Home thoughts from abroad*

*not abroad. At home. Still.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

How many times have we said to ourselves that, were we given enough free time, we would fill it wisely, by learning a new language, or taking up painting or cracking the art of cordon-bleu cookery? Or reading those Dostoyevsky novels that we bought in bulk at the charity shop in a fit of intellectual madness?

Two things have I learned during this period of enforced leisure. One, that there are people who really do take up all those new past-times and fill their days most productively. And two, that I am not one of those people.

Actually, here’s a few more things I have learned during my (hopefully short-lived) furlough during a time of stay-at-home-and-save-lives.

Time takes on a whole different meaning when you no longer have real deadlines. Days are no longer measured in hours but in empty mugs, piled up by the sink. Ditto the plates from which endless cheese toasties and omelettes are eaten. A box of tea-bags that once lasted four people weeks is now empty in days, so frequently is the ‘just putting the kettle on’ call heard. And the snacking. Oh Lord, the snacking. It’s become an Olympic sport and I have that gold medal in my sights.

The stockpile shortages seems to be largely sorted (though I haven’t seen yeast in the shops since the beginning of March), though it remains to be seen how well the food supply chain holds up through the Summer and into Autumn without the hordes of fruit and vegetable pickers that UK farmers need.

Many people have commented on how clear and blue the sky now is (or was, until this week’s weather front moved in). The reduced council services and Foreign Office travel advice mean I’m no longer being rudely awoken by the dustman or the first of the planes leaving Gatwick (the perils of living under a flight path). Instead, it’s the dawn chorus once again. Which is nice.

Remember when we used to have defined days of the week? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday… you know the rest. Days are now today, yesterday and tomorrow. I don’t even have the church bells to let me know it’s 10am on Sunday anymore.

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I have, however, discovered new parts of the countryside where I live, on my government-sanctioned, once-a-day exercise routes. The trouble is, so has everyone else. Social distancing is a bit tricky when you’re all trying to climb the same woodland stile.

As a journalist it hurts me to say this, but at times you are better off just ignoring the news and watching or listening to something else instead. We appear to be heading for a sort of trial-by-hindsight, with the government in the dock when we get through this. Did the UK government make mistakes in their planning for the reaction to this pandemic? Undoubtedly. Is it going to be helpful to point fingers and apportion blame in a year’s time/two years’ time? Probably not, unless such findings are used to learn lessons and ensure that similar mistakes or errors are not made again in the future. History suggests that the likelihood of this happening is slightly less than the chance of me getting a decent haircut this side of Christmas.

2020 is the year everything was cancelled and postponed. The NMBS exhibition, the BMJ Industry Awards, the NMBS Conference, the Olympics, the London Marathon, the Euros…

Hang in there. We’ll get through it.


This post was first published on LinkedIn


About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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