For me like most, here in the UK, Friday was the end of the most surreal week of our history, week one of lockdown is officially over, with no clear answer of when it will all be lifted. Our freedom taken away from us, so suddenly, by an invisible enemy. It seems like a fantasy to even dream of a life post pandemic as we experience rose tinted nostalgia of how life was just a month ago. A world where human contact such as a handshake, hug or peck on the cheek was normal as breathing. Where we didn’t have to queue up for a mile, standing two metres away from one another outside the supermarkets. A life, where getting a cappuccino didn’t require you trekking from one street to another, looking for an open place. Ignoring a few hiccups along the way we have adapted to a situation, we could not have conjured in our minds a month ago, proving once again, what we as the human spirit, can achieve. Even as we lay on the edge of the unknown, not knowing how long this will last, we can be sure of one thing, this country will not be the same again.
So what happened in week one? Apart from trying my best to relocate my work desk to the comfort of my cheap sofa, experiencing this new app called Zoom for the first time and engaging in a virtual work meeting to prove to everyone I am indeed, working. I found myself negotiating with my nine year old daughter on why she should use the IMac, because her school work was far too important, leaving me with our slacking laptop. Which, I had to refresh every five minute to show my status to my workplace. My six year old son had the right idea, he did his work on paper and then started watching Marvel movies, on Disney Plus, which is the saviour to our solitude at the moment. Something miraculous happened- The sun came out in the UK, shining in all its glory for the whole week- a rare thing in March indeed. A part of me wondered if this was nature’s way of thanking or merely taunting us?
Being at home, there are a lot of things I miss. Mostly, I miss going to the gym and keeping fit. Working out religiously since a young teenager, it is a big fall from grace for those who regularly exercise. Thankfully, having knowledge and experience of HIIT and being a runner, it easy to adapt to the one hour exercise period, (advised by the government) without the help of the long locked Joe Wickes.
Each day as usual, I found myself venturing out of Tower Hamlets and running towards the city of London with the sun blazing down. Through the eerie empty roads, resembling ghost cities, which you might see on an episode of Walking Dead with no signs of their usual vehicles or people. It seemed like everyone had taken up jogging, as a runner, it is easy to pick out who the runners were and who just took it up just this week. Perhaps this lockdown is a good thing, for people to exercise. But what was quiet clear with the blue skies without a cloud or aeroplane in sight, was how beautiful London really is. As I ran pass the quintessential landmarks of Tower and London Bridge across the soothing waters of the Thames. St Pauls Cathedral, The Shard, Westminster and the Millennium Wheel all stood in the background, just standing there majestically. It seemed the true beauty of London was manifesting in front of my eyes. A feeling of serenity and calm overtook me each time – a rare feeling, if any, to come to anyone, right in the heart of UKs and arguably one of the world’s capitals. Living in London, we never get to experience solitude the way people might experience elsewhere, so it was a welcome change.
As the water of Thames flowed against the background of my runs and the concrete jungles of empty offices passed my view. I saw shops like pharmacies which were open but had signs informing everyone when they were closed for lunch. It’s a feeling close to surreal, right here in the heart of London, a city that didn’t close for anyone or any time of the day, workers were shutting their steel shutters, to enjoy their basic rights of lunch. Small gentrified pop up kiosks that stood next to City Hall selling £10 burgers and £4 small chips, had all gone, leaving the space for people to jog and walk, like it was meant to be. It seems London, the most metropolitan city in the world, had become a small village with quiet roads and open space. Local shops which have suffered so much over the years, thanks to big supermarkets opening up every corner, are now flourishing, as people choose to avoid the long queues of the big chains. People exercising more, even if it is an excuse to just get out of the house, the only thing missing is children’s laughter.
As week one ends, I take away the positive, being at home, gives us time to rest, re-evaluate our life goals and priorities. It has allowed me to write more, re-arrange my thoughts, but at the same time I am constantly reminded of the grimness of the situation. Elderly parents of two people I know, passed away, their families not being able to say goodbye to them or even retrieve their bodies. The precaution needed to guard the sick and the dead, bring out the horror of the world we are currently in. Numbers are rising and people are dying, it makes you wonder how long you can keep optimism and hope and look at the bright side of this lockdown. What happens if these restrictions are not eased up within three weeks as it was promised? Will our social order breakdown? What happens if more than the expected people die? But hope and optimism still remains high, it will get worse, the numbers will increase for that there is no doubt. But what is inevitable. is exactly that, all we can do is stay home as much as possible to reduce the risk.
There is no doubt, we are going to come out better out of this, within a week, through the help of technology we are reaching out to the ones we love and forging those missed connections. We have learned to appreciate what we have and let go of the things which brought us mundane feelings that we classed as important. Even from the locked doors of our homes, we managed to come together as country and in unison, showing our appreciation for our NHS heroes on Thursday. It showed our resourcefulness, our willingness, our innovativeness and most of all our kindness. The traits we will need, as we move onto next week and the weeks hereafter to build the new world after this.
I am reminded all throughout, from line from The Dark Knight
‘The night is always darkest, before dawn.’