Given some of the reading of dystopian fiction I’ve done over the years and some of the television I’ve watched, lockdown or quarantine has surprised me. We were ready for the apocalypse. And when I say ready, I mean that my tendency to over-buy, ‘just in case’ meant that we could have existed on a diet of Weetabix and shampoo for quite a while yet. As avid viewers of The Walking Dead over the years, we were also confident about how to stave off zombies or even rival gangs led by over zealous culty types.
So it came as a surprise when none of these skills were needed. There was disappointment too that my son’s baseball bat would not be customised and pressed into some Negan style action. Instead, it became an exercise in ridding myself of guilt at being unable to work and then staving off boredom. We figured out new ways to look at things and also worked out how to get through what was a pretty challenging situation. As a result, I feel like I’ve learnt a lot – about other people and about myself. So here we go; 101 things I’ve learnt during lockdown (give or take quite a few things for the sake of a title).
- I love a bit of quiet. I work as a teacher and thus, working amongst 900 children as well as my sometimes over excitable department can sometimes be a bit noisy. At last count I worked in a department of 436 women – or it might have been 10 – and when they laugh, screech or encounter anything drag queen or dog related, it can get loud. I tend to stick to my classroom. I’ll look forward to finding myself right in the middle of it again sometime soon though. I miss those gals! Lockdown, with its lack of people, has meant lots of being out in my garden, pottering with nothing but birdsong for company. We live about a mile away from a busy motorway, but for a few months it couldn’t be heard. The quiet has allowed me to think, to contemplate, and to create, although that last bit has mainly been in the form of mindless poetry, so maybe there is a cloud to this silver lining! Whatever has gone on elsewhere, I’ve enjoyed the silence.
- It’s actually not that difficult to lose track of the days. I haven’t worked for months. Not in the actual work environment anyway. As a result, my routine has been knocked sideways and as much as I’ve tutted at people in the past for claiming to not know what day it was, I’ve found that at times I’ve really had to think hard just to work out if it’s a Tuesday or a Sunday. It’s usually been a Wednesday though.
- The four of us can actually live together in some kind of harmony. I imagined that we’d kill each other. Or that I might just snap and leave the house, Forrest Gump style and run for a couple of years until I reached Alaska or somewhere. None of this happened. None of it ever looked likely either. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve not been like The Waltons (Google them, younger people) but we’ve been quite the harmonious group. I’ve adjusted to home school-related tantrums, the bouncing and shouting that go hand in hand with Roblox, the daily updates on celebrities that I’ve never heard of and their latest moment of Instagram related glory (you’re cheering on people having their photo taken, young people) and even my daughter’s ever more angry explanations of why her phone is vital for school work. We’ve all adjusted. We’ve all coped. There have been afternoons of board games, TV marathons, family walks, baking, Wii Sing, learning of languages…all sorts to fill the time. And we’ve survived.
- I can live without football. Younger me would be appalled. But when football closed own at all levels, I coped. I’ve been around the game all my life – playing, coaching, supporting – and I adore it. But despite my horror at it being taken away, I didn’t find it difficult at all. I missed watching my team, Newcastle United. I missed coaching my Under 12 team. But within a few weeks, its absence was normal. I sought solace in exercise; working out, walking, and running and so the element of competition about me was sated quite easily. It’s helped that as a Newcastle fan, I’m used to information coming out of the club being a rarity. The fans don’t matter at NUFC and so we were fully used to hearing nothing. Even when on the verge of a takeover that would make us the richest club in world football, nobody bothered to speak. And after a while even that became normal. I just occupied my time with other things; something I would have never thought possible. Football? I’ve hardly given it a thought.
- I love being able to watch football every day! And then they brought it back and I was hooked again! Since Project Restart began there has been football on our screens every day. I haven’t watched all of it. But I’ve managed to sneak a look at some of it probably most days. The empty stadia haven’t mattered. I’ve even turned off the fake crowd noise in favour of the shouting of 40 or 50 people in the stadium and the occasional hilarious bit of swearing. Grassroots football has also resumed and so my Under 12 team has trained once again, albeit under very different, very strict guidelines linked to Coronavirus. No matter – it’s been amazing to be out on the grass again. Football? Inject it straight into my veins!
- Driving your car is now an acceptable eye test If you’re not from the UK or you’ve spent lockdown hiding under a rock, the name Dominic Cummings won’t mean anything to you. Quick explanation – he’s the chief adviser and political strategist to our government. Anyway, during lockdown he seems to have decided to visit his parents 264 miles away while the rest of us were confined to our homes. When he got found out he concocted a story about his wife showing signs of Covid19, which subsequently meant that he had to drive 200 miles to ensure childcare in case she was really poorly. Because, of course, he knew no one with any influence who could have sorted him out an emergency babysitter. He definitely didn’t just think he was above the law and fancied a visit to see mummy and daddy on their country estate. No way. Not a chance. Part of his crazy story involved the fact that he then developed a problem with his eyes – some guys have all the bad luck, eh? – and so in order to test his eyesight out, he chose to drive some thirty miles with his now not ill wife and not destitute child in the car. Thus, in the UK, we all learned that if you have a problem with your eyesight then the government’s chief political adviser says, “Go for a drive!”
