Andrew's Lockdown Diary (part 1)

In her blog titled “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste”, Becca recently shared her experience of how she is coping during this forced lockdown. For her, the experience has been challenging, enlightening, and at times life affirming. She has discovered many things about herself; some of which she thought she knew, while others have been quite surprising.

Becca and I share many of the same feelings and insights. Before we proceed though, I think it is very important to note that many of these are somewhat trivial when set against the backdrop of lives being lost and our economy grinding to a halt. I deeply appreciate that as a family we are very lucky. We have our health, open space, our own business, and we are generally comfortable. This is clearly not the situation for everyone and we are both very mindful of this.

In today’s blog, I discuss how I am finding this truly unique experience, and we will also discuss how society in general has reacted and what this could mean for the future.


In a recent study to gauge how people are feeling during the Covid crisis, 90% of respondents clearly stated that they didn’t want to go back to the previous lives that they were living when the current restrictions end. Let me repeat this one more time - nine out of ten people don’t want to have the same routines, and to lead the same lives, as they did only a month or two ago. I don’t know about you, but to me this is a truly shocking, and somewhat alarming, statistic.

Surely we need to explore this further as it has to be telling us something?

As modern, educated humans, we have all been repeatedly sold the idea that our current western capitalist way of life is ‘progress’. It’s easy to see why - improved standards of living for all; better education, more opportunities, more wealth. Almost unlimited, global career opportunities with very high earning potential. You name it we were/are sold it.

A large number of the advances that we have seen during the past hundred years have had a hugely positive impact on us all. Many diseases have been eradicated and global life expectancy has been steadily increasing. Most of us have a roof over our head and an almost unlimited supply of food, with access to medical care as and when it’s needed seen as a right by many.

The majority of us live in urban societies where our every need is catered for. We live in neon-lit, densely populated and sprawling metropolises. It is almost impossible to be bored as we have a supercomputer at our fingertips 24 hours a day. We are all connected to each other by the touch of a button or the swipe of a screen.

Culturally, we have taken massive leaps forward in terms of human rights. Gay marriage, racial boundaries being eroded, woman taking their long fought for place in the workplace.

By a large number of metrics how we live our lives in the 21st Century MUST be seen as progress.

However, at what cost?

Studies show that up to 50% of us will suffer some form of mental illness in any given year. Levels of depression and anxiety have been rising exponentially. Global suicide rates continue to rise unabated. Life satisfaction and happiness surveys regularly show us that for many, life is a struggle. We are all living under a vast plethora of systems – economic, political, agricultural, even healthcare. Can we really say that most of these are working for us, or for our planet?

During the past century, humans have destroyed large parts of the world. We are swimming against a rising tide of plastic pollution. Cities are suffocating in smog and we have decimated much of our global eco-system. The earth is warming at a rate unlike anything we have ever seen before. Weather patterns have become far more erratic and violent. We’ve seen a huge increase in the number of natural disasters. Just look at the terrible fires in Australia as a recent example.

For the first time in human history, large numbers of us are dying from eating too much. We are gorging ourselves on fatty, sugary meals that we don’t need, simply because our brains haven’t kept up from an evolutionary point of view and craves energy in the densest form possible. We are more connected than ever, but we’ve never been lonelier. My generation might be the first in recorded history not to outlive our parents, primarily due to lifestyle factors.

We are all told that by getting a better education, by climbing the career ladder, and by most importantly, acquiring more stuff (read larger houses, cars, clothes, material possessions) that we will have ‘made it’; that true happiness is to be found in some mythical place in future that unfortunately doesn’t exist.

How often do we tell ourselves “I will be happy when”, or “I will be happy if”, ignoring the wonder and the beauty of the present?

We work hard, we earn more money, and we buy the car that we’ve always dreamed of. What happens next? Due to something called ‘hedonic adaptation’, it quickly becomes not good enough. So, we want a newer, shinier, better version. And how do we get it? By working harder, and by working longer. The cycle continues and never stops. We are never satiated nor satisfied.

Let me make myself very clear – I am no scientist, nor am I a politician. I don’t even profess to have any answers. I will leave this to far more intelligent and well-read people than I. However, my job affords me the opportunity to talk to a large variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures, and the same messages continue to prevail. And unfortunately, what I repeatedly hear is a general dissatisfaction with life, and the evidence points to the modern world as the culprit. There is a general malaise afflicting the global population unlike anything that we have ever seen before.

Taking this into account, is it any wonder that this forced lockdown has got us thinking and seeking. For the first time in history the whole world has quite literally ground to a halt. We are reflecting on what it means to be alive. What we want out of life. What we want our lives to look like. And you know what? Most of us want it to be different.

