A Day in the Lock-down Lives of the Ipswich Indoor Group
Social distancing and isolation are very real challenges for all of us – particularly for those whose lives are all about outdoor activity, those who live alone (and there are many of us in the IOG) and those who don’t have strong social media networks. With the goal of maintaining the rewarding social contact so many of us have found in the IOG, we have started this new venue to welcome photo essays on how we are all spending our days: the funny, the sad, the ridiculous, the achievements of life under Covid-19.
At the end of May we plan to run a ballot to vote for winning photographs taken over the next two months and published here. There will be three categories: the funniest, the most inspirational and ‘best photograph’. The prizes will be boxes of delicious home-baked goodies – cake! – delivered to your door.
As editor of our Newsletter, I feel it incumbent upon me to kick off with a pictorial essay on my own meander through another day in lock down, and look forward seeing and hearing about the range of ways we are all muddling through – ‘too busy’ excuses will be met with laughter.
Please send your entries to me at email@example.com
Most of us seem to be continuing in the traditions of the IOG – getting out and about in the glorious Suffolk spring on foot or bike. But we are doing it alone rather than in our big convivial gangs. So sharing our expeditions remotely is all the more welcome. Ian’s pictures of his bike rides over the past week look like strong competition for the ‘cake box’ prize for best pic taken during lockdown. Come on folks: give him a run for his money. Further contributions eagerly awaited. [ed.]
In an ill-fated 2008 revival of The Prisoner, inhabitants of The Village receive the following daily announcement: “Seen the sights? See Them Again!” I have taken this as my motto in the last few weeks – perambulating frequently around my opulent bachelor pad in Upper Woodbridge, soaking it all in. However, there comes a time when one has to admit that the progress of the ants across the countertops lacks the sweeping majesty of the wildebeest migration of the Serengeti and that whilst my beer-can pyramid may become my mausoleum, King Tut wouldn’t so much as close his eyes in it. And so, to relieve the tedium, I turned to Peter’s Weekly Video Watch Party – for, dear Readers, is not an hour of cinematographic marvel worth a lifetime of travel?
Peter Edwards may be better known to Readers as Slide-Man from the Monthly Social. Such is the dedication and tenacity that Peter devotes to his slideshow, he rarely has time for walks and other merry japes. Every month, he glumly clicks through yet another gallery of other people having fun. This self-sacrifice is greatly applauded by all members, I’m sure. The Monthly Social is curiously missing from the current IOG Programme and your reviewer can only attribute this to Peter’s notorious inability to use IT. Thus spared his Sisyphean task, Peter has turned his energies to coordinating a weekly film screening instead.
I feel the best way of describing the Video Party is by analogy with Renaissance Town Square Justice. The miscreant (read film) is dragged into the square and placed behind the stocks (read streamed or downloaded from a terrestrial catch-up service). The attendees then express their opprobrium through the aerial discharge of vegetables or laud the victim with vigorous applause (read participants critique the film communicating via Facebook Messenger). Renaissance Town Square Justice was known for its erudition – after all did not Descartes expound his theory of Mind-Body Duality to Da Vinci just before pummelling a poor wretch with over-ripe aubergine? In much the same way, watching the films ( The Lost City of Z, The Place Beyond the Pines and Made in Dagenham) has provoked heated debate about whether it is right to force teenagers to wear fake moustaches to masquerade as older men, the merits of different 60s hairstyles and whether rabbits possess emotions.
Whilst initially sceptical, this reviewer is convinced of the latter and is pleased that Smokey The Rabbit has been invited to become a regular attendee at the Video Party. Smokey has many enlightening insights into life: I can reveal to you that rabbits find the bob a more approachable 60s hairstyle than the beehive (but for their tails of course).
Only one thing mars Peter’s otherwise deft and diplomatic handling: the mechanism used to determine the next film. Call your reviewer old fashioned, but he favours arcane but simple rules that, upon closer inspection, subtly benefit one of the participants. If only all elections were run in this way! But it is not to be: Peter presents the attendees with a selection of films from iPlayer and a consensus is formed after lengthy discussion. For this reason, although I think Peter’s Weekly Video Watch Party is amongst the maybe top four items currently on the IOG Programme, I can only award it three and a half stars out of five.
Like a lot of you , during lockdown, my diary looks like this!
Instead, I’m discovering Public Rights of Way that I haven’t walked before and devising walks in ‘new’ areas.
On Sunday we took a late afternoon circular walk of 7 miles. We are fortunate to live in the Brecklands and within a few minutes we can enjoy Mildenhall Woods. My dad worked for the Forestry Commission for 44 years so Scots Pine and Corsican Pine remind me of many happy visits in the school holidays to the Kings and Thetford Forests to watch dad as he was felling trees.
