Tag Archives: Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

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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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Tamsin Stirling

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

To say that I have lost track of time is not quite true. I do find it difficult to remember what day it is a lot of the time, but I am also acutely aware of the passing of time.

Each day at two o’clock, the information on new cases and new deaths is published. Every afternoon I look at it – the researcher in me I guess – and try to process what it means. A flattening curve is good right? But how can it be considered ‘good’ when so many people have died, so many others are struggling for their lives and yet others are not safe at work because they do not have adequate PPE?

We are super lucky. We live in a house with a garden, are both able to work from home, still have money coming in, are able to pay bills, buy the food we need and able to go out once a day because neither of us have any ‘pre-existing conditions’ – how I hate that term.

So many people in the community have no escape; families in flats, people who can’t go out at all, people living in overcrowded situations, in shared accommodation, in violent and abusive relationships, people who have frontline jobs who have to go to work every day, people who have lost their jobs – the list goes on.

Yes COVID-19 is affecting everyone, but it is absolutely not affecting everyone in the same way or to the same extent. And this is very very obvious in our community.

For me, lockdown has been characterised by two big things. Firstly walks with my camera. I have been exploring my immediate neighbourhood in a very detailed way. Luckily for me, it includes the shoreline – Splott beach, the foreshore and wetlands. The tidal range is so high that there can be no shoreline at all or seemingly miles before the edge of the water. I have found new bits and rediscovered bits I already knew.

I have seen the steelworks from many different angles, seen species of bird that I had not seen before and searched for, and catalogued, different types of brick on Splott beach. I have also taken a lot of photographs which act as a kind of visual lockdown diary. Taking photos is a kind of meditation for me; it helps me to slow down and look really carefully. I have taken more photos since lockdown than in the last six months.

The second thing is connection. With family, community and friends. As my cousin in Canada said, we are being more intentional in making contact with people we care about. Checking in, sharing experiences, worries and humour – lots of humour. Like so many people, I have become familiar with Microsoft Teams, Zoom & WhatsApp video calls for work meetings, but also for social contact. And in the community, a mutual aid group has developed, now with over 1000 members on Facebook.

People sharing information, ideas, queries and things – plants, paint, furniture – all sorts of stuff. I have ‘met’ neighbours for the first time even though I’ve lived in the same house for over 20 years. On the street, more people say hello and ask ‘are you ok?’

On Twitter the other day, I was tagged by someone saying describe your COVID-19 journey in six words. My six words were walks, insomnia, worry, friends, community, WhatsApp.

Tamsin, Splott, 28 April 2020

Follow Tamsin on Twitter @TamsinStirling1

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Bernard James

This instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Bernard James, who runs the Atlantic Wharf Residents Association with his daughter, and is soon to turn 81 years old! We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown.

Docks Feeder canal – photo by Bernard James

As a widowed man of just two months short of 81, some people could assume that the lockdown would have little change on my life other than getting provisions.

I can honestly say – anyone that thinks this would be very wrong. As an active oldie the lockdown has had great affect. If you have spare time, and a lot of people have in the present situation, I will relate to you how it has changed my lifestyle.

Our libraries are closed and I am now denied my three or four books that I read every three weeks. I really miss my afternoon reading hour and again before going to sleep at night.

Just 12 months ago I was recovering from a heart bypass operation, part of the ongoing recovery programme has been regular exercise to raise my heart rate. Health Wales has an arrangement with “Better Gyms” that allows gym membership for a substantially reduced rate, I took advantage of that and attend Splott Hub where a Health Wales trainer runs a class. I enjoy that as one can exercise in a group, making it quite companionable.

The gym has now closed due to the situation, and that has made quite the impact on my lifestyle.

Photo by Bernard James

I feel quite guilty that my daughter is taking all the risks by doing the shopping. It is useless trying to get a slot on the supermarket home delivery service, one has to wait four weeks for a slot.

I feel lucky that my daughter has lived with me since my wife passed away, so I have her companionship. I have always liked to do the supermarket shopping, but my daughter has taken on the shopping role as she feels that it is too risky to have me mixing with so many people, some who take little or no notice of social distancing.

