Lockdown isolation: where to even begin...?

July 27 2020

Fishponds Mum, by Claire Stewart-Hall

I AM not sure where to even begin or how to even summarise the past few months of this pandemic. Making light of its horror, its ability to take almost 50,000 people in just a few months, in no way diminishes what I feel about its brutality. It is merely my coping mechanism to process such an experience. Call it gallows humour – I speak as someone who has not lost anyone, nor suffered from the virus myself – as such my experience is that of a prisoner in my own home, of my own making and my own anxiety, and so this is the stuff I will play with in this column.

My experience began with a joke from a friend on the phone from Denmark: she joked that the numbers were so few in China that the maths of how many people coronavirus had affected was impossible to do. How we laughed.

Yet four months on, here we are, in the same room we have been in pretty much since mid-March.

At the beginning, we had to go into lockdown early because both children had coughs and one had a temperature. I still don’t know if it was Covid. 14 days seemed like a lifetime, then.

Our lovely neighbours ferried bread, milk and washing up liquid to us. It began to be an imagined version of wartime. We settled into using Twinkl for home schooling and practised cursive writing, remembered how neither of us could do (reception) maths. It seemed novel. Surreal. Everything looked the same but there were things out of place somehow.

Don’t judge me, parents, but I felt so much better when everyone in the country had to go into lockdown. Initially I settled into it. Then it really began to hit me. I wasn’t entirely sure how long I could keep this going for. Too afraid to go to the shops and arguing about whether it was essential to go for crisps or not, I decided lockdown was a good way to clear out the cupboards. I got out loads of lentils and chickpeas and made stews and soups.

I did all of this activity in between what my friend describes as ‘the micro-cry’. Difficult to describe, the micro-cry is upon you before you even know it. Normally in the kitchen. For example, when you can ask your child not to do something anymore because you are exhausted from asking the same thing everyday. Or when you hear how many people have died that day. You get the idea. I have micro-cried my way through this pandemic. Hardly takes anything now, really.

Mid way through this pandemic, it was painful. “We are not bored…” my friend, Kellie, said to me, “we wake at 6am and don’t sit down all day long, with two children to run around after, but at least we will never look back on this lockdown and say we were bored...” Lockdown would have been interminable without my children. That said, with my children there in the house all-the-live-long day with nothing to do, there were times I longed to be bored...to read a book all the way through, to watch anything other than Ben and freakin’ Holly or Frozen II.

I found my variety in tuning into the coronavirus news updates every day. They made me micro-cry, yes, but I was glued to the radio waiting for the next announcement.

Stay in, work from home, unless you can’t work from home, go to work but not on public transport. At one point I planned to meet my mum and dad in a car showroom in Worcester because it seemed that was the only way I could see them. This topsy-turvy time has since been quite hysterical and I fear we are still in it, with masks on now.

In case anyone forgets to say it to you all: well done, parents, really, well done. Especially the single parents who have juggled, swept, comforted, lay awake, cuddled, brushed, adapted, fed, wiped, sniffed, bathed, cleared up, moved around, moved over, washed, drained, cleaned, entertained, played, planned, walked, designed, found a printer, asked (repeatedly), been up at the crack of dawn and spun a web of fun for both their kids and a web of professionalism for their employers. Well done, team. Brace, brace for the second wave.