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Isolation Diaries

Pupils in Year 11 at Warwick School were asked to write their own Isolation Diaries. A selection of their work is published below.

Isolation Diary by Ben Barnes

My Isolation “Diary” (less of a diary and more of a description of a day living in lockdown)

From my bedroom window, I look out across the little world that I can see. The birds dancing, the trees swaying, a gentle landscape painting itself along the surface of the river. The road has gone silent for a few moments; in its place springs a concert of chirps and whistles, floating along a soft breeze towards my window. I’m drawn to a row of yellow flowers over in the distant St. Nicholas Park, whose brilliance is dazzling in the sunlight. Next to them, I notice the silhouette of an old man, sitting alone on a park bench, quietly representing the last trace of humanity in my view of the world. Gazing over to Warwick Boat Club, I imagine dozens of people out on the courts knocking balls back and forth, spectators laughing from the sides as they sip their drinks, coaches giving lessons to lively children, elderly folk gathered on the bowls green, rowers flitting up and down the river. Every person smiling, having a good time, forgetting about any of their problems in the outside world. Then the ghosts are gone, and the courts sit empty and disused under a smug blue sky.

My eyes are beginning to drift into the nothingness of the cloudless sky when I feel the buzz of my phone in my pocket. Looking away from the window, I see a notification for the latest news article with the latest advice from the latest experts. I don’t care much for the article – I’ve read several like it before – but the irresistible flash of light from my phone is enough to suck me into its own little world for a while. ‘It’s not like I’ve got anything better to do’, I reassure myself, as I scroll through Instagram. Certain posts share tragic true stories from all across the globe, all with the same moral message to ‘stay at home’. Other posts make light of the current situation through memes and jokes. It has spread everywhere on the internet, infecting everything. There is no one who isn’t talking about it, writing about it, reading about it or arguing about it.

I look up and realise an hour has passed. Squinting out of my window, I notice that the silhouette of the man sitting by the flowers is gone. Having exhausted all interest in my phone, and with nothing much else to do, I decide to go for a run, while the sun is still high in the sky. As I get changed, I choose this time not to use earphones, thinking that without the need to drown out the monotonous blare of the cars rushing past, music will be redundant. Before long I open my door and step out from my little world and into the outside world. This is a great big world vastly different to my own, where an invisible danger could be lurking on any object, surface or human. After stretching outside on the empty street in front of my house and walking over to Banbury Road, I begin to run, taking my normal route over the bridge and along Myton Road. The quiet stillness of the road is calming, yet strange to me, after being so accustomed to the bustling groans of cars lined up all the way along the road on school mornings. Seeing it now, separated from its natural accessory that is the car, the road feels oddly vulnerable, like a hermit crab without its shell.

            Making my way along the pavement, I focus on my elevated breathing as it sets into a natural rhythm of in, out, in, out. I notice that the air itself feels fresher, crisper than usual. I feel the grit of the hot tarmac on the underside of my trainers. A hatchback whooshes past at a shocking speed. I get a fair way along the road before I see that I’m approaching two distant shapes on the pavement. Soon I can make out the features of a leisurely dressed couple walking towards me. I go to pass by them, and momentarily catch onto their eyes. They both throw me quick glances as they hastily shuffle onto the side of the pavement away from me, despite already having enough room to pass by. Then they are behind me, gone. I try to place my focus back onto my breathing as I continue forward but that image of those two pairs of judging eyes imprints itself onto my vision. ‘Is what I’m doing wrong?’ I think to myself. ‘Or are they just hypocrites?’ I wonder amusedly, as the image fades.

            I encounter several more people along the way. After that first experience with the couple, I choose to distance myself from anyone by stepping out onto the empty road momentarily and circling past them, rather than causing a fuss on the pavement. It doesn’t stop one woman from clearly holding her breath as I run past her, or one man from nervously recoiling away when he looks up and sees me, but it does assure not only their safety from me, but also (though I don’t fully acknowledge it at first) my safety from them. What occurs to me somewhere along the way is that I’m experiencing a complete reversal from the normal interaction between pedestrians and runners. In the many times that I have gone running in the past, I have been so used to passers-by ignoring me, so used to them pretending that I’m just not there, that it is astonishingly weird to see them react to my presence as I run past them, for them to simply acknowledge my existence. In this strange era of suspicion and sensitivity, it seems that no one is invisible, not even the runners.

            Countless other runners come and go while I complete my own route, along with an array of cyclists and even a few skateboarders - all of whom, like me, have been tempted out from their homes by a combination of great weather and boredom. On several occasions, shrieking sirens alert us that a higher number of police cars and ambulances are also out for the day, but not for the same reasons. As I run further and further in the unwavering heat, drawing ever closer to my proverbial finish line back at where I started, all of this noise floating into and out of my head – the police cars, the pedestrians, the worries, the realisations – all fade into obscurity, and I am left, once again with a pure focus on my own self. The tingle of my hair brushing against my forehead. The beads of sweat running down the side of my face. The ache of my knees and ankles against the hard ground. Before long I’m back home – back to my own little world. I drink water, I cool down, I shower, I enjoy that same natural high that accompanies the end of every run, I get dressed again, and then I look out from my bedroom window.

