Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world

Who would have thought it? The classic opener to Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing finally has a true resonation within me. A song that is always saved for the cheesiest of evenings (sorry Pop Tarts) has finally struck a chord within me as I have headed back down South to my little rural village to be with my family during the global pandemic, Covid-19.

Wow – things have certainly changed in the last month. We have gone from the odd little coronavirus joke during the earlier months, to winding up our friends when they sniffed or had a little cough, to suddenly being locked down into our homes with FaceTime keeping us connected. Whether you have been able to return home to your country, or have returned to family homes or have stayed at university, it is a peculiar and challenging time. It is mentally and physically draining. These are testing times for everyone. We have a village shop here that is only letting two people in at a time, with a queue extending from the automatic doors down the road, everyone two metres apart, with hand sanitising and antibacterial wiping station at the front, and someone monitoring your entrance and exit. It feels surreal.

I drove back down South to my family home after a quick panicked decision the night before, loading my car up at 5am and taking to the motorway. I left in the middle of March following the University’s decision to close and suspend face-to-face teaching, opting for home comforts and free food in case sh*t hit the fan. Since then, my evening highlight became the Coronavirus press conference that Boris was holding around 5pm every evening. Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives has become embedded into my brain. It feels like 2020’s catchphrase. But now I have begun to tune out, attempting to distance myself from the dystopian film we are suddenly starring in (and we aren’t getting paid for it.)

Coronavirus has thrown everything up in the air. Nothing really feels the same. I can’t be the only one struggling with the move to online teaching. My tutors have been absolutely fab since the University closed and there has been a real sense of rallying around. Thank you School of English for your hard work and constant contact! Despite these wonderful and thoughtful efforts, online teaching cannot mend the gulf that has opened up. Nothing is quite the same without the face-to-face aspect of teaching. It does make it easier remembering that you are all in the same boat, but I miss seminars, I miss lectures, I miss being able to pop into an office hour to lament about an essay and get some advice. Google Meet does not fulfil this void to the same standard but thank goodness we have great technology to keep us connected. For all of us who at times wondered why they came to uni, felt like they couldn’t be arsed somedays, or felt a little gleeful when the strikes reduced your timetable (or totally pissed off), now we are all missing university life and we want it back. I miss the IC. Trying to work at my desk at home is not the same, especially as one of my cats, Little Cat, likes to sit on the windowsill and play with my plants and pens and dab my screen.

During these last few weeks (has it only been that long?) I have forgotten how to write an essay, my ability to maintain structure and routine has its good and bad days, and only for a few days have I managed to wear a pair of jeans and not something with an elasticated waistband. I have since resorted back to boiler suits because they require less thinking and are somewhere between being dressed and not. The main perks are the home comforts of my mum’s cooking, my garden and being able to walk my dogs through the woods for the daily exercise allowance. It feels mad to even believe we have an ‘exercise allowance’. As I write this, the sky is grey and miserable but all I can think of is getting outside before it begins to rain, before heading back home, back to this desk, back to this dystopian nightmare to write an essay that eludes me as the days go by. Big hugs to all of you! Stay home and stay safe. See you in September (fingers crossed!)

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