Chris is part of the Wednesday group and is a brilliant writer. He has written short stories and poems as part of his BTM work. Chris has written this piece about his experience of the pandemic.

Life for Me in Lockdown

What are my abiding memories of Lockdown 2020 during the Coronavirus outbreak? Deserted streets, carless highways, empty buses, closed shops, the ghostly image of our Prime Minister Boris Johnson just before he was rushed to Intensive Care, and the stern but caring voice insisting that we “Stay Home, protect the NHS, save lives”.                                        

For me Lockdown meant  a major disruption of my normal  routine. The things I had enjoyed for years, even decades, suddenly came to an end. Bradford Talking Media, my computer course, Mind, the mental health drop-in, the Writers Circle, bus rides to surrounding towns and cities – all these pursuits were abruptly put on hold. It meant long days and nights indoors when my only solace was a book, my radio, or a T.V programme. With people dying every day in their hundreds, I didn’t even want to put pen to paper, and my literary efforts dried up through lack of inspiration. The News Channel almost came to resemble the Horror Channel. It was almost like some chilling Sci – fi movie had horribly come true. I had to control my impulsive urge to wander around the city centre as soon as I had consumed breakfast, frequent the cinema or pub or visit friends. It was almost like living in a bubble. Shopping for food seemed to be more tedious with the long ques outside the Supermarket, yet it suddenly had more allure as this was my only escape from the house. Social – distancing rules often resulted in people becoming tetchy and irritable, although the staff in most essential shops remained pleasant.

Not wishing to look ridiculous, I shunned the wearing of a face mask for weeks until they finally became mandatory in shops and enclosed spaces. This is a decision I now regret as a rash choice, as my carer dutifully wore a face covering throughout lockdown. Even after the buses began running again, I was reluctant to board one and my free bus pass became worthless and unused. Mentally and emotionally I was suffering through lack of social contact and I missed my friends at Mind, The Writers Circle and BTM.

The months dragged on, there were false dawns, and then to our amazement some lockdown measures were re-imposed in Bradford soon after they had been lifted. Coming on the eve of the Eid festival, this ruined the enjoyment of many Muslims as they could not mix with another household indoors or in the garden.

On the few occasions I visited City Park I found it a sad and forlorn place. The Mirror Pool was bereft of cool water, no children paddled, there were no outdoor concerts and only a few die-hards sat on benches and walls. But gradually Bradford the ghost town began to fill with faces again as the peak of the pandemic ebbed away. Non-essential shops re-opened as some normality returned. Yet frustratingly at about this time the weather broke down with rain and storm clouds replacing the beautiful blue skies and sunshine of our warmest ever spring during lockdown. But I had never been tempted myself to beak social-distancing guidelines and head to beauty-spots like like  Ilkley or Burnsall to irresponsibly soak up the sun.

If there’s one thing that lockdown has taught me it’s to enjoy the simple things in life and be content with life in my own home. For me it’s been a time of quiet refection and for taking stock of the direction in which my life was going. Do I really need all these frivolous pleasures or am I just as happy with my own company and that of my carer? When you are sat with yourself you can never outstay your own welcome or annoy anyone but yourself. And if our experience of the year 2020 and the cruellest spring ever brings us closer together and we learn to help and look after each other more, then something good will have come out of the Covid-19 outbreak.