Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Daniel Holloway

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Daniel Holloway, who works for the police. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Reflecting back to life pre the lockdown seems a little strange now, that early wintery bit of 2020 didn’t really exist, did it?

Possibly like lots of other people I watched on in disbelief as the waves filtered through about a distant disease which quickly became our tsunami, crashing down all around us in mid March.

Personally going to work for me hasn’t changed a great deal and working for the Police and being classed as key worker has brought with it mixed emotions. Firstly and thankfully one of enormous gratitude that my employment situation is secure and unaffected by recent events which has clearly not been the case for many people.

Initially I also saw a real fear in the eyes of some my colleagues, unsure if by still having to come to work, that we would eventually get sick ourselves or potentially spread the disease to our loved ones. The anxiety has eased a little over the last month or so but not complacency.

Some people in the community have thanked me for doing “what I do” but compared to the Mums and Dads who spend long arduous days, home schooling children while attempting to carry out careers of their own from the comfort of their kitchens or bedrooms, I feel lucky and certainly happy to help. It also goes without saying that my fellow emergency service colleagues in the NHS and care workers deserve all the praise they are getting. I just hope that this might be finally recognised financially by the government once this is all a distant dream, sadly I won’t hold my breath though.

So in between home school days spent at the breakfast bar, chipping away at Google classroom my kids have adapted to this new normality, thanks mainly to my wife who having being furloughed has spent many stressful hours entertaining our two boys.

As a family we have taken lots of new walks around Pontprennau and found a river and hidden places we didn’t know existed even after 14 years of living in the area. Some wonderful person started “Pontprennau Rocks” on Facebook in which the children and lots of adults (big kids) paint pictures on rocks and hide them around the area for people to find and photograph. It’s been lovely see many people taking time to enjoy our sunny corner of Cardiff and say hello while out and about.

One of my funniest lock down experiences has been having my hair cut (at distance) by my friend and work colleague, I did suspect that I may end up looking a right state but he has honestly given me a better hair cut than any I have paid for professionally recently. It’s amazing how people’s talents and skills always rise up in a crisis and this one really did surprise me.

As someone who finds the pace of the 21st century fairly brutal I have actually really enjoyed this period of time.

I say this with an awareness and perspective that I personally have been unaffected by this awful disease and its ongoing horror. I have previously suffered with mental health issues so this opportunity to slow down has been really appreciated. This of course takes place on my days off from work and I have relished the chance to be creative, write, draw and take photos, read and play guitar. I spend a lot of time outdoors within a work context and so to see blue skies, clear rivers and actually really hear the birds singing has been a privilege.

Cycling down to Cardiff Bay from Pontprennau is now a pleasure rather than a traffic fuelled chore.

The lack of any real daily expectations is a gift also, so rather than worrying about where I’m going to take my children to keep them entertained, we all just accept that we are lucky to have a nice garden and so lets make the most of it and play games and relax (not that six and nine year olds relax). I initially got caught up in the “I have to do X, Y and Z” on my days off.

“I haven’t done a Joe Wicks yet,” which caused me anxiety but now I just think, hey let’s just do what we can, forget what others are doing, let’s just be.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how useful technology has been as an alternative to meeting friends and enabling communication and interaction to continue. Back in the good old days of 2019 I was lucky if I had the time or energy to meet up with friends and would probably manage it every three-four months, now every Saturday me and my friends sit for two hours drinking beer, eating snacks and listening to music together (but apart).

So it works as follows; the head music master Neil sends us eight topics such as “a song that reminds you of a journey etc” we then compile our tracks on Spotify and from 9pm every Saturday we hit play and converse via Whats App, its been really fun and a great way discover new music and talk with like minded music geeks. Like many hundreds of other music fans I have spent evenings at Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties (timstwitterlisteningparty.com) thanks to Tim Burgess of Charlatans fame, again everyone pressing play when Tim says and enjoys classic albums and/or discovering new records for the first time.

Tim’s Listening Parties are a wonderful idea that provides a sense of kinship and pleasure via music. We may be alone but we are certainly not lonely.

I have also been learning Welsh for the last two years and so it came as a shock when lessons were suspended and moved to on-line classes. At first I wondered how and if it would work but again I have enjoyed meeting up with class mates and our amazing teacher Awen has worked so hard to make lessons productive and fun. Learning Welsh has been such an amazing positive in my life and i’m determined to sit my now cancelled exam one day in the future and move onwards.

Of course it not all been positive and I’ve really missed my parents and I’m concerned about their safety. My sister has a young family and we have all missed seeing each other, even though Zoom meetings and quiz nights have made up for that a little. My nan passed away in December aged 98 after suffering from dementia. Towards the end of her life she lived in a care home for a short period of time and so I can only imagine what families are going through right now not being able to see loved ones regularly.

As Joe Strummer famously said “the future is unwritten” and I really hope that lots of the positives will remain from this strange time.

The empathy and consideration for fellow humans, the realisation that people who worked in low paid roles are equal and vital to our way of life, that the creative ideas and secret meeting places don’t just fade away but grow and become the norm.

I firmly believe that 2020 has tried to tell us something about the way we existed prior to COVID-19and to ignore it and not learn from it is an option. Personally when this is all done and dusted you’ll find me on my way to nearest coffee shop and then maybe for that long awaited swim in the sea…..ahh remember the sea?

Daniel Holloway is a 43 year old father of two, music obsessive and Liverpool fan still in waiting. Follow Daniel Hollow on Twitter / Daniel Holloway Instagram.

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