This Writer Gal

Kakul Ehsan Butt

Covid-19 Outbreak Diary

Hello people, welcome to the Outbreak! Okay, not funny. Like most of you, I am working from home. I have started writing a work diary because it’s a great way of documenting not only what is going on in the world but also, how I am dealing with this.

For the purpose of sharing here, I have combined the daily entries into weekly entries. The diary will be updated each week until I am back in office.

17th -20th March

Tuesday is the preparation day at work, which essentially means get in, get your things and get out. I pack four bags’ worth of office stuff, from folders, highlighters to an extra keyboard. Anyone would think I am not planning on coming back to the office ever again!

I have created a Corona Virus updates folder in my work email inbox and direct all emails relating to that there. There are some important updates, and then there are those random morale boosting emails from employees I’ve never heard of. We now have a company’s instant messaging service, much like a Facebook messenger, where we can chat with our colleagues. There is also an open group where employees from all over the world are posting cute pictures of their pet. So, the current mood is more wholesomely cheerful than the Brady bunch and the Waltons put together. We’ll assess this mood in two week’s time, when the honeymoon period is over.

This week, I take an afternoon walk around my neighbourhood. Along the way, I see people lined up outside the pharmacy, who are letting in two at a time. Everybody seem to be holding in the coughs.

The end of work week feels anti-climactic. Like somebody opening the knot on a balloon and letting the air out slowly.

23rd – 27th March

Welcome to the second week of working from home. Our esteemed PM, Boris Johnson has announced a lock-down. We are now allowed to step out of our homes for grocery shopping, medical, exercise and work. We are not even allowed to socialise with friends. This is nothing like the lock-down in Italy right now. Our PM is relying on Joe public to stay at home as instructed to keep the spread of virus down. There are some folks who will flout the rules no doubt. We have disbelievers among us who think corona-virus won’t affect them.

On an exciting note, Disney+ has been launched. I am looking forward to catching up on Star Wars movies and Marvel. On a much sobering note, I am paying for all the late nights incurred last week. It turns out that I can’t do late nights anymore.

On Thursday at 8 pm the nation claps for the NHS in appreciation. In my neighbourhood, folks have come out clapping and cheering, and cars drive by honking their horns. It is a really touching moment. The thing is, we don’t know how long we are supposed to keep on clapping. It becomes slightly awkward after a few minutes and we start to look to one another for guidance. I slowly retreat inside, and a few minutes later, this is all over.

This week, I encountered a strange dream. Christoph Waltz was my colleague and he was being super mean to me. I decided to bypass my line manager and go straight to the Special Interests Global Marketing Director to complain – which made no sense as he is not a part of my division.

By the end of this week, I am tired of working in my pyjamas. It was great for a while but now, not so much.

30th – 31st March

I enter the third week finally out of my pyjamas and into a jumper and trousers. I attend my first team meeting on Blue Jeans. We spend the first few minutes commenting on each other’s rooms. One of my colleague fiddles with his laptop and accidentally takes us on a tour of his bedroom. My boss ask how we are all doing, and I love how we respond positively by commenting on the situation as “it is what it is” and that we are working robustly as we possibly can. One can guarantee it will be a different tone should there ever be a strict lock-down. We plan to make this a weekly thing, separate from work meetings. This is a great way of spotting who is finally starting to crack.

I have had two strange dreams this week. In one dream I worked at the Heathrow airport and took a flight to get to the airport – which makes no sense because Heathrow is only twenty minutes’ drive from where I live. In the second dream, I found myself in an old library in my hometown and on the first floor it began to snow heavily, despite there being a ceiling. That library by the way had been razed to the ground a few years ago. So, for its ghost to appear in my dream is indeed strange.

1st – 3rd April

I enter the new month gritting my teeth during a workshop meeting held in Blue Jeans. The speaker’s constant use of “um” every few seconds is irritating me. Childishly, I take off one earphone, so that the “um” is restricted to one ear. It’s totally uncalled for and I am disgusted with myself. In another conference call, the “um” returns yet with another speaker. I try to control myself and I reason that I am either hormonal or slowly contracting a cabin fever.

On Thursday after work, I go to Sainsbury’s to pick up some essentials. I wear a mask now and I have noticed what a common sight it is now to see people wearing masks and importantly, nobody stares anymore. It has become necessary in a time like this.

