Two years after lockdown: The life-changing experiences of people stuck in their own homes
When Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown on March 23, 2020, in a bid to curb rising coronavirus cases, few realized how much that would change. The past two years have seen people lose friends, family and jobs, while for others it has marked a new beginning. As Wales prepares to lift most of the remaining Covid rules on Monday March 28, most of our lives have already been changed forever.
When Simon Turner bottomed out in May 2020, he never imagined how his life would change. Two months after the first lockdown, the former scaffolding estimator was suffering from serious mental health issues after being furloughed from his former job and homeschooling his three daughters.
“It wasn’t about how long furlough was going to be and balancing that with homeschooling my kids at the time,” he said. Things came to a head in May of that year when Simon was planning to take his own life. If it hadn’t been for a huge fluke that day, things could have been very different.
Read more:The only two Covid rules that remain in place in Wales
“I leaned back and knocked over a box full of letters from my grandparents that I had had since I was about 17 but had never opened,” he said. . When he opened the box, he discovered papers from his grandfather Joseph, who was from Saint Lucia in the Caribbean. Among the stacks of letters were a slew of handwritten recipes her grandfather had taken from her mother’s cookbook.
During the Second World War, Simon’s grandfather had joined the British Merchant Navy aboard the SS Graigwen as the Chef’s Steward where he planned menus, controlled inventory and compiled supply lists. In 1940, the ship he was on set off on a voyage from New York as part of a supply convoy across the Mediterranean.
During her voyage she was attacked on October 9 of that year, and the following day she was sunk and seven crew members were lost. The remaining crew – including Simon’s grandfather – were picked up by HMS Enchantress and flown back to the UK, where his grandfather met his grandmother in Cardiff and settled. “There were all these recipes he had from his parents,” he said, remembering how he flipped through the ten-year-old papers he had never touched before.
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Instead of following what he had planned before, Simon went downstairs and cooked traditional cornbread. With the UK in the midst of the pandemic, he decided to hold an event that month in aid of NHS Charities Together to help provide healthcare staff with PPE, raising nearly £500 and proving his worth with their home-cooked meals. “There was a queue for half a mile on the road,” he said.
In August 2020, on the occasion of his birthday, Simon bites the bullet and decides to set up his own business. He said: “It was August 19, 2020. We couldn’t hang out, so I celebrated my 40th birthday by opening my own business.” When he returned to his day job as a scaffolding estimator, his manager noticed something was wrong and persuaded him to take time off.
“I was on very strong medication for my mental health,” he said. “The only time I felt anything was when I was cooking. My manager told me he saw those pictures I posted instagram smile and cook. He said he had never seen me like this while I was working.”
Simon worked on his business idea and finally took redundancy from his scaffolding job last September after 24 years. He now runs Taste of Turner full-time from Barry, which serves a tantalizing array of Caribbean dishes such as ackee and callaloo, chicken coconut curry and Jamaican reggae curry. He is at home at the moment but exciting plans are underway to run the business from a repurposed sheep trailer which will be located at the Sully Sports and Social Club in Penarth.
As well as producing impressive amounts of food for the public each week, Simon is also involved in the Afro-Caribbean Family Social Club, which brings together families of different ethnic backgrounds on the first Sunday of the month at the Castleland Community Centre.
“Covid changed my life,” he said of the pandemic. “If I hadn’t had bad experiences, I never would have tripped over and knocked over that box in the attic, taken down and cooked, put on Instagram and got 100 likes.
“There’s a sense of acceptance for the first time,” he said of how his career change was received by bettors. “The feedback I get is lovely. I never had that in my old job. You only get feedback if you’ve done something wrong.”
“It completely changed my life”
Mags John, 59, from Llanelli, has decided to change his lifestyle after cooking at home caused him to gain weight in the first months of the first lockdown in 2020.
“I love cooking and baking and I started doing a lot of that. Obviously we ate what I cooked and my husband walked a lot so he wouldn’t lose weight, but I was a real couch potato. I wouldn’t cross the road to the bus stop.”
A few months into the lockdown, Mags worried about how her weight gain might affect her if she caught coronavirus. “I caught myself in the mirror at home one day and thought ‘that’s not me, that’s a walrus,'” she said. “They were saying at the time that the virus could affect heavier people, and I thought I might die if I caught it. I thought, ‘I have to do something.'”
On June 1, 2020, Mags turned over a new leaf and cut out many of the less healthy foods she regularly ate in an effort to lose weight. She cut out carbohydrates, bread, potatoes, pasta and cakes and started eating more green vegetables, salads and fish.
Her daughter bought her a Fitbit and she started walking and exercising, first by following workout DVDs and then outdoors. “It wasn’t a diet, it was a lifestyle change,” she said. “I started walking and I could see with my Fitbit how many calories I was burning. It really motivated me.”
Mags has shed four stones since the start of the pandemic, climbed Pen y Fan and took part in the 10km Race for Life in Llanelli last September.
“I have a totally different lifestyle than two years ago. I was a lazy person. I used to struggle with the stairs – I climbed to the top and was out of breath. A few weeks before the Race for Life, I climbed Pen y Fan, and it was a real achievement for me. The pandemic made me realize how unfit I was and that I had to change. I’m so proud of myself.
Mags now walks 5km at least four times and admitted she still allows herself a few ‘cheats’ like crisps and biscuits, as long as she maintains her weight. She said: “It completely changed my life. It cost me a fortune in new clothes, because I lost three or four dress sizes!”
“We are definitely much closer as a family”
Lydia David, 29, from Newport, said she felt the pandemic had brought people together. She has home-schooled her two children for much of the pandemic, and while it has been difficult at times, she said the weather and the return to class has given the family a new appreciation for one another. other.
“We haven’t lost any family members, no one has lost their jobs,” she said. “In that sense, we are the same as before. But in another way, we appreciate more how precious life is.
“My kids are ten and seven and with the schools closed we were stuck in our bubble. You get sick of it when you’re together seven days a week, and it has an impact in that sense. The kids got bored l each other and mostly at home, they tried to keep them from arguing, but they were lucky to have each other – the others had no one.
“Since they’ve been back to school, they like each other more, because they go to school and see their own friends. My husband works four days a week and two days off, and we really appreciate that. free time now. Where before we could have spent it stuck at home, now we plan things.”
Lydia said she had found the pandemic difficult as she had been unable to see her family – most of whom live in England – for months. “We had a Zoom Christmas with everyone, which was weird. You enjoy seeing people in person a lot more now. You realize what’s important, and that motivates you, I think.
“We’re definitely a lot closer as a family. Sometimes you think that’s a bad thing, but in some ways it’s been a blessing in disguise.”
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