On Easing Lockdown and, Plot Twist, Getting Offered the Vaccine When I’m Quite Young & Healthy

I started writing this early on Thursday and finished it on Friday evening and there was a bona fide plot twist while I was editing, so I wrote more and added to the first part and now it’s twice as long. I’ll add headers and random photos to break it up. ENJOY.

On lockdown easing, or, the original post

My hands are stiff from working on a report for college, so I thought I’d use the computer’s speech recognition software to write this. The system isn’t used to my voice, though, so words kept coming up as the @ symbol, or asterisks or an ampersand. Then I turned the screen to greyscale.

2021 in a nutshell, then. (I am typing this.) (I don’t know how to get the colour back on my screen ahaha.)

I can’t even remember what I wanted to talk about! I’ve started, now, though. Okay, let’s try this again. Let’s talk about lockdown easing.

How is everyone feeling about the possibility of a Return to Normal in June? I am… more anxious than I thought I would be. I wrote in the first lockdown about how I thought I’d be okay in isolation because I was already an introverted little hermit, but that even I was finding it hard. And I definitely still am – I had a dream the other night that I got a takeaway with some mates. My cousin moved house a few weeks ago and I can’t wait to see her new place. I miss mooching around charity shops and being rude about other people’s discarded clothes. I miss popping out. I want to get cocktails with my friends and gossip about colleagues and try to figure out if we know the person at the next table.

But.

I’m not sure if I’m ready for noisy pubs with tipsy people jostling you at the bar, or big family barbecues with forty people and lots of cheek kissing, or buses with squished-up queues. I know that even with hospitality reopening and easing of household mixing restrictions, we’re meant to still distance. But we won’t. Drunk people can’t. Anti-vaxxers and Covid-deniers won’t wear masks the moment they think they can get away with it. When lockdown eased in the summer, some of my family threw a boozy house party. Was it distanced and considered? Was it fuck. I know people who aren’t taking up their vaccine offers, or are sceptical that the pandemic is even a real thing. Will they do normal-things-plus-distancing or will they go back to 2019 behaviours, like elastic that’s been stretched and let go?

I went to Greece in the summer with family (not the house party family. I have, like, eight strands of family). I was anxious, but it was for a long-planned family event and on balance, when I’d done the reading, I reckoned it was safe enough to take the chance. No one I was with caught or transmitted Covid as far as I know, and although social distancing was less strict than here, Zakynthos felt safer than the UK (I’ve also never seen such clean aeroplanes). There’s been a lot of non-Covid family stuff over the last year and I’m grateful we got to do something normal for a week when the rules allowed it. So I’m not advocating for national lockdown and no fun until we hit zero new cases. But Southend’s pubs felt more disgusting and less safe on a personal level than Zakynthos’ bars before the pandemic. I don’t know if that speaks more to Southend’s grottiness or Zante’s friendliness. I’m digressing. Have a nice photo.

closeup photograph of bougainvillea
Did I just make my travel blues worse? Um yes

I don’t know if I can deal with coming out of lockdown again just to go back in when cases rise. I guess the theory is that with mass vaccination, cases can’t spike. But still. I think I’d rather stick out a longer lockdown and know what the rules are than yo-yo between tiers like we did in autumn. The constant changes made me anxious, but I know what lockdown involves. I know how to do it now. Southend’s been in lockdown since just before Christmas when we went into Tier 4, but I’ve been really busy so I’ve coped quite well. Better than first lockdown probably, because college and book promotion are keeping me occupied. I’ve got less time to spiral into doom thoughts. On the other hand, I can’t really remember what it’s like to not be in lockdown? And this roadmap whatsit seems like a lot of changes very quickly. I know the ‘back to normal’ date is in June and I’m writing this in February, but it feels soon. I was expecting to ease into ‘normal,’ the same way you dip a toe into a hot bath and acclimatise before getting in. Maybe start with a coffee on a park bench and work my way up. I guess going to Zakynthos was dipping a leg in? I’ve been there a dozen times, so visits are less like going to a foreign country and more like taking a really long journey to see old friends.

Then there’s the whole question of what ‘normal’ involves. I don’t hate what my life has been since Covid started. I hate lots of parts of it, but I feel like I’ve made progress with my mental health in the past year or so, probably because I can’t ignore issues when I’m stuck indoors. I’ve reconnected with friends over Zoom, done a tonne of reading, written a series of short stories, gone back to school. Published a book. I’m not mad about those things. So do I want things to go back to precisely how they were at the start of the pandemic? No. Plus, surviving 2020 feels like a badge of honour. I’m ready for parts of my life to start back up, while keeping hold of the good bits from Covid. I’m just not as ready as I’d like to be?

Perhaps I’ll feel differently when I’ve had a vaccine. And I think some people’s behaviours have changed permanently, for the better. I feel like it’s going to be really normal to see people with hay fever wearing masks, and it’s going to be more acceptable to call in sick to work when you have a cold. Hand sanitiser is going stay in people’s bags when they use public transport. More people will wash their hands before they eat.

Probably?

The second aspect of The Return to Normality that’s giving me nerves is money. As in, I don’t have a lot since I went back to college. It hasn’t been that big of a deal, because what is there to spend money on? Except I’ve promised at least three groups of people that when this thing is over, we’re going for dinner or drinks or suchlike (and I want to do it properly, with a nice outfit and cocktails with an umbrella). I looked at a restaurant menu the other day and thought ‘shit that looks pricy. Was it always this pricy?’ Everywhere’ s going to up their prices to make up their losses. I don’t blame them, and I do want to buy from my favourite places. God, I miss browsing bookshops. It just feels like a lot to commit fifty quid to a night out or a dinner I don’t feel completely safe going to.

from Giphy. I don’t know the film/show this is from I want to see it.

Oh, and the sudden ‘maybe’ of concerts going ahead is nerve wracking. I don’t think MCR’s tour will happen, at least for the UK, because their UK shows are in a stadium that seats 30,000 people and their run finishes the day before the legal limits are removed. If I were any of the dozens of people involved in the tour, I’d want to postpone. Just to be on the safe side and reduce the risk of getting stranded if a country’s rules change suddenly. But if it does go ahead, I (and presumably 30k other people) have to weigh up safety versus, you know, the return of Jesus. Also, I thought I had a while to save up for inane merchandise (that baby is me at a merch stand) and finish making my Killjoy jacket. JUNE IS TOO SOON.

Part two, or, plot twist

I took a break from working on this (and somehow turned the greyscale off, ha) to get lunch. I was faffing about when I got a text from my GP asking me to call to arrange a vaccine appointment. I have never made a phone call so fast. I’m the youngest person I know who’s been offered it (I’m 25), and I’m not completely sure why? It might be because I had asthma for a bit as a child, or more likely due to the respiratory issues I had when I was born. I was in A&E the Christmas before last with heart palpitations (did I ever tell you guys about that? Christmas Eve on a hospital ward, what a treat). Or maybe I’ve been up the doctor enough times in the past couple of years with my IBS and shitty wrists that I flag up on their system. Maybe I’ve got points on my loyalty card.

Seriously, though, I’m not sure how to feel. I mean, there was unrelenting joy and relief once I booked my appointment, followed by crushing guilt that I’ve been offered it when people with learning difficulties have had to fight to be moved up the list. I guess I’m in the ‘everyone over 16 with a health condition that increases their risk’ bracket, even if this is the first I’ve heard of it. Do I deserve the vaccine more than people who have been shielding for a year? No. As we’ve established, I don’t go out much. I’m not a key worker, I don’t see many people day to day. I’m not a huge risk to others, nor am I necessarily at risk of a bad Covid experience. But I didn’t turn the appointment down, because I have a responsibility to protect everyone who is at risk. If popping up the vaccination hub next week contributes to The Return of Normality, it’s the literally the least I can do. I’m just not sure if I’m quite ready for The Return of Normality. I gave myself a day to think about it before coming back to this post, and although I think getting the first vaccine will make me less nervous about socialising, I’m still not sure about pubs or crowded indoor gatherings. I’m definitely not sure about an open air stadium with 30,000 people. And by ‘not sure’ I mean ‘will probably refuse to unless I’m reassured by the data we’re given closer to the time regarding vaccinations and new cases.’ Obviously I’m hoping that things will continue to go well and by the time places open up, I’ll feel more confident. But we’ve been in lockdown-easing territory before, you know? Nothing’s certain until it’s happening.