The council closure of the cemeteries has hit me hard as I am unable to visit my wife’s grave at Pant Maur. This was especially so when my daughter and I were unable to go on the anniversary of my wife’s passing.

The council decision to keep the allotments open has been good for me, even though they have restrictions on how long one can be there. The allotment means a lot to me for physical exercise, mental also, thinking of what and when to grow gets quite complicated sometimes.

My allotment in happier times! Photo by Bernard James

I have to travel three miles to the allotment as there are none in the Butetown, Cardiff Bay area.

The council actually took a proposed allotment site for the south side of Cardiff out of the Local Development Plan. When I complained to the previous Butetown Councillor about that he said that he had only had two people who wanted a plot, and one was me.

Can you believe that other than two of us, nobody else in the Butetown ward wanted an allotment plot. There are two year waiting lists in some other areas of Cardiff.

Part of my daily walk. Photo by Bernard James

As I have a dog and no back garden I take the dog out for three short walks each day. We don’t stay out long and ensure we keep our distance from other people.

The closure of restaurants and public houses affect me in lesser ways, even though I always enjoy a visit to them. I am worried about the long term affect of this lockdown on jobs, and on the city centre.

Many shops and entertainment venues may never open again, the city centre that was so vibrant could become a ghost town. I dread the thought of that.

It frightens me that people seem to like the thought of more people working from home and not commuting to the city centre. After all it is these commuters that give the city its life.

I think I have written enough now. Keep safe and look after yourselves.

A ghostly Lloyd George Avenue. Photo by Bernard James

Bernard James was originally born in Caerphilly. He worked and lived in the south of England until 2001 when he moved to Atlantic Wharf.  He worked as a guide on the Open Top bus, and now he and his daughter run the Atlantic Wharf Residents Association.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Rosie Dent

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Rosie Dent, who runs the @pontcanape food Instagram. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

I live in Pontcanna with my partner Dean and my best friend, Buddy the cat. I would definitely find this situation much harder without them (I promise that’ll be the only cheesy sentiment in this letter, probably). It’s impossible to get bored or lonely with Buddy around, he’s a cheeky little ball of energy and acts as an effective alarm clock too!

We actually began our new life indoors almost two weeks before most people, we were both unwell with COVID-19 symptoms so had to fully isolate for over a week because our fever didn’t shift. We had one day, well until 5pm, of “freedom” before that incredibly surreal moment the PM told us we must stay indoors. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.

If I’m honest, I’ve not found the lockdown as difficult as I would have imagined. I’m taking in the news, but am struggling to process the scale of what’s happening in Cardiff, Wales and the world right now – how can you? When it comes to my little bubble, I’m enjoying this pace of life one day at a time and I’m enjoying taking some time with less pressure to be busy. Although there have been moments! 

I feel extremely fortunate when it comes to work. I work in the public sector in a communications role. We help communities across Wales by supporting the third sector. It’s a challenging time, but there are some incredible things happening out there, people really are stepping up to support each other more than ever. It’s humbling.

I can easily work from home and am still able to work efficiently and effectively. As a team we work and live across Wales anyway, so we’re used to working remotely. We’ve found that we’re actually talking to each other more now, which is fantastic. I work from home regularly during normal times, but now I’ve levelled-up my set up on the kitchen table – right next to the fridge…perfect!

Just before lockdown we were renovating our garden. We still don’t have proper outdoor furniture and the raised beds are empty, but the fence and decking were thankfully finished. We’ve gone from a small patch of mud and weeds to a nice calming outdoor space to relax. It’s also helped to keep me busy, giving more space for pots to grow veggies! I’m in my second year growing and I’ve ended up with far too many jalapeoño and courgette plants – I would usually give them away, but it’s a little more difficult now. 

My vice during this time has been cooking.

I love to cook and have become a little obsessed with food over the past few years. I’ve been cooking relentlessly since lockdown began, thinking about starting to make the next meal as soon as I finish one! I’ve been ordering veg boxes from Kemi’s which has made cooking even more enjoyable. I order them for a Friday and it’s like a game of Ready Steady Cook deciding how to use all the goodies! 

