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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Emily, with the important question…

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Emily, who has a very important question to ask

Letter and lessons from lockdown – A letter to my post-lockdown self

Life is, as ever, what you make of it. Sometimes, through times of stress and strain we need a bit of perspective. Lockdown has brought challenges to our household (me, my boyfriend*, and our lodger) so I’ve written a letter to my future self, to remind me of all of the things I’ve learnt from lockdown so far

(*he has a real name too – it’s Chris)


It sounds like something that happens in a Netflix prison drama. A nationwide pandemic is the stuff of Hollywood Blockbusters on the big screen. Then IT happened. You were told to stay indoors. And since mid-June you’ve been living a groundhog day-like existence. I’ve been reading the other blogs, where we’ve heard stories of lost jobs, isolation, relationship fails, green fingers, key workers and alike. But none of them have captured the absolute devastation that lockdown has brought us in our household…

Firstly there’s the fact that my boyfriend is a psychopath. He is one of those hideous, monstrous humans of the worst order: he is a feeder. Goat tartlet, crispy shredded beef, glazed gammon; there is nothing that Elaine can’t whip up in the kitchen. This, paired with the fact that I suffer from an awful condition called greediness, means that lockdown has resulted in us both gaining an extra stone of isolation insulation. I like to think it will help us if food shortages become rife, we have a good head start on most people, having already stored it in our bellies.

Secondly, there’s working from home. We’ve all been there; long video calls, eating your way through boredom, consuming more coffee than a columbian barista convention. It’s insanely boring, strangely tiring and being on calls all day makes you bizarrely obsessed with the appearance of your plain walls. Do you show them your alcohol collection at risk of looking like you might have a problem, or the pretentious bookshelves full of books that you’ve not read yet?

Throw in two stepchildren who visit once a fortnight and rob you of all of your food, sleep and sanity (Especially when they leave strategically placed toys in the shaggy rug – the outcome of which was, in my opinion more painful than simultaneously treading on lego and an upturned plug.)

But, (and you too, dear reader) amidst this tale of lockdown woe, I’ve found some important lessons that I wanted to remember, because I think they are life-changing.

I’ve learnt patience.

I’ve learnt to embrace simple, but perfect things.

A hot chocolate in front of the fire. (Yes I lit a fire in June. This girl feels the cold.) A slow dance in the kitchen, playing rock paper scissors to decide who makes the morning coffee and brings it to the other in bed. We can find surprising satisfaction in the small things that happen when we least expect it. You don’t have to go far, you don’t have to spend money, you can stop and look up to find things you love dearly.

Something else I’ve learnt is how surprising an ‘extreme’ situation can show you another side to someone.

It may not be as extreme as the time I ate a MacDonald’s apple pie without letting it cool first, but lockdown has forced us into some pretty hardcore levels of extreme exposure to loved ones. I didn’t anticipate that my boyfriend would be forced to listen to my ‘work self’ spouting formal phrases about complex legal systems that sounds like absolute gobbledygook, or that I would be forced to spend an afternoon hand-washing his pants. (Another delightful lockdown quirk: our washing has been broken for three months. For this household, social distancing isn’t difficult because no one would want to come into close proximity to anything that’s in my wardrobe.) I know there is a very serious situation that some people forced to be together is negative and detrimental experience but this, for us, has been the opposite. I’ve delighted in seeing him single-handedly home-school, work, cook three meals a day and still remain a kind, patient and phenomenally fun dad. All the while I’m just about managing to do just one thing: my job. I haven’t even managed to feed and water myself – he’s done that too. I’ve seen a wonderful man take the world on his stride and that has been incredible to witness.

Finally, and most importantly I’ve learnt not to wait.

Not to wait until things are “back to normal.” Not to wait for a fresh start. (Why wait until 2021 to start afresh?) No, it’s time to seize the day, not wait around. I’m not waiting until lockdown is over. I’m not waiting to ‘live’ once travel restrictions are lifted. I’m not writing a bucket list of stuff for the future. Why wait? Now is the time, THIS is life. Why miss out on all the fun that we can have now?

Which is why, dear reader, my biggest reflection on lockdown is how lucky I am to have my man by my side making me belly-laugh every day without fail. How lucky I am to love with someone who cares for me so much that they have fed me more calories than a Gregg’s warehouse. How lucky I am to have someone whose children melt my cold heart and ALMOST make treading on lego worthwhile with their jokes, curiosity and constant references to farting and bums.

I said I’d learnt not to wait around; so why wait to make sure that your best mate stays by your side forever? Chris, will you be the bacon to my eggs, the Morecambe to my Wise and the husband to my wife….?

……Will you marry me?*

Tune in to We Are Cardiff to see whether this is a lockdown love story or a COVID catastrophe…!

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Sharon Brace

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from writer, tutor, and facilitator, Sharon Brace. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Dear Isobel,

‘We live in interesting times.’

Pandemic… Lockdown… Panic buying… Isolation… As we approach the second month of lockdown, I feel that I have settled into a sort of bespoke routine which has minimal interruptions from the world beyond my walls and ironically, those words of fear have turned this place into one of love and security once again. I don’t plan to stay here forever but I rejoice that the lockdown found me here not elsewhere.

I am comforted that the universe knew the plan even when I did not and, after many years of roaming the world I have returned to the unexpectedly sunny valleys and shores of south Wales only fifty days pre the possibly the grim reality of lockdown.

Lockdown…? The dimensions of this area, so much smaller than the worlds I’ve wandered in the last decade or two, alarmed me somewhat and the thought of being literally ‘home alone’ for the foreseeable future sent waves of claustrophobia through me in the same way that the apprehension of take-off had myriad times before. Yet I had a pre-pandemic mission; to study until my ultimate qualification was complete and then to return to the me this house had created and begin to cram in as much living as I could beyond its confines. However, a microscopic virus was able to change so much.

The reality of lockdown is, however, disparate. I have established my own routine from which I draw comfort. In a bid to diversify and live a more complete life than merely a quest for a qualification, and as lockdown became inevitable I filled the house with food, yanked up my metaphorical drawbridge and prepared for a sit-in but I also invested in a packet of tomato seeds, a packet of pepper seeds and several cumbersome bags of compost which I dragged home and housed in the garage. I’d grown nothing but houseplants so I dug my fingers into the huge newly-filled pots I found in yesteryear and dropped a few seeds into each. Within weeks I had lain waste to my dining room, filled it with constantly developing living things which were a conciliatory paradox to the death that raged in so many homes in so many of the lands I’ve walked.

In an effort to remain at one with the outside world I have now walk at 7. And 12. And then again at 7. I have begun to see the cul-de-sac in which I played and made friends in three different lights, in three different seasons and, thanks to climate change, in an increasing amount of sunshine. These hills which have witnessed wars and previous pandemics look on silently, and as I now have time to look up, I gaze back adoringly never before grasping that these hills have framed my life. Their varying colours of green, a little yellow and a little a brown yet now in Summer, vibrantly green. The blue, unblemished sky is free of vapour trails and the and the clouds which so often appear to be held up by these intangible barriers scurry along unrestricted.

I embrace a sense of community from people whose presence was always on my life’s periphery but where in bygone days I felt the bond of an interloper.

Saturday morning as I queue, two meters away from the person before me, I have time – and interest to engage with others. Once, I would have found their conversation banal and unnecessary but my current lack of human contact has granted me a curiosity in my fellow man.

Friday evening, as I call my newly acquired yet lifelong neighbours and discuss their grocery needs and prescriptions, I feel vital in a way which is quite distinct from the professional imperative of a mere half a year ago. And as I deliver their groceries to their front door and step away, we joke at a distance. I’ll make sure their curtains and blinds are open by 9 and call them midweek just for the joy of an octogenarian perspective on the new world we inhabit equally.

Friendships and telephone calls have become a lifeline and as we gather at 11 each morning for cyber coffee and chats, I acknowledge that those bonds too have intensified, braced and bolstered by the imposed isolation. We fight each day to imprison each other’s isolation and to forbid it becoming loneliness. Friends around the world, traditionally held near often only in Christmas greetings, are now weekly contacts as we Zoom in and out of each other’s realities all in agreement that people are our principal priority.

I don’t go to the shops; I haven’t purchased any new fashions in half a year, yet as I student again, I was expecting not to need anything more than patched jeans and numerous leggings; I order books online in such volumes I now know both postman and Amazon delivery driver by name; I no longer spend £3 a day on coffee but rather have coffee indoors with people who will always be part of my home even when I can’t invite them there; my car has guzzled less than £50 of fuel in three months; my uncut hair touches my belt and my attire is occasionally the same sweater twice consecutively; I cook vegetables each evening and struggle to invent new menus by the next; I try only to imbibe twice a week and still respect the rules of a school night; in the safety of my childhood bedroom eight hours of good sleep has once again become my norm and my mind is grateful for the silence that sleep affords me.

Lockdown has changed us but mercifully and by some quirk of fate and the joy of education, I was home to experience it and ever so grateful that my new chap had stayed over the night it was announced. I fear that things would have been dreadfully different without him.

I am so terribly woeful for the people who have been robbed of their people by the Virus; tears often slide down my cheeks as I absorb the daily figures. Yet somehow this hell has given me so very many people and ironically turned the panic of a pandemic and the loss of so many lives into a reaffirmation of my own.

As I have relegated my triffid-like tomatoes to the sunshine of the garden, my dining room feels empty and lifeless and, with no prospects of a dinner-party to fill it with life and love, with the easing of lockdown on garden centres I bought a goldfish; no I bought five goldfish. Animals can be lovely too. The continual movement of the steady and silent Moby, Jane, Alice, Pip and Stig and the grandeur of the mountains of my childhood reminds me that, despite the hardship we face together, all things will ultimately continue as they have before.

Ironically, the panic of a pandemic, for me, has swiftly turned into consolidated friendship and a renewed sense of community and old-fashioned values. My intention to leave when my purpose is served is unchanged but as is human nature, we face a siege from our stronghold, I have faced this from mine.

As the lockdown decreases, I hope to see you very soon.

Until then…


Sharon Brace is a writer, tutor, and facilitator. Visit Sharon’s website for more info.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Peter Gaskell

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from writer and actor Peter Gaskell. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Here’s from a culture-vulture, about what Cardiff means to me while under lockdown.

Peter with Thea Gilmore at Acapela Pentyrch in 2019

I am a writer and actor so lockdown has deprived me of opportunities to earn from public performance. I had been costume-fitted for a supporting artiste role in His Dark Materials just before filming was suspended; I just hope Bad Wolf can maintain their presence as the premier film producer in Cardiff after such success with the first season.

I miss Chapter Arts Centre, where Everyman Theatre has given me years of pleasure attending and acting, and the Sherman Theatre too, where I volunteer front-of-house. Some productions they have put on YouTube, e.g. by Gary Owen, whose Killology script in 2018 so helped win the Olivier Award for Regional Theatre of the Year for the Sherman.

It’s not all been deprivation though. I had a script (Pigs In Muck) produced as part of the Lockdown Monologues short film festival, and which is now being rehearsed by A48 Theatre Company for performance as a virtual theatre piece. A48 you may know for their graveside performances in Cathays Cemetery Heritage Trail and Tales last year.

As much as drama productions, even more than eating out and pubs, what I have been missing is live music. I was looking forward to the Roath Folk Festival at the Gate after enjoying the event last year, and more of Beethoven 250th anniversary celebrations at St David’s Hall after the 6 hour extravaganza in January which replicated the great composer’s 1808 premier of 5th & 6th symphonies in Vienna. St David’s Hall has provided a first class classical programme year after year, and I never miss a Beethoven concert there.

My consolation under lockdown is walking among the rhododendrons in Cefn Onn park while plugged into Beethoven Unleashed on BBC Sounds, which is featuring his work and life-story throughout 2020.

The Millennium Centre now closed till 2021, in the absence of live venues, I follow my musical friends on Facebook, some of whom were entirely absent from social media till lockdown since when they have taken to broadcasting their offerings from their parlours. Great though Virtual Open Mic is, hearing music played through a mobile phone speaker in an individual’s living room is no substitute for the ambient spaces of Cardiff’s fine concert halls.

Living alone, I’m relieved at last I’ve been able to ‘bubble’ though I haven’t been able to have contact with my daughter in London and I wonder if my young grandson will know who I am when we next have the chance to meet. As a fan of quizzes (once a Mastermind semi-finalist!), I’ve partaken of several online, including the Brains quiz hosted by Martin Williams. It makes you feel engaged though you’re not really interacting socially and at a disadvantage unless you have others in the same room looking up the answers!

Social distancing has become second-nature to me and I am happier staying away from crowds, particularly in shops, though as well as concerts, I’m missing my cricket at Sophia Gardens. Despite Cardiff Council writing off 70% of the club’s mounting debts in 2015, Glamorgan CC remains an impoverished club so I’ll be attending when the cricket season starts next month to support its continued existence; I’ll be gutted if it can’t survive the pandemic.

For exercise I love walking in natural surroundings, glad that Cardiff has more green space per capita of population than most cities. I don’t like indoor workouts but I am missing my regular swim at Maindy.

For my mental health, I shall keep using the opportunity the isolation brings to write. It keeps me buoyant, not just the creative expression but the hope my work gets commissioned or published somewhere. As well as scripts for film and theatre, I write poems and a novel for which I am trawling a list of agents to find the right ones to approach for the genre. That’s a chore but you need a break from seeking inspiration sometimes!

In response to more of your prompts,

1. What do I miss the most about my “normal” life?

Travelling more than 5 miles

2. Is there anything you’ve been surprised by in terms of not finding it as bad as you had thought?

Satisfyingly filling the time I used to spend watching sport on TV

3. Any tips for other people struggling with lockdown for whatever reason?

If others like the therapy of writing I’d recommend haiku. It’s a satisfying way of condensing your thoughts into 3 lines of verse. I recommend joining The Daily Haiku group on Facebook and check Georgia Carys William’s site for a guide to writing haikus. It’s a great supportive blog which focuses on promoting wellbeing.

