These past 725 weeks of lockdown have been all of the following; weird, scary, fun, simple, challenging, lonely, warming, connecting, creative, worrying, inspiring, unfamiliar, tiring, uplifting. Quite the collection. Such a mega lifestyle change. In so many ways.
And when big change happens I am usually the first to initially go HEY NO, WAIT GUYS, THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS? I’M OUTTA HERE before taking a breath, a little time and then walking alongside it, giving it the right side eye.
And at this time especially, what choice have we had than to just go with change? To ride that bucking bronco like a BOSS. One that sometimes snot cries while stuffing Milky Bar sharing bars into her face.
A proper change in the norm started for me the second week of March. A meeting in Soho where I avoided the tube and opted for Uber and didn’t hang around London any longer than I really had to. A meeting where we bumped forearms rather than shook hands. My job switched to a compulsory remote working approach days after that. It felt sudden but also obvious, sensible. At this time, if someone did a simple clearing-of-the-throat cough in the office it would be followed by a rather jovial and flippant ‘oooh corona’ comment. But those comments started to become thicker with real concern that the air itself was starting to feel different, infected.
That first week of doing Teams video meetings with colleagues was weird but fun. Looking at everyone in their natural habitat. A vulnerability attached to the fusing together of work and home life in all its different forms. Look how…human everyone is. I wonder what flavour tea Sarah has in those fancy jars? Oooh you can see that Joe earns the big bucks, lovely pendant light in the background there.
Alongside the life alterer that is Covid 19, I’ve also been going through redundancy with today my last day at MTV. Not corona related redundancy, but certainly one of interesting timing. Negotiating a payout package whilst still doing your job from home, not really wanting to leave and knowing you won’t be going in to the office to see your team for a real farewell…is a head fuck. Picturing the office I have been in for 12 years, my current desk set up complete with polaroids of my long longed for daughter. And a bottle of prosecco that would go down a treat just now. It’s nostalgic. It’s sad. Yes a payout is great for the here and now because husband isn’t earning or getting any government support…but I perhaps wasn’t ready. I was fully in the swing of proudly managing the juggle I’d seen so many wonderful women do around me over the years. It took a lot to return to work after our miracle baby landed, moreso because of the heart surgery she needed at just over a year old. So to get that sorted, to pluck up the courage to trust a childminder and try and rejoin the working world was perhaps obviously going to take a lot out of me. And it has.
So Covid life has been smudged in with all of that to lead me to points where I haven’t been able to see the wood for the trees. I’ve woken up in pure disbelief, as I’m sure many of us have, at the state of the world. How absolutely terrifying some big world ‘leaders’ feel just now. I mean we knew they were loopy before but Jesus Christ. Plus, where will I work next? When will I work next? How long will this money last us? I flit between ‘THIS IS MY MOMENT’ vibes where I feel I am going to launch something (what exactly? That part of the brief needs work) and the comfort of just looking for a job, working for someone else.
Back to Covid. I’ve dipped in and out of news reports, aiming to stay clued up on the pandemic, but also so mindful of the conspiracies and continued clickbait headlines that aren’t helping anyones mental state just now and the stark daily tallies of those who are ill and have lost lives.
The week before last was the first time we’d left the house since mid March save for two early morning grocery dashes from the husband. We’d had our probable bout with C-19 early April and were officially out of total isolation. As John and I took turns to be around Elodie, masked and gloved, as we were still dealing with the dregs of whatever bloody got us, we started to think more creatively about how to entertain her.
Our garden is in no way landscaped but the potential is strong. It’s a dream that one day it won’t be littered with old piles of sand from the extension project or an old peeling office chair that pokes out from a bush. But with the sun mostly shining of late and hours to kill either side of toddler nap time, I can honestly say we have never spent so much time out there. It’s great! How lucky we are to have that space. To watch the birds and squirrels (doing mental fist pumps at spotting two magpies btw…everything is going to be ok now everyone) and to fish out Elodie’s paddling pool from the shed. We’ve cobbled together a little ‘garden table’ out of two old discarded side tables for her where she can collect and wash stones.
We’ve (John has) put together a wooden playhouse for her upcoming 2nd birthday which we will kit out inside the night before the ‘big 2’ in a couple of weeks, we’ve played with sand, painted stones, hidden her fave cuddlies in trees and bushes for her to find, chalked on paths and bricks and walls and planted wild and sunflower seeds together.
We would NOT have done most of this without the lockdown.
And there it is. The plain and obvious gratitude for this awful situation that is so negatively impacting many areas of life, many people. It’s also now bringing us back to ourselves, our loved ones and our minds.
