Am I the only one starting most of my sentences with the words “when this is all over”?
It’s day 13 of lockdown for my son and me after he developed a fever two weekends ago. It feels like a lifetime since he woke up complaining of feeling hot and coughing. I’m glad to report he’s feeling better after a 48 hour period where I drew on every breathing technique YouTube has to offer and even prayed. Funny how quickly the Catholicism flooded back into this atheist as soon as the most precious thing in my universe felt at threat.
In some ways, we had a head start on most of the country on the lockdown thing. When we went into “hibernation” (my rebrand to make it feel less grim), you could still go the pub, meet a friend in a coffee shop or borrow a book from a library. So the gradual shutdown of life as we know it has happened while we’ve been locked away, and I’ve mainly experienced it through the prism of the evening news and Twitter – swiftly becoming my Rapunzel’s plait to the outside world.
When you’re an anxious mess and suddenly can’t do the practical things you need to survive, like go out to buy food, and all the delivery slots are all booked up, it’s incredible how quickly your priorities shift. I will never forget the kindness of friends who doorstep dropped me the three main food groups – freshly baked bread, chocolate and wine, accompanied by more practical things, like eggs. As a side note, one unexpected result of this whole experience is that I am now an omelette NINJA, and when this is all over, I never want to see another egg in my life. What vegan friends have spent years trying to convince me, a few weeks indoors with limited ingredients at my disposal managed easily.
Then the cards from neighbours started arriving, and my local community of Grangetown mobilised quickly to organise an army of volunteers to help out the elderly and vulnerable. I watched all of this via Facebook, wishing I could be out there helping. Feeling useful would help, and when this is all over, I’m going to make myself as useful as possible in my local community. I have so much kindness in the bank to pay forward. It’s a comfort that many people have that same safety net now, both in my little part of Cardiff and all over the country, thanks to a growing army of volunteers. Aside from the obvious panic, horror, and fear, I feel as if this pandemic has unleashed so much goddam HUMANITY, don’t you?
It’s reminded us (if not this, then what?) of what really matters in life (clue: you can’t buy it in John Lewis). It’s shown us the value of lending a helping hand. I’m not going to spend too long on the stupidity and selfishness on which this crisis has also shone a spotlight – thousands of words will be written about that, and I feel like the good stuff far outweighs the bad, from where I’m sat anyway. I know how lucky I am, though. My boy is well. I can work in my kitchen. I live in a (mostly) happy home. I have access to the internet and a laptop. I have Whatsapp and Facetime and a collection of lovely people in my life. When all this is over, I will never forget how much I have to be thankful for.
Every day I read about the nurses, doctors and cleaners out there on the frontline of this biological battlefield, and I think of all the people who love and need them and feel such admiration and gratitude. The same goes for all the people who put themselves at risk every day, in supermarkets, in chemists, in any public-facing role. When this is all over, I hope they get the recognition they so deserve. I hope we all remember who our real national heroes are (clue: they probably didn’t go to Eton).
Another consequence of unexpected sudden confinement is you develop a whole new perspective on the things you are grateful for. When this is all over, I will never forget the beauty in bird song in the garden. A long walk in the fresh air. A cwtch. Clear skies. Putting my phone on silent for long periods. Music. Freshly baked bread. A voice note from a friend.
I write this as I, like many millions, adjust to a new routine. The room where my son sweated out his fever is now his schoolroom. Spontaneously deciding to go out for dinner is now a carefully crafted shopping list texted to a friend. Catch-ups with friends and family are now much-cherished video calls.
There are new things too. That recurring “I really should phone my nan” thought I used to get in the shower? I call my nan and tell her I love her. I leave my friends voice notes telling them what they mean to me and why. When this is all over, I hope these new habits will last. When this is all over, I will be grateful that five-word phrase (full of hope, not optimism) came true.