I don't think I've ever actually met my next guest poster but I've become her internet fangirl. Claire Edwards writes an irregular newsletter from her world, plus what she is reading, listening to and watching. It's called Emotional Whiplash, it's very good and you can view the archive and sign up to it here. I found it via following her partner Andy Cowley of the Walsall band, 8-bit Ninjas, who local friends may know. Claire kindly said yes to me reposting her April newsletter extract on her lockdown experience. Claire, Andy and their awesome dog now live in Surrey. It's no Walsall but they seem to like it.
As to her lockdown experience Claire says in 800 words pretty much what I have been talking about in 74 posts, covering deep change, new sleep cycles, new ways of communication, the welcome absence of cars, missing family, missing holidays, home exercise and the compulsive news cycle.
This is my tl;dr…
It's been over a month since the UK entered lockdown, and probably two months since it started to become clear that this pandemic was something that was going to profoundly affect all of our lives. Over the last month the rhythms of my life have shifted profoundly – I've barely been more than a mile away from my house, apart from one or two bike rides which have taken us as far the next few villages. Freed of the need to actually travel to an office I can wake up naturally, and go to bed later as befits my night owl nature.
Video conferencing has become part of my daily life – I chat to academics in their box rooms, and occasionally catch a glimpse of their children or pets. My own dog has become a standing joke with colleagues as he invariably starts barking furiously at some imagined intruder outside at least once during every call I have.
Zoom drinks with friends are joyous and anarchic – we started off with the intention of running a quarantine book club but ended up just drinking wine and talking nonsense for two hours. The irony of social distancing is that I'm now seeing friends who live further away or who have children much more frequently than before – I wonder if perhaps this is a shift in communication we should keep?
People say hi in the street much more frequently than at any point since we moved to Surrey, overcompensating for the fact that we all have to physically avoid one another.
We walk the dog on the field opposite our house, primarily because it's quiet and offers plenty of space to stay away from other walkers. I note with amusement how many more people are using "our" field now that outdoor time and space is at a premium.
The road outside our house, in normal times always busy with cars, is quiet even in the week. The noise of a single car seems much greater than before, particularly in the evenings and at weekends when everywhere is deserted.
My desk faces the window and I spot deer, pheasants, a heron, and lots of warring ducks. The dog mostly ignores the wildlife but saw a fox on a late night walk last week and got extremely angry.
I miss my family. We talk every week but it's not the same. I see my sister's 11-month-old baby change and grow week by week – since I saw him last he's mastered crawling and is starting to talk. I know I'll miss his first birthday and it breaks my heart. As does the fact that he strokes the iPad screen when Andy or I are talking. I really hope he remembers me still when we're allowed to travel again.
I worry about Andy's mum, recovering from pneumonia and still grieving. I miss being able to jump in the car or get on a train, at a moments notice if need be, to go and see the people I love.
We have a cottage booked in the Lake District for late June. I wait to see whether by some miracle we might be able to go, knowing deep down that we'll have to postpone it. Not knowing when to postpone to – will September be possible? Would it be more sensible to just write this year off and rebook for next June?
I watch the TV and make mental lists of everywhere I'd like to go once I can travel. Most of the destinations are in the UK. I can't imagine when I'll next get on a plane.
I do a lot of yoga and cycling in our back bedroom, converted to an exercise room for the duration of the lockdown. Our next door neighbour uses his turbo trainer in the garden which seems like a nice idea but I can't be bothered to change our set up now. I cycle with the window open and the fan on instead!
I run when I can, finding new routes in the local countryside that avoid people and taking flying leaps into hedgerows to maintain appropriate social distancing. My running club organises virtual relays, treasure hunts, and virtual training sessions – after not getting as involved as I'd like since we moved I suddenly feel much more part of something. I resolve to stop making excuses for not going to club nights once we are allowed to train together again, whenever that may be.
I miss swimming so much I dream about it.
The temptation to keep refreshing the news and Twitter to see if something has changed is overwhelming. I've deleted and reinstalled Twitter several times now to try and resist the temptation of scrolling but it doesn't really help.
Some days I feel positive, like I've adapted well and that the future will be brighter soon. Some days I feel like this might never end. I think that's normal?
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Today I (back to Fiona here) am thankful for anti-histamines and easy access to medicines in the UK. It's hay fever season and today it hit me. By 5pm I was able to function again and went to do some digging, groaning and sighing at the allotment.
In positive statistical news – strange how a death toll can be positive – the UK recorded 77 deaths yesterday, the lowest since lockdown began. And no new coronavirus deaths were recorded in Scotland or Northern Ireland. It's partly the effect of lower incoming stats after a weekend apparently.
Speaking of transmission, I saw two teenagers snogging in the park on the way to the allotment, surrounded by their mates hanging out on the swings. I'm not here to demonise them but a whole world of quips were going through my mind: from "You'll catch something…" to "Wash your hands after." Or as friends have suggested: “No, no, it’s Stay Alert, not Start To Flirt”, “Kiss of death”, “Two metres… unless you two are from the same household, in which case I hope your mother doesn’t find out!”, “[name] and [name] sitting in a tree / D-I-S-T-A-N-C-I-N-G” and “This is NOT Solihull!”
Of course, I said nothing. Teenage first kisses and first loves are probably always going to trump coronavirus. As someone said to me today after I wrote about my uncertainty over mass protests in a time of Covid-19, some things are just more important to those involved, also and some things are going to happen now and can't be postponed.
Life goes on. Death does too.
PS. A message from the Zoe Covid-19 app: "If you joined any peaceful protests this weekend, please don’t forget to quarantine yourself afterwards to protect others."
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