The Unforeseeable Future

A reflection in light of Covid-19

The beauty of the Earth defying a global pandemic
The beauty of the Earth defying a global pandemic

Week 1 of a New Reality

There is no doubt that we’ve all entered a new chapter of our lives. For the first time in my lifetime, that ‘we’ is the world. Everything has changed for everyone with any access to the outside world. Despite an Independent newspaper article tracing the UK timeline from 22nd January, for me, Week 1 started last Sunday, and it seems appropriate to mark down my experience of the last week. I hope these will soon be looked back on as a memory, not our new normal. Except, perhaps the good things that are coming out of this worldwide crisis called the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Sunday, 15th March 2020 – Head Emerging from Sand

The virus comes close to home as our friends of 26 years, travel to the airport to meet their daughter off her flight from Spain. Even before they know she has a fever and is coughing, they plan to self-isolate for 14 days.

I make a Chocolate Biscuit Cake with whiskey-soaked raisins to celebrate 20 years in business this month. I personally invited 50 clients, former clients and my VIP network to our village pub to celebrate on St. Patrick’s Day, organising a tab at the bar for the first 20 pints of Guinness (or equivalent) ordered.

Monday, 16th March 2020 – Inertia

It’s a stunning day, but I experience a state of inertia working from my home office. At 11, I took our Head of Wellbeing, Mnyama (on the left of the photo above), for a long walk from Upton Park and captured this beautiful scene of spring.

A London client travels through in the afternoon to Harwell. Throughout the day, due to announcements in the media and the first of the Prime Minister’s press briefings, I receive a stream of cancellations for my 20th Anniversary celebrations and some for my work. I lovingly ice the cake anyway and pack two slices for my evening client who is on night duty at the JR Hospital.

I travel to the eerily quiet Jury’s Inn, Oxford, to see my client. Social distancing has been recommended by the government. We remain 2 meters apart and acknowledged that it’s likely to be our last face-to-face for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, online coaching can continue. It is still sad. The afternoon client is seeking work, in a climate where few organisations are currently hiring. The client working for the NHS and is predictably busy.

Cake ready for distribution

Tuesday, 17th March 2020 – St. Patrick’s Day and ’Feck It’ Attitude

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are cancelled around the world and people in Ireland are urged not to have private gatherings to celebrate.

As my husband and associate, Andrew Scott is working from home today, we celebrate virtually with BESPOKEN’s online community at 11 and post it on LinkedIn.

With the friendly and fabulous support of events manager Sarah Hopgood, we sliced and parcelled the remaining cake to be distributed in the village.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This evening, Mnyama and I make deliveries and record interviews with some of the people who have made a difference to my business life by either supporting us or played golf with me when I needed a break.

The government announces huge state support for businesses in an effort to support the economy and manage fear.

Andrew and I decide to go to the pub to celebrate anyway and are delighted by the company of at least 10 others who are making it out for possibly ‘the last pint’. The conversation is almost exclusively about the Coronavirus and its impact. It had dominated conversations in the previous week and has done so ever since.

Closing time has a new meaning at The Hart of Harwell tonight. It circulates a notice on Thursday to advertise a takeaway and delivery service.

We get to bed after midnight, recognising that this is probably our last social gathering for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, 18th March 2020 – communication-driven embracing of technology

I attend my first virtual meeting, organised by a past client, local network leader and coach, Peter Mols. Instead of Networking In…Newbury, it’s Networking in the Cloud! It is a huge success with 13 attendees, all of us visibly enjoying the benefits of being ‘in the room’. Some of the remainder of the day is spent ‘with’ my self-isolating friend as we practised setting up meetings with each other so that she can use Zoom to counsel professionally from her home office, something she has been doing all week, using Skype and Whatsapp. It’s vital that she can continue to support her clients, all vulnerable, during this period.

The new face of Networking

I am reminded of the need to be flexible and dynamic in times of change – I should have been at a different meeting this morning but it was cancelled and no substitute was put in place. Before it was cancelled, Pete’s meeting was already organised.

In his latest address, the Prime Minister announces that all schools are to close on Friday. Both my university-attending children will finish the same day and pack to return home.

I’m very grateful for technology and the advances in social media that will help us through. As all gatherings of large numbers have been banned, I offer my newly acquired skills to our local church minister to set up a Zoom meeting for a virtual service on Sunday.

