From John, brother of Sandra. Thoughts from across the channel
Remember when Corona was a drink?
I don’t know if any of you are the youngest in your family, but I’m the youngest in mine. So, a throwaway comment on Whatsapp has led to a command from my older sister – Sandra the Elder – to contribute to a site that, even as I write, I haven’t heard of. As John the Younger, when you get a command from above, you don’t question, you don’t even let out a faint whimper, you just do as you’re told. I was tempted to have a look and see what was being written, but where’s the fun in that? There’s no point your sister bigging you up, saying you can write, if you don’t stick to your own style, so here’s mine.
The topic given for writing is a real wow! Coronavirus and being at home – yeeahh! Not of my choosing, but as I understand it, it seems quite topical at the moment? In a nutshell what does it mean for me? I work as a computer teacher in a lovely school in Bristol. Well, I did work in a lovely school in Bristol, but now I’m working from home. Said school has now closed and we’re all engaged in the wonderful sport of home educating, more of that later. At home with me is my wonderful and long suffering wife of many summers, my twenty-one year old son, my eighteen year old daughter, whose school she has loved and adored for the past nine years which has had to close without all of the end of school nonsense that would have taken place, and my fifteen and half year old dog who is baffled as to why we’re all here disturbing his sleep.
This virus has thrown up many unanswered questions. The biggest of all has to be ‘Why loo rolls?’ I get people stockpiling beans, pasta, tomatoes, soap, Lindor chocolates and wine, but I just don’t get loo rolls. I’ve been at home, distance educating for the past week and I’m pleased to report that I have not built up the equivalent of the Great Wall of China in loo rolls in our downstairs toilet yet. Triple ply, comfy variety at Chez Matthews has remained what could best be described as normal. I wonder if anyone reading this is looking at their stash, thinking 125 loo rolls just isn’t enough. Or despite knowing there’s a great game of Jenga loo rolls to be had at home, if you saw them in Aldi, you wouldn’t be able to resist a cheeky 9 pack? After all, 134 loo rolls still isn’t enough really, is it? I just don’t get it?
I always thought ‘working from home’ was the equivalent of a day off, away from the office, when you can get on with the important things in life at the company’s expense, such as gardening, golfing or sitting at a pavement café with a double mocha expresso latte. Does anyone still remember the day when you could go to a café? They seem so distant now, but I digress. What I have found this week is that working from home has been much harder than working at work. Sat at a computer for hours answering countless emails is not my idea of fun. I get bombarded with questions from students who I know are erudite and sociable, but what happens when they send a text? It’s all non-descript, monosyllabic nonsense. The best ones are the emails saying they can’t use their email. Reread that statement and think about it. . . . . . .
Then you get the students who, being students, don’t want to work and see a technology failure as the real ‘Get out of Jail free’ card. Emails along the lines of „the school’s system wouldn’t let me logon on so I can’t do the work“. I love these emails. I’m one of those really sad people who doesn’t mind trawling through computer logs to prove that they’re lying. Small victories in life keep me going. I enjoyed sending an email last night to a student with the following:
“I suspect I know why you haven’t attempted to do any work? It’s simple. You haven’t tried to log on! The records on our system show the first time you attempted to log on was yesterday, Thursday 26th at 10:59 and gave up trying at 11:09. You were supposed to logon and work on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday…etc”
Like I say, small victories, but I do like the idea of him opening the email with a howl of dismay, knowing his little game is over, very rewarding.
At home, I thought we’d all get on each other’s nerves with constant bickering as we’re all in such close proximity to each other, but I was wrong. I forgot that self-isolation, although a new and trendy term, has been around for years in this house. My children have been self-isolating in their rooms since they hit their teens, only emerging like a Swiss Cuckoo bird when the magic word ‘food’ is shouted from the bottom of the stairs and then disappearing back into the rooms until the magic word is shouted again. However, I do find the best way to have a family gathering to talk about things affecting us all is very simple. Turn the internet router off. Then count, one, two, three . . . . I find I never get beyond ten before all my clan are downstairs talking to me. It’s far more effective than ‘food’, as they’ve learnt not to be too quick off the mark as, inevitably, there’s some unbelievably hard task associated with the ‚food‘ call which I then ask them to do. A teenager would much rather eat lukewarm food than empty a dishwasher, but the internet router gets pretty much an instant response every time. It’s scary, but I think for this generation they’d much rather go without oxygen than the web.
As part of the government edict, we’re allowed to exercise once a day away from the house. It is good to report that on the whole we’re dutifully, almost germanically so, following instructions but giving it a bit of British twist. My neighbour reported that, instead of walking his dog around the block, he now walks him for some six miles. He’s discovered places he never knew existed. I’ve enjoyed running to extend my period of escape, but at great personal cost to my lungs and long-suffering knees as I’ve increased my distance. The problem with running now is there are so many more people out and about, also taking exercise. I’m not sure if it’s just me but sometimes I feel like Moses parting the waves. I only have to wheeze and gasp my way toward fellow exercisers and they just move out of the way, giving me a wide berth. I could take it all very personally.
Only yesterday, I realised that we’re starting to lose our sense of humour when running toward two elderly people. Firstly, they showed an amazing turn of speed getting out of my way. Who knew anyone could shuffle that fast? Both were wearing very fetching colourful headscarves over their faces. My comment of „you’ll never get into the bank looking like that“ didn’t go down too well. In fact, you can see the tumbleweed blowing across the humour tundra as I type. Ho hum, at least I thought it was witty.
Well, those are my incisive thoughts for the first week. If Sandra provides a modicum of positive feedback, I might be allowed back.