One Year of Lockdown – A Day of Reflection

No matter how tough your year has been, remember someone else’s will have been tougher

It’s hard to believe that 12 months ago, I was sat in my living room, glued to the news channels as if aliens had arrived on earth. We were watching the Chinese spraying whole cities with disinfectant and the Italian health system collapsing with bodies in hospital corridors. The words Covid and lockdown had entered our vocabulary although house arrest might have been more appropriate. Only a few weeks earlier I had arrived at Karachi airport and was welcomed by a temperature check. We were somewhat nonchalant about this and there were no such measures at the British checkpoints on our return to Heathrow airport two weeks later. 

I was one of the fortunate ones. When the lockdown was announced, I had my family around me and they stayed with me for the next couple of months. Life would have been very different if I had been a single parent having to cope with children and no contact with another adult, day in, day out. But it certainly did feel, in those early days, like we had entered some sort of strange apocalyptic world, more at home on our television screens. It was surreal leaving the house, wearing facemask and gloves for a trip to the supermarket, only to find shelves practically empty and people stock piling everything from paracetamols to toilet paper. I can remember doing a calculation – is it worth risking my life for a trip to get cat food? In fact, shopping for bare essentials such as fruit and vegetables, flour, bread and milk did become nothing short of a military manoeuvre – from leaving the house, to wiping down and putting away the shopping.

The last 12 months have been a period of immense change, pain and sadness for us as a nation. The pressures on the NHS, our doctors, nurses, and health care providers, have been enormous, but our NHS, staffed by the best in the world, has done us all proud. And we also need to remember the other essential workers, the teachers working online to keep children in education, supermarket workers stocking the shelves, refuse collectors, postal workers, delivery drivers, the police and other emergency services, those supporting the homeless and victims of domestic violence, the list is endless but it is these individuals that have kept us going through a very difficult period and for that we should all be grateful.

Predictably, everything we were being told about the virus fell on some deaf ears and unfortunately dangerous misinformation and conspiracy theories abounded. These including blaming 5G for the pandemic, with others calling it a deliberate use of a biological weapon. The conspiracies continued with the arrival of the vaccine with some claiming this was a plot by Bill Gates to vaccinate the world, others accusing him of testing it on children in Africa and India, leading to thousands of deaths, whilst others claimed the vaccine was being used to forcibly implant microchips into people.

Over the last 12 months communities have celebrated birthdays in lockdown as well as Ramadan, Eid, Pesach, Hannukah, Diwali, Christmas and Easter. Weddings had to be postponed, holidays cancelled and at one point it did seem like there was no end in sight. 12 months later, we have started taking small steps to get back to the new normal, with a roadmap that I certainly look at every couple of days.

Above all, the last 12 months can be described in one word. Loss. Of all the things we lost, the ability to move around freely, physical contact, or coffee with friends, it is the massive loss of life in such a short space of time that has affected us all. Everyone knows someone who has lost their life to Covid with 126,000 deaths in one year and it is important to remember those who have left this world, but also those who have been bereaved and may not have had the chance to say their final goodbyes to loved ones, or even attend funerals.

In remembering all those who have lost their lives in the pandemic, we should also remember those who have lost their lives because of violence, poverty and hunger, situations undoubtedly made worse because of the pandemic. This last year we saw 2.7 million deaths across the world, related to Covid and 9 million deaths due to hunger and hunger related causes; 3.1 million of that number being children.

As a first world nation, we have managed to find a vaccine for Covid, I just wish we could do the same for poverty.

23rd March 2021

Farewell 2020 – What a year that was!

I have a 12lb turkey and an 12lb goose currently filling my freezer and keeping each other company for a while. And there is nothing worse than freezing these birds when I would much rather have been surrounded by family and friends enjoying the festive period and eating them. But sadly in 2020 it just wasn’t to be.

I’m sure I am not alone in saying that I really am looking forward to the back of 2020 as we have missed the company of our extended families and friends.  A part of me feels guilty about this though as I was reminded today of a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuH) that states “Do not curse time, for God is Time”.  But 2020 has been a year full of so much uncertainty, when we have had to adapt to a new way of living and working. And a year filled with sadness for so many. I for one am very much looking forward to the new year. Having said that, there have been some highs among the many lows and as an eternal optimist, I know 2021 will be better. Eventually. So what will I remember the last 365 days for?

2020, the year new words, phrases and behaviours entered our world. Covid, lockdown, daily government briefings, “the germ”, face masks, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, 2 metre distancing, elbow-shaking, “you’re on mute” and the legacy hand are just a few of the things that come to mind. Clapping for the NHS, Joe Wicks? No chance! We used to have our own family workout in the garden! Less takeaways, great! Fresh bread, homemade soups, curries, naan breads and cheesecakes! Daily walks with my granddaughter, watching my little grandson grow, Mitzvah Day, Ramadan, Eid, Diwali, Christmas, all in lockdown. A new sewing machine however meant I could finally fix my curtains and make some new cushions. And of course the joys of working from home, setting up a “home office” and issues with the broadband – constantly.

The year hasn’t been fun and games for everyone – it has been difficult, relentless and unforgiving. So many people have lost their jobs, their livelihoods and income. We have all missed basic human contact with family, friends and work colleagues, their smiling faces, a hand shake and the hugs.  So many have lost loved ones to this horrible illness. Countless others are recovering and having to live with long term consequences of the illness. Our health service, doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners and carers have all been overwhelmed but have kept going to keep us safe and well. From the bin-men, postmen, shelf stackers and checkout staff in our supermarkets. Each and everyone deserves our thanks and gratitude for keeping us going. Not to forget those amazing men and women trying to continue the education of our young people in schools, colleges and universities. It’s been a difficult year, but so many have shown that humanity is inherently resilient, kind, compassionate and caring. We have seen so many acts of kindness across the country, from local communities caring for vulnerable neighbours, support for the countless organisations providing basic provisions to the homeless, to the support being given to families unable to feed their children during school holidays. To all of you, I say thank you. For keeping me and so many others, well, sane and at least 2 meters away at all times.

And as I was reminded by one NYE message, may 2021 be the year ‘corona’ reverts to being just a beer (apparently, I’m a Muslim, how would I know?), the name Donald makes us think of a DUCK, when tiers sit on a cake and bubbles are what my grandchildren love playing with!

I suppose I should end by saying farewell Europe (I’ll be back). But I wont. Instead I’ll end with wishing you all a very Happy New Year – praying for one better than the last, for each and every one of us!

“By time, indeed mankind is in loss, except for those who have believed, and done righteous deeds and advised each to truth and advised each other to patience”. (Quran 103)

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