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A YEAR OF LOCKDOWN

No commuting and wearing pyjamas to work: The things we want to keep from a year of lockdown

After a year indoors, Natasha Preskey asks The Independent’s team which aspects of lockdown life they’re hoping to hold onto long after 21 June

Tuesday 23 March 2021 14:38
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A year ago today, Boris Johnson announced the UK’s first national lockdown in a televised address watched by over 25 million people.

The Prime Minister urged Brits to “stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives”, saying: “The time has now come for us all to do more. From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home.”

But most of us had no idea that, a year later, we’d still be unable to go to friends’ houses or into the office.

Lockdown has brought us a new way of life along with an entirely new lexis (imagine explaining “social distancing”). Many aspects of this way of life involve monotony, isolation and anxiety. But have we taken anything from this time as a positive change or addition to our old lives?

Here, members of the team at The Independent share the things they want to keep from the last 12 months once things are back to some kind of normal.

Meeting friends outdoors

Meeting a friend for a walk in the local park or stomping around the neighbourhood in the evening. Rather than rushing into central London three nights a week, spending hours on the Tube, I’ve gotten used to idly wandering the streets I live in.

Taking a flask of tea (or a can of G&T); breathing in the fresh air; chatting, venting and sharing how well or how badly we’re coping with lockdown. It feels wholesome, life-affirming, deliciously teenaged – and it’s a very cheap night out.

Victoria Richards, Senior Commissioning Editor, Voices

Working from home

“Our grandchildren are not going to believe that we once went to offices just to put on headphones to drown out our colleagues and wrap ourselves up in giant shawls because it was freezing,” tweeted writer and editor Jenee Desmond-Harris in September, with more than 50,000 people liking the post. Were truer words ever spoken?

The move to working from home has been an absolute gift for me and many other workers. I’m fiercely protective of my work/life balance and the absence of a daily commute has granted me an additional three hours per day, which has only served to improve my mental health and, ultimately, make me a happier, more productive worker. I get more sleep, more exercise, more time to spend with loved ones and I’ve saved hundreds of pounds on daily travel costs. Despite many employers’ emphasis on ‘staff wellness’, the failure to recognise the many advantages of home working for staff is dispiriting and flawed.

On the capitalist treadmill, it can be easy to forget that you work to live, not the other way around, but it’s been encouraging to see companies such as Unilever, Twitter and Google adopt a more flexible approach to working. It’s long overdue and one I hope more companies opt for as lockdown restrictions ease.

Joanna Whitehead, Freelance Lifestyle Reporter

Wearing no make-up

When Monday morning rolls around, it’s hard to believe that, pre-lockdown, anyone could ever be bothered to put on a full face of make-up before commuting to work. It is just one extra step in the morning routine -but it’s one that feels like a lifetime ago and one I do not miss.

With more time spent at home, there are fewer people to frighten with my acne-scarred skin and, even when I venture out of the house, I feel much less self-conscious. My skin has thanked me for it too. I’ve had far fewer breakouts (other than those pesky mask-induced spots) as a result of allowing my skin to breathe for long periods for the first time in years.

On the rare occasions I do wear make-up - an important Zoom call, for example - I find myself catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and wondering who this brand new woman is. Thanks to lockdown, make-up is now more of a luxury to me. It’s great for when I need a pick-me-up, or when I feel like putting in some effort. But I’ve increasingly come to see wearing it as a personal choice and not something I ought to do because society tells me that as a woman, I need to.

Ellie Abraham, Freelance Lifestyle Reporter

Phone calls with family

It’s safe to say that we’re all sick of hearing the words “Zoom quiz” at this point. Being the grinch of virtual events, I’ve thankfully managed to avoid as many as possible this past year, as being forced to partake in any sort of trivia brings me out in hives. I’ve also never been a huge fan of video calls, despite being in a long distance relationship where others find them a lifeline. They feel artificial, somehow, as we spend the majority of the call checking what we look like rather than actually engaging in conversation.

The traditionalist in me is an avid fan of the simple phone call, and if there’s one thing I could keep from a year of lockdown habits, it’s speaking to my granny every evening, at 9pm sharp. I’ve always been close with my gran, but this past year I’ve got to know her so much more than I ever would have, despite only being on the other end of the phone. She’s told me stories about her childhood, raved about my grandad’s brilliant eye of fashion, and we’ve belly-laughed about her tales of getting lost abroad. She even went through a stage of reading me poetry every night, which definitely made each day of this mundane lockdown that bit brighter.

