The sun is shining, spring is in the air at last after what effectively seemed like seven months of autumn.
But an invisible dark cloud hangs over Bristol, Britain and indeed the world.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has stopped our lives in their tracks, and left us pretty much prisoners in our own homes – if we are lucky enough to have them.
It is the greatest challenge facing our, or indeed any, generation since the Nazis were poised to invade in the summer of 1940.
And while we all retreat into our homes, bewildered and fearful at exactly how to see off an unseen enemy, the challenge is to remain strong, calm and collected.
Many are attempting to continue to work from home, many have seen their jobs put on hold or lost completely, many more are continuing to work and venturing out into a city that is very different to the one just a week or so ago.
(Image: Jon Kent)
We watched the pictures fearfully from first China, then Italy, but in truth it has happened so fast. The shutdown of society is still bedding in, and we’re still in the ‘all still very new and shocking’ stage of this pandemic.
But if it’s true that we’ll be like this for months, then what once seemed normal will feel like a dim and distant memory.
We have never known anything like this before.
Leading American therapist Lori Gottlieb wrote in the New York Times earlier this week and described the reaction to the coronavirus lockdown as a kind of grief – a grief that we should acknowledge and talk about.
Obviously for the family of those who have lost loved ones, theirs is a raw and very real grief, exacerbated by the issues of holding funerals no one can attend, and the pain of losing loved ones in such horrible circumstances.
For the rest of us so far, thankfully untouched directly by Covid-19, there is still grief. It’s a grief for the lives we once had, up until last week. We have lost those lives and now have a different life. And, like all grief, there are stages of grieving, which we need to talk through and process.
So, as part of that process, let’s look collectively back at what we’re missing the most: those things we took for granted but now seem like heaven to do.
Hopefully, if or when we come through this – we’ll never take this for granted again.
A night out in King Street
(Image: Jake McPherson / SWNS)
Or Gloucester Road, or West Street, Bedminster, or down Church Road, or the local boozer, or indeed anywhere with a bar, some chairs, some glasses and a cider.
It’s so much a part of life in Bristol that we never thought about it before. Pubs close and new ones open but there was always a pub to suit anyone’s tastes somewhere in Bristol – be that a huge sports bar with two dozen screens showing six different football matches, or a cosy pub with a fire and a soft murmur of conversation.
Now, pubs have closed, some are remaining in place as community hubs and we are inventing new pubs – online with a pint and a laptop camera and a Google hangout. It’s not the same.
Shopping up Cabots
(Image: Bristol Live)
If you consider going shopping to be a leisure activity, then getting a bus into town and pottering around Cabot Circus or driving up to Cribbs was one of the most popular pastimes for Bristolians.
Almost all the shops are closed now. And while we are still going shopping to supermarkets – it’s a very different atmosphere to before.
Going to the football
Professional sport was the first thing to stop – and if anything, led the way in trying its best to contain the spread of the pandemic. While Boris Johnson was still going around saying he was shaking hands with coronavirus patients and talking about herd immunity, Bristol City and Rovers were cancelling fixtures.
For tens of thousands of people, the weekly trip to Ashton Gate, the Mem or to play or watch lower league football – or indeed any sport, from netball to rugby, skittles to boxing – was a huge part of their lives, their identity.
Send your thanks to NHS heroes
It is something that has, at some point, touched all our lives.
From cradle to grave, the National Health Service, and the incredible professionals within it who care for us, is a part of British life.
Today, more than ever, we should cherish those who dedicate themselves to our care, heedless of own health as they work tirelessly to care for people in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Nurses and others – employed by the NHS and any other part of health and care – we have never needed them more.
So let’s show them some love, and create a living map of gratitude from every corner of Britain – visit www.thanksamillionnhs.co.uk to drop a heart on the map wherever you are in the world.
By dropping a heart on the map, you’re saying you appreciate the efforts undertaken daily in the NHS.
Thanks a million, NHS workers – we love you
Saturday at 3pm was what we looked forward to, what kept us going the rest of the week, talking about what had happened the weekend before, what might happen the weekend to come.
And it wasn’t just the actual sport – it was the meeting up with friends, socialising around the games, the travelling to away games.
Now there isn’t even live sport on the telly to watch in lockdown, with games behind closed doors.
A picnic in St George’s Park
There’s not a cloud in the sky this week, and the weather is torturing us. It would almost be easier to stay indoors if it was chucking it down with rain.
On an average school holiday, or after work or at weekends, on a day like today, St George’s Park, or indeed any park from Ashton Court to Horfield Common, the Downs to Broomhill, would be rammed with people having picnics, little barbecues, playing games, having a drink, doing really strange circus-style activities.
We thought nothing of chucking a few cans, a blanket and some big bags of crisps in a bag and heading off to catch the sun. Now, it would feel wonderful.
Riding the Bristol Ferry
The yellow boats kept gamely on, but in the end succumbed to the lockdown, and they and the shark-toothed No.7 boats are tied up with no crew or passengers.
Getting a ferry from one end of the Floating Harbour to the other was an everyday, common or garden treat for Bristolians – a way of seeing the city centre in all its historic glory.
They need help too – so if you miss it, imagine doing it again with a voucher bought now, in the times when they need financial support.
Street food on The Centre
(Image: Bristol Post)
Bristol is blessed with the best street food scene outside of London, and we had an embarrassment of riches. We’re not just talking about the stalls that toured around the city centre on a weekday, or the semi-permanent places in St Nick’s market, we also mean the burger vans and late night kebab stops too.
Grabbing a proper lush bite to eat when you’re out and about was part of life for many Bristolians, but now food has become something to think strategically about. For the first time, many are having to think about where our next meal is going to come from, and that is a humbling, sobering place to be.
Going to a gig at the Thekla
(Image: Bristol Live)
Bristol’s live music scene is much-cherished, much defended and full of life. Seeing who was playing where and when – and whether Big Jeff was going to be there – is part of Bristol life for many.
The joy and rawness of seeing music created in front of you, the loudness, the crowds, the energy… all gone. Now, musicians are live-streaming sets from their front rooms, with the music arriving a third of a second after you see the singer’s lips start moving.
(Image: Getty Images)
Everyone’s got that one friend who is ALWAYS the first to crack the barbecue out in the back garden and get everyone round – at the first hint of a sunny weekend. They’re the people who are also most likely to have a hot tub as well.
Before, you’d take that kind of invitation for granted, think about how you were feeling, what you had to do the next day, whether you were up for social interaction, whether you just wanted a quiet night in.
Now, the prospect of going round to your mates’ house and seeing lots of friends, meeting people you don’t know, eating possibly burnt-but-undercooked burgers and missing four hours of your Saturday afternoon feel like what heaven might feel like.
Sorry if this has been depressing – but it might hopefully and wistfully help us get our collective heads around what we’ve suddenly lost. And all this has happened – or rather, is not happening – while at the same time, our lives have been filled with worry, stress and anxiety, about our health, others’ health, our jobs and our homes.
The message is that it’s ok to miss these things.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all for grief,” said Lori Gottlieb. “Even Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s familiar stages of grieving — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — aren’t meant to be linear.
“Everyone moves through loss in a unique way, so it’s important to let people do their grieving in whatever way works for them without diminishing their losses or pressuring them to grieve the way you are. A good rule of thumb: you do you (and let others do them),” she added.