OPINION: Like a 14-month detention: My final thoughts on lockdown

This year’s lilac treats carry the vibrant scent of fresh freedom after a lengthy lockdown

This year’s lilac treats carry the vibrant scent of fresh freedom after a lengthy lockdown - Credit: Danny Skipper

There’s little point in trying to make too much sense of the past 14 months. Much better just to give thanks for survival and wonder again how to go about cautious hugging in a mask.

I sensed from the start of life in isolation that unprecedented times called for unlikely answers to ridiculous questions. The pattern was set on our first full day in lockdown when I misread the clock by my bed and marched downstairs well before 7am.

Opening the back door, I was greeted by a blackbird warbling a loud and beautiful welcome. A chaffinch arrived to take a lesser role in this morning concerto. A gloriously giving world of nature has meant so much more since.

I kidded myself working from home would be a doddle for someone who’d done that with various levels of effort and output since 1995. It’s simply not the same as you can’t pop out when you feel like it for a stroll, errand, mardle or even trip beyond Cromer boundaries.

The bonus was inventing a new routine which dealt savage blows to my long-held reputation as domestic dinosaur with no idea what went on in the kitchen and no desire to find out. I’m not yet bosom pals with our oven, microwave or chopping board – but beginnings of a working relationship are being established.


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My dear wife takes these interventions with a pinch of salt – usually left over from one of my crab salad swoops – but does show real appreciation for my taming of a temperamental toaster all too eager to singe something simple. Like my straggling whiskers.

She must have nursed deep fears I would turn this lengthy indoor saga into a shameless pundemic, especially after suggesting Big Ben was in tockdown and so many people hoarding toilet rolls might force us to look for something else in loo.

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A sense of humour has been a blessing for both since we met over 40 years ago and an essential tool in our managing box since March 2020.

However, there is a limit to how much self-indulgence can be tolerated when a couple face so much time and so many challenges in a confined space..

Perhaps a period of intense togetherness can underline strengths and weaknesses all too often ignored or taken for granted in more orthodox times. I like to think my efforts to be serious when it mattered helped us through darkest patches of a dilemma like no other.

With countless experts lining up to offer virtual advice and help on so many subjects throughout our battle against the dreaded virus, an exercise in self-assessment might be taken as harmless escapism or crass avoidance of proven support.

I treated it as a path to a wider perspective provided by family, friends, neighbours and uplifting volunteers all over the area who helped with urgent shopping provisions, transport for vaccine jabs and other important appointments.

The pandemic affected every household in a different way. We wore “vulnerable” tags throughout and that demanded severe restrictions on our daily doings.

Yes, I often likened it to being kept in school detention regularly for something we hadn’t done – but that now heightens joy in any fresh freedoms coming our way.

As I hope this will be my final offering about ramifications of Covid, I will end on a positive note with a few consolations of lengthy incarceration.

Top of the list must be safer and quieter roads, big cuts in congestion and pollution and fresh respect for nature’s healing balm.

There’s clear evidence of really being able to exist without resorting to daytime television. On the other hand, promises to catch up with reading and writing adventures can be cancelled out by long periods of deep pondering about nothing in particular.

Then an old friend with similar inclinations rings up to compare notes on how so much extra time to spare is a mixed blessing. You exchange lists of books waiting for digestion and good ideas on how to be more industrious tomorrow.

Rising late on a miserable morning may lead easily to spending rest of the day in a favourite old dressing-gown. What starts as a heartfelt tribute to Noel Coward ends after too much dipping and nibbling more like a front runner for the next Turner Prize.

Favourite line to keep spirits up throughout confinement to barracks: “I’ll go and make a nice cup of tea”.

Skip's Aside: Where did Norfolk come from? Some would argue that’s easier to answer than working out where it might be going as the 21st century warms up.

Some think the name is merely a shortening of “North folk”, as distinct from that rum lot squatting under the banner of “South folk”. Bit too obvious for those who recall the Ice Age.

A few with puckish ideas reckon an Iceni tribal tendency to “gnaw folk” during the Roman invasion had something to do with the christening of our proud homeland. A woad of old squit!

Queen Boadicea and her tactical squad were far more interested in mowing down legionnaires via flashing blades on chariot wheels than getting their teeth into a vital slice of history.

Same goes for a much more recent inference that newcomers and holidaymakers finding it hard to pierce the famous caution and reserve of the locals claimed loudly they “ignore folk”, an accusation too easily turned into an overall label.

No, significant word has come from on high that the real derivation of this fine old county is “Noahfolk”, proving we are all descended in a direct line from that great navigator and explorer who was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation. And he invented floodlights into the bargain.

Biblical scholars with Norfolk roots point excitedly to Noah’s conversation with his son Japheth during an anxious moment in the ark. “Boy!” boomed Noah, “Hev hat mucky ole pidgin’ come back yit?” “No, farther, that het, nut yit that hent”.

Noah’s other sons, Ham and Shem, were busy learning to count in twos and wondering if an Old Testament version of Michael Fish was somewhere on the distant horizon.

For even stronger confirmation that God himself is a Norfolk man – or at least a Carrow Road season ticket holder when fixtures are not staged on Sundays – we need look no further than a homely version of the Creation by local Methodist minister Colin Riches.

He gave several well-known Bible stories a coat of Norfolk paint. While other scribes before him settled for the traditional line “Let there be light”,

Colin’s version, full of parochial power, turns gloriously into the mighty invocation: “Le’s hev some loight on the job!”.

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