Uncharacteristically, I have found this month’s piece really difficult to write. Normally I have a clear story to tell and a moral somewhere within it. But everything really is pretty shit at the moment, isn’t it?
Some of our colleagues in the sector have lost their jobs, some have been made to not work even though they long to. Others are spending every waking hour trying to save their charities from oblivion. And all of this is having a devastating impact on the people we are trying to serve, who will suffer, not just now, but once this is all over.
And while some of us are also moving heaven and earth to get a rescue package from the government, even if we succeed (which we will) by then it will be too late for many.
In this context, stories about my dog Arthur’s latest misdemeanours seem wholly misplaced.
Yet I have to admit that I have found moments of complete hilarity in the midst of the trauma. For example, when one of my peers accused Rishi Sunak of not showing us a big enough package I could not stop giggling about it for hours afterwards, wildly inappropriate though I knew I was being.
Then there was the horrible day when I had to furlough most of the staff at the Directory of Social Change. I logged into my girlfriends’ WhatsApp to weep and wail, and in a post full of expletive-laden missives about previous shitty times completely failed to check which WhatsApp group I was in and managed to share a great deal more about myself than the chief executives of the major infrastructure bodies in the Covid-19 Emergency Group either needed or indeed cared to know. On the bright side I can probably now join M15: no one can blackmail me because apparently I have no secrets any more.
And you know those makeover shows where you get the “before” and “after”? I am finding it really amusing to see my colleagues and peers (including me!), trapped at home, metamorphosing on a daily basis from super-smart, professional-looking, groomed and polished people to rather more frazzled and dishevelled folk, many trying to contribute in a professional manner in Zoom meetings while being visibly manhandled and abused by their children and/or pets.
Suffice to say we are all looking rather more “before” than “after”, and I think that most parents now realise it’s not the teachers that are the problem.
For people who are in the intense wave of all of this, it’s probably harder to find the funny. However, I come from a family of public servants: armed forces, the NHS, law, criminal justice, prison services, charities, the civil service and so on. Call it gallows humour or what you will, the one thing we have in common is recognising the incredible value of laughter in keeping you mentally healthy in the face of really difficult times – to know it’s ok to find the funny.
So I’ll leave you with this terrible joke. Covid-19 is turning us all into dogs. We roam the house looking for food, get yelled at if we go too close to strangers and get really excited about walks and car rides. (Sorry!)
Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change