Life under lockdown (again): The Covid Hokey Cokey

We’re now nearly two weeks into this new … what are we supposed to call it, anyway? ‘Not-a-lockdown’? At least we knew where we stood with the original lockdown: stay indoors, essential shopping and journeys only, proper social distancing. But this? It’s a strange sort of limbo, like a prison without actual walls. A kind of Covid Hokey Cokey, if you will.

It is what it is. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Thursday 24th September

I downloaded the test-and-trace app to my phone today. So now I can scan the QR codes in shops et cetera to record my presence in the event that I ever need to be contacted to self-isolate.

It’s a fairly basic app that does a few simple things and seems to do them well. [Edit: Except, as I’ve since discovered, working with older versions of iOS or recording NHS-administered test results. Oh well.] However, it falls some way short of what we were promised would be delivered by June as part of a ‘world-beating’ system. That’s not the app’s fault, of course, or even the fault of its developers. But it’s what happens when people who have no idea what they’re talking about (i.e. politicians) promise the latest version of FIFA and deliver a Subbuteo set.

(Do they still make Subbuteo? And would our kids even know what it was? Probably not.)

Bah humbug

This morning, Health Secretary Matt Hancock floated the idea that university students might be told not to come home for the Christmas holidays to prevent Covid-19 being spread back to families across the country.

O-kaay. Why is this only occurring to him now? I’ve been pondering this openly with friends for weeks.

But sure, let’s assume that students can simply afford to spend another four to six weeks living out of their own pocket, or that parents will have the wherewithal to subsidise them.

Yeah, no problem.

I’m 99% certain this will never happen. But it will almost certainly pave the way for a slightly less drastic solution which seems altogether more palatable by comparison. And I guess that’s the (rather cynical) point.

Friday 25th September

I met up with some of my local dad friends for a somewhat truncated evening out.

It’s only the second proper night out I’ve had in 6½ months. We sat out in the beer garden at the pub while the overworked bar staff scurried about providing table service. (Top tip: order all your drinks for the evening in one go.) And it felt like we had only just warmed up when our server brought us our bill at 9:50pm and politely told us we needed to be off the premises within ten minutes.

It’s hard to understand why it’s so much safer to close at 10pm. Or, at least, no one has bothered explaining it. Having seen video footage of crowds from the previous night in London and Liverpool city centres shortly after 10pm, it seems positively daft and pointless. In fact, it seems to be more dangerous than allowing pubs to remain open until 11pm.

Ours not to reason why, I suppose. Hmm.

Sunday 27th September

For the past couple of months, it’s felt like we’ve been stuck in the middle of the Hokey Cokey. Go back to work: stay at home. Eat out to help out: get out of pubs and restaurants by 10pm. Left foot in: left foot out.

It’s no wonder no one knows what the rules are any more. I’m not sure if even anyone in government knows what they are.

Wednesday 30th September

Good grief. How did we get to be nine months into the year already?

As we head into the final quarter of the year, there’s no sign of my current work-from-home arrangement changing any time soon. (Not that I’m in any hurry to return to the office ever again.) But somewhere in my mind, a switch has been flicked.

I’ve now stopped thinking about working from home as a temporary arrangement, where I’ve been content to make do with a home office environment that is workable but far from optimum. Instead I’m looking around and considering what I need to do to make our small study a proper permanent workspace. Get rid of all the boxes of junk and filing. Declutter my desk, including all the tangled spaghetti of wiring. Now that winter’s approaching, sort out better lighting and fix the radiator. Get a bigger, better Bluetooth speaker so I can listen to music while I work.

That should keep me busy for a while.

Friday 2nd October

We’re used to this government blaming everyone but themselves for any bad news relating to the pandemic, while simultaneously patting themselves on the back for every perceived success. But today the Prime Minister excelled himself, essentially blaming the public for the upturn in Covid cases as he commented, “everyone got a bit complacent and a bit blasé about transmission.”

Now why would that be, I wonder? Could it be the way he rallied to Dominic Cummings’ defence after his trip to Durham and, ahem, eye-test drive to Barnard Castle? Or the way his own father happily goes shopping without a mask on at the same time that his son promises to punish all rule-breakers? (Will Stanley Johnson have to pay a £10,000 fine? Colour me dubious.)

Undoubtedly the public’s compliance to lockdown measures has tailed off over the past couple of months. But it’s not hard to see why, is it? Stop blaming us. We know who’s really to blame here.

The end of the Butlin’s streak

We’ve been to Butlin’s in each of the past ten years, ever since Toby was three months old. But not this year. Just as we had to cancel our long-planned summer holiday in France, so too our October half-term at Butlin’s. With all the Covid restrictions in place, it just didn’t seem the right thing to do, given how much we’re generally indoors. So – the same as with France – we’ve deferred it to next year.

Of course, that’s assuming we’ll be able to go in 2021. But even the merest thought of not being able to go again is too much to contemplate just now.

In the meantime, we’ve booked an alternative long weekend away out west, which will include a visit to Stonehenge. It won’t be the same as our traditional mini-break of arcade machines, water slides and dodgems. But it will be the five of us away together on a little family adventure. And that’s enough.

Sunday 4th October

From March 20th to September 20th, I went exactly six months – or about 340 miles – on a single tank of petrol. Two weeks later, I’m already halfway through my current tank. That’s still barely a quarter of my usual fuel consumption, but it’s nonetheless a sign that things are slowly returning to normal.

But do we really want things back to normal? There are so many positive changes we made during lockdown. Long family walks at weekends. Eating dinner together every day. Entire afternoons sitting around the table playing board games. Film nights being a weekday as well as a weekend event. (We all sat down to watch Ocean’s Twelve this evening, having viewed Onward on Friday.)

Already these habits are starting to fade. The kids are back at school. Their activities have started up again. Heather is out more often in the evenings seeing friends or attending PTA meetings. We’re busier; there’s less free time. I wouldn’t want to stop any of that for a second. But equally it’s all too easy to slip entirely back into old habits, despite six months of unlearning all our routines.

We need to keep focussed on keeping at least a few of the good things we changed. Or else what have we really learned?

Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries

Our ‘new normal’: March 15th-19th

And so it begins: March 20th-23rd

The shapeless monotony: March 24th-26th

A different life: March 27th-29th

Hanging in there: March 30th-April 5th

A marathon, not a sprint: April 6th-13th

So it begins again: April 14th-19th

Not what I expected: April 20th-26th

A never-ending hiatus?: April 27th-May 3rd

Months, not weeks: May 4th-10th

The long road back to ‘normal’ May 11th-17th

The end of the beginning: May 18th-24th

Time to take back control: May 25th-31st

Edging back to normal: June 1st-7th

Preparing for ‘the blip’: June 8th-14th

The middle of nowhere: June 15th-21st

The road back to normality: June 22nd-28th

Releasing the pause button: June 29th-July 12th

Ticking the boxes: July 13th-26th

Normal, and yet not normal: July 27th-August 9th

An uncertain future: August 10th-21st

Here we go again: September 22nd


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