Friday Flash Fiction – 555 – Remote Learning

Vivienne put the phone down with relief, she really needed that cup of tea she was about to make when her daughter phoned. She never liked to phone them, they were always so busy she never knew when was a good time.  As chief administrator at a large hospital her son-in-law Jack was now ridiculously busy. If he worked from home Julia found it impossible to keep everything calm and his OCD under control and if he was at the hospital she complained ( usually to Vivienne ) about being left alone to deal with the home schooling. Vivienne couldn’t understand why her daughter had decided to set up her own business from home. Being made redundant from Billings Department Store, early on in the pandemic was surely convenient for looking after the twins, but Julia had been over optimistic in the autumn when children at last went back to school and still optimistic when they started the new term on January 4th… until Boris closed all schools the next day.

Vivienne had been at home with Julia and James when they were young, so there would not have been the same panic all these modern parents had. Not that she would have been much use at home schooling, she couldn’t get James to do his homework let alone a whole curriculum.

Julia was now apparently wishing she had been a teacher or nurse, a key worker so she could have sent Jason and Jacintha to school. Vivienne smiled to herself; Julia had never shown any inclination to be either when she was doing her A levels. Neither profession ran in the family and Vivienne herself had never had any desire to be a nurse or anything medical, or any job that involved other people’s bodies. She had the utmost admiration for nurses, except for that bitch on the ward when she had James and that other one when she had her operation; there was one on every shift probably, but most of them were as wonderful as portrayed on the news and those hospital documentaries.

Julia’s mother-in-law was a nurse and had volunteered  to come out of retirement to do vaccinations. Of course she was much younger than Vivienne, having had Jack at some ridiculously young age. Being busy vaccinating didn’t stop her helping the twins with their home schooling via Facetime and writing them stories. She lived nearby so was missing being a hands on granny. Julia said that was the only good thing to come out of lockdown, they had a break from her, though she never said that to Jack. Jack’s mother, in her forty eight hour day, had also set up a zoom group and Facebook page for lonely grandparents, which had featured on the local news.

Vivienne sighed as she took her empty cup to the kitchen and looked out at the damp, dreary January garden; she felt so useless. Julia and James said she didn’t need to do anything except stay home and not catch Covid, or climb on stools and fall off and break bones. But that bloke volunteering at the food bank on the news looked older than her, how did these people do it? Her thoughts were interrupted by the phone ringing, her surgery were doing vaccinations, could she come in tomorrow? She wasn’t doing anything else, that was for sure, but she was rather miffed, she wasn’t old or vulnerable, why were they calling her? They should be doing the police and shop workers next…

If you want a glimpse into Julia’s life back in May, link in here.

Friday Flash Fiction – Home Schooling | Times and Tides of a Beachwriter (wordpress.com)https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/05/22/friday-flash-fiction-home-schooling/

Lockdown Three

Lockdown Three has none of the drama of Lockdown One, though it is more cutting edge than Lockdown Two when schools were open and we thought we still had Christmas to look forward to. In an echo of the brilliant dramatic twist twixt lockdowns when Christmas was cancelled at the last moment, because Covid 19 reneged on its promise to give us five days off, the director instituted a brilliant scene from Downing Street in which the PM closes all schools, not the day before, but the very day after they started the new term ( a sentence nearly as long as lockdown ).

Lockdown Three promises to be longer than Lockdown Two, but with the same advantage of covering winter months, so people will be glad to huddle indoors. Are we prepared? I think it would have been more dramatic if we could be like the French and fill in forms to produce to show we have a good reason to be out. We are allowed out for exercise, to get immunised and to buy food and some people might actually have to go out to work… My freezer now has one drawer full of sliced apple from the tree in my garden; it thrived during last spring and summer’s sunny lockdowns, with no desire to leave home. Another drawer is devoted to the Christmas feast postponed till Chreastersummermas. I still have enough room for regular rations.

As my first winter being a widow it seems apt for normal life to be suspended, not that I would wish a pandemic on the rest of the world merely to take the pressure off me deciding anything. While half the population, from politicians to front line services, are busier than ever, the other half may be shielding or out of work, life curtailed to the banal or at least a gentler pace. There are plenty of positives; new hobbies, putting your CD collection in alphabetical order, having cooking fun. Gardening may have taken a back seat, but you can fill your home with pot plants and cut flowers; perhaps your family will not be able to find you in the jungle when at last they can visit.

There are new experiences for most of us. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra tomorrow starts its second series of digital, livestreamed concerts. You can buy tickets for individual concerts or the whole season on line. We had a camera club zoom party and I won the Bingo; no need to go out on a cold night with plates of food, or clear up afterwards. Every Saturday night I join in a Zoom quiz; a window on the outside world.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (bsolive.com)https://bsolive.com/

If you get bored you can always order yourself more presents from Amazon ( yes I know we shouldn’t, but we all use them because you can find what you want, or even things you didn’t know you wanted, and it always arrives ). Nearly everyone in my family from four to forties is obsessed with Lego ( Lego is certainly not just for children ) and after many hints I was given my first Lego set – Lego Architecture mini London. It was tiny, fiddly, fun and addictive; a total change from blogging and writing. I have ordered myself a big box of Lego bricks and bits so I can make my own creations.

My little real Christmas tree in the front garden has been undecorated, but today I had a Glastonburyish idea; I am going to leave it there and tie a ribbon on every day till we’re out of lockdown.

Mum’s The Word

Parents across the world have had a unique experience, an experience that perhaps only parents in refugee camps and war zones would envy. But didn’t parents always home school children in the millennia before it was assumed all children should go to school? How to hunt mammoths, how to plough the fields and scatter, how to count sheep – yan, tan, tethera. But parents of old would not have had to cope with on line learning, nor would they have been trying to teach rebellious teenagers. Modern parents tearing their hair out in a pandemic may well have thought there’s a lot to be said for sending your eight year old out to work as a lonely goatherd or chimney sweep, or your awkward teenager into service at The Big House. It’s not that long ago that children left school at fourteen; my father’s first job was as a telegram boy, he claimed Winston Churchill told him off for whistling in the corridor. I imagine many fourteen year olds would rather have been delivering telegrams than stuck at home with a computer and nagging parents.

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It has been a mixed experience, those parents who already home school have been vindicated, so too those families who conveniently set off early in the year to drive a camper van all round their continent or sail around the world. Though sailing may have had its problems if no port let them in the harbour to fetch supplies.

But I have not seen it even mentioned that being a stay at home mum ( or dad ) is to be valued. Stay at home mothers ( or fathers ) have never been valued by any government, not even in the 1950s ( according to my mother ) when governments wanted women to stay at home and give the jobs back to the men after the second world war.

If someone is at home, permanently, it is not a major disaster when a child is sick or the other parent gets stuck at work and it must have been a great advantage when schools were suddenly closed. I totally understand the many reasons why women want or need to go to work and this varies from needing the money ( for food, not to run a second car! ) to keeping a foothold in your career, with all your earnings going to pay nursery fees.

From the children’s point of view they could be passed round like a parcel with no security or attend an excellent nursery a few days a week which they love going to. Nursery care is more convenient than school as it runs all year round and all day, eight till six, with three meals a day. If you have no family nearby and your husband (or wife ) has to work away from home, you may have to give up work when your child goes to school.

But getting back to mothers ( for they are still the ones who mainly have this dilemma ) – I have always thought that most women have not gained much over the decades, they often end up going out to work and still doing all ( lots ) of the housework. And in this country it is emerging that more working mothers than fathers have been dealing with the home schooling. To be fair to the chaps there are various reasons, many mothers work in the sort of jobs, such as retail, that were immediately closed down, so they were at home, or a lot of women work part time to fit in round the children.

But would we stay at home Mums have coped in our time with a pandemic and home schooling? NO! Staying at home for most mothers meant getting OUT of the house, taking your darling toddlers to every club and playground available to get rid of some of their energy and going round to other mums for coffee and gossip to preserve your sanity. Locked up indoors, with babies and toddlers, husband doing shift work and only 6 days off a month, I would not have survived, physically or mentally. So well done to the 2020 mothers of all sorts who are now faced with another five weeks of school holidays; Scottish mothers cheer as school starts early in August for them.

For those couples now expecting a happy event here is my handy guide to help you plan your maternity leave and work decisions.

Everyone has to eat, food has to be cooked.    Every home has to be cleaned; babies and toddlers make a mess. Washing has to be done and babies and toddlers create a mountain of washing. Going out to work doesn’t make these jobs go away.

Maternity leave of 9 months to a year will flash by in what seems like one month.

On your child’s second day of nursery they will wake up with a raging temperature and you will have to phone granny – if you are lucky, or you will have to phone work.

On the child’s second week of nursery they ( the nursery, not the baby ) will phone you at work to come and fetch your baby because at nappy changing time there was the slightest hint they might have a stomach upset. Before Covid, stomach bugs were the scariest thing, perhaps with all this new handwashing stomach bugs no longer go around but you never know…

Second month of nursery you are in a meeting, the other parent is away on business and you miss the phone call from nursery to say your child has vomited all over the play area and the other children. When you finally get the message you turn up at nursery feeling very guilty and are told to keep baby at home till he has gone 48 hours without being sick.

Good luck to parents everywhere.

