As one three-week lockdown ends, another begins. And so the cycle starts again.
Can anyone remember what life was like before coronavirus turned it upside down? I’m beginning to forget already.
Tuesday 14th April
Getting back to work this morning after a four-day Easter weekend was hard. It’s always a jolt every year but doubly so this time around.
With no schoolwork to do, the kids are very much still in holiday mode. It’s an increasingly difficult challenge to stop them from spending the entire day bouncing between one screen and another.
And it’s becoming noticeably harder to maintain my normal routine too. Normally I would wake up shortly after 6am to get ready to drive to work. When I started working from home, that quickly became 6:30, then 6:45. Now it’s more like 7am and it’s a real struggle to resist the urge for just another ten minutes in bed.
The days really are all blurring into one now. Normally after a bank holiday I go through most of Tuesday convinced it’s Monday. Today it felt more like Whateverday.
Wednesday 15th April
Some things happened today. They were quite similar to things that happened yesterday. And probably most of them will happen tomorrow too.
Actually, that’s not quite true. The kids built a massive den in Toby’s bedroom on Monday that extends across almost the entire room. Kara and Toby slept together in it on both Monday and Tuesday night, and Isaac joined them tonight too (although he did eventually retreat to his own bed in the middle of the night). It was really sweet. Particularly since starting secondary school last September, Isaac has drifted away somewhat from his younger siblings. They don’t often do things together any more. This was potentially one of the last such events. It made us smile, anyway.
Thursday 16th April
To help balance the childcare load, I’m taking a couple of mornings off work this week. I can’t say I accomplished very much – but at least it meant Heather was able to shut herself away and have an uninterrupted morning.
In other news, so it begins again. The UK is heading into (at least) a further three weeks of lockdown.
Here we go again
It shouldn’t really have been a surprise to anyone; it certainly wasn’t to me. Leading political, healthcare and scientific figures had been planting the seeds of this – as is now standard operating procedure for creating a ‘soft landing’ for planned bad news – for the past few days.
With other European countries such as Denmark, Austria and Italy beginning to relax some of their lockdown restrictions, public pressure to follow suit will undoubtedly rise in the coming days. But it needs to be remembered that all these countries entered lockdown a week or more ahead of the UK. And, in the cases of Denmark and Austria in particular, they did so soon enough to prevent the massive rise in cases and deaths we have witnessed in the UK.
We are now committed to remaining under lockdown for long enough that we will be able to learn from the effectiveness of these countries’ slow emergence from lockdown. If they work, we will have a good model to follow. And if they experience setbacks, we can learn from those too.
Either way, I’d rather accept the negative economic and social consequences of staying in lockdown a week too long than to risk ending it a week too early. Caution is dull – but this is one decision we can’t afford to get wrong.
Friday 17th April
Another night, another online quiz. We dialled into a virtual quiz with one set of friends last night. Then this evening we organised a DIY version with another group of friends where everyone created a round of questions and we then did it all together. It was a bit like one of those dinner parties where everyone contributes a course, but conducted over Zoom and with questions instead of cheesecake.
We started with a round specifically for the kids, who devised their own questions for each other. They then went off to have their own Houseparty chat, or run ferally around the house, or whatever it is that kids do when left unattended, while the adults did their quiz.
It was good fun. I love both creating and participating in quizzes, so this was very much up my street. And, of course, Heather and I won, which is all that really matters, right? (I’m joking. Honest. It’s not all that matters; just the most important thing.)
It’s funny how virtual quizzes have become very much the middle-class thing to do during lockdown, isn’t it? Not that I’m complaining. You’ll never what we’re doing tomorrow night …
What is ‘normal’ anyway?
We’re 3½ weeks into lockdown and I’ve just completed my fifth week of working from home. I’m definitely now at the point at which the ‘new normal’ is just plain normal. Indeed, I’m not sure I can remember exactly what the old normal is any more.
I’ve now been working at home for 5 weeks. The ‘new normal’ is now so normal that I can’t remember what the ‘old normal’ was like in the first place. Apparently there were these things called restaurants? And there was stuff in the news that wasn’t about coronavirus? Weird 🤔— Tim | ThatchamDad (@thatchamdad) April 17, 2020
There was a time when we used to talk about non-coronavirus stuff, such as Brexit. Remember that?
Or football. Tomorrow should have been FA Cup semi-final weekend. The past few weeks have been so surreal that I’ve barely even thought about football, let alone missed it.
I do wonder about a couple of things, though.
Over the past month, many of us have become accustomed to a slower, less complex way of life. No restaurants, cinemas or days out. I’ve driven my car once in the past four weeks. Work is confined to a constant stream of Skype calls and emails in our little study.
But what will happen when lockdown is lifted and I eventually return to the office, like an animal coming out of hibernation, blinking uncertainly in the spring sunlight? I think it’s natural to assume that everything will snap straight back to normal. I don’t think it will.
For one thing, we’ve been slowly building up new routines and habits during lockdown, and they won’t be instantly unlearned. You know how it takes a while to get into the swing of things on your first day back after a long holiday? Now imagine what that’s like after a break of, say, 2-3 months rather than 2-3 weeks. I suspect it will unsettle people more than they realise. And I fully expect it will trigger some surprising mental health issues for a lot of people who find the transition back to normality isn’t as smooth as they’d anticipated.
There’s also the question of whether we genuinely want things to return fully to the way they were. I’m not sure I do. While there have been downsides to being permanently at home, there have been many upsides too. I haven’t missed my daily commute; it’s about a 90-minute round-trip each day. I’ve appreciated being able to have dinner as a family every night.
My work hasn’t really been affected much by transitioning from office to home. I spend most of my time on Skype calls and rarely meet with colleagues face-to-face anyway. Even before the current situation started, I regularly worked one day a week at home and was considering extending this to two. Other than for occasional human contact, I don’t need to be in the office. Working at home saves me a fair chunk of money and I do slightly longer hours because I don’t have to commute. So, working from home benefits both me and the business – and the environment too.
I won’t be the only person who has had these thoughts over the past few weeks. But it may well be that I should look into whether the temporary ‘new normal’ should become my actual normal on a permanent basis.
Saturday 18th April
I’ve almost forgotten what our old Saturday routine felt like. We used to dash around all day ferrying kids to various training sessions and classes, and then collapse in a heap at the end of it.
Now though, Saturdays start with a leisurely lie-in. Everyone contributes to tidying the house and doing various chores in the morning. Heather goes out to do our weekly shop in the afternoon. When she gets back, I go out for a run; today, I was joined by Kara for the second time this week. And we’ll finish with a family dinner together. I like it. It’s something I’d really like to try to maintain after things return to normal.
Sunday 19th April
Today felt suitably Sunday-ish. A long family walk in the morning. A late-lunchtime barbecue and an afternoon spent socialising with our neighbours across the Great Divide (the missing fence panel between our gardens). Ushering bickering, overtired kids to bed.
It’s not particularly exciting. But Sunday has now become a proper family-and-friends day to round off the week. That’s rather nice.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries