Thoughts and scenes from a rural lockdown

When the UK went into lockdown back in March, I was just emerging from the two weeks of self-isolation I talked about in my last post. A fortnight stuck indoors alone had been really tough mentally; I like living on my own, but that’s only because the solitude is tempered by a busy life featuring travel, flying, restaurants and other adventures with a variety of lovely friends. Take all that away, and there’s nothing to counter the daily loneliness that’s part and parcel of working from home on one’s own in a top-floor flat where dogs, tragically, aren’t allowed. As I had discovered, there’s a reason why solitary confinement is considered a harsh punishment in prisons.

Despite having witnessed first hand what was going on in Italy, for some reason it hadn’t even particularly occurred to me that we’d be going into lockdown here, so I hadn’t made any sort of contingency plans for if that happened. Along with the rest of the country, I watched Boris Johnson’s address to the nation on 23 March and I must admit, I burst into tears. I had honestly never felt more alone, and just didn’t see how I was going to be able to get through an indefinite number of weeks on my own. Fortunately, a knight in shining armour in the form of Paul kindly spared me that fate, and the very next day I packed a suitcase and drove down the eerily quiet A roads to Wiltshire, wondering whether I’d be stopped by police on the way down there and not knowing when I would be returning.

My copywriting work, meanwhile, dried up overnight (mercifully, it’s starting to bounce back now). I thought I’d have all this time to get back into my own writing, but it hasn’t worked out that way. The last couple of months have been a rollercoaster of emotions on so many levels, and I’ve had virtually no spare mental capacity for anything beyond the day-to-day tasks of living. I’m an anxious person at the best of times, and the whole situation seemed to ratchet up my baseline anxiety several notches. I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything, even reading a book; newspaper weekend supplements and lifestyle magazines were all I could manage. I stayed off my laptop for days at a time (not for me the endless round of Zoom drinks and quizzes), instead taking pleasure from simple things like planning meals, doing domestic chores and going for long walks and bike rides through the glorious Wiltshire countryside. I even – lockdown cliche alert – got into running, only to find, after several 10km runs, that I’d tried to do too much too soon and damaged my Achilles tendon (it’s fine now, thankfully).

Clearly the news has painted a depressing picture of the situation in the UK, and many people have died, which makes me feel a bit guilty about the fact that my own lockdown experience, ultimately, has been pretty positive. I’ve (so far) evaded the virus, as have those closest to me (*touches wood*). I’ve been incredibly lucky to have spent lockdown in a rural area where it’s possible to walk for miles and not see another person. And, of course, I’ve been very fortunate to have had excellent company for the seven weeks of proper lockdown, which has made the surreal circumstances a lot easier to deal with as well as stopping me from becoming trapped in my own cycle of negative thoughts.

Now that we’re allowed to meet up with friends on a one-to-one, outdoor basis, I’m back at home in the Cotswolds. Now that I’m out of my Wiltshire lockdown bubble, I feel like I’m only just starting to process how much life has changed in the past couple of months and how these sweeping changes are going to be here to stay for quite some time to come. But although I really miss ‘normal life’, and being able to plan things, it’s not all bad. It’s good that people seem to have accepted things like queuing up outside supermarkets with good humour, for example, and it’s certainly shown how adaptable and resilient we humans are. It’s heartening, too, how – after years of nastiness over Brexit – there seems to be a stronger sense of community than before.

As for me, lockdown has made me really appreciate the freedoms we take for granted, and the little things in life. A takeaway coffee felt like the biggest treat after two months drinking tea at home, while it’s been nice to be able to take life slower, and have time to do things like the weekend jumbo crossword. I’ve also been thinking carefully about what matters in life and what to do “when all this is over”, and I’m contemplating a few changes (watch this space).

For the time being, though, I’m just taking life a day at a time. I’m treating myself to trying out some new country walks, and in the coming days shall tentatively start running again. Rather than dwelling on things like the ‘last normal photo’, I’ve been looking back over the many images I’ve snapped since the start of the lockdown and feeling as though it’s all been a strange dream. I’ve put a selection of them below. How’s lockdown been for you?

The sun setting on the first walk of lockdown.

The old Marlborough-Swindon railway line, where I did a lot of running.

My entry for the Run for Heroes challenge.

A section of the old coaching route between London and Bath.

The aforementioned coaching route runs through this valley – that’s it snaking through the trees and out to the right of the photo.

A beautiful bluebell wood, opened by the local farmer to allow people to enjoy nature during lockdown.

Can’t get enough of the Wiltshire landscape.

This track had the feeling of a bygone era about it.

Takeaway pizza from the local Italian – the height of decadence in lockdown times!

Wisteria hysteria. And serious home envy.

There were so many beautiful thatched cottages to admire on bike rides.

This incredible stone was used by our Stone Age ancestors for sharpening axe heads.

The blossom was spectacular this year.

Queuing up at Waitrose for the weekly shop. Thankfully this was the only time it rained!

Two beautiful trout from the river keeper.

Cycling the Wansdyke, an early Medieval defensive earthwork.

Takeaway coffee: the biggest treat after two months drinking tea at home.

Lockdown hair situation: out of control!

Cycling on VE Day.

Another sunny Sunday cycling snap with Paul.

Takeaway fish and chips, with a salad to make it a bit healthier!

One way of coping with lockdown ;-)

It’s easy to forget the outside world when you live in the countryside; this was a reminder.


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