Life under lockdown: A marathon, not a sprint

Life under lockdown

The UK’s third and final week of coronavirus lockdown ended with the four-day Easter weekend. But with no sign of restrictions being lifted any time soon, it’s finally dawning on everyone that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

It’s been quite a week. The Prime Minister hospitalised. The number of deaths climbing into five figures. Weekend temperatures into the 20s. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that we’re still in lockdown – and likely to remain so for several days (if not weeks) to come.

Monday 6th April

It feels like we’ve had a year’s worth of news just in the last week. The punches keep raining in one after another without pause. Nothing feels particularly shocking any more.

Having been taken to hospital with coronavirus symptoms last night, this evening Boris Johnson was moved into intensive care with worsening symptoms.

Now I am no fan of our Prime Minister or his politics. Nonetheless, the only humane reaction to this news is to wish him a speedy recovery.

Or so you would think.

Digging just a little beneath the surface on social media, it wasn’t hard to find people merrily claiming he was getting his just deserts and hoping that he dies.

What is this world coming to? You may disagree with his politics. You may think he’s a callous, privileged, dangerous, fool. But does anyone deserve this level of vitriol?

I wonder how his pregnant fiancĂ©e, Carrie Symonds, feels about it. And I wonder how those people who are so blinded by hatred would feel if others laughed at one of their loved ones being hospitalised with COVID-19 …

Stop this bus. I want to get off.

Tuesday 7th April

We’re now into the final week of the UK’s 21-day lockdown and it amazes me that some people – albeit a diminishing number – still seem to think everything will simply return to normal after Easter Monday. It’s classic Ostrich Syndrome, where people will stick their heads in the sand to deny the evident truth.

The lockdown in Wuhan ends tonight after *76* days. The UK’s restrictions won’t last anywhere near as long, not least because – regardless of the actual merits – public pressure will compel politicians to act more quickly, especially once other countries start to emerge from their lockdowns. But the last thing anyone needs is for us to revert to normality prematurely and force us into another lockdown two weeks down the line.

It’s a tough call to make. And, let’s face it, no matter when the call is made it will either be far too early or way too late, depending on your point of view.

Wednesday 8th April

With so many folks cancelling time off over Easter, my work is asking us to take holidays in April to prevent a logjam later in the year. I’ve decided to take a couple of half-days a week so that we can juggle work and childcare between us more effectively.

This morning was my first half-day off. Truth be told, I was quite looking forward to it.

So while Heather shut herself away in the study, I took over with the kids after breakfast. Cajoling Kara and Toby into doing Joe Wicks’ daily PE session. Ensuring they each ticked off their daily tasks. Playing the eternal game of “What did I ask you to do 5/10/15 minutes ago?” Gathering all four of us on the sofa for a quiet read, just to get them away from screens for half an hour. Preparing lunch.

Okay, I admit it. There was a bit of shouting involved at times. But it was mostly fun. I got to spend some time away from the constant barrage of emails and calls. Heather had some productive time working without constant interruption. And I settled down at 1pm and rattled through a ton of work.

Not bad. I’ve got a couple more half-days coming up next week after the long Easter weekend. I could get used to this.

Who do we want to believe?

It’s been interesting to find out more about how other countries have taken different approaches to communicating with the public during this crisis.

Take Greece, for instance. Their daily press conferences are led by experts who provide information and answer questions, with politicians following up to talk about policy changes.

This is in stark contrast to the UK. Here, the political message takes precedence and it’s commonplace to see even the most rudimentary of questions side-stepped. Experts play second fiddle, and often it seems like their sole role is to be thrown under the bus if someone does raise a tricky question.

I guess this says something about how citizens of the two countries have been conditioned to regard the opinion of experts, and the extent to which their politicians are trusted. Interesting.

Thursday 9th April

And that’s week four of working from home done and dusted.

My company is in the middle of a massive global restructuring at the moment. Whenever I return to the office, I’ll have a new line manager (I haven’t been told who yet), at least 50% of my day-to-day contacts will have changed and most of the people around me will be working for different teams. 

At least my job seems to be secure and I’m still being paid my full salary. But going back to the office after an extended period away would be a big adjustment even under normal circumstances. In this situation, to say it’s going to be unsettling is a massive understatement.

Friday 10th April

On this day in 2018 I was flying to Milan – now a city under strict lockdown – with work. This time last year we were flying out to Disney World in Orlando. Today we’re at home doing some gardening.

I wonder what we’ll be doing this time next year?

Saturday 11th April

We took advantage of the Great Divide – the missing fence panel between our garden and our neighbours’ – to hold concurrent barbecues this afternoon. Cooking and eating were performed simultaneously but separately. Then we all lined up our camping chairs and sat together a couple of metres back. We chatted, drank, read books and played one giant game of Uno (using two separate packs). We toasted marshmallows in rotation over a fire pit. And we kept on going until long after the sun went down.

There was something particularly lovely about being able to spend an entire afternoon like this, with no rush and no pressure. We don’t often have the time to spend a leisurely social afternoon like this. We should find ways to do this kind of thing more in future.

Sunday 12th April

Last year we spent Easter Sunday at Disney World. This year, we went for a quiet family walk to seek out some local geocaches, had a roast dinner out in the garden and did an online pub quiz with friends.

I enjoyed our walk. It was good to get out as a family and spend some rare one-to-one time with Toby as we split off from the others on our way home. Our middle child receives the least dedicated attention from us, largely because he does the fewest activities and is the least likely to join us on walks. But today we chatted for a good 40 minutes and in far more depth than usual. He’s such a detailed thinker and I envy his single-minded focus. I’ve never really had one clear, driving passion. But Toby has set his heart on becoming an architect one day. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he did. He has a fascination with buildings and design that goes far beyond a mere whim. Who knows?

An evening catch-up with friends on Zoom is becoming a regular feature of our lockdown weeks. Participating in an online quiz was also a good distraction from the current situation. We did the Cancer Research UK one. And while the quiz itself was mediocre, it was still a fun way to get some banter and laughs going. A little light relief was more than welcome.

Monday 13th April

This has truly been an Easter bank holiday weekend like no other.

Every previous Easter I can remember since Heather and I got together, we have either been with family or away on holiday. We have never spent the four-day weekend on our own at home. It’s entirely possible we will never do so again.

Yes, the lockdown restrictions have meant we haven’t done any of the things we would otherwise have done. But they have forced us to spend four entire days as a family of five: reading, playing games, cooking and baking, watching TV and, yes, arguing too. For the most part, it’s been good.

The kids spent much of today building a giant den in Toby’s bedroom. Last week we set them all a themed story-writing challenge. This evening we gathered in the den and they read out their efforts; we discussed and critiqued each in turn. Toby and Kara have now gone to sleep in the den.

In theory, today should have been the final day of the 21-day lockdown. In reality, it will continue tomorrow and most likely extend for at least another week – and probably longer. With the official UK death toll now in excess of 11,000 – and the true total more likely close to double that – life under lockdown is no more certain now than it was three weeks ago. If we didn’t know it before, it is now most definitely a marathon and not a sprint.

Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries

Our ‘new normal’: March 15th-19th

And so it begins: March 20th-23rd

The shapeless monotony: March 24th-26th

A different life: March 27th-29th

Hanging in there: March 30th-April 5th

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