I'm not going to lie, personally I already miss the lockdown.
Despite the ongoing anxiety-inducing circumstances of a global pandemic, the lockdown itself was often a time of peace and quiet and reflection and safety, free of many of the usual obligations of life.
Looking back, I mostly remember it for the May heatwave spent in the garden, for scary trips out to the supermarket, for walks in the middle of local empty streets, for the birdsong and clean air, for allotment visits, for the utter joy of seeing other people in real life when that was allowed, for the weird enforced distance with loved ones, for the escapism of my media diet, for the Thursday community clap, and, of course, for writing this daily (nighttimely?) diary.
Already I'm forgetting what those early days were like. As the rules shifted and changed so did our emotions, responses and reactions to the threat. It's good to have written it all down in real time – and I've already submitted this diary to several archive projects for the record.
I started writing the day full lockdown in the UK started on 24 March, although I'd been writing privately well before that (rounded up in Pandemic diary 3: a brief history of coronavirus in Stirchley, Birmingham).
I was sitting in the garden and heard a row breaking out across the street (Pandemic diary 1: First fracas). I remembering wondering if this was what was going to happen when people were cooped up together and not really allowed out. Domestic violence has been a big issue of this time (Pandemic diary 94: A down day), along with George Floyd and Black Lives Matter (Pandemic diary 69: The murder of George Floyd).
From day one, I decided there needed to be bunny photos in each post to lighten the mood. The template quickly became: BUNNIES, BLOGGING, BLESSINGS!
Back then we had two rabbits, of course. We lost one around four weeks later and didn't get to be with him at the end because of coronavirus (Pandemic diary 23: Goodbye Bunminster).
The diary acted as therapy, social record and a letter to the future. I thought it would last a week, then a month and then 100 seemed the next round number, and here we are.
Writer's cramp brings in new perspectives
I had an RSI flare-up in the middle of the diary when, on top of working and daily blogging, I both went for a job (Pandemic diary 87: Socially distanced job interview) and submitted a long piece of creative writing work to a publisher (neither successful). Writing every day was a pain in the neck at the end of a long day, literally.
Thank goodness then for guest diarists who were kind enough to write a post about their lockdown life.
It was great to get the perspectives of others. There were 12 or 13 in all, I think – from funny entries to angry rants, to the in-depth experiences of friends who were shielding, were inadvertently part of coronavirus transmission due to the government's slow pandemic response or were severely ill with Covid-19. They came from Brum, London and as far away as New Zealand.
Thank you for offering your insights but even more for giving me a night off!
No, seriously, I feel honoured. Ta babs!
What kept me going
Mostly sheer will but also regular readers and feedback. I joke that I work for praise…
The blog stats for the period show 2,300 users and 5,200 unique visits which is incredible. And partly why I added the 'hire/commission me' line at the end of each post – the work of freelance writers is precarious at the best of times.
Unusually for blogs these days, there were lots of comments. Thanks to regular readers and commenters both on Facebook and on the blog, I didn't feel so alone. In truth, they kept me going (Pandemic diary – day 30: Do I keep writing?).
Thanks Chris, Liz, Hazel, Tracey, the Wrinkly Rocker, other Liz, Sheena, Tania, Sue, Kerry, John, Kate, Camilla, Lo, Frank, Julia and others. And, of course, husband Pete who read the blog every night – often voluntarily – and proofread some of the tougher ones.
If I'd kept everything in my own private diary then you bet I'd have skipped a few days or weeks or just flung a few notes down when I was tired. Having an online community was an important part of the process.
To be fair, connecting over tech is how many people have held it together in the face of sudden extreme isolation.
Name check and shout-outs here to The Artefact Quiz and our distributed quiz team (Pandemic diary 67: The Artefact Quiz – pandemic edition), the fellow ukenauts of Moselele (Pandemic diary: Day 10 – Moselele turns 10), drinking pals (Pandemic diary 45: To the pub!) and friends and family for Zoom birthday celebrations, baby gender reveals and online coffee mornings.
Highlights and lowlights
On day 54 I wrote a post about death and getting my affairs in order – just in case (Pandemic diary 54: Confronting death pt 1). But there was never a pt2 philosophical/spiritual followup. Because somewhere along the way, all this became a 'new normal' – as the coronavocab would have it. The immediate oppressive thoughts of death somehow receded, to the point where a lot of us now are pretending like there is no killer virus risk and especially not at the beach (Pandemic diary 93: Lockdown all but lifted).
