I do not need to introduce this blog post really. 2020 has been the most dramatic year the world has seen in any of our lifetimes. We have lurched from one gripping news story to the next. Every single life has been affected in some way, some forever changed, some beginning to return to some semblance of normal. Whatever normal might be.
For the five of us living here it has been collectively and individually as massive a year as it has for everyone else. For Ady, who has worked throughout, his life has felt unchanged while all around him altered. For Scarlett life has felt mostly the same but with blockbuster movie worthy news stories spilling from the TV and radio to make sense of. For Davies it has been more about the lost opportunities and planned adventures that have not happened than anything which has happened. For Megan, spending most of the lockdown in America it has been both a different and a parallel experience to our own. For me it has had shades of change, shades of returning to a life I knew back on Rum, new frustrations and new opportunities.
We have decided to document our experiences – so far, with an appreciation that the changes and challenges are far from over, the new normal is far from set and everything could alter in the time it takes me to press publish on this post – in our usual collaborative post style of what has been bad, what has been good and what we have learned during these strangest of times.
The very obvious realisation of how little faith we should have in those who hold positions of power. Governments in the UK, US and worldwide have failed to do what their job is in running countries, keeping people safe and making the right decisions on our behalf. We did not lockdown soon enough, we are coming out of lockdown too early.
This will also count as a good in as much as it has been bought to people’s consciousness but it has been bad to realise how far we still need to come in civil rights and fighting racism.
The riots have been disturbing to watch on the news. I believe that if we work on the idea of an eye for an eye all that will happen is the world will go blind. Violence and fighting does not feel to me like the way to solve problems.
The amount of litter which is appearing now that visitors are returning to the Highlands is really sad. It is even sadder to notice how many face masks and disposable gloves are being added to the litter. It feels like we all pulled together during lockdown but we have not learned anything and as soon as life returns to something like normal we are back to our old ways.
It was so nice to see less traffic on the roads and in the skies but I feel like we are just catching up having delayed that impact because people are just going back to work in their petrol cars and booking flights to go on holiday, rather than looking at alternatives.
Communities pulled together during lockdown. Doing things like shopping for each other, checking on neighbours.
The Black Lives Matter issue is now one that can’t be ignored or swept under the carpet any more. People have to talk about it and confront it.
TV scheduling has been different to normal times with lots of repeats and lots of factual documentaries airing. This has been good for me because I love watching those sorts of things so I have had the opportunity to learn lots about various interesting things including historical documentaries, abandoned architecture, the world wars, conspiracy theories and some nature documentaries. I have also watched a lot of true crime documentaries and learned loads about how long cases can remain open and how slowly they can be solved.
I have learned lots about how people reacted differently to the pandemic / lockdown. I have seen people be really scared and fearful, some very upbeat and pragmatic and some utterly deny it and focus on conspiracy theories.
I did not fully understand how much of an issue racism still is. My eyes have been opened to that.
Summary: While our day to day lives didn’t change much as we are used to being cut off a bit and having a quiet life it was hard to not be in control of that or step out of it and have plans.
The fear of the unknown has been really hard. It’s been hard for me and my family and it was very hard for my clients and people I saw.
Having choice and control taken away was hard. Worrying about running out of supplies like loo roll or flour did make me feel panicky.
Wearing PPE for work. It is uncomfortable and makes it really difficult to communicate with my clients, particularly those who rely on lipreading due to hearing impairment or are confused and upset by the masks and visors.
The rhythm of days during early lockdown were something I will remember fondly. We used to have a Boris Biscuit while the daily press conferences were on and all watched Gareth Malone’s daily choir practise together.
People pulling together was heartening to witness. The local volunteer groups and other initiatives. The local ferry became free during lockdown as it was only being used by locals and key workers. Key workers and vulnerable people were really looked out for, people in the shops were sharing and being considerate.
The empty roads! Both for ease of driving but also observing wildlife starting to be more obvious on quieter roads.
I felt really fortunate to be living where we are during lockdown. We were close enough to shops to get what we needed but felt safe.
That in times of adversity people do generally behave well and it brings out the best in them.
Summary: It felt quite momentous and exciting to have lived through this era as a family unit watching it all unfold.
I was really disappointed at how poorly people responded to everything to do with the pandemic. Although I saw it coming seeing world leaders fail so badly was hard to witness. I am especially disappointed in how badly the US handled it. In America it feels as though everything has opened back up while here in the UK it still feels as though things are being taken slowly and carefully.
When Coronavirus first hit I had just started a new semester at school and it just ended. I had also just joined a new club at school and made new friends, I liked my new teachers and was hanging out with some interesting people. I did not manage to even get contact details for some of those new friends and I will not actually go back to that school so those potential connections feel lost for ever.
All of my life outside of my home and family was shut down completely. I would usually visit the library, athletics clubs, friends and all those things just stopped. All of my progress in things like studying and exercising was lost. Time spent with family felt more intense without any of the usual other pursuits.
During Coronavirus there was a lot of drama and diversity. It felt like you had to pick a side on some issues such as lockdown. I know of people who fell out and stopped talking and it felt uncomfortable to share your views on things in case you had an alternate view to them. It felt like walking on eggshells trying to decide what to share and say. Everyone was so passionate about their views it was impossible to be calm about things.
My summer plan to travel around the UK with Davies has not been able to happen and although I am actually here now there was so much uncertainty about it happening.
When the numbers went down for the virus I was so hopeful they would stay low but they rose again.
People are still not listening about the environmental issues even though it seemed that they might.
I really struggle with the uncertainty around everything. Not being able to predict what is going to happen and when is really hard. Not knowing what normal might be like is really hard and worrying.
I have gotten to see Davies and due to lockdown and the changes this year has brought I have ended up here for a longer visit. This means I am getting to actually properly get to know Davies without the pressure of a time limited visit or via online / text. It feels more authentic to be here together for a long period of time and to get to know each other really well.
It has been nice to pause and take stock and think about what I really want. I feel less pressure to be doing things and that when I do make a productive choice it is because I really wanted to do that thing. It feels a bit like I’ve had a second chance to be a child again with less responsibilities and more free time but with a bit of experience of already being an adult.
Hopefully people around the world may have learned from this time and make positive changes in their lives. I hope that people are better prepared for something big like this happening again. Although this has been a bad time it has maybe prepared us for the future a little.
It was really good to have school work move online. The pressure of the exams was taken away and I really shone during online work. I was able to contribute and often lead group discussions without the pressure of being in person and I found self directed learning really suited me. I got excellent feedback from my teachers about how well I was doing and that made me really proud.
The pause of the world gave the environment a short break.
Although it is tragic what is being highlighted I think it is really good that people are now more aware of Black Lives Matter issues. I had no idea of how bad things were and I have learned so much. I think it is good that people are more aware and are talking about it.
That I knew people in power were not necessarily going to get everything right but I was still shocked to witness how badly they did and how they continued to get away with it. Particularly in the US where Trump handled things so badly but his supporters still continue to sing his praises and support him.
Worldwide pandemics in modern society felt like something which should not actually happen. I feel like we have all learned that things like this can happen and could easily happen again and we don’t have the right tools to fix everything.
I have learned to trust reliable sources and consider where I get my news. Mainstream news, the general public and even our president were not taking CV19 seriously or giving it focus but there were online sources telling us to pay attention.
I have learned that when I used to wish for a long period of time at home with no distractions and that as an introvert to want to have time without people it is only ever nice for a time and that I need the balance of both busyness and down time to appreciate both.
I learned loads about civil rights and BLM. I learned about the movement, the need for the movement and the background. I was not aware of the level of the issues. I wish I had been more aware and I feel I have really learned a lot. There are a lot of movements which are talked about and I think this is one of the most important ones to come to light.
I learned about the people I know in real life and how their responses to the pandemic have shown their true colours.
Summary: This is the biggest event of my lifetime so far, affecting the whole world. I have learned so much from this time and it’s been fascinating to have lived though something this big.
A disruption of plans from me going to the US and then spending the summer travelling the UK. We also had various visits to and from family and friends planned which didn’t happen.
In the early days I was worried about family members catching coronavirus and then worried about Megan getting here at all. Then when Megan actually was going to come I was worried about the logistics and safety of her travelling here.
