Posted in Covid-19, Current Events, Politics, United Kingdom

Failures of State – A Book Review (but its really just an excuse to rant)

“Happy” Freedom Day.

Let this day go down in infamy history as the day when the UK decided to lift all covid restrictions, when masks can start becoming a thing of the past, when what was once policy starts to become optional, when the fate of thousands of vulnerable adults now rests on the wider British public’s ability to exercise common sense, and when unvaccinated youngsters can start to enjoy the glorious wonders of gyrating their hips and bopping their heads to house music in night clubs and bars around the country.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we have people running around like headless chickens ensuring patients are being swabbed so they can have their planned operation, frantic managers wondering how the hell they can manage their workforce and deliver their service when half their staff are being pinged and told to self-isolate for no apparent reason, and NHS staff, who have been working their butts off for the whole of the pandemic, resignedly carrying on with their work knowing that its likely to get worse (again) before it starts to get better.

Yeah. Today seems like a good day to post my book review on Failures of State.

As the popular saying goes, history tends to repeat itself. I could not agree more, especially when those who are supposed to lead and serve the people repeatedly fail to learn from their past mistakes. Failures of State is the story of how Britain supposedly sleepwalked its way into the worst number of coronavirus cases in all of Europe, and the highest death toll amongst all the developed countries, except perhaps the U.S. who – at the time – had bigger problems on their hands (not the least of which was the fact that they had a buffoon with a blond wig and an orange tan running the country)

I knew that I was going to be annoyed and irritated whilst reading this book, there was nothing in it that I didn’t already know from reading the news, and from the endless cycles of lockdowns and tier systems and half-arsed measures that never seem to work. But what I didn’t expect was to move past annoyed and irritated and veer right towards being infuriated.

Maybe its because we’ve now lived with this for nearly 18 months and it still feels like some endless Groundhog Day nightmare of rising cases, overly optimistic outlooks and proclamations despite evidence to the contrary, and premature easing of restrictions/lockdowns. Maybe its the fact that I haven’t seen my parents for nearly 2 years.

Maybe I’m just sick of out-of-touch, privileged, elitist and (from where I’m standing) morally bankrupt men making stupid decisions that affect my day-to-day life while changing absolutely none of theirs.

Or maybe I’m just pissed off because I sat down today, after a really busy shift where I didn’t have the chance to so much as go to the toilet because I was so busy, and saw on Twitter that there were people around Westminster gathered for an anti-lockdown protest. On the day that lockdown officially ends.

You could not make this up.

Failures of State is an emotionally triggering book for those who have actually lived through the realities of the coronavirus: NHS staff, people who have watched their loved ones suffer, or worse, people who watched their loved ones die without even getting a fighting chance, because factors like their age and co-morbidities decreased their chances of survival, and hospitals apparently could not afford to waste precious bed space on people who are unlikely to make it.

Can you even imagine how that must feel like? And can you even imagine what it must feel like to be the one who has to make that call?

The book is incredibly informative, and whilst I’m not a good judge on what might be considered a good piece of investigative journalism, I like that the authors attempted to give context and background to the coronavirus story, with evidence and transcripts from China that shows how their government failed to notify the world in time that this virus could potentially have far-reaching (and fatal) effects. What the book does NOT attempt is any form of impartiality. This was an attack on the current Tory government and its fearless leader, full stop. And I for one think that the attack is probably deserved.

To be absolutely fair, one might be able to excuse the government’s actions during the first wave as the the actions of those who were caught unaware about the scale of the problem they were facing. I mean, they had Brexit to celebrate, who cares about some virus that’s hardly more dangerous than the common flu? This was a problem for Asian countries, it could never happen to us, and besides, the UK has one of the best contingency plans for these kind of things right? We can even afford to send PPE to China once it became clear they were struggling.

UGH.

I personally think that the whole reason for the mess we are in is that there are a lot of people in this county with a deluded sense of invincibility, not to mention an incredible sense of entitlement. It could never happen to us. That’s what most of us thought in December right? That the problem would never reach our shores, and even if it did, we would be ready for it and it will all blow away by the summer.

