Diary of a coronavirus self-isolator - Day Four

PUBLISHED: 20:00 19 March 2020

Working from home is productive but can be lonely  Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Working from home is productive but can be lonely Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto


Yesterday evening I felt an immense sense of sadness. Some of our region’s, and some of our country’s, biggest events have been cancelled. It feels as if a giant vacuum hovered over our universe and sucked out all the joy doesn’t it?

"No more walks -please!" says Toby Picture: Debbie Blacoe

“I hope it all blows over soon,” my neighbour called across the street...from a safe distance of course.

Having hope and something to look forward to, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is the way many of us get through the day, week, month and it’s incredibly important for everyone’s mental health that we try to focus on the small things. Those little glimmers of hope and humour which can brighten our day.

While I was struggling with ME at its pinnacle I had CBT, and I found it incredibly beneficial to my wellbeing. Something I was asked to do daily was to keep a little notebook with me and to write down every hour one thing I’d done that was productive or necessary, and another thing I’d done which was pleasurable. I remember saying to the therapist at the time it was hardly likely I’d find something to smile about while I was bogged down at my desk under a mountain of work. But she encouraged me to think on smaller scale. Taking a special kind of tea with me and relishing the experience of brewing it and enjoying it during one hour. Having a little chat for a couple of minutes with a colleague about something we watched on TV the night before, in another.

It sounds silly, but having a record of my day, showing that I found something to do every hour, and something to take pleasure from, made a huge difference to my motivation, so it’s a technique I’d recommend to anyone stuck indoors at the moment.

Sweetpea and cosmos seedlings growing  Picture: Charlotte Smith-JarvisSweetpea and cosmos seedlings growing Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

A tiny thing I’ve gotten a kick out of this week is watering the potted plants in my home office. I’ve got a tray of sweetpeas and cosmos on the go, and they’re already germinating. Knowing I’ll be able to plant them out and tend to them in a few weeks brings a smile to my face. Gardening is proven to be beneficial for the mind, and is another activity I recommend everyone tries during this period of isolation. Be it a few sweetpeas, herbs, or starting off tomato plants, there’s lots to keep us all busy.

Something else I’ve taken great joy in this week has been my ability, through the course of my work, to shine a light on the many struggling businesses in our region and to offer them a little lifeline. Food and drink is my predominant focus, and I’ve been working day and night, speaking to restaurants, cafes and pubs about what they’re doing to ride the coronavirus storm. Their fortitude and gumption is truly inspiring and I can only hope that my ongoing efforts to promote them at this time will bring some benefits. You can find a map of all the eateries offering takeaways for delivery and collection in Norfolk and Suffolk online and in our papers and I’ll be updating it regularly, so let me know if your local haunt is doing anything different.

Read Charlotte’s Day Three diary

At the end of my working day I set out to deliver the chocolate, rum and orange hot cross buns I’d made for my Easter food feature to friends. Fully doused in hand gel and smelling distinctly like a distillery I stood at arm’s length from their thresholds with the baked goods, instructing them (as I would my kids) to only touch what they were going to take. It appeared full top-to-bottom cleaning regimens were on the go in some of their pads – maybe I should do the same?

This is what school looks like for the forseeable future  Picture: Charlotte Smith-JarvisThis is what school looks like for the forseeable future Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

My mate Debs appeared at the door, a waft of some delicious dinner snaking behind her, trailed by Toby (affectionately known as Tobes). “Apparently in Italy and France people are hiring their dogs out for 20 Euros to others so they can go outside,” she laughed. Toby was less than impressed. Anyone with a whippet or greyhound will know they’re loathed to exercise more than necessary, and his eyes seemed to say, ‘over my dead body’.

In the evening, devoid of human company (hubby was on-call) and without my usual Pilates class to break the day, I finally caught up with The Split on BBC IPlayer. I’d only intended to watch one episode but before I knew it had three in the bag. So much for a quiet bit of reading in bed.

Have you watched it yet? If not it’s definitely one to add to your isolation telly list. Very juicy.

And onto today. The first day of having children home from school. Well, it hasn’t exactly gone to plan to be honest with you. Not only have I had little communication about what’s expected of them yet (I’m guessing it’s to come), but Go4Schools (the mechanism by which many schools set work and homework) was down. I imagined thousands of parents up and down the country, frazzle-haired, frantically trying to access it and give their ‘little darlings’ something meaningful to do.

Having no way of finding out what they are learning at the moment made it pretty difficult to divvy them out work so basically they spent the day watching telly. I’m praying by later on I’ll have clearer guidelines. Whatever happens, I’m planning on setting them formalised study time during the day, with breaks. I’d be interested to hear from any parents about what they are planning to do. It might be a good idea to order the Key Stage books online for them to work through?

