Features

Alone in lockdown

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Councillor Daniel Morgan-Thomas (Wanstead Village, Labour) looks back on his time in lockdown alone and highlights the importance of continuing to look after each other as ‘normality’ returns

“Are you OK?” This was what I heard the most when lockdown began. I found myself unexpectedly living alone and no one could say how long restrictions would last. Like many people, I was used to going out and about locally when I wasn’t at work or in council meetings, so being both on my own and at home full time came as a bit of a shock!

I have, however, been lucky: having some lovely neighbours I could see from a safe distance without travelling and with the forest on my doorstep for my daily permitted exercise. I was also struck by how helpful local shops were in response to the pandemic – on my own, I didn’t need big supermarkets but when needed, I made use of the small shops in Wanstead and South Woodford, especially those I could visit early in the morning before starting work. Fortunately, these remained well stocked, even when eggs and flour were scarce elsewhere, meaning I could indulge in my new-found lockdown hobby of baking. It was fantastic to be able to contribute to the Corner House Project’s efforts to provide baked goods for our brilliant NHS workers.

Being on my own, I’ve had to work quite hard to create boundaries: keeping my day job to my desk and using set times for virtual council meetings and keeping up with correspondence and phone calls while keeping leisure time separate – even if that just meant going to the sofa to watch TV! It’s been good to be busy though. I have many friends who have been on furlough for some months now, as approximately a third of workers in Redbridge have been.

I’ve also been fortunate to keep in touch with friends and family across the UK and abroad, many of whom have found more time to talk since lockdown. Whether by Zoom, text, email or even postcard, this kind of contact has been hugely important for my mental health and wellbeing. Sadly, from both my work in children’s mental health and being on the Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee, I know that for many, whether on their own or in other difficult living arrangements, lockdown has been extremely difficult. Support, however, is always there, whether you need practical help or just someone to speak to on the phone.

As lockdown begins to lift and a glimmer of ‘normality’ slowly returns to our local community, I hope we can continue to look after each other and support the brilliant initiatives like the Tin in a Bin Network and mutual aid groups. Some people feel less comfortable and the return to ‘normality’ for them will take longer – I’m sure the Wanstead community will continue to support them.

Daniel is keen to highlight the following support services: Redbridge Wellbeing Service (call 020 8708 5555); Samaritans (call 116 123); SHOUT (youth mental health support, text 85258); and Age UK (call 020 8220 6000).