Friday Flash Fiction – Home Schooling

‘Mummy, Mummy, Jason’s got his elbow on my side of the table.’
Julia gritted her teeth. Ten minutes, they had only been working for ten minutes and it had taken half an hour before that to get them settled. The twins were perfectly suited to social distancing, each intensely aware of their personal space.
‘No I didn’t, Jacintha touched my pencil and I don’t want to catch Covid.’
‘You won’t catch anything in this house Jason.’
Having a husband who was a chief administrator at a large hospital, now full of Covid 19 patients, was a mixed blessing, especially as pandemics tended to bring on his OCD. Julia may have thought his job less important and less dramatic than being a real doctor, but Jack didn’t. He had become insufferably self important after appearing on the BBC news. His administrative skills had been extended to the family and their home.
In the unlikely event of the twin’s primary school actually opening properly in June or July, Jason and Jacintha would not be attending. Her husband had done an extensive risk assessment and sent back the parent survey with some caustic comments and after all, Julia was at home to take care of home schooling.
Being made redundant from her job as head of fashion at Billings Department Store had been a bitter blow, though not unexpected. Sir Geoffrey Billings must be turning in his grave. The elegant Art Deco building was a neglected shadow of its former self. The business had been in slow decline since the beginning of the Twenty First Century. Customers who never set foot in the place gathered like vultures for the closing down sales, their grubby hands rifling through racks of garments they could never have afforded before. The empty building then stood as a foretaste of things to come. Now no one was going shopping.
Julia had just started enjoying the rest from work and pleasant days at the spa when the whole country went into lockdown. Of course her disappointments were nothing compared to other people’s problems and tragedies, her family were all safe, she didn’t have to go to a food bank and she didn’t have to worry about her mother now her brother was living there.
She sneaked a look at the Perfect Parents Facebook group on her phone.
Even if he has to wear a space suit he’s going to school on 1st June.
1st June 2021 more like. 
Anyone in Mrs. Griffiths’ class managed to do the worksheet?
Zoom and Wine tonight?

Julia jumped as the ring tone sounded.
‘Mum, everything alright, you don’t usually call this early. We’re a bit busy, the children are just finishing their work sheets, then we have six BBC Bite lessons to catch up with. Yes it is half term next week that’s why we’re trying to get everything done today.’
Julia looked up as the blank worksheets slid to the floor and Jason stabbed Jacintha’s scalp with his pencil.
‘I just rang to say we saw Jack on the news last night.’
‘I’ve seen him on the news ten times, same clip… I’ve heard it on the radio six times.’
‘He must be very important… what is it he does exactly? Only Penny just Whatsapped to say she’d seen him and she was asking…’

Jack was late home again so Julia was grateful to join in Zoom and Wine.
Half Term, thank goodness, but Scarlet has really earned it, bless her. We’ve done every single BBC Bite and she’s written her own book.
Alfie has done one BBC Bite and two lines of writing this week, do you think we could swap?
Jack thinks I’ve got the twins in such a good routine that we should just carry on working over half term…

Silly Saturday – Not Going Out

Whether you are stuck in your twenty bedroom mansion with many acres of private grounds or alone in a tiny flat, there are some advantages to being in the majority of the population not allowed to go out. Remember that feeling when your mother believed it when you said you felt ill and you didn’t have to go to school? Recreate that inner freedom of spirit for yourself every morning.

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You don’t have to decide what to wear each day, even if you are still in your dressing gown when you put the bins out no one will be around to see you.
If you are a schoolchild you are taking part in the biggest social experiment ever; if your exasperated parents call you a rat they just mean it affectionately, you are a laboratory rat. Perhaps the experiment will prove that actually nobody needs to go to school. If you had no friends at school you are a winner, nobody has any friends at school now.

 

Parents, if you are one of those families that appeared in that documentary, Twenty Two Children and Another on the Way, you are laughing, now is your time, with a ready made school and team sports. As you could never afford to go out anyway with all those children, life goes on much the same.
Adults, you don’t have to go to work, or if you have to work from home you can do it in your pyjamas.
You don’t have to go out, you don’t have to go to that boring party, your in-laws’ wedding, that tedious conference, parents’ evening, to the cinema to see that ghastly film your partner wanted to see and you don’t have to go to the dentist.
You can watch television all day long, especially twenty four hour corona coverage.

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Tired of decision making? Remember waking up to sunny Saturdays and discussing how to make the most of a nice weekend? We must go somewhere, but where, a favourite place or somewhere new? A local walk or major expedition? Take a picnic or eat out? Shall we call Barbara and John and see if they want to meet up?

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Ironically you will get to know your neighbours better, even if you do have to yell from your balcony, over the fence or across the road. They are home all the time and the ones that tried to avoid you are pitifully grateful when you wave to them.
Your dog is happy, very happy, never lonely and five walks a day with each member of the family going on their allotted outing.
If you are an introvert this is your time. No one is going to tell you that getting out more would be good for you.

You will have plenty of time to catch up with all those ( my ) books you wanted to read.

 

What advantages have you found in your confinement to home?