On Friday, a new hospital called Nightingale (aptly named I must add) has opened. Already they are asking people (with or without medical experience) to come work for them. This shows the NHS is already buckling under pressure to meet the demands. I read about doctors and nurses who have died from the corona-virus recently. I am stunned that some people are continuing to ignore the government, the police and the healthcare staff’s warnings not to go out unless it’s essential.

On the last day of working week, I feel perky yet at the same time a bit down. While quarantined, I have learned who is good at staying in touch and who isn’t. It also made me feel invisible. Moving on, I have learned something interesting today: raison d’etre. It means reason for being. It made me think about what my raison is. I know I love writing, but is that the reason for my existence? I feel the need to take my writing to the next level to prove my raison d’etre is indeed my writing. Okay pen down, it’s weekend time.

6th -9th April

Welcome to the short week!

Over the weekend, our esteemed PM was hospitalised and is now in ICU. No matter what the politics, I wish him a speedy recovery. It’s an awful thing to be going through. Over the weekend, I published the Outbreak diary, with a vow to update it every week. That’s a commitment I guess I will need to stick to.

Monday has me scrubbing grout from my bathroom tiles during my lunch hour. Tuesday sees me ticking off my to-do list with such intense vigour. On Wednesday, I attempt a twenty minutes Zumba session. The weather has suddenly turned deliciously warm from Wednesday onward, like a dollop of sunshine.

I encounter a strange dream on Tuesday night. I find myself back at work, only to be shifting to a different office space. Then on Wednesday night, I find myself in a newsagent where I pretend to be a detective and demand the shopkeeper draw me a map.

Alright I am done for the week. It is now time for me to unwind, think about the 4500 words I need to write for a novel I committed myself to and think about another writing project. I also need to plan Spanish learning somewhere during this long weekend and read some books. There’s a pile of books that needs attention. I wonder whether I have given myself way too many things to do. Hmm. Anyhoo, have a hippity hoppity Easter.

14th – 17th April

Back to work and strangely enough I feel raring to go. You would think entering the fourth week of lockdown would be a cumbersome endeavour by now, but last night’s sleep must have rejuvenated me. Or maybe it was that lovely cup of coffee I just had. Easter weekend dragged forever, and I did get wholesomely bored. I read and tutted over the news about people breaking rules over the Easter weekend. One family drove 500 miles to Lake District only to be stopped by the police. In another story, a BBQ caused a bushfire and alerted the police to the party. Still people do not learn. I have learned 1 in 5 death is now due to virus. That is a scary fact. Apparently not to some.

I have noticed my eyebrows are growing out – which is good. I have tidied them so that the growth is happening neatly and not resembling an overgrown garden. This week, I have a chat with a friend who is dealing with the situation by doing what she does best: walking. I love walking but I am feeling so lazy these days. I would rather prefer to prop a stationary bike in front of the telly. One of these days, I will go out for a walk and inhale the fresh air.

This week, I am feeling a little sad while looking through my old photo albums. There are some fond memories of a friend who is like a sister to me. Those photos recall great times, humour and friendship that’s permanently connected to our souls. I miss her a lot.

A few days ago, company announced that we can all enjoy paid Friday afternoon off from now until July. This is a welcome news, as I am sure like many others, I could use the afternoon to do some grocery shopping. I tend to avoid doing shopping at the weekend unless I must. I clear my work tasks and set an out of office till Monday. Glorious thing is, it is such a beautiful day to enjoy.

20th – 24th April

The government has pushed for another three weeks of lockdown and as usual some people are not happy with it and have created a hashtag #EndLockdown on Twitter. To be honest, I have been expecting further lockdown. We are nowhere near a declining stage. We are still cruising through the peak.

I don’t know whether it is the effects of lockdown or not, I have been hit by a severe case of nostalgia. Midweek finds me taking a trip down memory lane to the late 90s when I was in college. I remember fondly the awful pixie hair cut that saw me through the college History trip. I remember writing a diary, aptly titled Berlin Diary. On our way back home from the trip, some people in the coach passed it along for reading, including the teachers. I still have this diary.

