It’s now been over three months since we were given the lockdown order from Boris – and I’m officially now allowed for the first time after receiving my ‘high risk’ letter from the NHS.
I recall VIP asking me what I’d do if I got a letter and I immediately laughed it off. “As if I would!” I told him, “My treatment finished three months ago.”
And within a week I was eating my words. In fact, I hid the letter from him for a few days to avoid his “I told you so” look. But then I decided to come clean – I mean, what if I got the coronavirus and I was one of the unlucky ones? I’d just survived breast cancer, it would be bloody awful if corona took me now.
So I obeyed the rules of lockdown life. But I was annoyed. After spending a year in treatment and recovery, I wanted to feel normal again – and that damn letter was preventing me from this. And I know it sounds selfish, but I was secretly pleased when, a few days later, Boris locked everyone down. I didn’t feel quite so alienated.
The general feeling was that it should have happened earlier; all around us countries were closing their borders and ordering everyone to stay indoors apart from essential shopping trips. But things were slow off the mark in England – and perhaps because of that it’s why we’ve been hardest hit in terms of casualties.
But the government did its level best in making up for its lack of initial response, promising employees 80% of their wages, while banks were offering three-month mortgage holidays. It didn’t help me as the owner of a small limited company though, so thank goodness that VIP was still on full wage as a teacher – one of the professions deemed a ‘keyworker’.
The early weeks
The first few days of lockdown had people rushing to the supermarket to stock up on whatever they could get their hands on – including a HUGE obsession with buying toilet roll (who knew?) There was no social distancing (a new terminology we came to live by – two metres apart!), so that probably didn’t help the situation. And the message from the government was ‘Stay At Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives’. This later became ‘Stay Alert, Control The Virus, Save Lives’ and, as you can imagine, there were a lot of jokes flying around on social media about ‘being alert’ – as if you could see the virus.
But I think the jokes and funny clips (including people making up songs about coronavirus – I was tempted to do one called ‘My corona’ to the tune of ‘My Shorona’!), helped most of us get through the early days. We were facing unprecedented times – no one knew what we were facing and so it seemed like a good idea to make light of the situation and use humour to distract ourselves while the government figured out what to do.
In the first few weeks I think everyone was in the same boat. It was a novelty staying at home – no school, no rushing round, calmer mornings, a more relaxed vibe – we all just went with the flow. We were allowed an hour’s exercise outdoors every day, but most people were too scared to do this, certainly in the early days.
Businesses and companies offered all sorts of free things – app downloads and ebooks, gym/fitness sessions, learning materials, educational resources for the kids… even Virgin Media gave us some free channels to watch and I made the most of the Blinkist app for reading materials. We even had a photographer come round to the house to take a picture of us all for free (for a donation to the charity of our choice). He called it a ‘DOORtrait’ and it was a picture that we’ll keep to remind ourselves of what we looked like during lockdown.
I had to go to the doctors (to have my monthly zoladex jab) and the hospital for my first mammogram after all my treatment. I was wondering if they’d cancel the mammogram, but I was fortunate that they didn’t – the results meant so much to me. A week later they arrived – and I was told over the phone that I had the ‘all clear’ – it was the best news I could receive although I felt sad that I couldn’t celebrate with my family – that will come soon enough though!
The very same day, I’d had some business issues going on and it felt like it was a bittersweet day – I should have been on a high but I was frustrated and annoyed. I wondered if being in lockdown was starting to get to me.
I decided that I needed a holiday away from it all. In fact, over the Easter period we were supposed to be on a two-week holiday – a cruise to Mexico followed by stays in Los Angelos and Las Vegas – it was going to be the big celebratory holiday that we’d all longed for after what we’d all been through. I was really gutted that we couldn’t go as I’d be looking forward to it for so long – we all had.
The ‘home holiday’
But there was no reason why I couldn’t ‘holiday at home’ – and not work at all. So I did – I took about ten days off and it did absolute wonders for me. I didn’t feel pressured, I could relax, throw myself into household projects without feeling that I had to check my emails every five minutes – it was the medicine that I needed – for my mental health, my soul and my mindset. In those ten days I made peace with my future and accepted that whichever direction it took, it was the right one for me. Basically, I was letting fate decide – and I was 100% cool with that (this says a lot considering I’m a self-confessed control freak).
But it actually felt like a huge weight off my shoulders and I revelled in enjoying all the things I’d wanted to do in many years – I cleared, decorated, decluttered, tidied and cleaned to my heart’s content. And I loved it! As long as I was keeping busy I was happy. And that was pretty much the case throughout most of the lockdown period; I didn’t use it as an excuse to put my feet up all day (although I did do a lot more relaxing than usual), but rather I looked at all the projects and tasks I’d put off doing over the years and started to tackle them bit by bit. One of my favourite projects was updating the lounge (long overdue) and treating ourselves to a new telly (ours was ancient!).
As a family we attempted the LEGO challenge every night in the early weeks – and I’d send our creations to my mum for her to guess who had built what. We also enjoyed more baking, family exercise and creative meals, which we enjoyed together as a family. We played family games in the evening – mostly Charades – and we had many happy family moments together, particularly the weekly movie night, where we’d all trundle down to the summerhouse to watch a movie, arms laden with sweets and treats.
It felt like the kids grew closer and what I envisaged in the early weeks of us all being cooped up in the house together (lots of shouting, disagreements and sibling rivalry) hardly happened at all. It made life much more enjoyable that’s for sure – perhaps being forced to spend all our time together made us more tolerant of each other.
As the weeks went on I started to look forward to Thursday nights when we’d come out and clap for our NHS carers and keyworkers. I like to see my neighbours and wave to them – and I started to wave at a few more neighbours too – it was lovely. Living close to a hospital made it especially magical as there would be cars tooting and fireworks being set off – you could hear it all down the street and it felt like we were all standing united. I loved it. But when the clapping was over, I’d feel a tinge of sadness that I wouldn’t see my neighbours again for another week. Everything felt so surreal – who would have known that the world would be thrown into disarray because (in Nadja’s words) “Someone ate a bat in China!”
The halfway mark
By the halfway mark, we had well and truly settled into a routine. Every week day morning, we’d wake the kids at around 9.30am. By 10am we’d all be doing Joe Wicks (it was a great punctuation to the day and we all felt virtuous afterwards), and by 11am we’d all eaten our breakfast and would have had our showers.
Work usually commenced shortly afterwards and we’d all work in different areas the house – me in my office, the kids doing their schoolwork in their bedrooms and VIP would use the desk upstairs in the spare room to set his pupils work for the day, catch up on phone calls with his pupils, teams calls with teachers or marking – or all four!
Either myself or VIP would make lunch and from 3.15pm onwards, we more or less called it a day and pottered around the house tidying, cleaning, ironing, cooking…
Once a week each of the kids would make a meal – inspired by international cuisine – we ate everything from Mansaf (Jordan) and Peka (Croatia), to Callaloo (from Trinidad and Tobago) and Pavlova (Australian style!). It was great to know that this weekly occurrence was both educational and offered a new skill.
On Tuesday mornings VIP would get the shopping list from all of us and head to Tesco in time for its opening at 6am. He found it easier going at this time as (a) he could pick up pretty much all the supplies he wanted and (b) there were fewer people around. I used to look forward to his return to see what goodies he’d brought back for me.
It would take us ages to put the shopping away though – we’d first disinfect everyone with Dettol wipes, then it would be scanned (Shop and Scan), before putting it away. It took a few weeks of this before we got it down to a good patter.
I too was learning some new skills – I was doing much more cooking and baking from scratch and found that I enjoyed the cooking more than I thought I would. And from about week 9 I decided that I would learn a new skill in lockdown – to learn all the capital cities of the world by 31st July.