I’m really pleased to see more people buying local and appreciating the amazing small businesses we have in Cardiff.

Personally alongside the Kemi’s boxes I’ve ordered some beautiful coffee from Hard Lines in Canton, loads of beer from Pipes, plant based pies from Saveg, picked up some bread from Alex Gooch and of course, stocked up on Oatly barista from Little Man Coffee (such a bargain for any fellow Oatly addicts out there).

The extra time has allowed me to get into making food that takes a little more patience and time than I tend to have. I’ve made a couple of batches of kimchi, made my first corn tortillas and I’ve started bigtime on my sourdough game. I’m hoping to keep the freshly baked sourdough breakfast on a Saturday morning routine going long after this ends. 

I’m feeling healthier than usual, I think it’s thanks to adding a lot more veg to my diet and more of what I’m eating is made from scratch. I’m also more aware of the waste produced in the kitchen and have upped my game when it comes to reducing waste by saving veg scraps to make stock and I’ve started regrowing veg from scratch, starting with lettuce, it’s honestly so easy.

I do miss eating out. I miss grabbing a Lazy Leek burger at Kings Road Yard, I miss “pizza club” – where we catch up with friends at a different Italian/pizza place, doing it on Skype isn’t quite the same.

I miss digging into small plates at places like Nook or Bar 44. This hiatus is temporary, but in the meantime I’ve been trying to recreate the restaurant experience at home. I’ve been doing some copycat meals from some well known chains starting with Wahaca, Wagamama and YO! Sushi. I’ve been sharing these on my Instagram @pontcanape in the hope of inspiring others to get creative in the kitchen. 

Instagram has helped me during this time. Generally too much time on social media isn’t a great thing for me, but at the moment feels like time well spent, engaging with other like minded people, getting ideas for things to do and make and passing on my own ideas and trying to inspire others. 

One thing that has really helped me during moments where I’m feeling restless or fed up was the quote “You’re not stuck at home, you’re safe at home.”. I usually dislike inspirational or motivational quotes, but this one has really stuck with me and gives me the reality check I sometimes need!

For anyone struggling, remember this is temporary. Do whatever you need to do. Cooking is helping me, but if you can’t be bothered, that’s fine, if you want to sit and do nothing, that’s fine, if you want to work out all day, that’s fine. Do what makes you happy, keeps you sane and most importantly, stay safe and healthy. One day at a time.

Rosie works in the public sector and runs a Cardiff plant-based food Instagram account – @pontcanape.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Steve Austins

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Steve Austins, co-founder and director of Bengo Media. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

We run Bengo Media from home anyway, so the work situation hasn’t changed a huge amount – although my use of video calls has skyrocketed. Thankfully the month has been busy and we’ve even picked up some new clients. The biggest challenge has been the need to record all our podcasts remotely and we’ve now created a series of new products to help clients record from home. All of this with a new baby in the house!

The hardest thing about the lockdown is not being near our mums. Both live on their own, outside of Cardiff. They do have friends looking after their shopping etc, but the thought of how lonely this must be for them is heartbreaking. And, of course, neither of them will be able to meet little Jessie for a while either.

We are doing regular video calls with the family on WhatsApp. Teaching our mums how was the second hardest thing about the lockdown BUT it was so worth the effort.

I miss the little things most. Falling short of my Parkrun PB by miles; catching up with friends and talking about nothing in particular; going to the corner shop to pick up something my waistline won’t thank me for. Oh, and I miss coffee shops.

However, we’re blessed to have such great neighbours. We’ve had shopping done for us, meals delivered to our door and a birthday cake baked for Marina. Ours is one of the smallest streets in Grangetown and this crisis has brought us closer together as a street. Long may that continue.

All in all, I’m a fairly happy homebird – learning how to be a family of three has been an amazing experience. And, when she’s old enough. I can’t wait to tell Jessie all about being a lockdown baby

Bengo Media give voice to your podcast vision. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveAustins76

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Ceri John Davies

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

Lockdown in CF24

Lockdown 2020 sounds like some Hollywood film that maybe went straight to video, but the reality is a gruelling real-life drama, where many are fighting the COVID-19 virus, both personally and professionally. The heroes of the film are our health workers and essential service providers.

