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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Louise Miles-Payne

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Louise Miles-Payne, Director of Creu Cymru. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Global pandemic? I think I’ll start a new job…

On the evening of Monday 16th March my then employers, Cardiff University, instructed all staff who could to immediately work from home from the next day. This meant leaving my desk (mug and all) and not knowing when I might return. This was an even odder situation for me as I was due to finish my job at the University at the end of April. As the situation and lockdown extended, I left my job, desk and all, and then started a dream job back in the arts sector.

At the start of May I began my new role as Director of Creu Cymru, the development agency for theatres and arts centres in Wales. Our members represent virtually all the nation’s professionally run venues, at a diverse range of scales. We are the leading force in the arts sector in working to develop a vibrant, knowledgeable and progressive presenting sector working to engage and develop audiences across Wales through the promotion of high-quality and accessible work.

The job is working from home anyway, so I went from working from home because we had to, to working from home for my job. Although, there won’t usually be a 22-month-old toddler running around too so that has proved tricky! I can’t say it is the easiest environment to get to grips with a new role.

Both me and my wife have worked for most of lockdown, so like a lot of parents, we have juggled childcare and work, which has been tough but also an absolute privilege to be able to spend so much time with our son and watch him grow.

Abby has recently been furloughed for three weeks, which has helped temporarily with the juggle struggle as I call it and allowed me to focus on my new role. I’m really lucky to have a fantastic small but perfectly formed team to work with and really supportive board.

As with a lot of sectors, it is a very difficult time to be in the arts.

The same day as I was told to work from home by Cardiff Uni, we saw theatres and arts centres around the UK close their doors due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Back then I don’t think anyone could imagine the situation we are in now which could mean that most theatres and arts centres won’t reopen until 2021, if they have the finances to even stay open that long. All the plans I had for the organisation before I started the job are still there but may have to wait a few months before I implement them. Right now, I’m working with the members and wider sector to look at how we can create a plan for reopening and connect with our audiences during this time.

There are obviously the logistics to think about in terms of health and safety and potentially having social distancing measures in place but also how they can plan financially, how we can support staff, what productions can we put on our stages in the future or how can we present work in more innovate ways (I’m already hearing plans for drive in theatre events etc).

I’ve always tried to look for the positives in life and never has there been a more important time to try and focus on the good. I’ve loved getting to know all my neighbours and helping each other out. It’s been fantastic to be able to connect with our members and other colleagues across Wales through Zoom meetings and continue that sense of community I’ve always felt from working in the arts.

There is so much learning to take from this time and how it will influence life as we know it for the better. I look forward to working from home without my toddler, but I know I will miss his beautiful face and sticky hands enormously!

An old tradition that has been upheld during the closure was the one where theatres leave a single ghost lamp on the stage, to light up the dark when everyone has gone home. It is said that the lamp, left in the middle of the stage, is there so that spirits of the theatre can dance at night, others say it is there for safety!

Either way, it has become a symbol for theatres during this pandemic, reaching out to audiences, staff and anyone who loves theatre that, although we are empty, we will be back.

Follow Louise on Twitter @loumilcru / follow Creu Cymru @creucymru.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Jude Davies

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

I had just begun my new normal life when we went into lockdown. In December I had suffered a horrific miscarriage which had left myself and my husband shell shocked. Initially I locked myself away, not speaking to or seeing anyone. To lose a child and all your hopes and dreams for them is devastating, the worst thing that can happen to any parent and I couldn’t comprehend how life just continues.

I felt lost at sea, with no idea how to navigate my new life. I was an emotional wreck, I thought I was having a breakdown. I couldn’t sleep or eat.

I tried filling the void that was left. I put Morgan’s ashes in a teddy bear, I bought an urn necklace for the remainder of the ashes, had a tattoo, built a memory box, planted a tree, wrote my miscarriage story down, got an inscribed ring, but nothing helped. After weeks of searching I decided to start a not-for-profit group to help others in our situation and so… Morgan’s Wings was born.

I was on a phased return to work whilst trying to recover from the physical and emotional aspects of miscarriage and setting up Morgan’s Wings with my husband and a friend when we were suddenly plunged into lockdown. It was around this time that my uncle passed away from Coronavirus too. I was already scared but this drummed into me how serious this awful virus was and how serious I should be in keeping myself, my family and everyone I knew safe too.

I tried not to dwell on everything too much though, I had just climbed out of the darkest days following my miscarriage and with news of lockdown and loved ones dying I needed to keep myself out of that black hole. I needed to keep focussed. I ploughed myself into my work, looking after the children and working hard to get Morgan’s Wings off the ground.

It was (and is still) our aim to provide parents in hospital with a hygiene care package, as we found when we were kept in unexpectedly that we didn’t even have a toothbrush. We also want to provide memory boxes with certificates of life, support groups where we and other parents could talk about our loss and we also aim to hold sessions to help with stress, self-esteem and self-resilience. It is also important that we raise awareness of, speak out and toss away the taboo surrounding miscarriage. One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage but I felt so alone going through mine. Some of these things we can do without funds but the care packages and memory boxes do require fundraising.

In March, just before news of the coronavirus hit we started “March for Morgan” we decided to complete a marathon (not including our normal day to day activities) over the course of March. We were quite lucky that a trip up Pen-Y-Fan put us ahead of schedule so that we completed our “March for Morgan” before we went into lockdown but it did mean that the final walk was cancelled for spectators and supporters due to gatherings being forbidden. We did a Facebook live instead and still managed to raise some funds.

We had planned our first support group and a fundraising party for May and had collected prizes ready to auction and raffle off. We needed to change our focus. The support group was cancelled and we are looking at holding our next support group on Sunday 7th June online (more details available on our social media channels). Our fundraising party has also been cancelled and we have now set up a little gift shop on our facebook page where we have items that have been donated to us that we are selling to raise funds. We have still managed to provide parents from all over the world with certificates of life to acknowledge their babies that were born sleeping. We are also selling ‘numbers’ over on our facebook page where the winner will win £100.

So lockdown hasn’t stopped me setting up and fundraising a not-for-profit group to raise funds to help support anyone that has been affected by miscarriage. It has certainly made things harder. We have had to cancel events and have had supporters who were going to raise money through sponsorship cancel, as more and more events were cancelled. We are unable to attend events and promotion is primarily on our social media accounts and word of mouth. A positive point though is that our volunteers have had more time to knit little bears for us to put in the memory boxes.

Lockdown has taught me that I am more resilient than I thought, we are juggling working from home fulltime, home schooling our children and working on Morgan’s Wings. Although we don’t go out, I am busier than I have ever been. It’s just a different busy, a different life, a different normal. I do wonder if lockdown has been easier for me as I was pretty much self-isolating anyway. It may make it harder though when I do have to go back into work. I do miss my family and friends, long walks and our little holidays.

We had to cancel our honeymoon in April. We had booked several hotels in Wales, Scotland and England and were going to visit lots of national parks. These things can always be re-booked and I would rather stay home safe and well than risk catching and spreading Coronavirus.

When lockdown is lifted, I cannot wait to see and hug my family and friends. Although my miscarriage was at the end of December, I locked myself away for a couple of months and only have seen my family and friends a handful of times between Christmas and lockdown. It has been tough grieving without the normal support and hugs from my mum and mother-in-law. The first thing I will do is hug them and then go about organising a fundraising (and post lockdown) party.

If you or someone you know is going through miscarriage and would like support or you would like to raise funds, donate items or spread the word, you can visit our Morgan’s Wings website. On our website we have information as well as people sharing their stories of miscarriage. It is so important to know that you’re not alone.

Follow Morgan’s Wings online: Morgan’s Wings Facebook / Morgan’s Wings Twitter / Morgan’s Wings Instagram / Morgan’s Wings YouTube

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Matt the Hat

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

When lockdown happened we were getting ready to launch this year’s Street Food Circus series. My work is really seasonal and I’d spent four of five months preparing for a busy festival season. All the preparations were in place to kick off in April then lockdown happened – just as we were in the middle of finalising all the marketing.

That was hard. Mentally, we’d put a lot of preparation time in – we were at amber and ready to go green with a really full summer of festivals and events. Of course, a lot of people working in the events industry, particularly music and arts festivals, were in the same place – everything prepared and geared up ready to go. Then nothing.

I’ve got a really big annual wall planner in my office at home. I just remember sitting there at my desk staring at this planner on the wall opposite at all these now non-existent events and thought, that’s got to go. I took it outside and burnt it!

Early on in lockdown I remember thinking, is this going to be a month, two months, more? That level of uncertainty as an events organiser is really difficult when we’re trying to give people a definite answer about what’s going to happen this summer. I could say yes, let’s plan as if it’s going ahead – but who really knows? We’re all just waiting on the next government briefing to find out what’s going on. It’s especially tough for the street food traders who face so much uncertainty around when they might be able to come back.

For us, on the business side, we’ve been looking at different ways we can diversify and adapt.

We’ve been developing the idea of Street Food Cinema for the last month or so. We wanted to do something that had a positive focus in a time when running events is very difficult. We’d seen people starting to run drive-ins around the world and thought, we can put our own slant on this – bring the ingredients from Street Food Circus and sprinkle those over it in a way that makes it fit for Cardiff and with our Welsh traders.

It’s been a challenge, but we’re just finalising all the different systems that need to be in place to meet all the various restrictions. It’s been good to have something to focus on and look forward to. If you’re an event organiser, the idea of just stopping and losing an entire year is not feasible. Hopefully it’ll prove a success – people seem to be excited for it.

On the home side, we’re just trying to enjoy the time with a level of acceptance and taking every day as it comes.

Though I work mostly in Cardiff, I live in Carmarthenshire with my wife Gabi and Beau our two and a half year old. We live in quite an isolated house down a single track lane. We’ve got our local farmer that we see every couple of days and some local walkers from the village so unless we decide to go outside of our little bubble we don’t see anyone.