Thursday, 19th March 2020 – Men are Funny, Women are Profound

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I’m amused this week to recognise the broadly different ways gender appear to process crisis. Today, within hours I received very similar-looking posts on my Whatsapp feed, one sent to a Ladies’ group and one sent to a Men’s group. The similarity ends with the colour scheme and I’m valuing the variety of ways in which we can keep each other’s spirit’s up!

I have quality conversations on Skype, Zoom and telephone with people in Aylesbury, Huddersfield and Swindon and end the day with a Mail Chimp webinar from Atlanta, Georgia. One call takes place while out walking the dog and I meet others doing the same.

Would I be having these conversations if this was a normal week?

Friday, 20th March – Without that Friday Feeling

I attend another quality networking meeting virtually, this time facilitated by Alan Kennedy of CBL Stow. It’s another first for this group. The guest speaker, Jason of Innovista does a wonderful job of presenting his talk via Zoom’s screen-share facility and I note that he has made adaptations to it from his CBL Oxford talk in December to make it more relevant to the current crisis. The discussions in the breakout room are thoughtful and encouraging.

This is followed at 11 by a chaotic and wonderful PSA ‘Coffee and Conversation’ instigated by the new president of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA), Steve Bustin. There are over 50 members of the PSA in the room, who naturally all love to talk and Steve had not set it up so that he has ultimate control. I’m confident he will make an adjustment for next week!

I make a trip to Wantage to get a report for a client professionally bound, making a welcome break. The roads, streets and shops are relatively quiet but Bryan of Cartridge UK reports busier than normal business as people stock up and he’s even sold a couple of printers to people who don’t normally work from home. He referred to it as ‘the storm before the calm’.

Supporting Wildwood Kitchen, Wantage

Do we take advantage of online discount vouchers when the restaurant is closing their doors tonight? When I see a table of teenage boys out together nearby, I confirm with the waitress that they are Year 13’s out for the evening because it’s their last day of college. Earlier that day I messaged sympathy to my London niece on her abrupt ending to Year 13. It’s poignant to see these boys quietly marking the day.

My eldest son sent this photo with the caption ‘WE’RE RICH!’ The word ‘luxury’ never meant so much

We end the evening with a trip to the supermarket as we’re down to 5 toilet rolls. We’ve not panic-purchasing but when Andrew has shopped in the last two weeks, the shelves have been empty of this product. It is my first visit to a supermarket since this started and I’m sobered by the empty shelves. We pick up most of what we need, but without toilet rolls, tomatoes or eggs. I text my friend who has chickens, to congratulate her on her choice of pet!

Saturday, 21st March – a New Kind of Weekend

Andrew leaves for Leeds and Northampton to fetch our students home. I pack away my upstairs office, gym, prayer space and utility room that will return to bedrooms.

Today is Day 6 of my friend’s self-isolation and their older daughter is on Day 2 of self-isolation as they fetched her from Bristol University yesterday, staying in the car as she emptied her first-year residence, not knowing when she will return.

I write the first draft of this article and prepare a meal for 4, knowing that tomorrow I will celebrate Mother’s Day with two of my children unexpectedly at home. The family are home at 8 and we enjoy a meal together. As I help unpack, I see that between the two of them and the purchase Andrew made, we now have 12 additional toilet rolls, eggs and some tomatoes. If we charged them rent, we couldn’t ask for more! My eldest son is still happy in London with his girlfriend.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and the government is asking people not to gather and not to visit mothers who fall into the vulnerable category. 233 people have died in the UK to date, 4,825 in Italy. For the first time in 28 years, I can’t go to church if I want to and we will have a service at home with a service emailed to us. But so far, my household and those I love are safe and well and we can provide for them. It is all I can ask.

I have received three ‘call to action’ emails. One requests a call to pray by Pope Francis at 9 this evening, no matter your creed or religion, the CoE (Church of England) calls for us to place a lighted candle in a window  “as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer.” And on 26th March we are asked to come outside our homes to applaud the NHS. I’ve placed reminders for all of them on my phone to support my community, be it local, national or global.

I am relieved to have made a NY resolution to have a digital Sabbath sunset Saturday to sunset Sunday. I am suffering from digital fatigue. Who knows what the week ahead will hold… The foreseeable future is unseen and unknowable, by us mere mortals at least.

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