UK lockdown diaries

Seasonal Affective Disorder hits different during a winter lockdown, it turns out

So, it’s November. It’s freezing. It’s raining. It’s starting to get dark by around 3:30pm, Max is showing all the signs of being ready to drop his afternoon nap for good, and we’ve just heard that, as of Friday, our part of Scotland will be returning to full lockdown until December 11th … at least.

Here is actual footage of me watching the First Minister’s briefing in which this was announced:


On the one hand, I have to acknowledge here that this return to lockdown, unwelcome though it is, won’t really change our family’s lives all that much. Well, I mean, you have to actually HAVE a life in order for it to be changed, and we’ve been under at least some form of restrictions for such a long time now that “having a life” is not something we could reasonably be accused of right now. (Or, in my case, EVER, really, because, LOL, look at me trying to pretend it’s just Covid making my life boring AF, and, without it I’d be out living my best life, and, I dunno, jumping out of airplanes or whatever people who have interesting lives do, I wouldn’t know.)

All the same, though, while we haven’t actually been doing many of the things this latest lockdown will render illegal (We haven’t been inside a restaurant since February, for instance, and I can’t even remember the last time I was in a pub. Again, that’s nothing to do with Covid, it’s because I have no friends. Wait, did I say that out loud?), the fact that we COULD do them if we really wanted to was at least some comfort to us, you know?

As for the things we COULD do, meanwhile, well, I’m not saying they’ve been fun, exactly, because they’ve mostly had to be done outdoors (Most indoor activities having been banned already..), and, trust me, NOTHING is fun outdoors in November here, but they have at least helped pass the time, and that’s been a huge thing for us this year, because there’s just been SO MUCH TIME and SO LITTLE to actually fill it that one time we drove all the way to Edinburgh JUST to go to Waitrose, JUST to buy a treacle tart that Terry said was only available in that one supermarket, and nowhere else in the country.

(Just to emphasize how freaking BORED I’ve been, when Terry suggested we undertake this Quest for the Treacle Tart That Only Waitrose Sells I was pretty damn excited by it, purely because I knew it would kill some time, and the subject of How to Kill the Time has been all-consuming….)

Here, for instance, is a photo of Max and I climbing a small mound of earth in what felt to me like sub-zero temperatures, but which apparently felt to Max like “I Will Repeatedly Take My Hat Off, Just Because I Can” temperatures:

November walk

We went here for a walk, because that’s all we’re really allowed to do right now. And I know going for a walk sounds like a nice, wholesome kind of activity – like, the kind of thing a better person than me would describe as “quality time with the family” – but I spent most of that walk begging Max to put his hat back on, and HE spent most of it shouting, “I HATE THIS BORING PLACE, I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE, I WANT TO GO TO A PLAYPARK.” Then he stepped in dog poop, and we went home, the end. These violent delights have violent ends, indeed.

Even this feeble attempt at “fun”, however, will soon be forbidden to us, because while we WILL still be allowed to go outside for “exercise” once Lockdown: The Sequel starts on Friday (Which, by the way, don’t even get me started. Like, what’s the point of telling people we’ll be locking down, but not until the weekend, so feel free to do whatever you like until then? My Facebook feed is currently full of people desperately trying to book last-minute hair appointments and see their families before Friday, which will NO WAY cause a spike in Covid transmission, will it?), it’s going to be illegal to leave our district (“What if there isn’t a Waitrose in your district, though?!” I wailed at the TV when I heard this…), and this particular walk is about 2 miles outside the boundaries of ours, so you can totally see how reckless we’d have to be to go back there after Friday. Yes.

Anyway. This winter lockdown is obviously not unexpected – in fact, I’ve been worrying about it all year, really – but it IS, nonetheless disheartening and depressing. As I said in this post, a winter lockdown is a very different prospect from a summer one, and I know I’m far from the only one to be feeling very low as a result of it. I struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder even on a good year – which this year patently is NOT – and no amount of light therapy or fresh air is going to make up for the fact that we’re now stuck at home for most of the “festive” season, without even the prospect of a change of scenery to cheer us up. (And, of course, Christmas as we know it now hangs dangerously in the balance. I can’t even.)

Scottish landscaoe in NovemberI know we’re not allowed to complain, because people like to pretend that anyone who dares to admit they’re not loving lockdown is basically saying they’d rather catch Covid and DIE instead, but, honestly. HONESTLY. It’s been a long year, people, I think we’re allowed to complain just a LITTLE bit, no? (OR, OK, for roughly 1000 words, maybe more depending on how much longer I can string this out for…)

It could be worse, obviously, but it’s just… I’m just bored, you know? Like, I have literally NEVER been so bored in my entire life, and I once worked in local government PR, so trust me when I tell you, I know boredom. I didn’t even know it was POSSIBLE to be So. Damn. Bored. I mean, yesterday I Kon-Mari’d Terry’s underwear drawer and arranged all his boxers by colour, and if that doesn’t scream OHMYGODSOBORED to you then I don’t know what will.

And meanwhile, of course, the Internet is just bursting at the seams with people who are having a better lockdown than me. There they are, all cosied-up in their blankets, talking about how much they’re appreciating the opportunity to “slow down” and “appreciate the little things” again, and here I am, getting up in the pitch dark every morning in order to watch hamsters navigate obstacle courses on You Tube with my toddler, in a desperate bid to buy myself a few minutes to drink the necessary amount of coffee to get me through the rest of the day.

For us, as for most people with small children, lockdown basically signals the end of any opportunities for “self-care”, and a return to the days of juggling childcare and work, while endlessly sniping at each other, because I did 2 hours 20 minutes of childcare on MY shift, and YOU only did 2 hours and four minutes on YOURS, so now you owe me 16 minutes worth of childcare, which I’m going to use to lock myself in the bathroom and count how many times I have to read the words “cosy” and “snuggle” in other people’s Instagram captions.

It’s not fun. It’s not relaxing. It’s not a welcome break from our hectic lives, or an opportunity for extra family time: hell, it’s not even a good excuse to binge-watch The Crown on Netflix, because who’s got time for THAT during lockdown-with-a-toddler? Other than everyone I follow on Instagram, I mean? And, OK, us on Sunday night, but that doesn’t count because we have to have at least ONE night off a week, right?

And I think that brings us up to date. To recap:

01. Back in lockdown: yay!

02. Christmas possibly cancelled: FFS!

03. If you’re enjoying this, I’m jealous of you and want your life.

04. Something about Waitrose treacle tarts.

05. I don’t even like treacle tarts, though?

06. Some people set up obstacle courses for hamsters, then film them for You Tube, so that’s an image that’s in your head now: you’re welcome.

07. Yes, I know some people have it worse right now, spare me.

08. In one piece of good news, the Scottish government have decided NOT to reinstate shielding, as they did during the last lockdown, which means that people like Terry, who are considered extremely vulnerable to Covid-19, are under the same restrictions as the rest of the population, and are not being asked to lock themselves in a single room of their house this time around. Instead, they’ve just to “be vigilant” – which is what we were planning to do anyway, even if shielding WAS re-instated. That was actually the main thing I was planning to write about in this post, but, hey, looks like I got sidetracked by the treacle tarts, then that whole “hamster” thing, so please just pretend I said something interesting and insightful about it: thanks in advance.

How’s YOUR month going?

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books by Amber Eve
  • Fiona


    If it helps you’re allowed to travel up to around 5 miles from your local authority for outdoor exercise so you can go climb the small hill while Max refuses to wear his hat. You know, if you really want to.

    We’re still in level 3 which makes almost no difference to me from when we were in level 2, which they’re hopeful we will go back to soon. But if we go to level 4 my work will shut and I’ll be furloughed again just as I was getting used to internally screaming that a mask should cover your mouth AND your nose, and you absolutely shouldn’t lower it under your chin while leaning towards me to ask me questions.

    Below applies to level 3&4:
    (local outdoor informal exercise such as walking, cycling, golf, or running (in groups of up to 6 people from no more than 2 households) that starts and finishes at the same place
    travel locally (within around 5 miles of your local authority area) to reach a place to take exercise outdoors)

    November 18, 2020
  • Su


    Amber, it could be worse, you could be the person making mini assault courses for hamsters…..