I’m taking some positive things from this experience, though. We went into lockdown on the change of season from winter to spring and being so close to nature where we are you really notice that change of season. I normally live a pretty fast-past life so the chance to slow down and notice things more has been really positive. Although it’s not easy juggling work and looking after Beau, it has been great to have that extra time with him at home.

It’s made me look after myself better too – I’ve been healthier during lockdown and being at home. I’ve started running every other day which I’ve not done before – I always told myself I didn’t have time.

It’s been a mentally challenging time so finding an hour a day for exercise and meditation has really helped and I hope I’ve built that into my life now. I really don’t want to stop that – I’m definitely going to keep that in my day.

There’s a certain amount of acceptance that we’ve had to change our routine under lockdown. I’ve found that good, to feel able to slow down more than I normally would.

Matt the Hat is founder and ringmaster of the Street Food Circus.

Follow Matt on Twitter @mattlahat / Matt on Instagram @matt_la_hat.

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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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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Jamie Grundy

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from writer, researcher and trainer Jamie Grundy – who has had a bit of a rough start to 2020. Big love to you Jamie. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Down but Not Out

Up until mid-February this year things were going pretty well for me. I’d been self-employed for just over three years and finally it was paying off. I mainly work as a trainer supporting people with convictions. Most weeks I’m in and out of prisons, and my skills were in demand from the School of Hard Knocks, Youth Cymru, Inside Out Support Wales and others. I was due to go to New York with my book, ’90 Minutes of Freedom’ on the only prisoner football team in Wales. For the first time in 36 months I could breathe.

Life was good.

Then it all changed.

First my marriage broke down after 24 years together and we amicably made plans to keep my daughter in her home, to minimise the impact on her life. That meant I’d move into a new place, close by. I dealt with this difficult news in a practical sense: finding a new place to rent, scouring Gumtree for bargain furniture, leaning on the crucial support of friends who’d been through this before. Everyone is going through their own unique challenges with the coronavirus and the impending lockdown wasn’t the main thing on my mind at this time, unsurprisingly.

I have a colleague in South Korea and the photos on social media of her with a facemask on, self-isolating with her partner, seemed a world away. That couldn’t happen here – could it? But then my work stopped, one client after another pulled, over the course of a week. Next to follow were my speaking engagements in New York. One, then another until all were cancelled, with my contact there informing me everything was closing down because people were dying in significant numbers. Two days before my flight, the USA extended their travel ban to include the UK and the decision was made for me: I was staying put.

The hardest blow came next. As the lockdown was imposed and we all got used to a the new phrase of ‘social distancing’ and what it meant, I was unable to move out into a new property by the letting agent, because businesses were closing down and staff were furloughed. This stay-at-home isolation was not letting me move on to a new stage in my life, physically. It also provided the perfect metaphor of an enforced lockdown where, no matter how you may feel about it, you are remaining where you are. The additional body blow of a total lack of income from no work, hit me hard below the belt.

I couldn’t move out. I couldn’t move on. I couldn’t earn. I was together but alone. The only person who was going to get me out of this was me.

A glimmer of hope was announced with government financial support for the self-employed and at the time of writing I’ve made all the necessary applications and I’m waiting to hear what I’ll get. But I wouldn’t be able to rely on this to see me through. Plus, I was acutely aware, with a lockdown being witnessed globally, this could be a new normal – another new phrase we were hearing. One aspect of this was how incredibly technologically able we were becoming. Friends, parents, kids and everyone was on Zoom, Houseparty and Skype to stay in contact with each other. This I realised was my opportunity.

I purchased a webinar licence, Webinarjam, and had my website redesigned to sell online training courses. The previous sessions I’d run on supporting people with a criminal conviction for support workers were adapted. I ran a couple of test events including a training webinar for staff from the School of Hard Knocks, plus I did an online book talk, to learn through this experience. It worked and the feedback was positive! This new-normal of online learning could be my personal support mechanism through this time. I spent weeks developing additional courses and putting them online on my website. So far it is working. People are booking on them and I’m throwing myself into this to do the best I can.

Anyone who’s self-employed will know, if you don’t put the effort in, it’s unlikely to work out. I’ve spent more weekends and evenings than I can remember over the last six weeks to try to make this successful.

If it doesn’t work, then I’ve tried to create a back-up plan. I’m hoping to begin work as a part-time delivery driver soon. This won’t just give me a much needed wage, it will also get me out of the house. I will be driving beyond the two mile radius to the shops and back that I’ve not extended beyond in weeks. I will be providing a much needed service to people, bring the goods they’ve ordered online to them so they can stay home with their families. I’ll be meeting and talking to new people and I’ve missed that more than anything.

Having spent a lot of time in my previous work talking to former prisoners, I have heard first-hand the challenges they have endured and come through, because of their prison sentence: being forcibly isolated from their families, friends and children because of their conviction.

