Has the Pandemic Changed Your Habits?

I met a friend for a coffee recently and we were talking about how our lives have changed over the last couple of years. Looking back, I don’t think there can be anyone that the pandemic has not affected in some way or another. It has been a time of great sadness for many, and of considerable fear and concern for others. Through the worst of it, even watching the news became traumatic as we all wondered what would happen next.

The Lockdowns: I remember my husband coming home from golf one day and I told him it had just been announced on the news that people over 70 would have to isolate because this virus was so dangerous. As he had just turned 70 this meant him (and most importantly, missing golf, and skittles and a pint with his mates). “Well, I won’t be doing that!” was his response. However, within a short time, it was not only him, but all of us who were isolating along with everyone else. We are lucky in that we have a good relationship and are happy in each other’s company, but I did wonder how it would go, 24/7 as they say. Actually, we quite enjoyed the first lockdown. Not, of course, the terrible news of so many people dying and others facing serious illness, nor the fact that the NHS staff were working so hard, but nevertheless for us, there was a silver lining.

Lots of Walks: We went for ever-longer walks and it was so lovely that the only sounds we could hear were of birdsong without the incessant noise of traffic. If we happened to meet someone else on their walk they always stopped and had a chat with us (from a safe distance, of course) because we were all glad to hear someone else’s news. I live in a small village in Devon. I was born here, and returned eleven years ago, though I have always lived in Devon. I pride myself on knowing the area well; my family farmed here. However, I have to admit that during the first lockdown I discovered walks I had no previous knowledge of and discovered some lovely scenery.

Gardening and Decorating: We have a large garden and we rent an allotment and it’s always a challenge to keep up with all that needs doing, but in spring 2020 there was barely a weed to be seen, and the potatoes, peas, beans and carrots etc were all up and doing well. Having a garden at this time really was a godsend and I felt so sorry for families living in high rise flats.  Like many other people, we also used the time to do some decorating. Getting hold of paint was a challenge, but the lounge had a facelift, and the garden walls and fences received a long-overdue coat of paint.

I wrote another book! Another positive for me was that I started to write again. I had already published my first book, “The Mazzard Tree” as an ebook on Amazon, and had written half of the sequel, “The Angel Maker”. However, in 2018 we suffered the loss of a close family member and for a long time, I could not concentrate on anything, let alone write a book. Even reading a book, or watching a programme on television was beyond me. I could watch a whole tennis match and not know who had won at the end. However, in 2020, for something to pass the time, I continued the story of “The Angel Maker”. When writing a book, it is not ideal to have a two-year gap in the middle, but I eventually finished it and published it as an ebook on Amazon in December 2020. During this time several people mentioned to me that they would like to read my books but did not have a kindle, or any way of reading an ebook. This prompted me to investigate how to format and upload a paperback on Amazon. It was a steep learning curve, which entailed watching many videos and much frustration, but I finally managed it.

Aches and Pains: During this time, I found I had to alternate between activities; too much time on the computer made my neck and shoulders ache, whereas gardening made my back ache! Walking miles was mostly fine at the time, but later, after a sit down, every muscle seemed to protest. Perish the thought that I was unfit, or getting on a bit, but at least the extra exercise helped to keep off the dreaded lockdown pounds.

Not the first pandemic: Throughout the pandemic, I tried to bear in mind that this is not the first infectious disease to threaten mankind. I remember reading that around 50 million people died of the Spanish flu at the end of the First World War, but eventually the illness was beaten into submission. That is a staggering number of deaths, though I guess people were already weakened by the trauma of war and the lack of food. Other diseases that come to mind are smallpox, the black death, tuberculosis and, of course, many more but they were all eventually overcome, though at great cost.

