It’s currently the start of December, 2020. Things are still very far from normal, but I wanted to write down some memories from our first lockdown days, so that they’re logged somewhere.
This is the series of posts I wish I’d written at the time… a space to mark down what it was like, right there and then, as we lived through it. The first national lockdown. The proper lockdown. (Lockdown 2 – as challenging as it is – feels nothing like it, and I doubt we’ll ever return to those early days…)
I wrote my last post as the schools closed. Everything felt terrifying, dark and doomed; like nothing we’d seen before. A virus was on the rampage, worldwide, the true ramifications of which were unknown. Schools were closing, businesses were closing, everything was shutting down, and hospitals were filling up. There were fights over pasta and bread in the supermarkets, we couldn’t find flour anywhere, there was the toilet roll saga… The general feeling was one of utter desolation. We’d very quickly lost the world we knew and we’d also lost contact with each other, never knowing when it would return. And it still hasn’t.
I can only describe my personal experience of those early lockdown days, though I’m aware it will have been different for everyone. In a lot of ways we were very lucky. I have two kids who were 5yrs and 8yrs when it started, and they gave me something to focus on and to get up for. However, they came with their challenges too. PE with Joe, every day. Wow, now that became a battle of wills. And how to describe the grim reality, challenge and despair of homeschooling..??? It tested me to the very core.
Mr M worked safely from home, tucked upstairs in the loft, and he’s still there now, squirrelling away and talking to people all over the world. My work disappeared immediately (I’m a freelance copywriter) but at least that meant I didn’t have to juggle work and kids, as many of my friends did.
However, my additional challenge was that our house was a building site throughout lockdown, with people hammering away just outside the windows. All of the windows… it meant that we couldn’t use our garden, despite the glorious sunny days, so we made use of our one hour of allotted time in the fields at the end of our road, and those slices of time became magical. An hour of freedom and fresh air.
I wish I’d written a log of my days then, because it was such a bizarre time that no one on earth had ever experienced before. Emilia did a lot of writing challenges by author Frank Cottrell-Boyce, and he told her to write a diary entry, every day. Things that we experience as our every day right now will be so very strange to look back on in the years to come, when the world is different, and perhaps normal once more. (He’s right; things change so much over time, even without a pandemic.)
Food was a major challenge for many. We didn’t step foot inside a supermarket for weeks, relying only on food deliveries, but spots were scarce and we’d repeatedly log on only to be told that we were in a queue behind 18,000 or so other customers.
Robin struggled without his friends… he’s a very social creature, a jester, who thrives in the company of others and loves to make people laugh. His mood often became dark and challenging… he’d sit down and refuse to leave the field at the end of our hour, and I’d have to wrestle him home, with strangers looking on worriedly at me and the screaming, angry boy in my arms.
We didn’t use the car for almost two months so we got to know our home town pretty well. All the hidden pathways and bits of woods were thoroughly explored as we looked for some variation in our day.
The roads were empty of cars. People would walk down the middle of them to avoid getting too close to one another. There’d be a twitchy queue outside Tesco Metro, and voices of frustration within as shoppers were told that they had to stick to the one way system around the store and couldn’t go back for the bread they desperately wanted.
Celebrities suddenly became more accessible, and helpful. I mentioned Frank’s Writing Wrinkles above, and they gave Emilia a real creative outlet and a great way to express herself. Oti Mabuse did live dance classes online, and Noel Fielding did a weekly art club… these things really helped us. They lifted our mood, gave some order to our day, and something tangible to look forward to.
Rainbows featured very heavily throughout the entire time…
The 5 o’clock news briefings with Bojo… well, they seemed like the perfect time to brace yourself and open a beer. Alcohol seemed to feature rather frequently in those days. Most people I know didn’t see the point in not having a glass of wine in the evenings. What else was there to do? To look forward to? And one thing you’d absolutely need it for would be for the many, many Zoom calls, and painful quizzes. I am utterly exhausted by Zoom these days. Seeing my own face up there amongst all the others… the glitches, the accidental talking over each other. The silent gaps in between where everyone feels a bit awkward…
I also remember frenzied texting with friends. Constantly wondering what was going to happen next, when things would get better, when we’d be able to see each other, when the hell the schools would open their doors again… Contacting others helped with the gnawing, deep-seated anxiety, and at least made us realise that we weren’t alone with it all.
So, here I sit at the end of a somewhat more relaxed Lockdown 2, heading straight back into Tier 3. We’ve become more used to living through a pandemic now… for us, there’s less stark fear and more drudgery. Masks are normal. Social distancing is normal. Not seeing people, or going anywhere, is normal.
There’ll be little change in our every day coming out of Lockdown 2, but the kids can play football, and do their swimming lessons again, and these are big wins for them. In fact, being back at school with their friends means that their life is fairly normal again now. Thank GOD for school. And for teachers. Let’s please, please never take these things for granted.
Here’s to 2021. It’s got to be better than the last year of hideousness … right???