As we passed a field of cattle we noticed the heady aroma of the flowering gorse. Depending on your age, it will remind you of Malibu or a Bounty Bar. It is very fragrant at this time of year.
We crossed a bridge and walked along the Cut-Off Channel. This is a man-made waterway which runs along the eastern edge of the Fens in Norfolk and Suffolk. It was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s as part of flood defence measures, and carries the headwaters of the Rivers Wissey, Lark and Little Ouse in times of flood, delivering them to Denver Sluice on the River Great Ouse.
It is 45km long but we only walked a mile or so before heading towards the village of Eriswell.
You know it’s a quiet area if the swans deem it safe enough to build their nest.
A green lane home again before a mighty thunderstorm at 6pm.
I hope you enjoy the virtual walk. I’ve a hunger in my belly for more walks as soon as the restrictions are lifted. What a party we will have!
Several IOG members have been getting together on Wednesday evenings during lockdown to form a ‘virtual’ quiz team, taking part in the online version of the Seckford Golf Club quiz and The Quiz Team online events. Using digital tools including Whatsapp, Facebook and Zoom, we have tried to recreate a pub quiz experience [toasting each other regularly with tipple of choice – ed.], whilst maintaining social distancing. It’s a good opportunity to keep in touch with people we haven’t seen face to face for some time and to ease some of the isolation we are all experiencing at the moment.
[Contact Angela if you would like to join us – ed.]
Like most, this has not at all been the Easter I was expecting earlier in the year! It has now been over three weeks since I had the regrettable task of informing the group that we must cease all activities and encourage everyone to practice social distancing.
Some members might think that this was a good opportunity for me to put my feet up, as group Chair – we can’t get up to much if we’re stuck indoors, eh? 🙂 Well, that’s sort of true – the fun stuff of actually attending group walks and events have now been removed from my calendar, but daily life for me has otherwise continued. I and many others have been racking our brains for online events we can arrange with the group during the lockdown (Sunday night movie night is going down a storm!), whilst the general bureaucracy of the group continues (yes, we had our first ever audio-only IOG committee meeting!), trying to make sure that we reach out where we can to help people through these troubling times. I am fortunate that my day job has remained relatively unaffected – I simply work from home every day rather than going into the office. I am thankful that I am lucky enough to have that option, though it does mean I have yet to make much headway on all the jobs and projects I had high hopes to achieve whilst stuck inside!
My attempts to write up a lockdown day last weekend were stymied when I was forced to work both days, meaning the bank holiday weekend has been my best opportunity for me to write about something other than tapping away on a keyboard at home! It also coincided with a little known celebration – my birthday! I was absolutely determined that today should be different to the past few weeks, filled with group conferences, too much TV and a decided lack of Vitamin D due to my hobbit-like existence! I was all too aware of this sinking slide, having finished that book this week as a bedtime story via regular video calls to a friend’s daughter, way up north.
Unfortunately, I really didn’t have much to hand to change my lot – we’re only allowed out for a brief period of walking or running exercise, and otherwise need to remain indoors at home. My day started well – considering the circumstances: I received an excellent number of birthday cards and even some deliveries, which cheered my spirits no end. I resolved therefore, that if there wasn’t anything else I was allowed to do on my birthday, then at the very least I could wear whatever I wanted! It’s been a while, but I decided to dust off the Superman outfit I had in the corner and head out for a walk around Christchurch Park.
I probably slightly overstayed my allotted exercise time, but as I’d skipped some days prior I’m sure it made up for it as time off in lieu! The sun was out and I had a great wander around – several kids yelled, and I even got a toot from passing car horn. 🙂 There was an incredibly excited dog who was rolling everywhere and barely noticed me, whilst the squirrels were out in fine form in the gorgeous sunshine. A pair of magpies were cavorting, and clearly had not heard of social distancing!
I finished my outing by dropping off a hastily-improvised birthday gift for a friend who shares the same birthday as me. I think the surprise of having Superman deliver it outweighed the simplicity of the present!
Once I made my way home, I spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening on video calls. First with a French friend, currently residing in Switzerland – I was invited to join a very chaotic and noisy call with all her friends spread around the globe. The pair of us also share the same birthday and every year we race each other to see who can wish the other a happy birthday first. 🙂 I stayed for an hour trying to keep up with the whirlwind of languages and jumping in to throw in some of my own contributions where I could, before I signed off in order to join my own local group. Several of us got together, including my other local birthday buddy, to spend a few hours enjoying a virtual party. There was some initial confusion – we started on Facebook Messenger which most people have installed, but discovered that it only supports up to eight people for simultaneous video. If there are more people in your group, you have to look at using Zoom, which we figured out eventually. 🙂
I unwrapped my presents and cards as best I could on video and was gobsmacked by a huge delivery from Suffolk Food Hall that was dropped off early in the evening. I now have more snacks than I can manage for a month! 😀 I also blew out the candles on a specially-made gorgeous birthday carrot cake made by my wonderful girlfriend, the ever-lovely Ana. 🙂
All in all, I had an amazing day; given the restrictions we’re living under, it’s easy to feel uncertain and stressed when stuck on your own. Today I was reminded just what fantastic people I have around me, and that people do care – even if now it’s from the other end of a phone call. We have no clear idea how long it will take, but there will be an end-date when we can all meet up again … and I for one am eagerly looking forward to it!
