Lockdown Reasons to Be Cheerful…1, 2, 3

by | Aug 12, 2020

It’s been a curious lockdown. After years of uncertainty about where next month’s mortgage payment was coming from, I fortuitously fell into the most secure working arrangement I’ve enjoyed for years. While employed friends came to terms with massive uncertainty and unlimited leisure time – in some cases for the first time in their working lives – I’ve been grafting away in my home office, grateful beyond measure for the security but also resentful about the lack of time I’ve had to do anything else.

The resentment never lasts long. Not only have I avoided the awful anxiety of losing a job, but I’ve also been lucky enough – so far at least – to dodge the coronavirus itself. The rest of my immediate family have too. And they’re all home and safe and getting on fine and happy to sit it out. It could have been so much worse. We have friends – fit, slim, youngish friends with no underlying health issues – who caught the virus months ago, suffered considerably and still don’t feel right. I know how lucky we are.

The pandemic has served to sharpen focus and pare everything back. In a period when everyone has been battening down the hatches, there’s not been much point in badgering people for work. There are no trips to plan, no commutes to resent, no social life to maintain, no holidays to organise… Some of these omissions are welcome, some less so, but they all simplify.

I’m left with a clear set of essentials: the company of my family, enough work to keep me afloat, and those pastimes that have been my ‘third place’ for decades: cycling and photography. Perhaps because of the absence of distractions during lockdown, I’ve reconnected with all of them in a fundamental and deeply affirming way.

My family is the bedrock upon which everything is built. But nothing stands still. We’ve reached the stage where our two kids are preparing to fly the nest. My son has just finished (from home) his first year at university and my daughter will be doing her A-levels next summer. So having them home has been a rare gift (whether they’d agree with that assessment I’m not sure). And my wife, who usually works at an FE college, has been forced to discover the delights of homeworking. So we’ve seen more of each other than we have for years. During lockdown we’ve worked through all 23 of the Marvel Comics universe films in narrative order, we’ve played games, shared food, discussed pandemics, Trump and all sorts of more uplifting things, and generally rather enjoyed each other’s company.

Cycling and photography have distracted me and kept me fit. They’ve always offered access to a meditative headspace that’s kept me sane but that’s been heightened immeasurably during lockdown. When the routine starts to feel relentless rather than reassuring, getting out into the country and exerting myself physically and creatively is the ultimate distraction.

Then there’s the work. I’ve always written for a living and over the years I’ve turned my hand to a frankly bewildering range of writing tasks and styles. But perhaps because I started as a newspaper journalist, the work that’s always appealed to me most is writing engaging articles that convey a few key points – particularly those that involve interviewing people about subjects I know very little about. I like to learn, write and move on. And as luck would have it, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing during lockdown: writing and editing daily update bulletins about the pandemic.

I’ve not learned a new language during lockdown. I haven’t redecorated my house or landscaped my garden. I haven’t developed a six-pack or written a novel. But as much through necessity as choice, I’ve gone back to basics and feel calmer and more centred as a result. Does that sound smug? I hope not.

The world has been pitched into fear and uncertainty by COVID-19. The future has never been less clear or reassuring. We know there will be far-reaching consequences of the damage that’s been done to our health and to our economies.

And yet we’ve also found new ways to collaborate and cope with adversity. We’ve remembered how much we love our NHS. We’ve discovered levels of community spirit that were presumed dead since the Blitz. Perhaps we all have a few reasons to be cheerful.