- Barnard Castle is the new Lourdes. Cummings from number 6 again. Barnard Castle was where he drove to and miraculously cured his poorly eyes. He cured his eyes by spending the entire day there. And did I mention it was his wife’s birthday on that day? So, I suppose it was a fitting present from a loving husband to take his wife somewhere where they could cure her of a virus that was killing thousands of people across the globe. So really, he’s just a regular guy who turned hero in the midst of a global pandemic. Definitely not a privileged dickhead he thought he was a great deal better than the rest of us. So, if you’re ill and don’t fancy all the crowds that would typify a trip to Lourdes, head to Barnard Castle in County Durham. Tell them Dominic Cummings sent you. And if anyone asks, he did nothing wrong.
- A surprising amount of people can’t follow a one-way system or read a No Entry sign Despite having to self isolate for health reasons I’ve had to go to the supermarket on a few occasions during lockdown. Sometimes, with my wife’s work commitments, there’s been no one else. It’s been quite harrowing. I’ve had to stand in queues like something out of the Cold War and then when you get into the shop there has been an even colder atmosphere. People don’t look at you. Some practically crawl around the place forgetting that there will be areas where a 2 metre social distance just isn’t possible. And sadly, there are far too many absolute tools that refuse to follow the rules. That’s them, tootling up and down the aisles like they own the place, refusing to follow a simple one-way system or take any notice whatsoever of a massive No Entry sign plastered all over the floor in red. Arrow blindness! My local supermarket had ends of aisles railed off, big green arrows on the floor, and actual No Entry signs in red and white and yet some people still managed to get lost and conveniently wander down every aisle the wrong way. The irony a lot of the time is that they’re the ones wearing the masks! They might as well wear it over their eyes!
- I like my neighbours I’ve never been one for cozy chats across the fence. In fact, I’d probably have gladly put up a bigger fence in the past. However, throughout lockdown, my elderly neighbour has found a way to appear noiselessly while I’ve been pottering and then just started chatting whether I’m looking or not. One day, he crept up so stealthily and started talking so loudly that I actually threw what I was holding in the air, such was my shock. He just carried on chatting like nothing had happened. Despite this, I’ve found myself warming to him and I have to say, it’s nice to have good neighbours. Apparently, everybody needs them.
- I’ve glimpsed retirement…and I love it! No rules, no routine, no commute, exercise when I feel like it, no suit and tie…I’m more than ready for that pension!
- Me and IT don’t get along My work laptop won’t attach to the internet. It won’t let me look at documents from work. Its USB ports are all broken. It is essentially a fancy typewriter. My home laptop picks and chooses which internet sites it will find – you’d be amazed at the number of times that Google is unavailable. It also won’t open Word documents. Or PowerPoints. Or Excel. And it runs as if it’s on dial-up. All of this has made working from home incredibly stressful. Even thinking about it makes my blood boil. Anyway, how either laptop still exists is beyond me. My relationship with IT has seen me develop new and wonderful swear words, but I am yet to attempt laptop surgery with a hammer. I must have mellowed considerably.
- When someone knocks at your door in Lockdown it is utterly terrifying. It’s bad enough at the best of times when it might be someone trying to sell you something. However, during a global pandemic, when no one should be out and about and a knock at the door could just be a cunning zombie trying to lure you out with politeness, it’s heart stopping.
- Whatever the cause, people banging pots and pans with spoons is actually not all that necessary. Here in the UK the public took to their doorsteps every Thursday night for weeks in order to applaud and show solidarity with our NHS workers, who were putting their lives at risk every day. It was nice; a chance to show some appreciation for our often unsung heroes, while also feeling part of your local community. And then it turned into a competition. People turned out in fancy dress, there were fireworks, air horns…and of course pots and pans. Now I don’t want to be a killjoy here, but I’ll say it anyway. The air being filled with the sound of pots and pans is not nice. It’s not a fitting tribute, either. If, when I die, people turn up at my funeral banging pots and pans together, I will find a way to haunt them. I’d like to think that doctors and nurses thought it wasn’t necessary. I’d like to think they were all just thinking that it was nothing short of a racket!
- The town where I live has some real surprises. In Lockdown our government sanctioned an hour of daily exercise for families. So out we went, every day or night, often walking for 3 miles. It meant that we explored our town quite a lot. Without doubt, the best thing that we discovered was that in one of the more well-to-do households, where they have a very big back garden, they’ve got an entire railway track running around it. We’ve got a washing line, two sheds, a very annoying trampoline and a small football goal. Flash Harry up the road has got Thomas the Tank Engine and friends!
- The empty roads are an open invitation for dickheads to drive badly. Some people – mainly young men – mistook exercise for going out in their car. Some people – mainly young men – mistook a deserted road for a race track. Some people – mainly young men – are dickheads.
So there you have it. I learned a lot during Lockdown. I think we probably all witnessed human behaviour at both its best and its worst. Or at least its most selfish. But where there are negatives, you’ll most likely find positives. And it’s always good to learn from your experiences.
Did you learn anything from Lockdown? Let me know what you learned and what you thought in the comments.