Catching “H”

We’ve got a mouse. He’s called “H” and he moved into one of kitchen cupboards about 10 days ago.

His name began as Houdini as he seemed to effortlessly escape our humane trap every evening while dining very nicely thank you, on the best peanut butter inside.

His presence is well documented by enthusiastic defecation so when, in desperation, we resorted to setting three fatal traps at a time, he seemed bizarrely able to lift every bar without ever getting caught. Of course, he also still managed nightly to munch all the peanut butter, and so was renamed Hercules.

He’s still “H” though, and still very much alive.

I mention this since we’ve been self-isolating for a week and I’m not certain I’d have noticed the profusion of wee black droppings (yuk!) quite so quickly in a cupboard I don’t frequent very often, were we not stuck at home.

I’ve been self-employed and worked from home for almost five years now but it’s a whole different ball game when you work from home and when you are expected to stay at home. – Like, never leave.

My partner has several underlying health issues which put him in a high-risk category and we were fortunate to grasp the need early, for us both to stay in to maintain maximum protection. We haven’t been beyond house and garden for 8 days already.

I’m a trainer and a PR (he’s semi-retired) so yes, paid work stopped too, in the manner of a car hitting a wall, a week ago.

During the week, I jumped the gun by mentioning self-isolation to my twenty-something son before he was ready to cope with it. And then compounded the error by suggesting to a favourite client that she quit worrying about a product launch at the end of March, which I felt clearly wasn’t going to happen. She was appalled.

Son is now responsibly self-isolating and client is distraught since of course the launch is not happening. They count the lost income in millions, – while I’m still counting out how long I could, theoretically pay my bills from my savings and supposed personal pension pot. – (rats, that’s going to be pretty skinny too. Oh well, at least we’ll have something in common).

Clearly peanut butter will have to be rationed and there’s not enough to feed itinerant rodents, so we sealed up the gap in the back of the wall instead. H is still out there but he’s on his own.

Sadly, so are my two fine associates in the business, who thankfully have other sources of income as I can’t pay them when I am not earning myself. My three employees I shall be trying hard to protect when I (and several million others) get on the phone this week to see how we access the government’s wages fund.

The Govt’s current initiatives won’t help me much of course since, like many others, I take minimal earnings from a small business. The Chancellor in his wisdom has decided NOT to comfort small business owners and entrepreneurs, despite the fact we have always been told we are the “backbone of the economy”. I believe at the moment we can access “Jobseekers’ Allowance” – how’s that for a kick in the molars?  

The one thing which sustains me in all of this however is that the whole country is coping with a challenge, the like of which we have never known. It’s horrible to contemplate what may be ahead for many in our society. Quite simply, all bets are off.

So, I’m going to try really hard NOT to judge my life, my finances, my business and my diet by “normal” standards. These are not normal times.

It means I’ll spend a lot of time online and on the phone today, sourcing possible local food deliveries (that I’ll commit to supporting after this is over). I’ll be calling whoever I can about business support, and I’m at my desk, out of my weekend joggers, helping another local business draft emergency Comms. They may pay me eventually, they may not, but they appreciate the support now.   

It means starting a daily blog; as an outlet for me; to help other people in the only way I can from self-isolation; and as a way of reminding people I’m still relevant for work when we emerge at the other side. 

It means making an online donation to a children’s charity, in recognition that no matter how worried I feel, the reality is that I’m in no imminent danger of starving. That makes me infinitely better off than millions of people worldwide, and many thousands much closer to home.

It means using every scrap of food in the house, with zero waste, while we wait out for better times. It means joining the list of neighbours shopping for those who can’t get out. It means just doing, individually, what we can, to be better humans.   

My younger son said to me on the phone today, “I want to do the right thing but I genuinely don’t know how to do this”. And that’s the thing. None of us do; not the government; not the scientists, not the NHS and not the massive amount of people working tirelessly to find solutions to crises which change by the day.

All we can do is to re-focus on what truly matters, a day at a time, and get creative in helping each other through.

Marjorie Calder is writing a daily blog –            

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