15/07/2020

Lockdowned


So. The pandemic is not over by any means but we are starting to venture outside for a while at least and it seems an appropriate time to summarise the fifteen (is it?) weeks we’ve spent inside. Well mostly inside. In some ways for me it wasn’t hugely different as some of the things people were moaning about not being able to do- go to events, go on holiday, spend hours socialising – have been unavailable to me for the past five years due to my ongoing caring responsibilities as well as working full time. So forgive me if I can’t get too concerned for people wringing their hands about not being able to take a holiday “this year”. Plus I could shop and you soon got used to the queues. What did take me by surprise though was how much I had beforehand. If I thought my life was restricted before then this was something else.

I suppose how people coped with lockdown depended on their outlook. I know some people who can manage an optimistic spin on just about anything. “Look- the asteroid is about to hit the Earth.” “It’s got a nice red glow!” If you just did lockdown and avoided the news- difficult when something major is going on- you probably coped better than someone following each twist and turn. There were times when I really did think it was the end of everything. I’m not sure that’s happened before because usually when your life is bad someone else or something else is good. Not this time.
Anyway I adhered to all the rules, even when they more recently became a fiendishly complex mesh of “bubbles” and “one metre plus”.  I went for my daily exercise walk and have now explored every conceivable route around my local area. Checked out people’s gardens and wondered which shops might one day re-open. Seen the tree lined walkway I frequented grow faster than my hair which it now resembles. I’ve also been working from home which shows how much I actually get out of my chair at work.
There was a lot of talk about mental health last year which may have been unknowingly timely as this whole thing will definitely rank as one of the most stressful experiences in most of our lives. So I went back and read some of it. I’m not sure how parlous my mental health was because I didn’t find it extraordinarily useful. You see it hinged on relying on others and such wisdom which would make perfect sense normally but of course as everyone is in the same huge ocean liner right now doesn’t really work.  Can you really pour  out your darkest thoughts to someone sitting 2 metres away when you’re both wearing face masks? The potential for miscommunication is vast.
At first, even though I’d lived through five years of restricted social life I felt lonely which seems ridiculous. Even walking outside for the daily exercise in the first few weeks the roads were very quiet, you didn’t see many people and when you passed them you both had to give each other as wide a berth as you could. Yet rather like the kidnap victim who gradually strikes up a bond with their kidnapper I began to get used to lockdown.
Then I started to become irritated –and sorry about this- by everyone’s social media posts in which we’d all become health experts and knew everything about coronavirus or Covid 19. Like enough already. People sitting at home with a handful of `experts` statements to hand thinking they know best. What was even more unexpected was how harsh people became, how judgemental. From bridling at the very idea of lockdown to suggesting it shouldn’t be lifted at all till there was a vaccine, well how quickly we all become the strict parent eh? I’m including me in all that btw. It comes from fear of course. Some people panic, others become their strict Victorian ancestors.
Inevitably we became fixated on symbolics. I could spell it differently. Like the clapping for carers. And probably breaking the lockdown rules doing so. As well as clapping why don’t we give them a better salary. Like Dominic Thingys’ excursion. Yes it will change people’s behaviour but only if you give it such extensive news coverage. Like the government slogan “Stay Alert”. Yes it’s crass but look at what else is happening. And the bloody face masks. Wearing them is one thing but having to read endless arguments about whether they are worthwhile or not is too much. Nobody mentioned either that if you wear glasses and a face mask the former steam up when you try and speak. The tip btw is to put on the mask then remove your glasses and put them back on. Now we have to wear them in shops from next week. Like a lot of these measures I can understand the medical reasoning but not the economic one that it will somehow bring more people to shops. I’m likely to shop less because the face masks are hot and uncomfortable and the less I have to wear them the better. I’d rather stay home. You see what I mean about the dependence on lockdown?
Then there’s the hair aka the lockdown locks. Mine is actually not as long as about five months without a haircut might be (I was due one just when lockdown happened). Two people who are not the sort of people to dish out complements have said it suits me. Then again they were standing two metres away. Perhaps I should grow it until there is a vaccine?
Overall you just know its’ going to be health scares for years now even if a coronavirus vaccine turns up soon. Last week there were stories of bubonic plague somewhere so its started and just today I read some apocalyptic stuff about the second wave of coronavirus. However for now the lockdown is `easing slowly`. Does this mean it will be like a group who never announce they’ve split but who go on indefinite hiatus? Or will there be a big day when it is announced `The lockdown is over`? We’ll probably have lockdowns every few years now for hitherto unknown illnesses. There will be local lockdowns too- I wonder if the slogans for these will be in regional dialect? Instead of Stay Home you could have Nowt Go Out. Do you know it took me till last week to actually think what Covid- 19 stands for and of course it just stands for Coronavirus 2019 not as I’d thought the nineteenth variant of the virus.
I’m not sure what this post is even about. I guess, in summary, I’ve been lucky so far. To whinge comically about the state of affairs is about as much as I’m entitled to do because I can’t even read the details of cases of people who have suffered or died. It seems trivial to worry about your own mental health when that is happening to other people. Yet I alos loathe the idea that it is somehow wrong to be scared of all this or to object to face masks which is now officially a worse thing to do than oppose Brexit. Remember that? Yes, I pine for the good old days when Brexit was all we had to worry about....

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