Unexpected Positives In Peculiar Times

Since early March, our country (as much of the world) has gone through increasingly restrictive phases of lockdown to combat the spread of Covid-19.

Currently here in England we are advised to stay at home, other than travel to work (where home working is not possible), for essential groceries and medical supplies, or for aiding someone more vulnerable, like taking supplies or medication to the door of an elderly or poorly neighbour or relative.

These are indeed strange times (“unprecedented”, to use the ubiquitous buzzword of the moment), but locally I’ve noticed a surprising number of positives.

Here are some of them.

The village community is more friendly and supportive.

It’s unusual to pass someone now and not receive a smile and hello, whilst politely keeping to the recommended two metres of social distance.

People seem more respectful and willing to make eye contact, there’s an underlying sense of “we’re in this together, and we will overcome it”.

People are looking after those most in need more.

There’s an elderly lady always standing at her window that we pass on the circuit we walk to school on, and in the last few weeks on our daily walks (though schools are now closed), we’ve stopped to go and chat to her at her door (again, at a respectful distance), check she’s ok and whether she needs anything.

I’ve heard of this is happening with others locally, and it must be similar all over the country, people looking out for those more vulnerable and less able than themselves.

Partly I feel this is a natural human sense of compassion, but partly because we’re all rushing around less, and have more time to consider others.

The skies look and feel so clear and blue.

I’ve seen one aeroplane in the sky in about three weeks. Though we live in a fairly rural location, usually there’s at least one plane in the sky at any one time, and sometimes five or six.

Without them, and combined with the glorious run of spring weather we’re having, the skies seems to clean, so healthy.

I swear the quantity and volume of birdsong has increased – they seem to be happily chirping away almost constantly. It’s like nature is saying thank you and breathing more deeply again.

Let’s hope lessons are learned and people realise they don’t need to fly all over the world multiple times a year.

On a similar note…

We’re using our cars drastically less.

Usually my wife and I clock up probably 400-500 miles each in a month, going to work, multiple kids clubs, shopping trips, and so on.

I’m commuting to work on my bike almost every day I go in (four a week currently), and I’ve only used a car once in about three weeks, to do a larger grocery shop that was too much to fit into my bike panniers in one go, and when home delivery was temporarily unavailable.

This means of course we’re not only polluting the air far less, and avoiding congested roads, but saving money too (I typically spend £75+ a month on diesel, my wife spends a similar amount).

And realising we’re not such slaves to the internal combustion engine as we perhaps thought we were. Being a one car family seems entirely possible, and we can see that perhaps even having no car doesn’t seem beyond us.

I saw government stats yesterday that car use over the country is less than 40% of usual levels. The environmental impact – and personal savings – must be huge, and we’re surely among hundreds of thousands of families across the country seriously questioning our (over)reliance on a motor car.

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With more time together, our family has actually got along far better.

With the usual school routine suspended indefinitely, our kids are having to spend more time together each day. Perhaps against what we might have feared, we’ve actually all getting along better.

When you have a family where all of you are at school or work most of the day, then come together again to eat when most of you are tired, irritable and hungry, conflict and bickering is never far away.

But having more exposure to each other I think means we’re more appreciative of each others’ best points, and what we have together, and more tolerant and accepting of those inevitable irritations.

Our oldest son (7) and daughter (11) have never got along better.

The tremendous support we’ve received from school.

Those two oldest kids I just mentioned are at the same school, in years 2 and 6 respectively. Both of their teachers, the head, and the school overall have been absolutely amazing in their support of the children.

Creating tailored work packs and timetables for each class, along with bundles of exercise books, scissors, glue sticks, rulers and more, it doesn’t feel like the children have missed out on learning (even if my wife and I have had to brush up on primary level Maths and English!).

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve welled up with gratitude and admiration over a message from the school, or from one of the teachers.

Our son’s teacher especially – who has always been incredibly supportive – is never more than minutes away via email if we need him, and couldn’t be offering more.

Again it’s an example of how people have risen to this challenge and shown what committed and passionate individuals they are.

Technology has been used to increase human connection.

Much of what’s available to us online – especially the majority of “social media” – promises much but ultimately ends up at best a pointless time-suck, and at worst platforms for conflict, vitriol and worse.

During this social isolation, apps like Zoom, WhatsApp and FaceTime have allowed us to connect with others in a multitude of ways, from simple check ins with parents and grandparents, to family get togethers to play games and quizzes, to the kids having bass guitar and gymnastic lessons remotely.

