The peak of lockdown, when nowhere was open and we were only allowed outdoors to exercise once a day, seems like an eternity ago now.
Some people appear to have reverted to business as usual already, posting photos of family and friends hugging. Others are still actively staying at home as much as possible. But for many of us, we are starting to resume normal activity at whatever pace feels comfortable for us. Everyone is in a slightly different boat, but we are ticking off boxes as we tentatively restart activities we took for granted before lockdown.
Monday 13th July
And off to Dorset we go. Am I feeling nervous? A little. But only a little.
Friday 17th July
We’re back from our five days in Dorset. Looking back now, I wonder what all the anxiety was about. We visited Heather’s aunts, spent a couple of days on the beach, negotiated the (relatively light) crowds in Weymouth, Swanage and Sandbanks, and generally had a great time.
It definitely helped that this was the week before most schools broke up for the summer. But I definitely underestimated the restorative benefit of just being somewhere different for a few days. I feel reinvigorated and less anxious. We all do. And for the first time since before lockdown I can genuinely imagine what a return to normality might look like.
I’m so glad Heather encouraged us to book this break. Even if our planned trip to France doesn’t happen, we’ve had a proper holiday.
It feels like we’ve ticked a massive box this week.
Like the Alice Cooper song says, school’s out for summer. Toby and Kara only actually returned to school for four days in the end – brief but useful. Isaac never returned at all and finished a week earlier. He has eight weeks off in total, while the other two have six.
With no holiday clubs in place, it creates quite a challenge for us and, I’m sure, for other parents in similar situations too. Without the distraction of even a couple of hours’ school work, those days could become long and dull very quickly.
We’re aiming to set them all weekly projects to give them something to focus on. This week we’ve challenged them to devise their own rounds for a family quiz we will hold at the weekend. Given that they all immediately rushed off to start thinking of themes and questions, I think we have week one sorted at least.
Monday 20th July
I drove to Reading this afternoon to have some tests carried out. I thought it might unnerve me visiting the same hospital – the Royal Berkshire – where the first publicly announced coronavirus death in the UK occurred. But it didn’t, possibly because I was too busy fretting about the tests.
It was interesting to walk through a high-risk environment where staff have continued working with protective clothing and other measures throughout lockdown. They were all very matter-of-fact, just getting on with work. No drama.
It’s hard not to admire the way NHS staff have continued almost as if things were normal in circumstances that are anything but. And it’s not just doctors and nurses. Receptionists, janitorial staff, other non-medics. An entire army of people is required to keep a hospital running smoothly. It’s a reminder of how easy the rest of us have had things, and how trivial some of our complaints are.
It was only a Monday, but it was also the first time I’ve walked through a large town shopping precinct since before lockdown. And it was fine. I’m still making a point of maintaining social distancing from people as I’m walking along. And I keep a face mask in my pocket for when I pop into shops. But it feels … okay.
Friday 24th July
As of this morning, it is now mandatory to wear face-masks in shops.
Some people do have a genuine health-based reason for not wearing a mask. That’s fair enough. But I cannot believe the number of people who refuse to do this one simple act, claiming that it violates their civil liberties and is too uncomfortable. I just don’t get it. Even if you don’t think you need to protect yourself, do it to protect others because it’s the considerate thing to do.
If surgeons, doctors and nurses can wear masks and other protective gear for hours at a time, day after day, surely everyone can do it for 30 minutes when popping into Tesco?
There was a campaign encouraging such people to post #NoMaskSelfies on social media, glorifying the stand they were taking against oppression and tyranny. I imagine such people like to consider themselves as heroic conscientious objectors of some sort. They really aren’t. It has never been so obvious to spot someone who cares only for number one and to hell with everyone else. And no matter what they think of themselves, to me they are all selfish idiots. End of.
Somewhat gloriously, the hashtag was hijacked by people wearing masks and calling out those who weren’t. It’s times like this when I remember why I like social media so much.
Saturday 25th July
Like many other fitness clubs, my local gym reopened today. They’ve done a great job explaining all the measures they have put in place to ensure their members’ safety. Even so, I’m not quite ready to go back yet. I’m not far away, though. Maybe another week. The box remains unticked but the pencil is hovering.
We did our family quiz tonight. Heather and I were seriously impressed by the effort and thought that each of the kids had put into their rounds. They were creative, pitched rounds at the right level and enjoyed the challenge. They’ve already asked if we can do another one again soon. I wonder if we can make this the weekly challenge for every week of the holiday?
Normal service resuming
Over the past few days, it has started to feel like those first tentative steps back towards normality have become a headlong sprint. The roads have returned to a normal level of busy-ness. Our regular weekly Zoom calls are falling by the wayside as people expand their social horizons. And the kids’ activities are all restarting too, moving from a 2D screen to 3D pitches and gyms.
Toby’s football club had their first post-lockdown training session on Friday night, albeit with plenty of distancing and an avoidance of physical contact. He was so happy and relieved to be back.
Kara resumed gym training on Saturday afternoon, although we’ve made the big decision to drop her down another level from a competitive squad to the ‘advanced recreational’ group. We thought she would resist this move, but I think she can see the benefits of enduring less pressure and freeing up time for new activities and just doing simple things like play-dates that she has never had time for before.
This will undoubtedly make it harder to maintain some of the family-oriented habits we have developed during lockdown, such as our long weekend walks. We will just have to find a way to incorporate a few of these things so that the new normal doesn’t just revert to the old normal.
Sunday 26th July
It had been five months since I last properly set foot inside someone else’s house, so visiting our friends for a barbecue was another big step on the road back to normality.
If it felt a little strange at first seeing people in their home in three dimensions, after months of speaking to them on a weekly basis on a laptop screen, it didn’t last long. We all had a great afternoon and, better still, we’re (fingers crossed) going away to France together in less than four weeks’ time.
It’s starting to genuinely feel like summer now. It even started raining during the barbecue. It just doesn’t get any more ‘British summer’ than that, does it?
Another box ticked.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries