Last week it felt like we were stranded in the middle of nowhere. This week it has felt more like we have taken tentative steps on the road back to normality.
When we get there, I’m not sure ‘normality’ will look quite the same as it did before. And I’m definitely not sure I’d want it to be the same anyway.
Monday 22nd June
Too many bad habits are sneaking into my eating patterns at the moment. It’s all the usual culprits: crisps, chocolate and other snacks. My weight is slowly starting to increase again.
I can trace this all back to a general feeling of being slightly adrift. It’s been like that for a few weeks now. I desperately need something new to give me some focus again.
Tuesday 23rd June
I drove my car for only the fourth time in three months this evening, just to recharge the battery.
I last filled up with petrol on 20th March. Normally I would have had to refill at least ten times in the intervening 13½ weeks but I haven’t even used a quarter of a tank yet. Instead of covering around 3,500 miles in that time, I’ve done 79.
It’s a wonder I can still remember how to drive at all.
The government also announced today that a new ‘one metre-plus’ rule be implemented as of 4th July. While people will be asked to continue observing a two-metre separation where possible, where there are measures in place to mitigate the risk of the coronavirus being transmitted, then one metre is permissible. This reworking of the current guidelines is necessary for pubs and restaurants to reopen.
The underlying message is “continue to keep two metres apart unless …”. However, the way many will interpret this – and the government know this full well – is “lockdown’s over – let’s party!”
23rd June was also a day of anniversaries.
Today marked exactly three months since the UK lockdown started. Sometimes it seems like only a couple of weeks ago. But mostly it feels like life pre-lockdown harks back to a previous existence.
Today was also the four-year anniversary of the Brexit referendum. We’re now a week away from the date beyond which we will default to leaving the EU without an agreed deal. We were told that negotiating a trade deal would be easy. More recently, Boris Johnson swept to a general election victory claiming to have an ‘oven-ready’ deal in his pocket.
That seems like it happened in a completely different lifetime too.
Wednesday 24th June
Another consequence of lockdown being eased is that booking holidays – at least in the UK – suddenly became a whole lot more feasible from July 4th.
If my social media timelines were anything to go by, a lot of people immediately started booking holiday destinations. But there were at least as many who declared that it is still too dangerous to go on holiday and they would be staying put for the summer.
This prompted me to ask the following question on Twitter. 411 responses later, this was the result:
An open (and entirely non-judgemental) question … Given the easing of lockdown measures from July 4th, would you now consider booking a UK summer holiday? 🤔— Tim | ThatchamDad (@thatchamdad) June 24, 2020
Okay, it’s not exactly a rigorous poll, but it does give an idea of how divided and unsure people are at this point, ranging from those who are desperate to get away, or who see the value even a simple change of scenery can have on a household’s mental health, to the approximately two-fifths of people who stated they still won’t be going anywhere.
And, of course, both sides will judge the other with extreme prejudice, declaring them to be either reckless or institutionalised, depending on their point of view.
This is the thing, though. Going away versus staying at home is not a simple binary decision with binary outcomes. You could go on holiday, exercise caution and avoid doing activities that will bring you into contact with crowds, and offer little real threat. Or you could stay at home, hug your mates down the pub and generally ignore social distancing, and present a high risk of transmission.
It’s not as simple as X equals good, Y equals bad. But I fear that the polarisation between the two camps will only increase the amount of bad blood as we are allowed greater freedom going forward.
Thursday 25th June
The temperature hit 31ºC today, so it would have been rude not to celebrate with a barbecue. Which is exactly what we did.
Others, it seems, descended on Bournemouth and other popular beaches in their tens of thousands, with inevitable results.
Let’s be clear about one thing. Travelling to a seaside town is permitted under the current lockdown rules. However, just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. In too many cases, social distancing went out of the window, people littered all over the place and, sadly, too many people left any semblance of common decency at home.
We knew this was inevitable. It didn’t take a genius to realise that the wording of Tuesday’s announcements would only be selectively listened to. And it also doesn’t take a genius to see that the announcement was so (deliberately) vague that blame for any resultant increase in transmission of the virus can be passed on to the public with a shrug and a “we never said you should do that, did we?”
I remain appalled by the cynicism of this approach. At a time when we desperately need clear communication and leadership, we are getting neither. Public relations trumps public health once again. Sigh.
Friday 26th June
I was expecting that all our kids would be off school until September. Isaac will be. But as of next Thursday, Toby and Kara will be back two days a week until the end of term.
They’re actually both looking forward to it. Deep down, they both crave a return to normal routine. Although how they’ll react to having to wear school uniform again, their heavily modified surroundings and being restricted to small bubbles with only a handful of classmates remains to be seen.
Having been initially unsure about the wisdom of returning to school in early June, I’m more relaxed about it now. They can’t stay at home indefinitely. And, as much as we want to keep them safe, we can’t wait until the risk of becoming infected has been entirely eradicated. Life isn’t that simple.
We will no doubt be a little apprehensive next Thursday. But it’s an important step back towards normality for all of us.
Saturday 27th June
I’m still overeating a bit too much, but I’m starting to re-establish some structure and normality back into my life.
I’ve settled back into my exercise routine over the past couple of weeks. Every morning (including weekends) I get up and do a 45-75 minute walk to set myself up for the day ahead. Overall, between walking, running and at-home sessions, my output has risen from 80,000 steps a week during the peak of lockdown to 140,000 now – which is where I was before this whole situation unfolded.
I’ve also finally started making tangible progress on a new blogging project. I’ve managed more in this past week than I had in the previous three months combined, with launch planned for July 1st.
That sense of urgency has brought everything back into sharp focus. Hopefully that will push me back into more moderate eating habits. I rather suspect that my recent binge-eating has been down to boredom and a lack of impetus. Fingers crossed this nudges me back on track.
Sunday 28th June
There wasn’t even a discussion this morning. We declared we were going on a family walk, packed some bags and off we went.
The kids didn’t bat an eyelid. No protests. No complaints about tiredness. We spent a happy couple of hours walking around the countryside and came home again. Most weeks we do a barbecue but today we did a roast instead. That’s seven weekends in a row that we have spent a day like this.
Whatever form ‘normality’ takes when we return to it, I hope this new habit becomes part of that routine. The new normal doesn’t have to be the same as the old one.
This week it has finally felt like I’ve turned a corner in so many ways. As a country, we are pushing forwards now towards the end of lockdown. And I can feel myself starting to break out of the holding pattern I’ve been in for the past three months. I’m starting to reintegrate both old and new activities into my life. I’m still not entirely sure where I’m heading – but it finally feels like I’m moving towards somewhere.
I’m not sure if I’m going to maintain these posts on a strict weekly basis going forwards. We’ll see where the next week or two takes me. But the very fact that I’m considering moving away from these posts is a clear indication that, in my head at least, I’m ready to retake the path marked ‘normality’ once again.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries