In an unprecedented situation, the entire population of the UK has found itself in isolation, socially distancing and in lockdown within their homes. We asked three Londoners to record their daily experiences in a diary. Are we more alone now than ever?
This is the first of our four-day series documenting three people’s experiences in lockdown.
Meet the diarists:
Robyn Lewin, 25, worked as an IT recruitment consultant before she was made redundant in mid-March. The new job she had lined up dissolved her position before she had a chance to start. After showing mild-symptoms of coronavirus last week, Robyn decided to self-isolate. Her housemate moved in with her boyfriend to allow Robyn to fully quarantine, leaving her alone with Tinkerbell the cat. Her boyfriend Johnny works for the NHS. She begins her diary as she embarks on her second week in quarantine, counting down the days until she can leave the house.
Andrea Cunningham, 65, grew up in Glasgow, but has called Plumstead her home for over 30 years. Before she retired, she worked as a reablement assistant for the London Borough of Greenwich. She lives with her husband of 47 years Samuel, 66, and her son William, 42. Because of her COPD she hasn’t been going out for a couple of weeks, although her husband is staying home with her. William is still having to go to his job as he is a key worker, but he’s taking all the necessary precautions when he comes home.
Liam McCarthy, 33, was born in Sydney, Australia, but moved to London two years ago, and quickly met his girlfriend Libby. The couple recently decided to move in together. In March, Liam’s tenancy came to an end, so he moved into the three-bedroom Dalston flat Libby shares with her two housemates. But then coronavirus hit, and her housemates also moved their partners in, so the little flat – which has a combined kitchen, living and dining-room – became home to six. In need of their own space, the couple moved into the Crouch End office building where Liam works as product director working with meta-data. Luckily, the office has a luxury suite usually reserved for clients visiting from overseas. Loved up in an office-block lockdown, is there such a thing as too much couple time?
The diaries, day 1:
This is my eleventh day in self-isolation and seventeenth day of unemployment. I have spend days wallowing in self-pity, worrying about the future, and frantically trying to work out some kind of financial plan – I’m one loose pea rolling around an empty freezer drawer. But today I finally have some interviews with recruitment companies looking to hire despite Covid-19.
The first interview was at 11am then every hour after that. It’s full-on but I need to hustle to find something, because it’s looking pretty bleak out there for recruitment. I’m so anxious that I can barely eat but I choke down cheese on toast and more coffee at lunchtime, but I’m not ashamed to say I can turn my confidence on, and she is on and dazzling this afternoon. I’m all smiles, pleasantries and witty remarks in the interviews. I remember when I could do this every day with people in front of me; I’m glad I haven’t forgotten it.
When the interviews conclude, they talk about how “the market isn’t what it used to be” and “things are moving slowly.” It is a massive dampener on the mild high I got from almost being normal for a few hours. I quickly resolve to get drunk as my housemate left a bottle and half of white wine. I watch a bunch of rom-coms to restore my faith in the world and then binge-watch Vikings for violent realism.
I don’t pause the romcoms to video call with Johnny for an hour and a half. For some of the call, we don’t speak as we answer texts and emails but it doesn’t matter because it’s comforting to know that life exists outside of my two-bed flat.
I’ve been quite tired today. I got up early and by 12 o’clock I needed a sleep. After that I started pottering about – I’ve decided to get busy, clear out what I don’t need. It’s a weird feeling being indoors all the time and you can’t just go out.
I’ve also been watching the news – too much to be honest. It just keeps going over and over, you’re hearing nothing good. I think the government is doing a fantastic job, but there are gaps. I sat and cried when I saw the older woman who had to say goodbye to her daughter on the phone because she wasn’t allowed in the hospital to visit her. It’s making me think a lot. Like with the ventilators situation, there’s a choice between who lives and dies, so I’ve been thinking if it was between me and a kid, I’d say give it to the kid because my lungs are buggered. The impacts of these thoughts are very upsetting.
I’m already missing going out, I’m quite sociable, I like to talk, and I like saying hello to a stranger – it makes my day when I do that. I don’t like this at all, it’s like your freedom has been taken away, but I know we have to do it. With my COPD it would be downright stupid to go out.
But I’m lucky, I’ve got Samuel and William here so I wouldn’t say it’s lonely. I mean if I don’t kill my hubby at the end of all this it’ll be a miracle – he can be an annoying bugger. Just because we’ve been together for 47 years, it doesn’t mean we don’t aggravate one another – I am already looking forward to some me time!
I woke up Tuesday morning, around 7:15am. Feeling surprising sprightly, I woke up the goddess [Libby] sleeping next to me and managed to talk her into going for a run before work. Said goddess finished the run early and went home to make breakfast. I pretended that I ran a whole lot more than I did to be coming home as puffed as I was.
Once work started I had team meetings from 10am to 12noon (Tuesday is our weekly team catchup and “Sprint” Planning). Then I had a client meeting from 1pm to 5pm and another from 4-4.30pm. Exhausted from all the virtual social interaction, Goddess and I decided it was about time for a prosecco. “It’s starting earlier every day,” may have been remarked.
We got sick of watching TV, so did some boredom cooking and cocktail making. “Cocktails” turned out to be tequila shots, which turned into a drinking game based on sexual innuendo. This can only lead to good things….
As told to Evie Breese and Gina Gambetta