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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Amy

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Amy of Dead Canary and La Pantera, who welcomed a second child to their family three weeks into the lockdown! We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Before lockdown, myself and my husband were busy running two bars in Cardiff city centre, as well as chasing after our wonderful two-year-old daughter and getting preparations ready for our son’s imminent arrival.

Our lockdown experience has been a rollercoaster of emotions, from stress and anxiety to laughter to wonderful life changing moments.

We own the Dead Canary, a speak easy style bar which has been open for almost five years, serving Cardiff cocktails made by the most wonderful, hard working and passionate team. In February we opened our second bar, La Pantera, a small taqueria situated above Sully’s / The Blue Honey Night Cafe.

Although only open for a few weeks before we were forced to close due to the coronavirus, it was an exciting new venture, which had, so far, been doing really well and we were so proud of all the feedback we were receiving.

La Pantera!

The start of lockdown was full of anxiety in regards to future of the two bars, as well as being able to look after our teams and our little family. Once the furlough scheme was announced and small business grants were put into place, it did allow for a bit of breathing space and to let us focus on our growing family.

The first three weeks of lockdown were full of creating jungles in the garden, baking questionable cupcakes, crafting crowns made from flowers and twigs and reading The Gruffalo to a hedgehog who was waking up after hibernating all winter in our outhouse. All these activities were to entertain myself as much as our two-yearold. To take my mind off the worries of bringing a new baby into the world in such an unknown time.

Three weeks and two days into lockdown, we welcomed our beautiful 9 lb 7.5 son to the world. The midwives and all of the team at the Heath Hospital were incredible. All were smiling and chipper, creating an air of ease and calm. I can not thank them all enough for their selfless efforts and for keeping us safe and well and delivering our son.

Aurora meets her little brother, lockdown baby Ozzie

Then home for the second chapter of our lockdown, as a family of four. Bit of a different experience to when we returned home with our daughter, where we saw plenty of visitors coming through our doors to say hello and have cwtches with our new bundle of joy.

We can not wait to show him off to the rest of loved ones, and to take him on little adventures.

We are grateful for our health and the safe arrival of our little boy, and having the time to bond and the time to take things easy and slower. He has slotted in very nicely into our family and stolen our hearts.

Why not go and give the Dead Canary and La Pantera some online love for now – and make sure to go visit them in the future when the lockdown is lifted:

Dead Canary website | Dead Canary Facebook | Dead Canary Twitter

La Pantera website | La Pantera Facebook | La Pantera Instagram

The Dead Canary cocktail bar


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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Claire

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

Life pre-COVID-19 wasn’t sustainable, but neither is this.

Who would have thought, even as recently as the start of this year, that in just three months, we would talk about pre and post COVID-19 worlds?

For those of us old enough, we remember life before 9/11, and 7/7, and knew that life after such horrific events would never be the same again. We all promised to learn lessons from both of these events, to treasure and experience life to the fullest and to hold on dearly to our friends and family. But did we really learn and stay true to those lessons?

I’ve lived in Cardiff for the majority of my adult life and now have a family home in the city where I live with my husband and four year old daughter. I work in Park Place in the city centre and my commute to work is a measly three miles, which I would ordinarily travel by car.

Over the last year, maybe longer, I have often wondered how life in the city could sustain the constant stream of traffic.

A three mile journey would sometimes take me over an hour. The 1.5 mile journey from town to my daughter’s school could take 45 minutes. Journey times like these were not the norm, but neither were they the exception. Cardiff roads were generally jam packed, regardless as to when and where you were travelling.

I would also find myself wondering how we could continue to exist the way we were. Everything was just so busy, for so much of the time. A standard working week was far surpassing my contracted hours, eating into the little time I had with my family and weekends passed by in a flurry of activities, parties and preparing for the next week ahead which consisted of… pretty much the same, apart from those precious snatches of annual leave.

But whoever would have wanted COIVD-19 to be the thing that changed the world again? A threat, not just for a targeted group of people who may have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, but for every.single.person.in.the.world.

As we have heard, the virus has no boundaries, no borders and does not discriminate ( I think I may have to credit that little part to Nicola Sturgeon!). This is not something that those in prosperous countries can look at from afar, feel sorry for and then send help to those affected. This is in our communities, it’s in our hospitals and we live in fear that it will reach not only our doorsteps but also the doorsteps of our family and friends.

That fear is intensified ten fold when you are at home for all but an hour a day, if you even leave then, and there is no longer a “normal” day. Mondays to Fridays in the pre-COVID-19 world used to start for me at 6:15a.m. This still happens in the post-COVID-19 world. But instead of getting ready for work and hurriedly getting my daughter ready for school before having to leave the house by 7:50, I now walk downstairs to my kitchen and start my working day.

That is the first of only two constants in my day. What happens from approximately 8:00 onwards (that tends to be around the time my daughter gets up and comes downstairs) is a mish mash of school work for my daughter, full time work for my husband and I, meals, snacks, playing, pangs of worry and anxiety about the health of my family, and finally, back to a constant at 18:40… bath time for my daughter.

Bedtimes are pot luck for her at the moment, probably as she is completely out of sync, having no structure of a school day to adhere to, and range from any time between 19:30 and 22:00. Where she gets the energy from I do not know.

By ten pm, I’m beyond exhausted. People said to me at the start of lockdown that this would be the quality time we have craved with our children for years. I can categorically confirm that there is little in the way of quality family time at the moment in our household.

I feel more self inflicted pressure than ever to ensure that the repercussions of COVID-19 don’t unleash themselves on the career I have worked and fought so hard to build.

The instinct to protect my daughter, instilled in me since I carried her in my tummy. That’s at the forefront of my mind from morning until night.

I worry that the virus will make its way to my mum, who works at a village Co-Op, and through her to my dad who has had cancer, is a diabetic and is a poster boy for the “high risk” category if ever you needed one.

At times, my home feels like a pressure cooker. The intensity of a day just builds as the hours tick on. Until its bedtime. The house is quiet, the streets are quiet and slowly but surely, the pressure reduces. Life pre-COVID-19 wasn’t sustainable, but neither is this.

That being said, my husband and I have had moments of sheer clarity during these chaotic times – normally during weekends and slightly fuelled by alcohol!

We have made decisions as to how our lives and ultimately, our family life, will change for the better so we can actually live in the post-COVID 19 world, not just exist.

Follow Claire on Twitter @clairewilde30

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Catriona James

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from theatre-maker and performer Catriona James. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

I want to write an uplifting letter. Today that feels easier. The sun is shining; I ate lunch in the garden with my partner and admired the flowers that are emerging.

I bought and moved into this flat in late October, so each plant’s appearance in the garden this spring has been a surprise. I’ve enjoyed the changing patterns of light – celebrated as each new sunbeam needles its way into my kitchen.

Yesterday was a different letter. Grey sky, a cold wind. I was tired and sad. So was my partner. Not because of each other, but still, it’s hard to comfort another when our own reserves are running low. And so much of the sadness is situational and the solutions are beyond our control.

Lockdown has been a complex time.

And at the same time, the most simple of times – my life stripped down to basics. I’ve taken a lot of joy in the simplicity. I like living with my partner – it was a near-impulse decision as we realised lockdown was coming, for them to move in with me temporarily. And probably the best decision, because not being able to see them for an undefined period of time would have been so hard.

We cook good food, and bake bread. We’ve built raised beds in my garden, and planted seeds. We take long bicycle rides and make the weekly veg shop and fortnightly braving of the supermarket a lot more pleasant for each other. We camp in the garden and make the effort to organise date nights at home.

We introduce each other to our friends and family over video calls. We started drawing on the calendar in the kitchen, a small picture of each day’s highlight. It makes me smile when I look at it, but it also brings to mind the time-marking of a prisoner – a colourful version of a five bar gate tally scratched into a wall.

We became unwell, and we recovered. We both had symptoms of what may have been mild COVID-19. We isolated. We looked after each other and felt grateful for friends who brought us food and groceries. We got off lucky, this time, if that was indeed what we had. I don’t take this virus lightly – I never did. Even with mild symptoms I found myself at times crying with exhaustion and fear.

We try to work. Someone said on social media – You’re not working from home. You’re at home during a crisis, trying to work. I’d credit them if I could, but I don’t recall where I saw it.

I’m a theatre-maker and a performer. I’ve been fortunate that all the work I was contracted for when the lockdown started has been honoured, so while money is a concern, it’s not an overwhelming one yet. To be clear: I’d rather have the work.

Some things have been possible – I did a 15-hour improvised performance called Crack of Dawn on 2 May as part of an online festival called GIFT (Gateshead International Festival of Theatre). Originally meant to be in-person in Gateshead, the festival organisers took the imaginative leap of moving their programming online.

This isn’t possible for all performance work, and it isn’t how I want to make or engage with most of it. I want a live audience. I want to be part of a live audience. I don’t know when this is going to happen again. I enjoyed performing as part of GIFT but I also found myself wondering if it was the last time.

I want to write an uplifting letter. But over the past few weeks, I’ve come to accept that I am grieving. Part of looking after myself, and being able to help others around me, is navigating that grief. It comes in waves. I’m not mourning the loss of the arts industry – there’s a lot that was wrong with it, like much of the “normal” that came before this.

Other people have articulated those problems and what needs to change more clearly than I can. But for me, personally, working in the arts had been very difficult for a long time and it was just appearing to get easier. Then overnight much of what I had been looking forward to melted away, some of it likely forever. I’m trying to be balanced about this. I know that other things will emerge that I will also love and enjoy, but that will not erase this loss.

Occasionally I consider that I’m living through a time that may define the rest of my life. It’s no small thing. So I’m trying to be kind to myself. I’m trying to be accepting, and take what lessons I can from this experience. I am astounded by our capacity to adapt. The things I thought I wanted may well be different in a few months, and that may not be so terrible. I’m trying to remain open, trying not to hold too tightly to anything. I’d like to be surprised by what could emerge.

Follow Catriona James on Twitter @catjames or her website catrionajames.com

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anonymous #3

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

My lockdown hasn’t gone according to plan. It should of been easy but every step of the way everything has gone wrong. My housemates moved out at the start and and me and my fiancee split up after living just a week alone together.

Bute Park, photo by We Are Cardiff

Let’s go back to the beginning and to start with I must admit that I didn’t believe we would be affected by the pandemic. There’s no way it’ll affect us, it’s just something in China, and then it’s just something in Italy. Then we got told we could start to work from home – the week before the lockdown, I kept on going into the office, even though some friends had been working from home for weeks. I honestly thought it would all blow over.

Maybe they saw what I couldn’t see, which seems really obvious when you look back on it, and that is the story of my life. I am often told I am wearing blinkers when it suits me.

On Friday 13 March (we’re already off to a bad start) me and my fiancee and two housemates officially moved into our new house, a big five-bedroom place on the edge of Heath. It’s not an area I’ve ever lived in before, but I found this great house, two kitchens, three bathrooms, five bedrooms! I fell in love with it while we were house hunting. He needed an extra room as an office to work from home so we were looking at bigger houses, but the rents were a lot for two people. We were living in Canton but it’s expensive we decided to look in other areas and found we could afford a lot more.

We still couldn’t afford the rent for this place just us so we moved in with two friends who were between places and one was working in the Heath hospital so it worked out fine. The house is so big, we’ve got a kitchen on the ground floor by the garden and a small one on the top floor. The layout is a bit funny because I think it used to be flats. But it was perfect for us.

Before the lockdown was announced but there were rumours, I was extra happy about having found the house for us, because of all the space! “Lots of room for all of us and we won’t all be on top of each other” is how I was thinking about it.

Everyone else seemed a bit less excited. Looking back I really was not thinking about the reality of what it would be like to be locked down.

Me and my fiancee got engaged in June last year (I can’t believe it’s nearly a year ago). Looking back I think maybe the reason we got engaged was because things weren’t going well, I pushed for him to ask me to marry him because he would never of asked otherwise. It wasn’t like things were bad but we were fighting and we argued. There was a lot of bickering and I did wonder often if I was happy.

I thought getting married would give us something to focus on, bring us together more, something we could bond over that would stop that all. Maybe I thought it would make him commit to being with me and I think maybe I just didn’t want to be on my own, and I thought once you’re with someone for that long, you get married and you have children and that’s happiness. That’s just what happens and that’s what I really wanted with him.

The landlord gave us the keys to the house a week early in March because the old tenants had left earlier than expected. So we had one blissful week in the house. It was so exciting, moving in, unpacking boxes, arranging things where we wanted them, backwards and forward trips to Ikea to buy a new bed and desk and chair for his office as he would be working from home.

Across the UK there was panic, as people stocked up on everything. Idiots, I thought (secretly pleased we had done a massive shop the week before, we had spent a fortune stocking the house up as we’d just moved in, but we had 100 metres of tin foil and a huge mound of toilet roll amongst our spoils, we would be fine for toilet roll until December).

And then the following Monday. Rumours of a proper lockdown. Friends who work in the government and have friends in places told us we would potentially be stuck inside for months, like we were seeing in Italy. There is no way, I thought. They are just exaggerating.

We had even bought new kitchen utensils for the new house even though we already everything we needed. I wanted a new start and I thought knives and forks would give me what I wanted. But it turns out a new house and new cutlery can’t do that.

Slowly things in the house started falling apart when the reality of the lockdown became clearer.

Things became real in the news and reality looked grim. One housemate has parents in the vulnerable category. Suddenly she appeared in the kitchen in the morning with a bag packed and told us she was getting the train back to west Wales to stay with them in case they needed looking after and travel got stopped.

After she had gone it was the catalyst for our other housemate. He had been seeing someone for six months who lives down in the Bay (not walking distance from our house) and they decided to isolate together otherwise they wouldn’t be able to see each other at all, and so the next day he was gone too.

I thought they were overreacting. “It will all be over in a couple of weeks, what is the fuss.” I thought I knew better. “The newspapers and the government are always lying to us about everything, it will never be that bad.”

My fiancee lasted one more week in the house with me alone, just the two of us by ourselves. Without the housemates there as a buffer and without the excitement of kitting out the new house we had one argument too many and then he moved out too.

In honesty me and him haven’t been happy together for years. Weeks of crying and thinking alone in the house since he has gone have made me realise that. Also I contacted a therapist I found through Mind and have been talking to her once a week which has really helped.

We got together when we were 25 and I’m turning 36 this year. We had been on a break once before, two years ago when things weren’t working out. That had been my idea but when we got back together I really threw myself into it. I think he got back together with me because it was just easier than being alone, this time it was all him and it was really painful for me to hear that from him. I feel like he didn’t even try to talk to me, didn’t give us a chance to work it out together. He just decided and then he left.

I’ve gone from thinking I would of had a lovely lockdown with my fiancee and our friends in our nice roomy house to being trapped here in a huge house all alone.

I’m lucky that I can work from home. I still have a job. My fiancee had bought a full set of office furniture before the lockdown and didn’t take anything with him, so I’ve moved things around so I have a proper desk to work at in the dining room now.

I have been drinking every day, I try not to start drinking before 5pm if I can help it but I haven’t been able to manage it every day. But now nearly two months later I have managed to get a grip on the drinking. Next week I am planning to try no drinking during the week and just having it as a treat at the weekend.

Our landlord has been amazing, he messaged at the start of April to say he’d paused the mortgage payments on the house so we have a three month rent holiday. I told him that everyone else had had to move out and I didn’t know what was happening. He didn’t reply but the next morning he left a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates and a note on the doorstep telling me not to worry for now. I didn’t tell him we had split up but he probably would of guessed from what I said.

I don’t know what will happen next, I don’t know if our housemates will ever be moving back, I know my fiancee definitely won’t. Ex fiancee I should say now. I don’t know what will happen in the house, I don’t know if I even want to stay here. I definitely don’t like living by myself and I know I need people around, even if they are strangers in a shared house.

I’ve found lockdown really hard. Living alone is hard.

Me and him did a lot of Zoom calls with our friends that first week but since we split up right I just haven’t got the energy to talk to anyone. People have been trying to get in touch with me but I’ve ignored most of them. I’m so tired by the end of a working day, I just can’t face anyone else, I don’t want to have to explain what happened or go into it or talk about it, it’s hard over video call. At work no one asks about that sort of thing and so that’s better. I don’t live near anyone anymore so no one can pop round on their way anywhere or vice versa. I feel like I’ve moved to a different country.

I don’t know anyone on my new street. The houses are so much bigger and further away from each other it’s hard to talk to people, I’ve barely been outside, my exercise is walking to the Aldi on Caerphilly Road which is a bit of a walk but it forces me to get outside otherwise I wouldn’t go outside at all.

Everyone goes outside to clap on Thursdays and I see people talking together along the street. I want to go and talk to them but I feel too self conscious, I was feeling so bad I couldn’t go outside the first few weeks they did it and now I feel like everyone will be staring at me because I haven’t been out to clap at all. Also I think they’ll ask about me living in this huge house alone and I don’t want to have to explain what has happened.

I miss the street in Canton that we used to live on, the house was tiny and barely big for two people but we knew our neighbours, everyone was friendly, we used to pop into Chapter all the time.

It’s weird I have to keep reminding myself that’s not possible even for people who live there now.

So this has been my lockdown. Not what I expected at all. I hate living by myself it’s so lonely and I really miss having people around. The house is too big for one person and I miss having people to talk to in person. I haven’t told anyone that we have split up, our friends will know because he would of told some of them, but I haven’t told my parents or my sister.

I have no idea what the future holds for me. I have barely been able to think about the virus and the impact on society. I know that sounds bad but I just haven’t got space in my head to think about anything, I feel numb, my whole world has just been turned upside down.

I watch the news and I try and keep on top of what is going on with the virus. I wear a mask to the supermarket and wash my hands if I get the post or when I come back from shopping. But I honestly can’t focus or think about it, all I can think about is that I had all these plans, for a wedding and for having a family, even just the rest of this year, I thought we would be living in this lovely house and my ex would be working from home in his office. Now it’s all different, it’s so hard to accept it is not what I wanted it to be.

This is the first time I have really spoken about this, except I know it is not speaking it is writing. But writing this has made me think I should text my sister which I think is a step. We never got on that well but we are always there for each other when things go wrong. I think I will text her today, before I change my mind.

Before we moved in here in my head this was the perfect house but without any people in it is just an empty shell.  And the area is so boring compared to Canton, I like the parks, I like being close to town and walking home through Bute Park,  like the buzz and the feeling of being around everything. I miss living in Canton so much, and to cheer myself I’ve started looking for flats and house shares there.

Flathunting is the highlight of my day and how I’ve been getting through.

I’m really looking forward to moving back once lockdown is lifted.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Melissa Boothman

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Melissa Boothman, owner of Penylan Pantry and the Secret Garden Cafe in Bute Park. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Here is my version of lockdown life, from someone who runs a small independent business in the hospitality industry, and employs 17 people.

Wow, where do I start? So far, this whole experience has been a big washing machine of emotions, mainly on spin, then occasionally clicking on to drain, and sometimes pause, pausing in a big puddle of water, still, very still.

Like many I also felt like we are all living in a fictional novel, a dystopian future.

Week 1 (I think). “It’s okay, we’ve got this, together we will be okay”. In this first week, none of us really knew what we were about to fall into. Seeing the news, and how Italy was being struck down with fatality after fatality, we knew it was going to be serious. However, there is this sense of, ‘it’s not happening to us, we won’t get it that bad’ or will we? The unknown set in…….

Within the two businesses, we adapted and put lots of little changes in place. I held a meeting, to put my team’s minds at rest: ‘Your jobs are safe, I will make sure of it’.

I knew we were about to embark on something that none of us had experienced, but I told myself ‘Mel, you’ve got this, you are good with the big stuff, you are good at change and thinking on your feet, it will be okay’.

The team were amazing and took on all these new changes, turning up every day with a smile on their faces, which really helped.

Our local community, our regulars, our customers, came out and showed their support. It was super humbling, grounding and gave me reassurance.

Change was in the air.

Week 2/3 (it’s all becoming blurry). Shit, what is happening?…..okay, stay calm, react, be proactive, adapt, SURVIVE.

I didn’t really stop to think much in this, the second week, my priorities and concerns were of my staff. ‘OK, I need to keep 17 people in a job, and the two businesses alive.’ In the back of my mind, I’m asking myself ‘what’s going to happen to my little businesses?’ Fears of lockdown are looming, thick in the air, a day feels like a week. We are all in fight or flight mode.

I spent the week hastily listening to the news, to a government that were giving vague advice, that were reacting, not being proactive, and with all this vagueness, the week was a flurry of confusion, for us all. I could see it in our customers, in the ambience, the mood, no one knew what to do, how to properly behave, or what was the right and correct thing to do.

This was the week that no support, or clear guidance came from our leaders, which left many of us scared. This was my week of firefighting.

Amongst these emotions, the anxiety, the adapting, the mind whirling with ideas of survival, kindness prevails.

People were opening up, showing vulnerability, coming together, supporting each other, being KIND.

Within both the Pantry and the Secret Garden Cafe we really noticed how everyone had slowed down, how people were calmer, and more patient, the support for independents was amazing to see.

Friday 20th March, our Government finally announces support for workers, promising to keep everyone in a job, and covering wages. This was such a relief, and half the weight of worry off my shoulders (the other half, the future of my businesses still present). However, the government didn’t release any terms of this payout until the following Tuesday. I was checking the government website multiple times a day, waiting for the terms, checking that myself and my team were eligible.

Week 3/4 (Probably, I’ve stopped counting the weeks, it’s purely day by day).

This is the week that I closed both my businesses. I knew it was the right decision, and I knew it was the best thing for me, my team and the safety of our community, but damn it was hard, harder than I’d anticipated, for I did not at any point, in the years I’ve been running my businesses, expect to be closing them through no choice of my own.

They don’t tell you to plan for the world wide spread of a deadly virus when writing your business plan.

I went into the Pantry, and placed a sign in the window, I sat, had a little cry (it was very emotional, which took me by surprise), and locked the door.

That same day, Boris announced lockdown, something we’d all been expecting, and tentatively waiting for.

The next day, we closed down both sites; turning off fridges, cleaning, sorting out perishable stock and talking about the current situation. I had to call all our utility providers, some acted with empathy, and others business as normal – money/profit over people, even during an international pandemic. I sent emails to landlords notifying them of our closure, updates to customers and contacting our suppliers.

A huge outpouring of love came our way via messages, calls, emails, and comments on social media. Thank you, thank you, it really lifted me, I felt and still feel grateful for the community around me, for the people who love and support my businesses, for what the Pantry means to some people.

The weeks that followed… I felt like the rug had been pulled from under my feet, lost, not knowing what to do, and confused. Stay at home they said, but really, there’s a pandemic outside my doors, with people suffering, and I’m supposed to sit at home (this was my internal battle). I felt helpless. I knew I had to stay at home, but my instinct was telling me to get out and help.

I couldn’t stop thinking of all the suffering some people would endure during lockdown, of how COVID-19 had highlighted the huge inequalities in our country, and how the most vulnerable would be hit hardest. With all of this on my mind, I hadn’t properly stopped to think about the virus, and how dangerous it was. I started reading the news again, and realised that this virus has no rules, it can kill young people, and in some cases people with no previous health problems; oh shit.

With this urge to help, the need to be busy, concerns about the virus, business ideas and the need for rest …..

What to actually do whilst in lockdown was very confusing, and felt very unsettling. I certainly had no head space for a new early morning yoga routine, learning a new language or crocheting a blanket for my mum.

I was pulling myself back and forth in many directions. Eventually, I decided, that the Pantry needed to be on pause (in my head), I needed some rest (after six years of very few days off), I wanted to volunteer and help where I could, and restore some balance.

I’ve been keeping in touch with the team, via silly photos, little messages and the occasional Zoom meetings (I find video chat awkward). The next chapter of this situation meant I was even able to see some of the team in the kitchens.

This came about because … my two friends, Kas, founder of Waterloo Teahouses, and Kev from Holy Yolks, started separate initiatives to support our local hospitals, by providing delicious homemade food to NHS staff and key workers (Kev from Holy Yolks is running the Help the Heroes campaign and Kas set up  Feed the Heath). They couldn’t do it alone, and needed some support.

A few of the hospital canteens had closed, making it difficult for staff to access good food whilst on shift, so we (myself and my team) felt we could help out by reopening our kitchens a few days a week, cooking them some good meals, and at the same time show our gratitude.

We also do weekly deliveries of much needed supplies to Cardiff Food Bank, made possible by cash donations from some beautiful people.

I’d found a purpose and a way to help amidst this chaotic time. Even though I was keeping busy, it really helped me to relax and feel more settled about the whole thing. I started to ease into activities that weren’t work, that didn’t revolve around only the businesses. Spending time with my other half, taking walks, foraging, identifying wild plants, listening to the birds, and enjoying a calmer pace.

The calmer pace has given me a little clarity to start thinking about the next phase. Financially we have taken a huge hit, but we are safe and we will be one of the fortunate few that reopen. It will be hard, like starting over a brand new business again with zero cash flow, but lots of business won’t be reopening.

On the day we closed, I stood, alone looking out of the Pantry’s windows, when I realised, let’s fill these windows with hope and sunshine, inspired by the rainbows popping up in everyone’s windows.

The only problem with this idea, is… I can’t draw. But I know just the woman, she’s amazing, kind and very talented; Suzanne Carpenter, one half of @patternistas. I randomly, with no notice, dropped the Pantry keys through her letterbox, gave her the alarm code and planted the seed.

Suzanne asked me if I’d like a message in the window, yes, yes I would, what a great idea, can it be this – What Kind of World would you like to emerge after this crisis is over?

Suzanne did the most amazing job, it’s beautiful.

This is a question that’s been on my mind since it all started.

Positives (there’s no guilt in saying there are some), for me are: I love how little traffic there has been on the roads, resulting in a calmer less rushed atmosphere, better air quality, and less noise pollution. I’ve loved how it’s introduced a simpler way of life, how it’s slowed me down, and how I’ve enjoyed walks, listening to the birds, my garden, cooking at home, regular exercise, regular meals, better sleep, how I’ve reconnected with plants, and my local surroundings. The joy of simple pleasures. I love how Mother Nature has been able to take a big deep breath of clean air, and how we have all had to STOP.

I really hope we can carry some of these new routines into the future. I hope kindness wins, and governments start putting people before money.

I hope we start to live a compatible life side-by-side with nature, and I look forward to reopening the doors to my business with my own lessons learnt.

Love and Peace.

Melissa Boothman is owner of Penylan Pantry & The Secret Garden Cafe. Visit the Penylan Pantry website / Twitter @PenylanPantry / Twitter @secretgardencf.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Jodie Ashdown

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

I went fully freelance for the first time in January 2020. Initially, it was going well – I had a few offers of work (I’m a writer and script editor for TV and Film) and I was beginning to gather a bit of momentum with a few projects and things were on the up. However, when the lockdown was issued, that all stopped.

TV sets and theatres are crowded places with a mixture of people of varying ages who often travel in for work. It would be crazy to keep them open so of course, they shut down. Projects were cancelled or postponed, people lost their jobs, future plans were scrapped and the entire industry just ground to a halt.

My girlfriend, who had moved to London for a new show (she works in the Art Department in Film and TV) and was looking forward to a summer in the city, moved back to Cardiff and we began to prepare for the lockdown.

TV and film is a notoriously fickle industry with short term, freelance contracts with little to no job security. Of course, it’s exciting and creative and interesting but there’s definitely an undercurrent of panic, especially when you’re starting out! The machine carries on, whether you’re on it or not. However, after lockdown, people who were previously constantly busy working 13 hour days had time to assess the situation we were in.

Facebook groups were set up to try to help and advise people who had lost their jobs and try to make sense of what government help they were eligible for (a mix of PAYE and short term freelance contracts makes things complicated). A lot of people aren’t eligible for any help.

Bectu (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union) estimates around 50,000 industry freelancers will have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic with little to no warning. This uncertainty, mixed with the very real threat COVID-19, made for dark times.

But then, little by little, pockets of positivity began opening up; many theatres and production companies have sprung into action by offering emergency funding pots which people could apply to for money to support them in lieu of lost projects and other charities and popping up. There are also call outs for writers, directors and actors to create monologues and short films, many of which are paid work. The National Theatre is just one of the companies releasing its previous productions online for free.

Industry professionals are holding free or charity-donation-advised masterclasses on Zoom, online workshops are springing up all over. Shows which were previously destined to be on stage are now being acted out online from various different living rooms / kitchens / gardens. I’ve just got work script editing a production which will be written and filmed under social isolation regulations. It seems like the industry which had been flattened by the Indiana-Jones style giant rolling boulder has got over the shock, dusted itself off and is now looking for a different way to the Lost Ark. It’s adapting and it’s learning and it seems more compassionate and giving than ever – I hope that part of it stays.

Apart from all this, my girlfriend and I are just trying to get on with it – it’s just the two of us which makes things a lot easier. Our excellent crossfit gym dropped off equipment to us before lockdown and they run classes twice a day over Zoom.

I’m glad that I can still go out running but I’m keeping runs under an hour and trying to avoid parks and other busy areas, I also go out at quieter times. My running club is doing a virtual relay instead of our weekly meets up.

We’ve done up our garden and I’ve bought a sewing machine and some patterns and I’m giving dressmaking a go (it’s not going super well at the moment but I’m still trying!). Sure, it sucks not being able to see our friends face to face but our situation is a lot better than people who have no garden or live in a crowded space, so we can’t complain. Also, I know people who have lost loved ones to coronavirus which really puts things in perspective.

I’m also feeling more part of a community than I ever have done before. We recently did up our elderly neighbour’s garden because it was a bit of a mess so he wasn’t really able to use it. We did a call out on our local mutual aid Facebook group for flowers and people started turning up with bulbs, seedlings, flowers, pots and in one case, some baby trees!

It was amazing and he was really happy with the results. He’s often out there now, pottering around and enjoying the nice weather we’ve been having. We didn’t want payment but he insisted on us giving six bottles of wine which put a bit of dent in our ‘healthy lockdown living’ due to our utter lack of self control.

Early on, we went out and posted our address and mobile number to everyone on our street in case they needed help while they were self isolating. We’ve done a couple of shopping and prescription runs but most of the texts I get from it are from people offering help. All these people who live on my road and I hardly know any of them!

Through the mutual aid Facebook group I’ve got to know a couple of my neighbours – it seems my street is full of lovely people. Ironic that it takes a lockdown for me to get out and meet my neighbours.

This is a new time for everyone and we’re all just trying to feel our way through it. I’m trying to remain positive but sometimes it really hits me – I’ve got a new little baby niece who was born at the beginning of April. She’s only in London but she may as well be across the other side of the world. I wonder when I’ll get to meet her. I dropped off some essentials at my mum’s house and even though I was only stood at the end of the drive, it felt like there was this big chasm between us. It’s difficult but it’s temporary, and I try to keep that in mind.

Take each day one at a time and be kind.

Jodie Ashdown is a writer who lives in Canton with her girlfriend and too many plants. Jodie is one of this year’s BBC Welsh Voices. Follow Jodie on Twitter @surfingsunshine.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Dave Sinclair

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

On the face of it running might look like a “nice to have”, but running is much more than that for many of the people I run with – and for me. It’s a social life, a way of managing day to day stress, a way of keeping healthy and fit, a way of coping when things aren’t going so well, and a way of seeing beautiful scenery.

I moved house, went on holiday to celebrate my birthday, came home and BAM! LOCKDOWN!

Or that’s what it felt like anyway.

Moti Running club (pre lockdown!)

I was very lucky to get in my new place just before lockdown – there’s no damp on the walls here and I have a view, which is handy during lockdown. It was a close call getting the move done in time.

Lockdown is a mixed bag for me. On the positive side, I don’t miss queues of traffic on the A470, the car park being full already when I get to work, or the incessant noise and intrusiveness of cars every time you go anywhere.

I’m really enjoying hearing the birds singing.

Without the commute I’m enjoying that extra time to chill or to exercise more, I eat better because I have to organise food shopping more efficiently and I am sleeping as long as I ought to be but never did before.

On the other hand, so much of what I usually do is based around being with people, and I love that aspect of my work. I miss that a lot.

Most of all I miss coaching my run club, Moti Cardiff, based out of the Moti store on Albany Road. And I miss parkun!!! I’d hoped to reach my 200th parkrun this year but no chance now

I miss our Moti Running Club post-run visits to the Pear Tree pub on Wellfield Road for my hot chocolate – extra hot please! I hope the team at the pub who looked after us so well every week are all doing ok.

Post Moti-running-club session at the pub!

Along with a great bunch of people I also help organise CDF Runners, a run club based in town, and a regular series of runs called The Big Social Run Cardiff. All of this stuff is based around spending time with people. Great people.

CDF Runners pre lockdown

We run, we have a laugh, we chat, we eat cake and we support each other on our personal running journeys. This crisis has knocked most of that on the head, but not all of it…

Leading a club, helping organise events, and supporting club members – it gives me a sense of worth and value in life, it’s something I personally care about, outside of my day to day job. And running with other people is really central to that.

We are lucky that we are still able to run solo and get our endorphin fix – it’s more important now than ever. Friends in Spain have only just been able to exercise outside after 50 days of proper lockdown.

Like most of the many great running clubs in Cardiff and further afield we haven’t let lockdown curtail our sense of community.
We have weekly Zoom calls, quizzes, a virtual relay and other fun running activities, and we share pictures of our runs to encourage and support each other. Club committees are doing a lot of work in the background to keep supporting their members through this really difficult time.

Club Zoom get-together

Running is really important for good mental health and a campaign that really highlights this is Miles for Mind.

Runners dedicate the miles they run or walk during May to the campaign and raise money for Mind, which does such amazing good work around supporting people and their mental health. It’s an incentive for the runners and helps with that feeling of being part of a team and a community. I’ve signed up again this year and love doing it with team mates.

All of this virtual socialising is particularly important for me because I live on my own – it’s just me and Lola, my amazing dog. I’ll be honest – I LOVE living on my own, but that’s based largely around being able to go out and see friends whenever I want to, and now I can’t. So those calls and team activities mean a lot to me.

Dave and Lola the dog

I’m grateful for still being employed and I work from home. I work for the University of South Wales as an Equality and Diversity Adviser, and we’re still extremely busy. We’re currently working on marking IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia & Transphobia) (17 May) and Refugee week (15-21 June).

Equality matters just as much during a crisis, if not more so. We’ve seen incidents of domestic violence rise significantly during lockdown, and we can see from many reports that the virus affects marginalised communities significantly.

People can feel even more isolated if they don’t feel they have their usual supportive communities and friends because of lockdown, and many people are forced to cohabit with unsupportive housemates or family. Everyone finds this situation difficult, but for some this is even more profound. In amongst all this there is incredible community spirit, most evident in the many local COVID-19 support networks that have sprung up.

I love seeing the regular updates from my friend Moseem, who helps organise the Cardiff Muslim Volunteers group, offering practical support and supplies to anyone in the community – the elderly, low income families, and those isolating. He’s going out of his way to help others and does it with a smile on his face the whole time. He is one of many.

For me personally, I’m coping well – I think! I knew early on that I might start over worrying about things.

I used to be someone that was totally news and media obsessed. Now, I don’t listen to the news throughout the day, I have removed news apps from my phone, I have limited social media, and I only catching up on events first thing before work – online, and from a reputable source.

I find this way that I can digest the news throughout the day in time to relax in my spare time rather than be anxious and find my sleep affected.

I’m lucky enough to enjoy running on my own. My training has actually upped a level since lockdown and I’ve also got myself a turbo trainer for indoor cycling so I’m doing something six days a week now. I like nothing more than running trails and it is amazing how many there are close to us in Cardiff. It’s easy to find quiet places if you try – sometimes the concrete jungle is the way to go because people aren’t over-crowding those areas!

There’s a lot of social media about inconsiderate runners and cyclists, but we could really do without this divisive talk. What we do have is considerate and inconsiderate people, whether they are cyclists, runners, or walkers.

In this time of limited social contact it lifts my spirits when someone steps aside and waves you through or when they thank you for doing the same for them. Little things. A thumbs up from another runner or walker. A friendly smile. Be nice to people. Be the person you want others to be.

I think it’s going to be a long time before we get anywhere near back to normal, and that does seem a daunting thought.

But it’s important to take it a week at a time, a month at a time. I would rather return to normality when it’s safe than too soon so I do have worries about the forthcoming relaxation of measures. Already, today being 7th May, the roads are far busier, but I’m not sure why.

My thoughts really do go out to those who are going through extreme hardship through this, and for those who have lost people. I just hope that the displays of community spirit, solidarity, and appreciation of local business and the actual important people that keep the country going stay after lockdown and don’t just dissipate

Likewise, we are seeing many other European cities rethink their infrastructure to make them centre around people, and not cars, and wouldn’t it be fantastic if Cardiff could lead the way on this in the UK?

Dave Sinclair is originally a Newportonian, living in Cardiff now for about eight years. He works at University of South Wales as an Equality adviser and lives with his dog Lola. He leads Moti’s Run Club in Roath and is one of the founding members of The Big Social Run Cardiff. He organised the first LGBT Pride Cymru run in 2019 and was Welsh Athletics / Run Wales Group Leader of the Year 2019. 

Follow Dave on Twitter @cardiff_dave or Instagram @cardiff_dave.


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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: L

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

If I am feeling motivated, I take advantage of it. If I am feeling down, I try to be kind to myself. I am not a super mum. I’m just a mum getting through this one day at a time.

Lockdown, or what ever you want to call it, started well. The few weeks at home before the Easter holiday were full of activity for home school, getting used to working at home and enjoying the lovely weather. We cleared our jungle of a garden and made a den, got used to being together and enjoyed it. We decided to have a break from homeschooling for the whole two weeks of the Easter holidays, and since then most of our routine has gone out of the window.

Our family is myself, my husband and our two kids ages 10 and 6. Both of us parents suffer from depression and anxiety and take daily medications. Both of our children have support in school for emotional and anger issues. So as you can imagine, we’ve had good days and bad days. The kids play with each other, and fight about as much. We lie in until late, really late some days, try to work and try to stay active.

We go out for our daily exercise maybe every two to three days. We have adopted Chapter Arts Centre carpark as our personal skate park, so the kids zoom around doing laps and learning new ‘tricks’ while us parents walk laps and chat about how our mental health is and what we’re having for tea.

Some days I’ll do some work (I’ve set my hours between 11am and 3pm) and feel like I’ve been productive, supported my team and produced something useful. Other days I’ll feel massive guilt for doing nothing, for getting distracted by funny videos on Facebook or lovely houses on Instagram.

Some days I don’t worry about not doing much homeschooling, letting the kids play Animal Crossing on the Switch and watch YouTube videos. Some days I’m in tears, worrying about how far behind they are, how little writing they’re doing, how they’re missing out on doing cool stuff like other kids are.

We’re doing our best. As everyone is. But sometimes our best just doesn’t feel good enough.

I thought I’d be cleaning and sorting and decorating, I thought I’d be doing daily workouts and doing science experiments with the kids. But I’m not. I’m giving them extra hugs and kisses. Allowing them to use their imagination to play their own games. Allowing them to sleep as long as they want and need. Talking to them. Making sure they are ok. Asking if they miss school, and honestly, they don’t. Apart from seeing other people, they are very happy and settled at home.

Not everyone is able to keep to a schedule and do something everyday that might be seen as worthy or productive or creative. But we can do what we need to cope, to keep our children comfortable and to allow our mental health not to rule over everyday.

I am not sure what my kids will remember of this time at home, but I hope they will look back on it and see that they were loved, warm, fed, enjoyed playing games and watching cool TV and films, relaxing and just being themselves. And that’s all I want for them right now.

If you need advice on managing your mental health, Cardiff Mind also have some resources you can access immediately, including online guides and counselling services.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Lauren Mahoney

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

In the weeks leading up to lockdown I watched, day by day, shops shorten opening hours, coffee shops hand out free coffees to NHS workers, and panic buyers strip the shelves of toilet paper.

The world was about to fall into some coronavirus apocalyptic rave, while I observed from the sidelines. Shops starting closing more frequently, some held on, knowing, once this was all over, they would never open the doors again.

Before that fateful Monday evening, I was a customer service something and nothing. I worked in the centre of town. The days passed in a routine; blurred and samey. Wednesday was Monday and Friday was Tuesday. Now I am a cook by morning and writer by afternoon. Each day is a new project, a new lease of creativity. There is no drama, no office politics. I can just be.

With all the panic that ensued in the first weeks of lockdown, I began focusing on shopping locally as much as I could. I saw a wonderful camaraderie online too, with people buying from bakeries and fishmongers. Suddenly I started to notice things that had always been there. I started to notice Cardiff again.

Maybe everything seemed brighter from the blazing sun and the lack of people and cars, but suddenly the city seemed more alive to me than it had for months. Having just emerged from winter hibernation, I was ready to shed my winter bacon and tackle spring with all the gusto of a Joe Wicks workout.

The empty city centre streets had more promise; spring is still here, even if the people aren’t.

Have I used this time to become the best version of myself I can be? Have you? Don’t worry, nobody is judging you. There is no FOMO any more, no crap nights out in Popworld. Just do what you want while you can (within the limitations, of course!) That blurred samey routine life will be back before we all know it. You probably won’t ever get around to litter-picking like you’ve been meaning to, so don’t beat yourself up about it.

The world will go back to normal at some point, perhaps that’s a normality many are craving? Maybe, by then, I will have shed my winter bacon, but I can’t stop baking chocolate pies right now. I enjoy how quiet Roath Park is and how everyone and their dog form the longest queue ever, outside Tesco on Albany Road every day.

Mostly, I miss the pub and I miss my friends. I miss a Slim’s Salad and a large full-fat iced Coke.

I probably won’t be the better version of myself I think I am right now. I like the right now, the stillness, the quiet and the chocolate pies.

None of us know what is around the corner – it could be me litter picking – until then, bake the cakes or don’t bake the cakes. Binge-watch a TV show, read all the books, and try not to litter.

We still have a planet to run.

Follow Lauren online at her blog My Edible Adventure, on Twitter @myedibleadv and Instagram @myedibleadventure_

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Michelle Townsend

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Michelle Townsend. She took her prematurely-born daughter home from hospital, just days before the lockdown. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown. 

Ten days before the lockdown was announced our baby girl finally came home from hospital, she had been there for 131 days.

In October last year at 26 weeks pregnant I began to feel unwell and was diagnosed with severe pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome; the only option to save me and our baby was to deliver her early. I had arrived at hospital at 11am and by 3.35pm our baby was born; she weighed 1lb 10oz.

I was too unwell to see her at first so my husband had to go alone returning to my room with pictures taken through plastic of the smallest and most perfect thing I’d ever seen.

At first we counted the hours and then the days, slowly learning things we never imagined we’d need to know about neonatal medicine and premature babies. Then every day for over four months we went to the hospital, sat with her, held her, learned to feed and care for her, all the time navigating wires and tubes and trying to create some sense of a new normal from the situation we found ourselves in.

Our entire focus was her and getting her home. Finally after many setbacks and a lot of tears that day came in early March; we were over the moon.

Premature babies often have respiratory problems as a result of being born before their lungs have a chance to develop fully. In our case the delivery was such an emergency that there wasn’t time for the full course of steroids usually given to mothers who deliver early to help the baby’s lungs to grow. Breathing was always an issue for our little one, we were delighted and surprised that she made it home without on-going oxygen support but she does have chronic lung disease and a heart problem that may need further treatment. As a result she is a vulnerable little baby and even before Covid-19 took such a hold on us all we were being advised to introduce her to family and friends slowly and be very aware of infections and germs. It seems we all live in that world now.

So we are spending the lockdown with our baby, getting to know her, learning how to grow her, and settling into life as a family of three (plus the cat). She is home and we could not be more grateful, but after such a tough start in her life this is another challenging period for us.

We are isolating as much as possible, if we get sick then so will she so we are taking every precaution we can while trying to look after our own well-being. Friends are shopping for us and collecting prescriptions (premature babies come home on a lot of medication, I have a small pharmacy in my kitchen) and we are very careful about where and when we go outside. But we are going out for walks with her and we have a renewed appreciation for Cardiff’s beautiful open spaces, I feel like I see them differently now like coming at something from a different angle and not just because I’m pushing a pram. I find striking the balance between keeping her safe and making sure she, and we, get to go outside very tough. I worry about taking her out and I worry when we go out alone to exercise that we may be putting her at risk but I also worry about not taking her out enough, I believe she needs the fresh air and open spaces and I know we certainly do.

We miss our family terribly and feel so sad for our baby’s grandmothers who are desperate to be with her. A night of babysitting wouldn’t go a miss either. Fortunately they both came to see her and managed a cuddle before the lockdown was announced but since then it has been video calls only. A family of small faces on a screen and an even longer wait for her aunties and uncles to hold her. She is six months old now and has only been held by Mummy, Daddy, Granny, Nanna and the incredible nurses and doctors who cared for her. I have a lot of anxiety – standard new parent stuff I’m assured but also the worry of vulnerable baby and concerns about her development in this period. I reassure myself that she won’t remember it and that for everything she is missing she is gaining a lot of time with Mummy and Daddy and our undivided attention.

We are fortunate to both be off work at the moment thanks to shared parental leave, the first half of my maternity leave was spent at the hospital and now the second half is being spent in lockdown. The memories we make from this period are not the ones I might have imagined for us but we will treasure them nonetheless. Her first smile and laugh, taking her into our tiny garden, attempting to bath her while our crazy cat tries to join in, our new routines, our new baby language, our new outlook on life, our new life.

Sometimes it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’m so excited for people to be able to meet her and to take her out and about but I know it may be quite some time yet and that feels frustrating and sad. But then I remember those 131 days in the NICU, the hardest days of my life but also the most humbling. There are babies in there now whose parents can only visit one at a time or in some cases can’t see them at all. There are nurses and doctors who aren’t seeing their own loved ones so they can look after ours. There are families who don’t get to bring their babies home at all and have to say the saddest of goodbyes. The resilience, compassion, kindness and strength I saw during that time gives me hope. Those 131 days were relentless and bleak but also sometimes full of unexpected joy and laughter, they were dark and tough but also taught me so much. These days can and will do the same for many of us I’m sure. And now, now we’re home they feel almost like a dream, like a short albeit hugely significant chapter in a really long and hopefully exciting story. Like those 131 days these lockdown days will eventually pass, so despite my frustrations and anxieties and sadness I look at my little baby smiling and frantically kicking her legs on the carpet below and I know it’ll all be alright.

Follow Michelle on Twitter @micheymathers

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anonymous #2

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

It’s a cliché, but we sleepwalked into this. In the first half of March, I did lots of ‘normal’ things: a weekend away, a night out, visits to the gym, work as usual. All these things now seem bonkers.

And then everything happened so quickly: on the evening of Monday 16 March, the head of the company for which I work emailed us all to insist that everyone who could, should work from home from the following day. My office mates and I went in the following day to collect what we needed (I am not ashamed to say that I stocked up on wine on the way) and now we’ve been working from home full-time since 18 March.

Working from home  is something I have never done before, by choice. I live alone; I get plenty of quiet time so actively enjoy going into work and the joys of office banter.

Victoria Park, by We Are Cardiff

I live in Canton, very close to Victoria Park. I am lucky enough to have my own house with a small garden out the back. All those weekends in the last few years that I have spent up a ladder painting ceilings and walls felt worth it at the time, but my goodness am I reaping the rewards of my toils now! I absolutely love my house. My dining room has become my workspace, complete with the pot plants from the office (getting them home was no mean feat). So no desk sharing or video meetings in the bedroom for me.


The first couple of weeks of WFH were hard: I got distracted and felt that I was getting little done. But I have developed a nice routine that I quite enjoy: exercise (often a jog around Vic Park), shower, breakfast, check emails, daily team video call with colleagues, then normal working hours. Without my commute home, often up to an hour on a smelly bus (yep, it can take that long to get home from town at 5.30pm on a weekday), the evenings do seem long: I am ‘home’ at least an hour and a half earlier than I generally used to be.