I know this is definitely the effect of lockdown because every working day feels like a Groundhog Day, with its usual routine: get up, shower, and walk 10 steps into my office space. The novelty of working from home is slowly wearing off. This week’s team meeting turns out to be a disaster. My manager is having internet issues and keeps getting frozen on screen. It is funny when the screen freezes on her serious face or when her lip movement does not match the speed of her speech. After a while, she’s had enough and calls off the meeting.

Despite the slowness of the company internal drives this week, I thunder through all my tasks this week, allowing me to enjoy my Friday afternoon off.

27th April – 1st May

Happy Ramzaan! Monday is the first day of fast during work hours. I suppose the silver lining is, I get to work from home while observing Ramzaan. I struggle on Monday because I am used to starting my working day with a steaming mug of coffee. It takes my brain a couple of hours to get into the work mode sans coffee. On Tuesday, I get a migraine. Getting a headache during Ramzaan is the worst! I try the forehead cooling strip, which makes no impact. What a waste of four quid!

This week brings sad news. Two actors from Indian cinema have passed away: Irrfan Khan and Rishi Kapoor. I feel tremendously sad because I have enjoyed their films. I grew up watching Rishi Kapoor’s films and he was a family favourite. I don’t normally cry when a celebrity passes away, but I cried a lot today. Like by the buckets.

A bit of good news from the government who confirm that we are now past the peak. Woop Woop!! What happens next is yet to be discussed with the nation.  

4th May – 7th May

This week begins with Star Wars day, my favourite non-holiday.


Alas, the Force is not strong with me on Monday and I find myself in the wretched part of the kitchen, reaching for the junk food. Despite the sullen mood, I thunder through my Cognos reports like the Millennium Falcon making the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs!

For the rest of the week, I decide to operate from the comforts of my bed. Though I miss my large computer screen, I don’t miss the cold office. At least I am toasty warm, which is important to my productivity.

This is a short week, with a public holiday falling on Friday (VE Day). Despite the excitement of a much shorter work week, I power through my workload to ensure no task is left pending for next week. On Thursday, I decorate my window with a Union Jack flag and realise I have found a solution to block out the harsh sunlight in my office space. I am keeping this up indefinitely. A win for me (we both know I need a win this week!).

Happy long weekend everyone! Stay Safe and stay classy.

11th May – 15th May

At the weekend, our PM tells the nation the lockdown will be relaxed. We will now be able to meet a friend in the park while keeping the two metres distance. The government has now swapped their slogan from “Stay Home” to “Stay Alert”. While they are persuading people to work from home, those that can’t, have been told they can return to work but to keep social distancing and staying alert.

While I am back in my office space, after spending the past 3 working days operating from bed, I still feel mentally and physically drained. It is one of those weeks where I wish I could have some Lucozade and be magically energised. I don’t do myself any favours by continue working beyond my work hours, which in part is due to my obsession with completing the tasks. I don’t like ending the day knowing I didn’t finish a task on time. I need to change this habit as it is not healthy at all. By Friday afternoon, I am ready to unplug from the world.

This week we celebrate 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, which couldn’t have come at a right time. In my neighbourhood, we clap for one of the medic staff who heads to his night-shift. One of my neighbours, a lady with teeth brighter than the sun whoops the loudest, making the poor guy turn a shade of pink as he crosses the road.

I end Friday by going for a quick walk around the block. I find the friendly neighbourhood cat following me on my walk. I talk to him and decide to name him Salem after the cat from Sabrina, the teenage witch. I met him for the first-time last year in June. He followed me all the way from Co-op store, where I had purchased some milk. The way he stared at the milk, meowing, I thought he wanted milk. When I gave him a saucer of milk, he turned his nose at it. He is a very cautious cat and doesn’t like being stroked much. But he is friendly and one of these days he is going to talk to me like Salem from the tv show. Salem is such a gentleman that he drops me home. There is another cat lurking around, but they pretend not to notice one another. I try my best to point Salem in the direction of another cat, but he doesn’t want to know. Awkward.

Anyway, the weekend is here, and I am off. See you!!

18th May – 22nd May

Hey welcome to the 11th week! I’d love to say how times flies, but it has been the opposite. Time, during lockdown, has stood still. I feel we are living in the world of Stephen King and M Night Shyamalan, where the unknown is out there, terrorising silently.

