Let’s be optimistic. The kids go back to school, and stay there. The pubs remain open. The economy bounces back. Nobody dies. Things are back to normal. One day it will be. History shows us that nothing bad, or good, lasts forever. There is always change.
One day your grandchildren will ask you. ‘What did you do in the pandemic? What was it like?’ They may have learned about the coronavirus at school, or seen videos about it. Like we’ve all read about the Second World War, and it’s been the subject of numerous movies. Nevertheless, what they’ll really want to know is how members of their own family coped. What effect did it have on you? You were an eyewitness.
Why Memoirs are Important
That’s why you should make a lockdown memoir book now, before you start to forget. It’s easier than you think. By the way, ‘lockdown diary’ sounds much more punchy, but it’s too late for most of us to start one of those. It doesn’t matter though, if you write about themes rather than about days.
When people ask ‘How’s it been for you?’ I always say that it hasn’t made much difference. After all, I work mostly from home, and I’m recovering from a chronic illness so I didn’t go out much in the evenings before anyway. But actually, when I think about it and start collecting my memories, the lockdown has changed many things for me. I’ve learned new skills, had new experiences, started and finished creative projects. And had time to think.
How Do You Feel About Writing?
And that’s where writing a lockdown memoir becomes difficult. How to put down on paper all the thoughts and feelings? Many emotions are likely to be painful ones at the moment. Here in the North West of England, we’re in the hardest hit part of a country that tops the per capita league table for coronavirus deaths in the world. I myself know of ten people who think they’ve had it, and two who have died.
All that anxiety and sadness has only been amplified by the news coverage of the thousands of other people who have lost their lives. And the many more who have lost their jobs.
At first, I used to watch the BBC ten o’clock news every day, but when that kept me awake at night, I swapped to the six o’clock. And then I started to skip the signature tune, with its heart-thumping beat. When my partner found me weeping in front of the TV one night, he suggested taking the odd day off the news. And that’s just what it was like for someone in a secure job with money in the bank.
If you had to deal with worse that this, you may not want to write about it yet. It’s all too raw, and maybe you think the worst is yet to come. These, however, are the thoughts and feelings that will most be interesting in years to come. Your families will treasure all you can tell them about what it was like to live through these difficult times. And, as clients of Elephant Memoirs will tell you, it’s a relief to get things off your chest.
So go on, tell your side of the story. This is your chance to be heard.
Here are some lockdown reminiscences by members of the Biographers Club.
If you really enjoy recording your lockdown life, you can send your writing to Mass Observation. Started during the Second World War to archive the journals of ordinary people during an extraordinary time, MO is now looking for records of this strange time. I’ve sent mine off, to be a part of history.
How to Write Your Lockdown Memoir
Here is a list of things you can write about in your lockdown memoir. Don’t just include words, though, add pictures of all kinds.
And get the family involved. What has kept them going this last few months? Here are the lockdown diaries of some kids at Shoreditch Academy.
You can buy a book to record your children’s memories in, and the money supports the WellChild charity and the NHS.
Marple has had an amazing Covid-19 mutual aid group and their posters have been all over town.
Hobbies and projects
I have set about photographing all the flowers in my garden. I’ve spent more time gardening this year than ever before.
The 75th anniversary of VE Day saw bunting and street parties all over the country.
Films and TV
I’ve fallen in love with Gardener’s World all over again.
Mat and Savanna Shaw started singing together in lockdown. After their first song, ‘The Prayer’, went viral they posted a dozen more songs and now have a fan club of 33,000 people. Their uplifting music was the soundtrack of the pandemic for me.
We’ve been buying our fruit and veg from a local delivery company that usually supplies restaurants. And these days our fish and meat comes from local shops. Our healthy food shop stayed open all through lockdown, with customers ordering at the door.
We have taken it in turns to walk the dogs, so I’ve had less exercise than before. My partner has cycled 45 minutes per day, and lost 20 pounds in weight!
Andrew Cotter kept me amused adding his sports-style commentaries to videos of his dogs.
And then there were the artworks recreated with things you find at home.
I taught my Elephant Memoirs clients to use Zoom and Skype so we could still do interviews which I could record.
An ex-pupil of mine was unable to sit her GCSEs this summer. However, that gave her time to finish the novel she was writing instead. It ended up being 100,000 words long. And she is now twenty chapters into the sequel!
Clubs and societies
My partner learned how to make a split-screen video of his orchestra.
And who could forget this?
We’ve not had so much as a sniffle here, but both my neighbours and their children’s families have all had Covid-19.
I didn’t see my son until lockdown was eased in July. We had a Fathers’ Day lunch, and then the local lockdown was back on. Until who knows when?
We all went back to good old-fashioned phone calls.
We all got together every Thursday at 8pm to Clap for Carers. I brought a different instrument out every week. Children round the corner from here chalked games on the pavement for everyone to enjoy.
The big clear out! But none of the tips or charity shops were open.
I filled my car up once in the middle of March, and not again till August.
Oh dear, the lockdown haircuts! Or lack of them.
In a supermarket, the man in front of me said, ‘No one will ever ask you out looking like that!’. Mask shaming, for goodness’ sake.
Our dead grannies lying on the floor was the measure of how far to stand from other people!
Every time, you entered a building, every time you left one. It quickly became a habit. A sticky one.
News from round the world
I followed the news from India, where I have friends. At the beginning of September, they are having 90,000 new cases per day.
News from the UK
Every night, the briefing from Downing Street, and the latest statistics – deaths per 100,000, deaths in all settings, new cases. In total 90 per cent of deaths were pensioners.
My partner works for the pharmaceutical company that is developing a coronavirus vaccine. Yet the Russians claim their Sputnik V has beaten them to it.
To date, new cases are rising again in the UK. Fast. Young people are being blamed for lax social distancing. When will their grandparents ever feel safe again?
What you’re thankful for
I am glad that none of my family has been ill with Covid-19. But I also feel guilty that I’ve done nothing much to help those who have suffered. I’ve given more to charity than ever before. And now I’m trying to prop up the economy by spending money. What to do?
What you’ve learned
I’ve learned that if life goes back to how it was, there will never be time for the things that matter in life: speaking to friends, being creative and enjoying the countryside.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Turns out there are loads of things to mention. And you can use these topics to write about any other part of your lives too.
Send your collection of memories to Elephant Memoirs if you want them turned into a book to share with future generations.