Most of you have probably been reading highly intellectual and informative material during the isolation period. I must warn you now, that this contribution is certainly not that. It’s more like a trashy celebrity magazine, without the pictures of attractive, scantily clad ladies.
5a My morning tradition
Of course indulging in cakes, coffee, alcohol and chocolate have been enjoyable ways to pass some of my time during the current isolation period, but physical exercise has been keeping me feeling positive and upbeat throughout my time alone in isolation.
I am very fortunate to be close to Christchurch Park and have briefly seen some friendly and familiar IOG faces during social distancing.
We all know how marvellous the great outdoors can make us feel, so I have been rising early to beat the crowds, for peaceful runs in the morning sunshine. I can’t help but notice how wonderfully loud and varied the birdsong has become since the cars have stopped and how beautiful the flowers look in bloom.
Along with running or walking daily, I have been partaking in some indoor, online fitness workouts including Joe Wicks PE at 9 am on Youtube every week day and regular video call dance classes run by my seven-year-old niece dressed as a princess asking me to pretend I’m dancing with a handsome man in my lounge (one can dream). I have to admit I am slightly concerned that one morning I may land on my neighbours’ lap as I fall through their ceiling during one of my indoor exercise sessions.
Having been blessed with some unexpected spring sunshine, I have been enjoying the courtyard, despite the odd items hanging on my neighbour’s washing line. I’ve also been painting fences and made my first floor pouffe. It may shock some of you to hear I have even been cooking meals from scratch most evenings, and I even baked some healthy banana and peanut butter flapjacks this week.
Humanity is the greatest gift we have in life. Friendships and kindness have always been very important to me, but never more so than now. Keeping in touch with friends, family and those who may be lonely via voice and video calls has been invaluable, and a great source of some much needed laughter and company.
5d1 My cat appreciates the new pouffe.
Music has been another fantastic mood enhancer for me. Listening to radio and podcasts has been a great way to start the day. Elizabeth Day’s “How to Fail” podcasts have been really thought-provoking and uplifting for me and I thoroughly recommend you check them out.
If you need some visual stimulation but are fed up with TV may I recommend relaxation videos which are available on YouTube; I found a great one that turned my TV into the ocean.
Many celebrities have been posting on YouTube, some of my favourites being Mylene Klass teaching music and piano and, for a Saturday night, Gok Wan live-streaming DJing 90s anthems on Instagram – which gets me dancing like a crazy lady.
A new sense of community has sprung up nearby. A WhatsApp group has been created for those living in my road, where valuable local information is shared, along with offers to go shopping for the vulnerable and self isolating. It has felt comforting to virtually meet new neighbours I was never aware of prior to Covid 19.
Every Thursday feels like a blessing, as it is the one day of the week that you can identify as different from the others. At 8 p.m. on my road we all stand outside banging saucepans, clapping and cheering in gratitude to the NHS. As I’m sure most of you know, I’m quite good at making a lot of noise.
This whole situation feels very surreal, almost like an awful horror movie, but I frequently remind myself to count my blessings and take comfort in the thought that this will not last forever.
Challenges, uncertainty and death are definite in life but Covid 19 has been a stark reminder of this, and the fact that good health is priceless. I am missing my friends and family, so please take some time to give yours a call (if you can), tell them you love them, call old friends and most of all look after your health. Let’s cherish a time when money is of no value, nature can heal, life is slower and free time is plentiful.
I’m missing you all, I can’t wait for our walks, games nights and social evenings to commence. Until we meet again, take care one and all, stay safe, stay home and stay sane.
I’m lucky to live on the edge of Belstead Brook Park, so I can go down there for a wonder to get some exercise. It’s odd not to be able to go further than a few miles from home at the moment but it’s been great exploring this area again. I’ve found new paths that have sprung up recently that I haven’t used before. I’ve been going for walks some days after I’ve finished working at home and I’ve worked out where the quieter paths are so that I don’t pass too many people.
I went for a couple of slightly longer walks over the weekend, heading through the tunnel under the A14 towards Copdock and Belstead. I have a few different options from home, so I shouldn’t get too bored over the coming Easter weekend and the coming weeks.
