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Part 3 - Lockdown & Zoom


From Liberty to Lockdown and back again

Part 3: Lockdown and Zoom

Lockdown measures were first introduced on 23 March for an initial four-week period. While this created huge changes for many, with schools, workplaces and all non-essential retailers being ordered to close, more than half of adults surveyed at the time said they thought life would be back to normal within six months. By late August, "more than a year" was the most popular response.

I recall reading at the outset that to really combat the pandemic a lockdown period of 14 weeks needed to be introduced but constant monitoring would be the tactic. I adopted the 14-week statement to help my preparation to live with this situation and set my stall out to accept this sort of time period.

I felt from the outset that it was important for me to introduce a strict code of discipline to make sure that I didn't drift into a routine of letting myself go (any more than I had already done) both in my personal hygiene and habits. No daytime television, out in the garden every day, doing jobs around the house and generally keeping myself busy. Now I am a creature of habit in a morning. Since retirement my waking routine has been get up between 6 and 7; have a cup of coffee and browse the overnight news on the internet. Shit, Shower, Shave and then get dressed before any breakfast. I adopted this as a minimum target requirement for the duration.

This would be followed by collecting my essentials from the bedside table - comb, handkerchief and loose change. So for 14 weeks I go through this process every morning until I ask myself why am I doing this? Why am I putting my loose change into my trousers pocket? Every morning for 14 weeks I picked up the same £4.70p even though I knew that I wouldn't be going anywhere to spend it. I couldn't break the habit. I thought that something awful would happen if I didn't collect those four £1 coins and assorted silver coins to travel around my house and garden with me every day. Do you think that I am cracking up?

I needed human contact. No disrespect to my wife, Mary, who hadn't accepted the lack of contact with the grandchildren too well. We do talk to each other but when you descend to discussing whether Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout is a radish or a carrot then you know you need to get out more, but can't of course. However, those nice people from Zoom recognised a wonderful marketing and PR exercise for their product with the captive audience's craving for contact. They offered free unlimited access to their video link service for almost anyone and everyone seemed to be keen to test it out and I was one of that group.

I set up a couple of Zoom links services with some friends and family and the novelty of these along with the opportunity to talk to someone other than the cat was most welcome. However this visual link-up did have its drawbacks for some as the close-up scrutiny it afforded was lost on some. One Zoom charity group I linked up with had some interesting members online who were struggling more than many with the lockdown. One individual in particular was a constant source of wonder and amusement as they had the personal hygiene standards of a mentally challenged baboon. Every time I looked at him he had a finger somewhere new - in his ear, eye, nostril, mouth. It was like he had just been issued with a human head for the first time and he was trying to figure out how it worked. So distracting.

It would have been good to set up Zoom sessions for the Veteran's League Management Committee but was advised that this was a generation too soon for some members so set up a more basic conference call service for the monthly meetings. This entailed members dialling a number and then keying in two access numbers on their phone. Even this proved too much for three members and I had to resort to one-to-one teaching sessions between meetings to get everyone online. Even though the facility used was called 'Why Pay' there was a cost associated with making these calls which I calculated worked out at around £7 an hour to each member dialling-in. Zoom was free.

Zoom uncovered members of my video friends and family not signing up to my code of self-discipline with various familiar-looking but unrecognisable individuals appearing on-screen. Some of these certainly didn't sign-up to my mandatory morning shave routine. The attempt to create a designer stubble on a 70-years old was a mistake with the image of a brillo pad with a mouth resulting instead. There were other signs. Random hair growth is one of them. Particularly that first time you go to brush a hair off your shoulder and discover that it is attached to your earlobe. I'll cover haircuts more in Part 4.

Zoom was a great find, a real asset but also a tool that could unkindly betray the beholder.

Coming tomorrow: Part 4 - Online shopping and other bad experiences

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