Diary of a self-isolator - Day One

Working from home is productive but can be lonely Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Working from home is productive but can be lonely Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Archant

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis is one of the many people working at home at the moment as Coronavirus fever grips the country and following advice from the government - what’s it like one day in?

A tea round for one? Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

A tea round for one? Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

It’s 3pm. I’m sat at the desk of my home office. The birds are singing sweetly out the window. The sun is beaming in, glinting off my ‘Best Mum’ mug. But I can’t seem to shake the bleak feeling that’s come over me as I work in self-isolation.

I’m not a stranger to home working. I’m here usually a couple of days a week so I can get my head down and crack on. But it feels at the moment like it’s never going to end. And that’s what troubles me the most.

I’m the kind of person who craves human interaction, and although I’ve had a conference call (involving me ‘calling a register’ of my staff and accidentally cutting the line off with my chin) I feel oddly removed from the world. Just one day in!

I miss the banter. The buzz and hype of the newsroom as a breaking story comes in. Andrew’s cheeky double entendres across the desk. The tea round (although my team will tell you I’ve made one batch since Christmas). I miss our legendary writer Geats dashing across the newsroom when his phone goes off – cheered on by the rest of the office.

Customers have stripped supermarket shelves bare Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Customers have stripped supermarket shelves bare Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

Asides from the bustle of nature outside, until my kids and hubby arrive home, the soundtrack of my day is BBC Radio 2 – kicked off first thing with a bit of Paolo Nutini, which briefly raised my spirits. I’m slightly worried already I’ll begin talking to myself a la Tom Hanks in Castaway. My sports medicine ball (similar to a basketball) is very close to a Sharpie pen. Perhaps I’ll save the thrill of having an inanimate work colleague until later in the week?

Like I say. This is just one day in. Like many other people up and down the country, indeed around the world, I am having to isolate from the virus as much as possible due to a weak immune system. I have ME, a condition that largely (touch wood) hasn’t caused much trouble in the last decade (again, touch wood) but that makes me more susceptible to any bugs doing the rounds.

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Back then, in what I like to call ‘the dark ages’, I was bound at home for a few months, barely able to walk, dress myself or look after my children (then both under four). I remember the dull ache of depression at not being able to go outside. It was a snowy winter and I spent hours watching the kids play in the white stuff from the window, desperate to join in but too weak to do so.

More recently, about five years ago I spent four months working from home after fracturing my left foot. Crutches were not my friend. I looked like a newborn foal – only with less grace.

What I remember from both those times, is an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. It doesn’t matter how many friends you talk to. It doesn’t matter that your kids are making a racket in the living room over the TV remote. The sense of otherness at being forced to stay at home is like a heavy drape cloaked over your shoulders.

Sure, I can go out for a walk, but what about my regular gym sessions, Wednesday Pilates (noone has more fun than we do at 7.15pm midweek), and catch-ups with friends? Frankly I’m loathed to give them up.

What about shopping? My husband is crap at doing the weekly shop. It takes him an hour to go pick up one item and even then he’s never been known to come back with the right thing. I once sent him out for feminine products and he returned with a loaf of bread. God knows what use he thought that would be. “I got distracted,” he told me!

I fear he definitely won’t cope with a visit to the shops at the moment. Just yesterday I had a proper rant in a large Sainsburys store (yes, everyone could hear me) about the selfishness of panic buyers. No flour, no sugar, no loo roll, potatoes, biscuits, rice, pasta. Very few tinned goods. As I negotiated with other shoppers and backtracked through my shopping list and meal plan to work out exactly what we COULD eat this week, avoiding being elbowed, he placidly pushed the trolley, singing along to himself without a care in the world.

I can’t imagine him surveying the detritus left in the shop and being able to make a snap decision on how to change/rectify a meal.

Hopefully we won’t run out of anything, but if we do I am seriously considering gelling up and heading out despite recommendations.

For now though I’m staying put...the hours seamlessly blending from a working day into homelife without anything definitive, interesting or exciting to separate the two. At least if you’re ‘at work’, there’s the ‘going home’ part to look forward to.

Though there’s always tomorrow. More chats with the team. Calls out to businesses for a feature. And some baking for an Easter article I’m working on. Although, as I’m to have limited contact with others, I may have to eat the goodies myself....without the excuse of a Zumba class to burn off the calories after. I could I ask nicely they’ll leave the blinds open so I can join in outside? Or maybe not...

To all you folk stuck indoors, especially those with limited mobility, get in touch. I’d love to hear from you. What are you doing? What are you watching? How do you feel? Send me an email

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