With the second national lockdown looming upon us, I thought I’d share my experiences on the first lockdown which was announced back in March of this year.
Surely this upcoming lockdown won’t be as bad as the first…?
“Go to work, don’t go to work, go outside, don’t go outside, and then we will or won’t… uhm…well something will happen.” Comedian, Matt Lucas’ iconic impression of our Prime Minister, beautifully reflected the confusion Boris had caused at the beginning of the Pandemic.
Boris Johnson’s regular addresses to the nation often had the public scratching their heads in bemusement, it was like watching inception for the very first time.
Have no fear this feature is not about boring your brains with political talk, just a piece on how the pandemic affected daily life in my darling North Kensington.
Welcome to West London…
While the death rates in the UK rose, anxiety levels skyrocketed all foreign surfaces began to be approached with caution. Handrails, door handles, and lift buttons became the enemy, as hand sanitizer and masks were our new best friend.
A regular cough or sneeze in public would capture attention instantly, those once innocent actions, had now become a crime in the eyes of many. Cough’s on a Skype or telephone call amongst friends were met with screams of “CORONA”.
The two step, a classic on the dancefloor became a normal occurrence on Kensington’s streets as strangers shuffled across attempting to avoid one another.
Preparing to go out became extremely unusual, masks across the face followed by latex gloves were what the doctor ordered. Meanwhile, that was not enough for some, people were in hazmat suits – CSI London was on the way!
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, had advised, rather than forced businesses to close, there was no financial protection for business owners. The government’s lack of leadership had a devastating, ripple effect on employers and employees alike.
Friends were beginning to be told of chances of redundancy, along with unpaid leave from their jobs. Moreover, talks of not being able to afford rent and bills were a regular feature in conversations with them.
This moment of uncertainty had led to fear in the hearts of many, mental toughness would be put to the test.
March 23rd, 2020, history was made as the Prime Minister announced a strict lockdown across the UK. “The Coronavirus is the biggest threat this country has faced for decades.” As those words fell out of Mr. Johnson’s mouth, life as we know it would change.
The eery silence throughout the streets was unsettling, with everyone at home, the roads were deserted. Walking my elderly neighbours’ dog every morning, felt like I was re-enacting scenes from Will Smith’s I Am Legend.
A few days later, hope in humanity was almost lost. Caring for my loving mother, I am responsible for the grocery shopping, pharmacy runs and all that exciting stuff.
Firstly, before I get into the trepidation which has been shopping during Coronavirus. To the selfish idiots that believe it is acceptable to smoke a cigarette while queuing to enter stores, please exit this post, accordingly, thank you.
While the Ocado vans offloaded shopping deliveries to the million-pound homes surrounding my council flat, it was time to hit the frontline. The carnage that ensued at the local grocery stores was extraordinary, a simple spot of grocery shopping, was now a scavenger hunt.
Reminiscent of a David Attenborough wildlife series, shoppers mimicked hyenas, scrapping over anything they could get their hands on. Supermarkets were full to the brim of customers seeking what they considered essentials, the mentality was that of the Boxing Day sales, kill, or be killed.
Witnessing the bare shelves across all local supermarkets along with the panic, was disturbing. Movies such as The Day After Tomorrow and World War Z felt like a reality.
Adults were hilariously squabbling over loo roll like siblings over the television remote, toilet roll had been put on a pedestal. Purchasing the prestigious item could result in you receiving a few glaring stares on the way out.
Furthermore, the fear between individuals resulted in stockpiling priorities being evaluated. While some elected to stockpile on food and loo roll, others chose to stockpile on their beloved Mary Jane.
The NHS staff along with all essential workers are the unsung heroes of this Pandemic, the critical work carried out by them, has been undervalued. Without their countless hours of tireless work, communities like mine would have struggled to continue.
Exercise is crucial when attempting to maintain good physical and mental health, the closure of gyms along with the lockdown restrictions left millions at a loss.
Up stepped Mr Lean in 15, Joe Wicks. P.E with Joe was the morning ritual, the workouts at home were an enjoyable way to keep in shape, shouting at friends over Facetime to “KEEP GOING” became second nature.
Social distancing had brought people closer together; the tight restrictions meant more time could be devoted to loved ones.
The day saw adults on work zoom calls, come the night the HouseParty application took centre stage. Friends who had not spoken for years were reconnecting, heated quizzes and games pursued the following months.
Mothers morning routine consisted of two things, a well brewed coffee, followed by Piers Morgan hurling abuse at whatever politician was brave enough to appear on Good Morning Britain. I am not sure if it was seeing him so often on television, but he grew on me over lockdown.
Lockdown proved to be tough for my mother, having underlying health issues, she fell under the high-risk category. Loving gestures such as a hug or kiss did not seem responsible without the access to tests.
Socially distancing from my own mother in fear of potentially infecting her, proved heart-breaking.
Working from home gave me the freedom to devote more time to my old-fashioned mum, a woman that cursed technology. The moment had arrived, to teach her how to facetime.
All be it a slow process, we got there in the end. Receiving my first facetime call from her, she could not stop smiling, was adorable. Bloody hilarious mind you.
Without a single barber insight, men had critical decisions to make with their appearance. The buzzcut gained a resurgence, while others came together in solidarity with the quarantine beard. Masks struggled to contain the grizzly hair on faces, hair often creeping into mouths.
Hopes of a summer holiday were looking bleaker by the day, flying abroad during a pandemic was probably not the smartest decision.
Consequently, direct flights were regularly booked to the kitchen, ransacking the cupboards and fridge became a passion of mine.
Life as a single man during lockdown meant one thing and one thing only, PLAYSTATION. Hours of FIFA followed by constant trips to the Gulag in Call of Duty kept the time ticking, Netflix had also found a new place in my heart.
Michael Jordan’s The last dance, inspired a new generation, basketball fan or not. The determination to succeed, accompanied with his charisma, resulted in a captivating documentary.
Another documentary to dominate the online discussions had to be Tiger King, “Carole and I have been married for 20 years and have never argued.” Once that was said by Carole’s new husband, one thing was for sure.
Carole Baskin, DEFINITLY killed her ex-husband. This Halloween be sure to see a few dozen Joe Exotic’s.
2020 has been anything but kind to us, with the death of the great Kobe Bryant, the racial injustice in America and globally. The horrific explosion in Beirut killing at least 190 people, the disturbing images of Uyghur Muslim detention camps in China.
Coronavirus has had a disastrous impact across the globe, not just little old North Kensington. It is up to the people of all communities to stick together.
We are all riding the same storm, just on different boats.
Written by: Hassan El-Gendy