Everything feels a little Groundhog Day right now, doesn’t it? Another week of lockdown, with still no end in sight and no grand plan yet. It feels like we’re heading slowly towards at least an easing of the current restrictions. But is it just around the corner? I don’t think so.
And it’s that uncertainty that is most depressing at the moment, I think. We can cope with being on hiatus but it would be less stressful if we had some kind of idea when it might end. Of course, the situation is so complex and ever-changing that it’s impossible to say with any certainty when it will be safe to exit lockdown. And so on we go …
Monday 27th April
We made a big effort to ensure that the weekend felt distinctly different from the week that preceded it. Do different things; do new things. Make our own pasta. A DIY karaoke evening.
It worked. Insofar that anyone can be enthusiastic about returning to work on a Monday morning, I was. Even the kids seemed to settle back into doing schoolwork without too many complaints.
So, what shall we do this weekend, then?
Tuesday 28th April
Similar to many other people, lockdown has encouraged us – even me, an anti-social introvert – to have more frequent contact with friends and rekindle dormant relationships.
I had a Zoom call this evening with a former work colleague who I worked with nearly 20 years ago (oh my God, was it really that long ago? Apparently so), haven’t seen for about eight years and last spoke to some time in mid-2018. As personalities, we were like chalk and cheese: she’s loud, instinctive and talks a mile a minute, whereas I’m quiet, considered and only interject occasionally. But, as a pair, our working relationship and friendship just worked because we recognised our strengths were complementary and we always had each other’s backs.
Consequently, two years after our last conversation, we spent two hours chatting away with barely a pause for breath. I’m rubbish at making small talk generally. But this was like slipping back into a favourite pair of jeans that has lain forgotten in the back of a wardrobe.
When did life become so manic that we allow relationships such as this to drift? There’s something not quite right about being too busy to prioritise such friendships. I need to do something about that.
Wednesday 29th April
The weather doesn’t often affect my mood but it has this week. After a spell of warm, sunny weather, it’s been cold, grey and wet the past couple of days. Meh.
A succession of aches and niggles hasn’t helped my mood much either. I went out for a run with Isaac and Toby after I finished work for the day. None of us was particularly motivated and I came back at the end of a slow, short effort with twice as many twinges. I’m convinced I wouldn’t have felt half as bad if the sun had been out.
I think this underlines how fragile everyone’s mental health is these days. It certainly doesn’t take much to tip my mood. I’m snappier with the kids. When things don’t go well at work, I’m affected more. It’s a slow, insidious process. Little by little, as the weeks pass I sense my resilience is being gradually worn down. It’s something we all need to keep an eye on. For many of us, it won’t be one big, momentous disaster that brings us crashing down. It will be more like death by a thousand cuts.
Thursday 30th April
So here we are: the end of April. We have spent this entire month in lockdown and the passage of time has become a distinct blur. It took me ages to work out that this is now almost the end of my seventh week working from home.
It’s as if April was the month that never was.
I took a day off work today. When I first started taking time off to help look after the kids, I set out with a defined list of things to do with them and other household tasks. Now it’s rather more unstructured and expectations are lower. I try to give each child a bit of one-to-one time. We come together for a communal reading session or a family walk. We may not achieve as much but we do something.
What this last seven weeks has also proven to me is that I can definitely work from home longer-term. I spend most of my day on Skype calls with colleagues all over Europe and rarely have face-to-face meetings. When people start returning to the office, I imagine social distancing measures will remain in place. Many employers will encourage staff to continue working from home at least part-time where their jobs allow it. For a few, it will make sense to designate them as home-working. I’d be fine with that. I don’t need as much face-to-face social contact as others and working remotely doesn’t negatively impact my ability to do my job – in fact, it’s often a benefit.
When we return to ‘normal’, there are a number of changes I’d like to keep. Reviewing my default place of work is high on that list.
Friday 1st May
A new month, and all of a sudden I’m thinking more about what life will be like as we start to emerge from lockdown. When will schools reopen? Shops? Other businesses?
I’m fascinated to see how other European countries manage the gradual reopening of their economies. How will schools bring different year groups back? How will they enforce social distancing? What will they do if concerned parents choose to keep their kids out of school? Countries such as Switzerland will start to reopen schools over the next week or so, while others such as Italy have already said their schools won’t return until September. (In Italy’s case, this is partly because they would normally finish early for summer anyway – June 7th.)
As I commented yesterday, how will businesses bring office-based staff back while ensuring a safe, socially-distanced environment? Will we see a temporary – or even a permanent – relaxation of home-working policies? Are we going to see more and more people working from their kitchen tables going forward? And what will be the impact on both the offices which will become under-utilised and the local businesses such as sandwich shops that depend on them?
Saturday 2nd May
Not a particularly eventful start to the weekend, but quite a good one nonetheless. Family housework has replaced all our usual sporting activities on Saturday mornings. A long walk together. Pizza and movie night. Quiz. It was good.
Less good is the increasingly frustrating way ongoing government communications are being run. Every stat is spun to within an inch of its life, presenting such a distorted version of events that we are led to believe that a strategy which has overseen 28,000 deaths is somehow a roaring success. We were promised that 100,000 tests would be carried out every day by the end of the month. Instead, we had a single day where a number in excess of this was announced, but this was distorted by the inclusion of 40,000 tests that were mailed out, not administered.
I’m not sure what disappoints me most. A desperate government distorting reality to present abject failure as a glowing success. A press that fails to hold them to account for this most transparent of tactics. Or the general public for being so gullible as to fall for this hogwash, just because we are desperate to read any good news, no matter how fake.
Sunday 3rd May
It feels like so many things are on hold at the moment, not least our holiday plans.
We have two weeks in France booked for the end of August. Right now, I’d guess it’s 40:60 – at best – that it will happen. If not, then what? Will we book something in the UK? I can foresee a mad rush to book places the minute lockdown is lifted, with prices for the school holidays in particular going through the roof.
We had so many holiday plans lined up for the next couple of years, with trips to visit family in Australia and Malaysia amongst others. But what will the air travel industry look like in a year’s time? And how many airlines will still even be running?
It’s not hard to envisage scenarios where air travel becomes much more restrictive and expensive in future. And that’s assuming we don’t end up with a second and potentially worse wave of infection.
That way lies madness, though. We have no control over what happens, or when. In the meantime, I’m assuming the worst and anything that does happen will be a positive.
The uncertainty doesn’t help, though. Beyond holidays, who knows what the future holds? I had plans for several other events this year too: another Tough Mudder, a summer korfball tournament, concerts and so on. Will any of these happen? These are small problems in the grander scheme of things, for sure. But it’s not the hiatus in activity that’s the hardest thing to cope with, it’s the not knowing whether I need to put these parts of my life on hold for a few weeks, a few months or potentially even longer. Right now, I don’t think any of us can tell exactly how far away the light at the end of the tunnel is.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries