Another week has passed and the UK continues to stumble its way out of lockdown. But many people remain far from reassured and far from ready to revert to normality.
It’s hard to know exactly what to do. Trust in the government continues to decline. The entire situation feels so far beyond any individual’s control. I’ve felt this frustration too. But this week it’s felt like I’ve turned a corner and started to regain control of my life.
Here’s what I’ve been up to as we enter our third month of lockdown.
Monday 25th May
Another bank holiday, to round off a three-day weekend.
I took my car out for a spin this morning. I’ve driven it so rarely that it flashed up a ‘low battery’ warning when I started it. It’s done only three trips covering 30 miles in the past ten weeks – or about one Dominic Cummings eye-test.
I took Isaac with me for company. We blasted out along the country roads and then looped back via the M4. Even for a bank holiday, the roads were quiet, although nowhere near deserted.
Our world is now operating at two speeds. For an increasing number of people, life is returning to normal. (Or, at least, as normal as a world in which shops, offices and schools still remain closed can be.) But the five of us remain in our little lockdown bubble. Nothing has changed. Other than exercise, we don’t venture out unless it’s essential. There’s no prospect of an imminent return to schools or offices.
We’re luckier than many. We have a degree of control over when we emerge from lockdown – and we’re in no hurry to do so. If that means we’re running at a slower pace than everyone else for a few more weeks, so be it.
Tuesday 26th May
After a spell during which I’ve slackened off, my self-discipline is starting to return. I’m no longer allowing myself to sleep in past seven every morning. Okay, I’m not back to my pre-lockdown daily 6:10am alarm call. But I’m consistently up by 6:30 so that I can fit in a 50-60 minute walk before starting work.
I’m a lot better for it too. It’s a bit of a struggle to get up so much earlier than everyone else. But in the greater scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay.
The other upside of being out and about so much earlier in the day is that everywhere is much less busy. Going out at 7:30am reminds me of the eerie emptiness and tranquility of the peak weeks of lockdown. It felt odd at first but we soon learned to appreciate it. It’s lovely to be able to get back to that again now, even if it is only temporary.
Anyhow, I don’t know when the rest of my life will start to return to normal. But I’m now making the first steps to reclaim whatever I can.
Wednesday 27th May
Everyone is a bit down at the moment. The kids are bored and grumpy. (They’re actually missing even the loose structure of home-schooling during this half-term week.) Heather and I are much the same. Everyone is missing social contact and wondering when this will all end.
Psychologists talk about crisis situations having three distinct stages. First there is the ’emergency’ phase. There is a sense of urgency. We accept the need to change. And we’re fuelled by a fight-or-flight surge of adrenaline, boosting our energy levels.
Next comes the ‘regression’ phase. The initial rush fades. The novelty wears off. Reality kicks in. We’re bored but there’s still no end-point in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel. Energy slumps. Motivation falters. We drift into a state of ennui. This ends only once we move into phase three: ‘recovery’. Here we start to move forward again with some sense of definition. Old norms are re-established and new ones are created.
I recognise we’ve all been in regression for the past couple of weeks. And that’s half the battle. Self-awareness is the first step in finding a solution. That’s the challenge now. How can we move more quickly out of regression and into recovery?
Time to get my thinking cap on.
Thursday 28th May
To liven up an otherwise monotonous week, the kids planned a German/Austrian themed evening. Kara put together a Eurovision playlist (with a few ringers from other countries). Toby made a magnificent Black Forest gateau. And Isaac, Kara and I prepared home-made schnitzel served with Spätzle noodles.
To top it all off, Toby put together a quiz based on German and Austrian geography. Thankfully he stopped short of requiring everyone to wear lederhosen.
It was fun to have something different to focus on and get excited about on a weekday. It did take a fair amount of effort and planning. But with hindsight it’s a shame we didn’t do something like this earlier.
Friday 29th May
Features such as Facebook Memories are a constant reminder of what we were doing on this day one, two or more years ago. During lockdown, I have been constantly reminded of our past. Our Disney World holiday last year. Easter and bank holiday days out. Meet-ups with family and friends
On the one hand, it’s nice to reminisce about happy times. On the other, it’s a nagging reminder of what we’re currently missing out on. This takes an inexorable toll on mental health.
Tonight, I should have been in Manchester seeing the Pet Shop Boys in concert. Instead I was on a Zoom call, doing a virtual pub quiz hosted by Jonathan Ross. It was fun. But it’s not the same.
We’re now at a point where COVID-19 is impacting not only the day-to-day but also plans we’d made months ago. Today it was a gig. Soon it will be summer holidays. And who knows what impact the virus may continue to have going into 2021?
One thing’s for sure. When we look back on 2020, there will be fewer big memories than in previous years. So we need to ensure we make as many little memories as we can.
Saturday 30th May
Another day, another themed evening.
Tonight it was ‘Japanese night’. We’d bought ourselves all the kit we needed to make sushi ourselves long before lockdown. This afternoon Toby made up his own sushi rolls. And Isaac prepared five individual purin (a Japanese crème caramel) to follow our chicken teriyaki.
After dinner we did our second family home karaoke session, covering a mix of our favourite songs. Eurovision and the occasional contemporary track for the kids. 80s and 90s classics for Heather and me: everything from the Pet Shop Boys and Queen to Blur and James. The kids’ musical knowledge has broadened a lot over the past year. This means they’ll now happily sing along to a wide range of music.
Heather and I ducked out after 1½ hours to join our regular Saturday quizzing call. But the kids kept going for over an hour more until we packed them off to bed. I’m convinced that if we’d left them to their own devices, they would have kept going all night.
Still, at least this time we remembered to close all the windows first …
Sunday 31st May
It definitely feels like I’m less adrift than I was a week or so ago. I’m taking control of my life back again.
My self-discipline around what I eat is slowly returning. I’m not at the same level I was at when I was at my most committed. But I am dialling down my calorie intake and avoiding binge-eating comfort food more.
And my exercise mojo is back. On Friday, I passed up an easy opportunity to achieve 20,000 steps in a day for the first time since lockdown started. That annoyed me. So yesterday morning I bounced out of bed and went for an hour’s walk before anyone else had woken up.
Boom! 20,000 steps: tick.
And today I did the same thing. I knew we would be heading out on what is now our regular weekend family walk later this morning. Nonetheless, I was out of the door at 7am and clocking 8,000 steps before breakfast.
25,000 steps total. Thank you very much.
Sometimes all you need is that little kick-start. Suddenly I’m feeling energised where before I was lethargic. I’m looking forward to my exercise sessions rather than doing them out of a sense of obligation. And I’m already feeling a little less grumpy and a little more back in control.
While lockdown measures continue to be eased, we still have no idea when things will be back to normal. We don’t even know yet what ‘normal’ will look like going forward. Much of it is beyond our individual control. But I’m ready again to focus on the things I can influence. To repurpose one of my most hated slogans of recent – or indeed any – times, it’s time to take back control and Get Things Done.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries