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What I’ve learnt in lockdown

Love it or loathe it, lockdown has given us time to learn new skills but has it taught us something deeper? Muddy tapped five women juggling careers, babies and even a tumour, to tell all.

Two months in and yes, we’ve nailed how to cut the kids’ hair and perfected our Victoria sponge but is there also something deeper going on to do with pressing the brakes and taking a little time to reflect?

Muddy spoke to five women used to juggling busy media careers on what life in lockdown has meant to them.

Nicki Chapman presents BBC’s Escape to the Country 

I know lockdown has been really hard for some people and I’m lucky – I have a nice house and a small garden – but since last year and being diagnosed with a brain tumour I think well, lockdown has nothing on that!

I’ve always been a glass half-full person but now I just try and think, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff’. 

I’ll always remember what a friend who’d had cancer said to me at the time, he said to look it as a dark gift. So, even in really distressing times, you have the gift of knowing how lucky you are to be alive.

I suppose I’m looking at lockdown in the same way. I might be out in the garden and see a bird or feel the sunshine and I’ll think to myself, ‘you know what, this is a really good day.’ If I see something that makes me smile, like a kid out on a tricycle, I just try to hold onto that thought. 

Even though I had surgery to remove it, they can’t ever get rid of the tumour completely but I don’t let it define me. I file him away in a filing cabinet. (And it is a he: Burt the B*****d Tumour I call him). But I don’t have to open the drawer or even think about him. He’s in my past, not my future.

I am thankful every day that I’m a happy, healthy, 50-something woman. So for me lockdown is all about taking it in small chunks, setting small goals and doing what makes you happy.

Jakki Jones is an illustrator (@jakkidoodles), columnist, and wife of a real life rock star

Being thrown into lockdown at 32 weeks pregnant certainly was a shock to the system. It was our daughter Riley’s 4th birthday that week and we’d planned to go to Wales to see Daddy (Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics) on tour. He was playing Cardiff Arena that weekend. There was great debate whether the show should go ahead but as per the government guidelines at that time, it went ahead as planned. I went along and took Riley with me, but within 24 hours things took a U-turn with all mass gatherings banned, our lives were about to change beyond recognition.

Being hit with the news that pregnant people were as vulnerable as the elderly made me feel really scared. But being told to stay indoors was the hardest bit. I am not one to sit still. I really struggle with it, I love a fast paced life and am always on the go. Our weekends are filled with activities, playdates and meet ups with friends. Even in my first pregnancy I worked right up until the week before I gave birth – including” a night at the BRITS entertaining talent!

To add to the stress during lockdown I was also made redundant from my day job as Talent Manager for a big London entertainments firm. So all of a sudden I was locked down with no job, and confined to the house for the foreseeable future – two things I realised I had taken for granted every day.

Suddenly finding myself without a career and not being able to leave four walls hit me hard and I felt really down. Hormones were not helping I am sure, but I did find myself crying a lot. It was a brilliant pep talk from my husband that helped me turn a corner – he said to just use this time to get organised and focus on the baby, ‘work can wait’ were his words. And it was that realisation that really helped me – I was not missing out on anything because life was stopping for everyone. So lockdown actually helped my FOMO in many ways, because I just had to accept the situation I was in.

Instead, I changed my internal narrative and started to let myself actually enjoy all this lovely new time with my husband and family. It is so rare we are all together, so when I look back I think it will feel like a really special time. I’ve been training myself to love the little things again – like the birdsong in the garden in the morning and blue skies.

Before we’d barely stop to even so much as say hi to neighbours our lives were so busy, but now we are helping each other, sharing food and dropping off supplies and even homemade cake to people’s doorsteps! If nothing else I’ll come out of lockdown feeling like I’ve reconnected with people and life in general again.

People have slowed down and are being more kind, perhaps hitting pause is just what we needed. Life is fragile and precious and we have to make the most of it.

Melissa Hemsley is an author of four cookbooks including her latest, Eat Green

I was in the middle of a book tour so I’m just glad to be safe at home. I think there is this feeling of helplessness when you watch the news or clap for carers – the thought that people are suffering while you’re safe. 

It’s made me feel how lucky I am, although I felt it before, lockdown has amplified it. I have a home, my freezer’s full, I know how to cook – I feel privileged. 

Food plays a major part of my life so I’m still really busy, hooking up with Olio’s #cookforcarerswith various food charities and I’ve compiled an online shopping resource of food businesses who are delivering, which I’m updating every day. And talking to people on social media who want to know where to buy – even a woman in America, asking where to buy veg for her parents in Leicestershire! Food is emotional. It’s why we all want childhood comfort food like pasta! 

Sometimes I feel flat but it’s really buoyed me up to help people – I hope that doesn’t sound holier than thou. It might not feel like much, but doing things even in my own small way is always better than doing nothing.

Kristina Rihanoff is a former Strictly pro dancer and choreographer

At the beginning I was strangely pleased about the lockdown. After opening Soo Yoga last year, Ben and I were non-stop for eight months, so it felt like the chance to have a break. It was so lovely to be at home together. I guess there was a bit of a silver lining for us and I think a lot of families can relate to that. You’re forced into that family time and you’re finding new things to do with the children. I’ve really appreciated that chance to slow down.  

There are so many things we do in society just because we’re accustomed to it, going out all the time, over-consuming food. It’s been nice to recognise that you don’t have to go out every night for dinner, you don’t have to go out for entertainment to keep everyone happy, you find new ways of doing things at home and interacting with one another. You don’t really need much, you need your family and you need your loved ones around and everything else will be ok. I think this situation has been a reminder that family is everything.  

There were a few things I thought I might do during the lockdown, personal and professional development courses. I thought I would have the time and energy, but if you have children at home you really don’t have that spare time, so it’s ok to allow that to be how things are.  

Before I had a family, when I was dancing competitively and working on Strictly, it was a very self-centred world. You don’t really have much time for a social life, for family or relationships. For a long time it was about me and what I wanted to achieve in my career, but everything changed when I had Mila, I’d achieved what I wanted to do career-wise and family became the focus, so I’m grateful to be going through this experience with my family around me. It’s been a real blessing.   

Dr Dawn Harper is a TV doctor for ITV’s This Morning and Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies. She’s locked down in the Cotswolds

In some ways this new normal seems to have been here forever and in others, I can’t believe that we are in week 7. If there is one thing lockdown has given me it is the luxury of time – to really think and recalibrate. 

I am lucky in that I really enjoy my job, both my NHS work and working in the media, but I have realised that I do sometimes get the whole work/life balance a bit wrong. It’s something I’ve seen a lot clearer during the pandemic.

My life is usually so different and busy – I am often screeching around the country, doing media appearances or jobs and without lockdown I would have made at least four return flights to host international conferences during the last few weeks alone. My carbon footprint was not good! 

Some of my travel is unavoidable, but I have embraced the new normal of Zoom and Skype and I hope I will be able to do more media interviews using this technology going forward, so perhaps it will be a really positive thing.

I have also used lockdown as an opportunity to catch up with old friends and to keep in daily contact with my Mum and Dad who voluntarily locked down two weeks before the rest of us. I have spent more time exploring the beautiful Cotswold countryside around me, both on foot and on my bike.

When lockdown is lifted, I hope I manage to reduce my carbon footprint and remember that what made me happy during this period was talking to friends and family and spending time outside with nature.

I always said I didn’t want to retire, but lockdown has taught me that when the time is right, retirement will be a lot of fun.

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