I’m also enjoying coming across the different messages that people are leaving dotted around. My particular favourite was the wool rainbow tied in a tree with the words “Try to be a Rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
I’m looking forward to seeing all my IOG friends on the other side of this and getting out for longer walks. Stay safe in the meantime everyone.
Since I stopped teaching on March 19th, these beloved shoes have been on my feet every day while I have painted ceiling and walls; sawed up a big sheet of plywood and made it into a floor; varnished door treads, hammered in nails, drilled holes, dug the vegetable plot, planted potatoes, done some weeding and even washed a floor or two.
I also enjoyed a solitary walk by the Deben as night was falling ten days ago.
Having worked long hours for a few days I gave myself Thursday afternoon off and headed out for a walk to get my Government Approved daily exercise. I wasn’t expecting to see too many people out and about at 2pm on a Thursday. I wanted to abide by the 2 metres separation rule so that was fine by me, yet it was eerily quiet as I walked off the housing estate and headed towards the countryside.
I initially followed one of my favourite local walks, heading out along the Sandlings Way. Where the official route headed towards a popular wooded area with a boardwalk path I decided to go a different way. On that path it would be impossible to keep 2 metres away from anyone coming from the other direction, so instead I ventured off along some other tracks and paths I wasn’t familiar with.
I hadn’t seen anyone since stepping out of my front door. For 2 hours I walked without seeing a living soul. I could have been the last man alive. It was slightly unnerving. I did see horses and ponies in fields. I surprised some muntjac deer and rabbits, which were not expecting anyone to venture onto their turf. I watched a hovering kestrel dive down into the undergrowth to catch its next meal. But still no people.
Having completed an improvised circular route I returned to the Sandlings Way to head back home. It was now about 4pm and at last people started to appear on the path. It felt reassuring to know they were there. The peace and quiet was shattered by yapping dogs, joggers and lycra-clad men on bikes. At last it started to feel a bit more ‘normal’, only with everyone quite rightly giving everyone else a wide berth.
This seems to be the way it will be for a while. Walks alone or with fellow housemates will replace our sociable days out in the countryside. But this can’t last forever. I am looking forwards to seeing the rest of Ipswich Outdoor Group when the current crisis subsides.
Starting the series with an overview of a really pedestrian day; things can only get better from here. It would be great if people who have access to countryside walks would share the coming of spring with those of us who cannot get so far afield, as well as novel ideas for killing time indoors.
1a. Start day with an hour reading the newspaper in bed on my tablet; select indoor clothes from the floor wardrobe; leave bed unmade for purposes of hygienic airing.
1b. Coffee on balcony overlooking a deserted Stoke Bridge roundabout at 8.50 on a Tuesday morning – usually bumper-to-bumper.
1c. Four hours at work with a client’s chapter on one screen and my Upwords games on the other.
1d. Make up a batch of fish cakes for family distribution.
1e. Somewhat oversized – but less trouble than making small ones.
Still, while ordinary, my day was not sad, deprived or lonely and, well larded with WhatsApp, phone chats, shared humour and concern for buddies and family, I think it is sustainable. It helps hugely that I can go to my allotment for as long as I like each day – getting plenty of productive exercise, the pleasure and anticipation of crops to come, and rather more serial natters than usual – albeit spaced 10 metres or more apart – as allotment holders are turning up more consistently. [It’s not too late in the season to take one on! https://www.ipswich.gov.uk/content/renting-allotment]
1f. A scenic stroll of about a mile down picturesque Wherstead Rd – blessedly empty of carbon monoxide fumes.
1g. The satisfaction of getting seeds into the ground and digging out my potato bed – hope to plant this weekend.
1h. Plot buddy and mutual chivvier to get our lardy rear ends down there every day – sometimes cake and wine and a good book are tempting alternatives.
1i. Quick visit to drop off food with the old dad and – sigh – a large spritzer on the balcony followed by a crisp fish cake & salad of rainbow chard from the plot..
1j. Evening spent on favourite couch watching drivel with half an eye while messaging and chatting with friends and family.
I also fit in a near-daily visit to my nearby ancient relic (90-year-old dad), ringing his doorbell, depositing a bag of cooked meals and treats on the mat and stepping back four paces to chat. He’s rather enjoying the service – especially as his next food delivery slot is not for another fortnight! At 90, with heart failure and a recent near deadly bout of pneumonia, the UK Govt and NHS do not consider him ‘vulnerable’ and therefore he is ineligible for preferential treatment!
Anyway, I love cooking for my three geographically closest family members – father, mother and sister (who cautiously picks up and delivers to the old mum in Woodbridge) – knowing that they are eating my food, even if not at my table. There are many roads to comunality. Let’s explore them all.