Olivia, as a child, with her Grandfather whose recent funeral she was unable to attend due to Covid-19Olivia Dean

I came to the conclusion recently that lockdown has, broadly speaking, been rather good for me.

To the external observer, although I am not sure who I imagine this to be, I have remained unbruised by the pandemic’s punch. All of my close family are employed in the public sector, so not only are they key workers, and thus can smugly enjoy the mental occupation of their jobs, but also, a factor that I had never appreciated until forecasts of economic crash, their jobs are overwhelmingly secure. We live in the countryside, with sufficient space to avoid each other inside when it rains, and plentiful public fields beyond when the situation, or siblings, become truly dire.

It would be glib of me to complain. Yet, even amongst the comforting certitude of my privilege hides one uncertainty: the weather. A conversation I have had in many a supermarket queue—aren’t we lucky with the sunshine! Lockdown would have been miserable in the rain, as if a global pandemic and loo roll shortage were not miserable enough in itself.

I cannot bear uncertainty. It’s an issue of power: the presence of uncertainty means the absence of control. For me, it’s compulsive tidiness and order; for others it’s wardrobe clear-outs. It’s probably why I’ve dogmatically continued doing my eyebrows, like the band continuing to play on a sinking Titanic. What simmers my brain to the point of implosion is that I have absolutely, unequivocally no influence over what is happening. This is indubitably symptomatic of my huge ego, but the point stands.

The hanging cloud of my inflated sense of influence was irrevocably condensed into rain a month into lockdown. The Irish Sea never stopped my grandparents from forming a relationship with their grandchildren so loving and hilarious that I am nostalgic for the holiday weeks I spent with them. Having married at twenty, they have always made the most of their youth as grandparents and great-grandparents, in turn, to form a bond closer to a friendship with us. Grandad died unexpectedly at the end of April, leaving a puddle of relations and friends winded by the loss of a man whose insistence on seeing the good in everyone was complimented by a penchant for SpongeBob and singing in the kitchen.

"Perspective is one of the qualities that I and many have developed over lockdown."

Any possibility of us managing to get there in peak lockdown was stymied by the fact that my brother was suffering from coronavirus. I am fully aware of how darkly funny this is in its ridiculous improbability. The stubbornly unchanged normality of the kitchen, as we sat at the table round a laptop and watched the funeral via a nifty video link made me want to scream. I wanted everyone everywhere to be grieving; I could do nothing myself. I understood what Auden meant in Funeral Blues. But what is the peaceful death of one man compared to the 521,000 that have succumbed to coronavirus? The priest did give us a shout-out, which was a nice touch.

Perspective is one of the qualities that I and many others have developed over lockdown. Yes, I have lost a family member; yes, my brother had coronavirus for five weeks; and yes, I am attempting to plan my year abroad when it isn’t yet clear if I’ll be let out of the country (or back in again). But Grandad died loved in his own home, my brother was unable to annoy me for five weeks, and I’m lucky to be at university in the first place. The frustration I felt at being static, useless between four walls, made me explore what I could do to eschew the anger provoked by what I was unable to do. I’ve painted faces and flowers on furniture at Mum’s request and made friends with my sewing machine again. I’ve been swimming with school friends and had picnics in the rain. Without the validation of everyday interaction with peers, friends and the man behind the till, we begin to exist in a vacuum, emotions and thoughts not legitimated. These snippets of control healthily scrape your perspective into the wider world, even if it is just discussing the indignity of sleeping under Thomas the Tank Engine bedsheets.


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I saw a while ago that a teacher in China tweeted her advice for surviving the lockdown. Community, she reflects, is demonstrating its continued strength and importance, as is accepting what you are powerless to change. Like standing up too quickly, the pain of unexpected loss fades out, obscuring trivialities of exams and visas, into a spotlight on what matters, which can sometimes be nothing more than listening to a friend rant about the washing up.

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