And then of course, once we finally went into lockdown after lockdown after lockdown, people started to complain because they were oh so tired of staying at home and not being able to go on holidays, or complain about the endless amount of time re-watching Friends on Netflix.

And when the vaccines were finally developed, some people cared more about their precious freedom – its my body and I’ll die if I want to – than availing of the one thing that can actually help us out of this mess. You just could not win.

And so now we’re back to where we started. Increasing cases, overly optimistic outlook throwing caution to the wind and lifting all restrictions, blah blah blah blah blah. As the great Taylor Swift said, I think I’ve seen this film before, and I can already tell where we’re going.

If it wasn’t clear, I have not had the best of days. I am quite aware that for a lot of people today is a day to celebrate, and I do not discredit the fact that 18 months of lockdown and isolation have had serious effects on people’s mental and emotional health. If I didn’t see day in and day out the toll that this pandemic has taken on my colleagues, if I hadn’t seen how harrowing it is to have to convert beds to ITU spaces and redeploy people to care for really ill patients, if I hadn’t just spent half the day helping to plan staffing so we could continue to deliver health services despite the shortage of staff, I would probably be more magnanimous towards those who waited until midnight to enter their favourite nightclub.

But I have seen and have done all those things. And as it is, all I can say is…

£%@$^^&!!!!*$%

And also, read this book. It might help some of us make some semblance of sense from the chaos of the last 18 months. If nothing else, you might probably find the smoke and mirrors that this government attempted to weave around its public mildly amusing and entertaining.

Posted in Covid-19, Current Events, fitness, Lifestyle, london

In Pursuit of Dragons

I was feeling a bit anxious and restless today, what with nearly a year of this awful pandemic, and mounting pressures at work, most of them brought about by an abundance of control issues on my part (really have to work on that lol). So I decided to go for a wee run around London in the hopes that I’d feel more calm and centred after.

It will not come as a surprise to those of you who know me well to find out that I tend to overthink things, even physical activities like running. I genuinely think that its not the lack of physical stamina that’s keeping me from running a 10k from start to finish without stopping. Its those little voices in my head telling me its too far, and oh my god I have so many more miles to cover, I’m not gonna make it. You might as well just stop now, Anj.

Yeah, its a bit tedious being inside my head sometimes.

I read somewhere that the best way to run long distances is to first, have a good playlist, preferably made up of songs with a regular tempo, because when you’re in the zone your brain will just naturally get your feet running to the beat. And you want to be in that zone. You want to be at the point where you stop thinking and putting one foot in front of the other becomes as automatic as breathing. So I’ve started filling up my running playlist with songs that have a tempo of about 160bpm, with a few fast-tempo ones added just to spice it up.

I also realised that I do better when I have a destination in mind compared to when I just run around in circles. And so I researched different routes before coming across an intriguing one that follows the boundaries of the original City of London, which used to be a lot smaller than London as I know it today. The boundaries are marked by statues of winged dragons. There are apparently thirteen scattered all over the city, and I managed to find about 11 of them during my run today (one was removed due to construction and I stupidly ran past the one in Tower Hill).

The dragon markers of the City of London

The dragon markers can be found along Victoria Embankment, where it marks the boundary between the City of London and the City of Westminster; in Temple, near St. Dunstan; Chancery Lane, near the tube station; Farringdon, Barbican, Liverpool Street, Aldersgate, which all have the dragons that are badly in need of cleaning; Tower Hill, the one I missed; London Bridge, the prettiest ones; and then finally Blackfriars.

I guess I’m writing this post after having run my fastest 10k EVER during today’s pursuit of these winged creatures because it feels like a metaphor for how to face and overcome challenges. You never get anywhere in life by staying in one place forever. The only way to learn and to grow as a person is to push yourself out of your comfort zone even if it means you might fail. I for one think it takes a special kind of courage to do something when you know that failure is all but a certainty.

Every time I passed a dragon it felt like I was silencing a little bit of my doubts and fears, not just for the run itself but in general.

People think confidence is a natural thing, that those who appear confident just wake up every morning automatically feeling sure of themselves and their abilities. But I think that confidence is an everyday battle. You have to work hard to ignore the naysayers, and by naysayers I mean YOU, because you are your own worst critic. Every day you have to dig deep to cling to that belief that you can do whatever it is you set your mind to (provided that you’re willing to do the work).

I also just started thinking about how March is the anniversary of the initial lockdown for the pandemic. This time last year we were buying toilet paper in bulk and fearing the end of times. I find myself thinking back to how I felt this time last year, when my stomach felt like a lead balloon, and I didn’t know whether the last time I saw my family would be the last time I ever see them. In keeping with the dragon theme (because heaven forbid this post becomes anymore tangential than it is, lol) it felt like the coronavirus was Drogon, raining fire down on all of us and killing people left right and centre faster than you can say “dracarys”.

We took so much for granted, didn’t we? A lot of us were arrogant enough to think that we would be spared from the worst of it all (BoJo, I’m looking at you), and the prevailing sentiment seems to be that we were failed by the inaction of the very people who were supposed to lead us. But I really don’t want to dwell anymore on that, or the fact that I have completely lost faith in all politicians. I am choosing to see this pandemic not as a story of failure but as a story of the everyday resilience of the “ordinary” people, especially my colleagues in the NHS whose collective work have been nothing short of extraordinary.

It’s been a tough year, full of an unprecedented number of challenges. I personally just feel grateful to have reached this point, where there’s an end to lockdown in sight, and a glimmer of hope for the future in the horizon. I know a lot of people continue to struggle, and there’s nothing much we can do except to offer hope, support and above all kindness. Hang in there! Things will always get better, and the brightest morning always comes after the darkest night, you just have to make it through.

And to you dear reader, may you always find the strength to slay your dragons, in whatever form or shape they may take.

xoxo

Posted in Covid-19, london

Human beings have the memory of a goldfish…and maybe that’s okay.

I’m writing this on the eve of the easing of lockdown. Tomorrow, all non-essential establishments, including pubs, restaurants and (huzzah!) salons, are set to open. Living in central London, I foresee massive crowds and noise pollution around my neighbourhood as thousands and thousands of alcohol-deprived (yeah, right) Londoners flock like birds to the nearest Red Lion, or in my case, The Blue Post.

I’m struggling to not turn this into some kind of rant about how selfish people are being: moaning about how they haven’t had black daahl from Dishoom in 12 weeks, or that their roots are showing because their hair hasn’t been coloured in three months, or that Boris should really allow gyms to reopen because they couldn’t possible live without their Zumba class much longer.

Do not even get me started on the idiots who thought it was a good idea to trash Bournemouth beach during the heatwave last week.

I told a friend that all of this sort of makes a mockery of the sacrifices that health care workers have made during the pandemic period. I mean, you clap for us in one breath and defy social distancing and lockdown rules in the other. What was the point of it all? What was the point of the long hours in PPE, the night shifts spent huddled in anxiety because a COVID patient has just coughed all over you, or the agony of having to hold a dying patient’s hand because there was no one else but you who could do that for them?

Compared to all that, it seems kind of shallow to be moaning about missing having gin and tonic on top of your favourite rooftop bar doesn’t it?

But I’ve come to realise that human beings are simply not built to withstand so much suffering. There is only so much we can take in before we shut off. Collectively, we’ve all been overloaded by so many things these past three months, its really hard to believe we’re only halfway through the epic shitshow that is 2020. With everything that’s going on, I think something does have to give. We each will find our own ways of coping, we will find things that will enable us to carry on, and perhaps part of that is forgetting the incredibly traumatic experience of having lived though the first major pandemic since the 1912 Spanish plague.

When the shops reopened, I immediately went into the Mango website and spent 100£ on clothes that I would then return because I gained so much weight during the lockdown, that I now struggle too fit into a size 12 (more on this in a separate post lol). I spent three months only thinking about essentials, three months not spending my money on anything other than food and household supplies, but the minute lockdown started to ease, I started to think about the outfits I would wear, or that maybe I could start dating again after I finally managed to get a haircut (as if this was a major deciding factor on whether or not I could get a decent date lol).

The only thing I’d worried about during the lockdown was getting through the coronavirus pandemic with my physical, mental, and emotional health intact. I was praying the rosary everyday just asking God for me and everyone I love to still be alive after all of this. Then lockdown eased, and things started getting back to something close to resembling normal, and I started feeling anxious about getting extra shifts to earn more money, or whether or not I would ever get that dream job that feels like its so close, I can almost taste it. And of course, the ever present question of whether or not it was worth getting into dating again (am I the only one sensing a theme here?).

I guess I’m just trying to illustrate how easy it is to forget about your troubles when you’re given just the slightest hope that it has gone away. It doesn’t matter how much you tell people to be cautious, to remember what these past few months have been like and that i’s not over yet: you give them an inch of rope and they’ll run a mile with it, not because they’re insensitive creatures (at least the majority aren’t) and I don’t really think humans have the memory of a goldfish. But I think people forget because they want to forget. Because they need to forget.

We want, and in some ways we need, to chalk this up as just one extremely long nightmare episode. A blip. A wrinkle in time.

We were taught about homeostasis at school. No matter what happens internally or externally, the human body will always compensate to try and achieve a sense of homeostasis or ‘steady state’. I think that’s what we’re doing now that restrictions have been lifted. Forgetting is our way of going back to that steady state, no matter how different from what was once considered normal that state may be.

As a nurse, I’m obligated to remind people that this virus really hasn’t gone away, and we’re a long way away from any sort of vaccine just yet so it would be a bad idea to start visiting the pubs in droves tomorrow, but I truly appreciate that I’m in the minority here. So I guess…let the journey to forgetting and homeostasis begin.

Posted in Covid-19, Current Events, Health and Well-Being, Nursing

It’s Been a Long Year…and It’s Only the Start of May

Sometimes it feels like this lockdown will never end.

Its been roughly six weeks since the UK imposed measures that essentially robbed life of any semblance of normalcy. Since then, we’ve all been trying our damnedest to keep our spirits up even as we become increasingly isolated from our fellow man.

Every day there seems to be new challenges cropping up on social media (like doing 20 press-ups on your instagram story and then challenging five other people to do the same) or an at-home concert organised by one pop star or the other, and what both those things have in common is that it speaks to our inherent need to stay connected even as social distancing becomes the new normal.

I might just be speaking for myself here, but I think this unprecedented crisis has heightened our sense of empathy and compassion for others. All of a sudden the number of people showing support for the NHS and recognising the work that carers do has increased tenfold. Young people now go out of their way to buy groceries for elderly neighbours. Colleagues who don’t normally get along have learned to put their differences aside so they can work together and do what’s best for the department they work for.

Personally, what this pandemic is teaching me, above all else, is that in times of pain and suffering no one is a stranger.

This week another nurse lost the battle to Covid-19, three weeks after his admission to one of the best hospitals in the country. He was my age.

Like me, he was an overseas nurse who left the Philippines to pursue a career in a foreign country, in the hopes that it will lead to a better life for himself and his family.

Like most of my friends, he dreamed of opportunities and adventures the likes of which we never would have experienced if we stayed in the Philippines.

Like tens of thousands of Filipinos before him, he bore the loneliness, the frequent homesickness, and the separation from family because he believed his future laid here, in his adopted country.

When I heard about the story of his death, I cried like a baby.

Despite having plenty of common friends, in every sense of the word this person was a virtual stranger to me. And yet his death affected me to a degree that goes beyond what you would normally feel for someone you didn’t know from Adam.

Maybe his story hit a little too close to home. I don’t want to dwell too much on how his story could so easily be our story, because that kind of thinking is just too morbid to contemplate. But all the same, on the day of his death I said a little prayer for every overseas Filipino nurse I know, and even for those that I don’t.

I’m not really sure how to end this post that has turned out to be more morose than I intended it to be when I first started writing.

I guess I just wanted to say that the longer this goes on, the deeper we may have to dig within ourselves to stay upbeat and positive.

But we can’t let this virus defeat us. I have every hope that this too shall pass, that there is a life waiting on the other side of this pandemic, and that we will all be better, more understanding, and hopefully kinder people for having lived through it.

We owe it to the people who have lost their lives to this virus, and especially to the people who have given their lives in caring for people with this virus, to ensure that we never ever take that life for granted.