I’m ashamed to say that I barely called my gran before the pandemic, and although the tradition might not continue every night when the world opens up again, I’m going to make it my mission to make it a far more regular occurrence, as for me, the pandemic has proven that you don’t have to be physically together to feel closer than ever.

Ellie Fry, Deputy Editor, IndyBest

Jogging bottoms

Before lockdown, jeans were my “casual” outfit, and I didn’t even own a pair of jogging bottoms (ah, the folly of pre-pandemic youth). When I realised we’d be working for home for longer than a couple of weeks, everyone else seemed to have already converted to loungewear so, eager to catch up, I went to my local H&M and bought a £12.99 balloon-leg high waisted sweatpants. Reader, it’s been bliss.

Over the past year, I’ve since bought the same pair several times more, and wear them with everything, from roll neck jumpers to casual tees. I’ve even begun researching “smart” versions for my eventual return to the office (it’s a thing, okay?) In short, I can’t believe I spent 30 years fooling myself that denim was comfortable. Stretch over style for life.

Eleanor Jones, Executive Editor, IndyBest

Doing nothing guilt-free

Throughout my adult working life I have always found myself wanting to spend the weekends resting and taking it easy but in the old world felt so guilty if I did nothing with my time off from work.

Lockdown took all that away - you didn’t need to do anything because that was exactly what was required - a mindset which has been really restorative for me.

Although I can already feel myself gearing up for unbridled FOMO when lockdown lifts, so I need to resist the temptation to make all the plans and then be burned out again.

Sophie Gallagher, Deputy Lifestyle Editor

Staying two metres away from people

The ‘two metre rule’ has been an unexpected boon of the pandemic for me. I’m not particularly tactile with my friends and family and, in a work situation, find the debate over how to greet somebody wildly excruciating.

Whether it’s a sweaty handshake, a kiss on both cheeks, a hug or, god forbid, we go in for a kiss on the opposite cheek and end up kissing mouths/hair/ears: give me a foot tap or a wave any day.

Cathy Adams, Head of Travel

Getting from A to B under your own steam

Pre-pandemic, getting three tubes to see a friend and (if the Central Line was involved) arriving with a sweaty fringe and clammy underarms was seen as a fair price for socialising. Since lockdown, though, the journey to meet a friend has become part of the joy of the event and I’ll happily walk for an hour, maybe even two, to see someone, taking in sights I’d have missed from the inside of a tube carriage.

Similarly, friends who had previously been terrified of cycling have bought bikes, emboldened by the quiet lockdown roads. Doubtless, old habits will creep in once pubs and offices reopen, but I’m eager to hold off “tapping in” and “minding the gap” as long as possible.

Natasha Preskey, Senior Lifestyle Reporter

Table service in pubs

In other countries, plenty of them anyway, they know how to queue up at bars. We don’t. We loiter around them once we’ve been served, clogging up the pipeline to the bartender and rudely ignoring each other as we inhale our scampi fries and complain about paying nearly £7 for a pint of Amstel (this while willingly paying it).

Covid has shut all that down, forcing us to sit, wait, talk to a server in an indoor voice, thank them when they bring us something. Imagine if we could live this way forever. And let’s put up a proper line of stools at the bar while we’re at it, so we can catch up on that American dive bar tradition of showing up alone, sitting down, and striking up a chat with whoever. Rather than having to grunt down someone’s neck just to get at a bag of crap peanuts.

Andrew Naughtie, US Politics Reporter

Running as our main form of exercise

I have never been the type of person to enjoy running - I used to find it extremely tedious and boring and something one did purely to try and keep their body in some sort of working order. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that I always did it on a treadmill, inside the gym, facing a blank wall... We’ll never know.

But when lockdown shut all the gyms down and it became obvious my flat was too small and the floors too flimsy to do any sort of vigorous exercise in, I had to come to terms with the fact that running outside was one of the only ways to keep myself going.

As I am lucky enough to be living near a heath and a park, I downloaded the Couch to 5k app and started running regularly in the spring. And you know what? It’s been a joy. I hit my 5k goal and kept running, although I admittedly did fall off the bandwagon in December when the cold really started setting in. But now I’m back at it and aim to hit 10k in a single run by the time my birthday rolls around in the middle of the year. Now that that’s out in public, I suppose I’ll have to do it...

Kate Ng, News Reporter

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