A Life in Lockdown

Day-to-day life in my village hasn’t changed that dramatically for me since we went into lockdown. I don’t even find it weird when people cross the road to avoid me, because I’ve been walking my Staffordshire Bull Terrier X Akita for almost six years, so I’ve grown accustomed to being avoided. Although these days I’m much more mindful of giving other people space – so I’m the one who’s crossing the road, or climbing into a hedge to avoid a lady with a pram.

If I’m walking down an alley and clock someone coming towards us then I’ll immediately double back and find another way – like Pac Man trying to avoid an oncoming ghost.

Every village has its problems… graffiti, dog walkers who don’t pick up poop, people setting off fireworks at unsociable hours, fly tipping…  but since the lockdown I’ve been impressed by the community spirit – people who respect social distancing, the weekly clap for carers, and the way in which local businesses have adapted to the crisis. Ash’s shop has been a lifeline for many villagers who struggle to get around, while their traffic light entry system gives us all that extra peace of mind.

Yes, you’ll always have those who flout the rules or seem oblivious to others, but the majority of people have been great. I’ve also been somewhat surprised by how many people live in the same household – but that’s another story.

Personally, I do now struggle to focus on work projects at home, and perhaps my biggest distraction is Luna, the four-legged floof bum who consumes every waking hour of my life – and occasionally sneezes in my face at 3am.

I frequently sit down to work only to be distracted by Luna barking at postman, Luna barking at cat, Luna barking at delivery van, Luna.. well, you get the gist. The other day I hear a commotion downstairs and found she’d cornered a bee in the lounge. And the last time she ate a bee I was scrubbing vomit out of the carpet.

On a positive note; I think this period has challenged me on what I want to do with my life and where I want to be. Sometimes it helps when you’re dragged, kicking and screaming, from your comfort zone.

The other day I had some potentially upsetting news for someone so I buried it for a few days until I found the right moment. Although I knew there’d never be a ‘right’ moment so I just had to take a deep breath and pluck up the courage to drop my bombshell. Thankfully, it transpired that they also had some potentially upsetting news that effectively canceled out my potentially upsetting news. So it was more a case of two negatives making a positive.

It’s good to talk. Sometimes. It helps to lift the burden, so to speak. Talk. Cry. Hug. Whatever helps really. I’m fortunate to have my dog, who is the only family member I’ve seen this calendar year. She’s a great listener, she doesn’t judge me if I cry, and she gives good hugs. Well, unless my lodger is making toast and then I’m dead to her.

Also, I know I can talk to my lodger. Although she might be a tad concerned if I started crying and said “I need a hug!” – especially if I’ve not showered that day.

Come to think of it – someone recently said “I know you’re not a hugger” and a few hours later I thought to myself… “What did they mean by that?” as I don’t recall ever saying I don’t like hugs. So maybe I just don’t look like a huggable person? Maybe I need to work on my cactus-like posture, or the resting bitch face.

The thing is, we all struggle from time-to-time. And after seven weeks in lockdown I thought I was coping pretty well. Until the day I glanced down at my desk and clocked a bowl with remnants of dried Weetabix. It had been there for several days, so I needed a hammer and chisel to get that stuff out.

That’s when I recalled a tweet from Mandeep Dhillon (After Life) that read “Key to being a grown up… rinse the plate straight away.”

If you take that as a metaphor for everyday life then you’ve pretty much nailed it – because dealing with something straight away saves you a lot of hassle further down the line. I know that to be true after losing my home in 2017, and that’s something that haunts me to this day. Of course, with hindsight, it’s easy to identify where I went wrong, but that doesn’t change what happened. All I can do is learn from the experience, move forward, and ensure nothing like it ever happens again.

Yes this lockdown is frustrating, but we must appreciate it’s for our own good and many thousands of lives have undoubtedly been saved as a result of these restrictions. What frustrates me is the people who seem to think they’re immune – or the neurotic rich people on Twitter who constantly wail about the substitutions in their extravagant shopping banquets.

A few years ago I went through a pretty grim period of poverty where I could barely afford a loaf of bread, so I’m not going to throw a strop if my local shop doesn’t have everything I want – because it always has everything I NEED.

I hate this feeling of being trapped, and I really want to see my family again – but I favour a lockdown over thousands of people dying before their time. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” – as Mr Spock would say. Yes, I’m a geek.

I’m not going to be that person who says “A lot of good will come from all this!” because that’s hugely insensitive to everyone who’s lost a loved one. I will say that we HAVE to build a better world as a result of all this, otherwise people will have died and suffered for nothing.  

Not worrying about stuff is a lot easier said than done, right? I suffer with anxiety so there’s never a moment when I’m completely relaxed, happy, or content – but I’m not going to let it consume me.

I could very easily turn into a gin soaked mess who binges on Homes Under the Hammer, spends three hours swiping left on Tinder, while blocking everyone on Facebook who dared to offer me support. I could even walk around in my boxer shorts all day – but I’d get some funny looks on my dog walks.

Personally, life feels like some kind of strange mash-up between The Simpsons Movie, The Truman Show, The Prisoner, and Cabin in the Woods. They all feature a group of people who are cut off from the outside world in some way – and this lockdown, coupled with not having a car since last October, means I’ve not set foot outside this village since 27th December 2019, when I returned from visiting my parents.

So I’ve not seen my parents – or any of my [human] family and friends – since Christmas. I’m sure I promised to visit in the spring but, sadly, I didn’t have the foresight to factor in a global pandemic.

Some days I wake up and just want to get off this nightmare carousel. I mean it’s the worst episode of The Twilight Zone ever. I want to wake up back in 2016 when I had the chance to salvage my life. Heck, I’d even take good old 1985, so I could start saving for a rainy day.

Except two words have got me though the last five years – and the same two words will get me through the next five years – unless I fall down a well or get eaten by wild bears – and those two words are ‘baby steps’. And if you haven’t seen What About Bob? then I’d encourage you to do so. Take one day at a time and give yourself tiny obtainable goals – even if that goal is taking a shower before you binge on Glee for 24 hours. I’m not sure if people still watch Glee or if there are enough episodes to watch it for 24 consecutive hours… I’m just trying to illustrate a point.

One day you might have a day with two goals, three goals… and before you know it you’ll be running 10k before breakfast.

Life is what it is right now. Try and make the most of it. One day you’ll be regaling your children, grandchildren, or yet-to-be-born pets, with stories from this very unusual chapter in our history. And like all good [and bad] things… it will pass.

On a side note… are there any groomers who can sort out my dog’s barnet?