Life has continued to meander onwards over the past week. But we still have no real idea how long it will take us to reach our final destination – that elusive place known as ‘normal’ – or whether we will be knocked off path en route.
It makes for an uncomfortable and uncertain period. And the prospect of visiting shops, returning to school and even going on holiday again brought to my mind thoughts of the events of the last two Avengers films. I’ll come to that in a minute …
Monday 8th June
There was genuine excitement this evening when my brother dropped in. Other than regular Skype calls, this was the first time we have seen anyone from either of our families face-to-face since early March.
Okay, it was a bit odd having to observe the required protocols. I ushered him into our garden via the side gate. We all kept a proper two-metre distance while we chatted. And no hugging or physical contact, obviously.
It was weird but still welcome, a reminder of how things used to be. I think it gave us all a little hope that one day soon we’ll be able to safely do the same thing with the kids’ grandparents.
Changes to social distancing guidelines notwithstanding, I’m not sure I’m ready for that particular leap of faith yet. But I’m getting there.
Tuesday 9th June
I do a lot of walking. It’s mostly a solitary pastime; I listen to podcasts or music when I walk. Sometimes I just use the time to relax, sometimes I use it to think or organise my thoughts for the day ahead.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken advantage of the more relaxed lockdown rules to walk more often: at least twice, sometimes three times a day. Typically I will do a long walk (an hour-ish) in the morning before I start work. When I can, I’ll also do a short one at lunchtime and/or one at the end of the working day.
More often than not at the moment, I’m not alone. I’ll usually have at least one of the kids with me. As much as I value my alone time, I love to have them for company. We can share what we’re up to and generally connect in a way that isn’t possible when we’re all in the house together.
While I’ll happily spend time with any of the kids, Kara is probably the most fun to be with right now. Normally we’re both busy at different times so we rarely have more than 15 minutes here and there. But we’re both benefitting from having long stretches of quality time together. She’s chatty and we both often sing together while we walk. (Hamilton soundtrack, obviously.)
I really hope we can keep making the time to do more of this going forwards.
Wednesday 10th June
Boris Johnson announced a further easing of the lockdown restrictions this evening. Blah blah this, exception that.
What soon became obvious as I skimmed through social media later was the degree of confusion the announcement had caused. When lockdown started, it was simple: stay at home unless you’re a key worker, doing exercise or essential shopping or other journeys. Now the guidelines are starting to look more like a complex algorithm: If (this AND that) THEN you can do this ELSE IF ((this OR that) AND NOT the other) THEN cross your fingers, add the number you first thought of and hope for the best because we’ve forgotten what the initial rule was anyway.
To say the rules are now as clear as mud is an insult to mud. At best, this is a well-intentioned attempt to acknowledge that certain people need the benefit of increased social contact. At worst, it is a cynical fudge that lays the groundwork for blaming the public for not following the guidelines if the infection rate starts to rise again. Either way, it’s an appalling piece of communication. The whole purpose of communications is to increase understanding and clarity. This did neither.
Thursday 11th June
Like many others, Toby and Kara’s last day attending school was Friday 20th March. (Isaac finished three days earlier.) Assuming they don’t go back to school until the start of the autumn term – for us, that’s Wednesday 2nd September – 166 days will have passed in between these two dates. Today is day 83: the midway point.
That’s a sobering thought.
It feels like an eternity since they started doing schoolwork remotely. And yet we have as far still to go as we have already come – and that includes the six-week summer holiday.
We’re only halfway there. Gulp.
Friday 12th June
Heather raised an interesting hypothetical question tonight. We’re all feeling the strain of being stuck inside the same four walls constantly. With lockdown easing and holiday destinations starting to open up again, how would I feel if we booked a short family getaway for, say, mid-July?
We’re not talking about anything far-flung or extravagant here. Drive down to Dorset and stay in a caravan park. Do nothing more adventurous than walk along the beach, buy fish and chips for dinner and otherwise lock ourselves up playing games and reading books for a few days. It would be a getaway more for the change of scenery than anything else.
I’m not comfortable with the idea yet. The thought of visiting a busy beach fills me with dread today – but in a month’s time, if the situation continues to improve, then … maybe? By mid-July, could the levels of both overall risk (to ourselves and others) and my own discomfort be low enough to make this feasible? There would certainly be a lot of benefits to getting away for a few days, especially if our planned trip to France in August doesn’t go ahead.
Even as recently as a week ago, I would definitely have said no. But today, while I’m still in the ‘no’ camp, I can see that the situation is changing almost day by day. So do we take the plunge and book speculatively now while we still can?
I don’t know.
Saturday 13th June
A thoroughly dispiriting day.
This wasn’t due to anything that happened at home. We had a lovely afternoon playing games. We settled in with pizzas to watch Guardians of the Galaxy together. And our regular Saturday Zoom quiz call was as fun as ever.
What was depressing was watching the scenes in London, where a large body of counter-protestors gathered in the name of protecting the capital’s statues from attack. Curiously, most of these protestors seemed to fit a certain demographic stereotype. Inevitably, there were violent clashes with police, Nazi salutes and, ultimately, flights that broke out within the group.
It was the sort of display that makes people like me ashamed to be British. It’s simultaneously the sort of display that has some people praising the actions of these ‘patriots’ defending British history.
I noticed tonight that tomorrow’s Mail on Sunday, that well-known bastion of reasonableness and inclusion, carries the front-page splash, “What has become of the tolerant Britain we love?” This is the newspaper that has long fanned the flames of far-right, anti-immgrant, anti-minority feeling, and whose moderated comment sections are filled with hate and bile.
It’s very much peak-2020 that the UK’s least tolerant newspaper questions where our tolerance as a nation has gone. Hypocrites. It’s times like this I’d almost be happy to remain in lockdown for the rest of my life.
Sunday 14th June
Back to our familiar Sunday routine: a long geocaching walk, followed by a mid-afternoon barbecue and socialising across the divide with next door.
Tomorrow will be interesting, as non-essential shops start to reopen. If the previous public reactions to the reopening of McDonald’s drive-throughs and Ikea stores are anything to go by, town centres will be subjected to a stampede tomorrow morning.
You couldn’t pay me enough to venture into Newbury tomorrow. I’m fine with doing a quick shop at our Sainsbury’s Local in Thatcham, and I will visit Waitrose at some point next week. But the thought of going into a large town to browse shops I can explore online anyway is not high on my list of priorities. I don’t need to do it for now, so I won’t.
What was the past? What is the future?
It’s now nearly 12 weeks since lockdown began. That’s a long time in anyone’s book, doubly so if you’re a child.
Ours are already struggling to remember the details of what life was like before lockdown. I was talking to them about how quiet the roads were during the peak weeks of lockdown – this was barely a month ago – and they each admitted that even that is now a foggy memory.
We’re working on the assumption that it will be September before they see the vast majority of their classmates and friends again, by which time around 24 weeks will have elapsed. If 12 weeks feels like forever, then 24 is an eternity. How much will their social skills have eroded? How many of their embedded school-based routines will need to be relearned? With Isaac’s peers in particular – they will be starting Year 8, so mostly 12 going on 13 – many of them will be 10cm or more taller than when he last saw them.
In many ways, life has been on hold for them – for all of us – during this unique period. But when they return to school, the past and the future will suddenly come crashing together as if the intervening months never occurred.
Fans of the Marvel films will be familiar with ‘The Blip’, in which half of all life in the universe was instantly restored after a five-year absence. That moment, when schoolmates are reunited after a gap of potentially one-tenth as long, could prove just as discombobulating. It will be a big readjustment, for sure.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries