My lockdown experience

 

Steven Duke. General Manager.

Eldon Leisure Centre and Newcastle Trampoline Park and Gym.

44 years old, husband to Marie for 10 years and father to two girls of 9 and 5.

 

For the last 10 weeks the country has been under lockdown. I’ve continued to work, home school my kids and support my wife (Marie) who is a key worker within the NHS.

Lockdown for us has included a 9th Birthday and a 2 week period of isolation after Marie tested positive for Covid-19.

 

I have been part of the small un-furloughed team who have continued to visit all of the Newcastle centres regularly, carrying out building checks to ensure the buildings are safe and ready to reopen when the time comes. I have also been working from home, logging into the company systems and ‘working behind the scenes’

 

At the start of Lockdown I had a weekend away with friends to Spain planned, which was cancelled due to their lockdown restrictions. Instead of enjoying some sun and spending time with friends , I found myself planning the temporary closure of the sports centres in Newcastle following the government’s announcement on Friday 20th March.

 

I alternated days where I was out at work doing building checks with my wife’s shifts as a nurse. GLL were very supportive, they allowed me to be flexible and work around Marie’s shifts, this meant we could keep our children at home.

Days at home consisted of alternating GLL home working with home schooling and trying to keep myself and the children active.

As a family we’ve explored FaceTime and Skype to combat the lack of interaction with other adults and not being able to see family. I’ve kept in touch with friends and colleagues through WhatsApp groups to support each other. I have also been introduced to the joys of tic toc!!

To be honest being able to get out of the house and go into work was a nice break from the restrictions of lockdown at home.

 

The first week of lockdown we still sent the children to school for a few days, with Marie being a key worker, until we could arrange our work around looking after them at home. Thankfully we were quickly able to arrange our work, but I’m so appreciative of the work done by all teachers and school staff who are still going to work to allow other key workers to fulfil their roles.

 

Into the second week and days were spent ‘home Schooling’, fitting it in around working from home too.

There was queuing for supermarkets 2 meters apart and shopping whilst trying to stay safe. It was strange to see empty shelves, especially of certain products.

Trying to motivate the children, when everyday seems like a weekend day was another challenge. Especially trying to get them to do school work in an environment that they don’t associate with work, only play.

I had to try to be a teacher as well as a parent. I also had to try to understand their school work, even at their young age some of this was difficult.

With children of two different ages at different academic levels it was hard. It meant trying to organise work for each of them and give time to both equally or come up with something we could all do together.

Trying to keep a normally very active family active during lockdown with no after school lessons or sports clubs to attend was a different challenge. We were following online fitness, going out for walks and bike rides; whilst again staying a safe distance from anyone else out on the same paths.

I know that living at a time when we have the internet and access to so many things online, such as websites from schools and ones for fitness like the Better website, is a lot different to how it may have been had this happened when I was a 5 year old.

 

Easter school holidays were quickly upon us, but now every day and every week is just like the last, it is fast becoming the new ‘norm’!

We should have been going away to a caravan with friends for the Easter holiday weekend, but once again I was carrying out my GLL work as it was obviously cancelled. We tried to make Easter special for the kids, as usual, to set it apart from the other days.

My Nan turned 94 on Easter Saturday, she’d been isolating since the beginning. As she lives in South Yorkshire a phone call is the usual anyway to send our wishes, but the call was made with a different perspective this time.

 

Week 5 started like the rest of them, the new normal routine continuing. Towards the end of the week Marie became unwell, she tested positive for Covid-19.

We always knew the risks, as she was interacting with people daily with diagnosis and symptoms of Covid-19, but there had always been sufficient PPE provision at the hospital and she and her colleagues had always taken all the precautions that they could. Keeping work bags in the car, showering straight after shifts and putting uniforms in the washing machine as soon as she came in the house, carried in washable bags donated by local people.

The concern over the risk and the possible consequences now turned into a real fear of the actual consequences for someone so close to you.

A friend and colleague of mine had already lost a relative to the virus. Now there was a chance I could lose my wife and the children lose their Mam.

