Tag Archives: covid19 cardiff

Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Natalie Pilllinger

This instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series is from Natalie Pillinger. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown!

I’m writing this on 22 April, 2020. I’ve been working from home since the 18 March, 2020. It’s day 35 for me and my three sons in lockdown.

A little bit of background; I’m the lone parent of three sons; Taylor (19), Jack (17) and Cale (13), affectionately known as my teen aliens. I manage JETS, Reach, Community benefits and targeted recruitment and training.

Reflecting on the early days of lockdown – day seven was the hardest for me. The office was still open and people were still going about their daily lives, but I felt really isolated. I felt overwhelmed and worried. I was out of the loop, my routine had all but disappeared and the pandemic was triggering so many of my anxieties.

What would happen to my children if I was taken ill? What would I do if they are taken ill and I couldn’t see them? Social media was reporting terrible things, supermarkets were empty, people were panic buying, my stocks were running low and I couldn’t go out, my brother has a congenital heart defect, was he going to die? I wanted to run away and hide. To top it all off I had no alcohol, paracetamol or toilet roll.

Irrational thoughts and feelings started to gain control, negative thoughts and feelings. What was I going to do? How could I fix it?

When things at home are hard I anchor myself in work, and vice versa. But both of these places were becoming difficult to manage. Nothing felt safe or secure, and I wasn’t in control.

I went to bed on Tuesday 24 March after having had a very ‘ugly’ cry (you know the kind I mean) to my cousin on the phone. I did some breathing techniques, and revisited some of my coping strategies. I woke up on Wednesday 25 March and decided to make a plan of action. I booked three days of annual leave, and decided to get the house sorted.

I felt that that was one thing I could control, and it would have a positive effect on me and my boys. This was by far the best decision I made in the early lockdown.

I had already set up a self-isolation WhatsApp group with my friends and family (there’s now 20+ of us on there!) and they have been (and continue to be) my life-line.

We have pulled each other along, organised quizzes, we had a DJ set from one of the girls. We talk about everything and anything, nothing is held back. It’s raw, funny, brilliant and there’s always someone to talk to. We have laughed together, and we have cried together. I felt and still feel very lucky to have these wonderful women in my life. I’m talking to my friends and family more than ever and I love it.

My son Taylor (the oldest) is a keyworker, so is pretty much self-isolating when he’s home. He’s just started to study for a new career, and is very determined. He has dyslexia, so this is not easy for him. Having to drive him to work at the moment is actually useful, as it  means I can deliver essentials to my parents as well. I get to see them in person (from a safe distance!) at the end of their drive – this is good for us all. I feel for the people who can’t do this.

My other son Jack is studying mechanical engineering at college. He was worried about not passing because of the pandemic, but he’s  now studying and completing assignments to ensure he stays on track, which is amazing! He’s also dismantled my rotten shed and chopped it into firewood and is helping me out more than ever before around the house. I feel that he’s adapting really well. We now have a lovely back garden to sit in and enjoy. It’s a lovely sun trap, which was previously taken up by something ugly. It’s really lovely to lay back in the sunshine.

My youngest son Cale struggled and needed us to set him a new routine at home. He now has a plan, for meals, exercising, school work, and free time. He is cooking – even making bread from scratch! He pretty much follows any recipe I put in front of him – he wants to be a chef (has since he was about six) so he’s able to have the time to learn and practice these skills. We are enjoying talking to each other and learning new things together, and having a safe fire pit and chopping wood in the garden helps. He’s missing rugby training and his friends. He has control over his new routine, in terms of timings, he needs the flexibility too. I bought him a basketball net and he walks the dog everyday. We’re so lucky to have great countryside right by where we live.

We are sitting down together to eat meals now. I didn’t realise I was missing it until we started doing it again.

I now feel like we’ve got the hang of the lockdown. We have created lists of projects and tasks to complete around the home; for all of us to do when we need to occupy our time and distract ourselves.