 

Wednesday 18th March 2020 by Oscar Lawson

All four of us sat around the table, however each a chair apart. Dad sat at the end of the table, enforcing this as he had taken to the instruction on social distancing very seriously. A steaming hot meal sat on the table, fresh out of the oven after hours of strenuous cooking in the messy kitchen took place. It was a piece of art never seen before. Heaps of pasta were piled onto our plates with a luscious, reinvented blanket of Bolognese sauce covering the pasta. The grunts of eating filled the room as every one of us resorted to our natural instincts as we gobbled down the food after long days at work and school. Buzzing away below all this racket was the radio: we perched on our chairs waiting to hear the prime minister’s evening news on the pressing matter of school closures. We had been waiting for this moment since it was announced a few hours before. Casual chatter suddenly turned to silence as a round of applause welcomed the Boris Johnson in front of the lectern that had been expecting him for the duration of the pre-speech routine. An air of tension filled the room as the first words stuttered from his mouth. This was it. Within moments, painful joy dashed through the room as it was announced our daily lives would be halted: our second home closed for the weeks to come.

All of a sudden, unexpected news hit me really, really hard. Waves of confusion, so large that they could be felt from across the room crashed over everyone after three short words were spoken from the radio. Three years of hard work and preparation had been flushed down the drain in a sole sentence. There was no doubt about it- the buzzing speakers had announced the cancellation of exams due to the rapidly spreading coronavirus. The dining room was immediately filled with raucous exclamations and thousands of questions that felt like they would not be answered for weeks. Our faces became pictures of shock. The prime minister’s voice waffled on, seemingly unphased by this baffling declaration, to announce other, less important messages. After these countless messages came the time for our questions to be answered. Hope started to override the shock as we all waited for someone in the crowd to ask about how some of the most critical exams in our lives, the GCSEs, would be dealt with. To my utmost frustration, the befuddling response repeated the initial statement and swiftly moved on to another subject.

Everyone began to leave together, almost in uniform fashion, clearing the empty plates and dishes from the table. Clearing up had never been like this: it was always quick and simple but seemed to draw on forever whilst multiple more questions flooded into my mind. After restoring the dining room back to its state of tranquillity and waiting for the next meal to be held, my feet dragged me up the stairs to my bed which felt even more inviting than usual. This is the comfort that I needed. I was held up, supported by countless covers and pillows as floods of tears and sighs saturated the bed. Ever-changing thoughts carried me into sleep earlier than normal as my brain was desperate for an escape from the recent news and confusion. Hours of tossing and turning passed as I was transported through a world of dreams where the future was presented to me. 

My conscience awoke as I was slowly pulled out of my world of dreams and I had almost forgotten that last night had happened. These thoughts were overturned by the pinging of my phone as I turned it on to check the news and messages from friends, reminding me that we were living in a tough time, a deadly virus spreading across the world and our lives halted for the months to come. This was not just a bad dream: it was reality.

Down and Out in Isolation by Jack Pegler

This is just pointless. Everyone is outside enjoying the sunshine. For me, I’m sticking to the rules, but it doesn’t seem like anyone else is. Is it just me who is taking this seriously? The streets are packed with people panic buying toilet paper. Toilet paper of all things for a worldwide pandemic! What are we doing? I left home for my 1 hour allotted time period for exercise. It shocked me the hordes of people that were out there with me. Weekly cycling and running groups were all out together. Without a doubt closer than the prescribed 2-3m.  People are dying out there and this highly contagious disease is running thrice through our country.

Mrs Pine next-door has been revelling in this opportunity to do more cleaning. She is forever cleaning her house and I’m surprised that her furniture hasn’t dissolved or corroded from the bleach. Whenever I am around their house it seems like I’m an afterthought as she directs me on where I can stand or asks me to lift up my legs as she extends the hoover underneath where I’m sitting. I am yet to see one of her household members emerge although one may get bored of the sight of the garden if you wanted to stretch your legs. It is a small patch of land largely consumed by an outdoor table that seldom sees use for it is mostly shaded by the house. I am fortunate in that respect. I had already made a list of things to do in my garden during the first day of isolation. I was going to do make a golf hole, play table tennis and perhaps frisbee. However, this luxury is not available to everyone. My dad had found a few jobs for me to do as well. One of which was to build a raised bed in order to grow our own vegetables if all things go south. It took us two days to complete. Before, I would have never wanted to help but I was itching for something to do and this was my only escape.

Another neighbour Eileen is an elderly widow who lost her husband last year. I can’t imagine what this must be like for her. Isolation has taken its toll on me even with devices and the ability to go outside for, granted a small amount of time, to get some exercise. Only last week she was instructed over the phone that she was to be locked inside for 12 weeks starting that day. It was said that the elderly are the most vulnerable and the percentage death rate is as high as 40%. However, she has no company apart from the small settee in front of the tv that always seems to be playing the tennis. I’m sure it must be on repeat as no tennis matches are being played at the moment and yet she hasn’t noticed. And the sad thing is that she cannot have anyone around to occupy her mind for a little while. Her house smells of cigarette smoke as you open the door. It can’t be good, and she is putting herself at a greater risk due to the nature of the virus but as long as it keeps her mind entertained then it’s ok. Her garden is sizable. Not terribly well maintained but nonetheless pretty. She had been having rabbit problems which tore up the grass and created multiple burrows along the hedgerow. It then entered my garden and began to eat away at the vegetables situated in the newly built raised bed. It has been dealt with now, but I appreciated the entertainment.

We are in the best position. Children. Everything is online for us anyway like a gaming console or social media to talk with our friends. Education taking place via an online system has been a success. Some teachers have adapted to the technology a little better than others. However, I’m sure that parents as well as teachers have said at some point ‘Thanks to the children’ or ‘what would I have done without you’ after having pressed one button to turn the microphone on for a video call. It’s hard work for us in quarantine as well.

I’m wondering what it will be like after isolation gets lifted. Will anyone still pay attention to the guidelines? Will it just be liberalising, and havoc ensue or a tentative start as we pick things up from where we left off? I’m curious and I can’t wait for the end. I will be able to play the sports that I love and am bored without but for some it will be the beginning of recovery from redundancy or a new career path. This time has affected some more than others but at least if this is going to happen again then we may find our self with a better contingency plan to deal with it.

