Life under lockdown: A different life

Life under lockdown

We’ve just experienced our first weekend in the UK under lockdown conditions, and we’re already getting used to living our lives in a different way, settling into new routines and accepting that some things may never be the same again.

One week down, two (at least) to go. 

Friday 27th March

We had the first sign of fraying at the edges today. Predictably, Isaac cracked first.

I say ‘predictably’ because, of all our children, Isaac was the first to switch to home-schooling, having started on Wednesday of last week. He’s also a very social person and he’s missing the face-to-face contact with both his school and local friends.

Thank God for mobile phones and Houseparty. They’re proving to be a real lifeline.

Today also marked two full weeks of working from home for me, although I actually had the day off for a (now cancelled) medical test.

I’m not suffering in the same way as Isaac, though. I don’t crave company in the same way that he does. As a deep introvert, self-isolation isn’t really much of a hardship; it’s almost my natural preferred state.

So my day off consisted of supporting all three kids with their schoolwork, doing some housework and generally mooching about enjoying doing very little very slowly. I whipped up a pasta dish for lunch to give us all something a bit different from the usual sandwiches, brown food and salads. And we ordered delivery pizzas for dinner as a treat.

In short, a day of small things – but significant to me. The nature of my work means that I spend most of my working days behind a closed door on Skype calls, so I actively enjoyed being part of the kids’ days today. If the schools remain shut, I will try taking more Fridays off to retain that connection.

Tonight we tried our first Houseparty call with some friends who we normally only see once or twice a year. It was a bit glitchy but it was good to reconnect. Better still, we could all have a couple of drinks and nobody needed to be a designated driver. We’ll do more of these in the coming weeks, no doubt.

What happens after the virus?

I’ve been thinking about the long-term social impacts of coronavirus for a couple of weeks now. What will happen when we return to normal?

Will we see a permanent shift towards more people working from home? Before this kicked off, I was regularly working one day a week at home and already thinking about increasing this to two. I’ll definitely want to do that if I can.

What will be the ongoing impact on people’s mental health? How will seeing family and friends being hospitalised or even dying affect our psyche? Will the stress of being forced into a prolonged period of unsettling change leave scars?

Already our elderly widowed neighbour has been moved up to York to be closer to her family. I think this is almost certainly a good move, but given her age and deteriorating mental faculties I suspect this most likely means we will never see her again.

Will the fact that many couples are now together day and night expose cracks in relationships that lead to a higher divorce rate? Or will putting our petty conflicts into perspective lead to more reconciliations? I’ve seen both arguments put forward. Who knows for sure?

I do expect a lot of things to revert to the way they were before, at least on a macro level. That’s just how humans work. But on an individual level, some of these changes will be permanent, while some wounds will heal over.

The world may look the same once the coronavirus threat has dissipated. But on some level life will never quite be the way it was.

Saturday 28th March

Having all five of us at home all week has been an adjustment, no question. But it’s weekends where we feel the pressure of being under lockdown most acutely.

Normally we’d be running around doing various activities, seeing friends and family or enjoying days out. But now Saturdays and Sundays are basically much the same as every other day, but without work or study to help fill the time. When weekends and weekdays start to blur into one, that’s when the tedium and cabin fever really start to kick in.

Don’t get me wrong here. I’m fully on board about the need to follow what we’ve been told to do in the interests of everyone’s safety. I’m not complaining about the boredom. As noted in my last update, we have so many entertainment and informational options at our fingertips that there is no shortage of things we can do. But from a psychological perspective, we need to ensure that our weekends are different enough to break up the monotone rhythm of Monday to Friday.

So we spent this morning tidying up the garden. Kara attended her usual Saturday martial arts class online. Heather went out to do the weekly shop. Isaac had a couple of online sessions with friends playing Xbox.

Nowhere near a normal Saturday – but different enough. And that’s all we need it to be.

Sunday 29th March

The clocks went forward overnight but other than that it was a day much like any other under lockdown conditions. Instead of work or schooling, we spent some time this morning together as a family cleaning upstairs. Another week or two of this and the house will never have looked so tidy.

Since the lockdown started on Tuesday, my early mornings have shifted into a slightly peculiar routine. I typically get up 30-40 minutes before everyone else. A shot of coffee to jolt me fully awake. Then a quick 15-20 minute blast on the cross-trainer while watching an old episode of The Good Place before getting on with my day.

Even so, I now appear to be trapped in the ‘cycle of lethargy’. Is it just me, or do other people suffer from this too? Basically, the less I do, the more tired I feel. Being limited to going out for exercise once a day has limited my activity. Where ordinarily I average around 22,000 steps a day, now I’m barely getting to 15,000. That’s still a lot in most people’s books – and it’s not like I’ve suddenly turned into a couch potato – but it’s having a noticeable impact. I get sleepy in the evening and sometimes find it difficult to stay awake during the day if I’m not moving around. The more I sleep, the tireder I seem to be.

So it was good for all five of us to get out for a family walk this afternoon. We ventured up to the next village on a geocaching expedition. It was cold but it got the blood pumping. Just what the doctor ordered. I felt immediately reinvigorated.

Ready, steady, cook!

While it’s good to see the situation slowly returning to normal, the lack of food on supermarket shelves hasn’t bothered me that much. Yes, we would run out of fresh food in a few days but we have enough stashed away in our freezers and cupboards that we could probably make do for a month if we really had to.

One of the benefits of being at home all week is that I can spend more time cooking. I like to cook when I can, and I’m relaxed about making meals up on the fly, Ready Steady Cook-style. It’s not like I’ve ever been one to stick to a recipe anyway.

I think one of the keys to stopping us getting bored during the lockdown is to vary what we eat as much as we can, particularly at lunchtime where we’re now all at home every day. With that in mind, I’ve spent some time this weekend batch-cooking a few more interesting items that I can quickly prepare for lunch for one or more of us once the work/school week begins again.

It’s a benefit for the kids to break them out of established, familiar meals and introduce them to something new. And it’s one more thing that’s good for my own well-being, allowing me to pour energy into something I already enjoy doing anyway. So I’ve now got tubs of cooked chicken, hot garlic mushrooms, fried rice and pasta salads ready to go next week whenever I need them. It beats my standard chicken salad lunch or dull sandwiches any day.

According to the old saying, an army marches on its stomach. Standard rations may keep an army fuelled, but it’s variety that will keep them sane.

Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries

Our ‘new normal’: March 15th-19th

And so it begins: March 20th-23rd

The shapeless monotony: March 24th-26th


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