Beating the Bug
Many of us will by now be at home, pretty much confined to indoors unless we have a garden, because of a pandemic the likes of which have not been seen since the end of the First World War. This is the stuff of apocalyptic movies and it feels a bit surreal – on the one hand, we’ve been going through life pretty much as normal, and in a matter of days we have to stay away from each other. In fact, it’s a bit like playing out a movie script but in real life.
I guess a lot of people are scared. Given what we are seeing in the news perhaps it’s not unexpected that we are scared, and there are some really vulnerable people who are at risk of the coronavirus. I guess, since there’s no cure, we can’t be blasé about being able to “beat the big”, but there are things as a community that we can all do together to make jolly sure that the bug won’t beat us.
Keep your Distance
That is a hard one, especially, if like me, you work with people, or just plain enjoy being sociable. But since the bug is communicated from person to person like wildfire in Australia (the disaster we opened the year with) then it makes sense to keep just a bit more than arm’s length from each other. For me, it has meant postponing all my photography portrait sessions until later in the year. I am so lucky to have such understanding clients, and, of course, this is as much about protecting them as it is about protecting me: if they don’t feel obliged to come out, travel to a location and work closely with me and each other (if they are a family, or a work team, for example) then they can stay in and be that little bit less exposed to the bug. And if they’re not exposed to the bug this time, then the disease travels a bit less. It means that in one small instance, the rate of infection is slowed, the NHS is one less person busier. And if we all make that effort to reduce the numbers of people we see face to face, then we all work together to contain the virus.
What is perhaps a bit harder, is keeping distance from family. I visit my elderly grandmother regularly and she loves me taking the kids to see her. But I am now limiting this to essential visits only to check on her, and without the kids. Thank goodness for FaceTime and Skype and WhatsApp. We might moan about being on the phone too much (and there is a lot to complain about) but for those stuck at home on their own, it is a boon. This is an important time to make sure we call all our elderly relatives daily and also any friends and neighbours who might need to self-isolate because they are showing symptoms. We can help them out – while keeping our distance.
Well, that goes without saying and washing hands thoroughly is the best way of keeping all buts at bay and not just the coronavirus – many sickness bugs that our kids pass to each other at school might be less rife if we made sure they are always careful about washing hands before meals and after playing with their friends or with their pets. And that goes for all of us. It’s all too easy to give ourselves a cat’s lick of a hand-wash when we’re rushing about, but we are learning that the extra half a minute could make all the difference.
Keep calm and keep happy
We can’t always control what is going on in the world, but we can control our response to it. If we’re stuck indoors for long periods, it can get a bit claustrophobic, so creating a routine that includes a bit of exercise, healthy eating and some relaxing time as well as perhaps some domestic chores or work you can do at home, is important to keep you relaxed. In some ways, this is a chance to re-connect with your thoughts, to slow down and contemplate what you want from life and how you want to live it when this crazy chaos is over. It is a great time to reconnect with family and friends and re-establish relationships that can become neglected all too easily. It is also a time to remember your favourite ways to enjoy being creative or relax, and if you are at home with kids, it’s a good time to help kids engage with their own creativity as well as to learn some important self-care skills.
We’ve had our binge on Netflix and on Minecraft, and luckily we have a bit of a garden that really could do with a bit of work. I have two active boys ages 8 and 6, so all the time it isn’t pouring with rain, we will be keeping active – from playing physical games out in the garden to helping clear the plant beds, wash down the yard, maybe wash the car, clean out the barbecue and so on.
It can be remarkably hard to keep kids indoors and not getting irritable and argumentative, so I’ve tried to set up a routine that we drew up together so that they know what to expect each day (which is a bit like school, with structure) and this has a combination of active play, quiet play and creative play, and also chill out time for them to spend time doing what they want to do as individuals. And in that routine, I’ve created a bit of time for me to get some work done and for some ‘me time’, notably when they are in bed, or when my hubby gets in from work. If we go into lockdown completely, then we’ll have to rework the routine to include Dad!
We’ve also drawn up a chores rota which earns the boys time credits; every chore gives them a set number of minutes that they can build up during the day and use up on playing video games. That way we’ve managed to avoid Xbox binges and arguments about getting off the console!
For me personally, as a photographer, I am always out and about and being at home and social distancing is hard. So it is important for me to keep mentally active and to have a creative outlet so I don’t get bored or frustrated. Embroidery is my relaxing creative activity of choice, and I have neglected that recently, so I am happily digging out my threads and frame and needles.
And the camera need not be too far from my hands. The garden is full of interesting little corners for me to explore texture and colour and light, and as spring is beginning to burgeon, regardless of bugs and viruses, there will be lots of interesting insect and birdlife to photograph. As well as the kids, of course, so that I can send photos to their more housebound grandparents. I will have a bit of a breather from work, these next few weeks, but I will be practising, exploring new techniques, playing with lighting and editing. My dog, Molly, will be ideal for working on pet photography, the boys for family photographs, and my long-suffering husband for professional head shots and individual portraits.
Beating the bug is a battle to be fought on many fronts. But most of all, we will not let the bug beat us!
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Jessica Richardson Photography
Medway, Maidstone and Kent