We also missed out on our second holiday; VIP and I were due to fly off to Ljubljana in Slovenia for a weekend, but again it got cancelled. We postponed the hotel booking so we’re looking forward to being able to do that at some point in the next year – fingers crossed.
I also joined in plenty of Zoom calls for business and Houseparty calls with friends, but what I looked forward to every couple of weeks was chatting on Zoom to my new accountability partners, Kate and Helen. We had started off by having a one-off Zoom chat on how we were coping (business-wise) during lockdown, what our plans were and how we could help one another. From that was born a video chat every two weeks; we’d tell each other everything we wanted to achieve and then have two weeks to make our intentions actionable goals – and then report back on how we’d performed. It was a great kick up the backside that I needed – and kept me motivated and inspired. My two-week goals ranged from things like ‘get rid of broken links on the blog’ and ‘list five items on eBay’, to ‘Weed the front garden’ and ‘contact all the potential advertisers on my CRM’.
The end of lockdown looms
It wasn’t until week 9 of lockdown that I started sleeping through the night. Since lockdown began, I’d suddenly developed insomnia. I’d either be unable to get to sleep – or more usually, waking at crazy o’clock in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. VIP also had disrupted sleep – and we’d both sustained injuries – me with my back (I think I had a bulging disc again) and VIP with a swollen knee which he’d managed to do during one of Joe Wicks’ sessions!
Luis, who turned 15 during lockdown, had stuck to a keto diet since the start (much to mine and VIP’s annoyance as it meant that mealtimes were hard – catering to different demands), but the boy did great and lost around 1 ½ stone. One morning we came down to discover that he’d left a note by the front door saying he’d gone for a job – at 5am! Thereafter followed a mini lecture from us on how he can’t just disappear and take himself off for a jog as we didn’t know where he was. But I admired his dedication.
So, here we are – I'm officially allowed out again. And as crazy as this sounds, I almost don’t want life to ‘go back to normal’ again. Despite missing out on our holidays, I’ve really enjoyed the last three months. Yes, I had a couple of wobbles and lockdown hasn’t been without its frustrations, but the time we’ve spent as a family enjoying each other’s company has been nothing short of wonderful.
I’ve really appreciated an unhurried and more relaxed pace of life. I set out my objectives every day for what I want to achieve the following day – and most of the time, I’m getting things achieved – and it feels great.
So you can appreciate why I wouldn’t want this to end really. We’ve all learned to appreciate the smaller things in life – the wonderful sunshine we’re experiencing at the moment, the nice meals we’re enjoying as a family, weekly treats from the bulk buy supermarket shop – and a great excuse to watch loads of telly (Afterlife, Unorthodox, Innocent, Gogglebox, Ozark….)
The world has become kinder; we’re uniting as communities and micro communities – helping one another, reminding each other that we’re there for one another, being kind and caring. And heck, from an environmental point of view, there are so many positives that have arisen from fewer people and cars about. You only have to look at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ satellite images to realise what positive impact lockdown has had.
I suppose the only thing that I miss about ‘normality’ is the chance to go away on holiday. But that time will come – and when it does, it will be even sweeter than I can imagine, I’m sure.
And the hope for all of us once lockdown life is all over? That we take this time to reflect back on how our lives were somehow better – and more connected. It’s crazy and surreal to know that we’re living through a time that, in years to come, will be taught as part of history lessons in schools.
But wouldn’t it be amazing if we could use what life in lockdown has taught us – to be more connected in our communities, to be patient, kind and more understanding of one another, to be grateful for the small pleasures in life – and take the time to enjoy them. To be kind to ourselves, nature, wildlife and ultimately our planet. Now that would really be something – the day lockdown life made the world a better place.
What have you loved or loathed about lockdown? What lessons or experiences do you hope we carry forward when things return to normal?
You might also like…
A Pin For Your Memory Board