I have loved some things about lockdowns – although like everyone else, I ache when I think about the human cost of the pandemic. I feel a bit lost and a bit demotivated and a bit sad and a bit – but ENOUGH OF THAT. Counting your blessings doesn’t solve all the downsides of anything but – just like a brisk walk – it can offer a moment of escape, uplift and re-grounding in things that matter and offer bite-sized chunks of positivity and/or pride.
I have in a past life liked to think of myself as someone who would rather buy a new shirt than sew on a button
Technology has been a huge blessing during these times of little or no contact with those we love and those we work with. I’ve gone from hating Zoom to embracing its idiosyncrasies and awkwardnesses – from that little moment when people are signing in and haven’t quite got their facial expressions sorted, through the tricky lulls in conversation and the over-speaking, to the bamboozling protocols around backdrops, right on to the frayed leaving the meeting as the ‘byes’ dribble on.
My friend Millie runs Berwick’s food upcycling café Northern Soul Kitchen and asked me way back in April 2020 (before lockdown 3 was even a twinkle in the eye of Mr Johnson and his buddies) if I’d think about making a video using leftover food as part of a food waste promo. ‘Yes, of course,’ I said. Then I realised. My daughters mock the little clips I send them. Time for a bit of YouTube training.
My movie about turning leftover couscous into cheesy veggie cakes was (only in my eyes) a triumph – judge for yourself, it’s on the Berwick Slow Food website. I believe my second movie – re-purposing leftover chip shop chips into a Spanish-esque omelette is even finer. My crowning glory of film creation is about Sri Lankan meal in a book: We don’t write recipes down – another lockdown project raising funds for Sri Lankan charity The Jasmine Foundation. You can see that video here. For me, upskilling and experimenting with apps and media that I probably wouldn’t have attempted pre-lockdown has not just been fun, it’s been a great confidence booster.
Limiting visits to shops and supermarkets and trying to be more sustainable has turned our minds ever more to using every scrap of food (see couscous cakes above!) and making do and mending in ways not thought of or avoided like the, ahem, plague pre-pandemic. I have in a past life liked to think of myself as someone who would rather buy a new shirt than sew on a button.
The most poignant thing I’ve recently tried is darning woollen socks and jumpers. I say poignant because I remember vividly my mum taking her battered blue sewing bag from the dark oak dresser and settling to sew and darn at the kitchen table. She did this on what felt like a daily basis. I also remember despising Mum a little for undertaking something so menial and ‘womanly’. Oh, the ignorance of youth. Sorry Mum.
It’s strange to have waited all these years to darn – especially since every home I’ve ever lived in has been haunted by invisible moths quietly unravelling anything woollen. There’s something deeply therapeutic about restoring gorgeous woollen garments and getting more life and love from them – and thinking of my dear old Ma while I do it.
It feels as if coronavirus has snatched away our ability to plan and to be spontaneous. Focusing on small, accessible, doable things is somehow reassuring. And taking a moment to acknowledge and think about the things we have done during this last year that maybe we wouldn’t have done without lockdown gives some sort of rhythm and reason to these strange months. Yes, how I long for an impromptu cuppa with a friend, to go to my niece’s wedding, to hug loved ones (even strangers!), to go to parties and dance till the sweat runs, to sing loudly in church, to buy a pint in a pub, to visit people who miss me and who I miss… soon, soon, soon.