Down and out in Leamington by Tom Quinn

8pm in the backstreets of the heart of Leamington. Lights still glowing in the gloomy polluted streets, not a pedestrian to be found. Rhythmical clapping broke the eerie silence applauding the people who were unable to be at home, suffering day and night to keep this burrowed town’s heart still beating. Opposite my terraced house lay a school, the school’s gates padlocked shut with a notice previously pinned to the wall, flying around in the harsh Winter wind reading, “Closed by Covid-19.” The last car, carrying kids back from their last day of education rumbled through the streets vibrating along the cobbled pavement. The children oblivious to the pressing issues of this dangerous pandemic sweeping between the houses, carried like the notice in the wind. The night sky was clear, and you could see the smoke begin to fade from the factory’s rooftops. Millions would be unemployed by tomorrow, fruitlessly searching for a job undoubtedly to no avail scouring the streets, desperate to find the job that keeps them afloat.

Fathers screamed in the night air, ushering their kids back inside, to the safety of their own home. But in fact, nobody was safe, anything they touched left a mark and the children from next door wrapped their tiny fists around a rail. Making a mental note to stay clear from that family, I strolled back inside, unaware of the risks that the government insist will happen. “Death is upon us” blared from the TV’s, police patrolled the town centre searching for the lonely straggler without a home, cruelly fining them. “Vamoose” “vamoose” cried the deceased Italian neighbour from across the street, shepherding her family into their own derelict town house searching for safety among danger.

Lights began to flutter out, a darkness covers the down. Curtains are drawn, a shield from the virus. Doors are locked as the civilians and I begin to crawl up to bed. Energy lapsing, I climb into bed and wrap myself in my duvet, acting as protection from the outside risks. I could hear the soft cry of my little brother, vying for attention, inattentive to the pandemic wrapping its claws around young and elderly’s throats, taking the very thing giving them life. Bringing their internal clock to stop ticking and the light to fizzle out.  I could hear the distant sirens wail, a reminding tone of the key workers who are not at home but are on the front lines, risking it all for our country to prosper against the pandemic. Rumours travelled between the houses like a ripple, fainter and fainter as time passes on. Today’s was Mrs Brown, the Lady from down my street had passed away. Flowers were left outside her house, but nobody dared to touch anything. Her family would be told later this evening only 2 people could attend the funeral, I am sure, a dismal end to a long successful life. Undeserved.

I Went to turn off the tv but couldn’t find the strength, the news currently was so addictive. The population would wait for the misplaced words of our leader who knows just as much as the rest of us, offering a poor sense of guidance. Panic buyers were flooding the nation, selfish in my opinion, yet one only cares for themselves. Basic sanitary products were at an all time low and the officials were pleading with these people to remain calm, yet their voices would never be heard over the self-indulgence of theses mass shoppers. Everywhere I turned I was indulged with notices, “Breaking news, “began to feel a common sight to my eyes. I visited my local shop yesterday, a queue was building at opening times, each person 2metres apart yet pushing to get into the shop. An old woman was left with nothing as a young adult male swooped in to get the last toilet roll. A country descending into chaos, a loss of all morality would be the only way to describe it.

This morning I glanced at my phone, shocked by the contrast. Optimists filled me with hope, “A chance to spend time with family,” then pessimists cruelly remarking, “Mental Health will be at an all time low.” Some say this tragedy will be over soon but I’m not sure and I’m scared

How a few months could cause everything to fall apart by Seva Gill

18th February 2020: The first article of a million.

Heathrow airport, terminal 4. I was just about to embark on another away day; Liverpool vs Atlético Madrid, the first leg in the Champions League Round 16. Despite being one of the best teams in Europe, they shouldn’t have been any big deal – ‘we are the Champions of Europe’ after all and were prepared to let the whole world know just how good we were. There was nothing to fear: unbeaten in the league; on the road to an invincible season; first league in 30 years; won 24 games on the bounce…  yet I could feel my heart pounding against my chest – it was about a matter beyond football, or so the article from The Athletic had just proposed. The headline ran: ‘All football to be called off’, however, after further investigation I quickly realised it decided to miss out necessary information ‘…in Serie A’. Still this wasn’t exactly normal but once I saw they were simply quoting the information from Marca – the Spanish equivalent to The Daily Mail – my interest was lost. Nonetheless, what had caught my eye was the suspected cause of the drastic measures they claimed were going to be put into place: the Wuhan Virus (or so it was called back then). I shrugged it off like it was nothing, and went through security as usual, despite a few extra precautions being made with many people wearing masks. Perhaps this was an ominous scene, although it was dismissed by us all.

20th February 2020: The text foreshadowing unthinkable events.

On the plane back to London, staring blankly into a textbook for an upcoming biology test in what was a few days’ time, all I could think about was the long hard hours I put into washing dishes, clearing tables, and enduring hours of tedious conversation with customers to save up enough for the trip that ended in calamity. It had taken me a few days to process the events that took place a few days prior; we lost 1-0. A result that shook the globe – though this was the first of many that it would face – a performance that was below par considering the immense fashion in which we had been steamrolling opposition in an effortless manner, all brought to a halt in front of my own eyes. Amid the horrors I had witnessed, it was only until I got off the plane that I realised the world had seen some ‘real’ disasters; as soon as my phone connected to the Wi-Fi I seemed to have been deprived from for days, despite it only being a matter of hours, it exploded with notifications. The first I noticed was from one of my mates who were on an alternative flight path to get back. It read, “We’re stuck in Italy, we can’t leave for 2 weeks”, it was then I realised the severity of the Wuhan virus, or rather how it had now been rebranded: COVID-19. I knew it was only going to escalate from there; I could see it on both my uncles’ faces. We all knew that this was going to be the last time we flew for a while and so we embraced the normality that would be short lasted and headed to our homes.  