This is a global punctuation mark, a line in the sand, and we have been given a rare opportunity to reset and breathe. Perhaps it’s too early, and we have too far to go to draw any major conclusions at this stage, so we’ll explore the possibilities further in future blogs. For the time being though I’ve noted some of my thoughts about living in lockdown.

We're all social distancing, but I feel claustrophobic

I have a deep rooted need for space both physically and metaphorically, and for time on my own. At times, I’m feeling hugely frustrated, angry even. We are fortunate to live in a steading in open countryside with a large garden. A lovely woodland backs onto our house with several walking paths. As we work from home anyway, we have a designated part of our house set up for it. We are a small family – mum, dad, and toddler. Yet, I’m still feeling extremely claustrophobic. Perhaps its seeing the same few rooms every day, the same people, the same fields, the same bloody farm animals even. Familiarity can breed contempt, I guess. I have this yearning to change my view, to see the sea, to look at something new. It’s almost primal.

Looking back, I’ve always been this way but it’s only really dawned on me to what extent since we’ve been in forced lockdown. During my teenage years I thought nothing of playing 18 holes of golf on my own. In hindsight, it’s also perhaps why I chose to live at home when I went to university rather than staying in halls or a shared flat. It was completely inconceivable to me to live communally.

Early last year I had a day trip planned to Newcastle to pick up a new car. As it was going to be a long day, 10 hours there and back, I had several offers to keep me company; to come with me on the journey, to fend off the impending drudgery and boredom that such a long journey can quite obviously provide. However, I saw things very differently. Instead of viewing it as a laborious journey that had to be endured, I simply couldn’t wait to go. And more importantly, to go on my own. I was obviously grateful for the offers of company but the thought of 10 hours in a car, by myself, was too good an opportunity to turn down.

It actually turned into one of my best days of the year and I remember it fondly. I downloaded 10 hours of podcasts that I was struggling to get round to listening to, and I had the most wonderful day listening to some of the worlds greatest thinkers whilst driving through gorgeous countryside.

I used to think that the definition of an introvert was someone who was shy; perhaps someone maladjusted to social situations. Then last year I stumbled upon a book called ‘Quiet – The Power of Introverts In A World That Cant Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain, and I was blown away. I pretty much ticked all the boxes of a bona-fide introvert. In the book, the author clearly states that introverts aren’t necessary shy and quiet but that they simply enjoy their own company, that they feel energised by spending time on their own, and that they don’t require other people to enjoy themselves.

It’s a great book by the way and I’d highly recommend it if any of the above chimes with you. Here’s the problem though. If you are someone who actively needs time to their self, who needs space in order to breath, what do you do if you are currently locked down with kids?

That brings me on nicely to my next point.

I love being a Dad, but my God parenting is tough at the moment

I was fortunate to take some time off last year after my son was born so I witnessed first hand my son developing from an immobile seven month old to a very boisterous toddler. I wouldn’t change the experience for the world, and I believe the bond I now have with my son was really forged by the time we spent together very early in his life. I was the only dad in parent and toddler classes, the only man in the park with his baby during the week. I quite simply loved it.

However, having a toddler around 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is quite simply brutal. I’m fortunate that Becca is taking the brunt of childcare at the moment to allow me to focus on Vero. I also take my hat off to mums and dads who are primary care givers and who can function after a full day with a toddler. I find myself setting my alarm for 5:50am so that I can squeeze in a run before he wakes. Otherwise, without the Zen like calm that I can get from the endorphins swimming around my body following a hard run, I’m genuinely concerned I might murder someone.

‘Daddy see’ and ‘Daddy get it’ are adorable the first three times in a day but multiply it by a thousand and I could rip my brains out. Please tell me all mums and dads feel like this, as I’m constantly wracked by guilt for feeling this way?

And parents with more than one kid. How? Just how do you manage? Baffles me, it truly does.

What we are doing is not "working from home"

Please be under no illusions here – what you are currently doing is not working from home (WFH). Anna Whitehouse, aka Mother Pukka, mentioned this on her Instagram page this week. You are currently trying to squeeze in work whilst the world around us has ground to a halt due to the biggest single event that has happened to the world in all of our lifetimes. Never, absolutely never, has the whole world stopped like this.

On a daily basis I speak to lots of people who are navigating WFH for the first time. On the whole I would say that most people are getting on pretty well. However, and Becca referred to this last week, please don’t think that this is a normal WFH set up. You might be juggling childcare on your own or with a partner. You might be on your own and feel dreadfully lonely.

Just imagine for a minute if you had none of these distractions. How productive could you really be. Also remember that this is still very early days. If you worked from home all the time, you would find what technology works best for you and what routines to implement. From the conversations that I’m having many teams actually feel closer at the moment. Managers and colleagues are going out of their way to check in with each other. Barriers and hierarchy are being broken down. I heard an interesting point earlier today – we are all getting to see into each others houses for the first time during Zoom and Teams calls. Most people are dressing in a slightly more relaxed fashion than what they would normally wear to the office. By stripping things back, is it bringing us all closer together?

Society is coming together

Who would have thought that by forcibly separating ourselves from one another that it would bring us all closer together? People are connecting with friends and family like never before. Usage of video calling platforms such as Zoom have gone through the roof. Virtual quizzes have become the new way to socialise. Bands and artists are performing for free over the internet, quite literally into our living rooms.

I’ve heard of countless stories of people speaking to and getting to know their neighbours for the first time ever. This collective community that modern society had damaged beyond all recognition has come back almost overnight.

People are being far kinder to one another. There is a wave of empathy sweeping the world unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and surely that’s got to be a great thing.

Countries are working together

Quite ironic given the farce that Brexit became during the past few years, but for the first time in history all countries are having to fight the same enemy. Divisive politics and nationalism have had to be put on the back burner as governments are having to collaborate to share information and to work on a vaccine.

The lungs of the Earth have been given the opportunity to breathe

Global pollution levels have plummeted during the past six weeks. Wildlife is starting to flourish. Many of us are realising that we don’t need to drive polluting cars to an office every day when modern technology makes it possible to work from home. Do we really need to attend that meeting in Houston when we could hook up over Teams? I think that most of us are in agreement that ecologically we’ve been accelerating towards a pretty bad future for some time now. In such a short period of time, it is almost unbelievable how quickly our natural environment has fought back. I for one want to be more environmentally conscious when we start to come out of the other side of this.

An opportunity to learn

I have a thirst for knowledge that I simply didn’t have when I was in school or at university. I have this constant itch that needs scratching when it comes to learning and acquiring knowledge. Since buying a Kindle in 2011 I’ve gone from not reading anything to getting through at least one book a week.

In late 2018 with a year off work ahead of me, what was one of the first things that I did? Yes, we booked several trips and made plans, but guess what the first thing I did was? I started to learn Spanish. The second? I got a running coach. And shortly after, I started to take golf lessons for the first time in 17 years. Just couldn’t help myself.

Since the lockdown started back in March I’ve had this insatiable urge to learn new things. Isn’t it sad and depressing that for most of us, after our early 20’s, completely give up on any formal learning? Just think about that for a minute because I think it’s too important to skim over. We are all in formal education and a cycle of constant learning from the age of five until around 16, and many of us into our early 20s. With perhaps sixty years of life still ahead of us the majority of us stop there. No more thank you, that’s us done – we’ve learned everything that we need to.

Surely this has got to change?

For me, getting back into books has been one of the most transformative things in my life. If more of us continued to learn, both formally and informally throughout our adult life, then surely we would all be better at driving home the changes that we all need to create a better world.

Show me more of the world!

Today, Friday 1st May, represents six full weeks in which as a family we've been in lockdown. As we had all spent the majority of our lives up to this point going about our daily business as we all wished, it’s actually amazing how well we have all adjusted.

However, I realise that I crave more adventure. I want to see more, and I want to do more. There’s a whole world out there and being confined to one place for so long has given me a wanderlust to get out there - amazing coves in Greece, quaint harbours in Spain, Italian villages. Yes please...sign me up.

On the one hand I actively seek my daily routine at home. I seek quiet, normality. I love having no plans and simply enjoying where we live. But, and it’s a big ‘but’ – I crave all of this, as well as more adventure.

Just relax, there's no need to go so fast...

Lastly, the current situation has given many of us permission to take the pressure off a bit, to slow down. I know that I can be my own worst enemy. When we created Vero one of our core goals was to achieve a better work/life balance and to take things at a different pace. Positively, business took off quickly, but negatively both Becca and I got back to working very long hours and at a rapid pace almost immediately.

With the world slowing down, and everyone in very different work situations, this is the first time in my career that I don’t feel guilty about slowing down a bit. I can probably count on one hand the number of times that I had taken a lunch break during the past 14 years for fear that I’d miss out on something. However, we all now sit down as a family every day between 12pm and 1pm and you know what; it’s really nice and nothing bad has happened.

If I have a spare 30 minutes in my diary, instead of immediately trying to find a new task, I’ll put the kettle on and will play in the garden with William. Surely this is real progress?

To close out this week’s blog I’ll leave you with a poem written by Kathleen O’Meara. We think it sums things up rather nicely:

“And the people stayed at home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently. And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless way, the earth began to heal. And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed”