Things I Miss

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Today is the first day of the sixth week of the strict physical distancing measures we have been asked to live with in the UK to bring the coronavirus outbreak under control. I don’t like calling it ‘lockdown’ because it’s not. We’re allowed out of our homes to exercise and to go to the shops, many businesses have already reopened, and it’s not really being policed. I live in Birmingham city centre and although there have been police helicopters overhead and the police have been patrolling in their vehicles, it’s all been fairly relaxed. The situation in the UK is very different to the situation in Spain, Italy and France, where the restrictions are much tighter and more strongly policed.

I’m an introvert and so I haven’t struggled too much with ‘quarantine’. My friendship circle is tiny and I rarely see them anyway, I’m self-employed and work from home, and most of my hobbies are fairly insular in nature. I can’t work at the moment, and that’s my biggest challenge, but it is beyond my control at the moment so I’m trying to just accept it and spend more time doing other things. The government has promised 80% of earnings based on the last three years of income to the self-employed, so financially it’s less of a worry in the medium term, although long term it’s a big setback as the recession will mean less spending in the arts. Work and my ‘social life’ aside, there are things I miss about my everyday life, and I thought I would make note of them so that I can look back on this strange time in years to come and remember what it felt like.

I miss being able to see my parents in Somerset, and I miss being able to visit Ed’s parents and family in Gloucestershire. At this time of year we are usually back and forth visiting family fairly often, and it’s strange not knowing when we will next see them. My parents are both in their seventies, and I worry about them and the impact this will have on their physical and mental health. They’re used to seeing my brother and his children multiple times a week so it must be difficult for them to be so isolated. I have been speaking to them more often on the phone, and they’re keeping themselves busy in their garden, but it’s not easy.

I miss the library. I go to the library most weeks, to pick up reservations and browse the stacks. I have a huge pile of books to read, so I want for nothing, but I miss the library all the same. I’m so grateful to have access to such a good library service, I don’t take it for granted. Especially after ten years of austerity.

I miss swimming. I love swimming lengths in a quiet pool while listening to music, and I can’t wait for the gym and pool to reopen. I don’t think that’ll be for a while though. I also miss the gym and being able to lift weights. We have a small selection of dumbbells at home, but I miss being able to use a squat rack and really obliterate myself with a pile of discs. I’ve been walking a lot instead, mostly on quiet side streets. I don’t like running outdoors as the canal is too busy at the moment what with everyone trying to keep fit, and I worry that I’ll bump into Ed’s friends who are all fast, lithe runners. Mostly I’m just really self-conscious when it comes to exercise and prefer to do it anonymously.

I miss being able to visit the Botanical Gardens and Winterbourne, the two botanic gardens in my city. Spring is the best season for visiting, and yet both are closed. I also miss walking in the Lickey Hills and Sutton Park. Both are a little too far to get to without driving, and although the government has said it’s okay to drive somewhere to walk, I don’t want to get hassled by the vigilante corona-police who take it upon themselves to judge other citizens. I’ll just wait until it’s okay to take the train again.

Mostly, I miss being able to spend lots of time outdoors. This spring has been one of the warmest in years and the blossom has been magical, and so it has been strange to experience such beauty and renewal alongside the worst pandemic in one hundred years. I hope that by next spring, things are looking up.

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