Julia Wood

17th April 2020


Almost at the end of Week Four of Lockdown.

This is not good. They’ve started. I mean, they would start now, wouldn’t they? For crying out loud!

I’m sitting there, watching yet another repeat of Midsomer Murders, when, WHOOSH!

I fling all the windows open, tip ice cubes into my knickers and fan myself with a Reader’s Digest. Global warming has nothing on this, I’m telling you.

And the mood swings? One minute I’m singing Hallelujah online with a virtual choir the next minute I’m throwing my sling backs at the television.

Yes, I’m wearing shoes in the house. I get dressed up for the Covid update. Sad, isn’t it?

That’s what it’s come to. Four o’clock and I’m tarting myself up for my daily date with the Health Secretary, putting on my velvet ball gown and my best hat. And waiting.

Other times, I talk to myself in the mirror, imagining I’m someone else. It must be the hormones.

Then I have another hot flush and I’m running around my garden naked, dancing in the water from the hosepipe, screaming obscenities at the hydrangeas. The neighbours come out, amused by the diversion.

Anyway so I thought I’d better do a meditation, to calm myself down. Well, that went well.

I was just relaxing to the sound of running water - well actually it made me want a wee - but anyway, next thing, Brexit jumps on the keyboard suddenly I’m listening to Rage Against the Machine.

So that’s that. Then I thought, I know, Yoga. I used to like Yoga in the days when…when doing Yoga was normal. So. I found a You Tube video. But it’s not the same. I can’t get the atmosphere right. It’s not the same without Miss Origami.

You know the type. Every Yoga class has one. A woman who is about four foot and so tiny she must live on a mung bean a month. And she can do all the moves.

In fact, she can fold herself up so small you could accidentally take her home in your hand bag, and - HA! She’d…spring out, like a Lycra Jack-in-a box, when you’re reaching for your house keys.

Really though - I have tried everything now. But it’s still there. That void, that inexplicable emptiness you can’t quite annihilate. Sound doesn’t drown it out. Hot flushes don’t drown it out.

Standing at the door while Brexit meows pitifully and tries to make up his mind whether he’s in or out. That doesn’t drown it out.

Nothing works. The problem is - I’m conscious that I’m waiting. Killing time. That’s the big problem isn’t it?

I’m waiting for lockdown to end, missing the familiar irritation with other people; people meandering about on the pavements texting and not looking where they’re going; standing on your foot and not apologising.

Yes, I miss that. and AAARGH!!! I need someone to shout at!

Anyone will do. I could just stop someone in the street - and start an argument with them. I can shout from two metres away.

‘Oi! What are you looking at? What’s your problem?’

Hmm. Maybe not. Hey. I know. I could start an online Club. Argument Club. Respite for the Menopausal. We could do it via Zoom.

WHOOSH! Here comes another one! I wonder, when it will end?

And I wonder which will end first, the hot flushes of Lockdown? My money’s on the hot flushes.


12th May


3am

I think I may be a closet optimist.

I woke up in the middle of the night. The familiar existential dread came creeping. And I thought, Sartre is right. Existence is an illusion; we live in an alien unknown universe. But then this other thought came in: this too shall pass. And I believed it. I do believe it. I believe we’ll look back on all this madness and it will be like a strange macabre dream. I believe they will find a vaccine, and it will be okay.

Not bad for a teen who used to draw crying eyes on my exercise books and write poems about death.

It’s a Persian saying apparently. They’re happier over there. They get more sunshine.

6am

I wake suddenly from a disturbing dream and realise: I can’t breathe! Panicking, I fumble for the light, there’s a meow and a thud. My cat leaps off the bed.

Phew! Not Covid 19. Just Lucifer showing me he wants food.

I dreamed Lockdown was over, only I wasn’t celebrating: I was mourning. I was wearing a black veil and crying, and saying, ‘I don’t want the Old Normal to return: back to those days of pollution and chaos, of heavy traffic and pointless consumerism; I cried for the planet, I was saying, ‘I’m sorry I can’t protect you; I’m sorry I can’t help you, I’m sorry your healing time has to end.’

9am

Had another strange dream. This time I was at a party. I was sharing cheese straws dipped in humous with another girl, and laughing.

I woke, panicking. I forgot to do social distancing! Despair filled me. I’ll never share cheese straws dipped in humous with anyone ever again. I’ll never laugh with anyone at a party ever again.

But no. This too shall pass. Persian optimism. On that note, time to take my vitamin D tablet.

11am

Went to Marks and Spencer’s to get a few things. Town was full of people drifting about, meandering with my imaginary two metres distance.

Why is it that people who look as if they’re infectious want to get close and cosy? Honest to god, town was like Dawn of the Dead, people lurching towards me, breathing.