Shopping Habits: My shopping habits have changed too. Until the pandemic, I had never done an online grocery shop but saw the wisdom of this rather than risk a visit to a supermarket and the extra chance of catching covid. Like many people we were very cautious, being in our latter years and with some health issues. I never thought I would see the day when I would be sitting up until midnight just on the off-chance I would get lucky and find a shopping slot with Tesco! Our neighbours are in their eighties and when the pandemic started I offered to do their shopping online too, thinking it would only be for a few weeks. Over a year later I was still doing their shopping.  I was happy to do this and we chatted more than we had over the previous 10 years which was good. It became a ritual where Ken would email me his list on a Thursday, I would order it on a Friday, for delivery on a Saturday, when we would pass the bags over the garden wall and have a chat.

The other aspect of shopping was that some items became unavailable and it’s funny how, when you know you can’t get hold of something, then it becomes all the more desirable. I’d like to think that I didn’t panic buy but I must confess I made sure I had at least a spare of most essentials.

Family Quizzes: Having had an office job for most of my working life, I have always been relatively comfortable with computers, but since retiring in 2016 some new developments had largely passed me by and I was not familiar with Zoom and Skype. However, the wider family had soon set up WhatsApp groups and were arranging weekly quizzes online. These became an enjoyable social occasion, and an excellent chance to catch up on family gossip. Participants were situated mainly in North Devon, but also Bristol, Gloucester, and even Mongolia. For the first quiz, I wrote all 10 rounds of the questions, but of course, this meant I couldn’t take part, and so someone suggested that for the following week each team should write a round. This was a great idea as the group consisted of all age groups and there was a wide range of subjects. One round was on the television programme “Friends” and I think we must be the only people in the world who have never watched it because we got something like 1 out of 10 and that was a lucky guess. It really didn’t matter.

No Holidays! We enjoy our holidays and like exploring somewhere new, even if it is relatively local. We had a holiday booked to Kefalonia in August 2020, which we moved to August 2021, and to be fair I think we could have gone then, but it just seemed such a rigmarole that we moved it again to June 2022 and we have our fingers crossed that it might be third time lucky! The only upside to going nowhere was we spent less money than usual in 2020/21!

Internet Working and Lessons: The internet, of course, was a godsend to many people. Both of my sons and their wives were able to work from home, and my grandson, Jack, who was studying a BTEC course at Exeter college was able to do his lessons online. My granddaughter, Chloe, started at Cardiff University and we wondered how this would go as she is studying for a degree in music. I must say I was impressed to hear the university had arranged that all the students who would be rehearsing together also lived together in a bubble. She was also able to practice on the grand pianos she had so been looking forward to, though all theory lessons were online.

Clapping the NHS: Like so many other people we were happy to go out on a Thursday night and applaud the NHS workers. We owe so much to them and they are still working so hard. However, if someone had told me a year before that I would stand on the doorstep and clap to apparently nothing, I would not have believed them! Mind you, the NHS workers were not alone, everyone went the extra mile, from teachers to volunteers doing shopping and fetching prescriptions for those who could not manage it. They do say adversity brings out the best in people and we were all at war with covid – and still are.

Socialising in Temperatures of -7 Degrees! Always one to feel the cold, I am not usually a fan of open windows through winter, or sitting outside in December! However, in December 2020 my son, his wife and two teenage children visited and we sat outside in temperatures of -7 degrees for about an hour. We sat huddled in blankets and duvets, each clutching a hot water bottle, but as we hadn’t seen each other for months it was a small price to pay. One of the hardest parts of the lockdowns was not being able to see family and friends, and after receiving my two vaccines, it was such a treat to be able to cuddle my sons and grandchildren again (whether they liked it or not)!

So Have Our Habits Changed Forever? Now, when life is beginning to return to something like normal, I find some of my habits have changed, maybe forever. I was never a great fan of shopping but I’m really not keen now, especially wearing a mask and glasses. I think making do for so long means I see fewer items as necessary which is probably a good thing. I still do my supermarket shopping online and I don’t plan to change that. Although wearing masks is no longer essential, I am still doing so for the time being and I’m also avoiding large crowds. I think many people will continue to work from home and really who can blame them? It saves time and money, though I think some must miss the companionship of others in an office. Luckily, as I’m retired this no longer affects me.

So, for me, I find that it is a new normal, but I’m just glad to still be here and hope we can all look forward to better times ahead.


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