Reality has bitten in this middle week of the UK lockdown. We may not be achieving everything we might have hoped for. But we’re hanging in there – and that’s no small achievement in itself.
I’m still determined to celebrate even the smallest of small wins. And there have been plenty enough of those during this past week.
Monday 30th March
We were all a bit grumpy today.
I put this down to the fact that weekdays and weekends don’t feel as different to one another as they once did. Weekdays used to be about going to work or school, while weekends were about lots of activities and big days out, or seeing the grandparents. Now we’re at home all week, just the five of us. Yes, there’s still the separation between working time and weekend time. But we spend the whole week in the same place. We wear the same clothes all week. And we don’t have the busy, exciting weekends we’re accustomed to.
Weekdays and weekends just blur into one another, so Monday morning is a bit of a shock to the system.
We need to do something about this. Make a bigger thing of Friday evening to draw a line under the week. And ensure we finish Sunday in a notable way so that we can reset ourselves for the week ahead.
Thinking cap on.
Tuesday 31st March
It feels like there is no news these days that doesn’t relate in some way to the coronavirus crisis. But one story in particular today hit me hard.
It was the news that a 13-year-old boy from London had died from COVID-19.
Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve watched the death toll – not just in the UK but all over the world – increase rapidly, almost exponentially. But beyond a point we become numb to numbers. The count continues to rise but it becomes increasingly abstract. Once one or two becomes a hundred or even a thousand, it starts to lose meaning and feels increasingly impersonal.
It only really punches us in the gut when it affects someone we know. Or when it’s a child who dies. While loss of life is always tragic, there is something particularly visceral about the death of a youngster.
Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab was just a year older than our eldest child, Isaac. He had no underlying health conditions. Hospitalised only last Thursday, he died yesterday – just four days later.
It’s easier to rationalise the threat of COVID-19 when we are told that it is only the most elderly, vulnerable and those with underlying health issues who are at greatest risk. For someone so young and fit to succumb raises the stakes that much higher. It suddenly feels a lot more real.
I’ve always known that my parents are high-risk due to their age. As an asthmatic and diabetic, I am too. I know there’s a danger that both they or I could, with one fateful roll of the dice, join the rising tide of statistics. I accept that. But the thought that any of our children could also die – however low the risk – is not something that sits easily in the mind of any concerned parent.
Wednesday 1st April
Is anyone else feeling lethargic?
In the early days of lockdown, I was full of energy. Get work done. Help the kids with schoolwork. Keep everyone’s spirits up. Go, go, go.
Now it’s an effort just to get out of bed in the morning and not let the burdens of even an average work day bring me down. I check my inbox with a slight sense of dread. The hours drag by. My natural sense of cynicism – healthy in small doses – at times threatens to spill over into something altogether less helpful. The kids get on my nerves more quickly.
This is just natural, though, right?
I think it’s okay to feel a bit lethargic and worn down. Now that we’re settling into the reality of our new normal, it’s alright to downgrade our expectations slightly. Having got off to a fast start, I’m settling into accepting that this is a marathon not a sprint.
What’s that old expression? To finish first, you first have to finish.
I keep seeing memes on social media or posts from motivational experts saying that we should all be aiming to develop ourselves during this crisis. Learn a new language. Take up a musical instrument. And so on.
If you have the motivation, time and opportunity to self-improve, that’s wonderful. Go for it. But equally there are many people facing uncertain employment or financial futures. Or households where parents are juggling both home-working and childcare, and just reaching the end of the day with your sanity intact constitutes a big win.
So if you’re struggling with something specific or just generally feeling lethargic like me, be kind to yourself and celebrate the little wins. Learning new skills is great. But keeping your family and yourself on the rails is the most important priority.
Isn’t technology wonderful?
The lockdown means our kids can no longer go to their usual activities or see their friends. But technology such as Zoom and Houseparty is brilliant for bringing the outside world to them.
All three kids have been regularly doing the morning ‘PE with Joe’ sessions on YouTube with Joe Wicks. Kara has piano, gym conditioning and martial arts classes to keep her busy. And Houseparty has definitely taken off with both kids and adults alike.
It’s easy to forget that it has only really been in the past four or five years, as high-speed broadband, laptops and smartphones have become increasingly common across the UK, that all these things have become possible. These things are second nature to our children’s generation. And it has been great to see how many small businesses have been able to transition so quickly from a physical to an online presence.
As recently as a decade ago, lockdown or quarantine conditions would have meant genuine isolation with little more than a TV for entertainment. But now we can attend online classes, stream movies endlessly and order virtually anything we want online for home delivery. Lots of people have taken it on themselves to organise online pub quizzes, bingo nights and other communal activities to keep people connected. The list is endless.
Lockdown isn’t fun. But it’s certainly a lot easier to survive today than it ever would have been in the past.
Thursday 2nd April
Our children seem to be taking it in turns to have a bad day. On the whole, they’ve been really good. But as days turn into weeks, the tedium is setting in and being under each other’s feet every day is causing tempers to fray.
The frustration manifests itself in different ways.
Kara scowls, snarls and descends into endless sarcasm. (She gets that last characteristic from me – sorry.)
Toby whinges and whines. (At times his pitch rises to a level only dogs can hear.) He’ll demand the opposite of what everyone else wants, just for the sake of being contrary.
Isaac bounces off the walls because he can’t see his friends. Even though he is constantly talking to his classmates on the phone and with his other friends via Instagram, Xbox and Houseparty, it isn’t enough. He has always needed face-to-face or physical contact too. You can tell when he’s on a bad day because he needs constant hugs.
It’s difficult, isn’t it? I wouldn’t say any of our kids are particularly needy. But they need more reassurance than usual at the moment. And while, as parents, we are of course happy to offer that, who is there to reassure us?
As I am forever saying, while the short-term focus is on protecting our physical health, the longer-term threat is to our mental well-being. We need to maintain both.
Friday 3rd April
Day 11 of 21. We are now past the halfway point of this lockdown. Okay, maybe it will extend beyond the initial three weeks but this definitely felt like a ‘hump day’ of sorts. We’re closer to the end than the beginning and we’re all still in one piece. That will do.
Saturday 4th April
Under normal circumstances, the Grand National would have taken place today. I barely noticed. (ITV ran a virtual race run to raise money for the NHS instead.)
I’ve always loved sports. It has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. And it’s a big part of our kids’ lives too. So it has surprised me how quickly I’ve become used to not having live sports on TV, and to not spending a significant chunk of weeknights and weekends shuttling various kids around to training, matches and competitions. One minute it was omnipresent. Now it’s disappeared completely. And I don’t really miss it at all.
On a completely unrelated note, I had a bath today for what the first time in maybe five years. All these things that I suddenly have time to do again …
The ‘Blitz spirit’? Yeah, right
This weekend the weather has taken a distinct turn for the better, with the temperature pushing up into the high teens. While I welcome the arrival of warm spring days, I can’t help but feel the UK would benefit more from an extended cold snap.
Of course, sunnier weather combined with nearly two weeks of lockdown have prompted some people to head for beaches and parks and to host barbecues and picnics. On the one hand, I understand why people feel the need to blow off some steam, especially if they are living alone or stuck in a small flay, say, with no garden. On the other hand, this doesn’t stop such actions from being recklessly stupid by increasing the risk of spreading the virus and prolonging the lockdown.
It also puts the lie to the commonly held belief that the British public will survive Brexit, coronavirus and any other national crisis simply by invoking the ‘Blitz spirit’. We have seen how even the early stages of an emergency bring out the worst in some people. They panic-buy basic provisions. They think that guidelines meant for all somehow don’t apply to them. I fear that the people most likely to flout lockdown restrictions will also be the first ones to complain when their actions lead to it being extended, possibly with even more draconian restrictions.
It appears that all it takes to undermine the Blitz spirit is a few days confined to our own homes and the temperature rising above 15°C.
Sunday 5th April
Today was a day of social contact.
Firstly, we managed a Skype chat with my parents and brother. It has been five weeks since we last saw them in person, and being able to see as well as speak to each other makes a big difference, especially for the kids.
Who knows how long it will be before we see them again? Both my parents are in their eighties, and in the back of my mind there’s always a slight anxiety that the children may already have seen them for the last time. It’s a thought I try to keep pushed firmly to the back of my mind, but it’s there nonetheless.
One of the fence panels between our garden and next door’s blew down just before Christmas and hasn’t yet been replaced. It means we now have something of an open-plan arrangement which provides easy access between our gardens.
It also makes it easier for us to have a couple of beers and a chat across the ‘Great Divide’ on a sunny spring afternoon while still maintaining social distancing. Sure, we could sit on our driveways and do much the same thing, but doing it out back feels a bit less in everyone’s faces somehow.
Anyhow, it made for a nice way to finish the weekend. And having delivery pizzas for dinner put a nice full stop on the week and gave us a sense of closure ready for tomorrow morning.
Another week chalked off. Two weeks of Easter holiday next …
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries