If ever there was a time for some proper solid do-gooding, it’s in the middle of a deathly pandemic. People ill and dying, people isolated and vulnerable, people lonely and afraid and in need of help. This is the moment Zeroes are made for. This is the moment we should take off our glasses, batter into a phone booth, strip off our kit and spring into action.
Instead, I decided to spend ten days off my tits with fever, and then most of March struggling to breathe, and then half of April self-isolating while I downgraded my cough from persistent to lingering to socially awkward. It’s been frustrating. But I’ve been up and about for a few weeks now, and the old nagging feeling that I should be doing more is kicking back in.
Usually yer child protection social work is good for a bit of the old ultra-do-gooding but it’s proving tricky in lockdown. Partly that’s because half my time has been spent deleting the 8,000 emails I got while I was off sick, most of which found me safe and well in these unprecedented times. But mostly it’s because I’m cut off from the children I’m supposed to be looking out for. I’ve talked a few people into home visits by Skype, having them walk their phones from room to room to check home conditions haven’t reached the threshold of neglect. I’ve phoned people endlessly, checking they’ve got something to eat and something to cook it with. Everyone’s stressed and broke, and about the best thing I can do for them is let them cry at me and then give them money for gas. It’s helpful and all but it doesn’t feel like part of the Covid effort. It’s just my day job, and I’m doing it less well than in the Before Time. And there’s no one clapping for social workers. Not now, not ever. I’ve been sitting in my flat every Thursday night, the blinds drawn, brooding like a knock-off Batman while all around me people are clapping their hands and banging saucepans as an antidote to decades of chronic NHS underfunding. I want a piece of that sweet acclaim, damn it all to hell!
After a quick bleach dialysis (do not do this) I got stuck back in with the Red Cross. They reckon 70,000 people have signed up to be community reserve volunteers, most of them, I assume, minutes after this blog went live. I spent my day off phoning people who’d run out of food or medicine, and got them sorted with either or both. There were people going hungry for having their benefits sanctioned. People shut in because of old age, illness and disability. People with mental ill health too anxious to leave the house for food. People with no one else to help them. I’m going to do a weekly stint there until this all blows over, and stand proudly at my window on Thursday nights like the queen on her balcony, chest puffed, balls out, soaking up cheers on a very slight technicality I hope no one looks into.
You should sign up yourself, or give some cash to their Covid response campaign, or join the million or so who’ve signed up to volunteer for the NHS, or donate to the foodbanks that are struggling to stay stocked, or to Women’s Aid because of the massive spike in domestic violence on account of how abusive men in lockdown are even bigger bastards than usual.
But the best thing you can do right now is help me figure out a closing paragraph for this thing that isn’t an uplifting, hacky load of old bollocks about how we’re all pulling together, singing Vera Lynn’s greatest hits and making bunting out of used facemasks, but that also isn’t a sneering, cynical bit about people flogging soap for a tenner on eBay and billionaires wanting a bit of socialism for their airlines and demanding worker-drones get back out to an unsafe world while they stay locked away in their evil volcano bases. There’s a middle ground to be had here, people. Let’s see what we can do.
Photo credit: The Zero