Almost 10 weeks into lockdown.
In March, when Boris told us that it would last three weeks, I thought “three weeks…. three WEEKS … THREE WEEEEEEEKS?” that’s an eternity with just the husband and dogs for company.”
And yet on Tuesday, for the first time I felt fidgety. Perhaps it was the muggy, sunny weather.
Over the last ten weeks I’ve also felt anger and frustration and, at other times, tranquillity.
Anger that Covid-19 hasn’t just moved the goalposts but has vindictively tried to whip them away completely. Our business, in which Kirsty and I have sunk all our time, money, ideas and energies for the last three years, is facing unexpected challenges, and I haven’t kissed or hugged my gorgeous kids and grand-daughter for weeks (I’ll NEVER forgive you for that Covid).
My frustration comes from feeling helpless and concerned about the future. Those of us “business hotshots” have discovered that in this new reality, we’re about as much use to society at the moment as a chocolate teapot. I don’t nurse, I’m not a carer or a key worker. I’m an editor of a magazine. How useful is that? Eh?
What real use is clapping every Thursday? But we clap – and I love to hear the hand-on-hand and wooden spoon-on-saucepan-bottom echo rippling up from the valley below.
The tranquillity comes when I remember how absolutely, utterly lucky I am. I have a home, a garden and time – a commodity I last remember enjoying before I had my kids. I’m not cooped up in a city tower block with challenging, school-age children I am expected to home-school.
Instead of being with my children and granddaughter physically, we talk most days and have a virtual family get-together once a week – which lasts most of the evening. And we never talk about Covid.
When I’m not working (and we’re still putting in five full days a week), I’m sewing, reading, walking the dogs, planting vegetables. I’m blessed, and most of the time I remember that. But I’m also human, so sometimes the frustration and anger break through.
Though it might lurk, unseen, in the nooks and crannies of daily life, I’ll wash my hands of Covid, avert my face, step away from my fellow man for as long as it takes, and I’ll win the battle.
Work is keeping us exceptionally busy. Business & Innovation Magazine is in its fourth year – and we had big, BIG plans for expansion this summer. We’d spent the Christmas break planning and organising, getting the right staff in, publicly announcing our intentions– everything was in place.
And then, on March 24, lockdown. Overnight everything changed.
Our business model was based on publishing a quality, bi-monthly magazine supported by a daily news website and sector-led events. But with everyone working from home, there was little point producing a magazine and posting it to directors’ empty desks.
Everyone had relocated to their back bedroom/cupboard under the stairs/kitchen table (actually, being able to gawp inside other people’s houses on a Zoom conference call is a quiet, but welcome pleasure).
With the change in working habits, we made some decisions fast. Protect the cash flow, chase debts, preserve the bank balance. We are in the fortunate position of having almost three years of business success under our belt and had built up a bit of a fund to support our anticipated expansion this summer.
So where are we now?
Ten weeks later and my car still has three quarters of a tank of petrol in it. I’ve been to the local supermarket just three times (there are no shortages of eggs or flour at our village post office, and the pub has turned itself into a village store). And for the first time in my life I’ve dug a vegetable patch.
Our business model has done a 180-degree turn. For the moment, temporarily, we are an online news service. Our website is now carrying more news in a week than it did in a month.
As a result, numbers visiting our website have soared, and our twice-a-week newsletter is being opened by almost four times as many people as before.
And we might not be key workers, but we are making our own contribution. Because businesses need to know what’s happening in their area, what support the government and the banks are offering, how they can get that help. They need to know that it’s not all bad news – there are opportunities still to be seized, companies succeeding and others adapting to meet the UK’s new priorities. We run these stories, and more.
We are offering a wider perspective to those who are sometimes struggling to look beyond their immediate situation, which in some cases we know is precarious.
So we might not be care workers, or key workers, but we have looked at what we’re good at, how we can contribute in these extraordinary times and know that we can play an important role.
We are now adapting our game plan for the future. We might not be expanding this year, but we’re planning to publish a printed issue in the Autumn. And we’re using the time to look at what we were planning. Was it the right thing to do then? Is it the right thing to do now? Can we seize the opportunity to offer something different, even more relevant for the regional business community and most importantly enjoy building it?
We’re looking at the bigger picture. As the Roman soldier and celebrated poet, Horace, said more than 2,000 years ago: “Carpe Diem” – Seize the Day”
He also is quoted as saying: “Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous times, would have lain dormant.”
Quintus Horatius Flaccus was pretty bang on the money. And when you consider he was writing two millennia ago it perhaps gives us a different, wider perspective on the challenges our precious world is facing.
(Oh – and spending time with my husband and dogs hasn’t felt like an eternity. It’s actually been lovely.)
You can read Kirsty’s time in lockdown story here