Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Alison Pritchard

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

Having lived in this part of the city for almost eight years, it turns out I have been drastically under-using my local area.

I’ve been at home, alone, since 16th March – a week before lockdown officially started. I was due to fly to Sri Lanka, a trip I had been planning for over a year, from Heathrow airport on Sunday 15th. Thankfully, I had spent a wonderful night in Birmingham the night before with my parents and brother to celebrate his 30th. I can often go weeks without seeing my family (spread as we are across Birmingham, Cardiff and Swansea), and I’m so glad we happened to spend that particular weekend together.

It had been a stressful weekend, trying to decide whether or not to even try and get to Sri Lanka; anxiously refreshing the websites of the travel agents, tour company and airline to see what the latest announcements were. Facing a loss of thousands of pounds if I chose not to go before it was cancelled, I tearfully waved goodbye to my parents and headed south to Heathrow. I was just passing Oxford when my brother rang me, and pulled into Oxford Services to confirm that Sri Lanka had indeed closed its borders, and the decision was taken out of my hands.

That was 58 days ago. I came back to Cardiff that night, but took a couple of days off work to recover from the stress, and actually have some of the 13 days holiday I was supposed to be enjoying. During those three days off I went to the beach at Ogmore and climbed Pen-y-Fan with a friend; making the most of being outside as much as possible. My plan had been to go back to the office on Thursday to see colleagues before a full lockdown was implemented, but the office closed on Wednesday. I already had what I needed to work from home as I was due to do so for a couple of days after my trip anyway. Thankfully, we have been moving towards being an online organisation, and switching to homeworking has been quite straightforward systems-wise.

I work as the Sustainable Funding Manager at WCVA: the membership body for charities in Wales.

Whilst I am beyond grateful to still be working, both for the financial stability and structure it gives to my week, work has been intense. The charity sector in the Wales is set to lose approximately £200m-£240m in income for the first three months of lockdown.

All physical fundraising activities and trading income stopped overnight when lockdown was implemented, at the same time that a majority of charities are seeing massive demands in their services, or set out to help the many members of our communities facing difficulties because of the virus. Like many parts of society, we know the charity sector will not look the same post-COVID-19 as it did before and we are working hard as an organisation to see the sector through this unprecedented (sorry) challenge.

Balancing this new way of working and the frantic pace at which things need to be done with looking after my own mental health has been key.

Two mantras have kept me going. The first has been doing the rounds on social media for these past few months: “it’s not just working from home, it’s working from home in a pandemic”. This is not usual, and it’s completely fine for us to not manage our usual levels of productivity every day, nevermind the levels being demanded from us by this … situation (I almost said the U word again).

The second needs to come with an acknowledgement that the NHS is a wondrous thing, and that we can never be grateful enough for the people on the frontlines of this awful virus. That said, for those of us without jobs in health and social care, the emergency services (or I guess the military), this is the best advice I was ever given to help stop work from taking over your life: “No one will die if you don’t do X”.

Keeping in mind that the world won’t stop turning if I don’t write that blog post, or send that email, or finish that report by 5pm has done me the world of good.

I think now, 58 days in, I’ve only had three or four properly low little stretches of time and I’m taking that as a win.

My overwhelming feeling of lockdown (those little low phases aside) has been gratitude. I am so grateful for my work, for the NHS, for the way swathes of our society have come together to help each other in their communities, for the people making tik-toks and performing home concerts and providing much needed entertainment, for the people on Instagram sharing their own struggles to help us all feel a bit less alone, for the Normal People boxset on iPlayer, for the colleague running Taskmaster for some of our team and for the friends checking up on me, participating in zoom socials and quizzes and making sure I’m not too lonely. I’m grateful that my need to be productive over the last decade has left me with a range of activities to keep me occupied at home, and in the case of baking and cooking, well fed. That said, it would be disingenuous not to admit to not getting round to sorting the two piles of filing that have been sat on my bedroom floor since January…

Lastly, but definitely not least, I am grateful for this city that we live in. The independent food scene in Cardiff is spectacular, and its been a great and selfish pleasure to support local businesses by making use of the delivery and collection services popping up from our favourites.

So far, I’ve ordered from Mr Croquewich, Heaney’s, and Dusty Knuckle, with Pettigrew Bakery next on my hitlist. Living in Whitchurch, I have easy access to the Taff Trail, Forest Farm Country Park (to use the full title I have recently discovered) and the Glamorganshire Canal Nature Reserve. Having lived in this part of the city for almost eight years, it turns out I have been drastically under-using my local area. Early lockdown walks and runs led me to discovering probably 70 per cent of the paths winding their way through forest land within the borders of Longwood Drive, Park Road, Velindre Road and the river (including the Northern Meadows, which I can’t believe anyone wants to build on). I’m choosing not to see those eight years as time lost, but to be thankful for how special it has been to discover such magical places during this unnerving and unexpected time.

Follow Alison on Twitter @alippritchard | Alison’s blog

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