    November 18, 2020
  • Jess


    Preach! 🙂 I feel every word of this post – even though I don’t have a toddler, so I can’t really imagine your elevated levels of WHY2020WHY?! Buutt, you have made me think about what having a toddler in this flat would be like right now…there’s a picture! We’re in Manchester, which also hasn’t really left restrictions so we haven’t seen anyone all summer either and it’s bleak isn’t it? If we’re banned from travelling at Christmas, I’m going to have to hike home because mum will disown me otherwise. But feel reassured that you’re not the only one bored out of your brain, not having a ‘creative productive’ lockdown, and who liked like at the speed it was thanks very much – none of this slowing down nonsense! xx

    November 19, 2020
  • Hannah


    Honestly, lockdown-with-a-toddler is one of the most unappreciated horrors of 2020. My husband and I are both NHS key workers, I can work from home, he can work from home sometimes. What this means in reality is that we HAVE to work from home juggling the 2yo/5yo whenever their school or nursery closes and they isolate. Much like any self employed work from home person. It’s horrendous and the pressure is unreal. I share your confusion/befuddlement at then using locked-in-loo breaks to scroll Instagram and see all the gingerbread/ decorating/ candles/ ‘hygge’ness! Enjoyed your post thanks!

    November 19, 2020
  • Alice


    Maybe you should get a hamster.

    November 19, 2020
  • Myra Boyle


    I’ve just written a long complaining post, but lost it and can’t be bothered to do it again. To summarise it ????????????????

    November 19, 2020
  • Mary Katherine


    I want a hamster, if only to feed to my cat.
    Yes, your annoying Pollyanna From Across the Pond has finally strangled her inner “but at least _____” damned good cheer and your post is perfect timing for my own pity party over here. Our numbers are skyrocketing, and I feel stalked by this plague – every day it comes a step closer with someone I work with or know, and it’s coming for me and my family. I and everyone I know has dismantled our Thanksgiving plans in the last few days(which are a big deal over here), and tonight I have to call one of my dearest friends and tell her she cannot come and stay with us for the two weeks we have been planning for months. Everything I have been looking forward to has just vaporized in a puff of smoke. No one of mine is in the hospital or has died so I shouldn’t complain, right? But we need time to grieve, for all the pleasures, and everything our lives revolved around, taken away. Eventually, I will think of creative ways to redeem this empty space, but not today. And it won’t involve baking or Netflix, thank you very much.

    November 19, 2020
  • Erin


    Basically I have turned into a psychotic optimist at the news of several possibly 95% effective vaccines and am eagerly awaiting mine. Other than that, I’ve basically lost my whole mind.

    November 19, 2020
  • Justina Kenyon


    I feel you! I live in Vermont in the US and we just went into a sort of lockdown, which means I can’t even hike with a friend now (which is a thing I was actually enjoying). Part of the issue here is that each state is making its own rules and travel restrictions aren’t being enforced. Everyone is like, “OMG! I can’t wait for 2020 to be over” and keep doing things that will make this sh*t last well into 2021.

    November 20, 2020
  • Miss Kitty


    I just saw this post when I read your most recent one, for some reason it never came through on my Bloglovin feed, I was wondering how you were doing. I totally feel for you, I don’t know how I would handle even another mini lockdown. We did a full one in NZ here for 5 weeks in April and I thought I would be fine as I’m pretty much a homebody. Turns out I’m not such a homebody as I thought and by the time it was over I was clawing the walls and banging on the door ‘LET ME OOUUTT!!’ ???? Okay not really but my brain was inside my head. I found out that I actually DO need some human interaction and because the courier driver was the only person I saw they had to put up with a verbal outpouring from me every time they came, which ended with them backing away slowly LOL. Hugs to you, you can get through this and I really hope your Christmas can go ahead ????

    November 27, 2020
  • Tamie


    I need the link to the hamster obstacle course!

    November 27, 2020