Diary of a Lockdown, day 5: life in a 1970s sitcom

Spinach seedlings potted up

Toilet rolls are back in our local Sainsbury’s – but there are no baking goods. Husband went out hunting and gathering this morning with a list that included strong white flour, plain flour, sugar and baking powder, but he came back empty-handed. How foolish was I to think I was was the only one planning to bake my way through lockdown?

I’d stocked up on yeast back in the autumn when the only catastrophe we thought was heading our way was a no-deal Brexit. Now I realise I’d under-estimated flour and over-estimated the ‘cleverness’ of my own preparations.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 4: calm before the storm

Forget-me-knots in the garden 27 March

With news today that the Prime Minster, Health Secretary and Chief Medical Officer are all testing positive for Coronavirus, you might think we were already at the height of a full-blown health crisis. But in our house the feeling is more one of a calm before the storm.

We are all well; we have food in the fridge; the dog gets walked; and, with yesterday’s promise from the government of grants for self-employed people like me, dire financial straits are not imminent.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 3: making this up as we go along

Blossom on Mitcham Common 26 March

Today’s hot topic is the protocols of social distancing. How do we organise ourselves on the occasions we need to leave the house to get to the places we need to get to without breathing droplets of coronavirus all over our fellow man?

We’ve not done this before. We don’t know the rules. It’s not like queuing for a bus or driving on the left (or right depending on which country you’re in); there isn’t a set of tried and tested habits to conform to for the greater good.

But today I’ve noticed people attempting to create some protocols. The Tesco’s local in Streatham has a one-in-one-out policy and warning tape at 2-metre intervals along the pavement outside indicating where people should stand while queuing.

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Diary of a Lockdown, day 2: is it possible to get teenagers tagged?

Sign of Spring in south London on 25 March

Today the teenagers seemed to ‘get’ what this lockdown means. Until now, their social isolation included going for a haircut, having the girlfriend over to watch a film, going to a barbecue and sleep-over.  Last night when 6ft-tall son went out to buy ’emergency crisps’ I started to wonder whether I could arrange to have him tagged.

But today they stayed in. When you get out of bed in the afternoon, there isn’t much of the day left to be bored.

I haven’t seen that much of teenagers as I’ve been hidden away in the attic working on marketing my online yoga classes. I started running them last week with my regular morning students, but from today they are open to anyone.

It’s been great to re-connect with yoga friends I haven’t taught for a while: people who don’t live in London, but come to my retreats; people who can’t make the times of my usual classes. I’ve had some lovely messages from people who are stuck at home and really looking forward to having a regular yoga practice to start the day.

It’s still early days, so the sound, picture and my technical skills won’t be super-slick. It’s me with my yoga mat and a laptop in the attic. It’s interesting to watch myself teach – something I can’t do in a ‘normal’ class.  I noticed today there is something weird about the way I move my mouth and I’ve got to remember to look at the webcam, not the screen – or I look a bit shifty!

But overall, it works. People can choose whether or not to have their cameras on so I can see them. At the start and end of the class I invite everyone to switch on so we can greet each other and send our love to each other as we say goodbye. That part – the connection with each other – is just as important, perhaps more so, than the yoga moves.



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Diary of a Lockdown, day 1: signs of Spring and slowing down

Today’s sign of Spring in my south London garden

We’ve been cutting back on contact with others for a week or so here – hand-washing to the point of rawness, cancelling yoga classes and a birthday bash –  but today was the first full lockdown, as decreed last night by Boris in his address to the nation. So it seems a good time to begin a diary of these strange and interesting times.

The last week or so have been pretty frantic for me as I searched for a way to have any income without teaching my usual face-to-face yoga classes and retreats. But with morning online classes now up and running on Zoom, today has actually been quite calm.

I started the day by taking a photograph of a sign of Spring in the garden – I think I’ll do this every day. It was one of several things that in ‘normal life’ seem like a good idea, but which I rarely get around to.

There are others: today I baked some bread, played table tennis with my youngest son, took the dog on a particularly long walk, and even sawed up some old branches from the garden to make firewood. There’s nothing stopping me from doing these things usually, but enforced social isolation seemed to encourage such activities.

Two friends that I rarely see or speak to – we tend to stay in touch on social media instead – phoned for a catch-up. It was lovely. I had a long neighbourly chat over the wall. Even the teenagers in our house seemed more willing than usual to have proper conversations.

So amid all the anxiety over illness, livelihoods and toilet rolls, I also notice emerging a chink of hope that through these strange times we might rediscover some simple pleasures. Instead of flicking between screens, perhaps we will find enjoyment in practical domestic tasks; instead of reaching for a ready meal, we might discover a deeper pleasure from planning what we eat with thought and care; where we have contact with nature, we might notice it with greater attention and treasure its complexity.

Is it possible that some constraints on the way we live our lives will force us to be more creative, more appreciative, more patient, and even happier?  Watch this space!










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Smashing X-boxes – and other tales of living with teens

smashed Xbox

This is what an Xbox looks like after it’s been dropped from a first floor window. It happened a year ago and it wasn’t my finest parenting moment. In fact, it was the culmination of years of frustration at the grip of computer gaming on my sons – who were then aged 15 and 13 – and my failure to instill in them what I considered to be a healthy approach to screen-time.

Computer gaming – and our inability to regulate the amount of time they spent on it – seemed to be the cause of almost all our family arguments; homework was being rushed; activities like reading and music were being jettisoned; boys weren’t coming for meals when they were ready; bedtimes were frought; and most of all, the way we were all speaking to each other was horrible. Continue reading

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Beat the flu and boost your immune system with restorative yoga

With news headlines warning us of the spread of the Corona flu virus, now is the time to take steps to boost our immune systems. High on the NHS list of ways to stay healthy this winter are getting good sleep, reducing stress, and eating foods such as berries and garlic. You can find effective help for the first two – sleep and stress reduction – with a practice of restorative yoga.

The roots of restorative yoga are with B.K.S. Iyengar, who helped bring yoga to the West in the 1950s. He invented a style in which we use props to rest and relax in poses longer – sometimes up to 30 minutes. One of his former students, Judith Hanson Lasater, brought restorative practice into the mainstream creating a special teacher certification, which I completed in 2013. I include restorative poses in most of my classes, but also run three-hour purely restorative workshops, which are particularly lovely to do at this time of year.

The next afternoon restorative workshop is on Saturday 22nd February 2-5pm in Streatham Hill. Email Chris to book a place.

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