Life under lockdown: Months, not weeks

Life under lockdown

So now we know where we stand. COVID-19 is still claiming hundreds of lives every day. And so the UK will remain in some form of lockdown for some time yet.

At first, we hoped it would be a temporary measure for a few weeks. But now it’s clear this will be an ongoing reality that will continue for several months. Now more than ever, we need to remain calm and sensible, while also finding ways to keep adapting and maintain our resilience.

Monday 4th May

Isaac’s school set up a Strava challenge last week. They’re asking students to log their running and cycling to encourage more exercise, and keeping track via various leaderboards.

It’s worked with Isaac, who has risen to the challenge. He has been going out on long rides almost every day, as well as putting in extra sessions on our exercise bike.

Sometimes all it takes is the right thing to come along at the right time to provide a spark. Isaac’s competitiveness has come to the fore here and it’s giving him both a physical and mental boost just when he needed one.

Tuesday 5th May

Kara turned eight today – the first birthday we’ve had in our household under lockdown. We feared she might not take it well. She took it all completely in her stride.

We had to defer some elements of her birthday; others may never happen. She will probably never have a party but she did have video calls with friends and grandparents. There were plenty of presents, although her big gift – a new bike – will have to wait until a later date. But instead we dedicated time to her to ensure she knew it was her day, and that was all she needed.

It was a reminder of how flexible and resilient kids are. They have handled every challenge and disruption that lockdown has thrown at them with aplomb. And I’m sure they will continue to do so, even if six weeks turns into six months.

Wednesday 6th May

I’ve started doing Joe Wicks’ daily PE With Joe YouTube sessions this week. Yes, I know. I’m a little late to the party here. The kids have been doing it at least two or three days a week since the beginning of lockdown. But there you go. I’m doing it now.

I’m actually quite enjoying it, even though it’s exposing how inflexible my ageing body is. Running was becoming a bit of a grind and I’ve decided to take a week or two off because of niggling muscle problems. So this is helping to keep me fit in the meantime.

To be honest, I needed to shake my routine up a little anyway. In the seventh week of lockdown, I’m finding it ever more important for my well-being to find new things to focus on. Like Isaac’s Strava challenge with school, half an hour every evening doing a basic training session is just what I needed.

Thursday 7th May

One of the biggest positives of lockdown is the way Toby and Kara have forged such a strong bond.

For a long time, they didn’t get on. That started to change two summers ago, while we were away on holiday. Their relationship has eased in fits and starts ever since.

Since the start of lockdown, they have been forced into each other’s company much more. They used to spend their school days in separate orbits. Now they do their study tasks together in their den or the living room. Kara used to spend most of her free time out of the house at gym, Brownies or martial arts. Now everyone is at home, with more opportunities to play games, watch films or read together.

Add to the above Isaac now being off in his own secondary school world. The net result is that lockdown has emphasised the gap between our eldest and his two younger siblings. And, in turn, they have turned to each other for friendship and company in the absence of other friends and distractions. It’s lovely.

Friday 8th May

I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t up for celebrating the 75th anniversary of VE Day today. It was great that lots of people on our estate had put the bunting out. I liked that many had organised socially distanced street parties. They sat in their front gardens and driveways and chatted with their neighbours. I could even forgive the idiot who cranked up his sound system from midday well into the evening, because I really needed to hear Jerusalem from 300 yards away.

I actually quite liked that other people had made the effort. It’s just that I wasn’t up for making a big deal of it ourselves. Frankly, I didn’t have the emotional energy to invest in it.

Don’t get me wrong. VE Day is important. Our kids understand the sacrifices made by previous generations. They know what that means in terms of our freedoms today. I just think it’s more relevant that they have visited the WWI battlefields and cemeteries in Belgium (we did that last summer) than to drape Union Jacks everywhere and watch adults get sozzled all day.

So we had our regular simultaneous barbecue with our next-door neighbours and chatted across the hole in the fence instead. The kids flitted in and out, doing their own thing. And after they had gone to bed, we sat outside around the fire-pit having a proper grown-up chat. That, more than anything, reinvigorated me more than any street party could ever have done.

Saturday 9th May

I despair, I really do. Conga lines in the streets. Large crowds singing We’ll Meet Again – where? In the ICU? – with complete disregard for social distancing. People turning up drunk in A&E.

Yes, I know it’s a small minority. I know people feel the need for a release, to blow off steam. And we all make our own choices about what level of personal risk we will accept. But where I draw the line is where the actions of others have a clear and potential impact on our wider society.

And it’s not as if the UK’s version of lockdown has been either as stringent or as long as those endured by citizens of other countries such as Spain. So while I appreciate that lockdown is tougher on many people than it has been on us – those living in cramped, shared accommodation with no easily accessible open spaces and a lack of stable income, for starters – my tolerance is not as high as it has been for, say some of my Spanish or Italian work colleagues.

I also know that I can’t control what others do. And it may well be that it’s me that’s being too cautious. But I care about what happens to others. I remain unconvinced that some people care about anyone other than themselves.

It makes me glad that we at least have the world of virtual pub quizzes to fall back on. Two more tonight. I’m rarely happier than when we’re huddled over a Zoom call trying to agree who the only goalkeeper to ever save a Matt Le Tissier penalty was.*

Sunday 10th May

A good day to end the week. We did a long family walk/bike ride in the morning. Haircuts at home. Card games. Pizza. What’s not to like?

It was even good enough that any anger I felt over Boris Johnson’s address to the nation this evening soon dissipated. Now I do appreciate that he was facing an impossible task. In 15 minutes, he had to find an impossible balance between providing simple key messages and enough detail to inform and reassure people. Sadly, even allowing for those challenges, it was awful. The minimum aim of any mass communication is to provide the audience with greater clarity than they had beforehand. This failed to clear even that low bar.

We have a government which is unable to communicate clearly and precisely. Or they are unwilling to do so, to create enough of a grey area to shift the blame on to others: the media, the public, the Tooth Fairy, whoever. I’m not sure which is worse.

Either way, it is now clear to everyone what has been clear to some of us for some time already. Lockdown is not something that is with us for a few weeks; it will be with us for several months. It’s time to batten down the hatches and hunker down for the long haul.

* Nottingham Forest’s Mark Crossley. You were dying to know, right?

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

A marathon, not a sprint: April 6th-13th

So it begins again: April 14th-19th

Not what I expected: April 20th-26th

A never-ending hiatus?: April 27th-May 3rd


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