29th February 2020: Things did, indeed, escalate… a lot.

Thus far, the worst day of the year; nothing could compare (yet). It wasn’t the fact that the world had become justifiably concerned with the virus, the fact that China had been building hospitals at an unprecedented (I promise I won’t use that word again) rate, or even the fact that hundreds were dying in an exponential fashion due to this new virus. No. It was something much more important to me than that; Liverpool had lost 3-0 to Watford. It still hurts me to even think about it today, embarrassment struck me like how this virus had struck the world; similarly to our government, I didn’t know how to cope. Our hopes of an invincible season had come to an end. I couldn’t help being proud, but sadness did, indeed, cripple me from the inside. It was the first blow of many to come, albeit a considerable one. The second was quick to follow; as soon as I had the nerve to take my head out of hands and looked up an almost identical headline to the one I read in the airport ran across the Sky Sports picture on screen: ‘All remaining Serie A fixtures scheduled to be played behind closed doors’. Of course, the culprit was COVID-19. In fact, this event led me to look into Italy a little more and the situation didn’t seem too bright; many were getting infected at a truly alarming rate, along with China it was pushing the topic of the Coronavirus to all the front pages, and many stories of the league being cancelled were inevitably filtering in. This was an incomprehensible thought; I assured myself that there was no chance of them playing the league behind closed doors, surely? To even imagine winning the league in an empty stadium after – what was for the veteran supporters – 30 years of hurt, it was nonsensical at the least.

11th March 2020: The last game of football, and I was there.

The press had been having field days over and over with COVID-19 being the most on-topic subject you could think of. Still, there was no official word of it dramatically affecting the league despite the laughable new rule of no handshakes before a match. My was morale sent sky high – before plummeting to new lows – after somehow manging to get tickets to the home leg against Atlético Madrid at Anfield. Little did I know then, but it was going to be the last mass gathering I would attend in God knows how long. In fact, it was the last football match in England to date. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere, it was almost as if we knew it was the last match and we did all we could to make it special; pre-match we were singing 50,000 strong with flares making our eyes tear up and making sounds which would make anyone’s hairs stand on end, a classic European welcome to fortress Anfield. The game itself was a different matter, we were so close yet so far from winning. It seemed as though we had to win, nothing else was possible, until it was: we lost 3-2 on aggregate after 2 quick- fire, dream shattering goals. The night ended with my eyes tearing up for a different matter, as they streamed down my face, arms locked together with a stranger, singing “You’ll never walk alone”, in these tough times. We had been knocked out of Europe but as we got into the car, disheartened as one could be, the radio informed us that now Spain had their cases spike uncontrollably, thus sparking wild controversy over whether the game should have gone ahead in the first place. Jürgen Klopp even stating that it “was a crime” to play, and after some contemplation I found it hard to disagree; the majority of the world had already taken extreme precautions and drastic measures to ensure the safety of their people, yet there we were, in a packed stadium of 55,000.

13th March 2020: That’s a wrap on normality, welcome chaos.

It was done. Several players and managers had contracted the virus and the Premier League skipped the stage of playing behind closed doors and instead unanimously decided to suspend the season until further notice. The situation was too severe to stand by and watch, action had to be taken. Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but be in despair after realising we were only 2 wins away from years of cumulated hurt being resolved, our best season of all-time essentially down the drain. It felt like my heart was in tatters. Even if the league did continue, there would always be an Asterix next to our name and that’s in the best-case scenario. It’s most likely the season will be voided, and I can’t blame those in power for doing so. Perhaps as the dysphoria of all sport being cancelled had an adverse on people; the world seemed to descend into complete chaos; people were buying toilet roll in needless quantities just for the sake of it, the public seemed to disregard the elderly’s vulnerability to this disease and instead focused on themselves and their immediate needs rather than thinking about their actions which would have foreseeable consequences on those around them.

18th March 2020: School’s off.

The inevitable had happened. All schools in England were set to close in the coming Friday; almost every country had drawn their education to a halt and, as always, our government seemed to follow suit with a delay which was considered detrimental by many who demanded much more instinctive action. Boris had finally taken some action besides the strong advise to wash your hands (as if you were not beforehand?), and with it I had no qualms as it was done for the benefit of the country and would of course help in ‘flattening the curve’. However, there was something I did have a considerable issue with: GCSEs and A-level examinations were cancelled. I was finished. There was literally no point in me caring about anything at this point; I had never been naturally gifted academically, it was only until I saw that results can come from a ridiculous amount of hard-work, long nights, and paying great attention in class, that I knew I could do something about my abilities. I couldn’t put a time on how long I had already spent revising for these examinations; in 3 years I had gone from being one of the lowest achievers in the year to being well on track for a straight set of 9’s in what were the upcoming GCSEs. The amount of effort I had put in was ridiculous, I thought it would all be paid off, but that wasn’t to be the case. The scholarship I need to continue my studies at Warwick was looking in doubt and so was that perfect set of results. I have learnt from experience of when my peaks and troughs will corporealize and so I knew going flat out for my mocks wasn’t the path I could mentally take. Focusing on the subjects I found challenging was my preferred route, I neglected French as an entirety, doing several minutes revision beforehand and coming out with my lowest result of them all – a 7. This was, of course, expected and I knew I had it in me to get my deserved grade. Though I know that now I will not have this chance unless I cause a severe disruption to my A-levels. To add salt to the wounds it seemed my days at Warwick were going to be brought to an abrupt halt and the last day was depressing to say the least; we simply sat in various classrooms watching Shrek on repeat for those who wanted a quick laugh before it was time to part ways. We, for some reason beyond my comprehension, were ban from signing each other’s shirts and given a completely unnecessary stern lesson on how we were out of order to not treat this day like any other day. To top things off, my last 2 hours on campus were spent stuck in a single classroom for a PSHEE lesson (or whatever it was), where we did nothing at all. I would get bored even trying to find words to describe the mundane atmosphere we had to endure.

1st April 2020: Aprils fools… but how we all wish this was simply a joke.

April fools day. No one was laughing. The country had been brought into a complete lockdown; we’re allowed to leave the house for one form of exercise, in which we should gather only essential items from the shops. To many, this lockdown has caused all kinds of problems: an economic disaster, small businesses struggling, lack of social interaction etc… To me, it wasn’t really an issue; with football being thrown out the window, exams being thrown into chaos, and being unable to work for the foreseeable future, I couldn’t actually imagine wanting to go out and socialise. All I could sort of gather an impetus for was getting ahead with my A-levels, although the uncertainty of where I will be studying is causing all sorts of problems with the content on the exam boards differing and question style being drastically dissimilar. To further my annoyance, we were still being set work, being told to ‘prepare for exams as usual’ and having to attend many online classes regardless of the blatantly apparent fact that we had no exams to prepare for. There was really no point – nor was it possible – to do the work set with any conviction, focus or effort as I could not bother entertain the idea of exam boards forcing teachers to use content from the last week or so as evidence to produce a ‘fair grade’ for our GCSE results that will without a doubt never be fair. Perhaps the only joke of this dire situation is the government which decided to cancel exams without any thought of a clear plan for the future. Simply put, they’ve reduced hard-working students to nothing by removing all motivation to succeed and have rewarded those who wouldn’t dare to willingly pick up a pen outside of the classroom.

Down and Out in Aston Le Walls by Eoin Beevors

There are always different types of people in the world, no matter the situation. This can be seen through both the thought processes of people but most evidently through their actions. Imagine you are in a world where there is a virus, originating from China circulating and there is a 50% chance of you getting it and when you do have it, there is a 3% chance of It being fatal. However, the symptom is simply of a dry cough and a high temperature. As you can probably imagine, the general consensus is one of concern and uncertainty of the future, with a strong sense of panic lingering in every person- this is what is happening due to the newly found coronavirus, disrupting and changing the world as we know it.

This said virus is most dangerous to those of an older generation and to those with underlying health conditions, and so measures have been put in place to try and reduce risks to these people such as there being set times at which the elderly can go to the shops to gather supplies without the rest of the population being there also, all sporting events have been cancelled, to the despair of many people. However, the most considerable measures that have been put in place are those of schools throughout the world being shut down, and now students are being taught through the means of technology, as well as my GCSE exams being cancelled. Countries going into lockdown with strong reinforcement of strict rules regarding leaving your house being upheld by the force of police and through heavy fining. As I am writing this, France which has currently been in lockdown for 2 weeks, now requires all people who leave their house to carry a slip of paper with a reason for being outside, and failure to produce this when being asked to by the police can result in a €1000 fine. Our prime minister, despite presumably following all of the suggested precautions, has also been diagnosed with this said virus, just showing that no one is safe, and no matter who you are, there is a high likelihood that you yourself will have or will know someone with the coronavirus.

On a personal level, my sister, having returned from University appeared to be showing symptoms, and although I was very sceptical that she did have it, I went into school on Monday the 16th March, not knowing that this would be my final day. Due to a speech by the Prime minister regarding that anyone living with people showing symptoms would have to stay at home for 2 weeks, I was unable to travel into school for what I thought to be the final week before we broke up for the Easter holiday in which I would be spending large hours of the day revising. However, a day or so later, the PM released a new statement issuing for the closure of all schools in the country and also the cancellations of all exams in the summer, making that week effectively the final week of school, and in which everybody would be partaking in the activities that come with this, whilst I was stuck at my home, hoping to be able to go in just one last time to say goodbye. Unfortunately, these hopes never came to anything, and instead, I just had to scroll through the pictures of what was happening. I did however get facetimed in some of the lesson, so I did have some contact with people outside my house, but this really was not how I imagined my final week of school to go. For exactly how my grading for my exams will go, I do not yet know as I am writing this, but there is a lot of rumours and troubled people about this topic, but certainly this is an unexpected and unwelcomed time, especially down to the rate at which everything is changing. In one week, it went from my Dad flying off to Nice to play golf, to the next when our family is self-isolating, and this had suddenly become a glooming prospect, creeping up on the world at an ever-increasing pace.

This period has also brought out the previously more hidden traits of people in the world, from the extreme examples of people hoarding products, to the opportunist thieves, using this time for some kind of financial gain. There have been terrible examples, such as people going to the elderly’s home with the appearance of helping to get their shopping, and instead leaving with their money to never return. The NHS, however, has received an impressive amount of support by the public, with an event when thousands stood outside their homes to clap in gratitude of their service. Overall, this crisis has brought to light the extreme positives and negatives of modern society, and we can really reflect on these to see a deeper insight into the world that may not have been possible previously.

The days now are extremely drawn out, and unless you are actively doing something to entertain yourself, sheer boredom will inevitably overwhelm you, and you will be left in a state where all you can think about is going out and seeing people and doing things, and when that happens, the realisation and feeling of imprisonment that comes after it is excruciating. My days now consist of waking at 8 A.M on a school day to ready myself before the lessons that take place over the means of the internet, and during the weekend, I usually arise at about 11 A.M, so the day feels less painfully long. I feel pity for those parents with young, excitable children who don’t understand what is happening, and all the parents want is some rest, that may only come from them being sent to school. For many people, this may be an tremendously worrying time for them, as there is now a high level of uncertainty for people of whether their jobs can still be available for the when the outbreak has calmed down, or if this is simply the end of the road for their employment there, and so there is a desperate lust for information about what is going on from the masses, but the governments and people in charge simply don’t know which is making a violent circle of people panicking and nothing really can be done to stop this.