I have not known that type of incarceration, but the parallel is there with our current lockdown situation, albeit in diluted form. These conversations help me to know that I will get through this. I also think back to my grandparent’s generation: how they coped with the challenges of war and how they got through.

We are all going through our unique challenges, but by taking things a day at a time and not looking too far ahead, there will come a time when we will all be able to look back at this time as an historical, not present day, event in our lives.

Jamie Grundy is  an Independent Trainer, Educator & Researcher who works in Prison Education, Higher Education and Community Development. Follow him on his website jamiegrundy.net / Jamie Grundy on Facebook / Jamie Grundy on Twitter / Jamie Grundy LinkedIn

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anonymous #5

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from an anonymous contributor. Please carry on sending your stories to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown.

Life as we know it has ended, this is what I had written in my journal in those early days in March. Got to find a way of getting through this unsettling period as unscathed as possible. Now seven weeks later I have reread my notes and see patterns emerging.

The first week didn’t seem real but I shopped for more than a single person would normally have in a week so I wouldn’t need to go out for a while. The worst was that my planned trip to England to see my granddaughter had to be cancelled and so far it looks like I might even miss her first birthday unless the rules change. Time I will never get back.

Then things started to speed up, my son lost his job in media, schools closed, and suddenly I was becoming socially isolated. Lots of emotions, up one minute, down the next, felt guilty if I wasn’t leaning new skills, having zoom parties or doing lots of exercises.

l live alone, and have lived in Cardiff for the past six years, having moved from England to be near family. It’s been hard leaving my friends behind and trying to make new ones but gradually that is happening. Who knew that this situation would test how strong those friendships are.

I am happy to say that despite the enforced social distancing I am able to contact both my old and new friends. I have never been one for constant tablet or phone use but it has been invaluable.

The biggest restriction is not being able to travel to meet family and friends.

By mid April I was getting tired of it all, feeling sad, unmotivated. I was starting to feel almost reclusive. Thursday’s seem to be my worst day, maybe as that’s the decision day and you always hope some good news will come. I dread the day if I have to self isolate, for my own sanity my son has kept up visual contact regularly and safely, he has been a lifesaver. I worry about how he will manage if he doesn’t work soon, a mother never stops worrying about her children.

I can’t say the road I live has come together much through this, only a handful of people come out and clap on a Thursday. As a nurse by profession it is disappointing to see this apathy but I am not surprised really, like  most services it’s not until you can’t get it you appreciate them.

I have gone back onto the nursing register but as I haven’t been practising for a number of years I requested to work on non frontline roles. So far no contact has been made with me. I also volunteered for the national request but it’s not for Wales. So I decided to do some volunteer work with a food charity I previously worked with. That didn’t last long as sadly they have a policy now of not letting anyone under 70 with a medical condition work. This is so frustrating as I am very well but I understand.

So now I feel rejected and useless, I can’t look after my grandchildren, I can’t volunteer, I can’t travel out of Wales to see my granddaughter.

We are being told that Covid 19 is here to stay and we must expect to get it at some time. This is my anxiety as none of us know how it will affect us. Now everyone knows someone who had had it or had a relative with it, some recovering, sadly others who haven’t.

Good things I find, I have been walking more, doing more painting and crafting, listening to nature and not just noisy seagulls. Technology has been good, vital I think. I feel for anyone on their own with no access to technology. I’ve appreciated my small garden too.

Bad things are I am eating and drinking too much. I think too much, my loneliness seems too great at times. Watching too much television.

I would like to think when we have a new normal that friends still keep in contact, roads stay quieter and people are still kind to each other, especially those who live alone or have no family. I am lucky I have family and friends albeit spread between Wales and England, and I look forward to getting to see them again.

Take care.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown – preserved by the National Library of Wales and Glamorgan Archive!

Exciting news guys. Our Letters from Lockdown series is being archived by the National Library of Wales and The Glamorgan Archive!

Louise Hunt, Archivist for the Glamorgan Archives: “We wanted to ensure that the Letters from Lockdown were preserved for the future, as we feel that they offer a unique insight into how lockdown is affecting individuals in Cardiff.

“How society is responding at this time is likely to be of great interest in the future, so it is important that we ensure content is safeguarded.”

Louise continues: “We are pleased that our colleagues at the National Library of Wales will be adding pages from We Are Cardiff to the Web Archive of Wales and adding them to the special Covid-19 list: ‘Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Impact of Wales’ which will appear on the UK Web Archive Topics and Themes in the near future.”

How to write a letter from lockdown for We Are Cardiff

Explore We Are Cardiff’s Letters from Lockdown

More about the Glamorgan Archives:

“Glamorgan Archives seeks to collect, preserve and make accessible records that show the history of Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly,” says Louise. “We add content to our collection that we think will have lasting historical value and aim to preserve it permanently.  The records that we collect usually haven’t been published and include things like maps and plans, photographs, ledgers, letters, diaries and official documents of organisations and businesses.  Our oldest document is about 850 years old but we also have records that were created only a few months ago.  We have a purpose built building which helps us to store documents securely and in the right conditions to help preserve them.  It has a public searchroom where, under normal circumstances, people can visit to consult the collection.  We are always looking to add more material to our collections so if anyone thinks they might have something worth preserving please do get in contact by emailing glamro@cardiff.gov.uk.”

