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Voices from Lockdown
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Voices from Lockdown

Shirley Jones —

Now that the Level Four pandemic response - Lockdown - is behind us, and maybe will never be experienced again, I asked some of my friends and family members what it was like for them personally.

I asked these questions: 

  • What was the biggest change you noticed during level 4 lockdown? 
  • What was the worst thing for you personally during lockdown? 
  • What was the best thing for you personally during lockdown? 
  • Would you like to share a personal story with readers about lockdown? 

Penny. 7 years old

The biggest change was I wasn't allowed to go to the playground or see my friends.  

The worst thing was all the shops were closed and I wasn't allowed to go to the supermarket with Daddy. I like to go with daddy to remind him off the yummy things that I like, sometimes I keep annoying daddy until he has to get little milks (Yakult) and Nutrigrain.

The best thing was no school, that's an easy one!

We could go to the golf course at the end of the road and run around. We liked pressing the plastic circles in the ground. I could do rollercoaster rides on daddy's bike around the golf course.

Guy. Father of 3, full time carer during lockdown, married to an essential health worker

Despite the viral invasion and government authoritarianism, overall lockdown has been good. I have a lot more free time, which is surprising, since I am trying to study full time from home whilst looking after three kids under the age of seven. However, without all the usual pickups, drop offs, errands, appointments, social events, polytech lectures and labs, children's swim classes, bike rides and playground visits, life has become simpler. I have finally gotten around to all the tasks and hobbies I had planned to do someday, but never get round to. I've been able to focus in a more concentrated way on my kids education and development, and even got them to help with the cleaning throughout the day, miracles never cease! Warfare amongst the little ones has increased, of course, but so too has conflict resolution, resulting in a more enduring harmonisation and level of cooperative play that would have been difficult to achieve in a different context.

The worst thing about lockdown is not catching up with my mates for a beer, which really sucks.

John. Retired, living alone

Biggest change was the quietness. No vehicles and very few people made the central city almost post-apocalytic, but in a pleasant way. The people who were out always smiled as did people in their houses. It was a check point in our reality, unfortunate but maybe needed. How long before 'reality' returns though?

Obviously not seeing friends, but besides that, there was very little that was negative. In fact I'm sort of missing it.

It made very little impact on my present life but I got in touch with a few friends I hadn't been in contact with for a while. And it was nice hearing (and seeing) birds again.

The most exciting story about my lockdown was that nothing really changed besides noise - or the lack of it!

Jane. Junior doctor in Emergency Services, living with partner

The biggest change at work has been the quiet. Usually March is the busiest month for the ED, so it has been eerily quiet in the last 2 months. The four weeks of level 4 lockdown has meant that our hours have been reduced (to avoid us sitting around and chatting with each other, due to the lack of patients), and I've had much more time at home than usual. The most noticeable thing that has changed is the reduced number of accidents and intoxicated young people who have injured themselves and others, while bars have been closed and other outdoor gatherings have been restricted. Overall, although it has obviously been stressful at work with the potential of a disastrous pandemic, our government's extremely competent handling of the situation has resulted in a noticeable lack of work in the emergency department. At home, the biggest change has been obvious - never leaving the house except to go to work or to walk the same local walks over and over again.

The worst thing during lockdown has been being stuck at home during the only public holiday I've had off for the last 2 years. I wasn't rostered ANZAC day, and had a 3 day weekend (which happens once in a blue moon). Instead of being able to go away for the weekend with my partner (who works a normal office job and always has the public holidays off), we had to content ourselves with 3 days of being stuck inside together slowly running out of things to do. Not terrible in the scheme of things, but I can't imagine I'm going to get another 3 day weekend on a public holiday for another two years.

The best thing has been the lack of social pressure to go out and do things that I don't want to do. Staying in on a Saturday night to watch a movie and drink a glass of wine? It's not being boring, it's being socially responsible and saving lives! At work the reduced hours have come at the right time, as I have started studying for my specialty exams. It has been very helpful having a few extra hours at home to study.