Posting 'the numbers' on Covid cases and deaths locally, nationally and worldwide did help keep me focused. Pretty sobering. I should add them here but I can't face it. (Update at 12/7/20:289,603 UK cases, 44,819 Covid-associated UK deaths , 21 additional deaths on 11/7/20 and 650 further cases. There were 25,767 cases across the West Midlands. And in Birmingham 4,853 cases and 1,162 deaths with 63 new cases last week. Comparisons are shaky but on deaths per thousand, it looks as if the UK has been the hardest hit of the leading G7 nations. The death rate for this time of year has now returned to normal with no excess deaths. Sources: Gov.uk and BBC.)
My best blog headline was clickbait: Pandemic diary 36: Great tits.
My most read was: Pandemic diary 23: Goodbye Bunminster.
The second most read was: Pandemic diary 81: Lockdown walks lead to a new map – a community project which arose from walking the same streets every day on our state-sanctioned walks.
There were multimedia attempts to address the challenges of mental and physical health, more to entertain myself and fill the days: Pandemic diary 60: Surfing meditation gets bitchin' real and Pandemic diary 8: Exercising with bunnies.
I don't have a favourite post but I did enjoy the journey in this one: Pandemic diary 71: A peripatetic tale of sunscreen.
There were good days: Pandemic diary 90: I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of Stirchley, Pandemic diary 73: Amuselele.
And there were moments of change and big discussion:
- when the PM got Covid-19: Pandemic diary 14: Boris in ICU
- when kids went back to school: Pandemic diary 70: Schools start to reopen
- when we could go to the shops again: Pandemic diary 84: The shops reopen
- when, due to economic pressures as much as a falling death rate, we kind of emerged from lockdown… Pandemic diary 93: Lockdown all but lifted.
There were new common traditions:
- the home haircut: Pandemic diary 34: Home haircut goes wrong
- the lockdown pot belly: Pandemic diary 65: Lockdown fat
- jigsaws: Pandemic diary 26: On holiday
- the scary first trip to the supermarket: Pandemic diary 19: Going to the supermarket – wish me luck
- the pretend holiday at home: Pandemic diary 31: Fish 'n' chips on the beach at sunset
- attempts to do something, to help: Pandemic diary 83: Covid-19 – our teensy tiny part in its hopeful downfall.
There was the very first post: Pandemic diary 1: first fracas
And now the very last: Pandemic diary 100: Looking back at 100 days of lockdown.
Then there were the thanks at the end of each post – the things and people I was grateful for or brought me joy. I might have to gather them into a whole separate post one day. Yes, the fluffy bunny at the start and the upbeat thanks formed a 'shit sandwich' but there is another reason.
In 2019, I learnt the power of gratitude from going to a dementia therapy group with a newly diagnosed friend. There I learnt that focusing on what you are thankful for can bring joy, especially amid anxiety and the unknown. A gratitude/goal diary can be very helpful as a way to deal with challenging mental health situations. It also helps programme the brain to think more positively and combats that frequent negative internal monologue and other doom-laden thoughts.
Gratitude brings joy into everyday moments. As a certain TED and Netflix vulnerability guru says…
A good life happens when you stop and are grateful for the ordinary moments that so many of us just steamroll over to try to find those extraordinary moments.Brene Brown
So today I am thankful for so many things despite the ever-present 'situation'. I'm also thankful that things are changing. Life goes on. Thankfully.
What did I learn, what did I gain?
I'm not sure yet. It helped me sleep, for sure! There is nothing like emptying out your brain every evening for a good night's sleep. And I've learnt I can write every day, come what may. There is now no excuse for putting off 'the book'.
'100 days of lockdown' has done its job and fulfilled its purpose – it's here, these things happened and have been recorded. There is a social record from my little corner of the world. We're not through this pandemic yet, so maybe I'll be back – if I need it.
But also I need to stop. I'm looking forward to taking a break and getting back to 'normal'. Whatever that may be.
I hope I've inspired, entertained or connected with people at some point along the way. Maybe someone reading this will start a diary. Now that would make me really happy.
100 days! Can you believe it?
PS. I'll leave you with our new bun from Fat Fluffs Rescue who will be arriving in a couple of weeks. He'll be bonded with Clementine Bundango once he's recovered from the snip. Say hi to Dymaxion! #allthenames
Commission/hire me: fiona [at] fionacullinan.com