• Kim F Vaughan

Noticing the benefits of lockdown

Like many others, I have been on an emotional rollercoaster lately. One day I have relished the sunshine and the opportunity to stay home. The next, it has been a terrible imposition of freedom when all I want to do is go across the country and give my daughter a big hug.


My heart goes out to all those who have lost friends, colleagues and family members to corona virus. I am angry about the appalling treatment of black and minority ethnic people everywhere, and closely examining my own conscious and unconscious biases - change starts with me, after all.


I have to say, though, that there have been some excellent developments in society as we adapt to enforced isolation, to help us keep going in innovative and surprising ways. Focusing on these excellent developments keeps me going, especially when I find my patience is fraying at the edges.


Community


The benefit I have noticed most recently is the opportunity to take part in online events. Most of these events would normally be face-to-face, held over several hours or days in big cities, and therefore quite costly in £££ and time.


Online meetings have forced organisers to think hard about their programming and adjust to the opportunity to reach far more people. I am able to join a number of network events now they are online, events that I wouldn't have been able to consider before, cementing relationships with an amazing range of interesting people, lifting my 'isolation despair' to feel part of a greater whole.


Strangely, online platforms enable the speakers and audience to feel much closer together; visibly through a bank of screens, and physically, appearing in my living room or bedroom, rather than like rock stars on a faraway stage. OK, so we can't decamp to the hotel bar or nearby restaurant to seal our comradeship, but the intimacy of the online space has made it easier to share some of our humanity from the part of the iceberg that is normally below the surface. Chat functions allow us to register our comments and questions in real time. Those who have been fearful of technology previously have discovered an ability to cope with it - a giant step forward for society.


There has also been more contact by phone with friends and family. Somehow it feels OK just to call to say hello. Have we become more open and less precious with our time?


Environment


I haven't put petrol in my car since 20 March and have driven very few miles. A weekly visit to the farm where we buy milk direct from the cow is around a 15-mile round trip. A weekly supermarket shop is about 3 miles there and back. One celebratory journey to Macclesfield Forest to view a distant horizon from a high point, when the order came through that we could travel for exercise, was maybe 35 miles. Though I am still disappointed not to have encountered an ice cream van while we were there.


There have been no journeys by air, either. This really is a blessing - getting through the airport is horrendous - and I find it hard to imagine ever wanting to make such a journey again. At least not until I can be beamed directly by Scotty to that perfect gite in France, or a glowing Tuscan villa near Florence.


Multiply all those missing emissions and we really could change the carbon footprint for the better.


Health


Driven by my fancy watch to count steps and close exercise rings, together with gorgeous weather and a slight case of house-bound claustrophobia, I have beaten my lazy gene to rack up a number of sporting achievement medals awarded by my phone. As someone who would normally rebel at any instruction to stand up, get your heart rate up and walk several thousand steps, I have undergone an epiphany. Fitter, slightly lighter, and hoping for some good metrics at my next health check, it's those medals that keep me focused.


Walking around my neighbourhood through a delightful spring has been enlightening too. We may cross to the other side of the road when we meet, but more of my neighbours are now known to me, and I to them. So are their gardens, which are blooming well, and wildlife spotting has taken me back to the Observer Books of Plants, Trees and Birds on more than one occasion.


Art and culture


I am sure I am not alone in admitting to watching more TV and online streaming than usual. Some of it has been excellent, some less so. But how lucky are we to have all that material available to so many people? It seems hard to imagine now the world I grew up in, with two black and white TV channels that started up late afternoon and closed down completely overnight. Hmm, showing my age now.


The internet has changed our world and opened our minds. We are better, if sometimes badly, informed and we are learning to distinguish misinformation from the rest.


Everyone can have their voice heard nowadays. It may be hard to control the cacophony generated by social media, but how helpful has it been to be able to keep in touch with each other or ask for help when we are stuck at home?


It has been possible to read more with the commute to work binned. Hard copies of books have been swapped and recirculated in community silos like old telephone boxes. Use of audio books has soared for kids and adults alike as the value of a good book has been rediscovered. Ebooks don't need shelf space and many are available free of charge, though it is not yet a universal privilege to have a device on which to keep and read them.


The opportunity to observe our surroundings closely, to see properly what is around us, has prompted us to take up photography, drawing and painting (my attempt at painting a tulip illustrates this article). Lockdown has provided an opportunity to learn or relearn a language or to play a musical instrument. I have two more hand-knitted items of clothing than I had a couple of months ago. These are all enduring, life-enhancing skills.


Food and drink


Always the go-to salves for times of duress, the standard of home-cooking skills has soared. Not only baking but real, old-fashioned meals using real ingredients. Roast dinners, home-brewed beer, even cheese and salami from scratch in my husband's case, with daylight falling on granny's recipe notebook once again. I do hope people will continue with this when we get through the Coronavirus experience.


What benefits of lockdown do you want to hold on to?


On a broader note, I want us all to hold on to the appreciation we have for the NHS, schools and the key workers who have more than proved their value. The government must surely give up its impersonal approach to such services. The Arts need our support too.


I would love to know what benefits of lockdown you have noticed and what you hope we can hang on to as we recover. Looking forward to hearing from you!





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