As life begins to return to normal, it means at long last we’re finally able to see our friends and families, dine out at our favourite pubs and restaurants and have a haircut (if we have hair to cut).
Usually, this feature is dedicated to places we’ve been since the last issue, but in this special edition of At Your Leisure, EDB editor Leanne Fawcett and chief designer Alan Sawyers share some of the things they’ve missed most amidst the pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.
I genuinely think of myself as low maintenance. The closest I get to indulgence is getting my nails done once a month, highlights in my hair and a quarterly trip to a spa for a well-deserved pamper.
I love these things, who doesn’t, but for me, what really makes me happy is spending time with friends and family, whether that’s for dinner and drinks, meeting at the local pub or, if the weather allows it, having a BBQ in the back garden.
So when we were plunged into not one but three national lockdowns as we battled through the coronavirus pandemic, and it was clear that all of the things there is no denying we all took for granted were being taken away, I genuinely felt a sense of sadness and disappointment.
For an unknown period of time, there was no inviting family members round for the night, socialising with pals, going to see our favourite bands and singers in concert. No holidays to look forward to, weekends away or popping to the cinema to see the latest blockbuster release. Nothing.
That was the life we had to adapt to, until only recently, when restrictions were finally relaxed as the country moves towards some kind of normal once again.
I’m not gonna deny it, as soon as could I was straight on to book a nail and hair appointment – needs must! Two little things that instantly made me feel human again.
Over the past few weeks I’ve also enjoyed seeing family and friends properly – some of whom I’d not seen for almost a year – and had some lovely meals out (what a luxury not having to cook has become).
It’s been fantastic – never again will I take these things for granted. We know now that if there was another outbreak (fingers and toes crossed that this doesn’t happen) they could very easily be taken away!
What isn’t yet clear is if I’ll get away to Mexico with my husband and two kids in July – we’ve had this holiday booked for over a year as we both turn 40 this year (that ship has sailed for me) so we have really pushed the boat out with it. Of course, it would be lovely to, but if we can’t, I can live with that.
This past 15 months or so has really highlighted what’s most important and for me, as nice as a holiday is, it isn’t that!
I’m the first to admit that I don’t get out much. So to a certain degree lockdown was pretty normal for me – but there were of course a few things I missed.
Simple things like being able to hug my mam. I was lucky enough to get to see my parents relatively regularly throughout various stages of lockdown, but from my mam’s perspective, the thought that she hadn’t hugged any of her four kids for over a year was heartbreaking.
I missed going to concerts. I’d seen loads of shows in 2019 and travelled to London to see Madonna in February last year. People in the city had already started wearing facemasks and the threat of the virus spreading in the UK was becoming very real. That was my only concert of 2020 and everything I have tickets for has been rescheduled.
So what did I do during lockdown? I worked a lot. I was lucky enough to stay busy and I have an office where I’m pretty much self isolated at the best of times so I was able to continue going there every day. Leanne and I even had a couple of meetings at my office when rules allowed, so that was lovely.
One thing I didn’t miss was the endless travelling you do sometimes in business – seeing clients etc – and I think Zoom and Teams have changed part of that forever. The idea of being able to log on to a 10am meeting at 10am and log off because you have another meeting at 11am is pretty lifechanging, when pre-lockdown I could spend up to an hour on the roads for a meeting, then I’m sat in reception, waiting for them to make coffee and before you know it I’ve lost half a day to a one hour meeting.
It might sound silly, but I’ve missed audiences on TV. I think in general telly shows have adapted incredibly well and found creative ways to entertain with little, virtual or no audience at all – and I can’t abide canned laughter.
So what about other things I’ve enjoyed? I rediscovered YouTube during lockdown. It had become a source of “how do I…” searches for me, but it’s now an evening ritual to watch videos from ‘YouTubers’ after realising they’re not all 20 year old makeup influencer types. My partner and I watched North East comedy lass Sarah Millican do a daily reading from her autobiography early into lockdown – which resulted in me buying the book she’d effectively just read to me – as well as the Hometasking series put out by the Taskmaster TV show. Both great examples of how the entertainment industry adapted to stay engaged with its audience.
Seeing some businesses adapt to the pandemic has been great to watch. I collect a manner of geeky collectables and one of the shops I missed was Be More Geek, which has outlets in Middlesbrough, Newcastle and the Metrocentre. As well as selling online, owner James Gee (pictured) and his team adapted to life without their bricks and mortar presence by allowing local customers to trade-in or sell their unwanted Funko Pop Vinyl figures, which meant the business was able to stay in touch with its customers. Their Metrocentre shop was one of the first on my list to visit when shops reopened in April.
So for me, the past 15 months have been about adapting in small ways – and it might sound odd but some of the things I’ve had to do in order to adapt I will probably keep doing even if we never go back into lockdown. <AS Mini disclaimer: this feature was written in April 2021 after the third national lockdown had ended.