Wednesday 18 March 2020
The schools are still open and I go to work as usual. Except it’s not like usual. There’s an eerie quietness at the bus stop and the tube platform is thinly populated at rush hour. When the tube train stops and the doors open only a few people board despite there being loads of space in the carriage. Others wait for the next train - they are keeping their distance. I shake my head in disbelief but wait as well. I look furtively around at the other passengers, many of them wearing face masks. We’ve arrived in that far-off dystopian future I think, this is it. I have a sense that these people feel short-changed for having to go to work today, and I do too. I’m angry that the government haven’t already closed the schools as a social distancing measure, as they have in France, Spain, Italy. Yet freelance teaching is my livelihood so I’m going to work.
As it turns out, being at school is something of a salve. The children are just getting on with life. They are not oblivious - a few of them mention the C word - but they don’t seem too affected by it. The lessons are just like any other week. There’s a global emergency but I’m still sitting down with Toby, playing “Wrong Postcode” in the key of G. Then in the key of D. There’s a pandemic going on but at 12:30 it’s time for Guitar Club. It feels good to be doing something, however small, that is useful, contributing to some semblance of normality for these kids, though I feel uneasy about not social distancing by being here - I speak to another teacher who is similarly conflicted. I feel much admiration for the core staff who are keeping everything going, and doing it with a smile. At one point I wonder if this has all been a bad dream, maybe everything is as normal. But then I see someone walking around wiping door handles with disinfectant.
Later, I read that schools have been ordered shut in Scotland and Wales from Friday with England likely to follow. So I will be off work, like so many others, for the foreseeable. As a self-employed person I don’t know what will happen to my income but so many others are in a similar boat so I don’t feel alone. I’m sad that upcoming concerts, teaching and gigs have been cancelled but I’m also curious about what this space will bring, how I will adapt and what I will create, and how the world will change and respond. I feel that some light will emerge from the darkness. I don’t know how I will fare with isolation but I have been speaking with people on the phone and online and I feel a strange sense of connectedness within the distance.