It’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post (I wonder how many of the 2.5 million blog posts written today will start that way). It’s also been a strange and terrifying year. Today I want to put the terrifying to the side and concentrate on the strange. For me, the strangest thing (and certainly the first of its kind in my lifetime) was the lockdown.
There is something both encouraging and depressing about the lockdown. When COVID-19 became the responsibility of everyone, and not just that of a distant country which the news media could chastise, it occurred to me that it was surprising that so many people were willing to collectively tank the world economy in order to protect a relatively small percentage of humanity. It gave me a lot of hope. Truthfully, I wasn’t sure humanity was still able to do things like that. And yet, it seemed that most of the world knew it made sense: Hide ourselves away and starve the virus out, rather than let it run rampant through society. I mean, even saving less than a percent of the world’s population is still a huge number of souls.
I suppose some were simply acting out of fear and self-preservation. Or, perhaps, the fear of infecting those closest to them who were more vulnerable. Still, the collective will was impressive. I saw and heard of many small kindnesses during my lockdown here in the UK. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I felt that this awful, atrocious thing was uniting the whole world under a common goal.
As time has rolled on, my enthusiasm for that notion has diminished. People will be people – good and bad. I still believe the world is always getting better; just at a pace that makes it hard to see through the ebb and flow. Perhaps the most depressing thing for me has not been the deaths of so many, but that society doesn’t seem to have undergone the fundamental moral shift I hoped it would.
My own time under lockdown has been interesting, if nothing else. Perhaps for posterity and posterity alone, I am choosing to record what I did during my lockdown. It may be of no interest to anyone right now. We all have bigger things to be worried about. But, perhaps, someday, it may prove a curiosity to others… especially those who can’t remember these times.
When the lockdown first came into effect for me, it was a relief. I’d been in a state of fear, feeling I was contributing to a global downfall simply by existing; yet not knowing what actions would alleviate that possibility. The dramatic nature of the lockdown created the feeling of resolve: A larger plan that we could all get behind. But perhaps more important for me was the feeling that it wasn’t my plan. I was now absolved of responsibility in coming up with a course of action for myself. And there was freedom in that.
I now looked to my suddenly smaller life and decided to embrace it. Staying here was what I had been told to do, so it was up to me to make the most of it.
First off, this isn’t intended to be particularly uplifting. I’m not trying to say that life got better for me because I returned to a slower pace of life or cut out the daily stresses of modernity. I found the lockdown hard. Really hard.
Secondly, I’m not trying to hold up my life as some ideal, or make this a competition. I did what I did. I didn’t do it because I’m good or bad or better or worse than you. I did it because I was just trying to do the best I could… the same as everyone else.
Not knowing exactly how long this would last, I tried to make a plan for how I would spend my time. There were various duties that would still need done for work. Although my entire staff were on furlough because there weren’t enough jobs coming in to keep them working, I was still in charge of getting money to them, applying for grants, maintaining the building and machinery, and keeping the paperwork up to date. As well as keeping up to date with all the government announcements. This actually took up most of my time. I’d go as far as to say that the first two months of lockdown felt surprisingly similar to a regular job, albeit my business wasn’t generating any money.
About two months in, I felt fairly sure we would not be returning until at least the end of June. I felt I needed to do more with this time than work.
I suppose I was lucky in that I didn’t have ‘time to fill,’ but I felt that I wanted to bring something positive out of the lockdown, not just say that I got all my work done. So, I made a very short list of things I wanted to do:
- Knit a Fair Isle Jumper
- Spend Time Writing
- Improve My Violin Playing
- Read More Books
And I did quite well with those. I finished knitting my first ever Fair Isle jumper, I got good enough on the violin that my (infinitely better at violin) sister told me I now needed to buy a better instrument, and I read nine books in just under three months (which isn’t a huge amount to a lot of people, but probably the largest amount of fiction I’ve ever read in so short a time). I failed on the writing though. I found it very hard to motivate myself for that.
I also started other things that weren’t on the original list. I learned how to solve a Rubik’s cube; started fixing things around the house; made a bunch of calligraphy art; and wrote letters to friends, old and new.
There was some random stuff too: I played a lot of online games with friends; dealt with people I know dying; stereotypically started my own sour dough bread; lost weight and generally took better care of myself; watched SO much television and films; learned how to pick a lock; clapped for the NHS; made a facsimile of my parents’ high school magazine; restored a Le Creuset cast iron pan; and got asked by a stranger on the street if I was a poet and what I knew about metaphysical acceleration.
With the backdrop of horror going on around us all, it seems important to take stock of what we have and what we don’t, and how we can make the most of it. That also means how we can help others. I felt the best way I could help others through this was by only going out when necessary and trying to make sure the people I employed would have jobs to come back to. I’ve done my best, and I feel good about that. And it seems important to cling to the good things when there is so much to feel bad about right now.
For me, the first lockdown ended at the start of August. There were still restrictions in place (and more have been added since, as we face our second wavelength), but that was when I started going in to work again. So far, that hasn’t changed. I suppose, technically, the lockdown doesn’t really end until I can hug friends with abandon and not have to consider the impact of travelling further than five miles from my home. This will be with us for a while. But I feel those first few months might be a unique experience in my lifetime and I hope I did the best I could with them. Only time will tell.