I wasn’t sure whether to talk about being offered the vaccine. Bragging about getting it at 25 when I’m not even certain it’s for a current health issue is not a good look when so many more people are more deserving. Then I watched a Royal Institution livestream (which is now on YouTube, check it out!) about vaccination myths and the panel talked about how young people might be more inclined to get vaccinated if influencers were getting it. I hope to never, ever be considered an influencer, unless I’ve influenced you to read a book I’ve raved about or some shit, but it won’t hurt to add my voice to the number of people talking about their experience. So I’m due to get vaccinated on Thursday, and I’ll pop in over the weekend to talk about what it was like, and discuss any side effects. If it’s anything like the flu jab, I’ll have a sore arm and take a nap… which is really not that different from a normal day. Might take a selfie with my little cotton arm swab for Instagram and caption it Be The Change.

So, yeah. This was a weird post to write: I’ve never had the topic I’m writing about have such a dramatic plot twist half way though! Editing was harder than it should have been. I’m not sure what tone I’m going for. Reticent? Nervy? Not looking forward to the possibility of getting yelled at on Twitter for getting the vaccine when I’m healthy and young versus not looking forward to listening to people talk about how if the pandemic was real, there would be bodies in the streets (real quote from a very intelligent human being). I’m still conflicted. About all eight billion words I just wrote. I usually end with a question, so I guess today I’m asking: if you’re under 30 or so, have you been offered the vaccine? How was it? Regardless of age, how are you feeling about going back to ‘normal’? If you are also an anxious neurotic who isn’t sure about hugging people, please let me know. Day to day I’m mostly surrounded by people who can’t wait to go partying and take off masks and pretend this shit never happened. Speak to me, my people…

Oh, I feel like you guys would appreciate that I celebrated booking my appointment by ordering a new bra. I mean, I was thinking about it anyway because the one I was wearing the day I began this post was literally falling apart at the seams and wouldn’t survive until the shops reopen. It had sort of begun garrotting my back. I figured it’s a very 2021 experience to celebrate one’s vaccination from Covid with the purchase of a (non-wired, obviously) bra. We’re supposed to celebrate the little things in life, right?!

Look after yourselves.
Francesca

Update: here is the post where I talk about getting the vaccine, symptoms and, er, cake baking.


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4 thoughts on “On Easing Lockdown and, Plot Twist, Getting Offered the Vaccine When I’m Quite Young & Healthy