4. Your hopes for the future, anything you’d like to take from this time into future life?

That we continue to take the stress off Nature, pollute less. Plant more trees and encourage wildlife to flourish.

Follow Peter on Twitter @thatpetegaskell


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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Nimo Liban

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Butetown Karate Fighting Club instructor, Nimo Liban. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Lockdown was truly a crazy experience. Although, it was put in place to protect and keep everyone safe I believe lockdown affected most people’s emotional development.

As I was part of the vulnerable group, I was advised to stay indoors for 12 weeks. It wasn’t the best experience at all, but I happily found something to do that would entertain me.

Martial arts has been a main hobby for me, I’ve been doing karate for my entire life. In the last year or so I decided to invest in my karate, and I got asked to run a fighting club in the Butetown Pavilion.

Due to lockdown, I had to change my martial arts classes so we now all train online. This actually makes me happy because I was able to do continue doing something I enjoy.

I also started many other different things that keeps me happy and entertained during lockdown! But I can’t wait for things to go back to normal.

If you’re interested in taking up some lessons, Butetown Karate Fighting Club are now running lessons online! More information at the links below:

To arrange lessons, please contact Nimo directly.


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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: the Foxy Roxie Girls

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

Our aim is to help the local music scene. Filming and recording a series of YouTube videos featuring live performances of local artists. These professional videos are at no costs to the artists and are used to develop their careers. The videos can be shown to agencies, managers or events organisers as promotion leading to bigger opportunities. We also record and film interviews and offer reviews to artists to help promote releases.

As an independent business our project has been swiped of plans and opportunities in lockdown.

With our plans of hosting feature events (gigs, fundraisers) and home studio bookings cancelled, we have definitely felt the pain of the pandemic. With cancellations due to venue closures and the lockdown combined with social distancing, we are limited to what we can offer the music scene.

As the world turns virtual for this strange time, we welcome ourselves the online world. We have had the benefit of more time on our hands to keep our audience entertained with live performances and interviews on Zoom recorded, edited and posted.

It has definitely helped us contact more artists to keep the content interesting. Including upcoming artists from other countries and overseas, as we wouldn’t usually be able to do sessions with people from this far a distance. We have also recorded collaborations with multiple artists and filmed music videos in our home to release. Luckily, they have gone well and seem to keep up the interest.

Living together has helped us so much through this isolating time. As musicians ourselves, we are blessed that we already have the gear and skills to do the music videos, recording of interviews and editing ourselves.

More and more artists are asking for our support, whether it’s a review, single release, interview or simply sharing their own content, we have felt an increase in demand for our help. As an independent business, our project ‘Foxy Roxies’ has been able to establish a style and vibe, which we believe is intriguing more people toward us. As four girls in one house, we do feel the weight of not being able to explore the outside world and actually see the artists in the flesh.

We miss the human contact and social aspect of how we worked before the pandemic.

Also with the government funding, arts funding is proving very difficult to obtain. This may mean that we won’t be able to afford the team it requires to keep recording and filming our live videos once things go back to normal, if they ever do. This has made us consider changing what we offer artists and how we can still support our local music scene without funding.

With the live music scene at risk and independent venues on the line, who knows what the future may hold for us.

The Foxy Team are Ruba Muhammed, Reem Muhammed, Violet Hunt-Humphries and Gemma Hunt-Humphries.

Follow Foxy Roxies in the following places:

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Christine

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Christine, who works for Age Connects Cardiff and the Vale. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

My name is Christine and I live alone. I had to go into lockdown in March as I met all the criteria for self- isolation.

At first I thought that this would just be for a couple of weeks and that then we would go back to normal.

I had done enough shopping to ensure that I had sufficient food for a few weeks and felt positive, enjoying the lovely weather. Now, three months later, I have had to rely on friends to do shopping for me. This has made me realise how difficult it is for people to have to rely on others to support them. The telephone has been a life saver as many cousins I only see perhaps once a year have been telephoning me regularly to check if I am alright.

During lockdown, I have been fortunate to be able to make telephone calls to Age Connects Cardiff and the Vale clients – to provide reassurance and social contact. In doing this, I’ve found that so many clients are experiencing anxiety and depression about their situation. It has also been good for me to speak to clients who are in need as this has given me a real sense of purpose – I set my alarm each night, get up, dressed and put on a little lipstick on. I’ve now had the opportunity to really empathise with clients who live alone.

It’s fine for a while but not to have family or friends popping in over an extended period is very difficult. I can understand how easy it is to become anxious and depressed.

I am a carer for a member of my family and understand how difficult this has been for so many carers in lockdown. One of my clients has a grandson who has a disability and feels so helpless that she has been unable to support her daughter and worries about her delivering shopping to her. I suggested arranging home deliveries with one of the supermarkets and she is now doing this. It has also been satisfying to signpost clients to other alternatives for shopping and other organisations that can support them.

