As lockdown restrictions ease and friends post pictures of themselves on social media, smiling in pubs and cafes or at the beach and picnicking in the park, I am still nervously wondering if I can manage to leave the flat today.

A Girl Made of Air

A Girl Made of Air

When lockdown started my rheumatoid arthritis flared up. My medication was changed, and my immune system went bonkers. So started my adventures in shielding. For four months myself and my husband stayed in our flat, not once going out for a walk or to a shop. We just stayed in.

At first, we found connecting with friends via short live videos was a fun and helpful thing to do each day. We filmed our ‘daily march’ around the flat, singing songs and engaging in lively banter as we went, to keep those spirits up. Friends and family seemed to love it, asking each day what time our ‘marching’ would be so they didn’t miss it. But as sourdough starters began to appear in every tweet and post, our marching slowed and eventually, we ran out of steam.

I was halfway through writing my second novel. Having the time laid out in front of me to get on with it, might at one time have been an absolute gift. Yet, when I sat down at my desk, the last thing I felt able to do was re-enter the universe of my book, which now entirely represented the ‘before times’. With shielding, it seemed, came a bucketful of anxiety bringing on, what I now realise, is a form of agoraphobia.

Trying desperately to get in line with all the making and baking I did manage to rustle up my first ever (and only) vegan banana bread and a batch of simple flatbreads to boot. But the kitchen is not my natural habitat and I’ve never been much good at joining in, so as the weeks went on, I just pottered.

What did I do during lockdown? I flicked through my phone, picking it up and putting it down at regular intervals. I ate too much. I bought a few expensive items online (and then attacked them with antibac sprays and wipes when they arrived, almost within an inch of their lives). I listened to music and I read a few books. My main concern was the online shop. Slots were hard to get and so it became a fulltime job, checking every possible supermarket and veg box delivery. Most of my time was spent in a haze, in feeling lost and loss.

Now I’m trying hard to get back into a rhythm, to find some sort of ‘new normal’. I’m gently finding my way back into writing book number two. I’m also busy with all the exciting things that come with the publication of my debut novel, and I’m attempting not to be too hard on myself, because that road leads to nowhere interesting. And sometimes, maybe twice a week or so, I manage to go outside for a short walk.