A Calm Centre

I had a brief chat today with a friend about how we’re each coping with everything going on, and how it is reported. We both agreed that we were each actively working on not letting ourselves get angry on a regular basis.

I went on to say that I was doing lots of focusing on being firm but kind with people that came in to the library, and helping where I can to at least make my small corner of the world less beastly.

What’s the alternative? Hopelessly screaming, shouting, and ranting is therapeutic to be sure, but helping keep everything stable for others helps me in the long run by requiring less sets of spoons to maintain after a while.

It just feels a lot of effort to be getting there. Being kind is full time work.

Battling the Fear

Lady M had to pop out this morning to drop some things to the post office, and then get some ingredients to do some baking. All things that sound innocuous enough, but when she returned, she was exhausted – and revealed that her stress levels had spiked so hard when getting to the supermarket that she’d had to stop and have a bit of a breather. This is not unlike the sort of conversations I’ve been having with staff this week.

The UK government decided to lower it’s pandemic severity rating from a 4 to a 3 this week, to catch up with the announcement the week before that it was going to recommend more places opening up. There are more than a few medical and clinical workers facepalming at the moment, but in truth it is a political decision as much as an interpretation of the highly contentious statistics of infections and deaths.

Lady M, like many of my staff, have obeyed the lockdown – in no small part because they’ve been working from home and so haven’t had the experience of seeing people getting used to the strange interpretations of social distancing and mask wearing that different people have been making. I’ve been able to get out and do grocery shopping while she’s been battling work issues so my usual internal grump is around the anticipation of queueing a while.

By comparison, Lady M has also had to battle the stark clash between media sources urging care and the reality of the Great British public who are worse than a bundle of cats for staying and doing what they’re told. I shall continue to bear this in mind as we work to get the libraries open safely for both staff and customers. On both sides we will have people who are rightly nervous on some level about accessing the buildings and the treasures they contain – and I hope we can maintain both understanding and kindness in the process.

Seeing Happy Faces

I’ve carried on with doing risk assessments with my staff the last couple of days. If there’s been one common observation it has been the look of relief on people’s faces as I’ve let them into the building.

Many of them haven’t been far from their houses during lockdown – for a couple it was one of their first forays out of their house – but each of them visibly relaxed their shoulders and smiled as they re-entered the library and saw colleagues.

I don’t know about anything else, but those moments alone have made the effort of the last few days worth it.

Risk Assessments

I’ve started the process of talking to staff to identify concerns and issues around reopening the libraries next month if things continue as they are. For the most part so far there’s a general pragmatism and desire to be getting on with things – as much for the sense of not being in limbo any more as anything else. The biggest concern so far has been around using public transport.

The concern has ranged from contamination risks and distancing to potential delays due to any distancing preventing their getting the bus on time. We’ll see what tomorrow’s interviews bring.

For the most part, bringing people along on these risk assessments is part of a process of getting their active involvement in thinking about their own responsibilities to themselves and their families.

I can and have done assessments of the work places alongside colleagues against known recommendations, but the only people who can give me an informed assessment of how they’re doing and especially what their fears are are the staff themselves.

It is a good excuse to get to see familiar faces again as well. Even where we’re discussing contentious or difficult issues its still a pleasure to be catching up properly. We’ll see if tomorrow manages to be as productive.

Rings and Things

Being separated is hard, but we’re doing our best to keep as chipper as possible. The DDC is helping lift our spirits and support all round, but its still no substitute for when we can get our polycule back together.

In theory, we can after relaxation of restrictions were announced, but given how high infections and deaths are – exceeding what they were when we went into lockdown – there’s a wariness of believing the UK government’s competence and motives. In some ways this makes it even harder, but we’ll get through and it’ll be all the better for it when we do.

In the meantime, I finally had delivery of a set of rings that the core triad of myself, Lady M and mre S wanted to adopt to signify our link. We had some issues with a lost shipment and needing to reorder among the chaos of lockdown, but we finally have three simple matching rings that are staying in their boxes until we can all get together. They’re enamelled steel with the polyam symbol etched and painted on them – simple, discrete, and one more reason to hope for better times to come.

I was talking to a colleague yesterday after an LGBTQ+ staff network Teams meeting about the DDC and our gaming group.

On describing the mix of characters and their quirks I was told that it was a group they’d love to read a novel about. I think thats a wonderful tribute to the invention and warmth of the players and their alter egos. My little writeups here barely scratch the surface of what a joy they are to DM and game with.

The Smell of Diesel

I can tell more people are out and about again by the smell of diesel as I queue for the supermarket. Its surprisingly not from the carpark though – looking around me, that’s at about the same capacity and usage as it has tended to be over the last few weeks.

The carpark is, however, right next to the M3 motorway, and is closely boundaried by Staines Road West, which broadly runs between here, Staines, the Great West Road and the M25. In other words, a major multilane road. The traffic in both of those is noticeably heavier than it has been in months, and with it has returned the noise and fumes of diesel and petrol.

I’ve got used to not tasting the air when I head out, and now I’m feeling nauseous just standing still. I’m now wearing a face mask not as a Covid-19 precaution, but as an anti-pollution measure.

If I wasn’t already a miserable sod, this would be enough to make me one. Its amazing what we can get used to.

My, My, My Corona

Well, hello pandemic – we’ve been expecting you. Of course, being British and therefore fundamentally fatalistic I’m looking forward to getting it and not even noticing, or complaining that I get it while I’m booked off on leave already.

The most immediate impact in our household has been that Red Dragon 6, a Hannibal convention due to take place in a couple of weekends’ time, has just been postponed. The costumes will therefore stay in storage and we’ll find something to do, even if it’s just the three of us curled up on the sofa, possibly with the cub in attendance too.

I’m still not quite sure why everyone is panic-buying toilet rolls or why people are even buying antibacterial bottles and sprays and ignoring the soap.

In the meantime let’s all keep calm and carry on. If nothing else it has been very confusing for a Hungarian colleague of mine who thinks we’re not taking things seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The thing is: I work with the public – people of all ages and backgrounds – so I’ll almost certainly come into contact with it if I haven’t already. I’m also diabetic and am being treated for my blood pressure, so I’ll just keep being hygienic, touching my own face as little as possible, and limiting the possibility of my passing anything on to anyone else if I cough or sneeze – the same as I do with coughs, colds, the flu, or any other seasonal illness that does the rounds.

And my depression also chips in here, that if I get it and die, eh…