In such trying times, when so many are battling so hard, it’s a hard issue to contemplate, but lockdown for me has so far been a positive experience. A change in lifestyle to a quieter and slower pace suits me far more than what went before. I have long been aware of my preferences and in recent years have been lucky enough to make lifestyle changes to create a better work life balance; lockdown has taken it to the next level.

I work at a desk with a laptop, and my employer has long been pushing a smarter ways of working approach. I have been a fully mobile worker from day one. Pre lockdown I took advantage of this mobility, working at home, cafes, co-working sites and at my parents’ home in Mid Wales. I must confess it has probably been easier for me to adapt to lockdown that many.

I am a long-time homeworker, one-time provider of co-working spaces and campaigner for this type of work (this is an article I wrote on the subject – Working for a better Future) – so was probably well ahead of the game. I was not only a believer but worked to convert others to the benefits of home working and remote working.

Modern tech if you have it, allows a completely different way of working. For me and my colleagues, Microsoft Teams was already embedded in every meeting pre lockdown and is widely used by colleagues across the board, including for regular social catch ups and a weekly quiz. If anything, I speak to some colleagues more now than when I was a few desks away.

Some irony here … as I am writing this article offline as currently the Wi-Fi has gone down, and we await with interest what our provider can do! It’s not the first time this lockdown and probably won’t be the last. The future, whatever it may be in Wales will need to be tech enabled and reliable, that super-fast broadband promise would be a welcome delivery.

So work is fine, when possible, the biggest change has been having my ten-year-old and seven-year-old at home at the same time. Home-schooling would be a doddle right? Not so much!

Our children go to an amazing Welsh language primary who provide daily work for both children. My eldest is probably pretty self-contained, she gets the work and she does it – maybe with a little help from mum and dad, and frankly my ability to show her long multiplication will be a highlight of the year! He has still got it!

My youngest – less so. Getting the motivation, be it for the Joe Wicks morning PE which we all started with (but only two in the house have really continued with) has been our biggest challenge. More often than I would have liked, the teaching of the seven-year-old has quickly descended into an “inset” day. With two parents working from home and often the need for one-to-one instruction, motivation, and supervision, it has been the most difficult aspect of our changed circumstances.

Their school has been great, but we have also added in a lot of teaching of our own. The children have been allowed to home cook a lot more (I’m getting a little fed up of cake, truth be told!). The paints have been out more regularly, and I like a home science experiment, so we have been doing and videoing quite a few of those. We are making a cloud in a jar this afternoon!

Tech has enabled us to do a lot of things that they wouldn’t have been able to do. Guides is online weekly, and Brownies starts this week. My admiration for the volunteers knows no bounds for the efforts they go to. We persevered with piano lessons for a few weeks via the online option, but frankly they weren’t working for anyone, teacher, child or parent so we have had to pull them, but we are continuing to pay our tutor and banking the lessons for when lockdown eases.

My children were pretty digital au fait before the lockdown but the 10-year-old has benefited most as she was gifted an old phone early on to stay in touch with her friends, which the seven-year-old still doesn’t have. She has taken to the tech a little too well and a little too fast for my liking! They both get to Facetime friends at playtime, but we have also tried to go back to the future and have written letters and cards to friends and family near and far.

Outside, school and work it’s been a welcome quieter time.

I defy anyone to say that less traffic, less noise, less pollution is not a welcome change to Cardiff.

Despite only one excursion a day, we have enjoyed these times out of the house. Often by bike we have been fortunate enough to explore the grand parks that surround CF24; Bute, Roath, Heath, and the secrets they have. We have ventured a little further afield within the guidelines and the peace on the roads makes our great city fabulous to cycle around, exploring places with a seven-year-old I wouldn’t normally try by road. We have gone as far as the Bay, Llanishen Park and Forest Farm for our daily exercise.

