"I started chronicling dominant thoughts from the day, having forgotten, by the end of it, what I actually did."Olivia Emily for Varsity

Content Note: This article contains detailed discussion about coronavirus, lockdown and self-isolation.

12th March 2020

This coronavirus sh*t is getting serious. I just want to go to John’s May Ball!!!

In my one-line-a-day diary, this is the first time I mention coronavirus. I was flippant and unconvinced the world would change as dramatically as everyone was predicting. I thought we’d be back next term and the cancelled balls would merely be frustrating reminders of a fleeting virus. I was scared to face the true gravity of a growing pandemic. 

A few days before, my entries were about sitting in the UL, going to a rowing swap, a friend’s birthday formal, bumps and Boat Club Dinner. These ordinary Cambridge traditions, taken for granted then, feel half a world away now. Without my past diary entries to confirm my memories of the pre-pandemic world, I could almost be convinced that I’m remembering dreams I once had, not realities I once lived.

Time is moving differently for me in this ‘new normal’.

With that first entry, I was thinking about what the pandemic meant for my plans. I didn’t like the new shadow of uncertainty that was stopping me from seeing what even tomorrow could involve. The entries escalate quickly:

13th March 2020

My diss supervisor cancelled our meeting because of coronavirus.

14th March 2020

Why the HECK are my grandparents in Spain right now?!

16th March 2020

I went on a Cambridge appreciation walk today. I really don’t want to leave.

I had planned to stay in Cambridge over the Easter vacation, keen to make the most of spring in my favourite city. We were going to carry on rowing outings in the sun, and I was excited to picnic in college surrounded by friends and newly planted flowers. I toyed with the idea of still staying, a little ignorant to how serious the situation was about to become as only days later the government-enforced lockdown would begin.

I was scared to face the true gravity of a growing pandemic.

Standing on Orgasm Bridge on one of those final days – midday, beautiful sunshine, and the Cam absolutely void of punts – it began to sink in that those smaller plans couldn’t happen anymore even if I did stay. I decided to go home, reluctant to shadow a city so full of vibrant memories with new impressions of empty streets, silent nights and loneliness.

When I got home, it was difficult to acclimatise to lockdown life, and to the seemingly endless, empty future that was stretching out before me.

23rd March 2020

I edited my dissertation.

24th March 2020

I watched Titus Andronicus. That’s really it.

Time is moving differently for me in this ‘new normal’, and I quickly started losing track of days. My diary is now filled with arrows directing a future reader to the correct dates. 

I started chronicling dominant thoughts from the day, having forgotten, by the end of it, what I actually did. On the 30th March, I wrote ‘I feel so lethargic.’ Just that. But, at the beginning of April, I pulled myself from my confusion-driven slumber and started to bullet-point what I was actually doing with my days.

2nd April 2020

I woke up. I ate breakfast. I showered. I edited Varsity articles. I watched Gossip Girl. A classic quarantine day.

8th April 2020

I went running in my new leggings. We had a pub quiz. I made lots of lists of things I could do in the future. I dressed as a tennis mom – a new aesthetic? 

19th April 2020

I’m not entirely sure what I did today. Sleeping, reading, lots of daydreaming. 

Maybe, after this is all over, I will look back on my lockdown memories with fondness

Some days are more full than others. Some days, I do just watch Netflix, and that’s OK.  Occasionally, I feel a rare burst of motivation to do something academic, or to think about my career, or to just write.

My journal means that I can look back on the more mundane Cambridge memories that I would otherwise forget:

22nd January 2020

Waking up hungover at 9 am is, in my opinion, pretty impressive. I probably won’t move until 2 pm. 

5th February 2020


Mountain View

Lockdown top tips: the Varsity guide to the new abnormal

Today I experienced Cambridge Aldi for the first time, and also copped some frozen curly fries <3

15th February 2020

Halfway hall! The food was actually INCREDIBLE! And it was so nice to see so many people that I never get to see.

Maybe, after this is all over, I will look back on my lockdown memories with a similar fondness. The diary I have is actually one-line-a-day for five years – so these empty lockdown days will, in 2025, sit alongside more normal days. Days where time outside isn’t restricted and lockdown is a distant memory.

Hopefully, this time next year, when I see "I finished watching Too Hot to Handle" written under the 2020 heading for 24th April, and I’m a stressed finalist back in Cambridge, I’ll take a moment to pause and remember how, just a year before, I was missing things as simple as the library.