From my own point of view I have been fortunate to be able to work from home and this has kept me going. I have been able to maintain contact with colleagues, my Team Leader and the Community Resource Team.

I realise things are going to be very different when lockdown eases but the experience makes me very grateful for the life we were privileged to have before Covid and to hopefully appreciate what comes in the future.

Follow Age Connects Cardiff and the Vale on Twitter @accardiff. or Instagram @accardiff.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Betti

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from 86 year old Betti. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown


I live in Splott. My brother and I have been shielding since March 22nd.

We are classed as vulnerable and until June 1st we were not allowed to leave the house.

Now we can go out for a walk each day.

At 86 and 94 years old we have been relying on neighbours and we have one in particular who calls every day and does our shopping. The Next door neighbour site has also been a great support.

We try to keep busy but some days see us very low in spirit.

I miss going to Church each week but thankfully I can watch the services on line and even be part of it by recording the lessons which modern technology has made possible.

Also being able to Zoom in to coffee mornings allows friends to see and chat to one another.

I have been busy baking cakes and so far have made 34, which friends have collected and enjoyed.

Since Lockdown I have realised how much a phone call helps and try to keep in touch with people who may be lonely.

I have also realised how little we really need and how we can manage with, and I will certainly shop less when allowed.

I love to read and again I can give away books that I have read to others.

The community spirit here in Splott is wonderful and since we have been allowed out and walked around the park everyone has been so considerate and kept a safe social distance.

I don’t know how life is going to be in the future but now will just obey the rules and thank God for the blessings we have at this time when there are so many heartbreaking stories, so many lives sadly lost.



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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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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: MSL

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

Lockdown week one: “All exams cancelled!? 6 months holiday oh what freedom this will be. No responsibilities sounds good eh?”.

Lockdown week 5: “I’m starting to get quite bored…. I’ve already done a full clean out of my room, read and watched the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy, tried to learn guitar and piano again but to no avail….”

Lockdown week 10: “What am I doing…? I miss my friends. All I do is watch endless streams of YouTube videos and play Candy Crush all day.”

Lockdown has turned me into a potato.

The song “Mayday” voices the feelings of many:
“Awake or asleep
Drowning in my own thoughts
It’s alright, it’s not too bad…
I need some excitement
Everything’s so frustrating
I just want to be comfortable
But it’s harder than it should be
Nothing’s wrong
You know, the stress
What’s wrong with me
I did absolutely nothing today but I’m exhausted
Why is it so hard to just relax, mayday
Somebody help me, mayday”

Everything seems to be disconnected nowadays. I’m no longer living my life but simply waiting, killing time. Just a couple months ago time was all I needed but now there’s too much of it. It seems to go so slow, yet I look back and already 12 weeks have passed, and what have I done? I should have gotten my driving licence by now, I should have been able to earn money for university with my part time job, I should have gone to theatres, concerts, gone on holiday with my friends. But I couldn’t. It is so frustrating to see myself trapped at home watching time slip through my hands when I should be living out the prime time of my youth! It shouldn’t have been like this…

Relationships with others seem to be slowly deteriorating. Friends that I used to see every day, our busy lives in high school cut short, making rushed goodbyes. No high school graduation celebration, no prom, that’s just how it all ended. A flashback to when we made false promises to call every day; we barely call once a month. We should call more. Can’t blame anyone. I do really miss them, but just never quite reach out.

In terms of academics, should I still be studying? Theoretically yes, in practice no. With no incentive, there is no motivation and studying drops far down my list of things I could do. Every day I go without opening my books neatly piled in the corner of my room, all the knowledge I crammed into my brain over the past year fades away one by one. It is a constant internal fight between my laziness and the fear that by the time university comes around, I will be the one unable to adapt to the high-tension learning environment. Feelings of my lack of purpose also chase me. Has the goal of my life really just been studying? I’m sure other students will be experiencing similar feelings of uncertainty and stress during this time particularly regarding exam results and university. Yet again all we can do is wait.

I know that I shouldn’t be complaining. I’m blessed with a good house, good family and good health. For some that is all they would wish for. I know there are people out there that are really struggling physically, mentally and financially. I should be grateful, and I am, but I still find myself stuck at home doing nothing. All I can do is pray for them and volunteer where I can.

It hasn’t all been bad. Taking my “Daily Walk” as a means of exercise as well as a reason to escape the house and refresh my mind from all the stress and worrying news in the media. I’ve done a bit of gardening, baking, lots of scrolling on Instagram and Twitter (not helpful but kills time).

It’s quite sad that my past 3 months can be summarised in less than a page and a half but hopefully things will get better. Perhaps my 2021 will be a bit longer….

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Grace and Paul

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Grace and Paul, who almost ended up on lockdown in Lisbon. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Lockdown happened on my Birthday.