I plan our meals and snacks, because the food bill has skyrocketed. I’ve found local suppliers for deliveries; milk and eggs, butchers, fruit and veg. How on earth I would afford wine to get me through was one concern, although it didn’t take too long to sort that out!

In terms of work, it’s been tough. My team were feeling a little frustrated, as things were changing quickly, there was so many communications coming from lots of different angles; emails, chats and phone calls. I listened to the team, we problem-solved, and we came up with a plan of action to continue delivering the support projects offer to tenants and the wider community.

We had clarification from our funders that funding would continue, which was brilliant and alleviated some concerns about jobs being secure. We talked about fun things to do and had after work drinks together wearing improvised masks.

I speak to everyone from work daily – face to face, over the phone, on WhatsApp. It’s not always work related, sometimes just to check in on people. Some are coping, some aren’t, but that’s OK – we are all all different and have different pressures. We’re united and we are supporting each other.

Working from home has meant we connect more online. We are also able to focus and communicate better away from the office distractions and interruptions. It’s less formal. I like it, but I really miss their faces and the chats we have in person!

I don’t miss sitting next to the photocopier, but I do miss my interactions with others in the office, we all do in some way or another.

Thinking about the future, I’m reflecting and considering it. What do I want to do? What can I do to make it happen? How will our ‘new normal’ look for everyone? What will my personal ‘new norm’ look like?

One thing is for sure, now is the time to make some decisions and plans personally, and professionally.

So, on day 35 I’m sat here having drunk far too much cider last night; I feel settled, I’m happy and I’m safe and I’m loved. I have a lovely warm cup of tea, I have the music on, my boys are around making noise, the back door is open, the breeze is lovely and the sunshine is beautiful too.

I’m feel optimistic, I am happy in my own skin, more than ever before and I know what works for me won’t work for everyone else.

At the end of the day I can only control my reactions, my life, I can’t ‘get’ others to do things the same way, but I can share, open up and empathise.

We all have things in common, we are, after all human beings, we are all in this together; we all have a chance to reshape, reflect, pause, consider, and create our own unique ‘new norm’.

From me to you

Nat
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Natalie Pillinger is originally from Ely, but now lives in Talbot Green and works for a social housing provider.  She originally wrote this article to share in work, and we’re grateful that she decided to share it with us. Follow Nat on Twitter @NpPillinger.

Want to write for Letters from Cardiff in lockdown? Find out how here…

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Neil Cocker

There’s a beautiful synchronicity at work in the universe sometimes, as evidenced by this – our first ever instalment of the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series, written by the wonderful Neil Cocker who also wrote the first ever story that we EVER published here on We Are Cardiff, nearly ten years ago. Neil has spent a lot of the time since then travelling around and living in other countries, but has ended up back here in the lockdown. All roads lead back to Cardiff! Big love to Neil and thanks for this – the first post in our new series, examining how you’re all managing through the lockdown. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

Castle Street Cardiff, 6pm, 25 March 2020 – photo by Neil Cocker

At the beginning of 2016 I left Cardiff, “temporarily” moving to London to work on a three month project. I didn’t know then that I wouldn’t return properly to my adopted home for nearly three years, and would live at the very far side of Europe for two of those. 

Just over a year on from my return, I find myself living right in the city centre. Not my first choice of location in a city that offers so many options to those looking for a suburb that feels like home. But a result of circumstance, luck, and others’ generosity for a wanderer who hasn’t quite settled again yet.

On returning, my relationship with the city changed, and continues to change, as I’m now able to compare it fairly with other European capitals. But also I’m now able to see the city centre “as it is”, without shoppers, tourists, coffee shop flâneurs. The lockdown has dissolved the flesh, tendons, arteries and organs. All that’s left are the bones; the empty streets, closed shops, and those that call the centre “home”. And among those bones two things have become very apparent to me.

Firstly, one of the things that struck me hardest when I returned in late 2018 was the extent to which homelessness was now an un-ignorable facet of the city centre. Now, with the streets so quiet, I can see the homeless community much more clearly. But I can also hear them.

When I first left Cardiff I felt that the situation, while bad, was one that was easy to pretend didn’t exist. You could see a huddled figure in a doorway, and hope your headphones were prominent enough that you could pretend not to hear any requests for money. Now, after what appears to be a sharp rise in homelessness, I’m not just ashamed of my own ignorance. I’m also ashamed at just how much, as a society, we were failing the people that needed our help the most. 

Living in the very heart of Wales’ capital is an odd experience during lockdown. It’s quiet for the first time in the 12 months I’ve been in this apartment. I don’t just mean that there are very few people in the streets during the daytime, but that I don’t get woken at 3am by drunkards shouting, as people stagger up The Hayes to their homes and hotels. I also don’t have to keep my windows closed on sunny days just to take the edge off the volume of a busker playing the same six songs on repeat. Now it’s very, very quiet – just me, my open windows and the sound of seagulls occasionally fighting over the dwindling scraps of food, or having noisy, hasty, bird sex.

Pretty much the only human voices I hear now are those of the homeless. Their voices are no longer drowned out by the hubbub of a thousand shoppers, so they’re louder and more evident. No longer the inconvenient, marginalised 0.1%, they make up a much bigger proportion of the people who are on the streets of the centre. They can’t be ignored, as they may be literally the only person on the street at the same time as you. Whether we will step up to help them in the long term after this pandemic ends remains to be seen.

The other noticeable thing about the city centre is that, despite the increasing number of  large blocks of flats, there appears to be little in the way of “community”. Or, not that I’m aware of, at least. In my apartment complex alone there are over 300 flats, although I suspect that occupancy is nowhere near 100%. Yet, I’ve never heard of one single communal activity. Apart from a few familiar faces with whom I’m on nodding terms, I have almost zero interactions in this building. And this saddens me.

Maybe it’s the lack of “need” around which a community can coalesce, because we all live in the very heart of the action. I remember back in my dim and distant past, that those who lived in the student halls at Senghennydd Court complained of a lack of community there. They lived a short stumble from both the city centre, and the Students Union, so they didn’t “need” to create a community. Those of us consigned to Llys Tal-y-bont (a much smaller development back in the mid nineties) had to make our own entertainment, as we’ve all heard our grandparents say. We had to form friendships and bonds late at night in others’ apartments, because we couldn’t just go to the Pen & Wig to meet friends. We were, we felt, many miles from the action. And that was what created a need.

As we’ve seen during this pandemic, many communities have stepped up to fill the gap of their regular interactions at their local Coffee No.1 by creating a Whatsapp group for their street, or putting flyers through doors offering food shopping for those in quarantine. Humans seem to create community when there isn’t one. But not here, it feels. Maybe because there’s no central point, value, or identity around which to gather. Especially when everything is closed, and all the suburb dwellers aren’t here, too. Regardless, if city centre living is to continue growing at the same pace, we need to find ways to provide people who live together to get to know each other in an easy, unforced way. How will we facilitate interactions outside of awkwardly acknowledging each other while waiting for the lifts? Architects and city planners call these “third spaces” or “bump spaces”. Spots where you can meet people outside of home or work and, hopefully perhaps, get to know people that you wouldn’t normally meet.

Where are the spaces in a city centre where we can dwell, outside of the cafes that we use to have preplanned meetings? More importantly, why aren’t the buildings in which us city centre dwellers better at making it easier for us to meet, and learn about, our neighbours? There’s no doubt that the lockdown has made us all consider our lives in different ways and examine the things that are important. I just hope that the cities that we build in the future reflect and embody these changing priorities. For those that sleep next door, and for those that sleep in doorways – community is everything.

Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilCocker. He’s recently set up his own newsletter about community, the science of happiness and wellbeing, a (secular) retreat he’s going to be running, and how we build a happier, better world. Sign up to Neil’s newsletter.

You can help Cardiff’s homeless and vulnerable by donating to some of the following organisations:

Want to write for Letters from Cardiff in lockdown? Find out how here…

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Looking after your mind in lockdown

(PLEASE NOTE! THIS PAGE WAS LAST EDITED 12 JUNE 2020. IT IS NO LONGER BEING ACTIVELY UPDATED).

Morning all.

Seems like a trite thing to say, but we genuinely mean this: we hope you’re keeping safe, keeping happy, healthy, and free from suffering.

Yes, we’ve been trying to do our loving kindness meditations to cope with it all. If you’re looking for resources to help manage anxiety or general feelings of being out of control, there are a number of free things you can access.

Thanks to the wonderful We Are Cardiff reader who works in addiction counselling – who wished to stay anonymous – who sent me all of this. You’re amazing and thanks for all the work you do!

Mental wellbeing while staying at home (NHS UK) (our favourite bit from here – “You may feel bored, frustrated or lonely. You may also be low, worried or anxious, or concerned about your finances, your health or those close to you. It’s important to remember that it is OK to feel this way and that everyone reacts differently. Remember, this situation is temporary and, for most of us, these feelings will pass. Staying at home may be difficult, but you are helping to protect yourself and others by doing it.”)

Looking after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak (The Mental Health Foundation). (Our favourite bit from here: “Try to avoid speculation and look up reputable sources on the outbreak. Rumour and speculation can fuel anxiety. Having access to good quality information about the virus can help you feel more in control. You can get up-to-date information and advice on the virus here: Gov.uk  |  Health Protection Scotland  |  Public Health Wales)

Self-Isolating For Coronavirus? Here’s How To Stay Mentally Well (Huffington Post, includes advice from a counsellor and a volunteer from Rethink Mental Illness). (Their list of advice is good, and covers the following topics: Get on top of things, Use social media for good, Read a book or three, Marie Kondo your room, Buy yourself something nice, Prioritise sleep (but not too much), Get creative, Dance, Focus on the future).

Local sources of support:

  • Cardiff Mind. They have a great resource for dealing with stress during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, which is a six-session, cognitive-behavioural therapy class used in community-settings by the NHS (UK) and HSE (Ireland) and across the world. Usually you would attend these sessions in person, but at the moment they’re being live-streamed twice a day. Visit the Stress Control website for more information and to sign up.
  • Cardiff and Vale Action for Mental Health. They have a list of different resources you can access, including support groups.
  • Stepiau. This is a service developed by the Primary Mental Health Support Service for Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, and provides accessible self help resources and links to local services as a first step to developing mental wellbeing. They also have options for people needing emergency assistance.

More options for help and support:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK – this FREE number will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email them: help@themix.org.uk
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.
  • Insight Timer. The world’s largest free library of meditations and music to help you with sleep, anxiety and stress. The app is FREE and available for download, and features a host of different meditations and courses to help you manage your mind. There is also a large section of audio for kids and young people.
  • Palouse Mindfulness. This online training course focuses on mindfulness-based stress reduction (MSBR) and is completely free. It’s  created by a fully certified MBSR instructor, based on the program founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Big love from all of us, especially from Zelda, our mental health officer, who offers socially distanced vibes.

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Support Cardiff’s NHS / frontline staff: donate your moneys!

(PLEASE NOTE! THIS PAGE WAS LAST EDITED 22 ARIL 2020. IT IS NO LONGER BEING ACTIVELY UPDATED).

There are a number of ways you can support Cardiff’s frontline staff. This page covers a number of FUNDRAISING INITIATIVES where you can donate money to help NHS staff,  plus a list of locations where you can directly donate supplies.

There’s also another We Are Cardiff page dedicated purely to ways you can buy meals to feed staff at NHS hospitals.

Please comment below if you have more links that need to be added. And if you can, donate generously. It’s appreciated.

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SUPPORT THE HEALTH BOARDS

Cardiff and Vale Health Board

This is the main charity that supports the departments and staff across the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. Their Spread the Love campaign has just had large donations from Aaron Ramsey! The money raised through this appeal will go directly to Cardiff & Vale Health Charity’s Make It Better Fund. The doctors and nurses – local professionals who understand what is most needed for our local communities, and who are aware of what the NHS is already doing – will decide how the money raised will be used to best benefit the most vulnerable.

As well as money, the appeal is looking for donations of food and other supplies to help support local NHS staff. The original post is on Facebook so apols if you don’t got that thing. Current drop off locations are Sainsburys in Thornhill and Boots in Llanishen. Alternatively donate cash directly to the CARDIFF AND VALE HEALTH CHARITY – SPREAD THE LOVE CAMPAIGN

DONATE TO THE CARDIFF AND VALE HEALTH CHARITY – SPREAD THE LOVE CAMPAIGN

Follow Cardiff and Vale Health Board Twitter / Cardiff and Vale Health Board Facebook

 

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board covers Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport, Torfaen and South Powys. As I know a lot of you will be living / working / have family in these places, or have family in these places, I’ve included info here on how you can support them.

Aneurin Bevan are looking for donations for NHS patients, as no  visitors are allowed on site anymore. The easiest way to do this is to purchase them directly from the Aneurin Bevan Health Board Amazon Wishlist.  Alternatively you can donate to the Anuerin Bevan Health Charity through GoFundMe.

The Aneurin Bevan GoFundMe page is collecting donations directly from the public to be placed into a specific fund for the COVID-19 / Coronavirus pandemic. From their page: “The Health Board is currently committing resources on a range of things in response to COVID-19 including PPE, ventilators, beds, drugs, consumables, additional staff, etc. all of which we hope to be funded by Welsh Government. We do not yet fully know how we will utilise your donations as none of us have been in this situation before. Staff well-being, essential supplies for patients and increasing volunteer activity are some of the things we are currently looking at.”

Follow Aneurin Bevan UHB Facebook | Aneurin Bevan UHB Twitter

 

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Don’t forget to stay inside, and wash your paws.

Peas. WAC x

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Cardiff volunteering and help resources – COVID-19 coronavirus

(PLEASE NOTE! THIS PAGE WAS LAST EDITED 12 JUNE 2020. IT IS NO LONGER BEING ACTIVELY UPDATED).

Hi all. Strange times. There’s a lot going on in Cardiff at the mo, so this post is intended to pull together all the main volunteering and help resources for:

  • people looking to help others;
  • people looking for help.

See also:

A number of these groups / resources are on different platforms (eg a lot of main discussion for the Mutual Aid groups is on Facebook groups, so while you may not agree with the Suckerberg, might be time to set up a temporary account just to engage and either volunteer or ask for help). Mutual Aid is exactly what it sounds like – people offering help and asking for help. Please obey rules of basic human decency in these groups (and just everywhere in life).

I’ll try and keep this post updated on a regular basis, so please add anything relevant in the comments and once I’ve checked it, it’ll be added in here.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO SEEK ACTUAL NEWS FROM REPUTABLE NEWS SOURCES – DO NOT BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU SEE ON SOCIAL MEDIA!!!! THERE IS A LIST OF TRUSTED SOURCES AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST. The Senedd Research blog has a comprehensive list of places to go for information. Like, you wouldn’t wash your hands with mud, so why fill your heads with it, eh?

CARDIFF COUNCIL RESOURCES

Volunteering opportunities through Cardiff Council’s Together For Cardiff scheme (currently looking for people to pick veg for foodboxes, deliver food parcels and volunteers to help with elderly people): Volunteer Cardiff website

MUTUAL AID GROUPS FOR CARDIFF

By neighbourhood:

More soon. Also here is a photo of We Are Cardiff emotional relief pooch after she’s disinfected the house, just in case you need some light relief at the mo.

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NEWS SOURCES:

That’s all for now. Peas. Take care of yourselves, and each other. WAC x

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