Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Tamsin Stirling

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Splott resident Tamsin Stirling. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

To say that I have lost track of time is not quite true. I do find it difficult to remember what day it is a lot of the time, but I am also acutely aware of the passing of time.

Each day at two o’clock, the information on new cases and new deaths is published. Every afternoon I look at it – the researcher in me I guess – and try to process what it means. A flattening curve is good right? But how can it be considered ‘good’ when so many people have died, so many others are struggling for their lives and yet others are not safe at work because they do not have adequate PPE?

We are super lucky. We live in a house with a garden, are both able to work from home, still have money coming in, are able to pay bills, buy the food we need and able to go out once a day because neither of us have any ‘pre-existing conditions’ – how I hate that term.

So many people in the community have no escape; families in flats, people who can’t go out at all, people living in overcrowded situations, in shared accommodation, in violent and abusive relationships, people who have frontline jobs who have to go to work every day, people who have lost their jobs – the list goes on.

Yes COVID-19 is affecting everyone, but it is absolutely not affecting everyone in the same way or to the same extent. And this is very very obvious in our community.

For me, lockdown has been characterised by two big things. Firstly walks with my camera. I have been exploring my immediate neighbourhood in a very detailed way. Luckily for me, it includes the shoreline – Splott beach, the foreshore and wetlands. The tidal range is so high that there can be no shoreline at all or seemingly miles before the edge of the water. I have found new bits and rediscovered bits I already knew.

I have seen the steelworks from many different angles, seen species of bird that I had not seen before and searched for, and catalogued, different types of brick on Splott beach. I have also taken a lot of photographs which act as a kind of visual lockdown diary. Taking photos is a kind of meditation for me; it helps me to slow down and look really carefully. I have taken more photos since lockdown than in the last six months.

The second thing is connection. With family, community and friends. As my cousin in Canada said, we are being more intentional in making contact with people we care about. Checking in, sharing experiences, worries and humour – lots of humour. Like so many people, I have become familiar with Microsoft Teams, Zoom & WhatsApp video calls for work meetings, but also for social contact. And in the community, a mutual aid group has developed, now with over 1000 members on Facebook.

People sharing information, ideas, queries and things – plants, paint, furniture – all sorts of stuff. I have ‘met’ neighbours for the first time even though I’ve lived in the same house for over 20 years. On the street, more people say hello and ask ‘are you ok?’

On Twitter the other day, I was tagged by someone saying describe your COVID-19 journey in six words. My six words were walks, insomnia, worry, friends, community, WhatsApp.

Tamsin, Splott, 28 April 2020

Follow Tamsin on Twitter @TamsinStirling1

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