I listened to one of Fearne Cotton’s latest Happy Place podcasts last week, one with Russell Brand, and it really spoke to me on how parts of the lockdown life are actually quite beautiful and how in slowing down, if we’ve been fortunate enough to do so as many haven’t, and limiting our choices in where we can go and what we can do, our lives have been stripped of bullshit. Which can, in ways, be confronting too. There might be time and space now to ask, without work, without the usual distractions and duties, deadline and projects, without a title, who am I? What am I supposed to be doing? And I don’t ask the latter with just career and work in mind. But perhaps, what am I supposed to be doing for others, for myself, for now and for the future.
I think a beautiful first sign of the simplicity of an altered state of living were the heartbreakingly human videos from Spain and Italy of people singing from balconies. Surely singing in communion with other people is something that we are all supposed to do? A stripped back life surely consists of what we can do as just us, using the tools of our bodies, just laid bare…getting together with people to talk, to sing, to eat and drink, to dance and to hold and support eachother.
Then the rainbows started appearing in local windows and chalk markings on pavements that etched out little mini obstacle courses for kids and words of hope for all.
The Thursday night clapping which admittedly jars with some people because instead of clapping let’s do something tangible for those who are, let’s face it, truly putting their lives at risk to treat and save others. But still, a nice time to head out on to the pavements or peer from balconies to see neighbours faces, to shout hello and how are you?
And the weekly Friday night Zoom quizzes with a group of friends. Something I genuinely get excited about each week. And not because John and I grace the top of the leaderboard. Sadly far from it. But it’s just FUN.
Early April when John and I were sweating and coughing in separate bedrooms, we would hear from our neighbours on Whatsapp who would check in to see if we needed anything, picking up paracetamol for us and giving us bread and eggs. My father in law came to the rescue when I was prescribed a new inhaler and needed that picking up. Plus other bits that he generously got for us.
A friend, Matt, surprised us with a doorstep drop of fresh fruit and veg one day.
Isn’t this what it means to be human? Looking after one another.
I want to make sure I can look back on this time with little to no regrets. This is oddly but truly a once in a lifetime experience. The time that some of us have been afforded because there’s no or less work, little money, less choice. I’ve seen so many ‘motivational’ posts on social about now being the time to finally get fit, address your diet, try something new, knuckle down and be productive and achieve. Don’t waste this time for the love of god. I call bullshit on all that. Well done to those shouting from the rooftops about everything they are achieving just now, hopefully it is coming from a genuine place rather than a place of fear or FOMO. This for me though, is a time to not overload our plates, metaphorically and other. We are in the midst of a global crisis, which is probably doing more harm to our mental and physical health than we perhaps realise. And not just because we’re in it, but because maybe we are also now a little fearful of what happens next and how on earth we return to a life that now feels unfamiliar.
I have a nearly 2 year old. How fucking lucky am I to be able to have every single day with her just now? Yes, of course it can be hard. But she still wants to cuddle me, she still calls for me from her cot and wants to sing and dance and do stickers and hang out. In fact, that’s all she really wants. Time with me, us. One day she is likely to go through stages of wanting the complete bloody opposite and those hugs where she grips on tight around my neck, those walks home from the woods where she’s on my shoulders singing with wonder at the blossom and even those frustrating moments where you are trying to cook and she’s clinging to your leg for your attention will be gone. Over.
I guess my yard stick for the lockdown is staggered with markers around helping other people. Have I provided some support or comfort or reprieve? And this isn’t coming from a ‘look how selfless I am’ place because in the grand scheme I really haven’t done much at all. There are loads of nearest and dearest I’ve done sweet bugger all for. But inspired by some people who showed up for us or have entertained us (we’ll come to my friend Tom in a minute), I have made sure to do something for some of them. Offering neighbours in on our food delivery order if they needed anything and dropping off a box of essentials to our unsuspecting elderly neighbours. I’ve taken a road trip to deliver grocery goodies to my mum and dad, aunt and uncle and my cousin who has a newborn. I’ve sent a surprise cake as a gift to an NHS working friend. John chalked our front wall with colour which passers by smile at.
Not a lot really is it? Could do way more. But why aren’t those things normal or front of mind in life before lockdown? Russell Brand spoke about the ‘Jeans and Joyces’ in Fearne’s podcast. You know, the neighbours on your street when you were growing up. We had Monica, Liz, Janet, Debbie. We all knew each other, would holiday together even. We were there for one another. I babysat some of their babies, we’d host barbecues and parties; music loud, alcohol flowing, laughter audible for quite some distance. I’m sure some of you still have this. I think it can be entirely dependent on where you live and how you yourself show up. Hands up, we don’t have a great community where we live at all, save for our new neighbours mentioned above who we’ve been checking in on during these last few months and it really is on the list to sort this out. Maybe here by making more effort or maybe by moving to somewhere where it comes a little more naturally.
This in a roundabout way leads me on to my dear friend Tom who I mentioned above. He lives in Manchester, in an area that is ALL about community. Low back garden brick walls that allow you, hell, invite you, to notice and chat to your neighbours every single day. I stayed there once for a weekend and the minute I arrived we were sat in Tom’s back garden sharing a glass of wine with his neighbour over the wall. I will never forget that.