I feel like this period will be remembered forever and for all the downsides I am glad to have lived through it and experienced it all. It has been fascinating to watch the whole story unfold.
I was in the early stages of adult stuff like visits to the job centre, which I found stressful. It’s been nice to take a break. My end of module assessment for my studying was cancelled and an average score based on my assessments throughout the year dictated my final grade.
The highlighting of civil rights and Black Lives Matter coming to the fore and getting spotlit with attention.
Early in lockdown I bought an online piano tuition programme and have taught myself the basics.
I was aware that racism was still an issue but I had not fully appreciated the scale and prevalence of ingrained racism. Hearing the different stories and views that are now being openly talked about is very enlightening.
With so much of the world stopping certain things have been given a spotlight. This includes social issues including the environment, wildlife, consumerism. It also includes celebrities still finding a platform on the internet but without directors and producers to manage their representation and more eyes on them.
It’s been really interesting watching how people have reacted and responded to the various points of the last few months. Pretty much everyone has behaved as I would have expected, but it has still been interesting to watch it unfold.
Summary: I feel fortunate to have lived through what has been a fascinating period in history.
Collaborative good / learned from Scarlett, Megan and Davies – Animal Crossing. Which they tell me is an example of new ways of connecting with people without real life opportunities. They have connected with friends, made new potential connections and explained that a whole world of virtual interactions have been created including attending weddings, tours of aquariums and virtual protests. They have all taken up playing during lockdown and it’s a big part of their lives just now.
In the very early stages of the pandemic my fears were entirely around the powerlessness of the situation. I was worried about my family down in Sussex and unable to help in any way. What if they got ill? What if they died? What if I couldn’t get to them? What if I never saw them again?
I was worried about Megan in America, about friends scattered about the country and the world. I was worried about Ady out at work, about Davies and Scarlett if Ady caught the virus and bought it home to us. I was worried about our distance from the hospital. I was worried about me dying and what that would mean for the rest of them left behind. I suspect that is the same panic and fears which kept most people awake at night. My personal way of dealing with that was to rationalise as much as possible, put as many safety buffers in place in terms of vocalising (only to myself a lot of the time) my worse fears and then doing logical ‘and then what?’ type thinking through. This meant I tidied up a lot of our family admin, ensured everyone was informed about more things so if something happened to me it was not such a logistical nightmare. I ensured that if it was the last time I ever saw anyone I loved I had asked any questions, said anything I wanted and made sure they knew how important to me they were. None of these things negated the risks or the chances of bad things happening but it gave me back some feeling of control and power in the situation. But fear, panic and sense of powerlessness have all crept back in at various points during lockdown in greater degrees than I have previously ever experienced.
Which leads me to anger and frustration – the other emotions which have run high during this time. While I concede that the very fact I am writing this post acknowledges the unprecedented times we have lived through and are still living through we do have power systems, elected and well paid authority figures and a society which is actually set up to anticipate, mitigate and prepare for disasters, unexpected emergencies and crises. We had a heads up from China, a further example of how not to deal with Covid from nearer European countries and yet still we failed to make the right decisions at the right times. In the early days the general public were compliant, eager in fact desperate for guidance and reassurance from government. They failed us. So, so badly. The stand out moment for me of the whole period is the Dominic Cummings debacle, which as far as I am concerned remains entirely unresolved. At the time it has most mattered we have been let down. I am still coming to terms with that and working out what it means going forward.
As the others have mentioned there have been disrupted plans, cancelled and postponed events, periods of uncertainty about what may happen. I am fairly sanguine about that and I don’t massively struggle with unknowns and upset diaries. However I really, really missed people. I missed the people I love, my family, my friends I see regularly, my work colleagues, my swim buddies, I missed all the times we had been expecting to spend time with people. I missed chatting to the woman on the checkout in the supermarket, chance bumping into someone as you walk through the town, I missed the people who annoy me. I missed human contact and all it’s joyous, irritating, wonderful, dreadful, peopleness.
I loved watching people find their place. Watching the worriers calm down, the stressed out people stop. I loved watching people find the ways to help, to be their best. I loved the creativity – the hastily cobbled together cooking shows Jamie Oliver did using tins from the back of the cupboard while his wife filmed him on a phone and his kids barged in while they were recording. I loved the adverts on TV that never failed to make me cry for banks and building societies, supermarkets and TV stations. I loved the radio shows phoned in from presenters spare bedrooms. I loved the rainbows painted everywhere and the genuine gratitude for the NHS, for the bin collectors and the supermarket staff. I have loved seeing how many people have found volunteering, helping and supporting opportunities. I have also been pleased to see the flip side of people accepting and asking for help too. I have also loved seeing the very human side of people and their kindness, compassion, humour alongside the darker sides.
I have grown things in our garden / allotment / croft for over a decade. It’s why this blog exists. I have long since baked our own bread and made cakes and cookies, we have cooked from scratch forever. We have never sent our kids to school and we have always spent most of our time all together in the house. It’s been good seeing other people have a go at that lifestyle. It’s been lovely to offer help from a place of experience in some of those areas. It’s not been for everyone but for those who have had lightbulb moments and said to me ‘oh…..now I see why you did that’ it’s been wonderful. And we have had a fabulous display of flowers on our decking, a huge harvest of peas from our raised beds and an array of splendid cakes ourselves too.
A huge highlight of the lockdown for me was the Great British Home Chorus. Having been casting about for a place to sing for all these years I suddenly found myself in a choir with thousands of others, all joining in with a daily weekday choir practise at 530pm with Gareth Malone. Then we recorded our parts and sent them in. Then a CD of our efforts was released which made the top 10 in the charts. A song to say Thank you to Gareth was also recorded and I made the video for that. The CD and the video are a fab reminder of one of the many wonderful projects which came about during the dark times of the pandemic.
Two other personal projects which have been lockdown inspired are the swim sketch book exchange which I have been involved with. A project of wild swimmers around the UK who have been contributing to and then passing on sketchbooks. We are coming to the end of the project and will all finish with a book containing the collaborative art work of 9 people to keep. I have experimented with all sorts of art materials, tried many new art techniques and really enjoyed the process of each piece of art, the group nature of the project and and connections formed from sending and receiving the books. The other project is my shell art on the beaches which I have done throughout the lockdown. It has been something which I have enjoyed as a creative and thoughtful process but have also connected with others by sharing it online. I have also had local people tell me they have seen and enjoyed my art in real life on the beaches too.
Like the others I have also learned more about racism and Black Lives Matter. I would have considered myself pretty well informed and already had a couple of books either on my bookshelf or my kindle. I have to confess to not having read them or been as aware as I thought I was though and the deeper I have delved the more I have learned and the more I realise I have to learn.
Having watched lots of ‘after people’ type documentaries and having seen nature reclaim very quickly in real life too I was not at all surprised by the return of wildlife to unoccupied by human spaces during lockdown. In fact I was possibly more surprised by how little others had realised the huge impact humans have. Also that it really is as simple (on the one hand) as just stopping. I share the disappointment of the others than there seems to be a keenness to starting up again rather than treading a different path. However, I am an optimist and sitting with the three young adults to write this post I am massively heartened by what they have learned and had to say and I truly believe that while it feels as though the world is starting back up again with a throaty, fossil fuelled vroom the seeds have been sown for things to change. Maybe not overnight, certainly not as quickly as they should, but in small and important ways with the next generation understanding and feeling ready to make changes and beginning to find their voices, their passion and their anger to make real change.
I think my overwhelming learned is that this strange time has been a super concentrated version of real life. We have all had to confront our vulnerabilities, insecurities, priorities, relationships, place in the world, views and beliefs and they have also all been held up for others to see too. We have almost become caricatures of ourselves, but our true selves rather than who we might have thought we were. This has meant that those who were struggling have really really struggled, those who were on the cusp of going under may have sunk. For me it has cemented that I am happy with the choices I have already made in life and the places I have put most emphasis. It has also highlighted to me how very fortunate and privileged I have been to be able to make those choices though. And I have had to acknowledge that with that privilege comes a responsibility which I will endeavour to step up to even more. This period of history has shown us that there are more iniquities in our world than ever and worse than that we have been in denial about it. The time has come to change that.
Summary: My memory of these times will be of the very best of humans and the very worst of society. My hope is that we can balance that out and come through it battle scared and better.