We’re more than halfway through England’s second lockdown now… or are we? Time will tell whether it gets extended or not. Here’s an update on how it’s been for me so far. Earlier in the year, I was self-isolating for shielding purposes. In lockdown 2.0 this hasn’t been compulsory so, while I’ve been staying at home as much as possible, I haven’t been keeping a weekly diary. Instead this blog post will be a whistle-stop tour.
I’ve been working from home for eight months. I joined BBC Radio Cumbria in August 2019, so I’ve actually now been home office based for the station longer than I was based in Carlisle. I’m still producing content for the breakfast programme, making audio packages and able to broadcast live reports.
When I eventually go back to the newsroom in person, it will feel quite a different place because there have been colleagues who have retired or left the BBC recently by taking voluntary redundancy. All will be greatly missed and I wish them the very best of luck in the future.
Outside of work, I’m pleased to say that I’ve been organised this year to have completed all my Christmas shopping well in advance. Although it is a stash of gifts that is getting perpetually added to, depending on the different things I spot! Even though non-essential shops are shut, for the time being, many have an online presence that you can support and buy items from.
There’s also the rise of Virtual Christmas Fairs. One of the biggest I’ve seen on Facebook has been set up by a woman from Kendal who is raising money for the NHS Morecambe Bay Trust charity. It has more than 270 online ‘stalls’ selling handmade products, via pages like Etsy for about 8,000 members on the page – and that number is rising.
More restaurants seem to be set up to provide take aways now. Recently, for example, I enjoyed a boxed afternoon tea which was put together to raise funds to provide elderly people in our village with a festive meal. I’m glad to have been able to support local businesses in this way, in what are extremely challenging times.
That’s not to say the kitchen has been empty. There may have been the trend of baking banana bread in the first lockdown but I feel that my culinary skills have gone up a gear, having baked a Christmas cake. I’m yet to discover how successful it is, because this will be ‘fed’ with brandy and iced in the lead up to the big day. With so much alcohol and fruit in there though, it hopefully shouldn’t taste too bad!
Reflecting on the past week, I remember a friend of mine who has died after becoming ill with coronvirus. Every day the death toll is rising and behind each number are family and friends who are grieving. All coronavirus related deaths would not have happened had this virus not existed and it’s heartbreaking to think how many people across the world have lost loved ones.
I have known Geoff most of my life; he was a fellow Manchester City fan who I knew from our supporters’ club and he went to games with my Dad. He was always kind to me and interested in my career. I shall remember him with affection. Only close family can attend his funeral, due to social distancing measures. It is with great sadness that I cannot pay my respects in this way.
This past week has also been lamentable because I should have been on holiday in New York. It became all too easy to think of “what if” scenarios – what I might have been doing at certain times had the pandemic not swept across the world. I actually saw the hotel I was meant to be staying in on Times Square in a shot used on a BBC news report about how New York has been severely affected with cases of the virus.
The lights are out on Broadway, where I was due to see the production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical comedy Company, after missing its run in London’s West End last year. The ticket price has been refunded but I am still waiting to be reimbursed for the flights and hotel bookings, which could take anything up to 90 days.
Musicals are great escapism during these uncertain times and I’ve been able to get my fix with a subscription to Disney Plus, which isn’t just about animated classics. There’s the Star Wars back catalogue, Marvel universe and National Geographic documentaries included too. During my annual leave, I’ve watched another of Sondheim’s works Into the Woods as well as Mary Poppins Returns. Two very different films, both I’d recommend.
Friday night YouTube screenings of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical have also been something to look forward to, while staying at home. This week’s was Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. As a fan of the original I didn’t know what to expect of a new iteration but I loved it and may even catch it again before the link on the ‘Show Must Go On’ page expires this weekend.
Having more time on my hands, while in self-isolation, has also given a chance to bake more often than usual. (With usual meaning not at all.) I was previously quite daunted by it, after seeing elaborate showstoppers on the Great British Bake Off and other cookery programmes, I’d find any excuse to buy ready made baked goods from a shop. However, I’m amazed how simple some recipes are.
It’s easy to see why there’s a shortage of flour because it seems every man, woman and dog have been having a bash at baking banana bread. I’ve perfected my own version (pictured below) which has oats in and caramelised banana on top. Other tasty recipes that have gone down well include a tea loaf that’s made with marmalade and homemade ginger biscuits.
I’m back working from home this coming week, all that’s left to do now is finish wiring up the work computer and, all being well, I’ll be able to log in and access the internal BBC network. That should help workflow massively. I’ll let you know how it goes in next week’s update. Stay safe.