Rowan, 56, British/Australian, currently in England – Live: From The Pandemic

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

Tuesday (12th of May) was the start date for my new job in Hobart. I came to Cambridge for a post-doc, but my husband died half-way through, I clung on by my fingernails till the end of my contract, collapsed in a heap and haven’t got back up for 2 years. So the move to Hobart for a proper, professional job was real progress. First I needed to visit my mum in Scotland. At 86, who knows when, or even if I’d see her again, moving to the other side of the planet. I also need to finish dealing with my husband’s estate. Then the virus hit. I moved out of the housing co-op where nearly 100 of us live together, so I could isolate to not risk infecting Mum. I moved in with my boyfriend, 3 loads across Cambridge on the bike. We rented a car and headed north just as Australians were being urgently recalled. I couldn’t just leave without seeing Mum and sorting things out. We arrived just after my stepbrother, who was visiting from Australia, left and lockdown started. Mum, a professional housewife, shops at M&S and Waitrose. There were no delivery slots to be had and the best I could organise was phone shopping and delivery to the car boot with the Co-op, but that was too much of an adjustment for Mum, who snuck out in the car at 8am to get her dose of M&S, the first time she’s driven alone for years. Her husband, who is frail, would be very unlikely to survive the virus. After we left he did succeed in crashing the car into the side of the house, righting it off and requiring the attendance of all the emergency services. The trip back to Cambridge was a record 6 hours across an eerily deserted country, with a risk of being stopped by police. As I started to prepare for my flight, Australia and Tasmania both introduced quarantine in government facilities. This would mean a month in solitary confinement, with no access to the outside world, maybe not even telecommunications. Australia’s had good practice at this, it’s been doing it to refugees for years. Qatar Airways had cancelled one leg of my flight rebooking me on a later flight which missed the connections stranding me in Doha, and were unreachable. I contacted my employer to see if they’d had a change of heart about letting me start later or remotely. It took him 10 days to reply, saying they’d delayed the project 3 months, by which time I’d finally managed to get through to QA and rebooked my flight. If I caught the new flight I’d have to quarantine in Melbourne and Hobart, but Qantas doesn’t allow a stopover for this so I’d lose my flight to Hobart. I checked to see if I could travel by ferry instead and found that I didn’t seem to meet the travel criteria. So this is what my boss meant by ‘travel restrictions’. I contacted Jetstar, the Melbourne-Hobart carrier, and they said they would take me. Are you sure?, I asked, Your website says residents and essential workers only. Let me check. Long pause. Ok, no, we can’t take you. Time to contact my MP. Oh yes, you can travel to Tasmania. Are you sure, I asked, the ferry and the airline say ‘no’. Let me check. Next day. Oh no, sorry, you can’t come. Ok, well can you let me know how I meant to know whether I can travel or not? QA cancelled my flight again and this time said I can rebook any time. So at the moment, the plan is to go in July if they haven’t gone bust by then. In the meantime, I’ve reported the airline for not being contactable and complained to the UN about Australia’s cruel and unusual punishment of people in quarantine. People have died in there. By the time I get to Hobart, I hope I have sufficient sanity to actually do this job.

What is your wish for the future?

 I wish we could come out of this with a more life-loving culture. Can’t we find a way to live that allows other life to live too? The way we’re going, it’s going to be just humans and our domestic species left.

What would you like to be doing right now?  

If I could, I would be running my conservation start-up, but I can’t do it alone, if you know anyone who might want to help!

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.

Abby, 25, British, currently in Cambridge (UK) – Live: From The Pandemic

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

Due to being in the third trimester of my pregnancy and single I’ve had to leave my home and isolate at my mum’s house. Being pregnant has automatically placed me in the high-risk group and my living conditions were not suitable. So now this means I am staying in my 7-year-old sister’s box room whilst mentally preparing myself to give birth in June. Leaving my home means I don’t get to see any of my close friends and any family outside of the house. I currently live with my mum, stepfather and 3 young sisters. I get upset knowing that if there are no changes by the time she’s born then none of my extended family or close friends will get to meet my daughter. I’ve had to cancel my maternity shoot, bump painting and other little memory makers I had planned for my final trimester. Although they seem small and insignificant to others they really meant a lot to me. Due to the pandemic, my hospital has become more restricted and I have to attend all ultrasound scans, midwife and other pregnancy-related appointments alone. Luckily one birthing partner is still permitted and they can stay two hours after the birth. I’ll be staying in after my birth and submitted onto a ward, but this means I won’t be allowed any visitors which fills me with slight anxiety. Although I have moments where I am overwhelmed with anxiety I find my motherly instinct outweighs it all and I find strength for my unborn daughter.

What is your wish for the future? 

I wish for a sense of normality.

What would you like to be doing right now?  

I would be sat around my friends and getting everyone to feel my unborn daughter moving around in my bump.

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.

Bianca, 25, Italian, currently in Cambridge (UK) – Live: From The Pandemic

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?

I have a small business so from a practical point of view it means that we don’t have as much work right now, so we’re spending a lot more time at home, and facing a lot of uncertainty. The governmental help does make a difference, especially in covering our staff’s wages, but what really scares us is whether things will go back to normal. From a personal point of view it’s much more complex, a part of me appreciates slowing down and reconnecting with people, but I am on an emotional rollercoaster. Having struggled with depression and anxiety my whole life this situation has definitely affected the balance I had found. I am often extremely anxious, about the future but also about little things that shouldn’t affect me this much. The first week I spent at home I really struggled to be productive or positive, I spent most of my days watching Netflix alone while my partner worked, despite having things to do and a garden that allows me to spend time outdoors. It definitely reminded me of some of my hardest times from a mental health point of view, which was really scary. I’m trying to feel better now, spending more time in the garden, less time on social media, more time doing things that I love and relax me, like colouring and planning camping trips for the future. This allows me to be more positive and actually see and appreciate what I have, and to spend less time stuck in my thoughts. Overall how I feel changes constantly, which is quite exhausting. I’m trying to take a week at a time, which isn’t very easy for a planner like me, but it seems to be working.

What is your wish for the future? 

I hope that everything that is happening is allowing all fo us to reflect on what world we have created and what really matters. Having the whole world being forced to slow down can be an opportunity to make big changes once it’s time to get back to “normal”. I think this situation is allowing us to see the world in a more unified way, and I’m hoping that it’s teaching us to be less selfish, to think about the consequences of our actions (for example, if we hoard on food we create food shortages) and to learn that resources aren’t infinite.
The two things that I really wish would happen are:
– Finally starting to seriously act and change the way we live to reduce Climate Change, which would have much more long term consequences;
– That we will move away from the consumption of cheap products that are made under unfair and unethical working conditions, in favour of ethically made and durable alternatives.

What would you like to be doing right now?  

I’d like to be travelling in our van with my partner and our amazing dog Ettore!

If you would like to share with us, please submit your story here.