Victoria B on 21 January 2021

Okay, so our covid timeline is pretty simple I think. Started last Feb for us, when I really started to realise that covid wasn't gonna be like the Ebola pandemic of "it's their problem, have empathy but no need to worry cos it won't effect us". Late Feb is my daughters birthday and I remember taking kids to a big soft play centre by bus, eating in a café, playing with other random stranger children. Seemed so normal then, feels so alien now by comparison. The next mark in my timeline would be mid march. My birthday. And what at the time turned out to be our last family fun outing. I'd known then that a lockdown would likely be essential though I had no idea the ifs and when's as news coverage was still rather sketchy. Lots of "it's just flu" and other BS doing the rounds. We went swimming at our local pool. We love swimming, used to go their regularly. And I had planned to not do anything for my birthday but knowing it could be our last big family outing for a few weeks I opted to take kids swimming. We had a blast. Did a little treat shopping afterwards and had a picnic by our towns fountain, a popular feature in our town centre. It was fun. People weren't really too big on hand washing yet, but I always carried around hand sanitizer anyway as our immune systems weren't great due to abuse/isolation so we tended to try to avoid flus anyway. That turned out to be our last fun outing. Next mark would be two shopping trips in April. One early April, when we were in lockdown so took a taxi instead of a bus to the town centre a little further away (cos it's a less busy and smaller one) and did a big food shop. Most of the shelves were empty, cheap food options were very limited and people were pretty rude. It was shockingly different to shopping normally. Mid April was a similar shopping trip, only this time I was buying mostly Easter eggs and food. At one of these two shopping trips, I can't remember which, a random man came up to us on an empty isle, reached for something on a shelf above my daughter and deliberately coughed in her hair before quickly exiting the shop. It was so shocking. Scary and infuriating. My daughter hasn't wanted to go shopping since, anytime we've needed too over the year I have to bribe her and show her my little cleaning kit I now have of hand sanitizer, anti bac wipes and anti-bac mini spray bottles, along with spare masks. Easter was a mild let down for the kids, they got sweets but non if our tractional adventures and parks and visiting farms or petting zoos. They didn't complain bless 'em. Late April was my son's birthday and it was vastly different from my daughters. We stayed home. No other children to play with, though our neighbours kids sung happy birthday to him over the fence and they'd talk while jumping on trampoline. We had fun, little man was happy, but it was a very different affair indeed. His birthday also marked the day when income support automatically stopped and the five week wait for universal credit began. Along with the first build up if debt I'd had. Needing to seek food bank help (which was a word kind if horrid). Until UC I'd been able to keep my debts pretty minimal, but those days were gone. From then on we basically decided to shut the world out and hibernate away, shielding we called it so others understood, as I have asthma and if I die there is no one to look after my kids except their abusive father. I'm not letting him bear them. So when restrictions lifted and tightened and ebbed and flowed, it made no difference to us. Our May, June and July were the same as our Oct, Nov and Dec. We stayed home mostly, we only went shopping when we had no choice, opting for online as much as possible. And we focused on events to look forward too to keep us motivated each day. We'd made most of our Christmas gifts for folk by July. Kids got bored of crafting by Sept. We looked forward to Halloween, which would be our next date on our timeline, to Christmas, to whatever we could have on the horizon to give us some direction. Halloween was a big day for us. Kids had been looking forward to it since summer. We decorated the garden and had a little picnic while socially distancing and letting local kids help themselves to sweets and treats in little graves kiddies had made in our garden. That also the first day a neighbour suggested being a bubble buddy for us, as I'm a single mum, assuring me that they don't have any other bubbles. Their little one played with my two and it was delightful. The next date on our timeline would be bonfire night. We parked our blankets in the front garden to watch fireworks and neighbours on either side all came out also, they did fireworks and we shared sweets and drinks. It was fun and while we all stayed in our respective front gardens it felt like a party. And that was brilliant for kiddies. Between then and Christmas it was a lot of nothing much with little spikes of little joys. Having a bubble buddy helped a lot and kids moved from playing in the back garden by themselves to playing in the front garden and waving and talking to folk that pass. In April I'd found out my uncle, who had been my father figure growing up, had died from covid but I'd been so busy with worrying over food and bills and benefits and lockdowns that it wasn't until Nov when I really realised my uncle was gone. It hit me hard and I've not quite bounced back yet, I've kinda been in an emotional slump since. Zombified almost. I function but little else. So much of this year had been unfair on so many. Christmas was a muted affair, still fun but so different. New year felt like it would be big, so much hope all pegged on one day. We had a blast, I went full out on treats and drinks and snacks for a garden party with bubble buddy neighbour turned precious friend. I let myself relax for an evening and just pretend that 2021 would be better, enjoying the false hope in the air. January has so far been a flat month, nothing much happening, just existing mostly. My attention and focus has been on preparing for upcoming events again, wanting to make this year as fun for the kids as I can afford too. With birthdays coming up this year funded by universal credit rather than income support, it takes more planning and more savviness to get good prices and deals. I've got alcohol and treats with a long shelf life left over from Christmas which will serve for my birthday in mid March (between two pay days, the first of which will fund my daughters Feb birthday and the second will fund Easter and my son's April birthday). The children are more excited for Easter than their birthdays this year. I think cos they know their birthdays can't compare to last birthdays, cos they normally go to big soft plays or similar, but Easter can still be a lot of social fun, like Halloween kiddies want to decorate the garden and put out chocolate eggs for local kids to help themselves too. For us, traditionally, Easter isn't a one of day like Halloween either, it's a month long celebration with picnics and fairies and flowers and adventures as we welcome spring and say bye to winter. I think the children look forward too it for the same reason I looked forward to new year. Easter is about hope, it's about spring - springing out of the dark cold winter and tiggering your way to warm sunny summer. It's all about fun and flowers and baby animals and that's more hopeful to children than fireworks and a late night lol. So that's our covid year basically. Nothing fancy, could easily be summed up as "hope and hibernation" 🤣

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