A year in review

2020 has been a roller-coaster year. We have had the first lockdown in the spring which was unprecedented at the time and I coped with it by doing art and photography. I also went from some walks. Our student rentals suffered as everyone went home but we just stopped the services and applied for refunds. Some of which we got quicker than others. As you may know I spent my time painting, taking photographs, writing and spending a lot of time watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race. I couldn’t stomach my usual programming choice of WestWorld. Meditation was reforming me just as much as the enforced isolation was.

I was also in the process of moving house having acquired a new property last October. It needed a lot of work doing to it and we had ripped out fireplaces, tidied the garden etc already. We were waiting on the council to approve our extension plans before we could put in a new kitchen as the existing space was far too small. The house had been built in the depression era and had been occupied by a spinster for most of her life. As such she hadn’t changed the layout of the house only adding a stairmaster which had been present for the last 25 years.

That meant that our house needed to be emptied of its goods but we still needed to keep enough items there in case we went back there. We didn’t know how long the lockdown was going to last but we were staying at the in-laws temporarily as we had just got back from a holiday to India with them. It was strange living in that bubble not knowing how long we would be there and when we could leave and re-enter the world. The weather was amazing for the time of year so that kept our spirits up as well as Amazon. Being able to see another person even if it was for 2 minutes while they delivered something was a lifeline.

Then the quarantine finally eased up. So we had friends round for socially distanced BBQs. These were bizarre affairs as everything was separate so its like we were in rival gangs living in the same neighbourhood sharing a communal piece of ground. We were so grateful to have company though as our conversations were becoming rather stale. Nobody had been out in months except to the supermarket and there wasn’t anything to report from those trips. The drive to a fast food outlet was heaven.

It was very odd when we finally went back to our own home town after months spent holed up with my in-laws. The pubs were radically altered with their queues and separation measures. The convival atmosphere of the pub had disappeared. Only outdoor pubs could open. Luckily we would continually be blessed with good weather. This was highly unusual to have such a long run of good weather. That certainly helped with people’s moods. It was good for business too.

Afterwards, while the eat out to help out scheme was running to try to persuade people back into restaurants mingling with others; we went to Greece to try to salvage something of the year. It was bakingly hot but so quiet so the tourist industry still suffered. This was a bit of a problem in terms of income but we were glad as there was a lot less work to do. The ambience wasn’t there again but if your worried about your income it isn’t going to be.

My birthday came around and in the relative ease that we were enjoying I had my parents round who I hadn’t seen all year and we went to Ramsgate. We also had a very enjoyable day at a local zoo checking out the improvements that had made since I last visited several years ago. It was also a birthday trip then I believe if I recall correctly.

After that there was a new student year to prepare for but we were granted some more luck here as the students sign up in December/January so its very difficult for them to renege on their contracts. There is always a couple that decide uni isn’t for them or go elsewhere but were used to those teething problems. Unis were operating in a different way to before but the social isolation that preceded it meant that there reopening was necessary to try to get to some form of normality again. With the introduction of the tier system the media started to propagate the idea that universities were fertile Covid breeding grounds. This was again not true as although students thought they were immune and being a bit careless; It was more that drinking makes you forget about the new restrictions so you hug, kiss and visit many people. Mental health is a very important factor to the new generations so they know that self care is crucial to their well being. This includes the sensation of touch which can’t be replicated by Zoom or phone calls no matter how many you have or how often.

However, with a second lockdown that created some more problems or reignited old ones. Some students returned to their country of origin scared by the fear mongering that the media creates. There was also the inevitable backlash of students paying thousands for online lessons but again this is another media story blown all out of proportion. Students have generally being coping pretty well if the stories of my husband’s cousins are to act for all students in Corona virus hotspots.

November was a big month for me as I took to baking and pickling everything in sight for people’s Christmas presents. I refused to buy the same generic presents that I always did. The shops were not selling anything new and there had been no craft fairs to buy handmade gifts or something out of the ordinary. Most of the shops were closed again so it was handy that I had already bought my husbands presents in October when I had chance to browse. I couldn’t get anything spectacular but then we hadn’t been anywhere new after March to be able to pick up good gifts.

On a personal note I finally moved house after buying the next one what was now a year ago. My husband bought it while I was on a hen do so I had no choice in the matter. I’m not into the property game having moved house many times in my childhood. The whole renovation game is not my deal. I’m no good at any of those tasks having tried my hand at them all many times previously. The council had finally granted permission for us to start the extension and renovation works after applying a year ago so that meant back to the in-laws. I had a week’s notice to pack up our house and decide what was going to the new house as we wouldn’t need it for about 3 months and what was going to the in-laws. Their house was still accommodating the majority of our items from earlier on in the year but now they got everything that was left in our house. Its a good thing they have a big house.

It took me weeks to find homes for all the items. I spent a lot of time checking dates and quality of items as we didn’t have time to be choosy when we moved. We once again borrowed our mates cars and vans to move house as hubby refuses to get removal vans when those same mates own curtain sided lorries for their family business. Furniture is difficult to move and we didn’t have time to sell items off like last time we moved. There was also no time for charity to collect items either. It took us a day to clean and shift with several trips.

As the 2nd lockdown ended we had the tightening of restrictions with the upping of the tiers that the majority of people were in. This included myself as were now in tier 3 so lockdown in all but name. We had been in tier 1 beforehand which gave us relative freedom but now that had been removed. We had been imprisoned in our homes once again. Its a good thing I’m such a hermit crab. I went back to my usual organisation of cupboards, fridges and even the freezer this time. I realised this is the most stereotypical autistic thing I do as nobody else gets such joy from a well stocked, labelled and organised larder.

There was a lot of prep work for Christmas this year despite the fact that it was destined not to be well attended. We might not even have a party. I had to keep the house clean though as well as ourselves. Having quickly got zoom fatigue and found out I’m completely useless at music quizzes I took to calling people on the phone and WhatsApp video calls. In the first lockdown I found out that people are easily freaked out if you call them using Facebook messenger regardless of whether its video or audio. Especially if you don’t usually call them. I learnt to only contact the close friends as that makes the conversation run smoother even though nobody is actually doing anything. The transition to the new tier 4 which is a regional lockdown made doubly sure of that.

Life has a funny habit of creeping up on you when your not watching it as people still got new cars, had car accidents, elderly relatives died and major operations occurred. As for me the major event was finding out that my father had stage 4 terminal cancer yet I couldn’t go and see him because of the regulations forbidding travel. There were always in a different tier to us. There was also the fact that he had to have a covid test before each appointment and self isolate to protect himself. He had many scans and xrays of various parts as it was a proper detective story locating it and finding the original source. He had been fine as far as I was aware for my birthday but in actuality it had been picked up on a scan 6 months previously however due to the onset of Covid it had been missed and allowed to progress until he no strength at all. He was rushed to hospital barely able to breath but after a night inside he was dispatched. The saga continues still to this day as he is being treated by 3 different hospitals and the consultants can’t agree on the best course of action. He had a hip operation but is at home and my mother is struggling to cope. Its not what you expect to be dealing with in your golden years. The neighbours she would have previously relied upon have either died, moved away to stay with younger relatives due to ill health or simply moved because there are too many bad memories from other close friends dying.

The Quarantine Chronicles

I was just thinking that the situation we find ourselves in right now is not far off the nightmarish world of Fahrenheit 451. In it physical human connection is replaced by conversations on video screens. These video screens are larger than life in the fact that they become all consuming. It is considered highly attractive if your lounge/sitting room is in fact just 4 screens for walls. In that way that highly prised connection is permanently established but there is in fact no connection because you can’t really see the people or their lives. You only have a facsimile of reality. This was life for me existing behind a screen because reality was so painfully overwhelming as it was real.

It’s like living in the world of Equilibrium. We wanted to remove all the negativity present in the world but in doing so we also cocooned ourselves to the point of numbness. We no longer felt anything so we lost the ability to connect on any level let alone a meaningful one.

This virus is allowing us to reconnect with our immediate family but also disconnecting us from our extended family. We no longer have stories to share or deep conversations because those present were not there.

Everyone is currently in the same boat with regards to lack of mobility. We are craving interaction with our friends. We like to be social and have experiences so being told stay inside is jarring to a couple of rebellious individuals. Usually I’m on the side of the outsider always being one but for once we need to do as we’re told. In this regard tv is helping by having cooking shows, craft shows, walks and quiz shows. These all keep us occupied and possibly give us ideas to try out later. Let’s turn the pain and anxiety of missing friends and family into positive activities that benefit our communities .If we do this we may find a much better world with improved mental health.

Learning to cook is an essential skill that we seem to have lost but maybe we can regain it over the coming weeks. Let’s see if we can get the nation cooking, cleaning, repairing, exercising, gardening and generally looking after ourselves and our environment.