So, Tom, a secondary school friend of dreams. I adore him. I probably don’t even see him once a goddam year now but that will change. I promise. We both love musicals, singing, the odd tipple. He is beyond talented as an actor and singer and pianist. I used to watch him at school show dress rehearsals playing the piano and i’d get misty eyed while I limbered up (lolling) for my turn on stage, dancing to sometimes speed garage (hahahahahaha) and other times MJ. There was also a Dirty Dancing sitch too. Wow.
Anyway Tom. When lockdown hit, and his NHS consultant husband (yep, what a couple) was doing long shifts, Tom took to writing corona themed parodies of Disney songs and sharing them on Facebook. The first one he did made me literally beam and sparked Elodie to request ‘pinano Tom!’ over and over. And then he followed up with a second. And I guess this is indicative of what he can offer the world just now, without having to learn a new skill or overthink it all. He is a performer, so he has simply and rather expertly applied his know-how in a way to entertain and delight others. Simple.
Thank you Tom x
So here it is, what the title of this blog indicates you might actually get to read rather than the lengthy stuff that just spilled out.
What I want to try and maintain after lockdown:
Ok, hear me out. I mean why would be want virtual get togethers when we don’t have to do those anymore? I’m not sure I can remember a time without seeing loads of different friendly faces on a screen for catchups, games, celebrations…work. And obviously once we are allowed out and about, these might naturally become a little less needed or desired because the country is going to go fucking mental isn’t it? But for someone with a toddler and limited babysitting options, and perhaps for those with friends that live that bit further away, maybe there might be a way of doing a regular virtual get together on the regular.
Looking out for neighbours
It almost feels embarrassing that this hasn’t been a real thing until now. So, duly noted.
Garden and outdoor play as standard
Having a toddler run amuck at your shins can sometimes be a challenge. One I am always grateful for of course, no question, but when you just want to put some washing on or check your emails for that ‘important’ reply it can hit you that sometimes the juggle just isn’t worth it. Your time in that moment is all they want. And with limited options for jumping in the car and nipping here and there, the simplicity of a morning walk to the woods or an afternoon in the garden and letting all the other stuff just wait is sometimes all that’s needed to bring everything into balance again.
So I am going to absolutely make sure that once we do have more freedom, that this doesn’t immediately mean we have to venture out and about. And that actually, walking along logs or painting stones is just the ticket.
Shopping local and small
We have a great green grocers and health food shop in our local village and a gorge farm shop we can walk to. We used them before but I like to think we will do more once this is all over. Similarly too, in those initial lockdown weeks when it was all about loo roll and trying to nab a weekly shopping delivery slot we were forced to look at alternatives because the big supermarkets just couldn’t cope. We ended up getting a fresh delivery of produce direct from somewhere in covent garden which was fab. And with Elodie’s birthday coming up I have mainly opted to buy prezzies and decorations from small little independent retailers.
Planting seeds and actually growing them into alive plants
Ok calm down everyone, but I appear to be successfully growing a few sunflowers and some wild flowers too. As well as possibly resurrecting some sort of lily. I bought compost and seeds as one of my essential shops recently and the rest is history. The sunflower progress especially has given Elodie and I something to look forward to every morning. Before I repotted them (sure) outside, they were starting their lives in the playroom and we’d head there to check on them before breakkie each morning. Now they are growing outside we usually go out after breakfast to see if they’re still going. And they are!
So yes, I’d like to try and grow more things because, as discussed recently with a friend Rikki, the usual story goes something like this: bring indoor plant baby home, water it to death. The end.
Some sort of better balance with the husband
I feel a little nervous if i’m honest, about me not having work and John’s eventually starting back up again. Obviously it will be fab in terms of finances and for John returning to his beloved job, but at the moment we seem to be striking a better balance in caring for and developing our little girl between us and having some structured ‘work’ time for ourselves too. What we need to add into the mix is better time with each other, without the little one or work too. This week the latter came in the shape of both sitting in the sun with a little prosecco while she napped – I mean, sure, holiday vibes right there – but it got us talking a bit more and gave us some time to kick off some starter questions for our turn as Zoom quiz hosts later this week.
To me, it’s becoming clearer that our daughter is ever so slightly different around us both. I think slightly more clingy with me and possibly a little more playful or better at independent play (of around 2.6 minutes) with him. How wonderful that she is getting both of us just now? We will surely look back on this as a moment in time that was to be cherished.
Work wise, on the days where I would usually be working and while John is still ‘off’ I am going to maintain those as my work days (until I hopefully find a part time gig). I am going to use these for life admin, job searches, blogging, ticking things off The List.
There are probably more that I am going to realise over however long this goes on for.
For now though, stay in, stay safe, stay distanced, stay connected.
All the love x