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19 April 2020

life in lockdown

it occurred to me today that i hadn't really recorded anything of note during this whole covid-19 sitch, other than on my instagram stories which obviously don't have any longevity, and it might be something i'd want to read about later in life. the diary of anne frank is a book i read a lot as a teenager, finding her life in lockdown so scary and unknown, and very dangerous - and obviously our lockdown is a lotttt different to hers, but the comparison of her daily life to ours is interesting. yes, she was in hiding, and with her family, and was in danger of far more than catching a potentially fatal disease, but.. there are *some* similarities. some.

i write this on day 38 of being in isolation, and while i ~now~ have found peace with my alone-ness (i'm not really lonely) and solitude, it wasn't always the case. let me set the scene.

i arrived back to london on march 10th, after two and a bit weeks away, visiting family in new zealand, and a week by myself (wonderful at the time, in hindsight.. why did i spend my last holiday alooooone?) in bali. the concept of 'coronavirus' was largely a passing thought before i left london; there had been no cases in bali or new zealand, and i was convinced it was all a government cover-up so we wouldn't notice the brexit deals being denied left, right and centre. while i was away, the news down-under was different. what was happening in europe had a different, and more worrisome lens than it did while in *actual* europe, and that was sort of.. odd.

then there were family members who didn't want to see me while i was in new zealand, simply because i had passed through bali (a man in nz was confirmed to have coronavirus, and he had entered the country via bali). it made me laugh at the time, how... serious it was all being taken, and i was sure it would all blow over. reader: blow over, it did not. and as i left new zealand, after hugging my mum and saying "see you soon", i never thought in a million years what would happen next, could have ever happened.

i landed in gatwick to no security of any kind, no temperature checks, no health checks. so, seemed like it was business as usual in london. then i got home, did a quick shop for essentials (oh how that term would come to mean something entirely different in mere weeks) and spent my last day of holiday battling fatigue, jet lag, and the holiday blues. the next day, i logged onto my work emails (from home, it was always planned for me to work from home that day because jet lag) and saw the recommendation from my manager to "work from home for the rest of the week, just in case". in case of.. what? well, turns out someone in the office had been in contact with a confirmed case, and part of the office had been sent home already. with my having just arrived back from travel, the official recommendation to me then was 7 days of self isolation.

the next day, the whole floor was sent home and told to await comms. on monday, we were told to stay home for a few more days while the business looked into safeguarding. at this point, i had been home alone for almost a week, and had expected a 14 day working from home period. another week of being home alone? dumb, but at least i had plans in the diary to see friends and celebrate birthdays. and, i'd made a little circle of friends in my neighbourhood, with girls i could walk and talk with at lunch time, to stop me going stir crazy.

but then.. slowly.. those plans began being cancelled with the daily 5pm prime minister briefings that suggested no gatherings of more than 10 people, no more touching other people, no more this, no more that.. it was all going downhill so fast. meanwhile, i still had a few holidays in the diary that i was hopefully planning for, and still making bookings and instagram collaborations for - they were weeks away, it'll be over by then!

then. travel restrictions were implemented. borders started to close. flights started to be cancelled. and those things i had to look forward to... were all gone. including a oal's birthday trip to barcelona. it was fine, i rallied and made amazing plans for the birthday girl, for a spanish-themed birthday day out in london - one to remember, and laugh about when this was all over. but then, on the 23rd of march - less than 14 days since i returned home, and one day before i was due to come out of self isolation, the uk went into complete lockdown.

you know the rest. schools closed, supermarkets formed queues of 2m gaps between shoppers. the uk went mad for loo roll and we ran out of pasta. pandemonium. and all the while, i was alone. working from home, in a tiny flat with only a couple of rooms to move between. and a balcony, that was - at that point, covered in dust from the unrelenting demolition site next door. a demolition site that was deemed "essential" despite a country-wide lockdown, and that - to this day - continues to cause noise, debris and destruction during my working day. six weeks of working days, so far, with at least another three to go, i'm told.

the first few weeks were a mix of stress (with a lot going on a work and not really any way to share the load from so far away), sadness, exhaustion, and boredom. i'm not a baker, and i'm not crafty, and in those first two weeks the uk were on a binge of making banana bread and cross stitching. in an effort to play along, i bought some colouring in books, but it's not the same. similarly, puzzles bore me, and you can hardly play a board game alone, so i moped instead, a lot.. my friends tried, they did, but it's hard to understand when you live with other people, or have a partner sharing the ride with you. being alone, and not allowed to see anyone or do anything - for someone like me who thrives on exploring, was hard.

still - the weather was springing up, and being out on the balcony was something of a silver lining, so i invested in outdoor furniture to make being out there more comfortable - and i spent my whole sunny easter weekend out there. luxury is in the eye of the beholder, as the old saying goes. i also now spend my days (ok, my allocated hour of outdoor time) exploring my whole neighbourhood - i mean, whole. i just look at google maps to see what parks are walkable, and i walk. at weekends i walk for hours - even making it out to greenwich park on the longest walk (great to know i can get there under an hour, though!), and closer to home, into lewisham park just in time to see it absolutely bloom out of nowhere.

i, of course, have been sharing all this on instagram, and it's - weirdly, been a hit. i've gained more followers in this time than i did the whole of last year alone. maybe people are more bored that ever, but hey - same. maybe people appreciate the different view on lockdown than their own. maybe it's the flowers i'm sharing, or the hilarious tik toks (oh yeah, joined that too - don't judge, it's a lockdown!).. whatever the case, i've found a community who really.. keep me going. it's important to have that.

being stuck inside and alone has also made me have to adapt my "content" too - maybe that's also helped. i obviously have to take all my own photos now, and i've been playing around with my tripod and timer to try and mix it up. i started a hashtag on instagram - two actually, one of my self portraits (to see my progression, i guess) and one for colour lovers trapped inside (to share their colourful outfits no matter the sitch!). it's funny where your brain goes when the walls are fixed.

i miss people, though. i miss my friends. i video chat with some, some i, i don't need to see. i see them on instagram, i chat to them on text - and that's enough. others, they want face time and i guess i do too. sometimes. on my own terms. we play card games online, and participate in pub quizzes. the uk has rallied - so many things we thought we would miss out on, have just innovated, and become available in other ways. the community spirit of michelin starred restaurants turning into food delivery services, local restaurants transforming to take-away only, and the thousand of other businesses that have had to pivot their marketing, commerce and delivery strategies in order to stay open and thrive during a pandemic, is mad. and it puts things into perspective.

then there's the nhs. man alive, never has it been more obvious just how underfunded and under appreciated our national health service is in this country. while we're on our balconies clapping for these everyday heroes, who go to work and face nothing but death and illness without proper funding, adequate protective gear, the tools they need to combat this disease, the bloody prime minister is recovering in a private hospital and asking rhetorical questions like, "how can i ever repay you?" well i mean, start by paying them, i guess. again, the uk has rallied, and raised millions of pounds for various nhs services and charities, and businesses have made allowances for these front line heroes - announcing that they wont' have to have to pay for parking, pay for petrol, pay for pizza ever again, but.. is it our responsibility that these people receive the thanks they deserve? wouldn't.. wouldn't funding the service better be more appropriate? i'm not a mathematician, so what would i know.

what i know is, i'm currently sat at my makeshift work station, three beers down during the world's first ever online beer festival, contemplating the state of the world. so i should probably leave it there, eh.

stay safe. x

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