Life in Lockdown

It’s March 2021. We’re approaching the point where this time last year, the UK went into its first lockdown. It feels like a good moment to reflect on what’s happened this last year, and what might happen in the next few months.

For the first time in a long time, I feel hope as well as sadness. My partner had his Covid vaccination yesterday and I hope that I will get mine in the next couple of weeks. My daughter had hers several weeks ago and my eldest son should get his by July. Hopefully the youngest will follow shortly after that.

Like almost everyone, I’ve found this latest lockdown a real struggle. January was worst but I managed to muddle through February staying fairly sane but with an awareness that I would easily slip into depression if I didn’t recognise and tackle things that were having an effect on my mood. By the beginning of March announcements from the UK government about when the lifting of restrictions might happen had been made, and a return to school was in sight for my children. That announcement helped a lot because one of the worst things for me has been seeing my youngest son (aged 16) struggling.

There’s a feeling that life could be back to some form of normal by the middle of June if the pace of the vaccination programme continues in the UK. Thanks to the NHS, that’s likely. My local GP surgery are vaccinating all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The appointments are timed precisely to the minute, and the whole operation seems to be running like clockwork. I was surprised at the amount of relief I felt when I got the text from my partner asking me to put the kettle on as he’d had his vaccine and was on his way home. It was quite an emotional moment. I know we’re not out of the woods yet, but thanks to a lot of very hard working people, we’re getting there.

When the first lockdown came into force, I became obsessed with growing things. I planted so many seeds and grew all sorts. I don’t have a greenhouse but I do have a south-facing porch and so I filled it with seed trays full of courgettes, tomatoes, salad, peppers and whatever else I could get my hands on. I planted more than ever before in my garden and that’s been useful as just last week I was picking home grown kale for a recipe.

This time around I’ve taken to doing a few online cookery classes with Waitrose Cookery School via Zoom just to do something a bit different. I’ve learnt how to cook some new dishes and picked up some great cooking tips. So I’ve been cooking from scratch a lot more as it’s increased my confidence in the kitchen. All the same, I can’t wait until the local cafes, bars and restaurants open and I can eat a meal I’ve not had to plan or shop for that’s been cooked by someone else.

The other thing I want to do when the restrictions ease is see my daughter and her fiancé without being worried about not being able to hug anyone, then I want to go to the cinema, and then book in a trip to London. It’s funny to realise how important going to the cinema is to me; it wasn’t until cinemas opened after the first lockdown and I immediately booked tickets for The Empire Strikes Back that I knew how much I had missed it.

Through this whole time I’ve continued to keep a diary almost every day, a habit I developed as part of self-reflective practice on the photography degree. There’s not a lot going on, but I can always find something to write about and I find I write more and more each day.

At the beginning of the lockdown last March, I had a lot of photography I knew I had to get on with and catch up on. I’d been to London in early February and that, as usual, had been inspirational and sparked a lot of new ideas. So the first couple of months were okay. I found I had a lot of ideas I wanted to pursue although there were some I couldn’t because of the restrictions. I had begun some work on religion and had several contacts lined up to photograph and interview as part of this. I got one interview done and then had to stop. I didn’t want to put myself or anyone else at risk for the sake of a photograph.

Some self-portrait work during the initial lockdown in 2020

I tried some self-portraiture with mixed success. There was a story I was trying to tell, but being stuck indoors I felt I couldn’t quite get there; the emotional aspect of the work was getting to me. There was a brief but not total respite during the summer in terms of lockdown, but it didn’t help with my creative block. I visited family in London, I saw my mum which always leaves me with mixed feelings, but as a family we didn’t feel comfortable travelling or staying overnight anywhere so we didn’t get any real time away from the house. We did get out to a few restaurants and shops. I felt safe going out to eat, but I didn’t like the experience of shopping anywhere – not being allowed to touch or pick things up before you buy them, not able to try make up, it all ended up being easier to just get online and so my bad Amazon habit has just got worse, even though for a few weeks I purposefully tried to always look for an alternative locally before I resorted to bolstering the earnings of Jeff Bezos.

My great-aunt Viola died from Covid aged 99. This portrait is from 2018.

My photography has reflected how I have felt the last year, that I’m living in some endless day in this house that is repeated over and over, and the only punctuation points are the days I walk the dog. These days represent the furthest I travel from the house during lockdown periods. There’s a bench at the furthest point on my walk, and some time during June 2020 I took to sitting at it whenever it was free, and taking a photograph from that point. That’s built up into a photographic project during lockdown which is a diary and probably hundreds of photographs all taken from the same point on the same camera for the same reason, usually on the same days. As the restrictions in England come to an end, I think it’s likely to coincide with the time this project really kicked off for me and I will have a years worth of work that perfectly represents how I have experienced life during this period. I’m going to start adding those images and extracts from the diary to my main photography site soon, and will probably put a shortened version of it on this site.

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