Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anonymous #2

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from an anonymous contributor. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

It’s a cliché, but we sleepwalked into this. In the first half of March, I did lots of ‘normal’ things: a weekend away, a night out, visits to the gym, work as usual. All these things now seem bonkers.

And then everything happened so quickly: on the evening of Monday 16 March, the head of the company for which I work emailed us all to insist that everyone who could, should work from home from the following day. My office mates and I went in the following day to collect what we needed (I am not ashamed to say that I stocked up on wine on the way) and now we’ve been working from home full-time since 18 March.

Working from home  is something I have never done before, by choice. I live alone; I get plenty of quiet time so actively enjoy going into work and the joys of office banter.

Victoria Park, by We Are Cardiff

I live in Canton, very close to Victoria Park. I am lucky enough to have my own house with a small garden out the back. All those weekends in the last few years that I have spent up a ladder painting ceilings and walls felt worth it at the time, but my goodness am I reaping the rewards of my toils now! I absolutely love my house. My dining room has become my workspace, complete with the pot plants from the office (getting them home was no mean feat). So no desk sharing or video meetings in the bedroom for me.

 

The first couple of weeks of WFH were hard: I got distracted and felt that I was getting little done. But I have developed a nice routine that I quite enjoy: exercise (often a jog around Vic Park), shower, breakfast, check emails, daily team video call with colleagues, then normal working hours. Without my commute home, often up to an hour on a smelly bus (yep, it can take that long to get home from town at 5.30pm on a weekday), the evenings do seem long: I am ‘home’ at least an hour and a half earlier than I generally used to be.

Living alone for a long time, I have perfected the art of pottering and entertaining myself, so the long evenings have been okay. But living alone during lockdown is…. pretty tough.

I am in good health and my income has not been affected (although I work in a sector that will be hit very hard by the effects of the pandemic, so I am not counting my chickens). I am grateful that my family and friends are safe and well and I feel for the people living alone in poor health, with children or a sick or frail relative, or living with an abusive partner. I’m in a position to be able to donate to charities and have given to Age UK, Refuge and Foodbank in recent weeks and urge you to do the same if you are able.

But being a single thirty-something woman living in a small city is tough at the best of times so lockdown living and the likelihood of months or years of social distancing does offer some ‘interesting’ perspectives on my situation!

I now spend more time talking to friends and family, making use of all the wonderful free technologies we have available to us (and if you are listening in on my calls with my mum, Vladbot, you will be sorely disappointed. We will never reveal where we hid the diamonds). Whilst I would certainly not define myself as vulnerable or in need, I really appreciate the friends and colleagues who have acknowledged that I am alone and increased frequency of texts and calls (you know who you are!!).

My patio

It is pretty solitary living alone right now and, although I had already reconciled myself to the fact that meeting a suitable man belongs in the realms of unicorns and flying pigs, it is sobering to think that options for those of us alone are going to be pretty much zero for months, if not years, to come. A friend suggested that I try the dating apps again and join the trend for Zoom dating, but that doesn’t really enthuse me. In order to get a feel for someone, I need to talk to them in person. There is no substitute for face to face contact.

I haven’t had any physical contact with another person since, I think, receiving a hug from a friend’s child on 14 March. That is a long time. It’s scientifically recognised that humans suffer for lack of contact with others (look up ‘skin hunger’). I’m fine for now, but the uncertainty of not knowing when I might next get a hug is not great.

My advice for anyone reading this who has a friend, colleague or family member who lives alone, even if in good health and no financial concerns, is to show you are aware that they are alone and ask them directly how it is. You can’t change their situation but showing you care means an awful lot.

What have I learned from this experience? There are too many things to list, but they include:

  • the real value of small pleasures (repotting a house plant, drinking a coffee sat in the sun on my little patio)
  • that working from home, for my kind of role at least, can be done without too many difficulties or video call gaffs. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be
  • judging by how often I have to dust and vacuum, that I shed approximately ten thousand hairs and two kilos of skin a day
  • huevos rotos (my bastardised version of) is one of the best things ever if you fancy some comfort eating: chips or fried potatoes topped with fried onion, peppers, chorizo or serrano ham, and egg. Send our Spanish friends mad and top it with a bit of grated cheddar (btw, I love Spain, having lived there twice, and can’t wait to go out there again…).

When not shedding hairs or cooking/eating/drinking wine, I have inevitably spent a lot of time outside working hours reading and watching TV. I so enjoyed ‘Falling for a Killer: Ted Bundy’ on Prime that I am now listening to true crime podcasts. I registered to be a volunteer with Cardiff Council but, hearteningly, so many people have signed up that we may not all be needed. I’ve been trying to do what I can in other ways: staying in (of course), shopping for a friend isolating at home when her kids had bad coughs, and clapping one Thursday evening. On the subject of which, I feel the need to say (and sorry not sorry for making this political) that clapping should distract no one from the fact that THE NHS IS NOT A CHARITY. Nope. Key services, in the NHS and beyond, need proper investment by government, long-term. Foodbanks and charities cannot and should not have to fill the voids.

Rant over!

So, what do I miss apart from the office banter? Tragic as this may be, I miss the gym. I have been doing the best I can at home with some small dumbells and a couple of resistance bands.

I have been very disciplined in doing 30-60 minutes of exercise pretty much every day. I miss it the days I don’t do it. A colleague made a comment that I was being a bit of a goody two shoes in doing this and putting everyone else to shame. But, from my point of view, he’s cuddled up at home with his cherished spouse and I am, well, not. We all have our cross to bear and we all have our own ways of managing. I also miss going out with friends, enjoying the lovely restaurants and bars that our home city has to offer. I really hope that as many as possible can survive this. Most of all, and like lots of people, I think I miss the ability to make plans, even if just a spontaneous trip over to a friend’s for coffee.

Anyway, I’m not putting pressure on myself to achieve a load of lockdown achievements. We all need to be kind to ourselves and others. It’s a sunny Saturday morning, so I am going to go and read my book in the sunshine for a while. Looks after yourselves lovely people of Cardiff!

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