Neither of us are sick (touch wood) but we decided to self isolate a few days before it was advised because we both have the dreaded ‘underlying conditions’. When we started I imagined that I would get stuck into a project and emerge blinking in a few months time with a fully formed novel. Or maybe a portfolio of new art work. It’s becoming more obvious that it probably won’t work like that and I’m going to flit about from one thing to another. Currently I’m taking part in a 30 day photo challenge with one of my oldest friends and that’s the start…12 days in.
Our meetings were cancelled, of course and that was the end of that. I wondered if we could keep in touch via the internet and I installed a text chat room on the back end of the website. It seemed to work well and we tentatively resumed our Friday meetings online. Members submit their contributions and I post them on a private webpage. We read them and come to the meeting to share our critiques.
The first time we tried it out for real it was a little chaotic but as the weeks of isolation have turned into months we have become more organised. The meetings have turned into a high spot of the week with lots of ‘bants’ and laughter and we’re regularly getting attendance that equals our old face to face meetings.
A meeting over text chat is not the same as a physical meeting and it’s possible to see various aspects of personalities emerge via this medium. Quiet people become ‘louder’ and vice versa. It’s different. We’re suddenly missing all of the signals that we take for granted when we’re meeting up in RL (real life).
When I looked back to my own experience with text chatting online I realised it stretched back to the last century starting with IRC. In 1996 I was an ‘operator’ on the NC channel. In other words I was an administrator on the Internet Relay Chat channel primarily used by residents of North Carolina. (I’m a Brit who was living in Ireland at the time!) I was new to the internet and it blew my mind that, with IRC, I was able to chat to people all over the world, in real time. I would pop into different channels just to say hello and the people in NC pretty much adopted me.
Then there are the acronyms. This is where LOL and ROTFL were born, but also IMO (in my opinion) BTW (by the way) and hundreds of others, as well as the shortcuts necessary when leaving temporarily for a bathroom break: brb (be right back) wb (welcome back) ty (thank you) yw (you’re welcome). The emoticons that developed were all text based 🙂 smile 😉 wink ;P tongue out, etc that are all familiar to us these days from texting.
From IRC I moved to ICQ (I seek you) for several years and then the virtual world of Second Life where, in the early days, communication was all based on text chat.
These days I still use the chat facility in Google Hangouts on an almost daily basis to chat with a friend in the US. Over the years we’ve developed our own shorthand that has become so nuanced and subtle that we can read pauses that last a nano second too long and interpret the most garbled spelling mistakes automatically when we’re in the middle of a muscular political discussion!
Text chatting, IMHO (humble or honest – take your pick) is an underrated form of communication, developed in a time when the internet was young and is now taking a quick curtain call for those of us who have cut their own hair and don’t want to use Zoom.
27 days, almost a month in total lockdown. Neither of us have been outside the confines of the house and back garden, except once a week to put the bins out. I think I’m institutionalised now. Outside resembles a TV screen; nice to look at but not anywhere I could actually enter.
In the early days of confinement it was all about how much writing I’d get done and if not writing then definitely recording these strange days with creating a sketchbook (or a daily blog!) Reader, none of these things have happened. Most of yesterday involved watching YouTube videos on how to cut your own hair *with clippers* and nodding along, thinking that it looked doable. If it doesn’t work out, who cares..nobody else is going to see it for many weeks and maybe I’ll develop a new skill. I’m sure I have pink hair dye somewhere.
The most recent distraction is making Tilda dolls. This is the first prototype and its creation involved watching Russian videos and spending way too much on downloadable patterns from Etsy. Many things need changing but I hope to develop the pattern and techniques. Another welcome distraction is looking for ways to enable contact between members of our local writers’s group. Meeting digitally can be a challenge but proving to be really worthwhile.
I’m resigned to staying in the house/garden for the foreseeable future but admit to becoming slightly pissed off with the people who think that they are the exceptions to the ‘stay at home’ rule and flout it by driving across the country to visit their friends, amongst other things. They will justify it until the cows come home, but really, get a grip. Which part of ‘stay the fuck at home’, don’t you understand?
They say a week’s a long time in politics but it feels like a decade in a pandemic. On 5th March 2020 Boris Johnson said
To be fair (and it pains me) but he did say that this was one of the theories and it needed to be balanced with more preventive measures. But even to consider this as part of a balanced approach seems extraordinary when, according to more than 200 scientists who wrote an open letter on 14th March this tactic to produce the much quoted “herd immunity”, would result in many thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Three weeks later and we’re in a different place, with almost a lockdown being implemented last night. Almost, because people can still go to work and there is a lot of confusion about what can and can’t be done. You can probably take your car for an MOT if you can find a garage open but you’re not allowed to visit your partner if they don’t live in the same house. No visits with family members unless you live together.
After Johnson’s TV address last night though attitudes seem to be changing. It’s less than 10 days since a doctor told my husband that this thing would ‘blow over’ soon enough, surprised and not a little dismissive, that he was self isolating.
14 days in isolation for us today, which seems like a mini milestone but I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a long year.
So I bought a new phone last week. I had the last one for about three years and it was perfectly serviceable except for battery life. It was hardly making it ’til lunchtime. I had the horrible thought that if one us of needed to go to the hospital I’d need a phone with a decent battery so I bit the bullet and bought an iPhone 11. Ordered, delivered but without a SIM card. I spoke to Virgin customer support who assured me that all their phones come without a SIM. It was on order, would be delivered by Royal Mail and would be with me in a couple of days. Hmm.
I wasn’t totally convinced and spent the whole of Day 6 texting to various support people at Virgin, getting increasingly infuriated as I was told different variations of the story. Finally, one guy said that he couldn’t see any trace of an order for a SIM card and was I sure it wasn’t in the box? No, absolutely not, I’d had a thorough search of the box but hang on..what about the cardboard outer? Being conscious of the longevity of the virus on cardboard I’d ditched the outer box as quickly as possible. A dive into the recycling bin by my long suffering husband resulted in the discovery of the SIM card nestled safely in the cardboard box. Grovelling apology to support guy and phone finally up and running. Yeah, I’m a dick but why did they lie in the first place though?
I’ve turned off notifications
I couldn’t stand the din
It’s day nine of our lockdown
And the novelty’s worn thin
The BBC, the Guardian
All vying for attention
From the captive detainee
Lists of figure and statistics
An avalanche of news
The guidelines are confusing
But please don’t book a cruise
And all our other problems
Seem so small and long ago
Now lives have been upended
And we’re struggling to cope
But still some people argue
That it’s really not so bad
They’ll carry on as normal
These precautions are just mad
I hope that we survive this
But we can’t do it alone
So if your job’s not vital
Please stay the fuck at home!