My boyfriend and I had just returned from a five day trip in Lisbon which had been planned for months; Portugal and all other parts of Europe had started their lockdown before the UK and we were well aware we were lucky to have been even able to fly at all. On the first night we arrived, we heard about all bars and restaurants being closed in neighbouring Spain and, sure enough, the following day Portugal followed suit. Don’t get me wrong, we still had a lovely time away, but we spent the vast majority of it walking up and down deserted streets, and with a curfew of 9pm in place we spent most evenings in our airbnb drinking cheap sangria and eating crisps.

Without the insight of seeing what lockdown actually looked like, I don’t think we would have believed it; police enforcing the curfew and breaking up large crowds of people, long queues outside supermarkets and an eerie atmosphere surrounding the local areas.

Of course, whilst all this was happening in other parts of Europe, the UK were more or less carrying on as usual, except for panic buying a years supply of toilet roll.

We flew home on the 18th March, the whole time wondering what lay in store for us when we returned home, all whilst being very grateful that we were able to get home before all the borders shut. It seemed a lot had changed in those five days away, and it was very strange to return home and for everything to feel unfamiliar and alien. Despite not landing in Bristol airport until the late evening, we drove home via a 24 hour supermarket to stock up, following the advice of our friends and family that the shelves would be bare. In actual fact, we actually bought a four pack of loo rolls home with us from Portugal – the most bizarre souvenir of a romantic break away and a definite bumpy landing back to reality.

The following days were all a bit of a blur; we had intended to go out for the evening for my Birthday with some friends, however this was the day Boris said all pubs and bars would shut and before we had all become more accustomed to keeping in touch with people via Zoom quizzes and “Houseparty” booze-ups. My boyfriend and I had discussed moving in together whilst away on our trip however this became more of a necessity with the announcement that two households were unable to mix, and with all “Man with Vans” also on lockdown, I moved the majority of my worldly possessions (and a highly strung cat) in the back of my Mini from Cardiff to Caerphilly.

Whilst moving in together was most definitely the best decision we both made, the impact lockdown has had has been challenging to say the least. We are both sociable characters; regularly meeting up with friends and family after work and at the weekends, going to the gym 3-4 times a week and usually love nothing more than going out for dinner a couple of times a week with a few G and T’s.

However, without all of those usual activities, and with the added bonus of entertaining a very energetic four year old in the confines of four walls, home schooling and home working it has definitely been tough on occasions.

I have never been more grateful for my job as a nurse and being physically unable to work from home; continuing to attend my shifts on a regular basis has been the only slice of “normality” I have been able to enjoy over the past three months, and as you can imagine, it has been anything less than normal.

I cannot take any credit for caring for those desperately unwell with Covid, however, the whole hospital has been shuffled around and has borne the brunt of this virus. My colleagues and I spent the initial few weeks discussing on a frequent basis the general feeling of “impending doom” and our workload changed massively. I work as a Mental Health Nurse in the Emergency Department and for the first few weeks the A&E department was like a ghost town. It was a very surreal situation to log in to the system at work and see ZERO patients in the unit.

It was eye opening to see exactly how mis-used A&E is on the whole; people with stubbed toes can miraculously manage at home on their own when there’s a global pandemic to contend with who would usually demand an ambulance and an X-Ray.

Fast-forward twelve weeks and it is most definitely no longer a ghost town. The impact of lockdown on Mental Health is now clearly rearing its ugly head and my fellow mental health colleagues and I will be fighting this virus for a while to come, even when the number of reported cases continue to fall. An increase in alcohol and substance use and a decrease in social contact and support is a recipe for disaster when it comes to your mental health and the number of people we are seeing who are seriously unwell when they have previously had no issues with their mental health is astonishing.

On a more positive note, the virus seems to have made everyone pull together and I have never previously felt such a strong sense of community spirit and gratitude for working in the NHS. Socially distanced street parties, exchanging puzzles, toys and DIY items that are no longer needed amongst other local residents have become the norm. Not to mention the “Clap for Carers” and the sheer volume of donations of PPE, Scrub Bags and food from local hotels and restaurants has been astounding.

If we can take anything away from the devastating impact that lockdown and the pandemic has had on both our physical and mental health, it’s that we are all in this together and will hopefully make us all appreciate the little things when normality returns. Whenever that may be.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Sara Williams

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

Lockdown life for me has been full of contradiction. The very nature of quarantining is a contradiction. There is a global pandemic (one which the world has not seen the likes of since the Spanish flu) people are dying, the economy is in turmoil; but unless you are classified as a key worker the most useful thing you can do is stay in and sit on your arse?! It’s a world of anxiety and fear versus the boring and mundane.

