The Exile Begins (Again)


Almost a year ago, March 17, 2020 to be specific, I told my then Operations Manager that I had Type 2 Late Onset Diabetes and was told to go immediately, go home and self-isolate for fourteen days. Which I did. When I got back, I was one of the first to be issued with a laptop to enable me to work at home. I declined. I had already learned enough to know that I couldn’t possibly work from home. My pokey little flat doesn’t give me room to create a workspace separate from the ‘homespace’, and leaving aside the security concerns associated with dealing with company data and customers’ personal information, my job involves taking calls from customers whose services are not working. Indeed, as a senior Agent shortly to ‘celebrate’ ten years service, I frequently take repat calls, customers whose faults have not been fixed at first insatance (or second instance, third, fourth…). As you can imagine, not all those customers are philosophic, reasonable or capable of recognising that you are on their side and not just willing but eager to help. Two or three of that kind of customer a day, and you need time and space in which to decompress, and a physical severence between work and home .

Anyway, I couldn’t cope with the distractions available within easy reach. I can function in the ofice and, what’s more, concentrate. At home, I would be crawling the walls in less than half an hour.

It’s gone ok since then. I miss the friends I haven’t seen in nearly a year, I miss the buzz and energy of people about. I am the only one of my team who works in the office, but I haven’t felt as if I’m part of a team for a very long line.

Not of this is meant as a litany of complaints, though it sounds lilke it. It’s a factual account. This is work. Only it’s not right now, nor for the rest of this month.

I was shocked to get home from work on Thursday and find a letter from the Council, telling me the NHS has added me to the Critical Patients List and I am required to Shield until 31 March. Shocked because I have managed well so far. I have not contracted COVID nor have I infected anyone that I know of. I was sent home from work for a fortnight in October because somebody on my floor had tested Positive for COVID and they were closing the floor for two weeks as a precaution, and to undertake a deep clean. Since the Monday before Xmas, I have been off ill once, for two hours, with a headache.

But I have not survived this far by kicking against the medical precautions that have been urged on us. Work agrees: I will be put on Shielding Status (that means at least one holiday I’ll get back because I’m not on Duty to take it). I have to obey instructions, if I choose to work it’s entirely at my own risk. Despite feeling a fraud, I have sorted things out at work, let them take a copy of my Shielding letter for evidence, and was back home even before my shift should have started today.

Being on my own with no Support group, I cannot perfectly Shield. I was only going to four places as it was: work, food shopping, the chemists, the launderette, and the furthest of those, the chemist, is only two miles away at most. For the rest of the month, that’s down to three.

The Exile observes his solitary, and rather pokey, kingdom and is thankful for the sheer volume of books, comics, CDs and DVDs that are his sole companions. Maybe I’ll even clean the place properly as well…

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