Keeping a nation connected during lockdown: (Guest post by Grace Bloom)

Grace and Sam are a couple living in Essex, UK. They met in 2016 and have been blogging their journeys since. I was lucky enough to receive a guest post by them on what life is like as key workers keeping the country connected.

Grace also posted this to their blog, When Grace met Sam, and I have linked this beneath the post.

Due to the majority of bloggers not being self employed, certain information cannot be shared about companies and other aspects of life, but we do what we can.

I hope you enjoy their story.

 


 

Every morning at 7:30, we leave our cosy maisonette in Essex, experiencing fresh waves of anxiety as we face the day.

We never thought this would happen. The added responsibility of carrying the nation on our shoulders, the stress of ensuring we have enough gloves and wipes, constantly checking we’re not too close to someone.

Both of us are hands on engineers which means unfortunately, our work cannot be done from home. Therefore, we are Key Workers.

Although anxious, I’m proud to still be working and know that our engineers are invaluable right now. We provide the nation with internet, making sure children can access their school work at home, we keep phone lines up and running so people can contact 999 in an emergency. The company even call themselves ‘the fourth emergency service’ because we keep everyone connected. Due to the fact we have to still work, they’ve become really hot on the social distancing rule and have cancelled all buddying for new recruits, van sharing and have stressed that we’re only allowed to work with one other person (2m away!) at any time.

Sam is a plumber and has been told it’s emergency work only. His role makes him more at risk than I am because he works in customers homes. The precautions set by the company are to stay at a 2m distance, not to get a signature from the customer and to wear gloves when necessary. Sam’s expressed that he’s worried customers may lie when asked whether they’re showing symptoms, self isolating etc, so that they can still get their problem fixed. There’s been cases where this has happened to customer facing engineers within my company and the people guilty of this should be ashamed!

Of course, it’s not as lifestyle changing as working for the NHS (or as a carer). Some have moved out of their homes to isolate away from their loved ones so they can keep working. They also have much more exposure to the virus due to working with COVID-19 positive patients. We also need to be grateful for our delivery drivers, shop assistants and counsellors. I haven’t seen a lot of praise given to therapists to be honest. Mum being a counsellor herself, she has still been able to look after her clients by replacing face to face sessions with over the phone and Skype instead. Not only is she doing her bit by staying home, she is making herself available to support others.

My role as a Fibre Engineer means I work out in the field and very rarely have to step over a customer’s threshold. Fortunately, this makes it a little easier to maintain social distancing due to being out in the open, however I’m still experiencing the Joe public coming too close to ask questions about whether the job I’m doing will effect their internet. Lots of new rules have also come into force with regards to my job which I think will have an impact on work life after lockdown is lifted.

This past week my van has been in the garage, which means I’ve had to rely on the AA to recover the vehicle to and from Fleet (in Essex) with us not being allowed to vehicle share. Not only that, the AA mechanic had to drive the vehicle from the garage to his low-loader before dropping it off, therefore I have to leave it for 96 hours before I can touch it. Covid has made what were once simple tasks, much more complicated and stressful.

I remember when Sam first told me about it after they introduced the idea. He seemed to think it was a great thing to do and he was even impressed with the company, but all I could think about was how big the risk already was and how much more it would increase.

“Hang on a minute,” I said. “NHS workers are at the front line of this pandemic and you’ll be going into their homes, breathing in their air and touching their bathrooms.” He just looked at me, the realisation washing over his face.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think it’s amazing what the company are offering as the NHS deserve all the help they can get. Is it also because the company will receive admiration and respect to be seen helping out our health service, potentially scoring new customers at present for their good deed and then hopefully, the NHS staff will want to take out the insurance policies once lock down is lifted? This is great and all, but who’s thinking about the engineers? Who’s thinking about the elderly who make up around 80% of company’s customers, who could potentially be infected by an engineer that’s just come from an NHS claim?

The only PPE that’s available are gloves so Sam’s had to make-shift his own mask out of a snood. The big cogs in the machine are working safely from home while the worker bees are exposed to the elements. Please can someone tell me how that’s fair.

The amount of times Sam’s arrived home and expressed how many customers are not seeming to understand their part in all of this… I guess in their defence, we’re still adapting to this new ‘normal’ and it is human nature to forget and revert back to old learnt behaviour. However, if an engineer knocks on your door to fix the leak gushing out of your ceiling, please at least move well back from the door to let them in safely!

But still, we have to power through.

I hate the sickening anxiety I feel each work morning, mainly for Sam rather than myself. Before saying goodbye we tell each other to stay safe, to not do the work if it isn’t safe and to protect ourselves with regular risk assessments. Our work days are not the same as they used to be and for that, we come home mentally drained.

We try to remind each other daily that we have to remain calm and positive. That is what will get us through this.

On an upbeat note, there are some silver linings.

It’s safe to say that we are both proud to still be serving the nation and helping our communities. We have both said before that we would want someone to help our grandparents and vulnerable family members if they were in need.

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The roads are also completely dead in the mornings, apart from the odd postie and bin lorry. This makes getting to site an absolute dream; no extra stress from having to wrestle with rush hour traffic.

We understand that we could have it a lot, lot worse. We are extremely lucky to still have routine and consistency which I for one need in life, as it helps me feel secure and balanced. I know a lot of people out there have either lost their jobs or are uncertain about whether they’ll have a job to go back to. Some are struggling to make ends meet and some are trapped inside their homes, experiencing abusive relationships without any respite. We are especially lucky that ourselves and our families are still OK and have their health. But of course like everyone, we don’t know whether this will change.

On our days off we are remaining busy by doing the things that make us happy. Knowing we’re not allowed out and about has just made more time for hobbies; books and writing my blog has kept me sane by allowing me to escape the awful things happening at the moment. Sam’s a keen lover of health and fitness so he’s keeping himself busy with exercise, as well as looking after his mental health. We also love to do yoga in the garden, binge Netflix and of course FaceTime with friends and family.

My heart goes out to everyone as this new way of life is not easy. We are sending lots of love and positive vibes your way.

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Please stay home, stay safe, save lives.

 


 

Thank you to Grace for providing the second insight for my ‘Life in Lockdown’ series, aiming to provide a glimpse into the lives of people around the world during this pandemic.

All words are Grace’s own and for more great stories, photo’s and travel experiences please visit Grace and Sam’s blog, whengracemetsam.com!

Insta @graceebloom_

Twitter @whengracemetsam

 


 

Credits

Featured Photo by Krishna K. Maiti on Unsplash

Country road photo by Jack Bassingthwaighte on Unsplash

Blog photos provided by Grace on whengracemetsam.com

One positive to take from all of this

I have one bad habit every new year. Not the typical broken resolution but thinking ahead and forgetting to put the rose tinted glasses on first. Especially if everything in the past year or so has gone fairly well… I cannot help but to ask myself ‘what sh*t will go down next and when will it be?‘.

Where will it be?

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You know how every December, TV stations will do an annual recap of the year? Major events that took place, new sports stars becoming household names, new political scandals. Some of these events come totally out of the blue and I find it fascinating that we cannot predict the next unpredictable event, but it’s inevitable.

I find it pretty scary in all honesty. I have always done this, and I remember in particular this being a very dark thought even as a kid. My earliest memory of this was whilst in the back seat of the car with my family, probably on the way back from my grandparents one evening. As a treat on the return journey (I would often get travel sick and they lived a good 40 minutes away) we would get a takeaway to enjoy on a Sunday evening before school the next day. I don’t know why I thought this then, or why I remember it, but we were outside of the fish and chip shop and I thought to myself ‘one day I am going to get very sick and it’s going to feel awful’ in whatever way my internal dialogue would have manifested at 10 or 11 years old. It is one of my earliest memories of self made anxiety and I tell you it hasn’t really ceased since. I like to obsess about the inevitability of something bad happening and the fear of not knowing when.

At the beginning of the year I did genuinely wonder what would be the next major catastrophe or world changing event. When would it be? Who would it affect? Is it natural or man made? Every year there is at least one huge news story. And knowing 2020 would be no different is frustrating as all we can do each and every time is get on with our lives in the hope that it stays at bay for as long as possible. Whatever it is. It is a monster that we know exists but we don’t know what to look out for.

2020 didn’t take long to become movie like. WW3 almost began as my New Years hangover was only just going away and that caused enough anxiety. For the first time in a while I had a reminder that life is fragile and realised that if something like that did kick off, there isn’t really anything we can do but experience it full on. Our individual lives are dictated by things much larger than ourselves and we have to hope that things just stay calm enough for us to live relatively stable lives. And this kind of stability that only some of us experience in the world today hasn’t always been the norm. This is the best time to have existed for so many of us. But it doesn’t mean this is how it will always be.

But WW3 didn’t happen and so far hasn’t. And as we were just calming down a virus decided to take over the world. Invasions don’t always come in the form of armies and is another reminder on top of the reminder that the ways in which our lives can be disrupted are endless. Ways we cannot predict or prepare well for. Ways that cripple businesses that have been around for hundreds of years. I swear if anyone told me that in 2020 a pandemic would spread and put the world on lock down I would be incredibly skeptical. McDonald’s would close its doors.

McDonald’s!!!

Sporting events would halt. The Premier league here in England would be postponed and stadiums would be considered as temporary hospitals. Liverpool are well on their way to winning their first title in 30 years and I wouldn’t be surprised if the virus emerged from a Manchester lab. I’m just saying…

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But as this spreads, and as much as it is a killer, we have to see the positives. Hopefully this will be a warning to us all that we have to have solid plans in place for lock-downs in future. The death rate is pretty low in general, obviously it is higher the older we get and for those with other illnesses, but if it was the same danger to everyone the NHS and services around the world would struggle even more. It is bad, but could be a hell of a lot worse too. A virus that truly hits us all and wipes us out completely. As much as this is disrupting our lives it is sobering to think we have still got it good in the grand scheme of things. I remember the White Island volcanic eruption in New Zealand in December, an eruption with power we simply cannot comprehend as humans. It killed over 20 people visiting the island and a sight the survivors will not forget in a lifetime. The eruption caused an ash plume to rise 12,000 feet into the air. I mention this event because it was considered ‘a throat clearing’ in terms of volcanic activity. And I guess this virus, as dangerous as it is, is probably the same thing.

We are very lucky to witness ‘throat clearing’ events, in the sense that they could be so much more. They aren’t enjoyable, they aren’t safe but they aren’t species ending. If I had to have something positive to take from 2020 so far it would be that. It hasn’t ended us. But I hope it fuels a bigger desire to come together and be aware of the more catastrophic events that are possible, and inevitable.

I hope this is a positive post? It doesn’t really feel it now I read it back, but I was trying.

Also for anyone in the UK, at 8pm (20 minutes time!) the population will be clapping out of their windows to thank NHS workers for working hard to fight the virus. I will be doing so. Thanks mum for letting me know.

Let’s let them know they are are appreciated!

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