INTRO: This was something that I wrote a year ago, over the first few weeks of lockdown. I don’t know why I never published it at the time. I do remember thinking that I didn’t have anything new to say, and I do remember being SO damn bored of everything covid and lockdown related. But it’s interesting to re-read now, and look back on how I felt during that time. VERY ANGRY apparently. So please be warned I drop the F-bomb with even more frequency than usual. So here it is as a little snapshot of that time when we all stayed in, banged saucepans for the NHS (in Evie’s case, with such enthusiasm that she broke a wooden spoon), home schooled, drank too much, couldn’t run together or see anyone else even outside. Things might still be a bit rubbish and weird now, but it’s making me even more grateful for the vaccine and for a semblance of normality returning. Enjoy.
COVID19, THE START OF LOCKDOWN AND ALL THAT
I read a quote recently (and I’m sorry that I can’t remember where I read it) that one thing that will come out of this lockdown is a LOT of bad novels. Probably a lot of started and re-started blogs too. So why wouldn’t I contribute to this tidal wave of stuff to read on our phones while we hide from our kids in the loo, right? We all need to find ways to keep ourselves sane during this once in a generation (we hope) shitstorm, and this is one of mine – see also drinking and running, and swearing. More on all of these later.
It feels really strange to be living through something so historic doesn’t it? This period will undoubtedly be looked back on as world changing, and the magnitude of what we are experiencing is overwhelming sometimes. Right at the start of all of this, when we didn’t really quite understand what was and wasn’t ok (some people apparently still don’t, and it is hard to judge this stuff, everything is so upside down) a friend said that she just didn’t want to look back and regret decisions she made. This seemed like a good litmus test to me – and meant that even early on I stopped seeing my (sorry Mum) elderly parents. Who luckily took this very seriously and self-isolated immediately. My 88 year old Dad even going up to the co-op in the next village, in protective gear – which I naively thought meant a mask and plastic gloves, but he actually wore full foundry gear, with the idea that if it protected him from molten bronze it could probably keep C19 out.
So yeah, “historically” interesting times – both incredibly stressful and really RE-HE-HE-HEALLY fucking boring. Remember when all we had to worry about was Brexit? (which, incidentally suddenly seems to have dropped off everyone’s radar). Along with the labour leadership contest – until Starmer was announced as the new labour leader, I had completely forgotten that was even happening.
I was listening to the running commentary podcast and the episode had been recorded just before we went into proper lockdown here in the UK. They apparently got a lot of stick because the ‘information’ was already out of date by the time they released it. They were still running together for example. But that’s the weird thing, it’s like a little time capsule. It’s already become strange to watch pre C19 TV (apart from maybe the walking dead) and see people socialising and out in big groups. Facebook memories of 17 of us all out on a long run together now look poignant and weird. Things are simultaneously moving really fast (in terms of the advice for what we should and shouldn’t be doing at the beginning, it all happened really quickly) and now, it seems at a glacial pace because we’re now all stuck in our homes with whoever we happen to live with. In my case that is my husband, who I separated from last year, but we still get on pretty well, we’re good friends, he’s a good egg, (just not the right egg for me). But it does make the situation a bit weird. Weirder, even, than it would be if we were still together. Also in our household are our two kids: Joe aged 5 and a half, and Evie who has just turned 10. Plus our cats, Finnegan – 13, mental, ginger, attention seeking perma-kitten, and Jones – 6, beautiful, sleeps a lot, loud purr, has a brain disorder that makes her a bit wonky. It’s like everything has gone into stasis – there’s no point in worrying about our relationship in the middle of all of this. We just need to get on with living as we do now.
So, as I write this, it’s Sunday of the first real week of lockdown. The schools only shut on the previous Friday, so we’ve had a whole week of the kids being at home and on Monday the lockdown proper was announced. No unnecessary travel, everyone who can, and isn’t in a key role is to work from home. But thank FUCK we are still currently allowed out once a day, on our own or with someone we live with already, for exercise. This may be the thing that saves my sanity, so for the love of all that is holy, we need to not cane it, take the piss, or in other ways fuck it up…*
*note from a couple of weeks later – reader: we probably fucked it up.
GONNA GET SUPERBUFF INNIT
I had initially been convinced that I was going to come out of lockdown as BUFF AS FUCK – think Buffy, Ripley or Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 when Arnie breaks her out of prison and she’s been doing chin ups on her upturned bed. There are no carbs available, rice and pasta and bread flour (even though buying y’know ACTUAL BREAD has not ever been a problem round here – people are still buying up all the flour just in case…) are becoming like gold dust, and messages are flying round Whatsapp groups when Aldi had restocked the fusilli. Combine the lack of carbs with the fact that I’m doing more exercise than EVER – my one escape from my laughable attempts to home-school my kids along with the rest of the country, has been a daily run. PLUS the rather lovely (if you turn the sound down) Joe Wicks’ PE lessons every day, which I swear he has not actually amended for his audience of primary school children one little bit. It’s like a kind of cbeebies SAS bootcamp. You THINK you’re going to get a gentle kids workout but suddenly realise you’re in thrall to a beautiful be-ringletted Adonis of a DICTATOR. IT’s HAAAAAAAARD!!!! Friends don’t make friends do Burpees Joe, AND mountain climbers can fuck off too. What the hell??? I’m defecting to Andy on ACTUAL cbeebies, just as ringletted, (not quite as pretty but right now beggars can’t be choosers), and Andy has never made me do a burpee and he knows a LOT about dinosaurs.
Anyway, so all this exercise as escapism, PLUS no carbs, I was going to get so damn fit right? Operation superbuff was back on – but THEN I realised that even if I do a 5k run every day, I’m still nowhere near my step count. And also, you know how there’s this image that runners don’t drink very much and we’re all super ridiculously health conscious and all that bollocks? Well personally I don’t usually drink very much – and I do suffer from a bit of cake retention. The only reason I don’t drink very much is because I get the most HORRENDOUS hangovers. And dealing with small children with absolutely no conception of the idea that you don’t want them shouting into your bloodshot eyeballs about Ninjago and demanding snacks when mummy is feeling a bit unnecessary is just not worth it. So up until lockdown I might have an occasional glass of wine or a beer at the weekend. Since lockdown? I might be running every day, but I’m also drinking every day. At least a glass of wine, sometimes two, or a beer (or two), or once I had a clear out of the top shelf of our larder and discovered a long forgotten dusty bottle of vodka. Oh what treasure!!!! Stick THAT in my diet coke, thanks very much. I’m not proud of this newfound alcohol consumption and I really do need to knock it on the head, but it’s a bit siege mentality at the moment, and we’re all doing what we need to do to get through. It also numbs my evening panic brain and probably prevents me from braining Matt with a cast iron skillet – Vic and Bob slapstick stylie – for loud eating when I’ve got PMT. So I’d say in the balance of things, I’m ok with it. But it IS somewhat preventing me from getting the Ripley style body that I had imagined I’d get in the apocalypse.
I TRY AND HOMESCHOOL MY OFFSPRING
You know the aforementioned storms? There was a meme that said everyone in the UK either gained or lost a trampoline (I think it was on the Daily Mash). I was wistfully looking out the window at some neighbours kids flying about on theirs the other day and really wished a trampoline had landed in our garden – as that would be really useful for throwing my kids in right now to cage them in a constructive way. Have discovered that literally the only thing they can do which does not require my involvement is watching tv or playing minecraft. I can’t set them a ‘task’ and they will get on with it… in fact the idea is utterly laughable. The big one will do something on her own if she absolutely HAS to, with much tweenage eye rolling and tossing of hair. And if I let her put zoom on with her best friends she will actually happily paint or even do maths with her friends on zoom for company. But the little one, is fucking hopeless. He’s 5 and a half and is pretty bright but has the attention span of a flea and does not do one damn thing he does not want to. Right now I’m typing this and simultaneously doing his maths school work with him. which involves counting rainforest animals then subtracting certain numbers of i.e. toucans – apparently this also involves dancing and when it’s a number bigger than ten he says he needs to utilise my fingers for counting (he doesn’t – it’s a subterfuge), he’s also holding onto my earlobe (don’t ask, he’s always done it, he’s a weirdo) arguing over whether those are tigers, leopards or cheetahs. And I’m periodically removing the cats arse from both kids work. It’s taken me an hour to write this paragraph.
THEN I found a 500 piece puzzle of wild birds that my Mum had bought for the kids at some point. Joe loves a puzzle and I had an idyllic vision of the three of us working on the thing together as a project. To be fair, that did actually work for a while, and I marvelled at how good Joes little 5 year old brain was at working out where the pieces fitted together – but he quickly lost interest. Evie and I carried on with it. And then by the end it was just me, swearing and drinking (but still laughing at the repeated occasion to use the word tits – “Evie, which is the big tits pile?” “do you think that’s part of a tit?” etc…) and awaiting the satisfaction of the finished puzzle, only to find six gaps and 4 leftover pieces that did not fit in any of the gaps. Quite possibly the most annoying thing EVER to have happened in the history of annoying things. Discuss.
RUNNING WITH THE GIRL ONE
One ray of light in this has been how often the E has wanted to come for a run with me. We’ve gone from semi regular parkrun attendance, to her coming out for a 5k run with me a few times a week. I am fortunate enough to live less than a mile from a couple of really beautiful runs, so we go up to Shotover and spot deer or listen out for (but never manage to catch a glimpse of) woodpeckers. Or we go down instead, to Lye Valley (which is a tiny nature reserve accessed across a golf course, which weirdly seems to have been taken over entirely by families having picnics or playing Frisbee as they can completely spread out and stay a decent distance from each other – but it’s the most post-apocalyptic thing to see spaces being repurposed like this) where we check out the progress of the frogspawn that is now hundreds of wriggly tadpoles, and watch red kites wheeling overhead, and once an enormous heron.
However we had an incident yesterday that has nearly put paid to this and it’s both very annoying and a total cliché. Lego injury innit. I had persuaded her to do the booty scooty dance from teen titans go, and she trod on a lego minecraft panda. It’s like pop culture got her. And being a very sharp edged squared off panda, and the enthusiasm with which she was engaging in the booty scooty (we were pretty bored) meant that she landed on it quite hard and got quite a nasty cut. She did manage to laugh about what a ridiculous injury it was. And unlike Robin from the teen titans she, at least, didn’t manage to dance her bum RIGHT OFF. A new series of teen titans go has been a godsend in these troubled times. That and the excuse to buy Disney plus on the cheap for a year, so that we could watch the Mandalorian. I mean so that the kids can watch loads of Disney films they’ve never seen and absolutely NOTHING to do with the StarWars treasure trove that awaited me and Matt. But if anyone wants to buy me an outlandish gift, I’m no longer interested in a unicorn a dragon, my heart belongs to baby yoda now. I might try and crochet myself one. I’ve got time to re-learn how to do that.
A couple of weeks into the lockdown, I got into a conversation with a lovely lady called Nikki Bartlet on Instagram (no big deal, she’s only a world champion Ironman WINNER ffs) who had gone for a run in a full Spiderman costume. So I persuaded E and J to dress up with me, Batgirl, Superman and Wonderwoman – yes we did have all of that in the house. What? And then me and E went for a run in our costumes. I would like to say it was her idea, I’d like to say that she was a totally willing participant in this bit of fun and whimsy, but in reality it was totally me that wanted to do it and I had to bribe her with a promise of a Dominos Pizza when we got back, in order to get her to do it. It WAS fun though. We live fairly near the John Radcliffe – the huge hospital in Oxford – and we saw a lot of people in scrubs going to or from the hospital who waved and cheered at us. Obviously we did all of this at a safe distance before anyone says I’m not practicing what I preach, because the next bit does get a bit preachy (some might even say JUDGY AS FUCK).
THINGS MOVE ON – I GET GRUMPIER AND APPARENTLY BECOME A BIT RIGHT WING
I started writing this in the first week of lockdown, we’re now about to go into week three and a lot has changed since then. Whilst, as we’ve all been staying at home (well, most of us fucking well have, more on that later) everything has stayed more or less the same, a lot has changed as well. Mentally we’re having to dig in now. This is getting really hard. I, probably much like everyone else have been utterly up and down with it, ranging from the second panic attack I’ve had in the last decade (used to have them a LOT before then) to moments of real joy with my kids.
So here we are, at today. The 5th of April 2020. If the world had not gone mental I would have been somewhere around the halfway point of Manchester Marathon. My training had been derailed by the massive storms we had one after another (that did not, as mentioned even bring me a trampoline), illness (Joe got croup we had to call the paramedics out, and seeing him unable to breathe was the single most terrifying moment of my life) and then ironically, or some kind of foreshadowing or something, I got a horrible virus (not THAT one) and was knocked out for weeks. I’d just got my training back on track, and after a glorious, sunny, fun 20 mile race that I ran with friends in a really relaxed fashion, stopping and chatting at the water stations, walking up hills if we felt like it, still doing a reasonably good time for my first 20 mile race – I signed up for my first ultra…. The plans of men and all that. I feel a bit sad for that past me making all these plans – first the marathon was postponed, then the other marathon I had signed up for and the Ultra were completely cancelled. But you know what, I don’t feel bad about that – it was what had to happen. I don’t feel like my own personal will has been thwarted or all fucking ‘WHY ME?’ about it, because it’s ALL OF US, that have to do this. It’s so much a bigger picture thing.
Some people I know, in real life and just on social media, are going out and running marathon distance runs today. Some people are posting two or three hour long runs on Strava, or running with people they definitely don’t live with and making jokes about ‘social distancing’ runs, posting pictures of them at a distance… I’m trying SO HARD not to be judgy here, I did the same thing just before the lockdown proper kicked in. We’d been told not to run in groups, but surely meeting up with one friend and going for a run if we kept away from each other and didn’t hug or anything, was ok? Surely? Surely it’s my RIGHT as a RUNNER to do this? My training trumps all doesn’t it? No Emma it fucking well does not. And cheering out my window for the NHS on a Thursday and then going out and running 20 miles on the Sunday is an act of massive hypocrisy. SO I DO NOT DO IT. I felt really guilty about that last run before the lock down – an elderly lady said something to us about not running together and we were all insulted. But she was RIGHT it turns out. And she was probably SCARED too.
I’ve been running every day as mentioned, but I have been mostly doing 5k in a loop or an out and back from my house. The most I’ve done in a few weeks was maybe 10k. And I don’t say this to say how fucking great I am at behaving myself during lockdown, it’s because I’m fucking scared too. I don’t do this because I’m worried I’ll get ill. Weirdly I’m not worried about that particularly, even though, now I have a few friends who have had it or are going through it now – I know it’s nasty and knocks you out of action for weeks – but I’m not worried for me. I’m worried that I might get it and somehow pass it on to the postman, or my neighbour who had a kidney transplant or my friend whose husband has severe asthma or any of my friends that work in the NHS or my octogenarian parents. So I do this, I don’t go out for massive long runs and depress my immune system and inevitably come into contact with more people because I’m out of the house for longer, because of my love for these people. And because I want there to be beds in ICU for people who really need it.
I think there’s something intrinsically selfish about us runners sometimes though. I think maybe it’s the other side of the coin about what I love about running. It’s a solitary thing. It is. Even though it’s also a hugely sociable thing, and I love those long runs with huge groups of people or one really good friend when you just pound the pavements or trails and put the world completely to rights. And god how I miss doing that, and those friends right now. It’s still in essence something you do by yourself. No one can ‘help’ you run. It’s your legs and lungs and heart that have to do it. And you’re only ever really competing against yourself. What your mind can persuade your body to do.
So I think there’s an element of it being our ‘right’ to go out on a long run, we’re entitled to do it. IT’S HEALTHY RIGHT? And usually it is. But right now, we’re all having to do things that feel alien and weird, and we just have to trust and do this. And while the 30-60 minutes remains a recommendation rather than a hard and fast rule, people will still go out and do longer runs because they personally feel they need it.
This does not happen in China – where my sister and her family live – if the Chinese authorities tell you to stay in and precisely HOW you need to stay in, you stay the fuck in. I’m not saying I think we need a more totalitarian rule here, far from it, I am politically leftwing and liberal – but in this emergency, it seems we needed to be told what the fuck to do, more precisely and probably, though I hate to say it, a lot stricter. People take the piss – and teenagers, who I still see out in groups when I’m on my daily runs – will be the death of bloody all of us.
THE PLOT – AND APPARENTLY A SMALL PROPORTION OF OUR NATION – THICKENS
In between me thinking I’d finished this post this morning, and now (8:30 in the evening – second glass of wine, WHAT? I didn’t say I’d start cutting down on my drinking right fucking now….) Matt Hancock went on the Marr show and said (since slightly backtracked) that if we couldn’t stop behaving like UTTER twats (I’m paraphrasing) they would ban all outdoor exercise… now this really pisses me off. Not the threat – to be honest, I’m wondering what it will take for people to stop thinking the rules don’t apply to them – although I REALLY hope it doesn’t come to that. But the fact that some selfish dickheads who can’t stay off the beach, or think exercise = sunbathing, or going to meet up with people who aren’t in their actual household have potentially ruined the one part of this that was keeping me vaguely sane. I was so fucked off that I nearly jacked in my run streak (today was day 17 or 18, I’ve lost count) in a massive hissy fit that literally no-one that me really cares about. But then I decided, no I’ll show *them* I’ll run a mile on my own property – which involved running up and down the lane that we co-own with two other houses, that is 0.025 of a mile long… yes that’s right, I ran up and down it TWENTY TIMES it was REALLY tedious – to prove a point. And to see what it was like, because that may well end up being the only option left to me. Christ I hope not.
Stay safe everyone. And probably no one has said this to you, but STAY THE FUCK INSIDE.
BOREDOM – FIVE DAYS LATER
Now I’m not saying I’ve let myself go or anything – I do still get dressed up (top half only obvs, bottom half is still in pyjamas or joggers) and apply make up to do Zoom or houseparty with friends or my Mum (otherwise she tells me I look tired)… BUT I did also just brush my eyebrows with a full sized tangle teaser. So it’s possible things are slipping somewhat.
Its Easter weekend. The run streak has actually continued – I think today will be 22 days, so my longest ever streak. It was nearly scuppered several times – firstly sheer lethargy and the aforementioned FUCK YOU to all the lockdown rule breakers. Also a couple of runs where it became hard to distance properly, which really stressed me out. I know runners get a bad rap, and I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be walking where I want to run – but ffs, if you’re in a pair or a family, can ya NOT just go single file while people go past so that it’s physically possible for me to stay 6ft from you without throwing myself into a ditch or hedge, or the road? I also know normally sensible people who seem to think a three and a half hour walk with their kids is ok?!! That’s an afternoon out, not a bit of exercise to keep yourself sane. See, TRYING to not be judgy but it’s really hard.
The other thing that nearly scuppered me was an unfortunate knicker malfunction. Well, not so much a malfunction, as an error. I was only going for a short run (I’m typically doing 5k a day) but decided to throw in some intervals, however I had not changed from wearing ordinary ones rather than sports ones. The difference? YES YOU DO NEED TO KNOW THIS MUCH ABOUT MY KNICK-KNOCKS ACTUALLY! Well the material is different for the running scanties and they are, crucially, seamless, no lacy bits or nothing. YE GODS THE CHAFING!!! The chafing actually made me cry when I got in the shower. To use the cliché, if you know, you KNOW. You don’t make that mistake twice. It was nearly as bad as the time I ran a marathon with the knot of my shorts lodged in my belly button… RIGHT on the operation scar where they literally pulled my gallbladder out through my navel. But I am a fucking TROOPER right, so despite this utterly betrayal by my undergarments, I pulled on my PROPER big girl pants and carried on the next day. LOTS of bodyglide needed folks.
As it’s now the Easter holidays (yes, I’ve been writing this over several weeks) the pathetic attempts to home-school have also gone more firmly out the window. I had such great plans – but the TV has been on a lot more than I had intended. On the plus side the greenhouse is cleared out and the vegetable patch is almost weed free (I cannot claim credit for this, this was Matt and the kids). But we’re spending a lot more time in the garden than ever before – me and E have an ongoing competition to see how many times in a row we can score a basket in the basketball hoop, and how many bounces with the basketball we can achieve. I’m trying to get up to a thousand but Joe tends to sabotage me much to Evie’s delight.
And yesterday in a fit of boredom, and because I miss coaching, and because, well they were just THERE, I made a tiny track out of sticks and attempted to race some woodlice. Again the kids were deeply uninterested in this activity, only rivalled in terms of disinterest by my ungrateful woodlice athletes. I couldn’t even get them to do a decent warm up. They kept escaping under or over the sticks. And I may, as a runner prior to being a coach, have lain down on the track and refused to do burpees (yeah, there is a theme developing about those) but I have never curled up in a ball and rolled way…. This did lead to an interesting google rabbit hole in which me and the kids discovered that woodlice are actually crustacians and that they don’t have ears. Which is probably why they didn’t respond to my instructions. I didn’t break out the whistle (for fear of actually blowing the athletes off the track, plus the whole rolling into a ball thing) or the motivational tracklist, which was another act of boredom.
And if you’ve got to the end of this enormous post without nodding off yourself, you must be even more bored than me, so you have my utmost sympathy.