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Working from home- what else? 20/05/2020

Posted by chrisdshaw in COVID19.
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My employer, a multi-national media and technology company, has announced that all employees will be continuing to work from home until 1st October. The UK Government expects my five year old daughter to return to school on 1st June. She in Reception, a year group that does not go to school in the USA and a number of European schools, among others. What is the disconnect?

From my understanding, unless schools reopen most of the economy cannot restart as parents are unable to return to work. I am one of the fortunate white collar workers whose tech-friendly companies is able to reorientate its workforce seamlessly to work from home with no tangible loss of service. From my experience I have first world problems- fewer new business opportunities, aiming to “make” rather than “smash” targets, hoping life will be OK in 2020, before planning for an exciting 2021 of new business opportunities for tech innovation. I know I’m in a small minority of the lucky. This pandemic is still an incomprehensible economy and life wrecker. At this time we really don’t know the consequences.

In the meantime the UK Government insists all is good if only the “moaning minnys” stopped their noise. All countries are suffering and still dealing with it with the seriousness it deserves. The notable exceptions are the ones whose infection rates are the worst- Brazil, Russia, the UK and the US- all of whom have leaders are strikingly similar in their approach to expertise and idea of the greater good.

We received an email from our Infant School Head Teacher to ask about our intentions about sending our youngest daughter to school. The tone was desperate- they were obviously in no way able to handle a return for all children recommended by the Government (Reception and Year 1), 120 out of the usual 180 children but trying to implement impossible social distancing levels. They have been given very little guidance by the Government. It looks like this plan is already falling apart. Liverpool, Manchester and other local authorities in the north of England have announced they will not authorise a restart of school, not to mention Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales who have separate policies. A botched reopening will not bode well for trust in government at at a crucial time.

My daughters will stay at home for the rest of the term. I’m staying home for the rest of the year. We’re alright Jack. The rest of the country?  Not so much. The Government is not protecting them- its first and most important responsibility. The psychopaths grifters in charge are doing the one thing they know what to do- looking after themselves. We will hold them and the individuals until justice is served, if it kills us. The darkest hour precedes the dawn.

Johnson back in No 10 27/04/2020

Posted by chrisdshaw in COVID19, Domestic Politics.
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Three weeks since the last post in which Boris Johnson was admitted to Intensive Care with COVID 19. It was a deeply unsettling moment. We are now in a new normal. Anything becomes normal given time. The Government has consistently failed to show transparency in its strategy, responsibility in (the many) problems that have arisen in managing the crisis, and trustworthiness. Dominic  Cummings’ return to No 10 has been felt with the BBC being whipped into line, and a capitalisation of Johnson’s illness. The coming tsunami of blame and anger is being carefully diverted to scientists and the Heath Secretary Matt Hancock, and the knawing, exhausting dread, synonymous with Brexit has returned. Classic Dom.

Is the public buying it? Polls over the last few weeks have shown solid support for the Conservatives and the Government. This support is waning and some hopeful glimmers from Labour and Keir Starmer, may change the political dynamic. Corbyn acted as a vice on sensible professional politics. The first PMQs since lockdown was a breath of fresh air with forensic questioning from the Leader of the Opposition.

What now? Johnson has ruled out an early end to the lockdown. Good. There has been a notable change in mood, with signs that the consensual self-imposed lockdown is beginning to break down. Traffic levels have started increasing and businesses have started reopening. The problem is that we all really need to trust our government and this is a challenge after the last few years. We have all been on hold to wait for Johnson to help give us direction. Apart from not ending the lockdown, there appears to be just more of the same. This may not be enough to keep us all together.

The New Normal- PM in Intensive Care 06/04/2020

Posted by chrisdshaw in COVID19.
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Week Four of lockdown (or is it Week Five or Three) has started with everyone convincing themselves and each other that following a period of disorientation, we were all adjusting to the new normal. Work appears to be settling into a new pattern and demands from management about hitting targets are starting to reassert themselves. Today the Dow Jones closed 1,200 points up as investors are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel, with death rates in Spain and Italy lower over a 10 day period, some countries that aren’t South Korea- Austria, Greece and New Zealand are beginning to claim success in containment.

And yet. Bodies are pilling up in New York city parks, with talk of using them as burial grounds- a permanent marker of this shocking times for future generations to ponder, and talk of this week being one of the worst America has ever experienced. Trump has emerged as a malignant narcissist 100 times more sinister and callous than any of us could have feared a few years ago, with reports of US raids on shipments of masks to countries, states running out of medical equipment and rightwing mania about trialling a speculative drug. In the UK last night, within an hour of the Queen giving a moving and perfect address to the nation, news emerged that Boris Johnson had been admitted to hospital after 10 days of isolation. Tonight the Prime Minister was moved to intensive care- a very worrying development for the country. The scale of such a development is hard to fathom. And yet life will go on tomorrow, as it did in war torn regions after the initial shock. I remember it happening in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s  However, this will have a toll on our mental health; how much, only time will tell. In the meantime, every right minded person wishes that Johnson makes a full recovery.

Grief 28/03/2020

Posted by chrisdshaw in COVID19.
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As we approach the end of March, articles are appearing on multiple media forums- CNN, BBC, newspapers- with headlines about how the world has changed in 30 days. The crisis has brought out in most of us a steely determination to keep calm and carry on, rationalising the new norm by focusing on key tasks- something made easy with home schooling for small children and, for me, a busy time working from home. In some respects we are getting used to the new norm- my mum’s ability to share memes and videos on WhatsApp in the space of a week has been extraordinary.

There are moments, however, which make me wobble. There obvious ones include hearing innocent uplifting songs that previously seemed a bit frivolous- Two Little Birds by Bob Marley, The Bright Side of Life by Monty Python- and shedding a tear. The other is of seeing traces of the old world still on the supermarket shelves- special offers enticing customers to buy more when than we should or are even allowed. I saw a 3 for £7 offer on olive snacks. Will such frivolous comestibles be available in a few months time? I bought some beers- an offer of 2 for £4 for Peroni beers so I bought 4. The checkout assistant told me I was only allowed a maximum of three of one item. It is these moments that jar, and serve as a reminder of how much of what we took for granted is now completely gone. How long for? Will those times ever return?

Lockdown! 23/03/2020

Posted by chrisdshaw in COVID19.
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The British Prime Minister has just announced the greatest curtailment of freedom of movement in the UK in history and relief among most people in the country is palpable. Such is the unprecedented nature of the times we currently live in; times that started about three weeks ago and look to change the world- society, economics, politics and the environment- in a such a fundamental way that seemed inconceivable ago a the beginning of this month.

Today was also the start of our children’s relocation of education from school to home. The newness to this concept to millions of people- both parents and children- on the same day is a feeling most of us have not experienced before. A mixture of trepidation, a little excitement at the novelty of it all, and underlying worry, uncertainty, and concern is a strange combination that we are all feeling. It is a really specific feeling.

The timeline of change is mindblowing: 10 days ago Nicky and I went to a party, a week ago I was working in my office in Canary Wharf, last week I was sneaking out of a pint in the local pub every evening. As recently as Saturday we met up with friends. A long planned letting off steam party in Soho, was still planning to go ahead as recently as a week ago and I was still planning to meet up with friends on Saturday in London 5 days ago. From the perspective of 23rd March this feels like a lifetime ago.

Boris Johnson’s welcome announcement has put an end to all life we took for granted only a week ago. Will we see that life again, and if so will it be the same or feel the same? We just don’t know. The expression “taking each day as it comes” has become a mental health necessity. No-one has felt this level of uncertainty before but we hope this limbo we are living may just to come to a quicker end with the lockdown.