A personal story? This is a difficult question, because although the world seems to be completely turned upside down, it feels like the only remarkable thing that has happened over the last few weeks has been the absolute lack of anything happening. The only thing I can really think of is that now when I go for my local bush walk, people will rapidly scramble or jump several metres into native bush instead of smiling and saying 'hello'. We also have a neighbour who sings loud show tunes with accompanying piano bashing until 4am - but this is pretty normal and hasn't really been affected by COVID-19. 

Annabel. Administrator, living with spouse and extended family

Working entirely remotely was the biggest change. I had to set up an office at home. Interaction with colleagues takes place remotely via Zoom and through Microsoft Office Teams. Not having to commute to work was a big change too! 

On a personal level, we expanded our bubble to accommodate a young relative from England who had been working and travelling and found himself without anywhere to go. Our bubble expanded a second time when our daughter, husband and their dog moved in at Level 3. So that was probably the biggest change - getting used to having young people in the house again! And trying to restrain myself from giving them unsolicited advice on cooking, washing, cleaning... 😀 and reminding them where the utensils/crockery go, and guys please put the loo seat down!!

Another big change was the shopping of course. I have been fortunate in that I personally haven't been into town at all - managed to delegate others in the bubble to do that! It takes a bit more planning than usual, but we use the local shop (great that they remained open) and have taken advantage of local operators providing home delivery. But you use what you have on hand - if the recipe calls for dried apricots but all you've got is sultanas, that's what you use! 

The worst thing for me at work is the lack of personal interaction with colleagues. Zoom and online chat are great resources to have, but I do miss the opportunity to have face to face meetings and conversations. Also not really knowing what the rest of the year will look like in terms of workload, wondering if we will have to reduce hours, what will work look like next year? What effect will the downturn in the economy have on our organisation - and what will be the trickle-down effect of that be? Not being able to see family and friends is hard, as is trying to distantly support those under stress who are finding things difficult. It's not the same as being able to give someone a hug. I missed my trip to England to see my sister and now don't know if I will be able to go next year. Reading the news and seeing how other countries are suffering, and having vulnerable relatives overseas, is very concerning. Knowing that I have put on weight....too much baking - and that it will be very hard to shift it!

The good things are maintaining our office contact through the Stuff Quiz and the ODT quiz! Friendly competition going on there....I am better at Stuff - not sure what that says about me! Being thankful that I have always tried to keep up with technology in my work. Being thankful that I have a job at all. Having my dog as my co-worker - he's not very good at answering my questions though... and snores quite loudly. Having extra time with my daughter who was due to move overseas and found herself back at home unexpectedly waiting it out, has been a bonus for me. Chatting to my husband during the day. Taking a few minutes to sit outside in the sun, listen to the birds and feel very fortunate to live here. Enjoying the quietness of the roads, the amazing weather we have had and being able to go for walks and bike rides. Everyone saying hello to each other and being (mostly) courteous and respecting the distancing rules. Having video calls with friends and family and being able to see their lovely faces. Time to bake, 10 min Yoga in the mornings before 'commuting' to my office upstairs.

Prior to lockdown, we were expecting a brief visit from a young couple from England, who were in NZ for work and travel with a view to staying long-term. When things were looking decidedly gloomy they got in contact to see if we knew of anywhere they could stay for the lockdown. Luckily we own a second property which had been empty for a while. They travelled down from Auckland in three days to make the March deadline. They arrived very stressed and tired not knowing quite what the next few months would hold for them. Would they have to go back to England and wait another few years before they could return or would they be able to pick up work in a not-great looking economy? They have been in our empty property for the whole of lockdown and we were very happy to be able to help them out so that they could relax and take some time out. In return, they have been tackling a big gardening job for us - so a win-win! They have loved being out here, being keen birdwatchers and enjoyed the wildlife, making the most of the sunny days to explore on foot. The good news is that whilst in lockdown, one of them had a successful job interview and so they will be moving on as soon as they can, to start the next stage of their NZ life.