Lockdown in London: May 2020

In lockdown we spend quite a lot of quality time at home. 

The other day I said to my husband: “We have been together over twenty years and this is the first month that we have been together 24/7“.

Every single minute of the day we spend our time together  – with our daughter.

We argue, we have happy moments and we watch TV together.

We do everything together.  

So far, lockdown has not been a very sad or negative thing for our family. We are very lucky.

wisteria on shed

My husband came to England  at 12-13 years old and has a UK passport.

He studied here, he grew up here and is back here to  continue his career. Hong Kong is  his second home. UK is his first home

I studied in the UK at  university 20 years ago  for 3 years then went back to Hong Kong.  I like the life here in the UK because it’s less tense.

We have lived in the UK for three years. For the first two years we lived in High Wycombe and last year we moved to London.

laptop on glass table

My job is a bit complicated because I actually live in the UK, but I work for a Hong Kong bank – in Hong Kong.

Because the virus in Asia is one or two months ahead of Europe and the US they are trying to get things back to normal now.

For me job-wise the lockdown and virus has not had much impact  because  I always work in  Hong Kong time  – normally from 5am until 3pm, Monday to Friday. 

My husband is a wine advisor at a leading retailer but because of lockdown it is all shut down, so obviously he has to stay home until further notice.  

No-one knows what will happen next.

We are waiting for government advice on the lockdown. 

My daughter is in virtual schooling at home

She is normally at boarding school. Now she is back home and the three of us are together until after the lockdown.  

We are usually an active family at holiday times, we always go out to the park and explore the city but now we are just trapped at home.  

Our daily routine now…. basically my husband takes care of our meals and housework. That is, we do the housework together, instead of me doing everything.

I am still working so I still have a salary and support for the family  so financially  we don’t have much of a burden in this crisis.

The routine is more or less the same for me.

Over the Easter holiday the three of us followed Joe Wicks’  exercise class every morning.

Sometimes I had to work but my husband and my daughter follow Joe Wicks’ exercises.  I also do some stretching exercises at home.

We only go out every 10-15  days for grocery shopping. 

We used to do online shopping but…  wow, there is a long queue for the online supermarket and they have to give priority to the vulnerable and elderly. For normal daily groceries we go out every 10 days for things like milk and vegetables.

When we go out we wear masks.

When we come home we go straight to the bathroom and take a shower. We bring a hand sanitiser with us and use it before we go to the supermarket and when we come home.

In Hong Kong we had SARS in 2003 and we know how serious it can be fighting a virus.

So basically we always wear a mask.

Luckily all our friends and relatives have posted masks to us  from Hong Kong –  because we can’t get them from a pharmacy here. 

garden log burner

We live in a two-storey terrace I think it’s Victorian,  it’s very small.

We also have a small but very nice back garden where we can barbecue.

There is a lady living next to us who is 80+ and whenever she comes into her garden we talk to each other.  Because she lives alone, whenever she needs anything such as masks or to buy  some groceries,  we help her out.

This is a big change for my husband because he normally works long hours every day and likes to go out for a drink after work.

He didn’t spend a lot of time at home, so now he is trapped! 

kitchen and cupboards

Luckily he likes cooking very much so at least he can further develop this interest and also develop  the bond between him and our daughter.

She is 10 years old. It’s a good time for him to spend more time with her, to build that bond.

Obviously the number one priority in lockdown has to be health safety.

I read the news here, in Hong Kong and Asia, so I am aware of the progress of the virus. 

Even though Hong Kong doesn’t have any newly confirmed cases people are  still wearing masks and keeping a social distance. They  don’t know yet if there will be a second or third wave.

Boris Johnson has said there will be an announcement this week about how they will unlock the city. I am a bit concerned and worried how they will manage it so we don’t have a second wave.

When my husband goes back to work he will need to travel by underground. 

It’s an enclosed area and there is congestion within the station. Even though you wear a mask you could still get the virus easily because everyone is so close together.

So this is my worry: health safety.

sanitiser at home in lockdown

And,  I also worry about my daughter if the government says  that children must go back to school.

Because she is Year 6  it is her last year at primary school.

I really don’t know if I want her to go to school  – or not. I want her to say goodbye to her friends and teachers, but at the same time I don’t know whether the school has the ‘experience’ to prevent the virus spreading between children.

The children haven’t seen each other for a long time.

When they do see each other they will be hugging and kissing and playing in the playground and so it could be very easy to spread the virus.