This week has been challenging for me. I have been feeling both mentally and physically tired. Usually around this time of year, I take my annual leave. So perhaps this is my brain’s way of letting me know I need some time off work. While I do not want to take my annual leave right now, I do think I need to create a better work-life balance. One of the things I will need to change is quit operating beyond my working hours.

Sadly, the pyjamas have come back on. Well, they came back on a few weeks ago. Somewhere I stopped dressing up, only dressing the top half for weekly team meeting. Speaking of team meeting, I am seeing the effects of lockdown on personal grooming situation. One of my colleagues’ hair is growing pointedly in every direction and he is starting to resemble Tom Hanks in Castaway. Meanwhile my own hair hasn’t felt the blade of scissors since January/February (I don’t remember which). Still, I look infinitely better than him.

I am going to end this week’s entry on a bizarre note. I had a weird dream about Donald Trump dressing up in an attire of a South East Asian woman and posing as one in a room full of South East Asian folks. And in that dream I was trying to expose his deceit but woke up too soon. Bah!

Next week Monday is bank holiday, so yay for me. Have a lovely long weekend and Eid Mubarak to those celebrating!

26th May – 29th May

Bless this short work week. My boss and I are starting to get fed up with our foldable chairs. It is not comfortable at all. We have decided that we will go back to the office next week to pick up our work chairs.

I don’t know why, but the days in the week are starting to feel like one big blob. The days seem to blend into one and there are times I have to check what day it is. Is this normal?

I have started watching a Korean drama, recommended to me by my colleague. It has my favourite Korean actor Gong Yoo. It’s called Guardian: The Lonely and Great God, if you are interested. If you want anymore recommendation, watch Blood. It’s really good and it’s on Netflix.

Thursday marks the last day, clapping for the NHS and other key workers. I think after ten weeks of clapping, it was decided enough was enough. By Friday, I am looking forward to the weekend. No plans at all but it would be nice to catch up on some reading, staring into space and the general nothingness.

1st June – 5th June

Our esteemed PM has told us we can now meet six people outside our household in parks or gardens. I need to start getting active. I am really interested in going on hikes but two months of laziness has rendered me even more lazy. I will work on this, I promise.

On Tuesday, I drive up to Oxford for the first time in over two months to pick up my work chair. This is my first time driving long distance since March. It feels weird driving over 40 mph. My car shakes a little when I pick up the pace on the motorway. My boss and I schedule to arrive at different times to avoid being there at the same time. The office feels like a ghost town. A part of me misses it and a part of me is enjoying not having to commute long distance. I am only there for ten minutes before vamoosing out of the place like a bat out of hell.

The rest of week feels so good. It makes all the difference having the right chair. I don’t know how I survived the past two months sitting on that horrid foldable chair!

This week, Black Lives Matter protests happen across the UK and on Wednesday, John Boyega from Star Wars franchise gives a moving speech in London. These protests follow up from the protests happening in the US, after George Floyd, a Minneapolis citizen was killed by the police. His death led to a nationwide protest against police brutality, followed by international protests.

Towards the end of the week, I am ready to put up my feet and watch more of the Korean drama. You know, I have also been watching Pakistani and Turkish dramas. I am international, baby!


With a heavy heart, I have decided to cease with the weekly entries. Partly because the pandemic doesn’t seem to want to end, and I got tired of writing about the same old stuff. BTW, I am writing this on the 29th of November, almost five months after my last entry. I didn’t like the way I left the diary without saying good bye. This is me tying up the loose ends and updating on what had happened to me since June. I’ll keep it short. So, offices opened in September and I decided to go back once a week. I’ll be honest with you, it was a hard thing getting up at five in the morning. A huge part of me just wanted to give up and go back to bed and work from home. But by the time I hit M40, I was looking forward to seeing the office and everyone’s masked faces. However, the office looked like a post apocalyptic ghost town – like something out of the Walking Dead series. Only five per cent of the office had decided to come in. This meant I got dibs on choosing my car parking space.

We had a one way system in place, which resembled a race circuit and it was us doing a loop around the office whenever we wanted to use the kitchen or the printer room! If I had my Fitbit watch on, I would have easily made my 10k steps.

By the time the second week was over, we had entered another lockdown. Then it was back to work from home. By November we learned about the vaccines, right after Donald Trump losing the re-elections. And that my friends, was an update. Here is my final curtain call. So, tally-ho, good bye, sayonara and adios!

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