The weather has helped no end and we are fortunate to have a small garden that we have spent time in enjoying the weather. It’s never had so much care given to it, nor our garage which has been painted and cleaned out, jobs that have been on the ‘to do’ list for upwards of ten years.

We have even managed the odd camping trip to our small lawn, complete with enough bedding to make Sherpa Tensing weep. The veg patch is in and growing fast and we have also embraced the newly launched CF24 Sunflower Competition.

The weather and the garden mean that we have BBQ’d and eaten many meals outside. In fact, I’d say we are eating together more as a family or as a couple. Lunch with my wife is now a regular event, not once in a blue moon. Turns out she’s a lovely woman. Why do we eat together more now? You would think we would perhaps want more space from each other, but so far that’s not the case. It’s not just eating together, we always did play family games, but we are playing more, although Monopoly may well not survive lockdown, but a demand for a regular games night is on the cards.

We have missed family and friends, but we are regularly talking to all those we can phone, and my daughter with her new phone has mastered WhatsApp video – who knows how many times she calls her Mid Wales based nan and grandad. Several a day I am told! Through Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp it is easy to see what everyone else is doing and managing, and through Zoom I even stay in touch with the Thursday night football boys and an incredibly competitive weekly sports quiz.

In normal circumstances, I’m usually filling my downtime with planning what to do,  normally it’s away from home, exploring something, or somewhere, visiting friends and family. Being at home so much is unusual. However, with everything I have described, it has really clicked for us.

In all honesty I have not enjoyed Cardiff this much since my time in University all those years ago.

Lockdown for many is terrible, we can’t escape that, and I’m clearly glossing over the arguments and tantrums that we have endured in my house.

My thoughts are regularly drawn to those really impacted by this virus, those fighting it, those including many friends on the care frontline who we worry for daily.

It is without doubt a terrible time, but I do hope that some of the benefits that we have and see around us are not lost as the world tries to return to normal. That normal was not that great, and I want us to plan the normal we want to return to. I am sure we as a family will have some changes for the better, I just hope wider society will as well.

Follow Ceri on Twitter @ceritheviking.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Hannah Pudner

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Hannah who is Global Director of External Affairs for United Purpose. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

I live in Riverside.  On match days I can hear the roar of the crowd, can feel the carnival atmosphere running through the streets and almost taste the beer swilling.  There’s a castle on my door step, an ale house on every corner and on bin day it stinks. It’s the funnest, kindest place I’ve ever lived. I bloomin’ loves Cardiff.

The onslaught of the virus over February and March felt like a slow motion tsunami.  We could see it coming, we all saw the pictures from Italy, but the surreal-ness meant it was all deniable. I remember when the death toll went to double digits – to 22 – I felt sick.  What would the me back then think about a toll closer to 30,000.  I’m glad she had no idea what was to come.

I’ve been working from home for a while now. I’m on the exec team of United Purpose, an international development charity head quartered in Cardiff.

We work with very poor communities in Africa, Asia and South America – helping them get out of, and stay out of, poverty.  The type of poverty that is absolute.  Where people don’t have access to clean water so babies regularly die of dysentery; where people don’t have enough food so stunting is a common; where people don’t have their own home, or even their own country.

We support refugee camps, we build water wells and show communities how to maintain them. We teach women skills so they can earn their own livelihood and send their children to school. We help small holder farmers understand changing weather patterns so their crops can be more resilient to climate change.  We’ll also teach them business skills and co-operative models so they can get better prices at market. And now COVID-19 has hit, we’ve pivoted to an emergency response, providing communities with extra clean water, sharing hygiene messages and equipping rural healthcare centres with PPE.

I run our global external affairs work, and now I’m doing all this from my husband’s office, overlooking my neighbour’s delightful garden. And while I sit and stare out at the trees, admiring how fast the Dragon Heart hospital has been developed with the bed capacity of 2,000, it’s hard not to dwell on the challenges faced by the poorest communities. Malawi with a population of over 18 million is looking at how to cope with only 17 ventilators and 25 ICU beds for the entire population. It’s one of the poorest countries in the world – not everyone has access to clean water, most don’t have formal healthcare, a third of the population is stunted due to lack of calories in infancy, and one in ten has HIV/AIDS. This, coupled with the unpredictable nature of the virus, means the situation is grave.  It’s a similar pattern in other poor countries.

