So March and April were months of adjustment for the entire country. Everyone was learning to cope in a variety of ways. Most of the office based work force of the country retired to their homes and battled with broadband, setting up desks at home, finding a quiet space to work, juggling children being at home with having to just get on and do your job. There were as many different setups as there were households. Single people suddenly thrust into way more solitude than is probably healthy. That vital human contact that we all crave in varying amounts was dramatically reduced for everyone.
I count myself among the very luckiest of people during the pandemic. My husband and I were both at home, both healthy, both with jobs that were paying most of our wages. We had nothing to complain about. We were lucky. I was of course acutely aware of how difficult being told to stay at home was for a lot of people. People on their own. Single parents with their support network yanked away almost overnight. People whose only time at home normally was spent sleeping or getting ready to go out. This restriction of movement imposed on the whole country must have been dreadful for those people. But as I’ve said before my overwhelming feeling during this early time of the pandemic was relief.
By May I think everyone had settled into this new way of living. Some reluctantly, some like me embracing it with open arms. The weather in May was lovely. People were taking full advantage of their government mandated one hour of exercise outdoors every day. I saw people walking around, cycling, running, walking their dogs. Some wearing masks, most not. I saw the endless queues outside the supermarket opposite my house. I knew that this time spent queuing was probably the only time a lot of people saw other human beings. I stayed at home. I couldn’t bring myself to go outside, even for an hour a day. I had my garden and in the first half of May I think I spent more time out there than I had done in the previous four years we’ve lived here. My routine of doing a little exercise first thing in the morning (YouTube has some great yoga classes!) then having a cup of coffee while I wandered round the garden was a joy. I felt invigorated and every morning my garden repaid me with a new leaf or bud or a flower opening.
The foxglove from last year just starting to bud
Instead of lying in bed till lunchtime or watching tv I was outside, in the fresh air, just being. I don’t have a particularly stressful job (it has its moments but it’s mostly a straight forward job that I love) but I really noticed the difference in my thought processes once I allowed myself to stop thinking about my job. I went days without fretting about it and because I was on furlough I wasn’t allowed to log in and do any work at all and that was a very freeing experience.
My husband also spent these early weeks in May out in the garden. We’ve always had bird feeders but this extra time spent in the garden took our bird care to a whole new level and we bought extra feeders, tried different seeds, different suet blocks. He spent hours just watching these little things flitting round the garden, something he’d never really done before. He started photographing them too, sitting quietly under a tree and taking some amazing shots of sparrows, blackbirds, starlings, blue tits and finally after a few weeks we had for us that holy grail of garden birds we wanted to see. A goldfinch.
Photo courtesy of my husband
We’d never seen them in any of our gardens in Liverpool before and it took them a little while to become regulars but soon we had four or five visiting our sunflower heart feeder every day. They are so beautiful. So exotic looking. We even caught a brief glimpse of a greenfinch once or twice but sadly he never became a regular.
Our garden really began to take shape in May. The sunflower seeds I’d haphazardly thrown into a pot in April were threatening to bust out of their pots and I knew I needed to replant them all.
True leaves on the sunflower seedling
So I put every single seedling into a pot of its own. I’d planted them six or seven seeds to a pot in some cases and I had so many seedlings. By the time I’d put them all in pots and put little chopsticks in as supports for them I had over 40 sunflower pots. I’m not known for doing things by halves – when I’m in I’m all in!
Sunflower seedlings in their own pots
Sunflowers weren’t the only thing that we were taking care of in the garden. My strawberry plants from last year were enjoying the warm weather and I was kept busy taking runners and carefully staking them into pots until they could be separated from the parent plant. I love strawberries but we’ve never had very many, just a couple of plants that last year we probably had 10 strawberries from. I was determined this year was going to be different so I took extra care of those runners and before long had lots of strawberry plants growing.
Strawberries in May
The plants we’d bought and potted up in April were beginning to flourish and the garden was starting to shows signs of the colour and vibrancy we were hoping for. The garden was full of bees and insects and was beginning to look like the picture I’d had in my mind back in March.