What is normality?

Thanks to Coronavirus, or Covid-19 to be exact, our youngest was sent home with the news: “and you can’t come back next week. And you must self-isolate”.

For me, as a communications manager for Liverpool City Council, normality was getting up in the morning, sorting the kids out, travelling to the office, work, and then coming home. Press repeat 5 days a week, with on call duty some nights and weekends.

That normality ended about 3pm on Friday the 13th (ominously enough!), when my wife called to say our youngest son had been sent home with a dry, persistent cough.

In any other circumstances, a cough is run of the mill stuff for any parent or carer with a fridge permanently stocked with calpol.

Except, these are not ordinary circumstances.

Thanks to Coronavirus, or Covid-19 to be exact, our youngest was sent home with the news: “and you can’t come back next week. And you must self-isolate”.

Very quickly, that escalated to: and so must everyone in the house too. And then, not just 7 days, but 14! And then hot on those heels — boom! : All schools in England are to close. Which was swiftly followed by the Prime Minister’s sombre address to the nation that we must all stay home for at least 3 weeks — unless for essentials, medicine or if you are a key worker.

Amidst this blizzard of life-changing announcements, realisation of its impact began to dawn, such as…it’s highly likely our youngest will have now finished Primary School. No final sports day. No end of term play. No Year 6 retreat or leavers party. No SATs! (ok, that one didn’t induce a frown or bottom lip!).

Like everyone else, the world has been turned upside down, spun on its head and wrung through the mixer as every day has brought fresh news on how normality is being put on pause.

And yet, a new normality has already begun.

It’s now day 17 since that fateful cough call — and despite the enormity beginning to sink in with what’s to come, our house has quickly found its feet.

Fortunately, my job is very much tailor made to be mobile and for remote working. Phone calls. Emails. Tweets. Facebook posts. Uploading websites. All of this can be done with a laptop and a mobile phone.

I’m tapping away this blog from my son’s PC in his bedroom. Quite loudly, am told too. And in a way, that’s the only real difference. The noises of the office have been replaced by birdsong from the garden and voices from inside the house and outside on the street.

Am having to share the PC as our eldest has online homework to do — but it’s more than manageable.

The working week has faded at the edges somewhat. This Saturday was like a normal working day, with plenty of calls to colleagues and media and issuing a press release about the city council providing 1,300 free spaces for NHS staff and 150 carers.

The past fortnight has raced along, but have got used to checking in with colleagues by Zoom, text and WhatsApp to co-ordinate logistics and plan next steps.

Except sometimes our dog comes up and nuzzles into my legs, wagging his tail at top speed. Wanting a cuddle or more likely, a walk. That never happened in the office.

Other differences? The commute is the stairs and I’m not in my usual work clothes (the iron has been very quiet). And I can hear the youngest practicing his guitar (mobile phones and games consoles are banned as school hours are still school hours).

Isolation ended at the weekend for the family — which was a big milestone for us and a quick celebratory walk to the beach was a real joy. Safe distance rules besides.

We talked at dinner last night about us living through history, that what is happening right now will be talked about and studied in classrooms for the rest of this century.

These are unprecedented times, and for many the loss of normality feels as bewildering as a row of empty aisles in the supermarket.

Isolation ended at the weekend for the family — which was a big milestone for us and a quick celebratory walk to the beach was a real joy. Safe distance rules besides.

But I think people will quickly realise normality is what you make it.

We’ve reached out to elderly neighbours — as safely as we can — to remind them they are not alone. And freshly made scones have been carefully dispatched and well received. They know were here for them and it was a genuinely touching moment the other night when we all came out to clap for our carers. The waving after the clapping was genuinely affectionate too.

And thanks to modern technology — we are better connected than ever before. Family chats are different — but fun. And we’ve already looked at what local businesses can deliver. The good news on that front, is the local chippy is looking at this!

Isolation sounds foreboding, but in truth, it’s nothing to fear.

Will it feel like that in 4 or 8 weeks’ time? Who can say.

But I do know a few things. Spring is on its way, and soon summer. The birds will still be singing. Music will still be played. Cakes will still be cooked. Laughs will still be had.

And I’ll be tapping and talking away. At home, in the garden shed or in the office.

And the world will keep on moving.