Diary of a Lockdown, day 62: getting tested

Negative for Covid-19 and unnecessarily happy about irises blooming in the garden

I’ve just received the results my Covid test: negative. Not that I was worried as I haven’t really felt ill. I was invited for a test as part of a research programme by Kings College Hospital and the NHS tracking the prevalence of the virus in the population as a whole.

Since 25th March I’ve been using the Covid-19 Symptom-tracker app to submit a daily report on whether “I feel physically normal” or “I’m not feeling quite right”. I’m one of 2.4m people taking part in the UK.

One day this week I wasn’t quite feeling right – a headache and tummy ache. I thought this was probably due to a sleepless night, thanks to eldest teenager deciding to go for a bike ride without any lights at 2.30am. I woke up to the sound him leaving the house – and never got back to sleep. He got home fine, by the way.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 52: life online

Life online zoom

Monthly community gathering for teachers of Embodied Yoga Principles

For years I’ve been trying to reduce screen time – both my own and the teens’, as readers may recall from the great Xbox out the window drama I wrote about in February. It’s a battle that has been truly lost in lockdown, so much of normal life has now moved online.

These days I actually encourage the teens to facetime their friends – they need that contact for their mental health.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 47: waiting

Clear skies: spot the flower growing from our neighbour’s chimney

These last few days have been filled with lazy hours sunbathing, barbecue smells – and waiting for a decision from the government. Will lockdown continue or start to be lifted?  Will health or wealth win the national argument? Sunday, it is forecast the weather will change and Britain will be plunged into Arctic cold, and the Prime Minister will address the nation with the answer.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 41: looking ahead through clear skies

My reaction to last week’s news that British Airways may stop flying out of Gatwick and concentrate its London base at Heathrow, may not have been typical. My heart lifted a little. Could the scaling down of international air travel signal the beginning of a significant change in what we consider to be economic and political certainties?

Could we, at last, be willing to consider the possibility of moving from an economy based on environmental and human exploitation, to one that nourishes us all – people and planet? I know, I know, I’m a privileged hippy and it’s not my job on the line. But please bear with me. We’ll come back to jobs and livelihoods soon.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 33: let’s change ‘normal’

Faces of the UK health workers who have died from Co-vid 19. Image: Guardian

In whatever ways the lockdown eventually starts to lift, I’m hoping we don’t return to normal. Some things I would like to continue. Here are a four of them.

ONE. A recognition and appreciation of the huge role immigrants and the descendants of immigrants play in the National Health Service and other essential parts of our society. Continue reading

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 25: days of nothing

Spring gallops on: bluebells in Dulwich Wood, 17th April

Nothing to report. Seriously. I’m not doing anything or seeing anyone. Every day seems very much like the day before. I can’t draw on profound thoughts or insights as I’m not having any. My preoccupations are boring, even to me. But purely as a matter of historical record for myself, I will record them here.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 20: fear washes at the shore of content

Easter baking: April 12th

The family niggles have calmed down. We are slipping into a routine I actually find quite enjoyable. The teens have taken to cooking with some enthusiasm and we’ve now got a dinner rota for the week; seedlings are germinating in the kitchen and will be transferred to the vegetable patch once the risk of frost has gone; P and I are enjoying our daily dog walks; and the fence between our garden and next door’s is low enough for us to chat over – sometimes with a glass of wine. So we even have a social life.

And yet washing around the shores of this island of suburban content, as the deadliness of Coronavirus sinks in, is fear. This disease, is not just, as we originally told ourselves, ‘a bit like the flu’. The infectiousness and the fatality rates are higher. There is no cure and no vaccine.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 16: getting a bit niggley

Sign of Spring: cherry blossom in the compost corner of the garden

I suppose we’ve done quite well getting to day 16 without a major argument, but I could do with a break from my family now!

We’re beginning to get niggley with each other. I can’t bear the way the children are living in their dressing gowns. They want me to stop reminding them there is such a thing as mornings or school work to do. “We’re teenagers,” they moan, “we’re not supposed to get up before noon – and it’s the holidays now.”

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 14: no chance to say Goodbye

Remember Mum, whose last birthday was April 6th 2015

It would have been my mum’s 88th birthday today. Five years ago she was in her last days of life and the memories I have of being with her at that time are precious: decorating her room with cards, reading to her, bringing the kids to wish her Happy Birthday and holding the phone to her ear so she could hear nieces and nephews send her their love.

Later, when life was nearly done, just holding her thin hand, moistening her dry mouth, being with her when she seemed scared. As grim as it was, I am so thankful we could be with her, that she wasn’t alone.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 12: inside other people’s living rooms

Celebrity Squares

One of the unexpected pleasures of lockdown has been seeing inside other people’s living rooms. With TV presenters broadcasting from their homes and local groups meeting on Zoom, we can indulge our nosey sides with impunity.

My cursory research suggests journalists and their interviewees most often choose to sit in front of bookshelves, but sometimes paintings. Politicians seem to go for either books or framed photographs – presumably illustrating their proudest moments.

One friend admits to freezing her TV screen and scrutinising choices of backdrops in search of clues to literary or cultural preferences.

On Have I Got News For You last night, a suitably intellectual-looking selection of books were Ian Hislop’s choice of scenery. “Why are you sitting in a reference library?” asked Paul Merton. Merton himself had chosen to show off his enormous DVD collection. Presenter Steph McGovern was in her rather nice-looking kitchen.

While comedy shows are undoubtedly struggling with the lack of atmosphere and banter that a live audience usually provides, the lockdown format does lend itself to some extra visual gags.

On last night’s Mash Report  Nish Kumar had toilet rolls artfully stacked on a shelf behind him – and stood up from his desk at the end of the show to reveal a lack of trousers.

Even on the radio presenters are seizing opportunities for comedy. “Usually on Grand National Day I’d be speaking to you from the finishing post at Aintree,” said Radio 4’s sports reporter this morning. “Instead I’m broadcasting to you from under the stairs.”

For those of us who have now moved parts of our work or social lives online with apps such as Skype and Zoom, we get glimpses of our colleagues’ and neighbours’ homes and families. Cats and children sometimes wander into my online yoga classes. At my local community Zoom choir the other night, we got to watch one of our group cook haggis while we sang!

The visual language of a grid of people peering out from their little screens is becoming an everyday part of our interactions. Former London Assembly Member Darren Johnson has pointed out that for people over a certain age, the image has nostalgic echoes of Celebrity Squares. As with so many aspects of lockdown, it’s less a case of back to the future than forwards to the past.

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