as told by five AMAT residents
Ian turned fifty during lockdown. He has been an AMAT resident for over four years and now lives in a one-bedroom AMAT flat on his own.
Ian had known of coronavirus for years, reading about MERS and SARS, but when he heard the news about this new strain of coronavirus in China in early January, he never thought it would turn into a global pandemic. ‘I just thought it was mainly going to affect the Chinese, but then it became pretty clear, in pretty short time that it was going to spread everywhere… When Italy and other countries went into lockdown that’s when I thought ‘oh, this could be it’, but we didn’t for another few weeks… Talk about herd immunity – because we are all just cattle, aren’t we!’
Not owning a TV, Ian heard the news about lockdown online, where he gets all his information reading online newspapers, like the Guardian. Online was also where Ian spent the majority of his time during lockdown; studying for his online IT course, catching up on the news, or watching films on Netflix. Ian estimates that his daily screen time was probably about 12 hours each day, hence living without his computer would have been very difficult. Ian doesn’t have Wi-Fi in his flat, but he pays for unlimited data on his smartphone and uses USB tethering to connect it to his PC.
‘I used it to work on my course during the day and then I would stop to watch a film during the evening… Without [my computer] I wouldn’t have had anything. If I want to watch TV I can, watch a film, music, everything, everything was online, without that I would be sitting staring at the walls.’
Lockdown meant Ian’s exams were postponed as the test centres had to close, but he is hoping to sit them soon. The quieter time during lockdown did encourage him to focus more on his course and Ian worked hard to complete the required coursework and prepare for the exams, whenever they may now be.
Ian was used to shopping at Asda, but unfortunately the MOT on his car ran out just before lockdown meaning he wasn’t able to drive to Asda to do his usual fortnightly food shop. So, as for many people, lockdown meant he had to shop locally instead and he would walk to Sainsbury or Iceland, or buy the essentials at his local corner shop.
In the first few months of lockdown Ian also started doing some home exercises in his living room. He had Time Credit vouchers earned from volunteering with AMAT’s 411 HUB, which he planned to spend going to the gym, but with the gyms shut that wasn’t possible. Ian didn’t have any gym equipment at home, so his exercises were mainly press-ups and sit-ups – no jumping or skipping as he lives on the first floor flat and has downstairs neighbours to consider.
Ian doesn’t use social networks or make Zoom calls, but he did keep in touch with his brother and grown-up daughter on the phone. He also started speaking to his mum more regularly when she rang every other day. His mother lives in a retirement park in the Midlands and Ian was worried about her; some of the other residents became infected with COVID-19, and they also had a couple of deaths. He was especially worried when she became ill, but luckily it turned out to be seasonal flu and she improved after a few days.
While the initial worries about himself and others getting ill has now diminished, Ian believes that COVID-19 is here to stay.
‘It’s not like the flu, [it’s not] even like MERS and SARS and they were bad enough, but they seemed to be quite short-lived. This seems to be quite a virulent strain of coronavirus, it’s going to be here a while, it’s not going to go away anytime soon.’
While there were certain things that Ian missed, like the pubs – not so much for the pint as for the people and the atmosphere – and a fry-up in a cafe, on the whole lockdown didn’t change much for Ian….
‘Everything was pretty much the same, the only difference being the isolation bit. Not that I went out a lot anyway, but knowing that you couldn’t… that was the only difference for me during lockdown, otherwise nothing really changed.’
Having said that, Ian is now back using the printers at 411 HUB, and he also joined AMAT’s gardening club when it started up again and is pleased with the progress they have made to the allotment.
We are grateful to the AMAT residents who agreed to participate and to share their experiences of lockdown. All names and identifying details have been changed to protect their privacy.
Our thanks also go to Dr Anna Ludvigsen who listened to residents’ stories and complied them for this project.