Skip to content

A message from Jane Parfrement - 7 July 2020

9 July 2020

Last week I shared a personal lockdown story with everyone in Children’s Services. The feedback was so positive it made me think that it was worth sharing more widely


I am the Derbyshire and Derby City lead for our work on recovery. This means I bring together all agencies and government departments to look at issues relating to recovery, that’s how we try and get back to a new normal, including issues that are entirely new to me such as planning for the pubs opening last weekend!

As part of this I chair a weekly strategic recovery group and this is made up of people like the chief executives of the district and borough councils, the Peak Park, the police and health providers as well as the Ministry of Defence and government department representatives.

It would be fair to say that before the first meeting I was a bag of nerves. I was chairing my first large meeting on Microsoft Teams, and as an official meeting I knew that it would be recorded.

So I started the meeting and was gaining confidence and it all seemed to be going really well when I suddenly heard some splashing behind me. I sit, when home working, in a part of my house with two windows directly behind me and a patio door to the side - my window cleaner had decided it was the best moment to begin cleaning those windows, so not only was there a splashing and squidgying (not sure if that’s a word) effect but he appeared directly behind and to the side of me at various points.

My dog, unimpressed by the assault on his home, turned vicious guard dog (he is usually soft as anything) and was launching himself at the windows and doors in an attempt to get through them and rip the window cleaner from limb to limb.

My chairing of the meeting went from slightly nervous but organised and in control to mayhem within the space of minutes.

I had my finger on and off the mute and camera on/off button like a gamer coming up to their final challenge and at one point had to cup the microphone attached to my tablet to whisper into it whilst trying to shield it from the dog's barking and the, by now, car wash level of splishing, splashing and squidgying.

At one point my teenage son wandered through wearing only a pair of shorts (it was a hot day) to find out what on earth was happening and to remind me the dog needed some more treats buying when I next went shopping.

Then the window cleaner not content with the level of disruption already caused rang the doorbell to be paid.

To say I was relieved when the meeting ended was an understatement and when I hung up I descended into hysterical laughter.  

I then rang one of the internal participants to check how chaotic this looked as by this point I was wondering if the recorded version might turn up on a new COVID-19 show called ‘When Live Meetings Go Horribly Wrong’. Thankfully she said none of this was obvious from her end and she felt that the meeting had run really smoothly!

The moral of this story is that we are all coping with chaos, we can cope better than we think most of the time, but even when we manage to make it look like we are coping this is not always the case. 

Since I shared this story with colleagues in Children’s Services I have had quite a number of positive comments, mainly along the lines of colleagues being reassured it is not only them that have been interrupted by children or pets while on an online call or meeting.

So please don’t stress if this happens to you. It happens to all of us.