The need is great, the crisis is acute and there is so much to be done. It’s a worry in a time of worries.

I worry for my 550 colleagues across the world too.  The finest bunch of dedicated professionals I’ve ever met – they do the real hard work.  We gave the option of evacuation to those staff who ordinarily live in the UK.  They had to choose where to see through the pandemic – to risk staying where they were, or to risk the long journey home. Some stayed, some came home.  But the vast majority of our staff are from the countries they work in e.g. Gambians in The Gambia.  They have no choice to leave; they are home. And that home generally won’t be equipped to deal with this pandemic. A low point for me this month was updating our death in service policy to factor in a global health pandemic.

But there have been some lighter moments.  I have been working with a Nigerian super star, Sunny Neji to develop a song about hand washing and social distancing.  Songs via radio are by far the best way to reach rural, illiterate sub-Saharan communities.  It’s so catchy the children are singing it and their parents are taking on the serious message.  It’s gone viral in Nigeria and the piece of work has really made me smile.

But I have a confession. While the enormity of all this can weigh heavy, it simply does not stop me mourning my own life being put on hold. I have all the water and food I need, and I nice house with a lovely view from the office. And if I get seriously sick, which I probably won’t, there’s the Dragon Heart hospital. I’m so fortunate. And yet the self-pity waves over me. I’ve seen the absolute poverty with my own eyes, I know how lucky I am.

But all I want is to see my mum and Dad and have a pint of ale in Crafty Devil, Canton with my pals. Enjoy the summer festival of this amazing city has to offer and generally have a reason to brush my hair.

So I’ll stay in this little office, constantly reminding myself I’m not simply working from home, but working from home in a global pandemic; and it’s ok to want my life back.

Hannah is Global Director of External Affairs for United Purpose, a Cardiff based international development charity that works with three million of the world’s poorest people in Malawi, Mozambique, Ghana, The Gambia, Senegal, Nigeria, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Guinea, South Africa, India, Bangladesh and Brazil.   Hannah is from Neath and has lived in Cardiff for seven years. Follow her on Twitter @hannahpudner

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Anon

This instalment of Letters from Cardiff in lockdown is from a person who’s very special to us, and has chosen to share their lockdown experience. If their story hits home with you, there are people that can help.

Lockdown liberation – a complete contradiction in terms, right? No. Apparently not. At least not for me.

Nine years ago I got married. The usual fairytale stuff – or so I thought. Like so many relationships, the outer perception was far brighter than the inner reality. What appeared happy, loving and ’successful’ was unhealthy, coercive, and lonely. Really lonely.

I lived life on pins for 18 months, lying to those closest to me. If the truth be told, I was lying to myself too. The delusional “it will all be fine if I work hard enough to help him change“. The crippling “why was I too stupid not to have seen this earlier?”. The poisonous “it’s probably my fault anyway”.

But one day something happened. I don’t really know what exactly. I just broke. I broke and I left it all behind. I had £20 to my name, packed a rucksack I still had from school, and went home to my Mam and Dad. And then I cried. I cried for my 20s; I cried for the home I thought I’d created here in Cardiff; and I cried for the family I’d hoped he and I would create and raise together.

Seven years on, in these strange lockdown times, I’m still on my own. Turns out that the bit of me that deals with anything beyond platonic relationships has proved to be stubbornly unfixable. The thought of a relationship is petrifying – what if I pick another bad egg? What if, despite repeated attempts by friends, family and therapy to convince me otherwise, it turns out that he was right, and I was the disaster after all?

It’s paralysed any attempts to move on in THAT domain for years. Any glimmer of interest striking the fear of God into me, followed swiftly by a “well I’m not going to do anything about that because imagine the utter shame of showing an interest in someone only to find them avoiding you like the plague once they work it out”.