The first six weeks went fairly well. I work for an international development charity and our chief exec had been proactive around preparing the organisation for the impact of COVID-19. We shut our Cardiff office before lockdown was announced and decamped to work from home from the 16th March. It was a busy time – my role is focussed on managing partnerships and also fundraising; so I was focussed on disseminating information to the partners we work with in other countries on how we as an organisation were adapting to the pandemic and asking corporates and previous donors for funds towards our COVID relief fund.

But after a month of working from home; it suddenly felt not so busy. Our partners and country programmes were now in lockdown themselves and all the donors that were going to give to international rather than domestic causes at this time had given. I began to think furlough was inevitable – the not-for-profit sector is always at risk in these situations and our organisation runs to a very tight budget so it seemed like the right step to take for the long term future. Sure enough I with the majority of staff (leaving 6 out of 19 behind) were placed on furlough for May; this has now been extended into June.

It has been a humbling experience, to realise that the most value you can bring to your job right now is to just not work.

I definitely agree it was the right thing to do and will give the organisation (along with many others) some breathing room around its reserves and long term survival. But all the same it’s a dent to the ego! My partner is still working from home as are a lot of our friends and when I announced I was joining the nine million on furlough – there were a lot of questions about what I was going to do with that time and I felt a lot of pressure to fill the time wisely…even though it wasn’t a planned sabbatical but rather an enforced paid leave of absence(!).

So I did fill the time. I got in touch with my old work; another charity that supports unpaid carers across Wales and offered myself as a volunteer. They were happy to have me; carers are put under even more strain than normal at the moment as loved ones are being discharged from the hospital sooner that they would be usually due to the risks of being in hospital and transmitting COVID. I am a qualified yoga teacher so I have put together yoga videos for carers as well as running interviews with individual carers about their experiences as part of a Carer Aware project – again that has been humbling. In our home it is just myself and my partner, we have no children or family members to care for and with me taking home 80% pay and my partner still working we are comfortable financially.

I decided to use my buying power to help in this situation too, it started off with supporting local businesses; suddenly ordering a takeaway felt like a civic duty rather than being self-indulgent!

It expanded to donations towards women’s refuges upon reading about the increase in domestic abuse and how lockdown isn’t a safe haven for a lot of people. And in the last week my focus has been donations to the George Floyd memorial fund and the Minnesota bail out for protestors; to be in solidarity with the black lives matter movement.

It has made me realise that even on lockdown we are so connected – with our neighbours, with people in Cardiff, with people across the UK and then globally. My partner has long been involved with Extinction Rebellion and has used lockdown time to support their call for a citizens assembly and run a local save the northern meadows campaign.

If we can be this united around coronavirus, can we become this united around climate change?

I took a flight free pledge for 2020 and weirdly this has become the year for the majority of flights to be grounded; but will we take this behaviour change with us after lockdown easing? Will we still stand in solidarity over racism when normal everyday life takes hold? I hope so.

The final contradiction of my own personal lockdown experience has been health and I am fighting opposing forces here! I mentioned I practice yoga regularly as a teacher, but my cardio is sincerely lacking so I decided to get into running – I have just finished the couch to 5k and intend to carry on to 10k. I have also been taking part in an online yoga nidra (guided mediation course). So feel I am covering physical and emotional wellbeing….

But then on the other side there has been a big upswing in the drinking and the baking. I have definitely been partaking in the ‘furlough merlot’ (a “quarantism” that I love) and I have never baked as much in my life as I have in the last 10 weeks. I haven’t got into the banana bread or sourdough starter phase (yet – there is still time), but I am all over peanut butter chip cookies, courgette and beetroot cakes! The cakes and biscuits themselves are definitely a comfort but I think there is something soothing about following recipes too? There must be considering the national shortage of flour going on?

I am looking forward to seeing my nanny and grampy from a distance this week with the news we can see one other household in Wales.

I am also looking forward to the five miles limit eventually being lifted as I have to say I am sick of the sight of Bute Park and the Bay. It is interesting how such small things like these can be so exciting. I hope that I take that appreciation back out of lockdown with me but perhaps leave the over enthusiastic appreciation of merlot behind …

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Lee Marshall

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from musician and producer Lee Marshall. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in Lockdown

I’ve always been someone with a sense of inherent contrariness hard wired inside me, something I think is common to most. The moment I sit down in a plane seat, is the moment I desperately want a cigarette, when the lights dim in the cinema is the time I suddenly need the toilet. When you are told you can’t do something, suddenly you are far more interested in it than you conceivably would have been at any other time. I’ve found myself wondering, how much of missing the outside world is my genuine desire to sit in a coffee shop with my kindle, just letting myself exist in a space with people around me, or be in a club, dancing and letting myself go, is just a factor of knowing these are things I can’t currently do, as lockdown has put out the lights in the communal spaces we shared.