Even five years ago, the technology (or bandwidth) wasn’t quite there to be usable without major glitches, drop outs and frustration, and 10 or 15 years back it was almost science fiction.

It’s heart warming to see when people are able to utilise technology and networks for the basic social needs of all of us – to talk with, share and learn from, those closest to us.

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I’ve finally discovered a use for Instagram.

Last but perhaps not least, after trying Instagram as a photography outpost numerous times over the last five years or more and not being able to understand why so many love sharing and viewing photos at postage stamp size, and receiving comments full of silly hearts and emojis rather than meaningful conversation, I think now I get it.

Our son’s gym teacher is a Great Britain gymnastics coach, and as such has plenty of colleagues and contacts in the same field. She’s recommended a number of gymnasts and coaches who’ve been sharing exercise and training routines on Instagram, as well as other motivational and mental health support.

By using my phone and screen mirroring to our main TV, the videos are large enough for our son to use and follow, in lieu of classes at his gym.

Combined with the trampoline in the garden we upgraded just a couple of months ago, he’s been maintaining a decent level of exercise and practice.

In a similar vein we’ve subscribed to a number of YouTube channels with a range of learning, ideas and experiences for all of us from science experiments to nursery rhymes to 360° videos swimming with sharks and tours of pyramids.

Again in the past I’ve really only considered YouTube useful for old music videos, camera reviews or tech how-to guides. It’s amazing the depth of useful and informative content now available.

I’m not belittling the seriousness or the dramatic and wide reaching effects Covid-19 is having on the world.

But on a local level, the lock down feels like it’s given us the time and space to look at how we spend our lives, who and what matters most, and the vast resources we’re privileged enough to have almost instant access to.

What positives have you noticed from being more confined in recent weeks? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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6 thoughts on “Unexpected Positives In Peculiar Times”

  1. Well, you have mentioned the main positives Dan. Personally, the obvious positive changes I have noticed is much less noise and less pollution from cars as I live in a city centre.
    Also as I temporary stopped working my daily routine and sleep hours have changed. The positive being is that I get to wake up on my own and not to an alarm clock and it’s a huge boost for the body and mind. On the flip side, I do miss the work…
    We have found out yesterday that in France the lockdown will remain until the 11th of May…

    1. Yuri, yes it’s the same here, although I live in a village and commute to the nearest town, which is still fairly small (population about 33000), but a typical morning used to have a crazy amount of traffic, and an 8 minute journey (by car) could take 30-40 minutes, sometimes more. It’s one reason I mostly cycle. Currently when I cycle in to work I see perhaps 10% of the traffic.

      I haven’t understood why office based businesses nationally don’t work on a wider range of hours (supermarkets do this) than 9-5 and have staggered shifts so the roads are never too congested. It’s ridiculous that 90% of people seem to hit the road within the same 30-60 minute window, then all get stuck. 6am to 7pm say, with staggered starts at 6, 7, 8, 9, 10am would even out the rush hours and give more flexibility for people too.

      Anyway, it’s beautifully quiet currently. I wouldn’t be surprised if our lockdown is at least as long. Better to be more cautious and strict now than get too complacent too soon I think and have a second wave hit.

  2. Helpful article. 2 positives for me (one serious, one flippant)
    (1) more time each day for photos
    (2) Eastenders has stopped filming… Here’s hoping!!
    And (3) on writing this comment, I burnt my hot cross bun! I expect a delivery of replacements from you asap! Lol

    1. Thanks Adam. Have you found you’re making more photos? Is the subject matter different?

      I don’t follow any of the soaps (and very little TV at all) so didn’t even know they weren’t running any more. Guess it obvious given the lockdown, it’s hardly a front line essential service.

      Sorry about the buns. I wonder if I can still get some, I love those M&S variations like orange and cranberry or chocolate chip…

  3. Yes, i’m definitely making more photos… but different…
    at home – a bit more macro stuff
    on my walks or cycling – either “pretty stuff” to cheer people up, or “documentary/street” stuff – cause i’m trying to be edgy. lol

    1. Ah I’ve tried the egdy, cool, street photography route. It didn’t work because I’m generally a bit anti-social and cowardly ha ha!

      This is why most of my photos are in woods, fields, and rural churchyards – I usually have them all to myself.

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