But then lockdown arrived. And everyone is quite literally avoiding each other like the plague. And there’s time to talk to people, to let things grow. To avoid the crippling horror that overcomes you when you imagine bumping into someone the day after you may have suggested the most tentative of interests in getting to know them a little better; or worse still, imagining having to explain the sorry story of a pretty abusive relationship in person at some point.

And guess what? Lockdown has been liberating. It’s freed me to show the most tentative of interests. To strike up a conversation I’ve been too petrified to even contemplate in Real Life, on The Outside. And I’ve felt excited at the prospect of WhatsApp pinging, in a way that I thought had died long ago when the apparently unfixable bit got broken.

So yes, lockdown is almost entirely grim. It’s succeeding in exposing all the gaps I’d tried to fill with other people and other things, and has made life resemble a bit of a leaky colander for the time being.

But leaky colanders let mucky water escape, and while I feel a bit ridiculous admitting that it’s taken a global pandemic for it to happen, it’s probably about time for the mucky water to be flushed out.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Lee Eynon

This instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series is from Lee Eynon. Lee runs Fuud blog – an “occasionally entertaining blog about stuffing your face in Cardiff. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown!

A few weeks ago, when all this started, I had the same conversation with several people. It was never said out loud, always confined to the shadows of the DMs and WhatsApp groups of my most trusted friends.

“I know this is terrible” it would begin, “but I’m, sort of… quite enjoying lockdown.”

There’d be a bone-chilling guilty silence as the other party began typing, then the response would come: “Er, yeah me too, actually.”

Before the pitchforks and flaming torches come out, let me back up a little bit. I fully acknowledge that I went into lockdown in a ridiculously privileged position compared to many people. My job can be done fairly easily from home (frankly the fact that I have a job and a home right now is privilege enough), I don’t have kids to educate or keep entertained, and big ‘Rona is yet to pay me or my family a visit.

But I can’t deny that in many respects, the restriction on movement has been good for me.

I’m exercising more, I’m sleeping better, and I get to hang out with my wonderful other half and our idiot cat every day.

I’ve started to actively enjoy the structure that work brings, and I feel like I’m doing better at my job than I have in months. I’m even ringing my parents more often.

And then there’s the cooking.

All this time to practice plus the challenge of coming up with a weekly meal plan based on whatever we can get our hands on has forced me to experiment and learn so much more.

It doesn’t always work out well; last week’s leek and potato gratin ended up as more of a soup with a roof, and it turns out you don’t see parsnip mash very often because the texture is a bit like custard with bits of string floating in it.

But for every misstep, there’s been a little victory; my Korean Fried Tofu game has come on leaps and bounds, as have my fish tacos. My huevos rancheros are up there with the best I’ve had, and I don’t want to get into a banana bread measuring contest here, but mine is absolutely on point right now.

This is not to say I’ve not had bad days. There have been more than a few sleepless nights worrying about my parents. Mornings stressing about having to go shopping, and whether I’ll be able to pick up what we need without being coughed on.

Overall though, I have to admit, with no small measure of guilt, that I’ve been kind of ok with lockdown. Or at least that’s what I thought until yesterday.

Our friends Phil and Andy were passing, so they decided to drop off a pot plant they’d been meaning to give us for ages. I wasn’t prepared for how I’d feel when I opened the door and saw them standing there, two-socially-distant-metres away in the middle of the street.

Like most people I’ve been keeping in touch with friends on Zoom – chatting a few times a week, doing pub quizzes etc – but actually seeing a mate at the door in person blew my mind.

We spoke for less than five minutes, but the physical rush of seeing familiar faces – other humans that didn’t have to be considered an obstacle, or a threat in some way – was just incredible.

After they’d left I was grinning so hard my cheeks hurt. I really, really want to feel that again. I hope we all can soon.

Follow Lee on the FuudBlog website, Twitter @FuudBlog, and on Instagram @fuudblog.

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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.

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Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Jane Cook

This instalment of Letters from Cardiff in lockdown comes from Jane Cook, a freelance PR practitioner who lives in Canton. She also writes the  sustainable food blog Hungry City Hippy and is one half of the duo who produce the Hank! Cardiff food podcast.  We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

When the full lockdown was announced, my first thought was ‘oh, shit.’

