Lockdown Madness- the early days

In March 2020 covid19 was spreading through the UK.
Towns and Cities throughout the land went into Lockdown
In March 2020 covid19 was spreading like wildfire in the UK.
Towns and Cities throughout the land went into Lockdown

By Ian Parson

Lockdown madness could strike anyone. None of us know what is going on. The deadly virus is lurking around every corner.

All that we consider solid, dependable aspects of our lives have crumbled. Work and travel are more or less cancelled.

There is a real fear sweeping through the population.

I’m a writer who suddenly has an abundance of time to write. I literally have nothing better to do. Work commitments have dried up and my social calendar is empty. 

This should be wonderful news. After all, it’s what I’ve always longed for.

Now I can craft that novel, that masterpiece that will live long after I’m gone.

Except everything has a price.

This abundance of hours, this endless free time, what’s it going to cost? Is it a worthwhile exchange?

I’m not convinced.

Lurking outside my door is a man eating virus, with no known cure.

How can I write? How can I focus on anything with that as a permanent backdrop?

I wake up every morning full of the best intentions. How quickly they evaporate, how tiny the trigger to distraction can be.

Something as innocent as seeing mail on the mat, meaning the postman’s been. Now I’m distracted.

I spend an hour wondering how many letters the postie handled before mine. I stare at my mail, trying to decide if the envelopes might be infected.  What the odds might be. If I were a gambling man how much I’d wager against.

Clearly I’m aware the chances are they’re exactly what they appear to be. Harmless brown envelopes lying at the foot of the stairs. But it’s impossible to be sure. All morning they taunt me, stopping me from working.

Eventually I eat lunch. I hate myself for using the last drops of milk. Now I need to go outside. All the while the envelopes stare.

I sit and contemplate as the day glides by, trying to reach a decision. Trying to weigh up my options. There aren’t any. I’ve no choice. I have to go downstairs, go out. It’s unavoidable. I’ll get some milk, some fresh air, I tell myself.

Ian Parson in the empty city street, Lockdown, March 2020

Only it’s not fresh air, it’s poison air, and it wants to kill me.

I sit for what is probably another hour pondering the risk.

Finally, reluctantly I stand up. Like a condemned man heading for the noose I shuffle to the bathroom.

I wash my hands using plenty of soap. I’m getting through soap like never before. I’m washing my hands like never before.

I clean right into the nooks and crannies, all the while refusing to hum ‘Happy Birthday’

I hate that tune now; I hate the government for ruining it for me. Instead I’m humming bits of other songs. Trying them on for size. None seem even remotely suitable.

Immediately after drying my hands I go downstairs. I step gingerly over the post as though it’s a landmine. I’ve read somewhere the virus can live on paper for many hours.

Maybe I’ll pick it up tomorrow.

There’s only one envelope I’d touch willingly. The gloves and masks I ordered online a week ago. Anything else can stay on the mat, because nothing matters anymore.

Once outside I take great pains not to touch anything. I give everyone as wide a berth as possible, and exhale with the passing of every stranger. I feel as though they are all trying to kill me.

When the shop comes into view I slow down, weigh up the situation. I check the queue suspiciously. Listening out for coughs and sneezes. Only when I’m satisfied there is no obvious danger do I shuffle to the back of the line. I keep well back, at least two metres behind the person in front.

Everything feels surreal. My spider sense is screaming at me to run as fast as possible, without looking back. I fight the instinct with every fibre of rationale I can muster.

Its three days since I last ventured into the great outdoors. There are considerably more facemasks on display now, far more worry lines on people’s faces. Hardly anyone is making eye contact. They look defeated.

Just when it seems I can’t bear the suspense a moment longer, the security guard beckons me forward. It’s my turn. 

I lean into the shop door with my elbow so as not to touch the handle. Holding in a deep breath, I hurry to the fridge, take out milk and rush to the counter.

Annoyed at having to take another breath, I do so surreptitiously, suspiciously glancing around.

I pay using contactless.

Two weeks ago I hated contactless. I was a cash only man. Someone who firmly believed plastic let the overdraft creep up on you.

Now I don’t care. I just want to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Walking home, all the other things I should have bought come to mind. I beat myself up a little, but not too much. What’s the point? I couldn’t get out of there quickly enough and I’d do exactly the same again.

‘Don’t feel bad’I tell myself, ‘It’s not your fault’

Only it kind of is. Now I’ll have to go back tomorrow. Take my life in my hands once again; increase the odds of catching the virus even further. How can anybody focus on anything else?

I always dreamed I would have the time to write all day. It’s all I’ve ever wanted, my idea of utopia.

I knew there would be a price to pay, there always is. I just never dreamed the price would be so high.

Ian Parson, March 2020

Girl in a mask in August 2021

Visit Us On Facebook