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Sali Evans

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

I’ve always been a home body – I love my own space, like to be at home, I don’t drink anymore so I’m not a big weekend partier. Cooking, reading and spending time at home are some of my favourite things to do, so I thought that I knew what lockdown would be like, but I honestly had no idea. Before it was officially announced, all I wanted to do was hide away, stay safe and keep my husband close. The way I feel about it now changes daily. Home is warm, safe, comforting. But lockdown is none of those things.

When it looked like we would be going into lockdown I considered what we needed – access to food supplies, to easily get our prescriptions, and things to keep us occupied. I’d been keeping up with the news daily, so planned ahead to make sure that we would be ready when lockdown was announced. I’m not one to stockpile or hoard, but sussed out shops locally that had good stock levels and weren’t too busy or being overrun.

I had a pile of unread books, plenty of sewing and craft projects lined up, articles to research and write for a blog I’d been working on, and my second job would still continue after I was furloughed from my full-time job.

We wrote a list of movies that we wanted to watch and started working through it. He had some DIY jobs and the Xbox and was happy with that, as well as weekly quizzes and NFL watch parties with his friends.

I had all of these grand plans of being in a strict routine, exercising daily, learning new skills and being super productive as I’m sure a lot of people did.

For me, things haven’t gone the way I thought that they would. What I hadn’t considered were the mental and emotional ramifications of the lockdown. The surge in anxiety and uncertainty as lockdown began forced all of those plans onto the back burner.

I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager, more so in the last two-three years but I have been more myself in the past 12 months. Health anxiety is a real struggle, which is just perfect during a global pandemic!

Only a few days in I was a complete mess, I cried all night when 200 people died of COVID-19 in a single day in Italy. When I read stories about what was happening in their hospitals I couldn’t see any way that we were going to make it out of this alive or without losing our loved ones. I was having anxiety attacks daily. It quickly felt like the hard work and progress to get here was unravelling.

Over the last couple of months every day has been different, and what I do each day is largely determined by how I feel mentally and emotionally. There is no routine, other than getting up and dressed, spending the bulk of the day working on a project or reading, then making dinner and watching a movie together in the evening. A lot of projects have been completed, movies have been watched and books have been read. None of them were what was planned, but I’ve developed a mantra which I live each day by – do what feels right.

My emotional wellbeing has become priority one.

I haven’t worked out every day, because I’ve been too emotionally and physically drained, but I’ve cycled and walked when it has felt right. I haven’t stuck to a strict diet because That’s a strain in itself, on top of everything else. I have issues with insomnia so I have tried to stick to my normal routine, because it has such a profound effect on my mental health. Believe me this journey would look a lot different if I still drank, but let’s just be thankful that’s not the case!

Anyway, now we’re eight  ….nine? …. weeks down the line and I’m feeling on more of an even keel. It’s literally taken this long just to get to a place where I can think logically about my feelings. Emotionally I’m not fine, but I’m ok. I’m not ready to think too much about the psychological fall-out from all of this, and dread to think of the second wave of anxiety which will inevitably come as things start to open up again. I imagine that this will take a long time and a lot of work to get over.

It feels so selfish to say this, but for me, despite everything there have been positives to this lockdown. My husband and I have always been on opposite schedules, since we met almost 11 years ago. We’re used to it, we both value time alone. In other circumstances spending this much time together would have been hard, but I don’t think I would be where I am now without him being here to sit with me when I’m upset or make me take a shower when I’m having a bad day. Spending this time together had brought us closer, made us stronger. It’ll be hard going back to our “normal” routine of spending three or four evenings apart once things change again.

So, what does the “new normal” look like? I’m keen to get back to the gym and work and some semblance of a routine, but what else? I’ve enjoyed the solitude and time at home, I don’t miss a crowded pub or a day out shopping.

I miss being outside without being hypervigilant about my surroundings, I miss going for a coffee with my best friend or going to see a movie. I miss my friends, painfully, and I want to see my dad so badly I can’t even think about it for too long, but I worry that I’ll be too anxious to hug them when we see each other, for fear of making them sick – does that get easier? Does everyone feel like that?

I guess we all have to manage our expectations around what things will be like going forward, and get used to the fact that there is no “after” – this is going to be a long-term shift in our lifestyles. If I’ve learned anything from this experience so far it is to be kind to yourself. We are all living through something huge. Everyone on earth is going through this, every experience is valid, but we have to do what we’re capable of. You aren’t a weak person for not doing daily workouts, learning a new language or taking up baking. We are feeling loss and grief on a monumental level.

