Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Alison Powell

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


I peer with curiosity and confusion at those people rummaging around to find things to do during lockdown. When I see people churning out ‘Tik Toks’, devouring season after season of a Netflix drama, or consuming weighty tomes that have been on their ‘to read’ list for years, I cock my head to one side and wonder. Only for a moment though. Everyone has their very different lockdown life, their challenges and their triumphs. But also, I don’t have time to pause for long and ponder on what others are doing and how they are finding the opportunity to do it, because time, or a feeling that I am lacking it, has been my overwhelming lockdown preoccupation.

Life was busy pre-lockdown. On my own with two children life was a whirl of activities both in and out of school; meeting up with friends and family; work; the gym; writing my next novel; the life admin stuff plus accompanying chores of maintaining a four bedroom house and all the emotional and mental aspects of raising children, oh and carving out time for fun.

There was a cell inside me that watched Boris announce the lockdown that did wonder if this was the enforced full-stop on my life. Maybe this was a moment when all of that self-imposed pressure to be, to do, to go, to act, was now having a strip of sticky tape stuck on it with ‘Stop! Do not enter, do not go, do not cross!’ emblazoned on it. Maybe this was the rules, the law, the government saying, ‘Stay home and whilst saving the NHS and protecting lives, just breathe…’.

But immediately came home-schooling. One person I know made the valid point that the ‘home-school’ nomenclature in this instance is nonsense. Those who make the decision to home-school in a pre-lockdown world do so for a variety of reasons and provide a full and rounded education for their children. I liken what I have been trying to provide for the last three months as an educational holding pen and seeing my two chicks confined in it has induced waves of guilt, anxiety, frustration and sadness in me. I’m no longer reminding about homework whilst driving across Cardiff and the Vale to get the kids to different activities or parties,

I am now trying to develop and stimulate their active minds and fill their curious souls with knowledge whilst also still trying to work, write, clean, cook, ‘virtually’ meet up with friends and family, road run rather than go to the gym and provide perhaps more emotional and mental support for them and for my myself than was ever required before mid-March. I am exhausted.

I haven’t read a whole book since lockdown began, but I have three that I have dipped in to. I haven’t done any craft with the kids or finished writing a novel or got really fit. I have nagged about how long the children stare at their phones; I have refereed who’s turn it is on the X box; felt bad that bed times are later than they were in February and eaten way too many pork scratchings.

But I also know that there are some friends that I have connected with on an even deeper level than before as each conversation is about how we really are. We have asked the question, how are you and we have answered honestly and with greater candour. I miss my parents and friends that live away, but thank goodness that we are fortunate to have technology to support connection.

In helping my daughter with her school work, whilst I have realised I am no further forward with geometry than when I was 15, we have had some searching and serious conversations about whether war is ever justified and the effects of WW1 on women’s freedom and ultimately, suffrage; I have talked to my son about poetry, cars and football and encouraged him to practice his guitar more regularly; we have baked cookies and carrot cake together, learned how to make onion bhajis, did a delicious tea for a VE day living room party and my son has learned to cook pesto pasta. We have discovered new board games, drunk a lot of tea together and dunked a lot of biscuits. We have laughed and chatted and just been around each other in a way that in the past was interrupted by the need to be here, there, everywhere and somewhere else.

We have all had a wider education about the world, each other and ourselves.

So, whilst time feels in short supply in some sense, this time has also proved valuable, illuminating, interesting, precious. Not wishing to tempt fate, but fortunately we have not been ill with Covid-19. But, we know that as the country gradually opens up our new normal, to use the new phrase, will bring with it more change and uncertainty and potentially illness to ourselves or those we care about. But for now, in this moment, my little immediate family and me have much to treasure and be grateful for and that is maybe one of the greatest lessons we can all learn.

Alison Powell is author of children’s book  ‘What’s a girl to do?’, columnist for The Penarth Times, recipe writer for Buzz magazine, passionate about travel, food, family, friends and kindness. Often found barefoot in the kitchen, musing on the history of hummus and listening to 90s R&B.


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