 

We all spent two weeks in isolation (25th April - 8th May) following Marie testing positive for Covid-19.

She was very poorly but was able to stay at home as, luckily, she had no breathing difficulties. She had a high temperature, terrible headaches, other aches and pains and a few more symptoms. She was also completely wiped out of any energy. She spent full days in bed. Where possible Marie distanced herself within our house from me and our two daughters.

 

As well as our concern for her health it was a challenge for the children to understand why they couldn’t give their mam a cuddle or go near her at all. We tried our best to protect them from the very serious reasons, but we made them understand they could also get sick. I have asthma and both daughters have been in hospital when younger with respiratory problems when ill. As much as we were both worried for Marie, we were terrified that if our girls became infected it would effect their breathing and they wouldn’t be able to fight it in the same way.

Home Schooling and working from home had to continue around looking after Marie and my daughters, again GLL were very understanding of my situation and what work I could, or could not, contribute.

Marie’s guidance had been to isolate for at least 7 days and the rest of us for at least 14. After 7 days Marie was still unwell, she only began to improve midway through the 2nd week. Her temperature came down but she was still lethargic and the headaches persisted. Thankfully our daughters and myself never developed any symptoms.

At the end of week 7 in Lockdown I can thankfully say that Marie’s health had improved greatly and the rest of us were all still well.

Ironically VE Day was our 14th day, we celebrated our health with scones and cake, we were free to go out again.

 

The weeks are getting more difficult with every one that passes. Just the repetitive nature of the days is becoming a drain. Trying to keep occupied and stay positive is difficult when you don’t know how long things will carry on this way for. The new normal isn’t normal at all and it seems like the year is passing us by without us realising.

 

Into week 8 and ‘normality’ could resume. We were all allowed back out again, back into work and allowed to exercise outdoors. This was great for my daughters as they had been asking when we could go out again.

 

The government have just announced their ‘road map’ of measures to follow that will eventually lead us out of lockdown.

With nothing changing for schools or sports centres just yet it’s the usual home schooling, working from home and trying to keep fit and active. Just thankful that we all have our health.

 

At the start of week 9 my eldest daughter turned 9. A child’s birthday under lockdown is certainly a lot different. First of all, fewer places to go for presents for her beforehand. Close family visiting the garden outside to drop presents at the door. No birthday hugs or kisses though.

No friends, no party. We did what we could, decorated the house and my wife arranged for family and friends to send video messages that she then put together into a mini movie for her.

 

Week 10 - week commencing 25th May.

Bank Holiday and the start of ‘half term’. There is the possibility one of our children (reception year) should return to school next week but not the other (year 4). As long as it is possible for them not too I’d like to keep them at home, for theirs and our health. Whenever the time comes for them to go back I think they may find it strange. Our new normal has been going on longer than any other break from school. I’m sure on one hand they’re desperate to see their friends, but returning under strict distancing at school will be weird for them.

Returning to work will also be strange for some people. With more people returning already, shops to start reopening in the next couple of weeks and the leisure industry looking to sometime in July.

 

I’m now starting to discuss plans for the reopening of our leisure centres again, how this can be done safely and what this will entail. Better are putting plans together to make sure this can, when ready, be done properly.

 

I’m glad it looks like lockdown is slowly coming to an end but am in no hurry to get back to ‘normal’. Without a cure for the coronavirus I’m not in a rush to do any of the things that I’ve been missing over the last 10 weeks. Playing football, going for a drink with friends, going to sports clubs and activities with the kids; it can all wait if it means we’re safe.

 

I’ve just learned this week of another colleague whose partner recently tested positive who works as a carer in a care home. This time he and his son have also tested positive. Showing it’s very much still ongoing.

I’d summarise my lockdown experience as lucky.

Lucky that I have kept my job, unlike some. Lucky that I have had my family to be with during this time, unlike some. Lucky that we have a nice home with resources available to us to keep us entertained and active, unlike some. Lucky that Marie’s symptoms were not life threatening, unlike some. Lucky that my daughters and I have so far not been infected, unlike some. Lucky that my wider family and friends have not been infected either, unlike many.