I just tell myself "Yoga and gardening, yoga and gardening." That will get us through this right?

We used to live in Brislington, so we were already this side of Bristol. We wanted to move out for more space and a garden. I had the idea that we were going to move right out to the countryside. We looked at a few places, then both realised that we didn’t want to do any such thing. So we slowly came back towards Bristol until I stopped panicking. There was Keynsham! It has night buses until two in the morning, which was such an important thing back then. Nowadays of course, I use them once or twice per year.

I work for Primary Eyecare Services, which is like the GP Federation but for optometrists. We provide shared care services for Clinical Commissioning Groups and hospitals through high street optometry practices. I usually also work as a locum optometrist, but that stopped as soon as lockdown started. I have been so busy however, working to provide the COVID Urgent Eyecare Service. What do I do? Well essentially, I agree the service with the commissioner then mobilise practices to provide it. From conception to mobilisation, it would normally take from maybe six to nine months, but here we are trying to do it in 3 or 4 weeks! This side of my work has gone mad, which is fortunate, as if being a locum was my only form of income? Well… Ultimately, I am self-employed. Lots of self-employed people aren’t in the position that I’m in in terms of still actually having work. It’s no bad thing to be busy is it? It gives you some momentum to get through it all.

I’m quite enjoying the Zoom normality of say the executive director talking to his kids about ice cream during a work call. You’ve got to love it. We all remember that bloke on the BBC whose kids burst in last year, now it is just standard for all of us. I was talking to a Consultant Ophthalmologist recently whose baby had just woken up. It’s all very humanising. We have to deal with various things and herd children out of offices etc. I feel so lucky that I already worked from home, which means that I already have an office set up, and the systems are up and running. I was supposed to be working from home for this project one day a week, but realistically it’s more like four. It has upped to two days now to make it less insane, it’s still pretty insane to be fair though. I’ve spent hours, I mean HOURS on the phone trying to get my colleagues PPE. I wouldn’t want to try to calculate how many hours in the last 2 months. We are on the fringes. I am not patient facing right now. My mates who are dentists have been giving me contacts for people to beg PPE from. It is finally sorted now.

My husband, who works full time, is doing the lion’s share of the childcare. He has to go out to site a couple of times per week. He has cycled for years however, so that is already in place. People are used to him rocking up on sites on his bicycle. Our boys are 5, 3 and 15 months. They play really nicely. A lot of stuff is stressful, but I am also so grateful for the things that work, and this is one of them. They stick up for each other if one of the others is in trouble. It’s all very sweet. Yet it’s a terrifying thing; they have been very accepting that this is how it is now, that they only play with each other. They’ve been quick to accept the new normal. We are of course very fortunate to have had the weather and that we have the garden and the space. They are the right age for it I guess too. They are old enough that they can entertain themselves, but young enough to not need to be in touch with their mates. Time is a very flexible thing when you are their age.

I’d just restarted my PhD. I’d done my first visit back after mat leave, then had to self-isolate for a week, then it was lockdown. So, I have had to abandon it. I was really energised too… just back from mat leave… get it finished right? Five days later? Oh well, that’s that then. That and not being able to see my parents have been the most difficult aspects for me. My mum has been so involved in the children’s lives. There have been a handful of times that they have gone more than ten days without seeing them. I think it has been tough on those older people who are healthy and active. My dad’s health is nowhere near as good as my mum’s. She is 69, she is active, and in amazing health. She’s not used to living this isolated inactive lifestyle. They are keen gardeners, and she is such a social person. She’s always zooming off on public transport. My youngest has changed so much in two months. They do at that age, don’t they? These changes in restriction have been hard to swallow. We want to do the right thing.

As health care professionals, we are worried about people _not_ presenting now. We want to offer patients something close to home. People, who would not go a hospital, would go to a local optician. People are obviously so concerned about not burdening the NHS, which is of course what we have been told. There is a new message now though: you do need to contact people. If you need help, ask. People are not presenting with strokes and heart stuff as well as eye issues. Obviously, that has implications for the severity of their conditions.

We’ve just got some chickens. They are killing everything. I love the eggs of course, but my word they can strip an area. I’ve got some extra space in my garden cleared now, so I can try loads of stuff I have never done before. My mum is like me, she loves heritage seeds, so I am trying some rainbow painted sweetcorn and all sorts. When I am feeling stressed, I just tell myself yoga and gardening, yoga and gardening. That will get us through this right?

#Humans_of_Keynsham, #WeAreAllHuman, #Covid_Stories, #Optometrist,

Bristol, Bath, England.  +44 7825 912 368