The imposed ‘Lockdown’ in 2020 by the UK Government meant 2 of our 3 children had to return home. The youngest because he is a university student and all the educational facilities were closing down and going ‘online’. The eldest because she had been working in the USA, her contract had recently finished and she was planning to do some travelling in the Americas before heading back – the Foreign Office instruction to UK tourists aboard to ‘come home’ put paid to all her plans. Rather than be isolated in her Edinburgh apartment she headed straight from LHR to us.
Although we did see our children regularly my husband and I were used to having the house to ourselves so adjustments had to be made – it had been a long time since our house had groaned with the weight of teenage ‘clobber’. We are fortunate to have space and I quickly realised that to maintain harmony it would be beneficial to have divisions, which were discussed and agreed. As both were studying (one full time and one part-time) the dining room became a joint study and general dumping ground during the week for their ‘stuff’. This avoided their bedrooms becoming too chaotic and remained a peaceful sanctuary for sleeping and escape.
Thanks to modern technology they both recorded video presentations, sat exams and held project meetings with fellow students. It was interesting to observe how educational requirements could be delivered in this way and ensured that they maintained some level of communication with tutors and friends. I benefited as they taught me about Zoom – and soon we were having weekly family ‘catch-ups’ and quizzes.
When the Yoga teacher from my weekly class decided to offer a weekly Zoom class I was there – and able to offer advice on how to use the software to others in the class, and call through for assistance from the in-house IT team if needed! I then encouraged other groups that I belong to try it out, with mixed success although many of us ‘retirees’ are more capable than we believe ourselves to be.
Although their studies are important it was also important to ensure that there was some enjoyment during the ‘lock down’ so we introduced ‘Saturday Games Night’ –a family meal followed by a chosen game. I am not a fan of Monopoly so using online shopping was especially useful to browse then obtain new games. I became a fan of ‘Ticket to Ride’ although I only won once. We re-discovered card games, ‘Pick up Pigs’ and Uno. The meal itself was to be something not often cooked – usually because it was particularly time consuming, well now we had plenty of time.
Becoming even more adventurous one Saturday Emma arranged a Cocktail Party. We dressed up and learnt how to make our own simple cocktails prior to dining on Rotisserie Chicken Caesar Salad – having cooked the rotisserie style chicken myself as the local supermarkets were not doing them at present.
We also searched online for evening entertainment – and discovered many ‘live’ performances on YouTube ( https://www.youtube.com/ ) which helped reduce boredom alongside offering an opportunity to see performances that previously would have passed us by. Another ‘find’ was the Friday Night Quiz presented by Darlington Hippodrome (https://www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk/whats-on/ it can also be accessed via their FaceBook page) The question master, Julian Cound, ensures everyone has a fun evening (and understands the rules). As the quiz is usually 7.30 to 9.00pm we arrange a ‘Takeaway’ meal for approx. 7.00pm making the evening a social event whilst supporting a local business and giving the usual chefs an evening off.
We also managed to celebrate Easter with an Egg Hunt.
And, a birthday with a party and cake (a special cake decorated by Emma)
When the children were young, whatever was going on, we all ate a Sunday Roast Dinner in the evening and planned the week ahead – we re-introduced this which I think added a sense of normality to our situation.
We are fortunate in living within walking distance of Hardwick Park (http://www.durham.gov.uk/hardwickpark ) so enjoyed daily walks around the park and were able to photograph the emerging Spring, we also were lucky enough to notice frog spawn and then tadpoles in one of the small lakes. Normally we walk too fast and infrequently to take in the small details, we also noticed how noisy the birds were early in the morning – then realised that it was the noise of rush hour traffic that was missing.
Another opportunity presented by the lock down was to reduce the number of tasks on my ‘To-Do-List’, although no sooner did I complete an unfinished sewing project or spring-clean a set of cupboards more jobs were added on the list . I fear my list will never be completed.
We had reason to call out an emergency plumber (blocked pipe back-flowing through ceilings!) which added a sense of emergency and entertainment one day. Whilst still maintaining social distancing it was good to have another conversation in the house. This also highlighted that the seal around the bath needed re-doing so I learnt a new skill – taught by daughter – in how to apply silicone sealant. I now feel confident enough to tackle the seal around the kitchen sink, (although Emma undertook that task too as I think my role is more ‘assistant’).
Alongside keeping a sense of ‘living’ in the home we also maintained contact with extended family members via telephone (still think voices are better than emails), assisted elderly neighbours by shopping and baking treats. Aware that some friends were finding the situation challenging I also visited and had face-to-face conversations whilst maintaining social-distancing visits to those finding life challenging. I am sure that anyone walking past was entertained as I shouted from the pavement to a friend standing in the doorway – just as well we were not sharing secrets. Whilst, perhaps, acting at the edge of what was acceptable I am sure that these 10-minute chats had a lasting benefit and helped those unable to leave their homes.
We were so lucky with the weather, if this had occurred in deepest winter it would have been a bigger struggle for many. Despite working from home (WFH) my husband was in the garden for hours on end, we even had the occasional BBQ and sat out on a morning with coffee. Newly hatched ducklings arrived from a nearby stream, and we watched them eat under the bird table, the birdbox had a nest with 4 eggs so we looked in daily via the in-box camera.
Whilst, as a family, we were able to cope with the restrictions (although I was always short of flour and yeast) and to find pleasure in many of the things we did I am very aware that many struggled. These struggles and difficulties took on many shapes – financial, well-being, boredom, physical – and for many it will take a long time to recover. As a family we clapped every Thursday for all Key Workers and having been a Health Care Professional I have an understanding of the personal impact such situations have on Clinicians but this situation has also broadened our understanding of the ‘Key Worker’ – it is not just those who wipe the ‘fevered brow’ but also the Refuse Collection Workers, the Prison Officers, the Policeman on the Beat and the Driver of your local Bus. All these roles underpin the functions of our society and by continuing to work they risked the dangers of Covid-19 on our behalf. I read a comment somewhere (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram?) that resonated with me and I mentally noted its importance ‘We may all be in the same ocean, but we are not all in the same boat’.
Whilst we have each had periods of ‘downtime’ with loss of energy and motivation I do think that having the children back helped each of us cope and kept us active. Without their presence I think it safe to say that husband and I would have just continued doing what we do, the two children were determined that the situation was to have more positives than negative and we became caught up in their thinking, taking on whatever plans were put forward. That we remained engaged, in turn, encouraged them to complete any necessary tasks so that the fun events were just that – fun.
Our latest event was an afternoon tea party to commemorate 75th VE Day. Again we were lucky with the weather, eating outside and dressing as near ‘1945’ style as our wardrobe permitted. But nothing lasts for ever and our daughter needs to return to Edinburgh – to continue ‘social-distancing’ whilst opening up her home after 18 months and starting a new job.
Meanwhile our middle child decided that living in Stockholm with its lack of social distancing was too worrying for her so, thanks again to modern technology and WFH ability, packed up husband and baby and moved in with father-in-law in the north of Sweden, in amongst a forest. Baby took so keenly to the wide-open space; Jane and Kasper now wonder how they will be able to take him back to the city.