Tag Archives: COVID-19

Christmas in a time of Covid

It has been two years since I was in Berlin for the Christmas season. Last time I visited there was no pandemic, only a faint murmur on the media wind of a new virus that was running amok in China, in a city called Wuhan. I had never heard of it.

I spent that Christmas being shown the seasonal sights of Berlin by my beloved. She took me to the City Weihnachtsmarkt in the centre of Berlin and I goggled at the huge Christmas Pyramid and drank in the sights and wonderful smells coming from the stalls as we pushed through the crowds. We visited the Christmas Garden at the Botanischer Garten, wandering entranced through tunnels of stars, leafy dells bathed in mysterious laser clouds and lawns that danced with rainbow lights. She even took me to a traditional fair where I tried my hand at archery, drank Gluhwein while I watched fire eaters and then staggered home with bags of freshly baked bread.

This Christmas in Berlin is very different. Necessary restrictions kept us apart for the last one, and I didn’t believe until I was sat in the seat on the plane that I was actually going to make it to Germany this year. Unwilling to risk the crowded trains to get to the city, we have stayed close to her home near the lakes. We have relaxed in each other’s company, played games, written words and taken walks. It has been a blissfully quiet retreat that has helped me detox from a difficult year.

And some things, the really important ones, have not changed. The warm hug from her dad, collecting me from the airport. The smell of fresh baking when I walked through the house to more welcoming hugs from her mum and sister. Small stringed lights, baubles and stars decorate every nook and cranny around the house, turning it into a magical grotto. I am proud to say that my own contributions of Gonks and paper chains have now found a place among them.

I have been embraced in a warmest way by her family, spoilt rotten with wonderful food and drink. I fly back to my own family in a few days feeling loved and cherished. I am truly blessed.

Merry Christmas Everyone.

To Touch is to Heal

Facebook threw up some pictures from last year on my feed today. I stared at them for a while and then scrolled on down. They were a montage of memories from Berlin, taken this time last year. I had flown out to meet a woman I had met only months earlier and who had, bit by bit, stolen my heart. The long weekend we spent together contained moments so special that even now they take my breath away.

Looking at the images, it was difficult to believe that it was only a year ago. There were pictures of Art Deco stations, murals on walls, tables full of scrumptious food. Happy faces. However, the pandemic has made this year seem like three. Twelve months ago seems a distant memory. I no longer seem to be able to connect to the person I was then, the happiness that I felt, all the hopes for the future. COVID-19 has, bit by bit, chipped away at my soul until there feels sometimes as if there is nothing left.

I last saw my girlfriend in February. We knew then that the virus was spreading, but neither of us knew what impact it would have on our lives. She became becalmed at home, working long hours to meet deadlines. I was forced to work from home as well, but didn’t share her health concerns, so was able to venture out. Eventually I was able to go back to work on site even. I counted my blessings. I have a job and I stayed safe. Technology kept us in contact, supporting each other. 

However, as the weeks continued to creep by, it became clear that the virus wasn’t passing through. There would be no quick return to normality. Indeed, perhaps it would never return. I had flights booked to Berlin, but moved them back, and back again. There was one set of flights I clung onto though, even though deep down I knew it was futile. I had seats on a plane for the August Bank Holiday. When I felt low I would go and look at them. I told myself to keep the faith, that after all these months, on our anniversary, I would be in Berlin again.

It wasn’t to be of course. The air bridge was established in time, and the borders opened. But Germany remains on high alert. I could get in, I could even be in the same room as my love, but I can’t hold or kiss her, I can’t even touch her. Touch, that simplest and most vital of loving acts, denied. I circled the problem time and time again, raging at the injustice. My love looked on compassionately, and didn’t try to dissuade me, although she knew it was fruitless. I love her for that. Finally the airline took pity, and cancelled my flights. I cried until I ran out of tears.

Inevitably, somewhere along the way the black claws of depression and anxiety have gripped me again, eager to reclaim territory. Bit by bit, I have lost interest in doing much.  My world has shrunk and I have let it. I am lucky, I have the best professional help, and good family. But they can’t give me that answer I need. When will I be able to touch her again?

I have flights booked for October. November seems quite likely. Hope is keeping me afloat. Love will beat this virus eventually. 

Did you have a good Lockdown?

So, after seven weeks working from home in lockdown, this week I finally went back on site.

Now, I appreciate that lockdown has been a difficult time for many. Parents looking after children, the elderly and those already suffering from underlying health conditions trying to work out how to just get the necessities of life, others wondering if they will have a job to go back to, and of course many people just feeling very isolated and scared. COVID-19 isn’t a laughing matter.

So, it is with a real sense of guilt that I have to admit that I have mostly enjoyed it. It feels almost confessional. I don’t mind lockdown. I don’t miss the daily commute. I don’t miss crowded shops and the bustle of everyday life. I don’t even much miss people, or at least the majority of them. I have enjoyed the short journey from bed to desk. Being able to sit out in the garden eating my lunch and watching the busy spring wildlife. I have enjoyed the easy company of my family. 

Working from home has of course not been without its challenges. I did get brain fog in the early days, but I have stuck to a routine which has helped. I am at my desk by 9am, lunching around 12 noon and then closing the lid on my laptop at 5pm. I get washed and dressed every day, although I have become addicted to wearing sweatpants. If it’s good enough for Anna Wintour…  However, trying to concentrate on a report while someone is hoovering the stairs can prove difficult, as can having to run around after a squirrel obsessed terrier while trying to work out the intricacies of a website. I have a great family though and, somehow, we have made it work, respecting and supporting each other. Now, more than ever, I know how truly fortunate I am.

I am also lucky in other regards. I have over the past year built up a small network of social contacts, and although we have been forced online, we have kept in touch. I am still board gaming, and going to pub quizzes. I have joined in creative writing sessions and even supped cuppas at virtual coffee mornings. All using the power of the Internet. Yes, the evil, anarchic Internet, has now become our saviour. It offers boxsets, communication and collaborative spaces. The opportunity to see my boss disguised as a dancing pickle. It allows me to take control of a colleague’s machine, while chatting live to them and asking others via text for advice. I have even continued my German studies online, our enthusiastic teacher waving mini whiteboards at us from the comfort of her sitting room while we practise ordering food and making small talk. I love the Internet.

The worst of lockdown has been having to cancel planned trips. Flights to see my lovely girlfriend in Berlin, a writing retreat in Spain and a trip to the USA to attend my first High School Graduation ceremony have all gone up in smoke. The first two are postponed, the latter gone forever. (Although I have promised to embarrass my god daughter at her College Graduation instead). And not seeing my girlfriend really sucks. Technology keeps us in contact, supporting each other from afar but, every time I exchange a text message, I am reminded of how far away a simple cuddle with her is. I never took it for granted, and now I never will. I have kept a flight booked for the August Bank Holiday, and I am stoutly refusing to move it. In the dark of the night, when I am feeling low, it is there as a comfort blanket. A slim piece of hope. Lockdown has been a timely reminder, in a busy world, of what is really important in life. I might be having a good lockdown, but I still can’t wait for it to be over and to see my gorgeous again.