If I had £1 for every time I’ve heard the word ‘unprecedented’ on the news in the last few weeks, I’d have quite a pile of cash burning a hole in my pocket. Whether it be the presenters, the experts, or the ordinary person on the street (though more likely to be person on a video call these days), they’re all describing the times we are living through in the same way.
The truth is none of us have experienced anything like this, and for all of us it is taking some adjusting to. I’m the sort of person who finds writing things down helpful in making sense of things, which is why I’m putting some of my thoughts and reflections into a few online articles like this one.
As I sit here writing I’m emerging from my own, thankfully short, period of precautionary self-isolation. I had a call on Saturday afternoon to tell me that I’d recently been in contact with someone who has since tested positive for Covid-19 and I’d need to isolate myself until midnight on Monday evening. My afternoon plans for a socially-distanced walk on the beach were instantly cancelled, and I’ve spent the last three days in my flat.
Even though it hasn’t been the warmest of weekends, knowing I wasn’t allowed outside has meant I've spent more time with my windows open, craving the sound of the wind or the birds tweeting, to feel some connection to the outdoors.
I’m fortunate that I only had to isolate for three days because of the time that had gone by since I last saw the person who tested positive (and is now thankfully on the mend). I know some people need to isolate for one or two weeks. But what struck me was how much the deprivation of your freedom makes you want that freedom all the more.
I’ve filled my days with video calls with friends, family and colleagues and even managed to work from home for a good part of yesterday, writing scripts for our programme and working on website articles - but there was a definite relief when I saw the clock tick past midnight last night.
Never has it felt so good to see big open skies as it did this morning when I headed out for my state sanctioned exercise. The beach was wide, open and largely empty. The sun bouncing off the water like it does on any summer’s day. There were dog walkers, a family with two small children and pairs of people out enjoying their taste of fresh air for the day.
As I passed some (at the required two metre distance), I started to notice many were avoiding eye contact. The further I walked, the more I noticed people walking past each other in eerie silence almost feeling as though they weren’t allowed to speak.
This started bothering me more and more as I continued my walk, and by the time I came to leave the beach I couldn’t help myself. I made a point of saying a cheery “hello” to the next woman I passed, who was out with what looked like her daughter, and was hugely relieved when she smiled a broad smile and replied with an equally cheery “hello”.
Some of us may be in isolation at the moment. We have to observe social-distancing, but it’s OK to still say “hello” to people. It’s going to feel very lonely while we have all these restrictions if we don’t allow ourselves to speak to one another too.
- Read more of James' blogs here.