but surely, I end up with the Hatchling most of the week, writing and responding to emails and messages and (trying to have) meetings with my squiggly toddler squealing for attention and care in my lap then trying to tidy the absolute mess we’ve made as well as plan stimulating activities to satisfy my little one’s curiosity (since my anxiety literally stops me at the drive of our house).
So when a report comes out on Mums doing most or more of the housework and childcare during lockdown, I am just beyond too frazzled to add a sardonic “No duh, Darwin,” or the wittier version with Sherlock and the expletive. Double shift indeed.
At the same damn time as this, the Unions are fighting with the government about their assertion that schools are to open on 1st of June. Which is something I predicted the government would try and do waaaay back in March and, in May, was wholly not backing.
Why? Because I had no desire to catch Coronavirus. Simples.
It’s not like we were at New Zealand’s level of chill (“No-one’s died of Coronavirus in 17 days! Awesome!”) Heck, at the point, we weren’t even under triple digits.
Yes, I love my (work)kids immensely – the thought of us possibly being a danger to each other very much had me sat very firmly on the ‘Stay at Home’ bench, as opposed to ‘Stay Alert’ bench which…I…yeah, shoddily made, that bench!
And the newspapers had an absolute field day with members of my profession and I’m not linking to any of those rags presenting teachers as selfish, stupid or scaremongering.
The government has notoriously never been bothered about teachers and they’re not going to start now during a pandemic.
Anyway, we put measures in place and 60 page risk assessment documents were written (and re-written) and I went in for a few days and then some staff members caught Covid from somewhere and it all went to pot but tomorrow (today?) is the last day of term for this academic year so I don’t need to think about my job and working again until September.
Not only this but Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting is coming to light on social media because it is coming up to his 27th birthday and #irunwithmaud is on the rise.
Then Breonna Taylor’s case comes to light.
Then George Ffloyd.
And that’s when the sh*t really hits the fan.
Because it is bad enough knowing that you and your people may be at risk of disproportionately dying from a disease and no-one cares enough to figure out why without racism still acting to kill.
The momentum builds across the US and finally here we start.
“But we’re not (as) racist in the UK (as they are in the USA)!” As marches spring up to protect statues and the conversation is slowly shifted and family members (not mine, duh) post stuff on facebook and I find myself once, just once, angered enough to respond because I don’t get into these fights online.
I’m not a activist in the marching sense of the term but I’ve always prided myself on educating my children thoroughly.
So that’s my summer’s plan – making resources for Black Lives Matter: UK edition because we are very good at pretending to be polite and that it’s not an issue and would you like a coffee? Flat white of course.
There are extended lockdowns in Leicestershire because their rates are still too high for the government’s tastes and of course Eid, BLM and people being forced to work or lose their jobs are blamed for the spike as opposed to them introducing more testing as well as other complex variables.
Blame the brown/black people!
I’m sick of the conversations people have when they forget that I don’t fxck with racism (however prettily or daintily it is wrapped up) and let people know where they’re wrong because it’s getting boring now how predictable it’s getting and how simple their view is.
Also, what to do with childcare? Childcare provider is struggling with lack of numbers but also don’t want to send the Hatchling in to hug and kiss’n everyone, catch Covid and give it to me.
What does this have to do with money?
Well, it’s the questions that this all raises: So am I going to end up leaving my job (as I desperately didn’t want to) in order to cover childcare?
Can I still go into my workplace when I’m not assured of my own safety?
My money or my life, folks!
So there. No gifs, no niceness, just a brain vomit of the last 4-ish months. If you’ve read this far – tell me where you’re up to as well. I might add some gifs for sense and levity at some later point…or maybe not.
I’m so tired y’all. Life on this Coronacoaster is a mad ting.
Honestly, I hate and love this post. Hate it for all the bad stuff that’s wrong with.our society but so love that you shared it. So good to see your posts again, even though I’m slightly miffed that you didn’t warn me to check all of the library books out for my little one 😂
I don’t want to stay silent on racism either, even though it’s easy and more comfortable. I don’t understand, really, how pervasive it is through our society. At the same time my thoughts and feelings are too explosive for me to communicate coherently. I am reading and listening and trying to work out how tf I make this a better and fairer world when there is so much evil.
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I did think of you when I was clutching all the boarded flap and touch ‘n’ feel books that fateful Wednesday evening! “I hope she’s doing the same…” Does that make us Ladies who Library, instead of Ladies who Lunch? I’ve also thought of (with deep regret) all the books I returned that would be so useful for me to flip through right now.
It’s both a relief and massively overwhelming. When the news broke and the swell started, it felt like now everyone’s aware of this issue, let’s push through and solve it by next Tuesday! Which…is a big ask. A huge ask.
Where does one start?
Where does anyone start?
What do we need to do?
Took me a while and then I decided on my first step and then my second and have encouraged myself to keep on going.
Someone said social media is an echo chamber but when you have your low moments as a minority, it is incredibly helpful to hear that other people have similar or the same thoughts and feelings as you (about both racism and libraries, natch) specially when in ‘real life’ you are surrounded by navel gazers.
And it feels good and hopeful to be able to have these conversations out loud instead of in my head (as I have been doing for the best part of two decades) and to realise that I am an awesome judge of person because I suddenly found myself surrounded by not just good people but understanding allies.
That was and continues to be great times.
Good to see you back.
This burned me up: “You don’t have to worry if you don’t have any pre-existing conditions!” They didn’t have any evidence of that being true! They were just assuming! And the number of people who were quite healthy and contracted it and are suffering a long tail quite contradicts that notion.
Thank goodness your mom made it through ok.
Childcare is a huge question mark here too. I don’t know that you’ve had time to see but because of a complete and utter failure of our government here, our school plans are looking nothing short of disastrous in some places. Seriously, Orange County in CA wanted to reopen without masking OR distancing. I don’t know what pudding for brains they have but it’s some real nonsense.
People shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and their lives. There are ways to manage this better!
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It’s good to be back!
Seriously! No evidence and everyone not taking it seriously and then all the spikes and everyone was like “Why is this happening to us?” BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T THINK IT WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU! You only need to see the way countries who’ve had pandemics before have reacted versus ‘Coronavirus parties’ to see the difference in attitude. So angry.
Yeah, she didn’t have appropriate PPE and when she told me about her day, I was like “You’ve totally got it now. Stay home.” She’s still easily fatigued though – the long term effects are not a joke.
All our leadership have pudding for brains! Or something even less delicious that came out of a dog’s backside! Each area here has been left to make up their own criteria after the government has decree children to go back in September. Yeah, that’s the sound of them cutting the cord of responsibility and telling us ‘Work it out yourself’. Some real stupidity here.
But instead of looking at countries that have managed it better (I mean, Scotland has, for goodness sake’s and they literally neighbour us) we’re just going to keep making it all up and hoping that we survive the madness.