  1. I think that if you’re normally offered a flu jab, it’s cos you’re at risk, which then warrants a covid jab as you’re vulnerable. By the sounds of things, you’ve got quite a bit going on there, so I wouldn’t feel bad about taking the vaccine you were offered.
    Anecdotally, people have been offered the vaccine cos their docs thought they had a condition that put them in cohort 6 – only to find they didn’t have any ailments, and the appointment was cancelled.
    You’re right, plenty of other people should be offered them – and if we had a decent and capable government, everyone who really did need it would’ve had it. We might be rolling out the vaccine quickly, but we could be doing more if the nhs hadn’t been seriously underfunded for many years.
    I’m getting my jab tomorrow as I have an underlying health condition – diabetes … and locally they’ve started on my group. But though I’ve stayed home a lot, I wasn’t a shielder – and they’ve been vaxxed as cohort 4 so you’re not getting a vaccine before them.
    I’m damned relieved to be getting mine, even though i know we’ll still be distancing and sanitising and not hugging – at least I’ll know that if i do get covid, the likelihood of hospitalisation or death is massively reduced.
    I do wish people had retained more of the lockdown one feelings. There was lots of “be kind” stuff – and that seems to have disappeared far too quickly. We seem to be even further apart than together. But that’s maybe because anyone who was in any way concerned about getting the virus, and understood the dangers, will have continued to try to keep themselves and others safe. Whilst the covidiots have continued to behave like arses, and distanced themselves from sanity. If only the virus could be trained to seek out the deniers, anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, and minimise their input to the gene pool, I’m sure we’d get through this pandemic far quicker!!
    Oddly, my mental health has really suffered this time round – I found the first one far easier, even though i had all the stresses of sorting out benefits, and being concerned about finances. Partly that’s covid, partly it’s other stuff going awry, and having house-guests since last March. So what am i looking forward to getting back to “normal”? Having my house to myself. Being able to actually see people I haven’t seen for ages. I’ll happily keep distant, even wear a mask – but i really do miss contact with people. Phone calls, texts, video calls just aren’t the same as seeing them in person.
    Meeting up next week with a friend for a walk – joining him when he walks his dogs … and i am soooooo looking forward to it. Even though I’ve walked many times, with or without dogs. Even though I’ve seen him (runs a local pub) a few times in the past year …. just doing something that feels almost normal will do wonders for my state of mind (might also be the meds I’ve just started this week!!)
    And your celebratory bra purchase does remind me that even though i detest clothes shopping … I am almost looking forward to going to buy basic work clothes (which is joggers and polo shirts) and underwear! In a real shop!! In the past year, I have saved on haircuts – literally had my last real haircut last January, and have done it myself (badly) ever since. I have saved on clothes – bought two t-shirts and 5 pairs of socks. Saved on coffees and lunches with friends, nights out, cinema trips, and general frivolous spending. But spent way more on electricity (damned house-guests and their computers and games consoles, not to mention showers and clothes washing costs!!).
    But I’ve survived it all. And that’s what counts.
    And I agree – the roadmap seems more like a motorway map when it should be full of B roads … nice slow journey, not a mad scramble to be “free” again. I rather fear we’ll end up locked down again. I hope not, but, as you say, there are many who only need the smallest of excuses to cast off their oppressive masks. I’ve grown fond of mine – and I’ve had no coughs or colds this season, so I’ll happily continue to wear one.
    Hope you sail through your jab experience. See you on the other side!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jacki! It’s so good to hear from you!

      I wasn’t offered the flu jab this year (or any), I got it privately to be on the safe side. Hadn’t previously because I thought I had an egg intolerance, which I didn’t but that’s another Boring Health Story so long story short, I’m now mightily happy to get all the vaccines. Stab me up, dudes, I’ll pay for the privilege. I’ve heard anecdotally about some people getting it on a postcode basis? Or what seems to be a postcode basis more than an age/health basis. Which I guess makes sense if you have a multiple occupancy household. Then again, so many illnesses are totally invisible so maybe it is a health basis.

      Enjoy (?) your vaccine and your walk! I’ve been meeting my mum for masked-up walks most days and it’s done wonders. I can’t even remember if that’s allowed. I’m gonna assume so given the number of car-mixing I’ve been seeing… Now spring is springing and there’s a sort-of end in sight, maybe you’ll start to feel a bit better soon? Especially once you can do some more socialising and, ah, enjoy your house space. I have a love-hate relationship with clothes shopping but I do like touching fabrics before I buy them. Going to the shops is so normal, too, I think it will do everyone good to just mooch about. I’ve definitely saved on socialising, but universal credit went away when I went back to college so pffft.

      Yes it should definitely be a B road thing, not a motorway thing. We’ll see. I’ll definitely keep my mask for bloody hay fever season (it’s already started for me help) but I’ve still caught colds? Or maybe hay fever season has just never gone away hahaha.

      See you on the other side!

      Like

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