What I did during Lockdown

One thing I have been doing in the Lockdown is keeping a daily diary, a journal of my experience of avoiding Covid-19. I have written something every day since Sunday 15th March, when I decided to isolate myself. At the time of writing I have done nearly 100 days.

So what is this diary for? 

Why did I start it? 

Why haven’t I stopped writing it? 

What does it contain? 

What have I learned from it?

My Covid Diary – thank you Sarah

What is this diary for? 

Here’s how it starts.

Sunday 15th March (Day 1)
Today the rumours began that people over 70 would soon be forced into self-isolation for 4 months.I find myself trembling with fear. It seems that there is some truth to these stories. And I wonder – with loneliness known to be the biggest killer of older people – how can this be contemplated.

Later that day I record that there were NO plans to ask over-70s to completely isolate themselves, only to reduce social contact. And I decide to limit my contacts from that day.

Monday 16th March (Day 2)
The Finnish PM – a woman- says we should not speak of social distancing/isolation but of physical distance/isolation. We must insure that social connections are kept.
New cases 330 Deaths 35

It is a record, a historical record. I hope we are not in for repeated lockdowns, although I fear that is a possibility. But this is our first and many things are strange and unusual. I planned to record some of them.

I note the announcement of the Lockdown.

Tuesday 24th March (Day 10)
New restrictions announced last night – for 3 weeks at least. Everyone to stay at home, only go out for exercise and with one member of your household. Cases 6650 Deaths 335

As it goes on I note what I observe about things closing, (GPs’ surgeries, schools, pubs, gyms, and so on) and how Michel Barnier, EU chief Brexit negotiator, had the virus, two news stories collide. I note too that it gets hard to remember what day it is, the need to keep exercising, the figures rising, how I long for a haircut and the UN’s 4 key qualities: being kind, generous, empathetic and sharing solidarity.

I make a note of bad nights, the events being cancelled, and the friends with whom I talk on the phone. At first it feels as if we are in some kind of hiatus, life suspended, frozen in time.

From the first day I record the figures of cases and deaths (once a researcher, always a researcher), although we now know that the totals were much higher because statistics we were given were only from those people who had been tested. 

As  historian I know that looking back at something has a different flavour from a record of reactions at the time, before one knows the outcomes. For example, war diaries are interesting, because they do not have hindsight, they were written before the outcome of hostilities was known.

I recorded many of the contradictions and tensions in the situation

Monday 30th March (Day 16)
Contradictions:Reassurances – it’s not that bad for 4 out of 5 people but terrible for those who suffer.The virus is global – we live locally and in very restricted waysWe are all in it together – but we must stay 2m apart. Cases 22,141 Deaths 1408

We are isolated physically but better connected than ever. (Day 43)

We are all in this together but some of the established fault-lines are visible: gender (men appear to die more than women), age (older people are 60% of the victims, ethnicity (BAME people are suffering more deaths). I expect there are class differences as it is harder to observe lockdown in a small overcrowded flat with children and no garden (Day 44)

And I had an obscure idea that if I was going to find the lockdown as difficult as I feared, then writing would be helpful in avoiding depression. It may have helped, it may still help. 

Sunday 12th April (Day 28)
Something must change. I don’t want to mope about anymore. More contact. More writing. First rule of lockdown life – be nice to yourself – food, activities, and above all no running yourself down.2nd rule – find and enjoy the small things. Cases 78,991 Deaths, 9895

A change of mood comes when I speak with friends. An important change came on Day 42. I decided that I needed to stop seeing Lockdown as a hiatus, and accept that this is life now and it still needs to be lived.

Friday 1st May (Day 47)
Are we nearly there yet? Cases 177,454 Deaths 27,510

I noted all the things we currently count: deaths, deaths of the over 60s, deaths of men vs women, cases, tests, days in lockdown. And that my friends were making fewer phone calls. And that Kier Starmer was asking – how has it come to this? VE Day, the new slogan Stay Alert replacing Stay Home, WHO warning that Covid-19 may never go away, the horror of the care home infections and deaths.

Sunday 17th May (Day 63 – 9 weeks)
I am a little haunted by two things. Is death by Covid-19 horrible? I imagine a kind of drowning as lungs fail, or suffocation as oxygen doesn’t reach the parts that need it. No-one has said.And what will the ‘new normal’ be like? For a start I imagine it will not be new, just emergent from what we have now. And normal – hardly. I look at my 8 friends on the Writers Group [zoom] meeting, and I wonder if we will ever be in the same room again, whether we can ever be together as we used to be. Cases 233,151 Deaths 34,636

And a few days later I note that the over 70s are being condescended to again, patronised, and that the advances since the late C20th against ageism are being rolled back and an intensification of ageism is emerging.

And then the mood everywhere changed with the Cummings debacle and then again with Black Lives Matter.

Monday 8th June (Day 85)
Shocking news that many people died at home, alone, often not found for 2 weeks. Possibly 700 in London. Cases 287,399 Deaths 40,599 No deaths in London or Scotland todsay

What have I learned from my diary?

One thing I learn is that reality is not the same as fears. I still think it is crazy to refer to social rather than physical distancing, but rarely make that point now. The purpose, to reduce contact, is most important. 

I learned that once I knew I would not run short of food, or even toilet paper, I could manage. I also needed contact with key people in my life, preferably when I can see them. But I still have bad nights.

I am horrified by the failures of the government in so many things, and that they spin their record to claim pride in it. They deny faults and hide the truth.

And some fairly random things: I prefer doing Pilates in the morning; I don’t have a good recipe for banana bread; I can live a boring life and survive; there are more adders around this year; too many government contracts have gone to private companies without due process; some grapes are pretty tasteless and not the first symptoms of the virus.

I’ll continue with my diary until I stop physically distancing myself. I don’t expect much to be ‘normal’ again, whatever that was.

How was your lockdown?

12 Comments

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12 Responses to What I did during Lockdown

  1. Marianne Coleman

    That makes great reading as well as being a valid historical record. I wish I had kept a journal too (but I didn’t). When it is over, whenever that might be, are you planning to send it to The National Archives or some other archive?

    • Caroline

      Hi Marianne,
      I have no plans to provide an archive with this. But perhaps people will be interested, but I guess it will depend on what happens next. Will it be a blip, a hiatus, or a serious change that comes about? What will we want to happen to our world? I’ve now done over 100 days. I am asking whether I should finish? I have no answer.
      I did do the Mass Observation May diary, as I have for several years. It’s always interesting to see what I wrote the previous year. Life changes quickly and slowly at the same time!
      And it’s never too late to start, btw.
      Caroline xx

  2. Very interesting and an important record of how it has been for you, here’s my rather different response to the Lockdown in terms of Nature Walks: philipstrange.wordpress.com/published-stuff/lockdown-nature-walks/

    • Caroline

      Hi Philip, great to see your accounts of nature doing its stuff around Totnes during the Lockdown, so many insects. I too have noticed things more sharply this year. I loved the spring and the wild garlic. In some woods the smell lingers although the flowers have long gone. A particular joy has been to be in the woods on a sunny day, with a stream or river and a joyous dog and a boy or two.
      I’m not sure I would say that my diary represents ‘how it has been for me’ exactly. It’s a version of my experiences. On down days, full of dark fears, I did not write much at all.
      Thanks for commenting, and keep on walking.
      Caroline

  3. Jennifer

    It was great to read this Caroline and I find many echoes of my own experience here. I have found that my reactions to distancing – physical and social – are very fluid. At first it seemed like a bit of a holiday. The weather was gorgeous, we were free from day to day responsibilities, our own neighbourhoods seemed strange and different as the roads were quiet and the skies free of planes. At the same time the scale of the pandemic, the tragedy of so many deaths and the inadequate response of our leaders unfolded on TV screens and media channels. It was strangely distant, rather like watching a disaster in a far off country, even though it was happening in our own towns and cities. We were in lockdown and seemed insulated from it all.
    You’ve prompted me to start writing about this as a way of keeping a record and exploring my understanding of it. Thanks so much for your post.

    • Caroline

      Thank you for this comment Jennifer. There was a time when I found the contradictions almost overwhelming.The contrast between the placid life we were leading and the maelstrom which happened outside our lives, only seen on the news, that was revealing. I think I find myself in a media bubble that I had not appreciated before.

      Yes do do some writing. Our weekly meetings have helped me see some sense!

      Thanks for these comments. Caroline

  4. Thanks for sharing this Caroline. I’m with you about the Government…

    I journal anyway, and always have – but oddly apart from recording anger, I’ve tended to try to focus on nice things. I’m aware of the horrors out there, and I’ve kept a note of my state of mind, but I want to try to remember any good stuff I can find too.

    • Caroline

      Thanks for this. I also have an everyday journal, but on this occasion I decided to supplement it with a whole other journal – different notebook, a new appropach, lots of statistics. And disgust at the ineptitude of those who should have been doing better.
      But yes, also the good things, the new understandings, relationships created, experiences and so forth. I don’t think we will loose them when we get more control over our lives. But others will not be interested in us remembering.
      Gratitude journals, noting daily 3 things for which one is grateful, expressing appreciation to people – these are all known to help avoid depression. I still need to remember this from time to time.

      And through it all we kept on blogging …!
      best wishes
      Caroline

  5. Really enjoyed reading Caroline. You’ve made me wish I had kept up with my journalling experiment. Oh well, too late now.
    The one thing that stands out for me about this whole crisis is that our neighbourhood has become more of a community. We’ve had Facebook groups for the village for some time but now we have a What’sApp group for immediate neighbours which we use to offer help with shopping/errands etc. As a result I’ve made some new friends and been given bottles of wine, branches of blackcurrant bushes, garden flower posies and promises of apples in the autumn. We’ve also got groups for sharing plants and gardening knowledge. And boxes of books spring up everywhere when people have done a clear out – in the past they would have gone to a charity shop I suppose. I so hope this new spirit of sharing continues in the “new normal”

    • Caroline

      Thanks for your enthusiasm and comments. I am lucky to live in a village with a fair bit of community spirit anyway (it was one reason we moved here). The Lockdown has certainly underscored our dependence upon each other, just as we are driven apart. It sounds as though you have your own private village flower show going among your neighbours. I agree that I hope very much that we can retain this sense of community. I think it is up to each of us to promote and cherish it.
      And of course it’s not too late to restart your journaling. We are in for the long-term here I think. I’ve already done nearly 110 days and I dont see much changing for me yet.
      Keep well
      Caroline

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