Our reflections, one year since the first national lockdown

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I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home.” Boris Johnson, 23rd March 2020.

A year ago today the first UK lockdown began.

We could go to buy food and essentials, exercise once a day, provide care for a vulnerable person or travel to work but only where necessary. That was it.

You should not be meeting friends. If your friends ask you to meet, you should say ‘no’.You should not be meeting family members who do not live in your home.

The way ahead is hard, and it is still true that many lives will sadly be lost.

It was a strange and powerful message and even though we knew it was coming, it was still a shock – our lives were about to change.

A year on, and we’re being encouraged to reflect on our collective loss, support those who’ve been bereaved and look to a brighter future on ‘National Day of Reflection 2021’.

It’s been an incredibly tough 12 months for the sector we support – schools – and we’d like to thank everyone working in schools for all they’ve done to keep children and young people safe and learning. We’d also like to say how sorry we are to those who’ve lost loved ones.

Here at GovernorHub – we’ve been reflecting on our own personal journeys and what a year of lockdowns and remote working has meant for each of us.

David Woozley

On 23rd March 2020, David was a Head of Department at a Secondary School in East Sussex. He was planning a move to Norfolk with his wife and young family in April 2020

“My family life is unrecognisable from a year ago. My wife and I had planned to finish the Easter term as teachers, then move to begin new jobs in a new area of the country. We’d packed up and rented a new house but then lockdown happened and we couldn’t move – our plans were delayed until the summer holidays.

The job at GovernorHub came up and I applied for it remotely, from Sussex. It’s been really satisfying to learn about the governance aspect of education. It’s given me a different perspective, from outside the classroom. 

Starting a new job remotely is tough, getting a rapport going with new colleagues is much easier when you are sitting next to them! – my memory of the first two weeks is a lot of video calls asking for help. And a lot of screen time.

The changes that have happened for us would have eventually happened anyway (new job, new county, new school for the kids) but we have been cut off from our family for all of this time. They haven’t been able to visit us. Special occasions such as  birthdays and Christmas were much harder for the lack of contact with family, and the new friends we’ve made. It’s felt like a complete separation.

Oddly, the year as a whole has been good for us as every single aspect of our lives has improved. We’re happier and we have a better work-life balance. we now have much more family time together, but it’s happened in the strangest possible circumstances.”

Hannah Clark

On 23rd March 2020, Hannah had just moved house with her fiancee in Norfolk and was planning a wedding for summer 2021.

I grew up in Spain and my family live there. Up until last year, I always knew I could jump on a plane, the following day if needs be, and get out there to see them. That stopped as soon as the pandemic hit as there were no flights and a travel ban. For me, that was very sad.

I’ve been to see my family in Spain twice since then, once in the summer and once in September – usually I’d see them much more often. Admittedly, I’m reducing my carbon footprint but it’s been hard as it’s times like this that you want to spend more time with your family.

Work has been good. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. We were also lucky to have moved from a flat to a house a few months before the first lockdown as we now have the space to both work from home more comfortably. The good thing about the first lockdown was being able to explore the new area we’d just moved to – lots of walks and bike rides.

In January, we decided to cancel our wedding for this summer as it was beginning to look impossible. Then in February, we realised it might just work, so we’re going ahead with it, tentatively, but we know it could still be affected by my family not being able to come over.

Another positive is that I know the Bristol side of GovernorHub a lot better – as we’ve been on so many video calls this year!

Neil Collins

On 23rd March 2020, Neil was a Director at GovernorHub, based in Norfolk, but often travelling to see customers. A month later, GovernorHub joined The Key.

One thing that really tells you about how this year has been different for me is my car mileage. It’s normally 20,000 miles a year. This year it was 1,000. That’s quite a big difference and comes with pros and cons. From a customer perspective, I used to spend quite a bit of time going out and meeting people. That now happens via video which is nowhere near as good but do-able. Video conferencing for day-to-day customer meetings, and suddenly governance, has become acceptable – previously it was seen as a second choice.

The first lockdown was quite good in a way – the sun shone and my kids came home to live with us. The second and third have been much harder and really dragged on. You start to realise the things you miss – chatting to people over a cup of coffee and seeing other humans to talk to, even if you don’t know them.

I really miss face-to-face governor meetings. It sort of works online but it’s just not the same – there’s a social aspect that’s missing. It’s harder to make friends over video, even if you can get the job done.

I welcome that it’s somehow made us all accept a simpler life – I’ll go out for a run where I live in the countryside and there are far fewer cars about and there’s less pressure to do social things. Being at home is sort of OK now and in some ways, I quite like that.

Ellie Cheshire

On 23rd March 2020, Ellie was working at Bucks Education Partnership supporting school governors across Buckinghamshire. She joined GovernorHub a month ago today.

Work-wise, it completely changed how we were doing things at Bucks Education Partnership. I was working at home anyway – but you’d never have imagined governing board meetings happening remotely before. Overnight, we all had to do it and we managed fine. We had to switch our training online too but governors were brilliant and embraced it. It’s enabled lots of people to develop in ways they wouldn’t have beforehand.

Having my family at home whilst trying to work has been ‘different’. I’ve discovered my husband’s job is to shout down the phone whilst walking around. I work facing a window and my family often peer in when I’m trying to put on training, which can be off-putting. The kids will slide messages in to me while I’m trying to talk to someone which is tricky but on the whole, my children have coped admirably.

Starting a new job remotely has been OK. I don’t have to travel and I’m not worried about wearing my smart shoes – but some of those get-to-know-you conversations are harder to have online.

My dad died just before lockdown and my mum’s been on her own for the first time in her life, so I’ve been helping her this past year. My dad’s cousin died of COVID very early on and then my aunty died – none of us could go to the funeral, which is hard as you can feel very removed from it.

Imran Kaderbhai

On 23rd March 2020, Imran was working in a job that he didn’t enjoy, looking for a new role. He joined GovernorHub as a software developer based in Bristol in August.

I was in a bad place at the beginning of lockdown last March. I didn’t really enjoy where I worked. I was actively trying to get a new job. Lockdown made the work worse too – it wasn’t as interesting or challenging.

It’s been really hard not seeing as much of my family this past year. Seeing my Mum today has been great – we’re in the same bubble. She won’t mind me saying she was very teary when she saw me.

Since I’ve got this job, things have been better. All of the stresses dropped away as I could work more easily and I’ve been much more productive. Getting a new job where people are decent and everyone’s nice, I’ve been very lucky in that regard.

When I first joined, it was that brief spell in the summer when there were fewer restrictions, so I did go into the office two times a week, and that helped. My wife says I’m making her life easier now too as I don’t moan as much about work when we go for a walk!

Kyle Selman

On 23rd March 2020, Kyle Selman was working as a software developer at GovernorHub in Bristol – travelling each day from Weston-Super-Mare.

Well I guess the worst bit for me is missing out on the office camaraderie. It’s quite nice to work with other people and chat to someone and it’s just not possible to do that in the same way remotely. You miss people and can feel very isolated.

On the plus side, you can work a bit more flexibly – stretch your work day if you need to. Take time out in the middle of the day but make it up later on.

I’m still seeing my friends (socially distanced) but not as much. I also have a girlfriend who lives away so I’ve not been able to see her as much. I miss going to the pub to meet friends and catch up.

You see a lot more people are stressed about life in general – you can really see the effect the pandemic’s had on all of us. I know lots of people who’re fed up of being stuck inside. As a software developer, I’m more used to it but it’s been harder for others to adapt.

Strangely, I miss going on the train to Bristol each day – it was quite a nice time to reflect on your day. I’d listen to music or look at the news on the way. Coming home, I’d reflect on some of the problems I’d faced that day. It’s harder to reflect when you’re not forced to do it.

James Sharp

On 23rd March 2020, James was a Director at GovernorHub, based in Bristol. A month later, GovernorHub joined The Key.

I was thinking back to that period last year – the famous video of Italians singing on their balconies, it really brings it back for me how I felt at that time. I also remember the paper from Imperial College which explained what the death rate would be if Britain didn’t act fast and it was at that point I think I realised we were in it for the long haul.

GovernorHub joined The Key during the pandemic, which was a big change, but for me it’s all intertwined – there’s been so much going on it’s hard to work out which bit is the pandemic and which bit relates to joining a new company and taking on a new role.

Our daughter has gone from a toddler who could walk five steps at a time to charging around, chatting away and now she has a brother. It’s been nice having a baby in lockdown as we’ve been able to bubble with our in-laws and see more people, which has been welcome as it’s more social contact.

We were very lucky to get to France last year with family – that was a definite high. It felt like being in an oasis of calm amongst everything that was going on. Another high has been recruiting a new headteacher at the school where I’m a governor. Going in to see the children was a real joy.

I know we’ve had it easy and we’ve been very lucky. For some people with less space and with no work, it must have been awful.

Jo Phillips

On 23rd March 2020, Jo was working for GovernorHub in Norwich. The following week she was at home trying to work alongside her three daughters.

I just remember the weather being so good at that time. Despite the horrible news and how hard things were, the sun seemed to shine a lot. The blossom was out and it was just this very strange juxtaposition.

At first, it was really nice to be at home together as a family but I think we’ve spent a bit too much time in each other’s company this year. Five people at home creates a lot of mess.

We managed to get to Scotland in August, just after it opened up for visitors. It was a holiday that was booked a year before but it was so nice to get away after so long confined to a very small area close to our home. It was so refreshing to see mountains!

I know I’ve had it a lot easier than most being able to work from home. As a school governor, you realise just how tough it’s been on schools this year and I hope for everyone’s sake there will be a period of stability to come.

I’ve learnt that I’m not great with change and this past year has involved a lot of change – some of it quite last minute. I notice that it takes some time for me to get used to it. Mind you, it’s much easier to get used to coming out of lockdown, than going in – so I look forward to that.

Joseff Davies

On 23rd March 2020, Joseff was living in his student flat in London preparing for his finals at Imperial College, where he’d been studying for a masters in physics degree. He’d just received an email to say the college was closing and exams would move online.

A few days after the 23rd, I moved back to Cardiff to live with my parents. I sat my final exams at home with them. They’re both teachers and were trying to work remotely too – so we were all there on top of each other.

After my exams I went back to my student flat in June, to see my flatmates again and to move out – though a sad ending to university it was a great month, basking in the sun in the parks of Fulham. I then moved back home for a bit before going cycling in Scotland. The plan was to do the North Coast 500 and I cycled from Barnard Castle to Skye but unfortunately hurt my knee and ended up getting a 13 hour train home.

After that I started working for a company which makes digital content for the lottery industry, but I wasn’t enjoying it. I wanted to go into something which I thought would be more rewarding which is how I ended up as a software developer at GovernorHub.

I’ve really missed going out but I can put up with it to keep people safe. In some ways it’s been difficult to keep in touch with friends – it’s hard to talk when you don’t have much to say.

I think leaving lockdown might be quite overwhelming – especially for young people. We were used to crowded places, then had to hide ourselves away and we’ll end up back in crowded places again which will feel very strange.

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