When I was a little girl I used to pray before bed.
When I was in a relationship, I used to have sex before bed. (it hasn’t been that long, I am fine, don’t worry!)
Last night, after Boris declared lockdown, I applied for Universal Credit before bed. I am entitled to £74 a week. My rent is £1000 a month.
I had anxiety dreams all night.
I woke up at six, with a throbbing headache. I knew anxiety would take over quite soon, without asking for consent.
Here is my position:
I am self-employed. I am a court interpreter. The Ministry of Justice outsourced the interpreting services to an agency, The Big Word. Court staff are key workers. But interpreters are in limbo, status wise.
This morning I was supposed to attend an assignment at a Magistrates Court one hour and a half, by tube, away from home. Yesterday, when I called to check, the agency assured me the assignment would go ahead. I called again this morning. Same answer. “But are we key workers?” I asked. “Well, I believe you are essential workers”. Cool. No one bothered to clarify our status.
I tried to stay calm. I boarded an empty carriage on the Northern Line. At some point, a man got on and he sat in front of me. He had the sniffles AND was listening to very loud music that could not be contained in his headphones anymore. AND he smelled of very strong perfume. “For fuck’s sake, the carriage is empty”, I think, rolling my eyes, huffing and puffing. I moved to the other side of the empty carriage and I wished I could throw a tantrum. But I am too mentally stable for that. Still.
I managed to get lost inside the empty Tottenham Court Road station, twice. It was quiet and ghost-like. I don’t know how I managed to get distracted, probably the zombie apocalypse vibe doesn’t agree with me. I feel seen and exposed in open spaces. I do love hiding in a crowd.
After ten minutes of waiting on a quite busy platform, spent mostly trying to get away from a man off his meds that was following me around, insisting that Jesus loved me, I got on the Central Line. I couldn’t find a seat. Packed with key workers, essential workers, and probably self-employed people that have to keep on working until Boris comes up with a solution, or get infected, whichever comes first. Thanks to Boris, we can now get ill, he arranged statutory sick pay for us: £94 a week. That should cover a couple of Paracetamol tablets on the black market.
I made it out of the tube station and arrived at the Magistrates Court. A man at the door told me the court was closed.
“Why didn’t you cancel the interpreter then?”
“I can’t answer this, Miss, but I can sign your form and you will get paid”.
Let me break it to you:
Onsite cancellation is £24. The travel supplement is £5.
Basically, I risked my life and travelled for three hours for exactly £29. Travel fare was about £7. HMRC has a share of this amount as well. You do the math how much I made for an hour because I can’t without swearing at Boris. I am such an essential worker that the court forgot about me AND, to add insult to injury, today I made waaaaay under the minimum wage, even though I am a holder of various degrees and diplomas.
I found loo roll and beans at my corner shop
I had a small bar of chocolate for lunch
I spent the afternoon sulking under the duvet and finished my SJ Watson novel, Second Life
I made chicken with cream and spinach and I cleaned my kitchen
I did an hour of Spanish on Duolingo
I finished Living With Yourself ( For Aisling Bea, not for Paul Rudd, by the way)
I FaceTimed with my three-year-old niece multiple times
I listened to Enya’s Sail Away about one hundred times
Here are my two cents:
This is unknown territory for all of us. This experience will change us as people and as a society. I dare to hope there will be some positive changes among others.
None of this is under my control so I need to ride it out as smooth as I can. And so should you.
My mood changes throughout the day. I feel it’s a bit unfair this is happening now when I finally got my shit together for the first time in my life.
I go from mad that I can’t go down to the pub with my friends, to hopeless because of the financial uncertainty, to wise as a guru. I know that there is opportunity in adversity, that there is a breakthrough in every breakdown and all that crap.
I have been through communism, domestic violence, poverty, Romanian politics, Canadian winter, depression, toxic relationships, hangovers, immigration, bad Tinder dates. I am resilient. I am like a cockroach. Unless I die of Covid-19, I’ll make it.
I would like to get out of this with a bestseller and a killer body but I will probably get out of this with few volumes of anxiety journaling and a killer whale body (see “chocolate bar for lunch”).
Last year I came out of a twenty-three years long depression. If by the end of this I don’t go back there, then I will classify it as a major success in my personal records.
In the meantime, I have another assignment tomorrow. Empty London, here I come. Watch this space!
(Photo by yours truly: Tottenham Court Road Station, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at 9 am)