This is truly a terrible time, and no matter the situation you are in, this is likely to be very unpleasant to say the least. There are, however, people are in much worse situations than others such as those separated from their families by impassable boarders, or those in hostile households, and so we need to think about these people occasionally, to put our own problems into perspective. A slightly ironic thing that I have discovered, is that in 1720, 1820, 1920 and now 2020 there have been outbreaks of diseases, most significantly the Spanish flu in 1920, but each disease making a big impact. Lets just hope that 2020 will stop following this path of wildfires and floods and death soon, and that the world can return to normal, as it was before these shocking events transpired.

Isolation diary: The Brave New World vs 1984 by Leo Sun

Dear Diary,

I am recently reading The Brave New World by Aldous Huxley during my quarantine, and I have noticed some similarities between the way it has been expressed and the message conveyed in 1984. Below are some thoughts on its key themes (Since I haven’t got to the end yet, my thoughts written here could only represent a particular section of this book, or a part of the complete story plot).

To begin with, in both The Brave New World and 1984, the theme of sex, control of mind, and social hierarchy play a major role. Right from beginning of the Brave New World, the ‘Ford’ seems to acknowledge this aptitude and unalterable nature of human about sex, so instead of prohibiting and suppressing debauchery like what has been done in 1984 with the anti-sex league and sending people off to the labour camps if found doing such things, in the Brave New Worlds it actually encourages the understanding and attempting of sex from a very small age i.e beginning from 5 or 6 years old which children have these erotic plays and so on, while teenagers and adolescent are suppose to view sex as somewhat indispensable element of life. Despite such difference, it has the same mean as 1984 which is to not form any long drawn relationship that could result in true love. In Chapter VI the director said, ‘Don’t imagine that I’d had any indecorous relation with the girl. Nothing emotional, nothing long-drawn. It was all perfectly healthy and normal’. This also reminds me of the previous chapters which Henry foster being described as a ‘gentlemen’ who go out with many ladies in a week.

 In terms of the control of mind, rather than allowing the existence of ‘brotherhood’ or rebellion and send thought polices to maintain this ideology, it trains and designs human with hypnopaedia which instils in them what they are suppose and should know for the rest of their life. However, one anomaly is Bernard Marx, a protagonist or dystopian hero just like Winston, who was said to have been instilled too much alcohol in his blood-surrogate when he was still an embryo. No matter if it is a mistake or a deliberate move by the ‘Ford’, Bernard’s personality contradicts with the rest of the society which makes him who he is, an odd person who does not have many friends and to an extent like me(well the word ‘friend’ is extremely magical. One could have a lot of different kinds of friends but superficial and “without true feelings” or common interest). He is short, slender, physically unhealthy for an Alpha plus which cause this ‘mental excess’ that makes him alienated from the rest. He is not always happy and gay which is what you expected to be no matter what class you are in, while he wants something private which is extremely precious and lacking in this New World, since ‘Everyone is everyone else’ — He is the revealer of the hoax like Winston.

I do believe it is worth digging in here about the concept of a community, as it has been expressed immensely in both 1984 and The Brave New World. In 1984 there are clubs and leagues and activities like table-tennis, anti-sex league and for the children there are the spies, while in the Brave New World you do have different games like obstacle golf, electromagnetic games, and solitary services which is like Christianity but instead of worshipping God, they pray for the Ford. In both cases, it is rather compelling to attend these community events and if you do not, you break this social norm and ideology which put you in great danger. This has been further emphasised in The Brave New World but its slogan, ‘Community, Identity, Stability’. Both Orwell and Huxley like dictators around the world have noticed the potential of fatherless 

Back to Bernard. In spite of his rebellious thought he yet could not grasp, he continues to drain himself in a world where happiness is based materialism. He takes the Soma(The Soma here actually reminds me of another dystopian trilogy which I have read before called Matched, also telling a story to break the social norms which the protagonist finally did) a drug which I would like to call it as the ‘happy pill’, when he is unhappy, while he cares about trivial matters like the waste of eau-de-Cologne in his apartment which he forgot to turn off the tap. I’d like to say he is indeed a person who struggles between a tightly defined social hierarchy and a ‘Free’ world, which he himself has already noticed.

More about this social hierarchy, unlike the hierarchy we currently have in most societies, The Brave New World has a rigid Caste system just like India which one’s class and social status is determined when he/she was born and could not change. In here, we see the continuation of racism with the Native Americans being called ‘Savaged Indians’ who still lived in the Savage restoration in Mexico, while Africans are still called Negroes and presumably formed the major epsilon minus. However, what is different here is that conditionings make ‘people like their unescapable social destiny’ and involved in this gigantic community. In some sense it is communism in terms of the fact that people get equal share of happiness in this community.

Some people say that The Brave New World is much softer than 1984 but I disagree. It is more complete and wholesome comparing to 1984 which seems to be unfinished, and this is because most of its concept is filled in by our own experience of our society, which makes it something that we could imagine living in. On the other hand, 1984 is too absolute and somewhat too abstract despite the existence of totalitarian states. Therefore I believe in a way The Brave New World is a lot more clever than the functioning of Ingsoc in1984. This is not only because of the hypnopaedia and the biological programme of decanting of the babies which actually allows people’s mind to be controlled, which is something that Ingsoc did not achieve, but also the fact that this society continues to develop and grow while Oceania seems only to be able to maintain its current society by manipulating the energy that bursts from the evocation of nationalism.

