While we all live within commuting distance of Brook Green, a sizeable number of our community have close family overseas whom we haven’t been able to see throughout the pandemic. We’ve been caught in a web of travel bans, quarantine requirements and fear of infecting ourselves and the often elderly family members we long to see. When we scan the news for international COVID numbers, it’s because those numbers affect us personally.
I haven’t seen my grandparents in India for over a year and the news from their city is particularly grim. With hospital beds full and oxygen depleted, the authorities deem any building with a certain number of positive cases a ‘containment zone’ and seal it for a period of time. Food is delivered to the door, but nobody can leave or enter. My grandparents are currently ‘sealed’ inside their house and while they’re cheerful, philosophical and thankfully unaffected, it’s a worrying time, to say the least. This worry is shared by many of us and weighs on our minds as we enjoy the brilliant sunshine here in London, miles away from those we’re worrying about.
For Paulinas like me, Covid has brought the many facets of our identities into sharp relief and at times it feels quite disconcerting. The virus’s peaks and troughs don’t coincide with those in London so my family weren’t the only ones barely celebrating Christmas in London while parties raged on beaches overseas, and we’re now planning garden parties and restaurant outings while simultaneously dreading the news that an international phone call might bring.
Of course, separation isn’t unique to those of us with grandparents abroad. Anyone obeying the rules would have stayed away from their older relations through the lockdowns, knowing a simple hug could carry great danger. It must feel particularly harsh to be prevented from entering familiar homes we can easily walk past or drive through.
In all this, technology has been wonderful, and the older generation appears to have embraced it. During remote learning, the time difference made break a great time to have a FaceTime chat with my grandparents and they’ve started using Zoom and WhatsApp which they’d scarcely heard of before. But still, we’d much rather see each other in person and mark special occasions together, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that after May 17 we’ll see our families abroad framed by their doorways, and not by our screens.