It seems like a stage of the pandemic to reflect on where I am and and where I’m going.
March 23 2022 is two years since the first lockdown in the UK and the moment things changed.
For some, that change has been fatal. There is no pain like the memory of happiness recalled while grief is present. Any disruption I’ve experienced is a inconvenience compared to the deep pain of loss.
COVID-19 has led to the deaths of 159,000 people so far in the UK. One day not long ago I disappeared down a rabbit hole with a calculator to work out what this unspoken loss is equivalent to. Tapping the numbers, I worked out that pandemic deaths are equivalent to 197.9 Hillsborough disasters.
It’s also 98.4 Zeebrugge ferry disasters and 113 Piper Alphas. All these moments temporarily dominated the news in my younger years. In the pandemic, lets not forget that they happened daily and as we grew more tired often without comment.
With calculator in hand, I also worked out that if all the coffins were put side by side it should stretch 72 miles and take more than three hours to pass travelling in a car at funeral cortege speed. I think I did all this working out because I wanted a fresh view to try and feel a sense of shock that had been numbed out of me by months of the pandemic.
The pandemic has been light and shade and different for all of us.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown TV broadcast was seen by more than 27 million people. It was the Neville Chamberlain on the radio declaring war on Germany moment for everyone born after 1945.
I deliberately missed it. I was ill in bed with COVID-19 at a time when the death rate was worryingly high and the jab unknown. My business, which depended on face-to-face training vanished overnight. I didn’t need the extra stress so I didn’t listen to the announcement. I lay in bed able to feel my lungs from the sharp pin pricks of pain when I breathed in and I looked out at the Spring blue sky.
In the early days, while people in the public sector frontline were in a dark tunnel of 18-hour days I took eight months to work a full day. Walking 20 minutes a day would wipe me out. I worked in slowly lengthening bursts on external projects until I was able to relaunch training online in late 2020.
What I relaunched was much changed from my previous life. In 2019, I averaged three nights a week away training and would spend all day with a team. That’s changed by and large to programmes split into slabs of an hour or so online.
It feels wrong to say I’ve been excited by working out how I can innovate. But I have. I’ve not missed the travel. I’ve loved seeing my family. If there is a set of happy memories its the mid-week walks exploring Ordnance Survey mapped paths in North Worcestershire 15-minutes from home.
But this is the pattern we have. It’s individual and has light and shade.
Stressed or excited?
There is still a long shadow. Our mental health has worsened. A friend talks about a teacher talking about 90 per cent of children in her school showing some form of anxiety.
Those comms people who have worked through it in NHS, police and local government in particular are often scarred by the experience.
In the Second World War, the event that dominated my parent’s early lives, there was a final moment. A VE Day and a VJ Day. A raising of the Soviet flag over the Reichstag. A defining moment. We won’t have that.
We think that nothing will be the same but the people who lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic after the First World War thought the same, too. As others have pointed out, there are no memorials to this pandemic because death was terrifyingly close to home and not shielded from loved ones by a boy sent from the War Office with a telegram.
Women liberated by war work had their freedoms curtailed by Daily Mail editorials incensed at the lack of a pool of working class women prepared to go back to pre-war service in middle class houses. It would be decades before the door opened for them once again.
If we think that hybrid working could be with us for good history warns us not to be so hasty.
Public sector comms at its best has been innovative, lifesaving and has saved lives.
If we think the job is done and comms with forever more be taken with reverential seriousness history also warns us not to be so quick.
Here’s where I am.
Where are you?