as told by five AMAT residents
Max is in his early twenties. He has lived in the same AMAT house with three other residents for 18 months.
Max describes himself as a hermit, so lockdown didn’t change things that much for him. He used to go out and see friends, but not that often. As a person, Max tries to question everything and during lockdown he often felt suspicious about the information provided about coronavirus; was it really as bad as the media claimed it to be or was it just another way to curb our freedoms? Max didn’t trust the NHS Track and Trace app as he believed it would encourage people to snitch on each other, and he was also not convinced about the idea to vaccinate everyone for COVID-19 when so little is known about its effect.
‘It didn’t have the hugest impact on me like it did on others… I didn’t have much planned [which had to be cancelled], it was more that you couldn’t be impulsive and say ‘I will go and see my mum’ or ‘let’s go to Brighton’ – that was hard, especially because the weather was so nice.’
But Max was determined not to waste his time in lockdown and he initially tried to learn a new language, but learning Chinese using YouTube was hard and he didn’t get that far. Instead, Max would try to keep everyone’s spirits up, including his own, and would also go outside every day to do breathing exercises. And watching YouTube on his phone took up a significant chunk of Max’s time:
‘YouTube got me through the day, and Facebook, but I didn’t go mad on Facebook like other people. I can put it down; I don’t want Facebook to ruin my life – I got other things to be doing.’
For Max, shopping in lockdown involved finding supermarkets without queues.
‘I refused to queue up, even in Aldi. If there was a queue, I would walk past it. If there wasn’t, I would go in, it was that simple… I went to corner shops instead, they had everything I needed anyway. I properly went shopping once during lockdown, it was not the same experience even when you did go in, with the social distancing.’
Recognising that his diet wasn’t the best before lockdown, Max did attempt to maintain a healthy diet. He would try to avoid meat and make dishes like lentil curries, vegetable chilli con carne and his favourite – avocado on toast. But he admits most often he would just buy crisps and snacks from the corner shop and eat those instead of cooking.
However, Max also got into growing herbs and plants during lockdown. It started a while back when a friend gave him a spider plant which made him interested in learning more about plants. Max bought seeds from Wilko, and during lockdown had the time to grow chilli plants, sunflowers and basil. He also grew potatoes, in his bedroom, and took Aloe Vera cuttings.
‘It’s not like I got a big farm going on in my room, but I am interested in learning more… for the potatoes I got a Grow Bag and filled it with five bags of compost. I have always liked growing things – I would like to be more independent… When I get my own flat, I am going to dedicate a whole room to growing things.’
While he acknowledges there were many negative sides to lockdown, Max believes it did allow a lot of people to slow down and be more present, instead of thinking about the past or dreaming about the future. Hence, in some ways lockdown helped us become more appreciative of what we have and not to take things for granted.
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.