On Monday 23 March 2020, the UK was put into lockdown. No meeting friends, no going to the office, no more than 1 outing per day.
The introduction of a new daily life was thrust upon us for our own safety, to combat against the spread of COVID-19.
Since then, we’ve all had to adapt accordingly, to help save lives, reduce pressure on the NHS and protect our communities.
For many, lives have changed forever.
It’s now week 9, and restrictions have been eased and there is, although small, a little glimmer of hope that society will, one day, return to normality.
I was furloughed from my job as a writer for a lifestyle magazine, meaning I now find myself with lots of time on my hands.
And although I do love a Netflix binge and morning lie-ins, these things that I never thought I could get too much of, can, in fact, get boring. The loss of structure began to take its toll – no more getting up for a reason, no more walking into work, no more doing what I love.
So, I decided to focus my mind elsewhere.
Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past 9 weeks.
1. Netflix and Disney+
As mentioned, lockdown started with watching plenty of films and TV series. It was great. I whizzed my way through ‘Unforgotten’ – a series about two detectives who uncover and solve historical murders, and loved re-watching all of the ‘Toy Story’ movies on Disney+ (which launched at the perfect time, right?!)
If you’re looking for other recommendations, I really enjoyed ‘Happy Valley’ (don’t be fooled by its title, this is a gripping series about a police officer, her battles with her past, and uncovering a truly awful, dark crime).
For something lighthearted, try ‘Selling Sunset’. It’s got all the best bits of a reality TV show, shoved in with million-dollar houses and glamourous buyers. It’s a fun and easy watch.
After something funny? Go for ‘Outnumbered’ – it’s great. It’s about a family of 5 and their chaotic, funny, normal lives.
‘After Life’, starring Ricky Gervais, is also a must. If you haven’t already seen it, it will get you laughing and crying within one scene. Following Tony’s life after he loses his wife to cancer, we see the ups and downs grief can bring, the fine line between happy and sad, and his battle with acceptance.
2. Baking and cooking
So far this lockdown, I’ve made chocolate brownies, a victoria sponge, biscuits, cupcakes and coffee cake.
And my boyfriend and I have scoffed the lot.
As well as all the sweet treats, I’ve also been gaining confidence in trying out new recipes for dinner. I’ve tried Thai green curry, lentil dhal, butternut squash risotto, sweet potato katsu curry, as well as others, to varying degrees of success. (My fave is the butternut squash risotto – here’s the recipe).
The Couch 2 5K app is great. Starting at the beginning of lockdown, I’m now on week 8 of the programme and running for 25 minutes without stopping. It might not sound much to some, but for me, it’s a great achievement and I’m so proud.
I’ve never been one for sports and exercise, and I’ve never once managed to complete the full 9 weeks of the app. I’m so close now though, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing my progress. I would totally recommend this to anyone who wants to give it a go because it truly works!!
4. Learning French
I downloaded the Duolingo app at the beginning of lockdown to occupy my brain. I needed something to concentrate on and to shift my attention to. And it turns out that learning the very basics of a language is pretty rewarding. Not only does the app guide you through the steps, but you can also compete against others in weekly leaderboards.
I’m still no whizz at learning languages, but giving it a go is certainly fun (apart from trying to do the accent).
People who know me will know how much I love F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Honestly, I think I would BOSS it as my specialist subject on Mastermind. So ‘I’ll be There for You: The One about Friends’ by Kelsey Miller was a hit with me. I really enjoyed the author’s unpicking of certain aspects of the show and learning what the cast was up to before they became such big stars. The author also discusses how outdated the show is now, as well as its effect on people, globally. It’s an interesting one for sure.
I’m now reading ‘Elevator Pitch’ by Linwood Barclay. Having read pretty much every other book of his, I knew I was going to enjoy this one. And so far, it doesn’t disappoint. It’s gripping, right from the first chapter. I can’t say too much about it yet, as I’m only half-way through, but I love how the author switches between characters in each chapter, leaving you on mini-cliffhangers each time you finish one.
Now that we’re allowed ‘unlimited’ daily exercise, Dom and I have been wandering around our local beauty spots. I’m absolutely loving getting out in the fresh air and I’m now really appreciating nature, the beautiful weather and blooming flowers.
We visited Symonds Yat in the Forest of Dean the other day, which was really, really wonderful. We’ve also paid a visit to the Cotswold village of Painswick and up to Dover’s Hill in Chipping Campden. We plan on more walks over the next few weeks, as I’d love to re-visit the Forest of Dean in this lovely sunshine.
Of course, whenever we’re out and about, we’re careful to maintain 2 metres from others.
7. Spring cleaning
Mrs Hinch made me do it.
8. Listening to podcasts
Lastly, I’ve really been enjoying listening to podcasts. They’re a great way to pass the time, or to have on in the background when making dinner. My favourite is ‘Sh**ged. Married. Annoyed.’ by Chris and Rosie Ramsey, which was introduced to me by some friends last year. Random, silly, and sometimes gross – it’s brilliant and such a laugh.
Another great podcast is ‘Grounded with Louis Theroux’. Launched during lockdown, I’ve loved listening to Louis have informal chats with the likes of Boy George, Helena Bonham-Carter, Jon Ronson and Lenny Henry.
Although not a podcast, I’ve also been listening to an audiobook on my free trial of Audible. ‘Lost at Sea’ by Jon Ronson was recommended to me by a friend, so I decided to give it a go. Ronson, like Theroux, is a journalist who uncovers parts of society that I didn’t even know existed. Each chapter, Ronson takes us through some of his bizarre and sometimes funny experiences and encounters with eccentric characters. My favourite chapter so far was about Robbie Williams and his belief in UFOs and aliens.
Lockdown hasn’t been easy for anyone. And although communities are now tied together through the same cause – and have become united – it can often seem lonely and, for some, quite distressing. The clap for the NHS on Thursdays is a great reminder of how we’re all in this together and I will be forever grateful of all the key workers’ hard work during the pandemic. It’s really quite extraordinary to be living through such an unsettling time.
But it is only temporary.
And things will get better.
Let’s try to stay positive.
In the meantime, what have you been up to? Do you have any recommendations for me or for others?