When the full lockdown was announced, my first thought was ‘oh, shit.’ That’s because around 50 per cent of my projected income as a freelancer was planned to come from working with local restaurants and food festivals this summer, and I knew that as they were pretty much closed down with immediate effect, those contracts would be the first to go. I was worried about whether I would still be able to earn enough to pay my mortgage, which isn’t small, as we only paid a five percent deposit towards our house in Canton which we bought four years ago.

As it turns out, so far things are going okay. Personally, my income has gone down by about a third, but my outgoings have also been slashed by not being able to go anywhere or do anything, so I’ll be okay. I’m using the extra free time to cook more, podcast, write my blog, and help out with some pro-bono work on some of the feed the NHS campaigns in the city. The government support for freelancers will also apply to me so I have that to fall back on if I need to. I feel incredibly sorry for freelancers who have been on their own for less than a year as they won’t qualify for support and have probably not had a chance to build up as wide of a network for potential work.

The way that restaurants have responded to the crisis in launching deliveries and takeaway offerings – quickly and with very little help – etc has been incredible to see. I just hope that the restaurants make it through to the other side. I am doing as much as I can to support them with orders and home deliveries during this difficult time.

Moving my work life into the home hasn’t been especially hard for me; I used to work from home when I first went freelance, and whilst I don’t like doing it all of the time, it’s fine really. My other half – who works for Cardiff Uni – works from the spare bedroom and I’m in the front room, so we have our own spaces. I’m also very used to having client meetings via video etc as it’s much more efficient than travelling to meetings all the time; I have clients based in Aberystwyth and Abergavenny and this was always the norm for us.

My home office!

Health-wise, both myself and my husband are low risk. We’re in our 30s, with no underlying health conditions, and pretty healthy, but we’re staying in to protect others. We’re friends with a few healthcare workers the same age who’ve had the virus – a GP who got it and was sick at home for a couple of weeks but has since recovered, and another friend who tested positive but had no symptoms. My grandad’s brother unfortunately died from it last week – at a care home in Sheffield – which is really sad; especially for my grandad as he can’t go to the funeral and has to deal with his grieving alone.

The thing I miss most about ‘normal life’ is other people. Being able to have friends over for a BBQ, being able to go out to eat / drink / dance is one of my favourite things, and whilst video calls can replace client meetings, they’re no substitute for catch-ups with more intimate acquaintances. I miss being up close with my friends and having conversations that flow more easily without WiFi drop-outs and frozen screens. I know my mum is finding it much harder than I am as she is furloughed, so doesn’t have the distraction of work in the week. I am glad I have something to occupy me and keep my brain busy.

I am learning to appreciate the benefit of regular exercise, and I never thought I would be a person who said that! I hate working out, have never been a gym bunny, but in February I started the ‘Couchto5k’ app. It’s a nine-week series of podcasts that builds you up to being able to run 5km in half an hour by coaching you through three runs a week. I have been able to stick to it (socially distancing of course) and I finished the program last week, with a 30-minute run around Victoria Park. I plan to keep up the habit of running three times a week for as long as I can.

For me, one of the most positive changes that I have seen so far in this crisis is the shift in people’s relationship to their local economy and to food.

Local veg box schemes are popping up all over and subscriptions are soaring, people are cooking from scratch more, and they are looking to their local food producers and retailers for help in feeding themselves, instead of relying on the big supermarkets for everything. This is good news for local jobs, local farmers – everyone. I hope that that those habits will continue for long after this is over.

The other thing that has fascinated me is the way that people have been looking to nature to cheer themselves up during lockdown – it shows that most of us still value that connection and are suddenly appreciating it anew.

Sadly, the reality is that collectively we have treated nature so poorly for so long in the name of economic growth. Now that growth has been stalled, people are realising that yes, things could be different, and in some ways better. I wrote a more detailed post about the lessons I hope we learn from all of this here: COVID-19 BRINGS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE INTO SHARP FOCUS.

Follow Jane: Hungry City Hippy website | Hungry City Hippy Twitter | Hungry City Hippy Facebook | Hungry City Hippy Instagram

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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.

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