Life under lockdown: The end of the beginning

Life under lockdown

We have now been in lockdown for two months. The events of this last, crazy weekend point towards an abrupt end to lockdown in all but name.

I’m really not sure whether we’re in a better place, though.

Monday 18th May

All three of our children independently had mini-meltdowns tonight about not being able to see their friends.

In truth, I’m surprised it has taken this long. We have tried to stave this off by setting them a daily task of contacting at least one of their friends every day. Isaac goes out on socially distanced bike rides with local friends. The other two stay in touch via Zoom classes, Houseparty calls and Xbox dates.

But they’re only a substitute for the real thing. As well as they have coped over the past two months, a reaction was always inevitable.

Most likely, this is a good thing in the longer-term. It’s a healthy release of frustration and negative emotion – better than denying it and bottling it up. But the underlying problem still remains.

Tuesday 19th May

On the whole, I’ve done a pretty good job of controlling my diet during lockdown. I’ve relaxed a few things in the interests of being kind to myself. So, for instance, my fitness levels have eroded slightly. I’m allowing myself a beer most evenings and I’m snacking more too. But it’s all been largely measured and controlled. In fact, I’m actually marginally lighter now than I was at the start of lockdown.

But the longer this goes on, the more my discipline is ebbing away.

I’ve always allowed myself one day off a week when it comes to calorie intake. More recently, I’ve increased that to two. Now, though, there are too many evenings where I just think, “ah, sod it” and comfort eating tips over into binging.

The shapelessness of each day and week doesn’t help. I’m forever feeling drained of energy, even though I’m sleeping more than I used to. For me, discipline isn’t something I can just switch on. It requires focus – and that’s what I’m lacking at the moment.

I guess it’s a reflection of the mood in the country. Lockdown has eased but not ended. No one quite knows when schools will go back. It looks increasingly like many schools won’t be ready for June 1st and many parents will refuse to send their children back. Many of us face an open-ended timeline when it comes to returning to offices.

There is little certainty and even less confidence in the country right now. It’s little wonder that I – and I suspect many others – are feeling a bit adrift.

Wednesday 20th May

Lockdown? What lockdown? With the sun shining, it seemed like the entire country was either on a beach or queuing for a Big Mac today.

The pictures of a packed beach at Southend and hundreds of cars parked at popular hotspots in the south-west were eminently predictable. As were the counter-cries of “fake news!” with less busy photos of the same locations and mutterings about the foreshortening effect of long telephoto lenses. (Along with epidemiology and crisis management, it seems everyone is now an expert on doctoring photos too, just because they once used a filter on Instagram.)

But I found the photos of gridlock around Ipswich and mile-long queues for drive-thru service at the 30-odd McDonald’s curiously amusing. I do understand why the opportunity to get out to somewhere so familiar and comforting would be a highlight of lockdown for many, especially those with young families. But you must really want a Happy Meal – or be so desperate not to disappoint the kids – to sit in a mile-long queue for one, right? Who would have thought that something as unremarkable as a McDonald’s would lead to a frenzy matching the launch of a new iPhone?

Having said that, I would kill for a KFC right now …

Thursday 21st May

Right, I’m going to do something about my current sense of ennui. I’ve worked too hard to turn my lifestyle around over the past 18 months to allow myself to slide into comfort eating.

Exercise has been key to my physical turnaround and it has been a big support to my mental health. So that’s what I’m turning back to. I’ve lost the running bug over the past few weeks and I’ve been having some minor ankle pain recently. But I can do more work at home on my general conditioning. More high-intensity interval training (HIIT), more low-impact cardio and a focus on improving flexibility. No excuses. Go!

Friday 22nd May

I finished work for the week at 4pm, with the welcome prospect of a three-day bank holiday weekend to come. While I’m actively enjoying working at home, I’m busier than ever. This week has felt like a real grind as my backlog has steadily grown with every passing day.

Increasingly, I’m losing sight of all my usual frames of reference. As one of our friends put it this evening, the passage of time feels meaningless nowadays. What day of the week is it? Did such-and-such event happen last week? Or was it a month ago? (Or – the next phase – did it even take place at all?)

I’m beginning to understand what Alice must have felt like after falling down the rabbit hole. Life is increasingly surreal. I’m not really sure what the ‘new normal’ or indeed any kind of normal is any more.

Saturday 23rd May

It was two months ago this evening that the UK entered lockdown. Life as we used to know it came to an abrupt halt.

Oddly enough, our calendars may be empty in terms of ‘going out’-style social engagements, but our evenings are nonetheless busier than ever.

We’ve been doing virtual pub quizzes for several weeks now (and, more recently, virtual escape rooms too). They’ve become one of my key emotional anchors. They tick so many boxes. I love quizzes anyway. It ensures contact with friends. And having to compile DIY rounds for our regular Saturday evening call provides an additional focus during the week.

There’s nothing virtual about the beer I drink during the quizzes, though!

Sunday 24th May

Two weeks in a row is practically a habit, right?

While we’re not remotely tempted to head for the beach yet, it’s been lovely to get out and about a bit more the last two weekends.  Today we replicated last Sunday. A lazy lie-in. Head out late morning to a local village. Enjoy a gentle family stroll and picnic lunch in the guise of a geocaching expedition. (This week’s walk was shorter – 6km rather than 9km – but we stopped to kick a football around after our picnic instead.) Come home, relax and tuck into a well-earned takeaway dinner. Settle down to watch a film.

I like Sundays. It’s not hard to see why.

Who needs standards anyway?

I don’t really want to comment on the scandal that has swirled around Dominic Cummings this weekend. It’s too draining. And I’ve said pretty much everything I’m going to say on Twitter already, so I’m not going to rehash here just how disappointed, angry, shocked and yet unsurprised I have been at the events of the past 48 hours.

I’m sure it will make for a great Chernobyl-style retelling in a few years’ time. One that will make The Thick Of It look tame by comparison.

What I will, say, though, is that there was a time – not so long ago – when even the merest hint of impropriety would be enough to force a senior figure to resign. (If you don’t know your political history, google ‘Profumo affair’ for starters.)

Now I’m not saying that all politicians of the past were honourable and steadfast in their moral codes. Of course they weren’t. However, by comparison with their contemporary counterparts, those were halcyon days when our leaders knew they would be held to a higher standard by both their peers and the public.

Nowadays, however, the opposite is true. As long as they’re on ‘our side’, we can forgive our politicians for anything short of initiating a nuclear holocaust – even then I wonder – and client journalists in the mainstream media will slap them on the backs and relentlessly gaslight those who disagree, truth and integrity be damned.

When did we start to stoop so low? At what point did we all decide that the end justified the means – any means, even illegal ones?

This isn’t just the politicians’ fault. Or the press’s fault. Or even social media’s fault. It’s all of us. As a society, we have ceased to care about standards, as long as ‘we’ win. And, when we don’t, ensure you can blame someone else and then still claim victory anyway.

That’s not really the lesson I want to teach my kids.

Anyhow, it feels like lockdown is now unofficially cancelled. But I don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of the pandemic story yet. It’s just the end of the beginning. We can only hope that the next chapter is a happier one.

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

Months, not weeks: May 4th-10th

The long road back to ‘normal’ May 11th-17th


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