Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Ceri John Davies

This instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series is from Ceri John Davies. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown!

Lockdown in CF24

Lockdown 2020 sounds like some Hollywood film that maybe went straight to video, but the reality is a gruelling real-life drama, where many are fighting the COVID-19 virus, both personally and professionally. The heroes of the film are our health workers and essential service providers.

In such trying times, when so many are battling so hard, it’s a hard issue to contemplate, but lockdown for me has so far been a positive experience. A change in lifestyle to a quieter and slower pace suits me far more than what went before. I have long been aware of my preferences and in recent years have been lucky enough to make lifestyle changes to create a better work life balance; lockdown has taken it to the next level.

I work at a desk with a laptop, and my employer has long been pushing a smarter ways of working approach. I have been a fully mobile worker from day one. Pre lockdown I took advantage of this mobility, working at home, cafes, co-working sites and at my parents’ home in Mid Wales. I must confess it has probably been easier for me to adapt to lockdown that many.

I am a long-time homeworker, one-time provider of co-working spaces and campaigner for this type of work (this is an article I wrote on the subject – Working for a better Future) – so was probably well ahead of the game. I was not only a believer but worked to convert others to the benefits of home working and remote working.

Modern tech if you have it, allows a completely different way of working. For me and my colleagues, Microsoft Teams was already embedded in every meeting pre lockdown and is widely used by colleagues across the board, including for regular social catch ups and a weekly quiz. If anything, I speak to some colleagues more now than when I was a few desks away.

Some irony here … as I am writing this article offline as currently the Wi-Fi has gone down, and we await with interest what our provider can do! It’s not the first time this lockdown and probably won’t be the last. The future, whatever it may be in Wales will need to be tech enabled and reliable, that super-fast broadband promise would be a welcome delivery.

So work is fine, when possible, the biggest change has been having my ten-year-old and seven-year-old at home at the same time. Home-schooling would be a doddle right? Not so much!

Our children go to an amazing Welsh language primary who provide daily work for both children. My eldest is probably pretty self-contained, she gets the work and she does it – maybe with a little help from mum and dad, and frankly my ability to show her long multiplication will be a highlight of the year! He has still got it!

My youngest – less so. Getting the motivation, be it for the Joe Wicks morning PE which we all started with (but only two in the house have really continued with) has been our biggest challenge. More often than I would have liked, the teaching of the seven-year-old has quickly descended into an “inset” day. With two parents working from home and often the need for one-to-one instruction, motivation, and supervision, it has been the most difficult aspect of our changed circumstances.

Their school has been great, but we have also added in a lot of teaching of our own. The children have been allowed to home cook a lot more (I’m getting a little fed up of cake, truth be told!). The paints have been out more regularly, and I like a home science experiment, so we have been doing and videoing quite a few of those. We are making a cloud in a jar this afternoon!

Tech has enabled us to do a lot of things that they wouldn’t have been able to do. Guides is online weekly, and Brownies starts this week. My admiration for the volunteers knows no bounds for the efforts they go to. We persevered with piano lessons for a few weeks via the online option, but frankly they weren’t working for anyone, teacher, child or parent so we have had to pull them, but we are continuing to pay our tutor and banking the lessons for when lockdown eases.

My children were pretty digital au fait before the lockdown but the 10-year-old has benefited most as she was gifted an old phone early on to stay in touch with her friends, which the seven-year-old still doesn’t have. She has taken to the tech a little too well and a little too fast for my liking! They both get to Facetime friends at playtime, but we have also tried to go back to the future and have written letters and cards to friends and family near and far.

Outside, school and work it’s been a welcome quieter time.

I defy anyone to say that less traffic, less noise, less pollution is not a welcome change to Cardiff.

Despite only one excursion a day, we have enjoyed these times out of the house. Often by bike we have been fortunate enough to explore the grand parks that surround CF24; Bute, Roath, Heath, and the secrets they have. We have ventured a little further afield within the guidelines and the peace on the roads makes our great city fabulous to cycle around, exploring places with a seven-year-old I wouldn’t normally try by road. We have gone as far as the Bay, Llanishen Park and Forest Farm for our daily exercise.

The weather has helped no end and we are fortunate to have a small garden that we have spent time in enjoying the weather. It’s never had so much care given to it, nor our garage which has been painted and cleaned out, jobs that have been on the ‘to do’ list for upwards of ten years.

We have even managed the odd camping trip to our small lawn, complete with enough bedding to make Sherpa Tensing weep. The veg patch is in and growing fast and we have also embraced the newly launched CF24 Sunflower Competition.

The weather and the garden mean that we have BBQ’d and eaten many meals outside. In fact, I’d say we are eating together more as a family or as a couple. Lunch with my wife is now a regular event, not once in a blue moon. Turns out she’s a lovely woman. Why do we eat together more now? You would think we would perhaps want more space from each other, but so far that’s not the case. It’s not just eating together, we always did play family games, but we are playing more, although Monopoly may well not survive lockdown, but a demand for a regular games night is on the cards.

We have missed family and friends, but we are regularly talking to all those we can phone, and my daughter with her new phone has mastered WhatsApp video – who knows how many times she calls her Mid Wales based nan and grandad. Several a day I am told! Through Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp it is easy to see what everyone else is doing and managing, and through Zoom I even stay in touch with the Thursday night football boys and an incredibly competitive weekly sports quiz.

In normal circumstances, I’m usually filling my downtime with planning what to do,  normally it’s away from home, exploring something, or somewhere, visiting friends and family. Being at home so much is unusual. However, with everything I have described, it has really clicked for us.

In all honesty I have not enjoyed Cardiff this much since my time in University all those years ago.

Lockdown for many is terrible, we can’t escape that, and I’m clearly glossing over the arguments and tantrums that we have endured in my house.

My thoughts are regularly drawn to those really impacted by this virus, those fighting it, those including many friends on the care frontline who we worry for daily.

It is without doubt a terrible time, but I do hope that some of the benefits that we have and see around us are not lost as the world tries to return to normal. That normal was not that great, and I want us to plan the normal we want to return to. I am sure we as a family will have some changes for the better, I just hope wider society will as well.

Follow Ceri on Twitter @ceritheviking.

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