May was definitely a month of two halves for me. The first two weeks were spent in much the same way I’d spent April. Furloughed and spending most of my time in the garden. Everything was coming to life and starting to flower and it was a fabulous place to be. I’d stopped watching television obsessively about a month earlier so I wasn’t keeping up to date with the virus as I just found the whole thing too stressful. I’d been avoiding the news media website I work for and felt, gratefully, very out of touch with what was happening in the world. I was keeping myself safe and sane and that meant staying away from the media and just enjoying being out in nature every day.
The starlings brought their babies to the garden to teach them how to use the feeders
Looking back now, I think avoiding the news and endless reports and speculation about the virus was the best thing I could have done at this time. I needed the mental break. I’d been very aware of the virus from early in February when it started to be on our radar due to the proximity to Arrowe Park Hospital. By the time I was furloughed I was burnt out by the constant barrage of numbers, ironic given I’m a data analyst, and I just switched off. I don’t remember much from this time frame, except the huge difference in daily death rates. When I’d been following along it was around 1,000 every day. By this time in May when I started to dip back into the news it had fallen to around 200 a day. This seemed like progress and it genuinely felt that maybe the country had turned a corner.
My own anxiety about contracting the virus wasn’t lessened by the seeming improvement in the death rates and I continued to stay at home, avoiding going out almost completely. We took the odd walk around the block, even went out on our bikes once or twice. I enjoyed being out but the relief of putting my key in the front door was palpable. I joked that at the end of this pandemic I would be agoraphobic – it was a very real possibility at this point. It probably still is now.
Then I got the text message that would end this period of isolation and furlough. My boss told me I was being brought back from furlough towards the end of May. After six weeks of settling into our dry run at retirement I was going back to work. I was thrilled. As much as I enjoyed the down time and probably really needed it mentally, I also needed to work. I love my job, it is a huge part of what keeps me sane, so I was practically bouncing round for a few days before I started again. I went back to a slightly different role, a big national project I’d not worked on before so I was very excited and motivated to work from home again.
The only slight downside to this arrangement was that my husband was still on furlough and my computer is very firmly ensconced in our living room, with no real option to move anywhere else in the house. But we muddled through and I don’t think we had any Hangout gaffs. He played his guitar upstairs or spent his days out in the garden enjoying the weather which was still lovely.
My garden time was obviously reduced but it made me even more determined to enjoy the time I could spend out there. I took my first cup of coffee out there every day, pottered around checking on my plants, rearranging things to suit their sun and shade needs. I also made sure I went out for 10 minutes in the middle of the day and finished on the dot of 4pm most days and I’d be straight back out there. Working for a news organisation meant I was back to hearing about the virus numbers and reports every day but the relief that my garden provided is incalculable. It was my refuge and safe space, my sanity check at the end of each working day.
And the strawberries arrived!