Living alone for a long time, I have perfected the art of pottering and entertaining myself, so the long evenings have been okay. But living alone during lockdown is…. pretty tough.

I am in good health and my income has not been affected (although I work in a sector that will be hit very hard by the effects of the pandemic, so I am not counting my chickens). I am grateful that my family and friends are safe and well and I feel for the people living alone in poor health, with children or a sick or frail relative, or living with an abusive partner. I’m in a position to be able to donate to charities and have given to Age UK, Refuge and Foodbank in recent weeks and urge you to do the same if you are able.

But being a single thirty-something woman living in a small city is tough at the best of times so lockdown living and the likelihood of months or years of social distancing does offer some ‘interesting’ perspectives on my situation!

I now spend more time talking to friends and family, making use of all the wonderful free technologies we have available to us (and if you are listening in on my calls with my mum, Vladbot, you will be sorely disappointed. We will never reveal where we hid the diamonds). Whilst I would certainly not define myself as vulnerable or in need, I really appreciate the friends and colleagues who have acknowledged that I am alone and increased frequency of texts and calls (you know who you are!!).

My patio

It is pretty solitary living alone right now and, although I had already reconciled myself to the fact that meeting a suitable man belongs in the realms of unicorns and flying pigs, it is sobering to think that options for those of us alone are going to be pretty much zero for months, if not years, to come. A friend suggested that I try the dating apps again and join the trend for Zoom dating, but that doesn’t really enthuse me. In order to get a feel for someone, I need to talk to them in person. There is no substitute for face to face contact.

I haven’t had any physical contact with another person since, I think, receiving a hug from a friend’s child on 14 March. That is a long time. It’s scientifically recognised that humans suffer for lack of contact with others (look up ‘skin hunger’). I’m fine for now, but the uncertainty of not knowing when I might next get a hug is not great.

My advice for anyone reading this who has a friend, colleague or family member who lives alone, even if in good health and no financial concerns, is to show you are aware that they are alone and ask them directly how it is. You can’t change their situation but showing you care means an awful lot.

What have I learned from this experience? There are too many things to list, but they include:

  • the real value of small pleasures (repotting a house plant, drinking a coffee sat in the sun on my little patio)
  • that working from home, for my kind of role at least, can be done without too many difficulties or video call gaffs. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be
  • judging by how often I have to dust and vacuum, that I shed approximately ten thousand hairs and two kilos of skin a day
  • huevos rotos (my bastardised version of) is one of the best things ever if you fancy some comfort eating: chips or fried potatoes topped with fried onion, peppers, chorizo or serrano ham, and egg. Send our Spanish friends mad and top it with a bit of grated cheddar (btw, I love Spain, having lived there twice, and can’t wait to go out there again…).

When not shedding hairs or cooking/eating/drinking wine, I have inevitably spent a lot of time outside working hours reading and watching TV. I so enjoyed ‘Falling for a Killer: Ted Bundy’ on Prime that I am now listening to true crime podcasts. I registered to be a volunteer with Cardiff Council but, hearteningly, so many people have signed up that we may not all be needed. I’ve been trying to do what I can in other ways: staying in (of course), shopping for a friend isolating at home when her kids had bad coughs, and clapping one Thursday evening. On the subject of which, I feel the need to say (and sorry not sorry for making this political) that clapping should distract no one from the fact that THE NHS IS NOT A CHARITY. Nope. Key services, in the NHS and beyond, need proper investment by government, long-term. Foodbanks and charities cannot and should not have to fill the voids.

Rant over!

So, what do I miss apart from the office banter? Tragic as this may be, I miss the gym. I have been doing the best I can at home with some small dumbells and a couple of resistance bands.

I have been very disciplined in doing 30-60 minutes of exercise pretty much every day. I miss it the days I don’t do it. A colleague made a comment that I was being a bit of a goody two shoes in doing this and putting everyone else to shame. But, from my point of view, he’s cuddled up at home with his cherished spouse and I am, well, not. We all have our cross to bear and we all have our own ways of managing. I also miss going out with friends, enjoying the lovely restaurants and bars that our home city has to offer. I really hope that as many as possible can survive this. Most of all, and like lots of people, I think I miss the ability to make plans, even if just a spontaneous trip over to a friend’s for coffee.

Anyway, I’m not putting pressure on myself to achieve a load of lockdown achievements. We all need to be kind to ourselves and others. It’s a sunny Saturday morning, so I am going to go and read my book in the sunshine for a while. Looks after yourselves lovely people of Cardiff!

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Andrew Lloyd

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from journalist and film maker Andrew Lloyd. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown!

The Hayes, Cardiff – @AndrewDidATweet

I moved to Cardiff in 2013 to start my undergraduate degree at the University of South Wales. I was studying English but I was equally fascinated with filmmaking, so during the summer of 2014 I worked a night shift in Bristol and saved up for a digital camera. When I returned to Cardiff for my second year, I began to record almost everything.

As a result, I have footage of Cardiff from almost every angle: from skyline timelapses to meandering shots of the backstreets and alleyways. I’ve filmed Cardiff in the summer and Cardiff in the snow. Cardiff on quiet Sundays and Cardiff on manic match days. I’ve documented it all.

I work on specific projects throughout the year, uploading to my YouTube channel Andrew Made A Film. Filming has become a bit of an instinct; if I see something interesting or different I’ll get my camera out – a bit of an endeavour these days because everything about Cardiff is different.

I currently live in Splott and avoid the city centre during the lockdown, but sometimes it’s necessary to head into town if my local shop is understocked and I need essentials. I don’t take my digital camera with me, but I’ve been filming on my phone as I make my way through the usual sights. I don’t linger for long and I abide by the rules of social distancing, I just keep my phone camera rolling as I move through the city.

Cardiff Story Museum, Cardiff – @AndrewDidATweet

On some streets it feels like a perpetual Sunday morning, with just a handful of scattered shoppers clinging to carrier bags; it’s the facemasks that let you know something’s not quite right, and the fact it’s 5pm on a Friday afternoon and the city should be thriving. Most of the streets are completely desolate.

I decided to edit the video I’d recorded and upload it to YouTube, but the footage of eerie and empty streets didn’t quite convey the change Cardiff had been through during lockdown. I realised it wasn’t enough to show how quiet the city was, it was necessary to show how busy it would normally have been, so I took some pre-lockdown footage I’d recorded of Cardiff and layered it over the new video.

The results were quite ghostly – former shoppers and past pedestrians weaving through the empty streets, with faint echoes of rugby chants and a busker’s amp fading into nothing; the life of a thriving city, temporarily hushed.

In many ways the video and the photos are bleak, highlighting what Cardiff (and the world) is currently going through, but I think there’s some optimism there as well.

The video may show Cardiff as it is, but it’s also a reminder of what Cardiff will hopefully become once again.

Principality Stadium, Cardiff – @AndrewDidATweet

Follow Andrew Lloyd on Twitter @AndrewDidATweet

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