Just like J.G Ballard commented, ‘1984 never really arrived, but The Brave New World is around us everywhere’. This is such a powerful line as it place all ideologies no matter democracy, communism, or fascism into doubt, since hardly anyone could not prove that we are not living in such state like The Brave New World. During my quarantine days, which is now approaching to an end, It is somewhat amusing when you think again of how countries, no matter being democratic or totalitarian, always believe that they are correct. Take severals examples from the case of COVID-19. The British government believe that herd immunity is going to be the way out, or the right move, despite seemingly to be an absurd thing to do in the perspective of some other countries. The Americans who underestimated the power of COVID-19 is now in a havoc but still decided to put capitals before human lives which has been criticised again by international voices as it could leads to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. While the Chinese, having just reopened many of the country’s major cities including Wuhan, it has also been scolded for having shut down the cities at the beginning since it is not democratic, and indeed it has killed many people as there isn’t any warning beforehand. It is very hard for one to admit a failure or losses that shouldn’t happen. From Individuals to nations, we tends to present ourselves as robust as possible, and there is no limit or measurement to what is right and what is wrong in such cases, but only the people themselves, the victims themselves, the truth speaking witness themselves could give the most precise version of the story which is closely to the truth, but if these people are shrouded with darkness in whatever way that you might never thought about, then there is genuinely no way to find out what really happened.

COVID-19 is a disaster. An invisible but tangible, heartbreaking but evoking, separating but gathering disease. It reveal the human nature as mankind is compelled to make myriads of life-and-death decisions. It could well change my life forever.

(Of course all of the things above only becomes valid if you agree that this is not a utopian novel)

 

CORONAVIRUS 2020 by Cameron Rees

2020 had already started badly. Humans poisoning the world. Climate change was set to become irreversible; forest fires tore down the Australian rainforests and America reach the brink of World War III as Trump orders the assassination of Iran general, Suleimani. The coronavirus was simply background noise to what seemed like the climax of human existence.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus swept across China, like a tumbling wave, far in the distance. Soon enough, it had made its way onto our screens at home, with the talks of building a large-scale hospital in record time to fight the disease in China. An aerial image of what seemed like hundreds of toy cranes in a child’s sandpit was plastered over social media, but even this didn’t trigger alarm bells. This wasn’t our problem.

But like the beginning of a Tsunami, sucking the water back into the depths and lulling us into a false sense of security, we knew it was coming but we were frozen; helpless; unprepared. 

We had our first UK case soon after. There was a mixed response as people took camp at two ends of a dramatic spectrum. There were the people that raided the supermarkets across the country, buying endless supplies of toilet rolls and hand sanitisers and preparing for months of lockdown. There were also those who continued as though nothing was wrong – parties, holidays and concerts. The country’s response was irrational and chaotic. We were far from prepared and no one knew what we were in for.

Most had realised the seriousness of the situation when Boris Johnson began addressing us each night and the word ‘unprecedented’ began to float around. Talks of schools being cancelled gripped the youth with a sense of excitement and nervous energy, with sights set on a five-month holiday. This seemed surreal but no school for so long seemed like a stroke of luck at the time. GCSEs and A-levels were also up in the air, creating huge confusion. The last five years of work was named worthless without any goal or purpose. This was the World War of our generation.

The number of cases began to rise, and we began to familiarise ourselves with the virus and the government’s plans to flatten the ‘pandemic curve’ to enable the NHS to cope with the exponential nature of the coronavirus. Still, the UK public had an air of ignorance and arrogance as the internet captured the virus as if It was a new trend. The restrictions progressed and we were told to social distance – a term that would come to control our lives for the next few months. However, with the technology and social media, this seemed to be all anyone was talking about and there was now no escape from it any longer. The tsunami was getting closer and closer and the NHS was preparing for war.

Lockdown. Shops were closed and people were told to stop working, unless necessary. The economy grinded to a halt. Stocks plummeted. It felt like an apocalypse – something out of movies, with a rising death toll, now over thousand and the streets deserted. This would impact our lives for the decades to come. The tsunami had arrived, and we were drowning.

A walk, a jog, a cycle now seemed like a grand event as we could leave the house for a form of exercise each day. But still, the knowledge that everywhere we go, everyone we speak to; everything we touch could be infected. It was everywhere and it was suffocating; imprisoning.

Doctors slaved away endlessly, waiting for the end of the twelve-hour shift, in which they would swap with another poor soul. Cheap overalls and faulty machinery are all the staff could work with, as they can almost imagine the virus seeping through the polyester suits. They are told that difficult decisions will have to be made. This is an understatement.

Three more people would be withdrawn from care that afternoon, unable to be helped any longer. His two children, who each have families of their own soon to be told the news. It had a rippling effect, from neighbours to friends to family. Everyone knows someone.

That long bleep just signalling another body to be taken to the mortuary as the death toll ticks away in the background.

My dad – one of the nameless faces behind a mask. Each day, he could come home with the virus and we wouldn’t know. Each day, more stories of brave doctors who have lost their lives working tirelessly to fight the Coronavirus. Now, not only does he have the constant possibility of losing his patients’ lives, he could also lose his own. No one leaves the ventilation unit. Each person is alone and isolated, without loved ones and family.

***

He helplessly watches the deterioration of everybody that arrives. He is unable to save them. Now, he comes home from his twelve-hour shift, battered and exhausted; red in the face with the marks of the mask he has been wearing all day. He doesn’t say much – he just sits in silence. They tell him that this is what he signed up for and that this is what being a doctor is all about. This isn’t what they signed up for. This is torture of a different kind. They are broken.

He is broken.

