Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Jane Cook

This instalment of Letters from Cardiff in lockdown comes from Jane Cook, a freelance PR practitioner who lives in Canton. She also writes the  sustainable food blog Hungry City Hippy and is one half of the duo who produce the Hank! Cardiff food podcast.  We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

When the full lockdown was announced, my first thought was ‘oh, shit.’

When the full lockdown was announced, my first thought was ‘oh, shit.’ That’s because around 50 per cent of my projected income as a freelancer was planned to come from working with local restaurants and food festivals this summer, and I knew that as they were pretty much closed down with immediate effect, those contracts would be the first to go. I was worried about whether I would still be able to earn enough to pay my mortgage, which isn’t small, as we only paid a five percent deposit towards our house in Canton which we bought four years ago.

As it turns out, so far things are going okay. Personally, my income has gone down by about a third, but my outgoings have also been slashed by not being able to go anywhere or do anything, so I’ll be okay. I’m using the extra free time to cook more, podcast, write my blog, and help out with some pro-bono work on some of the feed the NHS campaigns in the city. The government support for freelancers will also apply to me so I have that to fall back on if I need to. I feel incredibly sorry for freelancers who have been on their own for less than a year as they won’t qualify for support and have probably not had a chance to build up as wide of a network for potential work.

The way that restaurants have responded to the crisis in launching deliveries and takeaway offerings – quickly and with very little help – etc has been incredible to see. I just hope that the restaurants make it through to the other side. I am doing as much as I can to support them with orders and home deliveries during this difficult time.

Moving my work life into the home hasn’t been especially hard for me; I used to work from home when I first went freelance, and whilst I don’t like doing it all of the time, it’s fine really. My other half – who works for Cardiff Uni – works from the spare bedroom and I’m in the front room, so we have our own spaces. I’m also very used to having client meetings via video etc as it’s much more efficient than travelling to meetings all the time; I have clients based in Aberystwyth and Abergavenny and this was always the norm for us.

My home office!

Health-wise, both myself and my husband are low risk. We’re in our 30s, with no underlying health conditions, and pretty healthy, but we’re staying in to protect others. We’re friends with a few healthcare workers the same age who’ve had the virus – a GP who got it and was sick at home for a couple of weeks but has since recovered, and another friend who tested positive but had no symptoms. My grandad’s brother unfortunately died from it last week – at a care home in Sheffield – which is really sad; especially for my grandad as he can’t go to the funeral and has to deal with his grieving alone.

The thing I miss most about ‘normal life’ is other people. Being able to have friends over for a BBQ, being able to go out to eat / drink / dance is one of my favourite things, and whilst video calls can replace client meetings, they’re no substitute for catch-ups with more intimate acquaintances. I miss being up close with my friends and having conversations that flow more easily without WiFi drop-outs and frozen screens. I know my mum is finding it much harder than I am as she is furloughed, so doesn’t have the distraction of work in the week. I am glad I have something to occupy me and keep my brain busy.

I am learning to appreciate the benefit of regular exercise, and I never thought I would be a person who said that! I hate working out, have never been a gym bunny, but in February I started the ‘Couchto5k’ app. It’s a nine-week series of podcasts that builds you up to being able to run 5km in half an hour by coaching you through three runs a week. I have been able to stick to it (socially distancing of course) and I finished the program last week, with a 30-minute run around Victoria Park. I plan to keep up the habit of running three times a week for as long as I can.

For me, one of the most positive changes that I have seen so far in this crisis is the shift in people’s relationship to their local economy and to food.

Local veg box schemes are popping up all over and subscriptions are soaring, people are cooking from scratch more, and they are looking to their local food producers and retailers for help in feeding themselves, instead of relying on the big supermarkets for everything. This is good news for local jobs, local farmers – everyone. I hope that that those habits will continue for long after this is over.

The other thing that has fascinated me is the way that people have been looking to nature to cheer themselves up during lockdown – it shows that most of us still value that connection and are suddenly appreciating it anew.

Sadly, the reality is that collectively we have treated nature so poorly for so long in the name of economic growth. Now that growth has been stalled, people are realising that yes, things could be different, and in some ways better. I wrote a more detailed post about the lessons I hope we learn from all of this here: COVID-19 BRINGS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE INTO SHARP FOCUS.

Follow Jane: Hungry City Hippy website | Hungry City Hippy Twitter | Hungry City Hippy Facebook | Hungry City Hippy Instagram

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