Some of us are unfathomably angry, I know I am. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. So, you gain weight during lockdown, so what? You just watch a lot of TV, so what? It’s your time to do with what you can, be kind to yourself and do what feels right.

Follow Sali on Instagram @Sali.Suth_

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Claire Parry-Witchell

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Claire Parry-Witchell, who decided to use the lockdown to experiment with shaving her head. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

I shaved my head during lock-down.

I have always wanted to do it but never had the balls! Shave my head that is. Lockdown has been a challenge for everyone and in amongst the fear and uncertainty I have witnessed family and friends adapt and try to make the best of the strange new world. I have never spent so much time online and though it is great to be able to socialise and stay in touch it can be exhausting.

Part of my role as the business mentor for Cardiff University is to provide 1:2:1 guidance and support to student entrepreneurs and all of my meetings are now online. I also volunteer as a mentor for Business Wales and practice as a life-coach. All of these meetings sometimes cause what I think is being referred to as “Zoom fatigue” and that is a pretty good description.

With all of the screen time, escapism is a must. I have always enjoyed cooking, reading, yoga, meditation and walking and one of the benefits of lock-down for me has been more time to indulge in my passions. As someone who has lived with poor Mental Health all of my life, I sometimes get an impulse to do something radical, and this one was of those occasions! Due to a huge weight-loss of 14 stone, five years ago my hair fell out so I cut it short, I was tempted to shave it then but didn’t have the courage.

On my bike ride through Bute Park last week I spotted a young woman with a shaved head and immediately made the decision to do it as soon as I got home. I did talk to my husband first of course, he was in support as he always is when I say I am going to do something crazy like jump out of a plane or do a zip wire over The Eden Project!

I figured now is as good a time as any to shave my head, it’s not like I have any official engagements or do’s to attend and if I hated it I have time for it to grow back before going out in public and I can wear a hat out on my daily exercise. As it happens I LOVE IT, in fact I cannot stop stroking my head and I know that’s a bit weird but it is so soft. The best bit is no hair drying, straightening or styling, I feel so free. It is truly liberating. Though society is much more accepting of individuality and freedom of expression through appearance I think women shaving their heads is still considered a bit strange. Though it has to be said that I have only had one or two weird looks from the public!

Out on my walk yesterday I was crossing the road and stopped for a car. A lady in her late 60’s ish wound her window down and said “excuse me, I love your hair, did you do it yourself” I said yes, and that I was very happy with it. She then said “right, I’ve always wanted to shave my head, am going to do it!” She thanked me and waved me goodbye.

It is not for everyone, and I will probably grow it back again, but if you are thinking about it I highly recommend it. I wish everyone well and my hope for the future, when we return to some sort of normality, is that we all find the time to take care of our Health and Well-being in whatever form that takes.

Love and Light. Claire

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Stephen Lingwood

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

We’re in this strange situation where a lot of us have got nothing to do, and really want to be helpful, but there really is nothing we can do, and we all feel a bit useless.

I’ve worked as a pioneer minister in Cardiff since 2018. What that means is that I’m freed from a lot of the usual duties of “vicaring” to explore what faith and spirituality might look like outside of traditional church. For me that has involved exploring the intersection of spirituality, community, and social justice activism, particularly in Canton and Riverside.

My usual working week involved working with Riverside-based arts organisation Gentle/Radical at their co-working space in the Wyndham Street Centre, as well as working with other community and activist groups. Before the lockdown started I was part of a group organising an interfaith prayer vigil for climate justice outside the Senedd every Friday afternoon.

Now of course all that has stopped. My usual weekly rhythms (a coffee while working on my laptop in Chapter Arts Centre on a Monday, a drink in the Crafty Devil on Tuesday, etc) – all that has gone. Sure, some things are happening online, but I do find myself with a lot less to do. Like most of us I’m just stuck at home.

I’m lucky that my employment is secure, for now. But I’m left with a sense of frustration, guilt, and (of course) loneliness because I can’t go out and do more. I joined the Canton Mutual Aid group and gave my phone number to two of my local streets, but in all the weeks that have gone by I’ve only been asked to collect someone’s prescription once. I’d like to do a lot more! I’d be happy to do it every day.

My sense is that there’s actually more people who want to help than there are people who need help! I know one person who has signed up to help at a food bank but they’ve not yet been called upon to help because the food bank has got a lot more volunteers than they need.

We’re in this strange situation where a lot of us have got nothing to do, and really want to be helpful, but there really is nothing we can do, and we all feel a bit useless.

In our capitalist society we’re used to thinking of ourselves as valuable only if we’re being productive – if we’re a useful cog in a machine, if we’re “economically active”, if we’re useful. In some ways of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be useful, with wanting to be helpful to the world, but the problem is when we get our sense of identity and value from that. The spiritual lesson is to know that your value as a human being is inherent – it doesn’t depend on your work.

I’ve come to the conclusion that maybe the challenge right now is to embrace that truth: that I’m useless, that many of us are useless, but maybe, actually, that is OK.

The Chinese religion of Taoism has a concept called “wu wei” which means “actionless action”. This is the idea that actually it’s not always busyness and frantic activity that gets things done, sometimes it is actually stillness, quietness, and “doing nothing” that achieves the most. The Tao Te Ching states, “The Way does nothing, and yet nothing remains unaccomplished.” That has never been more true than now. For those of us who are not key workers the most important thing we can do for our society is stay at home and do nothing other than look after ourselves and our families.

I think prayer is a kind of a “doing nothing”. It’s the “nothing” we do when we’ve run out of all the “somethings”. Apparently a lot of people are searching online for “how to pray”. I suppose because a lot of people are worried. I know I am. I’m worried about my health every time I go out, I’m worried about my job, I’m worried about my family. We never know when it might be our turn to get this virus, or the turn of someone we love. Where do you put all those feelings?

I take them to prayer. I don’t believe that prayer is magic. I don’t believe it means begging God to do something for us. I don’t think it works that way. I don’t think it changes God, I think it changes us.

I don’t want to push religion down anyone’s throat. I honestly don’t mind if you do Buddhist meditation or chanting or yoga or even just exercise. I’m what you call a universalist and so I believe the holy is in all religions, and all people.

But I do think that doing something spiritual, every day as a commitment, does bring deeper peace and contentment. Somehow, in a very mysterious way, “doing nothing” becomes the most important thing to do. Somehow “doing nothing” is actually what changes things. It changes me. I speak my worries into the silence and then I listen to the silence. And in a mysterious way I find a deeper and more lasting peace.

I’ve been trying to follow the example of Julian of Norwich (1343-1416). Julian lived through the Black Death, probably lost families members, and then spent the rest of her life in self-isolation in a “cell” by the side of a church, and yet she wrote “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Now, I’m not exactly in a “cell” in a two bed house in Canton, and I’m not exactly living like a monk (I do have Netflix) but I’m trying to be inspired by Julian in my life right now. I’m trying to live simply, quietly, to be still enough to pay attention to my soul. And so I chant, I meditate, I pray. I have a small altar table in my room with candles and a picture of a kingfisher painted by a friend of mine (the kingfisher has always been a symbol of the divine for me). Every Wednesday I share Celtic morning and night prayer on my page, Riverside Ministry Project Facebook page.

I’m also gentle on myself. Spirituality shouldn’t be another thing to be guilty about doing or not doing. Some days I eat biscuits and watch telly.

We’re in a global crisis, we need to be very gentle with ourselves however we’re coping. But prayer or meditation can really help in these times too. It helps me to live through these strange times.

Follow Stephen on Twitter @SJLingwood, or visit the Riverside Ministry Project.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Emina Redzepovic

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

Lockdown, what a time to be alive. As I write this I’m on the upward trajectory from a very down couple of weeks but given the situation I think that’s very normal.

I am lucky enough to be in lockdown with my tall husband, nice cat and a lovely garden that looks mental thanks to #NoMowMay.

The shining light in this lockdown is the lack of cars on the road – less traffic, less pollution, more wildlife, walking/cycling/running on roads and general happiness. I really hope this can continue in some form after lockdown.

My only advice to you is just roll with your feelings – want to eat that whole Sara Lee chocolate gateaux? Do it. Want to have a little scream? Do it? Want to cut your fringe in the bathroom mirror with kitchen scissors? DO IT.

The Good

People – or should I say, some people. Kindness and compassion are often things that humans can easily forget but I have seen it in droves in my community and around the world. Key workers are finally being put on the pedestal they deserve. We all have the ability to love and be kind, more please.

Creativity – God bless the internet and all who sail on her, thank you to the memes, tik tik videos, insta stories, theatre, podcasts, arts, events, comedy, book reading, music and so much more that has kept me just about sane. Special thanks to Kiri Pritchard-McClean, Daisy May Cooper and the Baked Potato song for providing me with particular joy

The animals – my gorgeous cat George is a constant source of joy, she’s been loyal, funny, cute and bitey throughout and made life a lot easier. The animals we love have been working overtime to keep us sane and even if you don’t own an animal the videos have been life changing – elephants having a bath, penguins meeting killer whales in the Aquarium, dogs jumping over loo rolls.

Chanel Chanellington the escapee Scouse parrot – this is the news story of lockdown for me, a woman’s viral video of her shouting at people to find her lost parrot that had gone to the canal is a thing of undeniable beauty. There is a happy outcome and “Channnnnneeeeel” in a Scouse accent will forever have my heart.

Normal People on BBC iPlayer – I have the capacity to love fictional characters too much and that’s what I have done with this book and the series adapted from it. It stole my heart, soul and knickers. Marianne and Connell 4eva ❤

Crafts – I’ve done some truly awful drawings, made a card and used super glue to add glitter and inevitably glued my fingers together. I assembled a beautiful perspex rainbow made by my mate Fizz Goes Pop and used a pliers for the first time in my life. I’ve loved it!

The Bad

Mental health – I defy anyone to say that they’ve had a fantastic time throughout this period, you’d have to be a cyborg to have not felt down at least once. Our brains do not like this level of change coupled with a virus that is affecting everyone on the planet. It’s been hard to overcome my negative thoughts at times, clinging to them like they’re the only truth I have and letting them envelope me. Luckily I have good friends, crisps and books to see me through.

Productivity memes – I’ve seen so many BS memes telling me to ‘take care of myself’ and ‘learn a new skill’, ‘get up early’, ‘eat fruit’ and whatnot. Give it a rest mun, seriously, we’re in a global pandemic and if I want to get up late, learn nothing, eat a biscuit and just carry on with my day that’s good enough.

Lockdown norms – homemade bread, sourdough starter, wild garlic, pic of your legs in outside space looking like hot dogs, 5ks and maps, bookshelves, screenshot of zoom call, tik tok dances etc. Yes I’ve partaken in a fair few of these but honestly a lot of this stuff has made me feel like sh!t. Compare and despair has been real, what we curate vs reality is something to always keep in the back of your mind.

The Ugly

Death to Zoom – I cannot wait to see the back of this hideous platform, it sucks your life and soul from you without you immediately noticing. It can leave you feeling like you’ve had an uninvited lobotomy, be good to yourself before and after.

People – of course I have to put this in this column too, there are some absolute nasty pasties (as my Mam would say) making things a lot harder than they should be. Turds in government, floating about and pretending to be socialist, toilet paper and hand sanitiser guzzlers, pavement hoggers, social distance deniers, internet bullies, trolls and those who like Cats the Musical.

Human Poo – I saw a human poo in a doorway in the city centre which was really disconcerting, it was massive and a bit passive aggressive. It also made me realise that I have it very good in comparison to a lot of people. This virus has deeply affected those who are on the margins of society. Support, care and more will be harder to find so please think about making a donation to a refuge, homeless charity, refugee centre etc.

Emina Redzepovic is a freelance PR and communications specialist. Follow her – Emina Redzepovic website | Emina Redzepovic Twitter | Emina Redzepovic Instagram.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anonymous #4

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

Bute Park. Photo by We Are Cardiff

Lockdown Diaries

How is it when the world slows and stops, my world speeds up? As the nation was edging into lockdown my mind raced. The anxiety in my body peaked with racing thoughts; tense jaw and finger picking taken to extremes. Planning, watching, waiting, thoughts spinning. Sleepless nights from the worry of what will happen, who will die, what will life look like. The waiting, like a big inhale was dizzying. It felt like waiting for a car to crash or a wave to wash over me.

Then lockdown hit. And the calmness came. We were in. I rolled up my sleeves and expected long days.

As a keyworker, my work sped up like nothing else. Hours upon hours of planning, changing our systems and expecting a significant reduction in staff whilst maintaining a critical service. I could just about see a way forward, pulling together like a war time spirit.

The fear waiting for my loved ones and colleagues to get ill. Some of us did, like me, but we recovered. Was it Covid? Who knows? I’m still here. Life has carried on. For me anyway.

I struggle with anxiety. Most days. Every day actually. Its like I’m carrying a backpack of worries around that feel and look a lot like rocks. Sometimes I realise I have forgotten something, a rare moment of calm which makes me worry, then I pick up the bag. It’s my status quo, a soothing place to be. Calculating what dreadful things could happen and cringing of some of the things I’ve said or done. Worrying about the plans and decisions I made. Making myself promises I rarely keep. Tying myself into knots.

Six weeks into lockdown. I feel lighter, freer and I’m being so much kinder to myself. I’m working as much as ever. But the bag of rocks has been left at the door. Why do I waste so much time worrying? When sh*t gets real, I cope. I always do. Why don’t I believe in myself?

I’m calm and my thinking is sharper. I’m finding what I love, taking time for me. Gardening, red wine and reading books.  I’m spending a lot of time reflecting on who and what I am. And what I can be. How I can throw the rocks away and be kind to myself.

One big difference is my energy levels and motivation. Both are low. I find it hard working from home. Its so much more intense. I’m still skipping lunch breaks and don’t have enough hours in the day. I miss the routine of driving to work, blasting some tunes, grabbing a coffee. These routines transport me to work and home again.

Home was my sanctuary, my private space rarely interrupted. A place free from work. I always valued this separation. This has transformed.

My commute now is closing down the laptop and walking down the stairs.

I miss that golden moment when you have time off. The excitement from the sense of freedom, thinking of all the things you can. I value the time to recharge and just be me. But my work life balance is massively skewed now. At least I have a job, I recognise this.

I have realise I live a simple life and love simple pleasures. I miss my freedom to potter and ponder, seeing new places and going away. I am a free spirit and whilst I need routine, I find the lack of difference draining.

I miss my family and friends, but I know pragmatically they are safe and it’s for the best.

Some people close to me are ill, but what can I do? I have to stay strong. I cannot change a thing. I think I have found some inner peace whilst the world is in turmoil.

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