A Year of Lockdown!
Posted on March 23, 2021
When I look back on my personal year since lockdown, it is quite odd. Some things seem like they were years and years ago, whilst others feel like they were yesterday.
One of the things I remember the clearest was a pre-season cricket practice in a large barn in Dummer. Rumours were already starting to emerge about the virulence of Covid-19 and there I was, in a hall with members of mine and several other cricket clubs. We were also mixing with parents and youngsters playing in the colt’s indoor league.
I turned to Tim, one of our members (who had recently returned from business in Covid infested Italy) and said, “I reckon we’re fucked”.
With an interconnected world and ongoing dithering about whether to lockdown or not, it seemed obvious there was trouble ahead. In that one hall, in a village on the outskirts of Basingstoke, there were about 70 people who had been scattered around the UK that day as well as kids who had been mixing with others at school. From that group of people alone, the potential connections to others seemed infinite.
However, Britain carried on and I concluded that I must have been getting paranoid over nothing. After that night at the cricket centre and my first assessment of a new career as an amateur epidemiologist, the following happened. Boris Johnson went to a rugby match at Twickenham, Atletico Madrid travelled to Merseyside, The Stereophonics played concerts in Newport and Cardiff and 100,000 people travelled to Cheltenham racecourse.
We are told hindsight is a wonderful thing and that is very true. However, if based on basic calculations, I had a gut feeling of what was coming, what on earth were the people who were supposed to know what they were doing, playing at? Still wallowing in the glory of ‘Getting Brexit Done’, Johnson missed five Cobra meetings and appeared in a state of denial and procrastination.
Anyway, lockdown eventually came a year ago today and what a strange day it was. The message to most people was clear, but not to us in the world of construction. I had several projects on the go where no one knew whether to stay at home or go to work. Construction was a grey area and many of the people I spoke to were scared, including the businesses I work with.
The next few days were all a bit of a haze. Every day became like a Sunday before cars were invented. Dog walks through empty villages featuring closed pubs and local stores, were eerily quiet. The sunshine helped, with an early onset of spring lifting some, if not all the gloom.
However, hanging over me all the time, was a sense that my clients might not survive, which meant I wouldn’t either. As a company, I was in the early stages of two of the largest projects I had done for years. The timing, it seemed, couldn’t have been worse. One project was a new hotel at an airport that it seemed at the time, might never be used. Would those funding it pull out and leave us all stranded?
Amongst all this, I found myself spending incredible amounts of time alone, with the highlight being a trip to the shops or long walks. Sometimes these were up to ten or fifteen miles long, with the dog as ever willing company. I couldn’t see my grown-up kids or my partner as we are in different households, so my conversations with the dog became even more ridiculous. I found myself informing him of the chores that needed doing before we could head off on another marathon. “Hold on boy…just got to put some washing in, then we can go out for a walk…where do you want to go today?”
Life became a bit of a circle of daily thoughts. There was pity for my sons who were getting denied that short period of life when going out at night and socialising is standard procedure. Then there was my onset of early season hay fever that convinced me I was going to die. The cancellation of the cricket season and the 2020 European Football Championships soon followed.
The summer events we look forward to, were disappearing and we couldn’t even go to the pub to commiserate. The highlight of the week became a dog swap over with Jennifer. We would meet at an eerily quiet Blackwood Forest and have a couple of sneaky glasses of wine in the deserted picnic area before departing in separate cars. They were the oddest of times.
A Brief Exit
When we came out of lockdown, we briefly enjoyed life in a managed way. A trip to Brighton for Jennifer’s 50th birthday felt like luxury. A handful of cricket matches boosted morale and ensured Oakley Cricket Club still existed, at least in a fractured way. However, there was a gut feeling this wasn’t the end of it, and of course, it wasn’t.
By the end of September, children, like trojan horses, were spreading the disease with innocent gay abandon. Dido Harding and Serco claimed they couldn’t have seen it coming when everyone else had. Not her fault, she was only in charge of Test & Trace, which by now, was costing tens of billions along with PPE contracts that appeared to be riddled with industrial scale corruption.
Once again, it appeared lockdown was imminent as Covid and new variants laughed in the face of a series of confused tier systems. Most of us who were now experienced amateurs, morbidly fascinated with Covid, knew that the country had to lockdown again. Not the government though, they grimly clung on to their five-day Christmas amnesty promise before reluctantly and sensibly caving in. Britain was shut again.
This time, no one cared so much. Winter is bleak anyway, so if it meant getting a summer in 2021, so be it. Covid tore into us in January, with a death and infection rate so alarming, that only the news of vaccines being released kept spirits up. January was the darkest month and without the hope the vaccine offered, it is hard to see how morale could have been kept above the abyss.
A Year On
So, a year ago today, a total of 364 people had died, and we were given the grim news that we would be lucky to keep that number below 20,000. It now stands at around 126,000. Covid has been a tragedy. If we had been given that figure a year ago, there would have been mass hysteria. Then there are those whose lives have been changed forever by the long-term effects. It really has been awful.
As we sit here a year later, we know that Covid is going nowhere. With vaccines and better antiviral treatment, there is hope. There will be a time when we can live with Covid and protect ourselves from it. What we don’t know, is what that world will look like and how we will adjust to our everyday freedoms being curtailed.
Will all that human contact be gone forever? A hug, a handshake, or a good old-fashioned pat on the back, consigned to history. Will festivals, concerts and packed sporting arenas featuring spontaneous and euphoric celebrations, be looked upon with curiosity by a sanitised and regularly injected generation?
Out of all this, I just hope that Covid isn’t the start of a dystopian era that our children and grandchildren see as normal.