July 2020 came and went in a blur of sweaty face masks. Although a part of me is still mentally harking back to Christmas ’19, we find ourselves firmly ensconced in the second half of the year, looking (far) ahead at things like Fall and – another Christmas? Time has certainly taken on an odd quality during this global crisis. It speeds by, then slows down, before speeding up again, taking us all on a wild coronacoaster ride.
The pandemic is here to stay. We are working on re-establishing ourselves around it. Some of us are hosting socially distanced picnics while the bravehearts are booking summer holidays. Even the most cautious lot amongst us are finally tiptoeing outdoors. Which, if we rifle through the virtual pages back to April Digest 2020, feels like a utopia.
But a utopia it is not. The virus hasn’t gone anywhere, its still very much present in our midst. Nor is it less deadly or infectious. Social distancing, washing hands and wearing face covers in confined spaces are still necessary. Face masks, made compulsory on the tube in June, have now been made mandatory in ever indoor public place in Britain (too little too late, but better late than never, I suppose).
Lock, unlock, repeat.
On the 4th of July, fireworks erupted on this side of the pond as Britain emerged from lockdown after more than 100 days. On the other side of the world, Melbourne went into a second lockdown while Hong Kong battled its third wave. By the end of July, new coronavirus outbreaks were swiftly sweeping Europe, prompting new travel bans (Brits are being advised against ‘all but essential travel’ to mainland Spain, one of its most popular holiday destinations).
A Whole New World
July was the most ‘normal’ month post Covid. With lockdown easing and restaurants, pubs and hairs salons reopening, we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Slowly, nervously, I rode the tides of change. I got a haircut, jumped on the tube, called an Uber, visited the mall, dined (twice) in restaurants. Brave by some people’s standards, timid compared to others. Everyone is doing things differently and following their own judgement.
The new normal feels like a borrowed life from an alternate universe. Most of it is familiar but there is a sense of newness in everyday things, almost as though we have emerged from not 100 but 1000 days of confinement. Every step outside the house involves some form of risk assessment + management. I carry hand sanitisers like packets of gum and have multiple masks strewn across my handbag. I stick to the one way directions at the mall (Nizar chides me when I go astray), and fill out pre-client health questionnaires before haircut appointments like I would at the GP’s. Its a strange, no man’s land, a sort of limbo that arouses contradictory emotions.
Did I enjoy having brunch with my gals on a fine Saturday morning over Dishoom’s house chai? Absolutely. But I am still on the fence about everything that falls under the ‘non-essential business’ category. If I see too many people, my safety radar starts bleeping as though it predicts an apocalypse. Maybe you need to recalibrate yourself dear radar, because we are already in said apocalypse. But this isn’t the predictable stuff from the movies. I think I would have reacted better to a handful of zombies than I do to closely-knit groups of humans. At least zombies are dead and can mingle without social distance.
When we thought of returning to normalcy in the throes of lockdown, we perhaps didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be. That gaining freedom could actually induce more anxiety. You just don’t know what is right anymore – stay home like lockdown never got lifted? Help yourself to some normalcy and do your bit to boost the economy? I am leaning towards the latter. More than I thought I would. The freedom has been so liberating that reining it in requires constant, conscious effort. The feel good factor of human interaction – the laughter, the real-life company, the shared camaraderie – is intense. It feels great. But I also don’t want to be careless and selfish. Its an insult to the hard work and sacrifices we have made so far, especially our health care workers. This constant cycle of self-assessment is proving to be a lot harder than adhering to blanket lockdown rules.
Unforloughed for Cov-Eid
More than three months of paid furlough has been a wonderfully freeing privilege. But when I got a call from my Head of Team asking me to return to work, I was genuinely overjoyed. I had forgotten how hard it was to work with a toddler, and how knackered I would get by the end of a work-from-home day. And yet I was happy to have this bit of normalcy back in my life.
We celebrated Eid-Ul-Adha on the last day of the month and after much deliberation (was it OK to apply for leave after 3 months of absence?), I took the Friday off. We visited the London Aquarium on Saturday on its first business day post covid, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
July was a month of intense TV. We watched Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix, then moved onto Chernobyl on Amazon Prime.
I am proud to confirm that I read THREE books this month. ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge, ‘The Vanishing Half’ by Brit Bennett and ‘Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982‘ by Cho Nam-Joo (almost finished).
Aryan returned to daycare on the 1st of July. He came home brimming with new words from the very first day. ‘Oh dear!’ he exclaimed, much to our amusement. Followed by, WHY. Yep, the WHY era has officially begun.
Three days a week at daycare has helped him bloom. While he cried the first two days at drop off, by the fourth day he was running off happily with a wave of his hand and a reassuring ‘Bye, Mummy Daddy!’ He is learning his ABCS and 123s, and while he cannot identify the letters individually, he points out words on my t-shirt, asking ‘A kothay?’ He loves picking up books, and is currently obsessed with Missie (Winnie) The Pooh. His baby vocab is improving rapidly, and he is keen on making that known. ‘Elephant!’ he corrects me pointedly, as though it was me and not him who used to say Ellemen. He keep us in check, repeating what he hears from his teachers. ‘No screaming, Mummy!’, ‘No crying,’, ‘No pushing,’ ‘Come on,’ ‘Stop it!’. If we feign sadness, he assumes reassuring authority. ‘Dont Worry Mummy’. ‘Are you OK, Daddy?’.
Recipe on Repeat
Seafood pasta has been a firm staple in our household this month. Here is the (rough) recipe that so many of you requested:
Boil pasta (roughly 350g). In a pan, add 1 tablespoon of butter. Add three sliced garlic cloves. Cut up two anchovy fillets and add to pan. Add lemon zest of one lemon and juice of quarter. Add a tin of tomatoes (400g). Add a tablespoon of sugar. Simmer for 5 mins. Add your mixed seafood. Season with salt and pepper. Once the mixture warms through, add double cream (130ml ish, depends on how runny you want it). Check seasoning and sugar and adjust. Finally, add your boiled pasta. Finish off with parsley (optional, but oh so worth it).
UK bookshops reopened on 15th June and sold over 4 million books. Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other and Akala’s Natives topped the charts – solid proof that the world is urgently trying to learn more about Black lived experiences.
When we think of anti-racism work, our focus tends to hone in on the topic of racism itself. But we need to expand our syllabus to encompass the whole spectrum of Black emotions – not just their sorrows, but their joys, dreams and aspirations. And their fiction! The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett is a fantastic, timely novel that explores white passing privilege in a haunting tale that will leave its indelible mark in your heart. The story is set in the 1960s and 70s, but it could have been a story set in 2020, a sad realisation that not much has changed for the Black community in all these decades. Read it, and treat yourself to Brit’s impeccable writing + storytelling skills.
Boris is keen to get us all to ‘significant normalcy’ by Christmas. Maybe we will be back in office before 2021 after all. New Coronavirus outbreaks will keep flaring up, triggering local lockdowns and we will just have to, in Boris’ words ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst.’ For now, managing our own pace and mental health is of utmost importance. We all have a role to play to save and protect the economy. And to save and protect ourselves.