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 second of our four-day series documenting three people’s experiences in lockdown. We have Robyn, 25, who was recently laid off from her job in recruitment and is laugh-crying her way through her second week of quarantine alone in her Stratford flat after experiencing symptoms. Andrea is a grandmother in her 60’s living with her husband and adult son who is a key worker for the council. She has COPD and is both anxious and stoic in her response to lockdown. Finally, we have Liam, a hedonistic 33-year-old professional who has moved into his office building with his girlfriend.
Yesterday, Robyn started video-interviews for a role in recruitment after having been made redundant just weeks before lockdown. Andrea seriously considered what she would do if she was hospitalised and needed ventilation, given that there is a shortage of ventilator machines and someone younger, and healthier might be in need, while Liam and Libby stayed up late playing a drinking game based on sexual innuendo. Hangovers predicted.
I wake up to my alarm at 8.30am, I’m vaguely attempting to keep up appearances and stick to a routine. When checking my emails, I get some good news. The three companies that I spoke to yesterday would like to video call for a second stage interview! I do a victory dance in the shower for celebration. I dress and put on makeup, which I take off and reapply because I’ve forgotten how to do it with no practice. My hands shake from nerves, or anticipation, or fear, or caffeine.
I smash the first video call and impress them with my research (what else am I going to do all this time?). My industry knowledge is on-point, I’ve got a rudimentary business plan, I’m almost human again. The second call is tepid at best, this manager is sapping my positivity with his cutting realism. Can’t hire until June? Then why are we talking? Because I’m broke now.
Johnny and I video call each other again for about two hours. With him working in the NHS and volunteering, we talk through the possibility of not seeing each other in person for a little while. I’m so proud that he’s stepping up and helping humanity in a dark time, but I’m worried for his health and I’m sad, (quietly and off-camera), that I can’t see him anymore.
I did a clear-out today. Samuel’s not getting rid of anything even though he’s got enough clothes to last him every day for a year without having to wash anything. To keep active, I’ve been using my exercise bike every couple of hours; it’s good it keeps my legs and knees going and makes me feel better after. While I do it, I’ve been watching that Green Goddess [1980’s original keep-fit queen Diana Moran is back!] on the television.
Sammie-Anne, my granddaughter, has been texting me. She said she’ll get me anything I need. That’s the thing, you can’t just go out and get what you need, but you make do – I’ve bought bread flour so I can make a loaf if I have to!
Today, I’ve been trying to look at the cheery or helpful things – I want to avoid the news a bit. Samuel and I watched an old film – can’t remember what it was called – I love old films like the Quiet Man, Whiskey Galore, and Brigadoon – every time someone plays the pipes, I’m in tears.
My next-door neighbours are an elderly man who is 80-odd-years-of-age and his wife who is 76, I think. I’ve been going out to my back garden and just chatting to them – you can see the fear in his face, he’s terrified. Sam was talking to him saying “I know it’s bad, but try and not worry.” It’s all you can say. We’ve also told them we can get people to bring them stuff. I’ve noticed a lot of people are helping each other out, which is nice – one of my neighbours gave me a surgical mask because they were worried for me.
Samuel cooked us a curry for tea, my Sam loves a curry. He didn’t make it too spicy though as I don’t like it hot.
Wednesday morning rolls around and I wake up at 7am not too worse for wear considering last night’s drinking game turned into watching “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and drinking whenever someone changed size – terrible movie but excellent drinking game. Hot Tip: ensure adequate supplies are lined up for the fight scenes.
I’m pondering how different today would be to yesterday, while convincing myself that it’s too cold to go for a run this morning. Work starts from the same spot again, I’ve got another day of virtual client meetings and team catch-ups. Daily virtual standups with my team are standard, even outside of lockdown and help to keep things feeling relatively normal, but I can feel the forced repetition is starting to creep up on me mentally.
Feeling fat, lazy and lethargic we decide that we need to get out for a run in the afternoon. This ends in going to M&S to stock up on steak and wine for dinner. Another late work meeting with a client on the West Coast, USA, leaves me feeling quite well connected to people in other parts of the world, while less connected to closer friends and family in my immediate vicinity.
As told to Evie Breese and Gina Gambetta
This is day two of four in Eastlondonlines’ #IsLondonLonely? series. Read the rest of the series here