My cunning idea to have them make our lunches went down, obviously, like a lead balloon. What did I get from my son for lunch – bearing in mind there was homemade chilli in the fridge? A toasted bagel, with a slab of butter purposefully moulded into a phallic shape ‘for a laugh’ and a block of Emmental cheese, still in its wrapper. I suppose I shouldn’t complain....but come on!

After lunch my home laptop, from which I’ve been working, decided to play up, so there was a mad-dash into the office to retrieve my work device. Thinking I’d be the sole person in the building I threw on my jogging bottoms and an old promotional T-shirt. Yep. So there were two people there. Our editor and news editor, who thankfully didn’t seem that bothered by my soccer mum attire. My laptop bag was annoyingly absent, leading to poor editor Brad yanking out my desk so I could remove the entire computer set-up, monitor and all, and lumber it to the car. When I opened the boot, there was my laptop bag, charging lead included. Darn it.

For the rest of the afternoon I was chasing new content from restaurants and making correspondence with the many readers who’ve got in touch with me to share their stories and musings.

Please keep them coming. Tell me how you’re passing the time, what’s keeping you amused and occupied and how you and your friends and family are keeping in touch. Any advice from parents about wrangling in kids stuck at home are appreciated too. Email me.


Dear Charlotte

It’s lovely that you are doing a blog of your isolation. It makes us feel far less alone. My husband is 67 , 11 years older than me. He has mantle cell lymphoma and COPD and I have cardiomyopathy and Parkinson’s disease, so we decided that it would be safer if we isolated - not an easy thing, as we adore our grandchildren and looking after them is a massive part of our lives. But that will now all have to change. It’s only been a short time and missing the grandchildren is already very difficult.

We managed to get an online grocery order delivered yesterday. That order was put in weeks ago and there was plenty of slots then, now I cannot get another delivery for over two weeks away.

You may also want to watch:

Our biggest concern is when my husband has to have his next appointment with his oncologist in a week’s time. We really are so scared to go and be in the hospital in a waiting room if we are isolating because we want to remain virus-free. We really do not wish to then catch it in a hospital waiting room, still unsure if we will attend. I usually attend daycare at the hospice, but decided I was no longer going to attend until this is over, but the hospice have now suspended daycare which is a good thing as they wish to keep all their patients safe. Seeing your blog made me realise that so many of us are going through the same thing.

Best wishes Michelle

Hi Charlotte

I’m a 73 year old retired man. I do enjoy your articles and often give the eating place recommendations to my daughter. You are a very prolific writer. Anyway I have some ideas which you may find interesting.

First I felt so sorry with what you went through with ME. A friend of mine has it too.

All you said I can relate to.

I think I’ll keep it brief and bullet point.

1. Decide all the things you want to do in that day, academic and practical. Make sure you do most and get satisfaction from that.

2. Try to get a lot done early and that will give the stamina for when you flag later.

3. Have a treat on achieving certain things

4. If you have lots to do it is sometimes better to pick the low hanging fruit first.

5. Carve up the day into contacting, concentrating, light hearted something

When I retired I wrote and published a book and spent eight months doing it all.

Have sport /recreation time. Even going out in the garden and doing a quick task helps.

When you do have contact with family/husband have quality time.

I also have a motorbike which is my liberation. No frustrations like a car. Not held up, park anywhere free.

Then over a drink at the end of the day reflect on what you’ve done.

You won’t cure the loneliness but you will gain some satisfaction.

At the moment it looks as if this business will go on for a long while, but don’t look too far ahead it may not. Make your targets near and achievable. Be positive and think what enjoyment you bring to a lot of people. And you’re lucky to write about such a nice subject like food. Good luck with your feelings. You sound a really nice positive lady and I hope you will get a boost from emails which may come in.



I am in the high-risk group so I am self-isolating for at least 12 weeks. I’m used to spending the majority of my time at home anyway due to illness but would have a very occasional trip out to the hospital appointments or supermarket. I’m very happy to be in my own company doing my own thing but this is extreme and I’ve actually found myself missing my almost weekly specialist hospital appointments which is madness really. To keep myself distracted from worrying too much I have been putting all my (limited) energy into working on my blog which aims to help people with disabilities and chronic illnesses with personal finance matters. It’s very new so not many articles yet but I hope so much I can help people by sharing my experiences. It’s if you fancy a look.

I hope you are coping well in isolation! Best wishes and I look forward to continuing to read your diary.


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