Its been 294 days since I last stepped foot into university. Will I ever sit among my classmates again? It seems I may be a masochist.. I’m paying Thousands for added stress and impossible deadlines and accommodation I am not legally permitted to return to.
Trying to unravel how all of this happened so quickly is perhaps the hardest part. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and if we knew what we now know back in January or February this year, things could have been very different for the United Kingdom.
January 31st. I remember the date very well as it was the day Britain was due to leave the EU. Or at least enter the ‘transition period’. Boris Johnson’s Conservative party had just won a thumping majority in the General Election the month before and may as well have been walking on water. As I refreshed the home page on BBC News to see what the update was on domestic affairs, a notification appeared at the bottom of my screen: “First case of Covid-19 detected in the UK”, or something along those lines. “Oh, how inconvenient, I’m sure they’ll get on top of it fairly quickly”, I told myself, before reading up on the Brexit shenanigans.
We’d heard about it on the News. The deadly virus in China that had been detected in other countries. But not many of us thought it would radically change our lives for months, or even years to come. After all, we’d lived through SARS, swine flu, and ebola. None of them brought the world to a standstill.
February was fairly normal. The amount of Covid-19 stories began to increase in the news, some students at my university started to wear face masks and there were stories emerging about a big rise in cases across the continent (Italy in particular), but we went about our daily lives: the good, the bad, the exciting and the mundane.
I took myself abroad in February to the canary islands for a week. 25 degrees of heat at that time of year is more than a treat if you are from somewhere as miserable as the UK in winter! A few days after returning to Birmingham, the news was engulfed with stories about a covid outbreak in a Tenerife hotel, that was within walking distance from where I was staying. “Shit!”, I thought to myself. But even then, I wasn’t phased. I sat up and took more attention, as it was close to home for the first time, but off out I went that night for drinks with my friends.
In the following week, some worrying news from Italy began to emerge. Covid had hit the region of Lombardy badly, and local lockdowns began to be imposed. Even then, I did not really think this would become as big as it did. I had a festival booked in Italy later that year funnily enough and the most I thought was probably “It may not go ahead”. If only I knew 90% of my plans for 2020 would not go ahead! Of course, Covid-19 was rapidly spreading across much of the world in January and February 2020, possibly even before. But because testing infrastructure was not yet in place in most countries, the reporting on the true amount of cases was wildly inaccurate. Still, I carried on as normal. I took myself to a rave at the end of February and got w*nkered. That was my last night out at a nightclub.
March was when it suddenly dawned on me, that this was serious. More and more people began wearing masks at the supermarkets, the Prime Minister began to hold daily news conferences. You have to realise, none of us had really experienced anything like this before. It was a unique experience. My University professors did not quite know how to react: “Nothing to worry about”, we were told. “The trip to Amsterdam next week will still be going ahead”, except it was swiftly cancelled soon after. So, me and my friends decided to take ourselves off to the Lake District instead.
March 16th, we departed Birmingham and life was relatively normal. Everywhere was still open, though supermarket shelves were void of essential items like toilet roll, due to panic buying. We stopped off at ASDA and stocked up on food, drinks and whatever else for the week. That week, the world went to shit, and guess what? It was one of the best of my life. As the apocalypse occurred, EastEnders stopped filming and football matches were cancelled, we were blissfully ignorant in the hot tub, sipping champagne with the smell of horse manure in the background. Lovely stuff. But deep down, we knew that when we returned home, life would be radically different.
As we left Cumbria, and arrived back in Birmingham on March 20th, the streets were almost empty. Boris Johnson announced the closure of the pubs that day and the following Monday, we were notified about the national lockdown.
I’ve hated the whole thing. I’ve had some good moments, don’t get me wrong, but 2020 looked set to be a great year. Instead of spending my 21st in New York as planned, I spent it at home, with much more subdued celebrations. My graduation was cancelled as were the summer holidays. Alas, it’s not been all bad. I graduated from university with a 2:1 and have gone on to study for a master’s degree and I have visited some amazing places in the UK, and will absolutely holiday more in this country, in future. I am also aware that some people have had it much worse than me. Some of my friends have had Covid and I lost two family members to it. The raving community in Birmingham also lost one of our most notable promoters and DJ’s, as he tragically took his life. Whilst I can not profess to know the reasons behind this, I would hazard a guess that the harshness of lockdowns and the impact they have had on nightlife, amongst other things have had an unprecedented effect on people’s mental health.
I would also be lying if I said I have followed the rules dogmatically. At first, I was very strict, but around the summer, I have taken more risks. I am sure some people will accuse me of being selfish and history may judge such actions harshly. But I am not the only one. We are human beings and are social creatures. It would be impossible to have followed such rules religiously for almost an entire year. They go against everything we know. So, I did eat out to help out. I have seen some friends. I haven’t locked myself in my room since March.
All the same, I realise the seriousness of Covid and have found myself in arguments with ludicrous conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers alike. It’s December 2020 as I write this and recently, I have been a bit more mindful of the rise in cases and the mutated strain that has caused a huge second wave. Christmas this year will be tough and January is looking bleak.
But there is hope. A vaccine has been approved and has already been administered to 500,000 people in the UK. Another vaccine is scheduled to be approved next week. Hopefully, by Easter enough vulnerable people will have been vaccinated to take the pressure off the NHS and we can start to return to a bit of normality. God knows, we need it.
I suppose if this year has taught me anything, it’s to not take things for granted.
I had the wonderful opportunity of appearing on Dan Snow’s History Hit documentary about the bombing of Coventry Cathedral in which I discussed the impact of the bombing on the city and the wider war itself. The whole documentary can be found here at History Hit: https://tv.historyhit.com/watch/37337727#=
Foregrounding the following – I am a healthy 20 year old studying at Bangor with a dissertation focused on covid stories – We forced to self isolate after my housemate tested positive for Covid 19.
After I got the phone call to self isolate, I did not feel scared or a sense of dread – well only to phone into work and tell them I could not work for two weeks. I knew that I would be fine, I knew that my housemates would be fine, none of us (Luckily) do not fall into the vulnerable category.
These two weeks were boring but it was the little victories for me, the Tesco shop coming, the Zoom calls with my friends on the outside world and the occasionally drop off of ‘urgent’ supplies from those who lived near me. I was very lucky to have very mild symptoms of Covid 19 and knowing people who had more aggressive symptoms are my true heroes.
There are some aspects of my life that have changed post isolation, I now enjoy Adam Sandler films (I really was bored for entertainment), I now try to walk around my small city taking in the fresh air.
Finally I took some time and realised how lucky I am to have my health and friends that took time to Zoom me and drop off little treats like grapes .
I do not see these two weeks as lost but a needed break from work to catch up on Uni work and to well just be me.
The pandemic is making difficult situations even harder for many other people too. If things are getting difficult please talk to someone. There are lots of amazing services out there that are there to listen and they can help: please find some suggestions here:
- The Samaritans is a charity specialising in providing emotional support
- Citizens Advice is a network of charities throughout the United Kingdom that can provide advice for anyone with money, legal, consumer and other problems. https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/
- The charity Mind provides support for anyone experiencing a mental health problem. Their website provides a useful guide for anyone seeking support and help (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/seeking-help-for-a-mental-health-problem/where-to-start/)
It is important to get trusted information regarding Covid19. For up to date advice (in the UK):
This may or may not be helpful, but I’ve put together a quick and basic guide on producing a literature review and gutting sources for history dissertations. I’m still getting used to being on camera so please bear with my awkward camera techniques, but hopefully this video will help give you an idea of how to progress with your literature review if you are a little uncertain. Please remember, these are just my suggestions.
The key things to remember are:-
-a literature review is not just a list of books. Don’t list every single source one at a time
– try to synthesis and summarise the key arguments. – try to get into the habit of “gutting” texts. You can’t read every source cover to cover.
I’ve attached a Word document with a template to help you think about some of the sorts of notes you should be taking. These are just my suggestions for the sort of questions you want to be answering as you gut a book. This template is just intended to be a starting point. Add your own questions and develop your own style as much as possible.
Here is David Lavery’s article on ‘How to Gut a Book’:
I find it extremely hard to write about Covid. On the eve before the outbreak of Covid-19 I found myself unemployed after quitting a job. In hindsight, it was a very dangerous and risky move as the news about the virus was still coming in. However Covid inadvertently presented an opportunity. Strangely enough Covid was what was able to allow me to break into a job that I am not sure I would have been able to get otherwise. As the financial services sector rushed to move everything to work from home I already had all the equipment required and thus I was able to leverage this to obtain a job I never would have considered in the past.
That is not to say that the Covid pandemic has been all good. The biggest impact that it has had has been the utter decimation of my social life. As an introvert, my social life was something that I found very hard to develop and took years to cultivate. As the pandemic continued to drag on, things began to slow. Friends who I had known for years suddenly became harder to talk to as we couldn’t see each other. Messaging each other, which was something to do on the side of things, became a regular occurrence as the restrictions tightened. Conversation topics slowly began to exhaust as we talked to each other day after day trying to figure out ways to entertain each other, and it became a chore rather than something to do for fun.
However, what was truly shocking has been its affect on mental health, something that is often overlooked. I have seen parts of my family that I would never have considered as being susceptible to issues of a mental nature stumble. It is truly a humanising moment, when somebody you can sometimes view as invincible, buckles under the pressure and is struggling to work through the crisis.
Covid will likely define the coming decade as the damage will leave both seen and unseen scars on the world. In a post-pandemic world I would hope that we hold much of the initial attitudes that were brought out in the earliest days of the pandemic. That we are all in this together. That we need to support each other and extend help to those who need it. The cynical part of me believes that will not happen and that we’ll all want to pretend this never happened. That we’ll cover up the cracks that Covid has exposed instead of taking positive steps to fix them. I realise that the pandemic is but a fleeting moment in history and that nothing lasts forever, I also realise people who it has effected will last far beyond Covid’s brief span. There has been no talk as to how to help people in the long term past Covid and this worries me.
If we could capture the attitudes which we met the outbreak with, of empathy, willingness to help and co-operation then we really can build a post pandemic future to look forward to.
Introverted, and indifferent, and yet with a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics.
I quit my job some time in September, simply because the company couldn’t find me a schedule to work, and exercise my skills as a Nutrition Counselor, and that the fact that I am paid only when I work. The CoVID-19 really has done its work to screw everyone over, and somehow I feel as if the ones that died from this disease are the most fortunate. I’m quite sure my country isn’t the only one that got its people screwed over with bad governmenting, and something of that kind in between, but yeah, it’s bad. Life in COVID-19 surely had it’s rough starts, the quarantining, the panic, and the initial wave of panic buying, which prompted the government to make purchase regulations so everyone gets their needed supplies. As things calmed down, and everyone got the gist of what was going on. Everyone adapted, slowly but surely, and even until now I’m seeing it. And to no one’s surprise, the government is still being shit, to a point that it’s not worthy of discussion, they’re just that irrelevant to the crisis.
The best things I have seen so far in the middle of this pandemic, or if it should be called that with the current condition of the virus really, is that businesses are becoming the norm. With everyone in their homes, and, mostly likely, out of a job because they can’t get to their workplace, I have seen a lot of self-employed businesses lately, from simple general goods stores, to just being freelancers. Somehow, with the breakdown of the mainstream means of providing, and acquiring services, people have turned on to themselves to provide, and acquire said services. Along with this, the smaller businesses, the simple ones that one can see in a reasonable apartment building, they’re open, and doing fine, from photocopy shops to even street vendors, we just made improvisations to adapt, and to fit the current times.
And weirdly enough, even with the set curfews, there is some form of a nightlife. Mostly, still, street vendors, selling wares, and street dishes, and the others are just the ones that like to enjoy the cold breeze of the night, and not being stuck inside their homes from a brief period.
I wasn’t sure what to type when I first came across this website so I’m sorry if it feels so random, there’s a certain catharsis that I felt when I started typing the paragraphs, and I just had to keep going. I might make more posts soon, and hopefully it is more organized.
As an introvert living in rural and remote sweden I can’t say that covid has affected me in any noticable way. Yes there are less acticities on offer, the local cinema is closed, but i enjoy my solitude and the calm and quiet of nature. I do feel sympathy for my extroverted friends who tell me that they feel traped and are going stir crazy.
For me the decreases in big social acticities are more like a tiny blessing.
That’s not to say that everything is fine. I’m a diabetic and I do worry that i’d suffer extra hard if i were to get Covid. But then again, that’s out of my hands.
I have two jobs and both have seen their respective work load deminish due to Covid as industries slow down and people are encouraged to stay at home. I have no fearof loosing either of my jobs but they do make less money and i’ve cut down on work time with one of my employments.
Though in turn i’m looking into starting my own buissnes.
The hardest part is dealing with the mental health of my family. Some om my family members are almost in a constant panic over covid, fearing death around every corner. Complaining that we should fully isolate ourselves and stop working, only to turn around and have a panic attack over the reduced income. Feeling helpless in face of a loved ones faltering mental health is what’s truly taking it’s toll on me.
I compartmentalize covid, i take it in strides, i’m doing alright. Looking through the history books covid is hardly worth a foot note. We’ve seen so much worse, things that we can’t even pretend to understand the darkness of. But i hope for the sake of all those that don’t feel fine, that covid will soon be over.
The mood of the country definitely feels to have changed. During the first lockdown there was a pulling together, a sense of we’re all in this together that I feel is lacking now. I think it’s a combination of lockdown fatigue, impatience and a realisation that, in fact, we’re not all in this together. Various government figures or their close families have been caught breaking lockdown rules with zero repercussions. Whether it’s Dominic Cummings with his trip to Durham, his drive to Barnard Castle and the laughable excuses and lies that were offered in the aftermath or the Prime Ministers dad swanning off abroad, coming back without observing quarantine and not bothering with a mask when in enclosed public spaces it has an air of ‘one rule for them, another for us’. I expect general public compliance to be a lot lower than the first wave. There’s anger at the government, some are angry at another lockdown even occurring due to their concern about the economic damage whereas others are angry that it’s happened weeks after SAGE initially recommended another lockdown followed by Starmer asking for one. From the Free School meals fiasco to the corruption in the PPE procurement system most people I speak to have limited to zero trust in the competency of the current government
Beyond that there’s brexit looming, the tory government seems to either not care about the prospects of no deal or is actively aiming for it. The economic impact of brexit combined with Covid-19 is going to batter this country and I’m concerned what it could lead to. People who are desperate and angry and easy prey for extremist rhetoric and from my talks with colleagues, ex-colleagues rather, I know how appealing voices such as Farage and Stephen ‘Tommy Robinson’ Yaxley-Lennon are to many working class people who view themselves as abandoned and left behind. There’s a deep well of anger waiting to be tapped and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had some sleepless nights worrying about the potentials.
As a more personal entry I lost my job 2 weeks ago, I kind of expected it but it’d still hurt a bit. I worked in purchasing for a catering equipment company and the sales are way down. The CFO, Chief Financial Officer, was almost in tears when she broke the news to me. I’ll miss my colleagues. Going back to personal issue I’m the main breadwinner for my family and am concerned for the family future even with our savings, there are not a lot of available jobs in my area. At least we’re not over-leveraged debt wise and can easily afford our mortgage and living expenses for the next 12 months; there’s many people in a much worse position than us and my heart goes out to them. My autistic son, 4 years old, is enjoying school, we were so relieved to get him into a special needs school and he’s flourishing there. Thankfully he’s too young to realise the strange times we live in, I do feel for the confusion older children must be experiencing who have had their lives turned upside down through missing school then subsequently having to adapt to changed educational environments. My fiance is well, just like every other challenge we face it together, I’m so lucky to have someone like her to share my life with. While she shares the same concerns I do regarding the countrys future she doesn’t have the knowledge of history and international relations that I do to see the rhymes and parallels and sometimes I think that gives her some peace of mind – I’m trying to keep my rants to a minimum to give her some peace and will do so here.
That’s enough rambling for now, I’m a terrible typist so I apologise for any typos I missed.