Sitting at my kitchen table looking out at the flower-potted garden, I contemplate my situation. My mum bustles by with a basket of freshly laundered clothes, ready to hang from our spindly little olive tree and the garden chairs. Dad’s voice, accompanied by the digitalised buzzing of his colleagues echoes down the stairs, zoomed in from his laptop which has now become his mobile office. This was the norm now. Me sitting, very much not dressed, wasting days, then weeks and now months away doing things I could no longer remember. I feel restless. Tired, but restless. It’s been almost three months since the shop where I worked on my zero-hours contract has closed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
To begin with, I was spurred on with nervous energy to boost my productivity. I completed a Level 5 online TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Qualification and when lockdown set in, went out everyday to complete government-sanctioned exercise, armed with a new FitBit and ready to get into shape. As the weeks went by however, my motivation ebbed and self-doubt and self-loathing crept in. My Instagram feed was flooded with ‘isolation inspiration’ posts of my unfailingly beautiful friends on walks in lush woodland, drinking cocktails in perfectly manicured gardens or else flexing their perfectly sculpted bodies in fitness photos. I felt, somehow, as if I was ‘failing’ at lockdown. All of this seemed so detached from the grim realities of the virus and it made me feel angry and guilty.
A few weeks in, I remember overhearing fractured conversations, “the home sent an email… 9 people have died… it’s on the third and first floors”. I felt sick. My grandfather was in a care home in Oxfordshire and I hadn’t seen him for a month. He hadn’t been able to leave his room, even to go in the garden or the dining room. I wanted to cry. I missed him. I wondered how he must feel, alone in a room surrounded by other residents he couldn’t speak to, now not only because he was one of the few left with that capacity, but because he was confined within four walls. I wondered with an ever deepening pit in my stomach whether this would be enough to protect him.
As we enter June, he and the rest of my family remains, thankful, in tact. Lockdown is easing and London appears to be awakening once more, parks thronging with people but with the notable absence of over 70s who used to cling to the smoothened paths and enthrone its most prominent benches. I look at the government’s reported death toll, now just below 40,000 and wonder what lifting lockdown might itself, unlock.