And now the end is near. Or is it? With life fast returning to normal, peak holiday season and back-to-school looming on the horizon, it feels like we are approaching a tipping point. But is this a steady progression, or will we end up making a U-turn back into lockdown if the coronavirus rears its head again?
Who knows for sure? It feels like we’re at the end of the current chapter, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of the story just yet.
Wednesday 12th August
Kara is enjoying getting back to activities increasingly on a face-to-face rather than Zoom basis now. Having inevitably lost a little of her conditioning during lockdown, she’s loving getting back to hard workouts.
We’ve been watching The Titan Games together recently. (Think Gladiators, but pumped up on steroids and hosted by The Rock.) Suitably inspired, she decided to join me on a run this evening. I have a feeling I’ll soon be graduating from running partner to punch-bag, though.
Thursday 13th August
We always feared it would happen but hoped it wouldn’t.
We booked a holiday in eastern France long before the pandemic erupted and have been clinging to the hope that it might still go ahead. Over the past few weeks, as travel corridors reopened, we had even started to hope it might just happen. But with a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases in France over the past couple of weeks, it was only a matter of time, really.
Sure enough, just before 10pm, the UK announced a two-week quarantine for anyone returning from France, effective from Saturday morning. That was enough to put paid to our plans and start a mad scramble to activate plan B.
At least we have a plan B, though. The short notice of the announcement means a mad scramble of Brits cutting short their holidays to get home before the quarantine goes into effect. (Why could they not have moved the start of the quarantine to Monday and saved people with weekend travel arrangements a lot of additional stress? Would the incremental risk really have been that great? I don’t know.) A work colleague was booked on to a Eurotunnel train at 6am tomorrow and is hastily cancelling his arrangements right now.
We have a week to put our contingency plan into place. It will involve a UK road trip of some kind, probably basing ourselves in two or three locations. Exactly where and when we go will depend on where we can find accommodation for five people at short notice, in a summer where fewer people are travelling abroad anyway. And we will want to try to avoid anywhere that is likely to be excessively crowded (which rules out the entire south coast, Wales and the Lakes District) or on the lock-down watch-list (scratch off several possible destinations in the middle of the country).
What happens, happens. And plan B is definitely better than no plan at all. At least we’re lucky enough that we can still travel at all.
Saturday 15th August
We’ve managed to do a Saturday night quiz with our old university friends almost every week for nearly four months. Each of us creates a round or two for everyone else to pit their wits against. It’s been a fun thing to look forward to, and coming up with new ideas for rounds has kept the creative juices flowing.
In recent weeks the kids have been an integral part of this too, making it a proper family-based event. Toby specialises in geography and car-themed quizzes. Isaac does a nice line in photo-based rounds.
But with social calendars starting up again, the end of this Saturday night fixture has been on the cards for a few weeks now. At least we managed one last hurrah, though. I think we’ll all genuinely miss it now it’s gone.
At least we’ll know what to do if we ever have another extended lockdown.
Sunday 16th August
It has been almost exactly six months since we last saw my parents via anything other than a Skype call. So everyone was excited that today we got to drive to London to spend the day with them.
It was good. We sat outside in the garden, had a lovely lunch together, went out for a walk and played mahjong. No hugs or cuddles, but this was as close to normal as it gets.
My parents are both in their 80s and, other than the occasional quiet walk, they have been shielding at home all this time. Now that we’ve got over the hump and done it once, they’ll hopefully be more confident about spending time together at weekends again.
Friday 21st August
The bags are packed and we’re ready to go. It’s not the holiday we planned – but it’s the holiday we’ve ended up with, and we’ll enjoy it just the same.
Yes, I know we did also manage to sneak in five days in Dorset in mid-July, but this is our traditional annual end-of-summer holiday, the one we were really looking forward to. It’s not our original two-week road trip across France to the Alps and back. But it is a ten-day UK road trip, which is something we’ve never done before.
A few days in Blackpool. A few days in Edinburgh. Hadrian’s Wall in between and somewhere still to be decided to break up the journey home. The forecast for our trip is … very British. But the location and the weather are secondary to the fact that it will be the five of us, together, having a family adventure.
After the stresses and fears of the last five months, that’s more than enough. And it’s not something we will ever take for granted again.
In many ways, our holiday feels like the right time to stop – or at lease pause – my lockdown diaries.
When we return, the kids will head back to school. In what form and for how long, who knows? I think it’s unlikely every school in the country will make it all the way through to Christmas without some form of temporary local shut-down. We’re bracing ourselves for the prospect of reverting to home-based schooling for at least part of the year.
In time, I’ll be asked to plan my return to the office. We still don’t know exactly when that will be, although I am likely to be in the very last wave. My guess is it will be closer to Christmas than September, if not even later. If I have my way, I’ll become permanently home-based and go into the office maybe one day a week.
There will be a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unanswered questions in the coming weeks and months. Life out of lockdown may well end up being not that different to the last few weeks of life under lockdown. And we may have to take a few steps back before we continue forwards.
Never mind what the ‘new normal’ will look like. I have a feeling that, at least until we have a working vaccine, it is likely to involve continuous uncertainty and an acceptance that things will be subject to change at short notice.
Interesting times. We’re not done with coronavirus yet – and I’m not sure it’s done with us either. But for now, almost exactly five months after lockdown started, I’m closing the book on this unique chapter in our lives.
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries