Who would have thought, as little as twelve months ago what 2020 would bring to our lives, or perhaps more importantly what it would take away? Back in 2019 who could have predicted the life we have experienced over the last five months and look likely to experience for some time to come?
Who could have predicted this way of life, where for a few months at least, leaving the house more than once a day was not allowed without good reason, visiting even the closest family not permitted and physical contact definitely frowned upon. Very George Orwell-esque.
Even now this “new norm” with less, but non-the-less still many restrictions means a very different way of life. (I just added lockdown to my spell check dictionary, that different.)
For me personally lockdown has consisted of working from home full time. I was particularly lucky my employers had the foresight to introduce “Flexible Working” at the beginning of last year. This meant binning desktop computers and phones and the introduction of laptops and soft phones (wireless headsets connected to laptops.) Travelling to the office five days a week was not a must, but two or three days per week common. The small bedroom became the home office. When lockdown commenced I simply stopped commuting and switched to five days per week in the home office. Did I say simply?
Let’s be honest I was one of the lucky ones. I know many have been furloughed (another word added to the dictionary, who had even heard of “furloughed” before this year!) Me and my wife were both lucky we had jobs that a. we kept and b. allowed us to work from home.
Largely this has been brilliant. I have saved a fortune on diesel, traffic jams are a distant memory and many mornings I enjoy an extra hour or more in bed.
I am very lucky; I have a job where I regularly speak on the phone with customers I have known for many years and can call many of them friends. Video calls are now common practice with colleagues and customers alike. This though, is still limited communication. People thrive on interacting with other people, proper face to face interaction. God knows how you furloughees (a word I thought I might have made up, but no, another addition for the dictionary,) have gone on. Particularly tough was not seeing and hugging my granddaughter, and the limited time with a Mum living on her own.
When I started working from home I always made a point of getting away from my computer screen for breaks, even taking walks around the block. When we were restricted to daily periods of exercise (still feels weird typing that) me and Heather (the wife) were delighted to discover ”new” local paths and bridleways despite having lived lin the area for many years, as we maximised the once daily outing. Extra time on our hands has meant for the first time in years we are pretty much on top of the garden, and we do know how lucky we are to have a garden to enjoy in lockdown. Time on my hands has allowed me to catch up with TV shows and films, as well as getting stuck into the collection of books acquired over the previous months. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas my favourite of the year so far.
As a couple who enjoy travelling, particularly in Europe, 2020 has certainly been frustrating. Once again though, we consider ourselves very lucky having had two weeks in one of our favourite areas, the Allgäu region of southern Germany, just weeks before lockdown commenced. Particularly lucky in fact – we visited in February to see the wonderful Fasching (carnival) in the village of Sulzberg (not to be confused with Sulzberg in Austria.) Fasching takes place every year in various parts of Germany. Sulzberg hold one every ten years. Having seen the last two I can tell you they are well worth waiting for. Many months of preparation go into the creation of over thirty amazing floats. Local villages and organisations pick a theme and to say everyone “buys in” is a huge understatement. This year’s themes ranged from Los Muertos via Star Wars to Mr Bean. The floats were spectacular, the detail of them and the accompanying players nothing short of amazing. The reason our holiday spanned two weeks was the acquisition of tickets for Rock Meets Classic, a German tradition of a different type. A full symphonic orchestra with house rock band accompanying a number of rock stars knocking out well known songs, finishing with the legend that is Alice Cooper, a great night's entertainment. I said particularly lucky as I had considered flying home after Fasching to save a few days holiday before flying out again for the gig. Thankfully I decided to stay for the full two weeks and enjoyed some of the superb Alpine walks readily available in the Allgäu, together with a few of their equally superb local beers. I would still have been kicking myself now if I had in fact decided to save some days holiday. “Save some days holiday.” Ha!
