Life under lockdown (again): Nearer the end than the beginning

The roadmap is set. Whether we’re able to stick to the government’s proposed timetable to exit lockdown and remove the last of the UK’s Covid restrictions by 21st June – conveniently and symbolically, the first day of summer – remains to be seen. But the wheels are now in motion. We will just have to see whether the next pedal we step on is the accelerator or the brake.

Nearly 12 months since the UK first entered lockdown, there is now genuine optimism that we are heading out of the pandemic. It’s been a frequently catastrophic year. But hope is a powerful and addictive drug, as potent as any vaccine.

Tuesday 23rd February

What a difference a plan – even one laden with caveats – makes. We now have a roadmap and a best-case scenario timetable for a phased transition from winter lockdown to restriction-free summer. (Of course, despite going to great pains to explain that this is the earliest possible timeline, some people are assuming that this will rather than might happen – and, indeed, why can’t it be earlier? But let’s allow that to slide for now.)

It’s like someone has thrown open the curtains to allow sunlight to flood in. Everything seems less dark and depressing. The light at the end of the tunnel no longer appears to be an onrushing train.

Okay, I don’t actually believe that we will emerge completely from lockdown restrictions on 21st June. There are too many things – ranging from minor to catastrophic – which can still go wrong. New vaccine-resistant variants. People throwing caution to the wind too quickly and pretending that everything is completely back to normal. A million other possible scenarios. But at least we finally have a plan that is fairly clear, straightforward and practical.

I remain cautious, however. As the saying goes, it’s the hope that kills you. But some hope is definitely a better place to be than no hope at all. 21st June is still a long way – nearly four months – away. But it’s a line in the sand, and that’s good enough for now.

Thursday 25th February

It’s taken us four months but we’ve finally fixed the problem that prevented us from using our new treadmill. And just like that, after nearly seven months off, I’m feeling motivated to start running again.

At some point in the hopefully not too distant future, Parkrun will return. And that creates another light at the end of the tunnel for me to aim for. I can start working towards 5km runs again. Although, for starters, I’d just settle for being able to find my running shoes. It’s been that long …

Sunday 28th February

One of my favourite habits that we developed during the first lockdown was going out as a family for a Sunday geocaching expedition, followed by a roast dinner – or, once it gets a bit warmer, a barbecue. I’m more interested in the walking but the kids love finding the caches, and it helps fulfil our need to get them outdoors on a regular basis.

Today it was only a short 5km jaunt around Kingsclere. But hopefully it will have been just the first of many this year. As hard and depressing as the past year has been, it’s important for us to remember the good things that have come out of it. This is definitely one of them.

Friday 5th March

Our last day of home-schooling, hopefully ever. There’s a part of me that is reluctant to let them go back next week because of the fear of catching the virus. But there’s also a part of me that recognises that we’re fast approaching the tipping point where the physical health risk is overtaken by the educational and mental health risk of continuing to keep kids out of school.

For sure, this week all three kids have noticeably perked up. They’re ready to go back. Probably more so than we are.

Is it too soon? My gut says yes, but the reality is that I don’t know for sure. One way or another, we will find out over the next few weeks. Fingers crossed that this doesn’t become the latest in a long series of regrettable decisions made by this government.

Monday 8th March

It’s been 12 weeks since Toby and Kara were last in school, although it’s felt more like 12 months. They spent longer home-schooling in last spring’s first lockdown but there’s no question they’ve been affected much more this time round.

Boredom is a contributing factor, no doubt. We’ve been here before and the novelty has worn off. The winter weather too. There’s a huge difference between being in lockdown in spring and early summer than during cold, dark and damp of mid-winter.

It has taken its toll on everyone, but Kara in particular. With her, it hasn’t been a single big thing, more an accumulation of small effects. As a sociable child, she has missed seeing her friends. She doesn’t enjoy doing martial arts, cheer and gym training by Zoom. She has even struggled to focus on schoolwork. The end result is that she has been particularly grumpy and irritable for the past few weeks. Getting a smile out of her – normally a simple task – has been nigh on impossible. She’s been in a proper funk.

However, she couldn’t get out of the door fast enough this morning. And she returned all smiles. Yes, I still have concerns. But for her, it’s worthwhile.

Toby has been less extreme, but he was keen to return today too. A lot has happened since he was last in school in mid-December. His 11th birthday. Confirmation of his place at grammar school for next year. He now has barely a term of primary school remaining. He’ll finally receive his first phone – even if it is a hand-me-down – at Easter. For him, a return to school is less of a ‘welcome back’ and more the beginning of a long goodbye. It’s time to prepare to move on; he’s ready.

At the end of this week, it will be exactly one year since I last worked in the office. I don’t think any of us truly thought it would be this long. So much has changed over the past 12 months; some of it temporary, but equally some of these changes will stick. Either way, hopefully we are now nearer the end than the beginning.

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

The Covid Hokey Cokey: September 23rd-October 4th

200 days later: October 5th-18th

Déjà vu: October 19th-November 1st

In the balance: November 2nd-15th

Not too early: November 16th-29th

Preparing for a not-normal Christmas: November 30th-December 13th

A different Christmas: December 14th-27th

Back to square one: December 28th-January 10th

Birthdays and hospitals: January 11th-24th

Waist-deep in molasses: January 25th-February 7th

Hope or expectation?: February 8th-22nd


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