…tips, reflections, helplines.

This is pretty fucking shit. But we can all help each other to try and make it a bit less shit. Less judgement. More kindness.

Practical tips and information

I’m hearing from friends who almost certainly think they’ve had, or now have the virus. I’m hearing from others who sadly know someone who has tested positive, and worse, one friend who knows someone in intensive care. I’m hearing about the unbelievable community response, for example the mutual aid groups such as Covid-19 Mutual Aid that have been established in different parts of the UK. There’s a list of these groups in London, here.

I heard about a terrible case of a health worker at a London hospital who it’s thought has taken their own life. It can never be stressed enough – Samaritans is there if we need to talk things through. But they also need our financial support.

As do many other charities, large and small, throughout the UK. Their fundraised income has dropped dramatically for all the obvious reasons; they can’t run fundraising events and we’re all understandably worried about our own finances. But they do incredible things on behalf of all of us. They need our help. Many people need our help and that’s the problem, many of us need it too – how far can we stretch the restricted resources we possess?

Food deliveries and targeting vulnerable people

The UK Government has its critics right now. But they’re getting some things right. They have plenty of guidance on social distancing and who needs most protection or ‘shielding’. If you’re in one of the groups the government deems most vulnerable, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable to register for the support that you need. This includes help with food, shopping deliveries and additional care you might need. You can do this on behalf of a friend, family member or loved one.

Apparently the Department for Communities is working right now to get 1.5m of the most vulnerable Britons set up with a weekly food parcel full of essentials. Our family has signed up our Dad for the service, we hope you find it useful. Elsewhere hundreds of thousands have become an NHS Volunteer Responder, to help deliver food and medication and drive patients to appointments.

Incidentally, they have a new WhatsApp service you can sign up for, which shares evidence-based latest public information, to avoid anyone getting the wrong information, e.g. not using Chloraquine etc.

The gov.uk Coronavirus Information Service can be accessed by saving the number 07860064422 to your contacts, and then sending it a message saying ‘hi’. I’ve done it and its reasonably useful, up to a point.

There’s a similar one that WhatsApp has set up with the help of the World Health Organisation. This is called Health Alert.

Age UK, Independent Age and others rightly remind us to beware of financial fraud and scammers. The Campaign to End Loneliness has resources and contacts for those worried about older loved ones. Next-door is just one app they mention that can match people who need neighbourhood help to local volunteers.

There’s so many other bits-and-bobs and I’m sure more will come on the scene. Many of the supermarkets have set up special slots for older people and NHS workers, although from Twitter, I can see a lot more needs to be done to give parity to social care workers, who must be valued just the same way. Morrisons have announced a new scheme where people can make a payment over the phone and receive a food parcel worth 35 quid. Having said that, when I checked just before – around midnight UK time, they had run out of slots.

Cafes like PrĂȘt had been giving 50 per cent discounts to NHS staff, and at last, the Health Secretary has announced parking charges will be suspended for NHS workers when they have to travel by car to hospital. There’s always more that could be done, no doubt.

Elsewhere, if we can distract ourselves…

Most people I’ve spoken to have talked about how hard it is to focus right now. There’s a never-ending stream of news updates and tweets to absorb, personal messages to respond to, loved ones to reassure and enquire after. We’re less connected – many millions face chronic loneliness – but others have replaced physical contact with social media and digital substitutes.

Here are a few random things I have come across, which may or may not prove to be of interest.

I can only imagine how challenging things are for parents with young kids right now. Here are some resources that might help educate and entertain children of primary school age; there’s virtual tours of some of the world’s most popular and famous museums.

I especially recommend britishmuseum.withgoogle.com

I love the virtual timeline and the way you can delve into the artefacts and treasures you’re most interested in. Mine were from the Mayan era.

Audio, lit and other free treasures

Decent new podcasts to assist and provide both entertainment and education include the website Podyssey.fm

For those who are fans, comedian and writer David Walliams plans to release one free audio for the next 30 days.

For adults, don’t forget to check out the new Audible literary classics, also free for a period. I intend to listen to Brave New World.

For a bit of family fun, on Thursday March 26, you can listen into a unique broadcast from astronauts, including Britain’s Tim Peake, as they take you through their experiences of, and tips for living in isolation. Rather randomly, Olivia Newton-John will be one of the hosts. It gets going from 19h00 UK time.

If you always wanted to write that book and feel now is the time to do it, there are so many resources, its hard to know where to start. Look no further than Curtis Brown’s free weekly writing workout. Upgrade and you can get expert advice on your writing. Thanks to my writing pal, Judith, for that particular tip! Toby Litt also has a great (free) writing course to delve deep into.

Looking for something more musical? How about the nightly (free) streaming service from the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Its uploaded at 23h30 UK time every night but you can watch one of these great operatic classics from their back catalogue of performances the next day – each of them remains online for 20 hours. This is the week for Wagner.

There’s no shortage of free resources. Somerset House have placed podcasts online, and I know the London Philharmonic has placed content online too.

Incidentally, if you still ant to follow global events, but at a distance, you can do a lot worse than following the Talking Politics podcast. Its where I go for reasoned, expert-led debate. Never mind that my old Politics Professors lead it (okay, that influences me somewhat), but this is the place to go for evidence based policy arguments about the impact of Coronavirus.

The new normal

So, we’re going to be indoors a lot. For an introvert, maybe that’s not so bad. For extroverts and gym-buffs and keen joggers and so on, it’s pretty damn tricky. I found Zoe Williams’ interview on social distancing for the useful Guardian podcast a help on this front.

Looking for spiritual advice? I can’t offer any myself, but my old flatmate is apparently taking a new course on biblical studies. No better time to get to know the ins and outs of the Old Testament…

Seriously, though, this is pretty fucking shit. But we can all help each other to try and make it a bit less shit. Less judgement. More kindness.