Lock Down 2020

I suppose this is where I begin. March 20th 2020, the day the school where I teach closed its doors and life under LockDown became the new normal in Scotland. Like so many others I was shocked, scared and utterly bewildered by the situation. I have been a primary school teacher for almost 30 years. I am used to the chalkface. I know how to deal with a classroom full of 8 and 9-year-olds every day. Now those familiar little faces had become e-pupils inhabiting my laptop. The next couple of weeks was a whirlwind of Zoom meets, Google Teams, emails, webinars and online courses. My classroom became a virtual world where I tried to engage the 22 little people that I had not so long ago had under my wing. The reality of this new digital school room began to sink in. This was how I was going to be teaching for the foreseeable future.
Then my husband, Sam, developed symptoms of the virus. The next two weeks were spent in isolation. I slept in another room. We used different toilets. I wore a mask and rubber gloves and sprayed Dettol like air freshener. Windows throughout the house were left open to lower the viral load. Sam had a high temperature, headache, night sweats, tightness in his chest, and a cough but testing wasn’t available. We were scared. Thousands of people were being hospitalised and the numbers of people dying was rocketing. I won’t get into British political failings or the utter shambles that was the UK Government’s COVID 19 response. That’s not the purpose of this blog.
Fortunately, Sam began to recover. We felt relieved and thankful. I hadn’t shown any symptoms. Or had I been asymptomatic? We would never know. We had been lucky.
Things began to settle down into socially distanced routines. The sun was shining in Scotland. We were having one of the nicest springtimes in quite a few years. We tidied the garden and painted the fences. I cleaned the house and sorted the cupboards. We watched box sets of favourite TV shows – Orphan Black, Modern Family, Outlander and others. We went for walks and spoke to our family members and friends from the mandatory 2 metres distance. I had my horse to look after. The yard was under a strict timetable, so visits were short and riding-time limited. At least I could escape for a brief wander around the fields on a pleasant evening on Bonnie’s back.
Nine weeks passed. How often do we have so much time on our hands to spend at home doing the things we want? I am a woman with a butterfly brain. I have many interests which come and go fleetingly but are never entirely dropped. I began to pick at some of the threads of the little projects that I had been neglecting. The bag of fibres for needle felting was found behind the sofa and I started a model of Jamie from Outlander. My art desk was cleared and the boxes of pastels brought down so I could draw. I looked out my scrapbooking materials.
Then, I opened my Family file on Legacy. I hadn’t touched this for some time. Where had I left off? I had been working on my husband’s line, the McGraws. I was soon off down the rabbit hole. Within a couple of days, I’d filled in some missing blanks. Marriages, births, deaths and census records were scrutinised and matched. I typed the information into the database and updated my files. Then I began to think. Why was I doing this? I’ve been researching my family history on and off for over twenty years. Sometimes I wouldn’t touch it for months, even a year or more, but I always come back to it. Why? Why do I have this need to uncover the past? The dry little facts of some long-forgotten ancestor’s birth or untimely death. Why did it matter? As I looked over the details in front of me, trying to tie each one to the other, I realised I was trying to write a story. A story of someone I could never know, never meet. Yet, I still want to know who they were. I want to know how they lived their lives. What happened to them? I want to know their story. They had a story. Perhaps a sad one, a pitiful one or a joyous, adventurous one. Each tiny fact that I uncover is like a tiny gem to me. A glittering little jewel revealing a secret detail of their story. I want to bring them back for just a second so that I can know them. They are my family.
Yet, each time I closed my file, I wondered if I could do more. My family goes on, growing and changing, leaving imprints on the world around them. They matter in the now but will be forgotten over time. We are writing our own stories. I think these stories matter, whether they are big or little.
So my blog begins. I am not sure how it will develop. I hope it will be a place where I can bring some of these stories to life.

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