#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 17

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 17

Day 17

Finally, it is vitally important that everyone continues to follow the Government guidelines and stays safe during the lockdown period. When we can bring everyone back to work, we will need a fit and healthy workforce so that we can hit the ground running in all areas.

Yesterday one of my neighbour came knocking on my door. She knocked on all the doors of the row of three houses mine belongs to. We stepped out, each of us on our doorstep and my neighbour two metres away on the road.

She had red eyes and tears welling up in her eyes. She told us she wanted to say hello. The back of her house faces the front of our row of houses. She sees us all the time but she doesn’t know us. At least, she doesn’t know me and my partner. She has been friend with our two immediate neighbours for a while.

She has come to check up on us, she said. Her voice was on the verge of breaking. I told her I was okay. She smiled as best she could. I’m not, she replied. The lady in the farthest house echoed her words. The lady in the middle nodded but didn’t say the words.

I felt pain for my neighbours but didn’t know how to respond. I wanted to offer a cup of tea and some biscuits but it wasn’t possible. Instead we chatted about how we keep occupied, how our families and friends are coping. Her father has to go to dialysis twice a week. He leaves alone and it is hard not to go and see him. The lady in the farthest house has friends who fell sick with the disease. They seemed okay at first until it hit them hard and they found breathing difficult (they are still alive).

For ten minutes, I get to know my neighbours a bit better. The short waves, the friendly smiles now extended to words and names exchanged. I want to help but I feel powerless. How do you help someone you do not know? How do you help someone who is healthy and secure but is finding it difficult to bear the mental weight of isolation?

In the morning I sit at my desk and write letters. One for my grand mother, one for my nephew, one for my neighbour.

My grand mother doesn’t use the Internet so we communicate via postcards. She tells me about her garden, the chickens and the deer. I tell her about my garden, the weather and life in lockdown.

I speak often with my nephew on WhatsApp but I know he longs for more. And so do I. In every conversation, he asks when I will come and visit. He knows I cannot hop to his house but he asks anyway. So I send him something physical he can hold onto. I tell him about the book he chose for me to read, about the Pokémon game I play and ask him about his life.

My neighbour letter is simple. I tell her how lovely it was to meet her and share my phone number. I have no power to make her life better but at least I can distract her for a minute or two and maybe that will be enough.

The cards written and sealed in an envelope, I check my e-mails. There is one from work. After the government announcement to extend lockdown for another three weeks, I expected it. It is no surprise that I will not be returning to work on the 21st of April as originally planned. Our managerial director reassures us that the few employees still working at doing all they can to ensure the business remains afloat. It feels trivial to know this but I know he has to tell us. So he does. I care little for the message until I reach the last paragraph.

I am to remain fit and healthy for my return to work. I read it again. I am to remain fit and healthy for my return to work. I think about my neighbour yesterday so close to tears, the admission that not many of us are okay. I think about my grand mother alone in her big house. I think about my sister transformed from a mother to a teacher. I think about my brother alone in his flat battling a boss that barely pays him. I think about people who are dying and the people who are grieving them.

Remaining fit and healthy for work seems trivial. I do not want to hit the ground running on the 11th of May (a date I do not believe in). I want to see my colleagues again and moan about our customers. I want to see my friends and share in our usual banter. I want to sit in my neighbour living room and share a cup of tea. I want to sit in the pub with the mutual group for our street and laugh at all the silly things we did to keep sane.

I want to remain fit and healthy so I can return to Offa’s Dyke Path and explore the boundary line between England and Wales. I want to build my cardio up to make it easy to cycle to Land’s End and navigate the part of Sustrans cycle route 3 I do not yet know. I want to feel my body alive, my heart beating, my lungs breathing, ready to return to living.

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