Way back in March of 2020 the country became part of the global pandemic and finally (FINALLY) locked down. We didn’t think it possible as we carried on with our last dregs of social life, sweaty dance floors, filled auditoriums, noisy pubs and close proximity. It all seems like a dream now. As we all started to shape our lives differently, we thought it might be for a month or two, three at most. Here we are in August and we may be emerging too soon!
In my last week working in the little haberdashery shop in the market I was feeling tense, panicked, unsure. It was a quiet week, the air felt spiky, the people coming into the shop had a sort of urgency about them. Half the usual amount of people probably spending twice as much, getting ready for quarantine crafts and lock-down distractions. Big bags of wool, loads of embroidery threads, needles of every kind. The feeling was it’d be nice to have something to do during this strange unscheduled break.
When we finally locked up the shop and went home for a while I felt secure; I’d just had confirmation of furlough so I knew I could maybe manage for a bit. I contacted Universal Credit and was let in the door super quick, like a lot of people. I’m trapped behind that door now!
The first week or so of official isolation was weird, we all felt it. Many of course were still working either from home or in essential services, especially medical and food. But loads of us were suddenly on a sort of holiday, we didn’t know how long for or what to expect.
I met with neighbours on the street… distance was maintained at all times. The mantra of spring became “stay away from Von” said kindly and repeatedly to the small humans I share my neighbourhood with. We all discussed how weird it was, the stresses, the changes, having to think differently about how we do everything.
The queues!!! Jeez the queues. The loo roll stockpiling and pasta stashing, the fighting in the aisles. Actual fistfights over bog paper!
But on our little street we managed to keep a cheery(ish) disposition most of the time. We chalked on the road with the kids and tried to give the parents a break. We have a WhatsApp group for helping each other out, adding little bits to food deliveries for those who got them, offering ideas to help with the boredom and stress, announcements of little musical interludes by way of a piano recital. We even for a while congregated to clap for carers and the NHS.
Spring was springing like it had never sprung before. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, the birds were SO loud and nature was blooming all around us. I started to feel relaxed, like I could plan for the coming weeks. I was…dare I say it…enjoying lockdown! I went out a few times on my bike for rides to places I’d not been before, and some I had. I cycled through town a couple of times. The eerie lack of people and cars, all the shops shut down, nobody sitting in the parks. I liked having the city to myself and started to resent it when I saw anybody else; greedy I know. I went to Ashton Court, too many people. I went to Snuff Mills, too many people. I went to Netham park, too many people. But I didn’t resent them so much, I just felt anxious about it.
We were all out for our hour a day and we all carefully made space for each other with awkward physical movements and exchanges, the Covid Cha Cha, nervous laughs and “isn’t it all weird”! And then when I got home again I felt great for having been outside in the fresh air, and it was extra fresh. I felt my lungs at full capacity for the first time in decades!
There were a few emotional outbursts here and there, and not just from me either. But in the main we were all just trying to make the best of it; keep safe, keep our heads together.
I watched a lot of telly. I binged whole series, devoured films and old familiar shows. I felt sluggish and tired but I was ok with that. My income, though reduced, was ok. The bill companies had been lenient and given many of us a bit of breathing space. I was spending far less. No more lunches at work and no more silly impulse buys. Well, one or two, I decided to reupholster my mum’s old nursing chair.
I made stuff, wrote, engaged in online performances and a couple of Zooms. I was marvelling at the generosity and creativity shared by people to help make it all better for us. Online keep fit, performances, advice and support. People were frankly being quite brilliant and I was feeling very hopeful about it all. The virus raged away, but in the background for most of us thankfully.
I was calm…most of the time. Except in the corner shop or queueing to get into the supermarket. But I was more relaxed and many of my usual daily issues had dissipated. I slept fairly well and dreamed like mad. My IBS had calmed down. My anxiety, though present, was very manageable as we had a set parameter of guidelines to follow. I didn’t go out every day for my hour, but sometimes I might go out for two where it was really quiet. Bit naughty I know.
I really enjoyed the routine of going up the lane by my house to whistle for my cats, the bees buzzing loudly and the birds practically shouting. A particularly rowdy chiffchaff was the soundtrack to spring. I think I heard the fabled cuckoo too.
There were other stresses, a neighbour in trouble, but that’s their story. And although I’d been drawn into it quite deeply, I was grateful that it wasn’t me. Is that bad? I tried to help until it became clear that the problem ran a lot deeper than it at first seemed and I didn’t have the requisite skill-set to be useful. I had to take care of my own mental health; the threat of becoming unwell myself was dormant, but ever ready to poke it’s head out.
I checked on the shop a handful of times to make sure there were no mice making nests in the wool. Nobody asked me to, but it was an opportunity to feel vaguely useful.
I was in a nice flow, despite being on edge about how the government dealt with it all. And then…things started to open up again, dates were given. And during this time my job was in jeopardy. The owner had decided to sell up and I was given notice. And life came crashing back in once more!
During the next month or so a lot happened, including me finding an investor and a new owner, a full stock take and reopening in early July. My head was spinning but I kept my job! So suddenly I was whisked back into the world and back to normal, only it wasn’t normal, it had changed radically. Nothing was normal. And then I quit my job, the less said about that the better!
We’re back to a state of panic and confusion with people policing each other all the time; snapping and jeering. Too many people congregating in one place. Kids having massive raves. Everyone bombing it down to the beach at once. Demos and mass gatherings. And sadly…horrible riots and police brutality, and not just in America. The usual tensions are running a lot higher.
I don’t know what I’m going to do about getting a job, I feel the desire to work from home very strongly. I want to put myself back into a little self imposed lock-down of sorts and play it a bit safe. More for my mental health than anything.
Summer is at full pelt now and the kids are on their long holiday, the pressure to be teacher has eased off a little. But still many are keeping the home and hearth together and working from home. There is still a lot of pressure; being cooped up with your small people is incredibly taxing. I’m grateful to have a grown up who isn’t currently at home. His lock-down is being spent in Wales with his girlfriend and her family. He’s more helpful there…although it’d be handy to have him around sometimes.
I realise for a lot of people it’s been much the same work wise, more for many. I’ve been lucky mostly. But my situation has now changed radically and I’m in a leaky boat on a rocky river; life is a little uncertain again. A lot in fact.
I have happy memories of that lovely, calm, quiet spring when we knew what we had to do. I felt like the world had taken a big breath and stopped for a bit…not for everybody I know, but that’s what it felt like for me, and I miss it.
By Von Cake
All photos from my collection.
We all have a story about 2020, talk to us about yours.