Pulling our bedroom curtains closed on Monday, March 23, we did so wondering what sort of world would await outside our windows come morning.
he UK death toll from coronavirus stood at 335. Three people had died in Northern Ireland.
We had all watched as lockdown had officially started.
That was 100 days ago. Our children had just spent their first day at home after the closure of schools.
We knew it was coming. Many had already tried to stock up on, of all things, toilet roll, and we had spent weeks trying to find that elusive bottle of hand sanitiser, but we still weren’t quite ready for the way life would change.
As the curtains opened the next morning we found we had been stripped of the freedom to do what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it like never before. Shops and offices joined schools in closing down to all but essential workers.
We said farewell to work colleagues, socially distanced ourselves from family and friends and started to embrace a new style of community. Shoehorned into a different way of living, some relied on the kindness of strangers. Some became the stranger who was kind.
Those of us with children became teachers overnight, but we also turned to our children to teach us a thing or two. We had crash courses on Zoom meetings for work; Facetime to stay in touch with relatives who might otherwise have been in total isolation; TikTok to entertain each other with amusing videos.
The older generation had to embrace the technology our younger family members had grown up with. Hands up if you logged in to a Zoom meeting hiding those pyjama bottoms under the kitchen table?
We had a pre-Zoom panic. What is in the background? Does my hair look OK? And after several weeks, there was a lot more hair for many to manage. Some laughed at Stephen Nolan taking a razor to self-style. The more sensible have waited.
Strange as it may seem, being apart from other people actually brought us closer together.
For the older among us, we instantly felt a need to hug our parents as soon as we were told we couldn’t.
It would be a shame not to remember that.
In a way we all became heroes of a sort. “Stay at home, save lives” was the cry. We stayed at home while others manned the front line.
Together we showed our support.
The waves of applause rippling around as each Thursday at 8pm saw our streets and estates became a cathedral of worship for the NHS, fighting the battle in our hospitals. First it was the applause, then the beeping horns of passing cars, then the saucepans came out banging. It was one of the few public displays of togetherness we were allowed.
The rest of us stayed at home and watched television, binged on Netflix and news updates, marvelled at the dysfunctional USA and their Tiger King and things we never knew we needed to know.
It kept us entertained, as did the new online culture of comedy and music. It made new stars and reminded us of others.
We sung alongside Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody as he came to our living rooms every week, watched pub singers perform from their garage. We laughed alongside Paddy Raff and his comical look at the lives we were living.
And didn’t we just love getting a glimpse at the homes of the famous as they appeared remotely on our televisions?
They might have said something informative, but playing the game of who has got the best bookcase was much more fun. Some embraced the time we had on our hands to get ourselves fitter, inspired by a new culture of morning workouts led by fitness guru Joe Wicks.
Others will quake as they reach for the old work trousers not worn for three months.
All that home baking we have been doing could lead us back to the clothes shops for a slightly larger size – and they definitely need the business.
Never before has so much banana bread been baked. In many kitchens, it might never be baked again.
For three months the only shopping we could do was for “essentials”. That turned a trip to the supermarket into the highlight of the week, though few things were as disconcerting as trying to follow arrows on the floor as they guided you around a new one-way system. Woe betide anyone who did not obey. Some burned in shame as they glumly waddled against the tide to go back for something they had forgotten.
We got used to a good queue or two, though we did try to learn how to pass someone on a narrow pavement without being the one who ended up walking in the road and eyed with suspicion someone we knew was working from home who had somehow developed a touch of sunburn from somewhere.
In years to come there will be plenty of stories told starting with the words: “Do you remember the time..?”
And when we were out for our daily walk, we actually heard the birds sing.