In M and S the woman in front of me took forever paying for her groceries – a mere two bars of dark chocolate. She chatted away to the man at the till, as if she had all the time in the world. Because of course she did.

As did I. After all, there’s nothing to rush back for, none of the usual frenetic sense of, got-stuff-to-do, got-stuff-to-do, got-stuff-to-do, that tears through our brains like a high-speed commuter train on a Monday morning.

So I panicked for another reason instead.

“I just want to get out of here before I get politely coughed upon. Would Corona be different if I caught it in Marks and Spencer’s? Would the little prickly thing say, excuse me,’ before crashing its way into my immune system?

Are we addicted to panic? To urgency? Or was I genuinely freaking out about catching Corona?

12pm

Went to put the bin out but then remembered it had already been emptied the day before. All the days melt into one; life is topsy-turvy. It makes me dizzy, like getting up too quickly, and striped carpets.

2pm

Made a cup of tea and did some writing. This is the part of my life that has not changed. The work. But my routines have moved, like a shift in the earth’s crust of my daily life. I’m sleeping more, getting up later, forgetting what day it is.

4pm

Watched a repeat of Endeavour with curious interest; watched people embracing, dining in restaurants and thought, ‘I used to do that. Once. In another universe.’

6pm

Lit a candle. I do it whenever I’ve been anywhere where I was at risk. This is not a protective ritual thing, like pagans do - a spell to keep me safe. The candle gives me a sore throat. It means when I wake up in the night, I don’t need to panic, thinking, oh hell, here it comes. No. It’s just the candle. And I go back to sleep, relaxed.

8pm

I can’t watch TV at the moment so I use my evenings making videos for my You Tube channel; I’m tapping into a side of myself I haven’t tapped into for years: my love of performing. But, in truth there’s another reason why I spend more time on my tablet, more time putting videos out.

I’m checking there’s still a world out there. I have to keep checking, keep reaching out, making sure.

And there it is. Existential angst. It competes with Persian optimism.

11pm

Time for bed. I can’t read either, at the moment. Concentrating is tricky; taking in information is difficult. Because the big piece of information we’re all having to absorb is the New Normal – adapting, adjusting, processing.

I do a meditation. Then sleep comes stealthily with muffled feet, bringing dreams of Lockdown’s end.


7th June 2020


Reflections on Lockdown’s End


Feeling rather out of sorts at the moment. The thing with Lockdown for me, is that I’ve been getting on quite well with it. Here’s why:


I’m a bit of a loner. (I’m an only child so I’m used to my own company.) I rarely socialise in groups as I hate crowds and noise. (I have ADHD and struggle with the over-stimulation of competing conversations all happening at the same time.) I’m creative, which has meant I haven’t been short of things to keep me busy. I work from home anyway so nothing has changed there. I grew up in a village so I’m used to there being no shops to look round.

You could say Lockdown was designed for people like me, people for whom the chaos and intensity of Old Normal was a continual problem.


Lockdown has provided me with an opportunity to tap into different aspects of myself and my talents. And to be honest, I’ve had a blast! It’s been fun. I’m beginning to miss going for a drink, but only in the last few weeks.


I’ve loved the peace and quiet of Lockdown, that breather we were able to take, from the madness of it all. Pre Lockdown, the city was really beginning to get to me, and I found myself avoiding town because of the crowds and the imbeciles texting and not looking where they’re going, and the horrendous pollution that was just becoming worse hourly, choking up my lungs when I run. I said when all this started that if we just return to ‘normal’ when this is over we will have learned nothing.


And this is why I’m feeling out of sorts right now. I’ve adjusted. I’ve tweaked my life and its routines, and like a more polished version of one of my stories, I prefer the tweaked version. I don’t want to go back to how things were. I wasn’t coping with the Old Normal. In truth, I was struggling.


So. Lockdown exit? Back to stressing about climate change and feeling sad about the demise of the planet? Back to skies you can’t see for the carbon emissions? Back to a world that was becoming impossible to live in? Back to lying in bed at night wondering how long we have left, before the shit hits the fan and sixth extinction begins?


In truth, Lockdown’s end feels like an anti-climax. A big ‘Whatever.’ Because, having stepped aside I’ve stepped away. And I’ve seen the madness of it for what it was, a doomed train crash into oblivion. Like when you’re on the motorway and you stop at a service station, and you look over the rim of your polystyrene cup as you sip the tasteless tea, and you see all the cars going under the bridge, fast, too fast. And you think, my god that was me, just ten minutes ago. And you know you have to rejoin the senseless race because you have to get home. But what if the pause is home? What if the view from the bridge is home? And you don’t want to leave?


June 15th 2020


Morning has Broken but not like Before

The Release of Lockdown Restrictions


I wake up to the sun through my curtains and a new day. I come over all Michael Buble, and want to sing ‘Feeling Good,’ but then I remember: he doesn’t sing in my register. Meh.