At boarding school her classmates are from all  over the world, from Europe, Asia and China.  So when they come back to UK I don’t know if there will be a second wave of the virus from other parts of the world.

Even if the Government says we can go back out again I will still be working from home and can therefore choose to travel off-peak, unlike my  husband who  needs to go out at peak times. So this is a concern. 

The second concern – obviously, is the economy. We can’t shut down for long.

Two weeks ago I went  out for grocery shopping and saw some shops have already closed. Closed, for ever – not just temporarily.

I know a lot of  people have already lost their jobs, which is a  very painful process to recover from –  because we had that in Hong Kong in 2003. The economy had a big drop and everyone was job-less and money and property prices went down dramatically.  

It is a serious thing to happen to the economy.

Because I work in a bank they already have a lot of reports and  projections for Q3, Q4 as to what will happen  by the end of 2020. They have all said it will be very severe  – for the whole world.

Even if we are lucky to survive  the virus…maybe we won’t survive a bad economy.

My husband is on furlough for three months: April, May and June.

He doesn’t have any update from the company yet. 

I think they are waiting for the government to give them further notice. But he predicts the company may try to ask them to go back to work in late May or June.  Obviously we cannot close everything for over two months, right?

Because we just have two bedrooms I work in my bedroom.  I just have my computer and laptop and headphones – its fine. 

Now, of course everyone in the UK is  working at home as well.

Luckily my husband is an early bird. Sometimes I am a bit noisy and wake him up but I can’t help it  because I always have meetings at work at 5am.

That’s the trade-off. I don’t have to go out, but I can still earn money – the trade-off is for the whole family. And sometimes I have meetings in Hong Kong time in the morning and need to wake up in the middle of the night  – like 2am, or 3am. But, I am used to this.

BBQ in garden with shed
We have a barbecue every Saturday

We like living in London because it is very convenient.  

This house was was already furnished so some of the  furniture is from the landlord and some from our house in High Wycombe. 

The house in High Wycombe… it wasn’t a very big house. But… one of us would be in the dining room… one of us would be in the bedroom.. the other in another room. We were all doing different things in the same house.

We have a nice back garden where we spend some time outside …reading and chatting together with my daughter and my husband. I love the environment, because it is very cosy. 

Because this house is small we have more opportunity to be with each other.  

When my husband is on the phone he is sitting next to us and we can talk to him anytime we want.

My daughter has a kids’ iPad and when talking with friends on the internet, at least I know what she is doing – because she is always sitting next to me. So, I think it is more cosy and homely in this London house.

growing veg in containers

Lately, my husband is trying to grow some plants in the garden. It’s not that difficult. We grow some leeks…spring onions.. some beans and some celery as well  so we won’t need to go out to buy them.

Before the lockdown we usually went out for dinner  every Saturday and Sunday – or even Friday. In London there are lots of different restaurants and we miss dining out.

glass dining table and chairs

We usually go out  nearly every  week or twice a month with friends but now we haven’t see each other for over two months.  

The atmosphere of eating in  the restaurant is totally different from  eating at home.

We have a very nice restaurant nearby and because of the lockdown they now do take-aways.  Even though we order the same steak  to take-away – honestly, it’s totally different to  eating in the restaurant because  of the atmosphere.

We like to talk to the chef and other people around. We miss that.

It’s a long time….. We miss our friends.

I think after this is over I will remember all the good times I spent with my family inside the house.. …because that made me love the house more, honestly. 

Before, when my daughter is in boarding school, and because my husband works irregular hours, basically we didn’t have much time together. 

Even on holidays sometimes my husband still has to work.  This has been a very good opportunity for the three of us to be together. 

I think I will miss that. 

living area and sofas in lockdown

It just feels like ‘home’ with everyone in the house.

My husband thinks it’s a bit weird that you can get paid but don’t have to work. He’s very eager to get back to work.

The furlough just pays the basic salary. Because he is a wine advisor when he sells he gets commission as well. So his salary has been cut.

One thing we have discovered is that we don’t spend as much. We just buy the basic things now and we don’t go out to eat  at expensive restaurants.

Maybe after the  lockdown we will still go to restaurants but not as frequently as before.

And we will spend more time cooking at home together instead. 

Because I am  on a contract with my job until the end of this year if the economy is not good  I may  not be able to continue and may need to go  job-hunting.

Of course I hope the virus will go away and everything will resume as normal.  After this lockdown I am quite positive… and we just hope for the best. 

This is maybe a good time for me to spend less and plan for a better future.

white rose in vase in window
We picked this flower from our garden

All photos by respondent

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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