Cancel, Reschedule, Postpone
Our trip provided great memories through lockdown. There is no disguising 2020 will be remembered with disdain by many, with loathing by many more. Rock Meets Classic was far from the only gig we had planned this year. After a quiet 2019 gig-wise for us, this was the year when many of our favourites were touring. Were being the operative word joining, ‘cancelled’, ‘rescheduled’, ‘social distance’, ‘unprecedented’ and of course ‘Corona Virus’ on the years most used but despised words’ list.
Sporting events suffered a similar fate, although ‘delay’ and ‘postpone’ are the unpopular but key words here. For football fans, the season recommencement was a massive plus as restrictions were eased. For football supporters, only being able to watch on TV, games in empty stadiums was strange and lacking. I know; better than nothing. As a Leeds United supporter, seeing your team at last promoted to back to The Premier League after sixteen long years was brilliant, not being able to experience the thrill of promotion closing in from the ground, beyond frustrating.
Tip Of The Iceberg?
While some say football is just a game, to many it is much more than this, a way of life, extended family? It is certainly important to many. The loss of Leeds legends Norman Hunter and Jack Charlton and the fact that fans were unable to pay their respects is another horrible aspect of these times. An appalling situation that many families had to endure with funeral attendance restrictions, heartbreaking.
As I said earlier, I consider myself lucky. Still got a job, a job with interaction, working for a financially stable, go-ahead company. After an understandable dip, business is on the increase. Got a nice enough house and a garden that permitted us to enjoy the lovely weather that was huge blessing in the early part of lockdown. Living in a high rise flat with children allowed out once a day must have been the stuff of nightmares. Lucky me; staring at a laptop screen for eight hours per day was no bed of roses. More than occasionally falling to the temptation of letting the MSM try to scare me to death. Their inglorious facts, figures and stories of doom and gloom combined with the pressure of trying to hit sales targets during a pandemic and the imminent economic collapse made me more than once identify with a need for mental health wellness. It is fortunate that there has been a big push to look after your own and other people’s mental health recently. I thought the Samaritan's small talk advert last year was brilliant. I looked into the organisation after seeing it, with a view to volunteering, and I can tell you some very special people are at the end of those telephones.
I have read of cycling being good for mental health and indeed instrumental with people's recovery from breakdowns. As a cyclist myself it provides a fantastic escape, an opportunity to clear the mind but also think things through. At the start of lockdown I initially avoided cycling. I had heard of two incidents, resulting in cyclists visiting A&E departments. During the seven years I have been back cycling I have only had one such incident, but it seemed too great a risk. I lasted three weeks before deciding it WAS worth it. So far (I would type with crossed fingers if possible) so good. The roads have been quiet and the weather good. The charity ride a number of us from work were training for went ahead too, adjusted to individual rides on the same day. Job done in more ways than one.
Light At The End Of The Tunnel?
Easing of some restrictions and a step in the direction back towards that we once considered normal has brought much needed relief. This was timely, allowing me a great mini birthday garden party with my brothers and another with friends, and another with other friends. Where there's a will, there's a way.
More recently we even had a weekend away to celebrate a close friend's birthday, a wonderful fun time with friends and a fantastic change of scenery. Our offices have re-opened, albeit two days per week with very restricted numbers. Enough though for a much needed escape from the wife and kids, I mean a change of scenery, for many.
We seem to be long way from normal however. No sign of gigs on the horizon, no likelihood of actually having football matches with crowds, in fact the leisure and retail industries are nothing short of decimated.
The government’s support schemes did seem impressive, but £2 Trillion pounds borrowed? How many of us had to remind ourselves what a trillion is? And who have we borrowed it from? Some rather happily staffed financial institutions I venture.
And why? To safeguard us from a disease with a lower death rate than dementia or heart disease? A subject for further discussion I believe.
But what for the future? Home working looks to be the standard for the foreseeable, office lease terminations are a plenty.
A huge decline in public transport passengers for sure. However two cars in our household seems increasingly not a necessity. Holidays of the future? The boom in motorhome sales is not surprising, it is inviting.