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Mensa keyworkers - lockdown brings new challenges for Rachel

Both in her day job organising the needs of vulnerable children and her "hobby" as a St John Ambulance volunteer, Bedford-based Mensa member Rachel Hargreave Mawson is helping to keep vital services running during the coronavirus lockdown

How has lockdown been for you?  Everyone seems to be struggling to manage boredom or cope with children suddenly at home all day. Judging from messages on social media, people are either dressing up or not bothering to get dressed at all, undertaking extreme fitness programmes, or drinking from breakfast time onwards. Others seem to think that the only way to cope is to pretend it is not happening at all and go to the park for a game of cricket.

My experience of this period is very different.

I work for a local authority. In pre-lockdown times I am the manager of the team that gets young people with special needs and disabilities to school safely and on time each day. It is a massive logistical exercise, matching staff to vehicles, and vehicles to routes, getting the children to school and home again – hopefully without incident. 

Lockdown may have reduced the numbers of children going into school on my vehicles from over 700 each day to literally a dozen, but many of the young people who are now not in school are classed as “vulnerable” for one reason or another, and they need to receive additional support at home instead.  Some receive a hot meal at school, which they may not get at home. For others, school may be the only place they get away from a toxic family relationship, or perhaps they benefit from some form of counselling or physiotherapy. So not only am I trying to still do my day job, and manage my team, I am also trying to develop emergency support services to fill the holes that COVID-19 has exposed. 

In my spare time I volunteer with St John Ambulance. Normally that would involve me spending weekends at festivals and shows providing first aid services to members of the public who have injured themselves or been taken “unwell” whilst enjoying the summer sunshine, or what passes for it in Britain. The shows and festivals may have been cancelled but the need for our services carries on.

A few days ago, I was providing First Aid cover for a team building a temporary morgue. Other colleagues are working in the Nightingale Hospitals around the country, or assisting the ambulance services, transporting patients between hospitals so they can get the help and support they need.

The main benefit to me from lockdown is that I no longer have a commute of two hours to and from my desk. That in turn means I can now get up at a sensible time, 06:30 rather than my “normal” 04:30 and, more excitingly for me, I get to sit up later in the evening. Indeed, I actually *get* an evening. So, if there were a social life to be had, I could now have one.

Against that, I have yet to master a work/life balance under these new conditions. Whether sitting on a train or driving along the motorway, no matter which mode of transport I used, the time it took to get home allowed me time to switch off. I no longer have that precious time where I feel that I can legitimately do nothing else and I miss it. 

Oh, and over the last four weeks all my clothes appear to have shrunk.