Lockdown Diaries: The Senior Tutor’s (Garden) Office

By Rebecca Bouveng, Senior Tutor, Jasmine Baker-Sones, Assistant Senior Tutor, Becca Hasler, Acting Senior Tutor and Sally Hewett, Alumni, Development and Communications Officer.

Rebecca

Lockdown has allowed me to turn the garden into my very own, green office. I have everything I need: an old extension cable from the shed powers multiple devices for zooming and teaming; and easy access to the kitchen allows for regular snack time. Like the rest of the nation, I bake almost every day, from soft Swedish cakes to sweet challah and sourdough bread. I definitely note an increase in what the Germans have termed ‘Covid-speck’ (or Covid-fat). There is even affordable childcare for my baby boy in the form of a swing that you can wind up (good exercise) so that it swings baby on its own for an entire, blissful ten minutes! Birds singing in the surrounding trees provide a soothing soundtrack. Overall, it’s a lovely work environment. It is weather dependent though – at a College Officer meeting last week I had to interrupt a serious, strategic conversation to shout “it’s started raining” and run for cover, moving my entire operation inside. And when it’s really sunny, the neighbours on both side like to enjoy music outside – for the elderly couple next door, it’s all opera, and for the young Londoner on the other side, it’s techno and R&B, all equally valid forms of music but not great in combination. Worth it to enjoy the sunshine though. I miss seeing everyone in person – colleagues, friends, students – but I am thankful that we can still continue working from home, and spend more time with family. The pandemic has certainly forced us into a slower rhythm of life, which I find very restful. Once it’s over, I hope we will find a way to keep the best of two worlds.

Colleagues at St John’s are so disappointed that they are no longer able to help Rebecca taste test her baked goods.
Hopefully Rebecca remembers to bring her office chair inside at night.

Jasmine

Life has certainly changed a lot for all of us over the past few months, and now that I spend most of my time in the house, I have learnt to enjoy a slower pace of life. While I miss being in John’s and seeing all of the staff and students, I have learnt to enjoy working with my new feline colleagues and chatting to students and (human) colleagues on Teams. My once busy social calendar now includes playing socially distanced bingo with my street after the ‘Clap for Carers’ on a Thursday night and Zoom quizzes with my friends and family. While I hope things can get back to a semblance of normal soon, I do hope that I keep elements of my lockdown life, such as branching out that sense of community spirit beyond John’s and into my own little community at home.

Jasmine’s feline pets have been promoted to feline colleagues.
As well as enjoying Zoom quizzes with friends, Jasmine is known to host a short quiz for colleagues at the weekly staff newstime.
Knock on the door, it’s number four! Some neighbourly community spirit in the form of a weekly game of bingo.

Becca

One of the things I most enjoy about working at John’s is that no two days are the same. This has continued to be true even working from home. Since lockdown begun, I’ve been providing postgraduate support remotely, coordinating College accommodation, and helping to plan for the year ahead.

This has also been a time of change for me personally. I was meant to get married to Pastoral Tutor Gary this summer, so we’ve spent a lot of time rearranging our wedding for August 2021. It’s a shame to have to delay, but we’re looking forward to being able to celebrate with all of our family and friends next year. In the meantime, we’ve been treating ourselves to elaborate baked goods, including my very decadent invention of dark chocolate and ginger rocky road.

The best bit about working from home is that I don’t have to do my usual commute to John’s from Newcastle. Instead, I’m using the extra time to take long daily walks around the beautiful Jesmond Dene, and to catch up with my new lockdown friend – the peacock.

Isn’t he beautiful?

Sally

When lockdown began I was almost 200 miles away. I had taken three weeks of annual leave in which to get married and go on honeymoon, and was instead returning to work. What better way to distract myself from the disappointment? Working from home has at times been more intense than I thought possible. There’s a big field behind my house and I walk around it a few times a day to get away from the screen for a while. Using Microsoft Teams has been a fun way to communicate with colleagues, but I do miss occasionally popping into the Senior Tutor’s Office mid-afternoon in search of juice and snacks. Fortunately, one is never too far from the kitchen at home. My biggest culinary achievement so far has been a delicious chocolate cake, topped with cream cheese icing and extra moist thanks to one hidden ingredient: beetroot! I plan to bake it again and perfect the recipe in the hope that it will be our wedding cake one day.

Sally’s next goal is to spread the icing around the outside of the cake too.
With the sunny weather and the donkeys on the daily walk, it’s just like being on holiday in Greece.

Want to share your thoughts? We actively encourage discussion and debate and would love to hear your opinion! If you’d like to write a full response, or if you have any thoughts on this article that you would like to share with us, please comment below or email johns.chronicle@durham.ac.uk.

Please note that the views and opinions expressed on this site are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial board.

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