26 days in.
We are approaching the end of our fourth week in strict lockdown.
It has unquestionably been the hardest. The honeymoon period is definitely over!
While the kids continue to be heroic in the face of this unimaginable disturbance to their daily lives, the demands of home-schooling are beginning to take their toll on dad!
Our middle school teachers have finally swung into action, getting to grips with the technology and bombarding us with a mountain of material, deadlines and ‘virtual’ lessons on a bewildering array of untested technical platforms which scarcely seem fit for purpose.
It’s a full-time job keeping on top of the daily updates, assignments and schedules from the school. Add to that the perennial problem of trying to motivate an eleven-year-old on subjects as engaging as gothic architecture, fractional equations and indicative conjugations (or should that be fractional conjugations and indicative equations?), and you have some sense of the difficulties we are currently facing!
I have lived a charmed life here in Verona these past 8-years, but the absence of gainful employment these past 4-weeks is beginning to take its toll on me! I’ve started to read again, but not as much or as frequently as I’d like. I can't write (except about the crisis and how it is affecting our family), and that too is a source of mounting frustration.
Inevitably these frustrations spill over. My 11-year-old bears the brunt of my festering discontent (usually at the end of a particularly bruising encounter with an aforementioned fractional equation).
To add to the strain, the funeral of my grandmother took place in Birmingham this week. Aged 101, she died on 27 February, before the crisis hit. Because of the travel restrictions in place, only her most immediate family were able to attend her funeral. So, to a congregation of three, the organist played Handel’s Lascia ch’io pianga, while my uncle read Luke 10: 25-37, in deference to my grandma’s years of service as director of the Wolverhampton branch of the Samaritans.
In these troubled times, it is comforting to know that my grandma had loved ones, and in particular her devoted daughter, at her side and that her passing was marked with the music, ceremony and spirit that she would have appreciated.
Against this backdrop of familial trials and tribulations, the grim death toll in Italy has continued to mount. Inevitably, the mood in Italy has shifted. Quarantine has been extended until 13 April. Flash mobs and balcony singing now seem a distant memory, a futile act of defiance in the face of an indifferent foe. The brutal economic reality of an economy in lockdown is beginning to take its toll. But Italians remain steadfast. Their sacrifice is considered a costly but necessary one.
Meanwhile, we watch on with trepidation as the UK, which seems woefully ill-equipped to deal with the escalating crisis, looks set to switch places with Italy, a bleak epicentre of crisis. I can barely bring myself to watch what is happening in America.
Amongst it all, there are some faint glimmers of hope.
In Italy, the growth in the total number of COVID-19 cases continues to slow. Today saw 1,109 new recoveries. The number of deaths is still high (727 in the last 24 hours) and the total number of COVID related deaths is an eye-watering 13,155, but intensive care admissions have begun to fall (just 12 new cases in the past 24 hours). ICU staff are still under unimaginable pressure, but the lockdown is working.
Prime Minister Conte this evening reassured an anxious nation that, when the curve subsides, we would enter phase two of the crisis - coexisting with the virus. Then there would be a third phase - returning to normality and rebuilding the country.
I for one am ready to do my part.
Next week I will deliver food parcels to those unable to get out for themselves. I hope it will give me a renewed sense of purpose and vigour. I hope.
Richard Hough writes about history, football, wine, whisky, culture + travel and is currently working on a trilogy about wartime Verona.