And then I remember something else a little bit depressing. The song is all about birds flying and fishes swimming; dragonflies, butterflies.


Nope. That was during Lockdown when nature was happy. When nature itself would have sung Feeling Good, (The World without Humans Remix)...


I say it aloud to myself: ‘Lockdown has Lifted.’ I say it until I realise I am mimicking the rhythm of ‘Morning has Broken.’ I’m even singing it to that rhythm. At least, like most songs that feature on Songs of Praise, that one is in my register. I’m not religious. I’m a mezzo soprano.

But then I realise: that too is about nature. It’s about the joy of the rainfall, and the sunlight. And birds – the birds we could hear for the first time when Lockdown began. The birds that the resurgence of humans will smother again; hushing up the world we had grown to enjoy as if for the first time.


Clearly my timing is off. Not with the singing. I mean with the whole ‘Morning is Broken concept.’ I should have sung it at the start of Lockdown, when it would have been true.

Hey ho. Back to reality (no, I am not going to sing this one).


I need: fruit juice from Marks and Spencer’s because I have to keep my Vitamin C levels up.

Just in case. I case I am coughed on by a passing stranger and my body needs it to fight off the virus. Just in case some tiny particles of death linger in the humid summer air. I also need: humous and a TV Times. When it comes to digital information I am a Luddite of the first order. I am writing this on a post-it note because I am middle aged and have a hippocampus as shrivelled as a used condom.


And no. It won’t be like the First Morning because by the time I get myself together to go into town it is afternoon.


I am half way down the street when I realise: I have forgotten the blasted shopping list. I got distracted practising wearing my mask, which is too loose.


As I walk I recite it to myself, muttering under my breath in the hope that people will think I’m a lunatic and keep their distance: Fruit juice, Humous, TV times, Fruit Juice, humous, TV Times....I make sure people can see my lips moving. (mask is in my bag ready for when I go into the shop).


I walk along the street, muttering and jittery, assailed from all sides by people not looking where they are going; queues outside Sports Direct and Primark. I wonder if, like me they are there out of a different type of need than the material one: the need to quell months of residual existential angst.


I wonder if really, they are testing the reality of the New Normal, having a little dress rehearsal for the way of things to come; practising wearing the masks, and the increasingly difficult art of social distancing with more people around. Testing the reality of a world that has, for the last three months, only existed through Skype and Zoom.


As I reach town and the crowds become denser my ADHD kicks in. Because here’s the thing: when you have mental health issues you are perceived as odd. You are perceived as difficult because you struggle to cope with noise and over-stimulation; you freak out, you complain. And people think you are being silly, over-sensitive.


But you know what? I think it’s the Old Normal that was mad. It is we who were the sane ones all along. And now the rest of the world has had a chance to step back I think maybe they see what we always saw: that the epitome of hell is chaos.


So yes. I do my Marks and Spencer’s shop. I get my fruit juice. And my Luddite’s Times. But I forget the humous.


I am not going back. Not yet. And it is not like a new day. It is like it used to be. Only more disappointing.

2nd July 2020


So. There it is. Leicester is having an extended Lockdown. Am I pleased? No. Of course I am not. I am in petulant child mode. In fact, I am in a stamping my feet and lying on the floor kicking my legs and screaming mode, like children in supermarkets do when their parents drag them past the Haribos, voice wailing, arms flailing, reaching for the thing they want and are not allowed to have, the thing that is just in front of them, yet out of their reach.


I am sticking out my bottom lip so far it could be used as a shelf to balance drinks on. Drinks. I don’t even want to think about drinks because when I do an image comes into my head, of the rest of the country clinking glasses and laughing whilst we in Leicester who are exiled from Lexit sit miserable in our houses like the unpopular kid not invited to the party.


You see, disappointment on a scale like this has turned us back into children. It’s not fair! It’s not fair! Everyone else is going to the pub, so why can’t we? I’d say that Leicester people right now, have a Cinderella Complex. We want to go to the ruddy ball! In the shoes we’ve bought on Ebay ready for One Bloody Big Saturday. I feel like I did when I was ten, and a certain nasty girl had a party and for some reason decided to invite everybody except me. Immature? Quite possibly. It’s like those car journeys as a child that seemed to go on forever because time when you are a child, stretches out to infinity. ‘Are we nearly there?’ I’d ask, over and over. ‘Are we nearly there?’ And just when we thought we had arrived at our destination there would be a hold-up, tail-backs slowing the journey to the pace of a pensioner with a Zimmer frame.


But that’s the question we’ve all been asking: when will Lockdown end? Are we nearly there yet? Will we ever be there? It’s not fair. I’m going to lock myself in my bedroom, play ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials, and yell at my teddy bear.



You can see more of Julia's work here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs943xiDLNBS6Q6mr7ldabg