Friday 20th March: The Coronet Diaries. Another day.

I have one more Skype left today. I find it far more emotional than I imagined the first time the image of someone’s face with whom I never expected to be Skyping comes up onto the computer. I find it stressful the way that unlike in the physical space of the consulting room everything is now centred around the upper part of the torso. Hands seem to genuflect into expression and I often find myself incongruously ending our Skype with a head bend and “Namaste”. I don’t at all like to see reflections of myself online and try to dodge my reflection which feels as though it ages by the session. There is so much to concentrate on and if one looks away from the camera it can so easily be misunderstood as a distraction rather than a thought through a glass darkly. There is so so much to say about the language of bodies now we are confined to the Internet that I am collaging my experience into a draft essay. Zoom Zoom! Is there anybody there? The problem is that I need the time to write. Whilst I can snatch moments of leisure to journal writing an ‘essay’ requires luxurious stretches of time, which I simply do not have and leads me to the dilemma that foremost I am a clinician and not a writer. Also a wife, mother and grandmother. I do not want to write to the detriment of being available to my patients and yet I feel compelled to write this daily journal, in principal because the future feels so uncertain I want to chronicle a bird’s eye view of my subjective eye and ‘I’ of these horribly ‘unprecedented times’. And, possibly not waving but drowning in the presence of an amoral leader accompanied by his courtiers or nursery cabinet who can only disagree with their master at the risk of him shouting, like the Queen of Hearts; ‘Off with his head’!

I know Skype is not meant to be properly encrypted but I still have to get my head around Zoom. It’s surprising how many people this week have not been able – due to their own lack of technology – log in and we have had to use Face Time. Many people know that I have become telephone phobic and very rarely answer my phone except to my children or someone in crisis. Yet, I already feel like I have taken to Skyping like a duck to water. As I say when the person’s face first emerges out of the ether so do tears of joy. Almost.

In my book I have nicknamed myself not a scarecrow but a magpie because I learn so many random things in my consulting room. Often from the younger people consulting me.

Today, I have learnt

1) that the online sex shops are booming as people are cloning various parts of their anatomy and dispatching them to long distance partners.

2) In Amsterdam people have been queuing, once the shutdown on cafes was announced, but not for groceries. The government quickly realised the implications of illegal drugs and weed flooding the market and have made access possible once again.

3) Our street has formed a whattsap group where nobody seems to be interested in panic buying but is more concerned about the closing of the food banks. If only we could go out of doors and mingle, now we would all be saying ‘Hello’ to each other. We are all going to have to depend to some extent on ‘the kindness of strangers’.

Street in Amsterdam after lockdown. (photo by Alix McQueen)

Inevitably, the day is not closing as well as it begun. It is painful to live in a house with my youngest grandchildren and to communicate by Skype. I’ve been home now for over two weeks because I had a bad respiratory virus which began at the beginning of March and I shut down my office in town on the 5th. after hearing from a critical care consultant what they were already witnessing. I wish I’d had the virus as I’m still not 100 percent but nobody else in the household has been contaminated.

I thought I would be at a loss as to how to spend the time but in fact the household is spent. My daughter in law is teaching a daily schedule on an online teaching platform, my son, like my daughter is also a therapist and we have two Skype, soon to be Zoom offices, in the house. My husband John happens to look as if he is in his early 70’s … or he did until the earth shook, but the truth is he is well into his 80’s. We both do yoga and meditate. And now we clean too. Even so, he has exhausted himself with my new cleaning schedules and the surrealism of the changing news. In turn he has exhausted me (and delighted me too and Bell) for years with his compulsive baking. It used to be the luxury of fresh Madeleine’s but now it is our daily bread. The children like it so much that one loaf doesn’t last for a whisper.’

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