 

Isolation Diary by James Scott-Dawkins

Last week, I arrived home from school and awaited the inevitable daily briefing from the Prime Minister about coronavirus. Every day, I knew that there was a strong chance a national school closure would be announced, especially as Ireland had already done it the previous week. I stared at the doorway from which the Prime minister would walk through, with two correspondents following behind. Eventually, he came, and the sense of tension was somewhat temporarily relieved, only for it to be stirred up again by the introductory statement. That was when he said the inevitable. That after Friday at 4:00PM, all schools were to be shut for the foreseeable future. This was somewhat expected, especially with the daunting death toll increasing by more and more every day. Just as I was thinking about how this would affect the exams I was already concerned about, a tidal wave of shock consumed me, as I heard without initially noticing in the thoughts of school closure, that the exams for May/June had been “cancelled”. My mind started racing, going through what this could mean. Did it mean the exams were postponed? Or did it mean exams were not happening at all? With desperate need for an answer, all the country received was a statement that all students, for GCSE and A-level, would get the grades “they deserve”. My dad and I thought that the exams would probably be cancelled completely, but we couldn’t be sure, being left in the dark, as questions from newspapers and news channels regarding the statement were swiftly dealt with by not dealing with them at all. For the first time, I opened my phone to see what everyone was saying. My phone was already flooded with notifications and people talking about the current situation, even after only 5 minutes. Many thought they were just postponed, a few thought they were cancelled, but no one thought this was going to happen.

As the days progressed, everyone at school was theorising about what was truly going to happen. Then finally, we were told that it would be based mainly on mock examinations and teacher assessments, although we still didn’t know the true extent of this, and how it would pan out. Friday (20th March) was potentially our last day of secondary school outside of the sixth form, and it was a weird feeling. Photos were taken with teachers and friends, and once again online everyone was posting photos, immortalising their last day, something which should have been happening 4 months in the future. While many teachers explained how they felt sorry for us, many chose to ignore the events that had happened, trying not to stir any unhelpful speculation or doubt. While it certainly was strange for year 11, for much of the day I thought about how year 13 was feeling, having their final ever day of school abruptly in March, without a proper send off, like all previous years had. However, my thoughts were mainly plagued by the potentially huge time off school (nearly 6 months), during something people were now calling quarantine.

It was now one week into the quarantine. All non-essential shops have now been forced to close, with cinemas, theatres, clubs, pubs and restaurants now being shut for everyone, which has truly put into perspective how empty this break will feel for a long time. Due to the uncertainty of exams, we have still been having lessons on weekdays online, creating the feeling of each day blending into another, with each day feeling the same. I wake up, eat breakfast, do work till 5PM, relax and have dinner, then go to bed. Despite this, Easter was approaching, which would provide a real chance to focus on the true extent of the situation, as it all still feels like some sort of dream. The fact we are not doing exams at all this academic year is what’s weirdest of all. For the past 3 years, all we have been focussing on as students is our GCSE’s, with almost everything we do in life taking them into consideration. Thousands of hours have been spent doing schoolwork, homework and revision, and although it will all count in the end towards something, I can’t help but feel as if it was all for nothing. Teachers for the past 3 years have been saying things like ‘It’s you, not me taking the exams’, which has made the whole situation seem even weirder, as the inevitable has been stopped. On top of this, the whole situation is in some ways annoying. Although we have been told we will receive grades in August, I still feel like this will be a sort of false victory, with us not really having proved ourselves. On top of this, the euphoric feeling of stepping out of the exam hall and being done with exams has been robbed from us, with us now being left in an empty state, with not much to look forward to for the foreseeable future, especially seeing as we essentially can’t leave our homes.

Despite the quarantine being relatively similar in ways to being on a school holiday for me, many other people have been doing certain things to deal with ‘boredom’ that they say they are experiencing only a week into quarantine. This has led to a great excuse for people to do many different Instagram challenges. Primarily, this has included our year doing the ‘toilet roll keepie-uppie challenge’, the ‘tea bag trick shot challenge’ and its drink equivalent, the ‘until tomorrow challenge’ (involving posting an embarrassing photo of yourself online, then deleting it the next day) and finally the challenge involving temporarily sharing a young photo of yourself. While all of these are relatively harmless, and many more ‘challenges’ are probably still to come, people outside of our school year, in other parts of the UK and internationally, have been doing some interesting things for rather stupid reasons.

Firstly, the main unorthodox thing people have been doing is stockpiling goods, primarily toilet roll. Due to the worry over the situation, a few inconsiderate people decided to buy lots of goods to stockpile, most noticeably toilet roll, despite there being little reason why toilet roll would become scarce due to coronavirus. This in turn has led to more people having to buy more than usual amounts of toilet roll when they can, as toilet roll is now rarer due to stockpiling. This has led to an avoidable problem where there are now less goods to go around, due to the worry of the goods running out. Luckily, supermarkets have now put in place rules to try and combat this, only allowing a certain amount of people in shops at a time and only allowing people to buy a certain amount of one product. While this has been the main unorthodox and rather stupid response to coronavirus, there have been many more. These include people not buying corona beer due to its relation to coronavirus (which doesn’t make any sense), people buying more guns and ammunition since the outbreak, as well as internet challenges, such as the “coronavirus challenge”, involving people licking surfaces such as toilet seats.

While it certainly does feel strange to face a break off school for so long, it will certainly be a unique experience. In a few years, this whole situation will feel like a blur, with it feeling like a weird dream, just as it does currently. The weirdest part of this whole situation is that for the first time since their invention, GCSE’s have been cancelled, and it just so happens that we were the year group to fall into the year where they were cancelled, and in many more years, if GCSE’s still exist, we will be the ones telling others doing their GCSE’s that we were the ones who never did them.

James Scott-Dawkins