The adjustment to life in the time of Covid-19 continues. Routines are being slowly created and the possibilities of this very different existence are being explored. I cannot help but think of my grandmother and her stories of her life in World War II with 5 children under the age of 7. One day I must record her stories for posterity.
The attempts to limit the visits to the supermarket have had unintended consequences. Making do and stretching leftovers to their maximum has meant that we have even less organic waste, we’ve saved some money and we’re eating healthier. Ordinarily, finding a good work / life balance is impossible. Towards the end of every term – and lately even towards the middle – I am running on empty, going through the motions of meal preparation, shopping lists and general housework. So the chicken carcass goes straight to the bin and we treat ourselves to a take away even when the fridge is bursting with food. The spirit is willing of course, but the flesh is weak.
This last week, two whole chickens were transformed into 3.5 meals – roast chicken, roast chicken sandwiches, chicken curry and a chicken noodle soup made from the chicken carcasses. It feels good to enjoy cooking again.
One of the possibilities we're exploring is for the boys to learn more life skills. Today we are preparing pizza. As I write, the pizza dough is proving and the tomato sauce is simmering. The boys were treated to a rendition of instruction with an Italian accent, although they would beg to differ. A mixture of Russian, Scottish and Malti was their verdict. Mimicry was never my strong point.
I catch myself marvelling several times as I watch them kneading, chopping garlic, opening cans of tomatoes and stirring the sauce. How good it feels to have time to do this. When the time of Covid-19 is done and dusted, life as we know it is surely going to have been transformed into something else, something so much more human and sustainable? I so hope this.
The humiliation will forever be seared into my memory. When we arrived in Malta in 2010, my 15 years’ UK teaching experience was completely ignored when it came to the calculation of my salary, and I was placed on Rung 1 of the Maltese Teacher Salary Scale. It takes 20 years to get to the top of the Teacher Salary Scale in Malta. In that first year, despite his best efforts, Eric was finding it difficult to find a job in his field of journalism. After rent and Arms bills on the incorrect tariff, our family of 5 was meant to live on €300 per month that first year in Malta. Those were difficult times and my eyes were opened to the completely arbitrary way in which an ordinary individual was meant to navigate the unjust dysfunction of Maltese administrative policy, completely on their own.
Some lovely strangers on social media were very liberal with their advice: Work as hard as me and then you’ll be able to buy your own property, they proclaimed. It’s the market, innit; a landlord can ask for whatever rent they want. You want ALL the salary arrears owed to you? – You’re being cheeky to want ALL your salary arrears, don’t you think? You had some guts to ask to have your prior teaching experience recognised.
Our financial situation is fine now but I will never forget those years. My heart goes out to people who are in precarious financial positions in these times.
It’s heartwarming in this last week to see the best of humanity. Landlords reducing the rent, people offering empty hotels or cheaper rental accommodation for health workers to use… It’s also an eye opener to see exactly who is being thoughtful and generous. All the household millionaire names are conspicuous by their absence in this fabulous exercise of generosity. I suppose this isn’t L-Istrina or some public relations exercise. When their belts have been tightened one notch and their ill-gotten gains are possibly stalling, for a while anyway, they’re going to forget about even the proportionally paltry sums of money they dish out on L-Istrina, for all the world to marvel at their “largesse”
The last few weeks have shown us who the true heroes are: the nurses, the doctors, health workers in general, the stackers of supermarket shelves, the employees at the check-out…What an upside down world we live in, where the entitled few get richer by the minute when they slap concrete everywhere and destroy our planet. Whilst the essential workers get paid a pittance and are easily dispensed with when no longer required.