Covid-19 Something Something.

I bought this hat back in January when the year was still new and filled with so much possibility. I was so excited - a hat which actually fit my giant head, which I could tie under my chin to keep in place, even when breezy! No more hair pins stuck through hat bands, ripping out my hair with one strong gust. It was perfect for visiting the Lake District with in June, a treat with my lovely mother and sister in law filled with boardgames, local fudge and lots of long, sun kissed walks. Who knew that when I shot these photos a month later in February, the world was about to change so dramatically.

I've not left the flat now for over 70 days for fear of killing my partner. Without fail, he gets a chest infection every single time he has a simple cold thanks to his asthma and I am more afraid of giving Covid-19 to him than I am having it myself. I find myself constantly flipping back and forth between feelings of dread and guilt. Dread for all of the obvious reasons - PPE shortages, fear of death, terror at the notion of never going back to a life without masks, gloves and feeling afraid. And guilt because we are in a position where despite everything going on, for the most part we are ok.

I am a freelance photographer so my regular work started to dry up around early March. I had the odd piece of fit model work come my way with samples being couriered to our flat, but really I've been in freelance limbo waiting for the government's Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to kick in for the last two months. It sucks, but at least I am lucky enough to qualify for it unlike so many others.

My long term partner (who I am so grateful to be in lock down with) is working more than ever. He is thankfully salaried, so whilst I'm not bringing in much at all, we are just about keeping things together. We can pay our rent, we can do online food shops and we can order our prescriptions to be delivered through our letterbox. We have been able to pull up the drawbridge to our tiny rented flat with windows that don't fully open, and excommunicate the rest of the world from our lives outside of Whatsapp chats and Zoom dates. And I feel incredibly lucky, and privileged and awful and selfish and heartbroken and relieved all at the same time. It's exhausting. But then I look at my situation and wonder who I am to complain about my feelings at all.

I grew up in a proudly working class family. I was born in Guys Hospital and taken home to the basement flat in an Old Kent Road tower block. We were a typical 80s family with my mum being the centre of the home, and my dad working the type of hours where it felt like we barely saw him. My brother and I always had special birthday cakes and Christmas gifts, even if there were never family holidays or day trips out. We weren't well off, but we had a roof over our heads, we had food on the table and the bills were always paid. Sometimes there would even be a cinema trip and a milkshake in the school holidays. We were ok, we got by, but there was no real financial security.

This has been something which followed me as an adult. I never had a family home to fall back to when I had a relationship break down, or if work was slow and I was worried about my rent. I never had a safety net, financially or emotionally with one parent dead, and the other living as if they were. But I got lucky with my boyfriend - a loving, supportive partner who came with a family who adopted me as one of their own. A chance meeting which meant nine years on, I'm not having to take on part time work in a very public facing role because if I don't, my rent won't get paid.

People don't like to talk about class or money or even getting support. But here's the thing; I don't think I would have survived as a photographer without the help of my boyfriend, who over the last nine years has become a patron of the arts when work has been quiet. And I would definitely be struggling to survive this - both emotionally and financially. It is absolutely 100% down to him that I am able to ride this out, looking out of the windows from our mould ridden Ivory Tower whilst we wait for the Morrison's van bringing our shopping delivery. 

By myself, I'm in a precarious situation where I am constantly treading water and sinking a little more each time. But as a couple, I forever have someone throwing out a lifebuoy to rescue me. And I guess that's the crux of why I feel so guilty - Covid-19 is a new class war and I am surviving by proxy. And it feels unfair - why should I have this advantage just because of who I am living with? Why are other people having to cram themselves onto the Underground to go to work, why are people forced to be "frontline superheros" because their supermarket job is holding them hostage? Why are people being told they have to go back to work if they don't feel ready?

I've really been struggling to articulate my feelings on this, which is why this whole passage probably feels so disorientated and all over the place. I don't know what I can do to help people that's practical. I feel like I can barely help myself, and it's frustrating.

In the meantime, all I can do is direct people who might be in more of a position to help to the following organisations:

The Trussell Trust who are helping to stop hunger: www.trusselltrust.org
Refuge who are helping women and children escape domestic abuse: www.refuge.org.uk

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