By Anna Prudhomme, Nenseh Koneh, Weronika Strzyżyńska
Caroll Kerner, 50s, Bodybuilder, Bethnal Green
People have different coping mechanisms. Some use drugs, other alcohol, cigarettes, or pornographic videos. I always said that sports and weight training were my drug of choice.
I’m a very physical person, I do bodybuilding, and I teach Pilates – I’m a personal trainer too, so lockdown has been very hard. I bought weights and attached a plank to the doorframe so I could do lifts. I could still teach classes and clients online, but it’s not the same. You can’t have a gym at home. It’s not the same equipment and the same atmosphere. Because the gym is not just about the weights, it’s also a social environment. It’s where you feel like you belong somewhere, and you gain something psychological from having done a workout as well.
But I’ve also been very lucky. I have wonderful flatmates. I’ve got one who cleaned this morning. I’ve got another one who filled up my water bottle yesterday because I had a little bit of a sore back. Someone is always cooking, there is always someone to chat to when you go to the kitchen.
Maybe it’s because I’m mature that I can appreciate these things more than a person in their twenties. But I think having people around me saved me from loneliness. I’ve not been able to see my mother or socialise with my family back in France, but I haven’t felt lonely at all! When things started easing up last spring, we opened our doors and chatted with neighbours. We sunbathed outside together, and we had drinks too. We met our neighbours more during the lockdown than the last five years that I’ve been here. That’s something I would encourage everyone to do, to talk to one another. I mean, you don’t have to kiss people, but just say hello to your next-door neighbour, just talk to them.
Yvonne, 65, Retired, Croydon
I worked in a bingo hall for twenty-three years. I used to do everything there, from the tickets to checking claims. I lived in my office flat in east Croydon which was basically one room because the rest was mice infected. It has been tough because I have been in isolation most of the time. I watched TV, had phone calls like everyone else, but I developed a severe depression. Knowing that people were dying all around me was the hardest.
Thus, I decided to reach for help and called the charity Age UK Croydon. I often talked to this amazing young lady of the Age UK team called Susanna. She would call and check on me, she helped me regain my confidence back. And in October, they found me a sheltered accommodation in Croydon for me to live in.
They have been absolutely brilliant; I cannot thank them enough because I do not know what I would have done without them. And without all the people that helped me during the lockdowns.
Every day I wake up now and think of how lucky I am. I hope this could be the situation of every old, isolated person. So, I just want to say don’t be frightened to pick up the phone and ask for help, don’t suffer on your own, there is plenty of help out there.
Candace Reading, 43, mum and creator of Tower Hamlets Mums/East End Kids, Tower Hamlets
As far as the time that I had together with my son during the first lockdown, it was quite nice. There weren’t any pressures of home schooling at the time, so we would go on lots of forest walks and did little projects to get out of the house. And he would be on educational apps on the tablet which were good because he wasn’t being assessed by someone and just learned his own way.
The summer came, and things were a bit light for a while. I’d started my online job at Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham from home and it was going well, but it was extremely busy. It was much more than the two days that I’d sort of signed up for. And tackling everything was a bit tricky. Soon after my son went back to school, I was offered another similar role but for another branch of Age UK . And then I got really overwhelmed by it. I soon found out I would have to homeschool my son due to the new outbreak. So, you can imagine it was hard juggling all these things.
My son being five years old and having a physical disability, that is a hard age for him to learn in a self-directed way. Older kids can kind of manage it, but the amount of work we were getting from his school was taking four or five hours of sitting down and working. I am lucky my husband has a lot of flexibility working for information security, but sometimes his job gets really hectic because a lot of people are working from home and there’s loads of phishing scams at the moment.
Another element to the busy was that recently we decided to change Tower Hamlets Mums page to East End Kids and do a complete rebrand to be more inclusive. We have got a calendar community that people can add to and events that are mostly happening online. And we’ve also introduced the community section, which brings different campaigns across East London together and helps promote work or community groups that need a platform.
Nobel Basser, 22, Business Consultant, Tower Hamlets
The first lockdown I spent in Oxford. Then when I graduated, I thought, “I’m happy to stay a few years at home, save on rent and all of that, because I live in London and I do live fairly centrally,” but now… now I just want to get out.
I live with my four younger siblings, the youngest is eight and sometimes when you’re trying to work or get something done it can be chaos. But I also got to reconnect with my family, and I do get involved in the little ones’ schoolwork. I’m always checking, always asking, “have you done your work?” “Show me your work.”
The eight-year-old is the worst and – sorry, right now he is punching the bed – he is not very good at sitting down and reading. We have to make sure he gets all his work done, otherwise he would just spend all his time on the iPad. And every single day we take him to the park. Unless it’s raining, we take him to the park.
Other than that, graduating into the pandemic has been tough. Places are still hiring, but there are just fewer places in general. And the interviews are all online, which is a bit weird but kind of comfortable. You don’t have to stress about how to get there and plan to be five minutes early. Also, all they see is your face, so if you want to have some notes behind your screen, you can do that. There are some benefits.
I’m sorted now, I managed to get three offers in consulting. I went with the agency that I did because they said I could start later in the year, if I wanted to. And no way am I working fifty or sixty-hour weeks from home. No way. I refuse. I don’t even have my own desk, I share it with the seventeen-year-old, but sometimes the little ones need it for writing or their arts and crafts. So working twelve or fifteen-hour days from home just isn’t the one.
For me the toughest thing has been not leaving the house. I’m really extroverted. I love meeting new people, and I love sports, and not just sports but team sports: football, netball, hockey, volleyball, lacrosse, all that stuff. None of these things are happening right now.
Over the summer, in July and August, I’ve been able to meet-up with friends. We could catch up and every weekend I’d end up in someone’s living room. I had some friends from Oxford, a couple, that had also moved to Tower Hamlets and we would meet up every weekend. We got very close. But for this lockdown they moved in with the girl’s parents in Hammersmith, so I haven’t been able to see them. Now they’re just a voice down the phone… a couple of texts. I miss my friends most of all.
Follow our These 4 Walls series this week to find out more about what happened behind closed doors during this pandemic. #These4Walls