I have a fragmentary relationship with the outside world at the best of times. As someone who lives with bi-polar disorder, and anxiety, I can go through extended periods where being in an outside space, or being in a social situation is something that seems overwhelmingly difficult.

Not just in it giving me a sense of terror from no real source, just rushing adrenalin and your heart struggling in your chest,
constantly expecting some disaster that has no basis in reality, but also living with the fear that you are presenting as manic, speaking out of turn, or coming across as “weird”.

You start planting judgements on yourself, whether or not they have any basis in the responses of those around you. The trouble for me with anxiety and social phobia, is that it feeds on itself.

The more you avoid the situations that cause you that fear, the worse they get, until just making it to the local shop to pick up basics seems like a herculean task.

I sincerely hope that those who live with mental health problems have been finding ways to put joy into their days, getting out, even just for a walk, finding ways to chat digitally, play games with friends, just to not let that connection to the outside slip away. You’re not wrong for hurting, and you’re not ever the only one.

Being under lockdown has taken any decision making about going outside or socialising out of my hands, and when you live with generalised fear anyway, the idea of a killer virus taking lives is easy to turn into something that occupies half your waking thoughts. The minutia of daily life has a soothing quality. Keeping busy, or just travelling to work, grabbing some food, meeting a friend, all of the things that we never give a second thought normally, take up space in our heads. Locked up at home, staring at the walls, it’s easy to let your thoughts turn completely inward, especially if you are prone to introspection and self analysis. I’ve found myself turning back to events from years ago, wishing I’d made different decisions, said different things. I’ve watched my usual level of self criticism soar.

The silence of your own thoughts can be a terrible place, and it’s been photos or videos from friends, webcam calls, a card in the post or an email that have kept me holding on.

Bikes have always been a lifeline for me, even as a kid, just heading out the front gate and riding as far as I could, sitting in sun drenched fields far away from everything that left me upset or confused.
I’ve always felt so grateful to live in a city where we have so much green space, Whether it’s Castle Grounds and Pontcanna Fields giving us a swathe of nature that allows you to walk or ride across a lot of the city without ever having to see a road, the Taff Trail winding through the trees, or the fact that you’re never far from the countryside, the woods or the mountains. Where I live in the North of the city, it’s only half an hour walk to be in the hills, and looking down over the city to the bay.

Cycling is one of those private things, where you are in constant motion and it feels like nothing around you can touch you, leaving your thoughts behind, until you just feel like a being of pure movement, where the only thing that matters is going faster and taking turns better. It’s been great to cruise down quiet roads, cars few and far between, idling down the Taff Trail, watching the shadow of your wheels spinning in the seemingly endless sunshine, the sound of the birds seeming so much louder with the usual din of the city dimmed.

I’ve found myself wondering what the lack of planes, the reduced traffic and the limits on industry have been doing to our planet, actually letting the air clear, hoping against hope that perhaps businesses, governments and councils can find ways to keep some of the reduction.

Even simple things like watching the grass verges get overgrown, and nature start to creep in where corners are untended has given me a little internal joy. I know it’s madness to hope that human beings will sacrifice convenience over the long term health of our spherical home, but you can dream when you look down on an empty motorway.

I feel like we all have memories of childhood, of summer days that seemed to never end, holidays from school that went on and on. I wonder if the young people of today will remember this as a time of fear and paranoia, or just the sun drenched days of no school. It’s hard to not fear what the long term affect of closures will be on independent businesses in our fair city. We’ve already seen small shops, restaurants, bars and venues closing, or struggling to remain above water over the last few years, even vital music spaces having to transition to non profit enterprises, and I dearly hope that enforced shutdown doesn’t see us return to a city that has lost vital parts of its creative heart and emotional identity. It’s been heartening to see a lot of small businesses working hard making essential deliveries, and making meals for the vulnerable. Maybe people will think a bit better about where they spend and vote with their wallets in future for the local shops and services that give our home real value and diversity.

If there is one thing I’d like to take from this period, it’s that I don’t want my life to go back to “normal”, or to what it was, but to actually look at what I’d like my life to be going forward, not just in what I choose to do with my time, but in how I treat the people around me, and in my attitude to what I see and how my behaviour affects those around me. I’d like to put more of my time onto learning, and studying. Making my future better than the present, instead of being complacent. More time into making connections to make up for the burnt bridges of the past. I hope that the sense of fragility that covid has lent our lives isn’t completely erased as shops re-open, and bars, clubs and social spaces return. Many of us are so used to the people we have around us, I hope that this time away from loved ones and friends allows us to truly treasure how important those relationships are to us, and maybe we will be a little kinder, a little more patient with people when we need to be, and to maybe think of those friends who we haven’t heard from for a while, who have become left behind and find time for them. It might be that just a text or an email could make a massive difference to their day.

Check out Lee’s new musical release as Falltider on bandcamp

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