Diary of a coronavirus self-isolator - Day Two

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, like many others, is working from home currently on government advice - what’s it really like ‘out of office’. Today - gym visits and furry friends.

Snowball the hamster has proved quiet company during home working Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Snowball the hamster has proved quiet company during home working Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

Say hello to my little friend. Snowball the hamster (who I keep accidentally calling by his predecessor’s name) is my new work colleague. He’s pretty lazy. Actually he’s got it made. Sleeping all day, curled up in a nest, only appearing bleary-eyed later in the day, like a student with a hangover, ready to tuck into a bowl of nuts and seeds....maybe a tumble in the exercise ball.

Talking of exercise, cabin fever led me to the gym last night...staying on the safe side though, and practising what will be one of the phrases that defines 2020 - ‘social distancing’. Rather than heading there at the most thronging time, I waited until about 30 minutes before it closed, when most people have buggered off for dinner.

There are benefits to this. No queuing for the equipment. Noone judging my meagre attempts on the weight machines (I have one of them on the first setting which is monumentally embarrassing). Noone in close proximity as I thrust my way through bridges (if you’ve seen an 80s workout video you’ll be familiar with the move).

It also meant I was free to disinfect the space around me. I used the sleeve of my jumper to open the door and adjust the weights, took gloves with (destined for the washing machine as soon as I got home) and popped squirts of hand gel on anything before and after I used it. I’m pretty sure I was over the driving limit by the time I’d finished thanks to the dizzying amounts of alcohol wafting from my digital extremities.

Gym guilt is real - and this time it's for going, not for avoiding the place Picture: Charlotte Smi

Gym guilt is real - and this time it's for going, not for avoiding the place Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

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Much as I appreciated the relative peace, and the opportunity to gurn fully while lifting weights, I cut a lonely figure through the glass in the dark. Secretly I think I like being judged at the gym- it makes me want to work harder and inspires me not to give up. And I like the little chats by the water machine. Although I possibly burnt off the wedge of leftover coffee and walnut cake I consumed late yesterday afternoon, that did little to detract me from feeling a bit sad.

When I got home I read a Twitter thread by an Italian who begged us to take the outbreak seriously in the UK. Feeling very much the naughty school girl I vowed not to go to the gym again in the next two weeks, which will be really hard. The gym is ‘me-time’ away from work, family, friends, life. It’s a chance to tune out, listen to a podcast (usually No Such Thing as a FIsh or Off Menu) and escape. I dare say I’ll have to dust off my running shoes before long and hit the road on my own – all my running friends are proper runners with injuries and physios and training plans, I’m much too slow to go out with them.

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Mr Jarvis spent the evening trying to catch fish from our old pond and decant them into the new one (there were 66 plus 12 cute little newts) so he wasn’t much company. And so I found myself talking today to Snowball – who quite honestly isn’t very engaging and slept through the majority of my monologues.

Nick ‘the veg man’ was my only human interaction – but even he had obviously been instructed to drive, drop and run in line with current guidelines, so no chance then to gabble on about potatoes and parsnips. Shame.

When even the veg delivery guy can't stop for a chat Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

When even the veg delivery guy can't stop for a chat Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

The highlight of my working day has been baking Easter treats for our weekend magazine, although even that wasn’t without difficulty. Thank God I had bread flour in the cupboard for the hot cross buns as the shops are bare. I shall eat the goodies this evening in relative solitude while catching up on a missed episode of The Great British Bake Off and Channel 5’s racy-looking new series Penance – on at 9pm tonight.

What have you been up to working at home? What are you listening to? What’s your alternative to the gym? Send in pictures of your furred, finned and feathered colleagues. I’d love to hear from you too if you’re over 70 and are stuck at home. Email me


Dear Charlotte

Yep, here I am at the end of day three of my ‘self isolation ‘ period. Luckily for me I don’t have any medical conditions to contend with, but with what started out as a headache, then a raging throat to a persistent hacking cough, I’ve found myself confined to my tv/phone/tablet for communication over the next few days. Seven days, I can hack that surely? By day two I was trying to convince my work that I really do think it’s just a cold and would happily come back in to help with the increasing workload, on top of what was already increasing due to staff shortages. Nope... not a chance. I get it. We currently have a number of people that could potentially be put into danger should they contract this awful virus, not to mention their loved ones also with medical conditions that are considered at higher risk. But surely it’s just a cold? I feel fine, well at the very least well enough to work. Work from home? With my line of work that is currently not possible. So I’ve just got to suck it up and I was almost prepared for that.... then came BOJO and the ‘Breaking News Conference’ on the BBC news channel I found myself on, while trying to stop wetting myself through a coughing fit I was currently trying to manage. Fourteen days... did I hear that right? 14 days!? Tomorrow is day four.... I should put it to valuable use like learn to cook something new from scratch (providing I have the ingredients as I’m damn sure I won’t be able to get it delivered). If I had booked this as annual leave I’d have no end of ideas of how to fill my time.. but that would most likely include leaving the house. Binge watch a boxset? Nah I’ll leave that and moan in a few weeks time that I ‘never really had any time to get around to watching that’ when someone asks me if I’ve seen it. I’ll probably just sit here and moan that I feel guilty for not being at work as I feel fit enough to do so. But it’s not about me ... is it? It’s about those that may contract this virus and not being able to fight it off like most of us. I feel guilty for not being in work , but imagine the guilt if it was more than ‘just a cold’. Suck it up Linda, suck it up.


Hello Charlotte ,

I’m on day three of isolation. I’m also missing the interaction of friends and family.

I’ve decided to paint or draw everyday, so I shall probably fill several sketch books as the days drag on. When all this is over, I shall enjoy looking back through these, and I may be a better artist. I also found FaceTime which I can at least see family, grandchildren and friends, and am thinking of having an online discussion with my art group to compare art work and get useful feedback.


Hi Charlotte,

I read your article just now, this is my first day working from home. We all arrived at work yesterday (Steeles Law in Norwich) to be told we are trialling a work from home today but following yesterday’s government advice I wonder if we’ll make it back into the office tomorrow. My family just left for work and the house is already eerily quiet.

Our daughter has ME. She is doing well now and got offered her dream job yesterday. She’s a final year economics student at Birmingham University. I’m going to have the conversation today about going to fetch her home before the end of term although she’s been keeping to her student flat as far as she can. Her graduation is looking sketchy at present.


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