Dear Diary – Anisah from Haverstock School

Anisah Rahman from Haverstock School has written a diary of family life in isolation.

Date: 20 March

Dear Diary,

Today is the first day of total lockdown because of the coronavirus. School closed today. I’m feeling apprehensive because I’m a GCSE student who is supposed to be taking exams this summer.

Talking about school, my school decided to do online lessons over Show My Homework. I’m not sure how long this will last. Maintaining a routine in quarantine is difficult, so no matter how much I try, unfortunately I still wake up at 12 noon. The work I need to complete is immense, but I know that it is important to complete all the tasks caused by this unprecedented situation. Most of the work I need to submit (through images I take on my phone or documents I’ve scanned or made on Microsoft Word or PowerPoint) consists of exam papers or exam-style questions.

The uncertainty over how our GCSE exams will work worries me. It’s killing me that there seems to be nothing in the news about exams yet. I know that I have to wait, but I can already feel the anxiousness plunging though me. A miasma of worry and fear is rising within me.

Today I went outside to help my father buy groceries. Shops have been ransacked. Panic buying has reached a new level of extreme. Restrictions have been placed on essential items. Warm sugared fear coated my face. There is literally nothing in shops and I live in a family of six. I’ve never seen Sainsbury’s so empty in my life. We’ve bought some food we could find, but know that it’s not enough.

Returning home, my father and I seem to feel a little ill. It’s weird. I never usually get ill. It might just be my panic and fear for what happens next, who knows?

Date: 27 March

Dear Diary,

GCSE exams have been officially cancelled. But the government has yet to delve into the details of how our grades will be awarded. Although my predicted grades look good, I feel I could have got an even higher grade for some of my subjects if I took the exams. I’m also really worried about SATs playing a part in my final grades. Yes, those exams I took when I was eleven. Our target grades in English are based on our SATs results. My target grade for English due to SATs is a 5. But the actual grade I have been consistently achieving during my GCSE English course has been a 9. Friends of mine, including me, have cried. I know that this whole lockdown was needed to maintain social distancing and mitigate the impact of coronavirus, but everything I’ve worked for at this point seems to have just been obliterated. I honestly don’t know how to feel.

We’ve received an important letter today. Two of my family members have been identified by the government and NHS as having an extremely high risk of catching coronavirus. This means that our family are not allowed to go outside and must self-isolate for twelve weeks due to our vulnerability to this extremely deadly disease. Our GP has been stressing to us how important this is for my family in order to protect our two most vulnerable family members.

It’s sad though that we can’t go outside as the day looks so beautiful and sunny. But it’s important that we all stay inside to protect everyone. We have to do it for the NHS workers. It’s our duty. But I can’t help but notice from the window how the sun is dripping warmth like hot wax, both soothing and smarting everything below. The outside glows with an incessant light, the heat so strong it dazzles, and a thousand windows take in the view. The horizon ripples, like a bronze shield beaten by a hammer, as though some Greek god had been reborn to hurl shafts of glorious light onto everything outside.

Our online order placed with Ocado and Asda has been cancelled. Sainsbury’s have no delivery slots for the next three weeks. We are running extremely low on food. We genuinely don’t have enough food. We have also not received any vouchers intended for those eligible for free school meals. We don’t know what to do as we can’t even go outside to buy more food.

There is a community group in West Hampstead of volunteers who can help with shopping. We’ve been assigned a volunteer so we’ve sent them a shopping list. Afterwards, our volunteer will drop off the food at our home, which we will pay for by cash.

We now have food, but as there were lots of restrictions on the food, and shops again have been ransacked, it is less food than we anticipated. Hopefully this is enough for one and a half weeks.

The news is dark. Deaths and cases are rising rapidly, increasing every day.

Date: 4 April

Dear Diary,

Today is my little sister’s birthday! She is turning three today! She loves birthdays, so as a family we are trying our absolute best to make this day as great as we can for her. Spending a birthday in quarantine does have its perks though. We usually buy a huge number of balloons for her, but as all the shops are closed, quarantine has forced us to be creative by drawing and colouring in a big unicorn on cardboard attached to a 3 which we also drew and coloured in. It is genuinely beautiful and my little sister loves it. This moment has made us a family realise how creative we actually are together, and brought us even closer together in this difficult time. We then made a banner of her name, using coloured paper and letters that we printed from the computer. We then strung those letters together with ribbon we found in our home. Afterwards we made origami flowers to glue onto the wrapping of her present.
My mother and I have done our make-up and dressed up to mark the occasion. My two younger brothers and father have also dressed up in their best casual clothes. My little sister has worn two beautiful dresses we bought much earlier in preparation for her birthday. We asked a family friend if they could drop off the birthday cake and candles we paid for. Luckily, they came through.

The day was perfect. My little sister loved it, and we made so many videos and pictures to document the occasion. My little sister’s smile, laughs and excitement lit up the whole room. It was enough to make us all realise that everything would soon be OK. We just have to work together and show unity, because eventually we can all get through this scary time.

Anisha and sister
Anisah and her sister

17 April 2020

Dear Diary, 

Today I did my final training session with the charity, Camden Giving: they talked about my role as a young grant maker and what I’m supposed to look for when reading funding applications. The grants issued are to support projects for young people living in Camden, so I’m happy that I’m taking part in the decision-making. 

As I alluded to last time in my earlier diary entries, my father and little infant sister are on the ‘shielded patient list’ due to their high health needs, which make them extremely vulnerable to the deadly coronavirus. They were told they must self-isolate for twelve weeks, which forced us as a whole family of six to do the same to protect them. Unfortunately, this initially made accessing food extremely difficult, as we were advised by our GP that no family member could even leave the house to buy food. 

However, I can now happily say that this issue is being tackled thanks to the support of our GP, who helped us to join a community group of volunteers who could assist with shopping, priority access to Asda delivery slots and food parcels delivered by Camden Council and the government. Success! I think the lockdown has really helped show how united we all are as a country. 

Food insecurity is an issue that many people have unfortunately been facing, which is why I would like to take this opportunity to encourage people to seek out support if they have fallen victim to this. The Financial Times reported a sharp rise in food poverty, driven by self-isolation and the unprecedented economic shutdown. 

22 April 2020

Dear Diary,

Lockdown has finally got to me, sadly! 

I think it’s because I’ve been missing my friends, school and youth club more than ever now, so I’ve been speaking to them a lot more than usual. I am someone who thrives on social interaction with others, so for me, not being able to see friends and other young people I know was admittedly super strange for me, considering that I am a complete chatterbox to those who know me. 

However, I have been working on tackling this by contacting friends on Snapchat on a daily basis, literally every day, and by finally joining FYA’s Digital Steering Group (Fitzrovia Youth in Action) as the group provides an opportunity for us just to talk together generally and ask how we’re doing and what we’re doing etc. We also play games together online to have fun. 

Joining FYA’s Digital Steering Group has helped, as I am someone who likes to be proactive. So as a member of the group, I help to decide how we respond to what is happening around us. As a group, we are working together to create activities and projects to help young people who need support: for instance, we have created a Spotify music playlist named ‘Lockdown Listening’, and are regularly finding ways to utilise popular apps. We’re currently in the midst of making a Virtual Games Night, and we’re doing a group Tik Tok today.

We’re also doing the #dontrushchallenge but with an Asian twist to it, as we wanted to showcase our beautiful culture. As part of the challenge, I first took a small video clip of me in my ‘home attire’ with no make-up ‒ just a simple blue vest and leggings. I then took a make-up brush and covered my phone camera with it and filmed a whole new clip where I was dolled up in my new favourite Asian attire and had intricate jewellery to top it off with stunning make-up. We merged my clips with all of my friends’ clips and made a worthy video that we were all proud of. 

As both our prom and exams were cancelled for Year 11s, our school is creating a yearbook, which is cool. I finally took my yearbook picture today, so I can’t wait to see the final result. 

The best thing about lockdown, however, is finally taking great pictures with my little sister. It’s so hard to take a picture of my little sister as it honestly kills me to get her to stay still. It is probably the greatest challenge I will ever experience in my life, ha ha! But I finally did it! Guess what my new phone lock screen is …

Later on, I did a few puzzles with my three young siblings, which was fun, and did a game of Bus Stop with my whole family. Sometimes I think about how lucky I am to be quarantined with the people I love, as I know that many may be struggling with the lockdown measures and facing difficulties like loneliness. 

I couldn’t ask for better people to be stuck with. 

30 April 2020

Dear Diary,

Today I delivered a one-hour presentation on mental health to a group of young people, which was awesome. I love public speaking, so for me this was super fun.  The presentation was delivered over Zoom, which felt weird at first as I am used to presenting at events face to face, but it worked out really well virtually too.

On another note, I’ve finally been exercising. It was long due, so it had to be done. But luckily I wasn’t alone in doing the much needed cardio, ha ha. My family also joined in thanks to my little sister’s forceful nagging. She actually enjoys exercise more than any of us. It’s honestly so amusing, as she can do the moves much better! 

Then after enduring a lot of thick sweat (it really wasn’t pretty at all), we all curled up together on the sofa as a family binge watching ‘The Office’. We are all so into the series that we have been working really hard to finish it together as quickly as possible! It is genuinely an important goal at the moment for us!