A person (and small business) trying to survive Covid 19 lockdown – Nikki Bowling Photography

Part one:
Today was the day after the night before…. This thing has been getting more and more scary by the day. But last night (Monday March 23rd 2020, a date which will be referred to many times in history books to come) at 8.30pm, it was official – the UK is in lockdown!

Surreal doesn’t even come in to it, even though we all knew it was going to happen (thanks people who crowded to the mountains and and coast at the weekend!) So, I officially have no jobs for the foreseeable future. Being self employed means no income. No income means no means of paying the bills or mortgage. And my photography business that I have lovingly built up over 20 years has a very uncertain future. As I know is the case for so many others at this difficult time. And I have a precious 11 year old daughter who needs schooling and entertaining.

The morning was well spent on hold to the various places I rang, like the bank and my creditors. Luckily I was able help Mia with her homework as not a single person answered my calls. But at least I got to listen to nice music, as annoying as it became after a while. Early afternoon, and the guilt from doing no exercise this morning and eating Monster Munch for lunch kicked in, so I decided to give up on the phone and be even more proactive and at least take Boris up on his kind offer of £93 a week to help towards the 4k a month I need to cover my shit…. Universal Credit – what can I say?! A total nightmare from start to finish! I know they are under unprecedented (word of 2020) pressure, but I seriously thought I was mistaken when, after what seemed like days filling in the forms (twice, as I have to do a joint one even though my partner isn’t claiming) I finally got to the end where I had to verify who I am with some ID. Finally!!!! Then I read it…. “Number of users in the queue ahead of you 69,741. Your estimated wait time is more than hour”. That was 8 hours ago and there are now still 67,527 users in the queue in front of me. I have a week to verify my ID before the claim is scrapped, but I won’t even get to the front of the queue in a week! FFS…. And that money would make all the difference…..

So I decided to write a blog. For years I have dreamed of writing (I used to love writing at school until I discovered raves and lost myself for a while) and never had the time to do it. Well, I have loads of time now. And I am not gonna waste it. I am going to do all the things I have dreamed of doing but never had the time…… scuba diving, mountain climbing, beach walks, whale watching, seeing more of family and friends, weekends away….. Oh, shit, we cant go out or socialise….. OK, I will tidy the house, sort out the garden, ring my mum and grandma loads. And write. No-one may read it, and if they do they may think it is a load of crap. I may get bored and never write another one after this. But at least I will have got further than I did with exercising this morning. And at the very least it is helping me get my head around this bizarre, scary, unimaginable, weird, surreal, UNPRECEDENTED time that the whole world is going though.

Part 2:
Today was the day after the night before…. This thing has been getting more and more scary by the day. But last night (Monday March 23rd 2020, a date which will be referred to many times in history books to come) at 8.30pm, it was official – the UK is in lockdown!

Surreal doesn’t even come in to it, even though we all knew it was going to happen (thanks people who crowded to the mountains and the coast at the weekend!) So, I officially have no jobs for the foreseeable future. Being self employed means no income. No income means no means of paying the bills or mortgage. And my photography business that I have lovingly built up over 20 years has a very uncertain future. As I know is the case for so many others at this difficult time. And I have a precious 11 year old daughter who needs schooling and entertaining.

Part 3:
I wasn’t going to post today as I have done nothing worth speaking of. I was feeling guilty sitting outside in the sun because I felt I should be “doing something”. I slept in til 8.30am and then didn’t do my exercise routine. I was feeling bad that my phone calls to the bank and various creditors failed to either get through or get any answers so I gave up. My marathon training hasn’t yet started, I haven’t written a novel and I still haven’t lost 3 stone. And my grey hair is taking too long to grow out.

But! Sitting outside in the beautiful sunshine I just put my book down, closed my eyes and thought. I can’t remember the last time I had time to properly think. I thought about when this is all over (who knows when but one day) and I can go and see my mum and give her the biggest hug and tell her how much I love her and have missed her. And I thought about when I can go and see my grandma and sit with her and put the world to rights with a coffee and biscuits. And a family party where we are so excited to see each other again and share all our news about house work and gardening. I imagined a walk along the beach with the wind in my hair and the waves beneath my toes. I pictured swimming in a bright blue sea with the sun burning my shoulders looking at a golden beach and mountains while enjoying a foreign holiday with Mia. And I thought of visiting my dad’s ashes up on the Yorkshire Moors, with the glorious views and the scent of heather all around me. These are things I miss but will do again.

And I thought of this new era, when I can spend more time with my close family. This time I can use to do all the things I have wanted to do for ages but life before was too busy. And I felt better. It’s not going to be easy but everyone is in this together.

I also thought of all the amazing people who are keeping this world going – the NHS, other hospital workers, shop staff, refuse collectors and many others. And I felt humbled.

So when I come out of this, able to run a marathon in under 2 hours, a size 10, with cool short silver hair and a published novel under my belt, I will remember this period of all this extra valuable time, and I will remember all the wonderful people who kept the country going and cared for our sick.

Part 4:
Is it really Saturday? I wasn’t sure when I woke up. Loosing track of days fast and it is only week 1…. I often work weekends, which is fine, as I love (not “loved” – I will be back!) my job, and I am so lucky that what I do doesn’t feel like work. But I also love (and really appreciate) a weekend off to spend time with Mia, and go out to lovely places. Usually on these Saturdays I wake up with butterflies in my stomach, excited about the 2 days ahead.

But today I awoke with the same sense of dread and worry that I have woken up with for the past few weeks, and more so in recent days. Dread for the situation the world is in, and worry for the UK, who are really only just starting on this journey.

However, a Saturday off work is still a Saturday off work, and I am trying to normalise this shit as much as I can, so to mark the occasion I stayed in my pjs until 10am. I also treated myself to wearing make up on this special day, which I haven’t done since Tuesday, which is unheard of for me, unless I am on holiday thousands of miles away from anyone I know and with a tanned face.

Mia and I took a walk to my 98 year old grandma’s house. She still lives alone and is in excellent health physically and mentally. We stood at the end of her path having delivered her paper to the door and chatted for a few mins as she stood in the doorway before heading home. She was as upbeat as always, and when we asked how she is, she just said “fine, life is no different for me as I don’t go out much now anyway and I have my crosswords”.

She is my inspiration (although I am crap at crosswords) Grandma kindly (as she always does) popped inside for some treats for Mia, however, we have learned over the years to check these well before consumption, and decided the “best before June 2017” fruit pastilles were not worth the risk. Bless her! This, for me and many others, is by far the hardest thing in all this. I would be devastated to loose my business, but it is worse not seeing my mum and grandma properly.

Part of this afternoon was spent tying up loose ends from the things I started yesterday, and if this a dull read please don’t finish this blog! But if it helps even one person then great! Yesterday, after the announcement the night before that the self employed would be entitled to 80% of our average earnings over the last 3 years gave me some hope that me, and others, can come through this. We need to wait until June to get anything, but there is hope. So, I have gone through all my outgoings, business and personal (thanks a million to all my lovely sis-in-laws for their advice). I have phoned or emailed everyone on the lists to ask for help. And I have saved some money each month with hopefully more savings to come:

  • Mortgage – asked for a 3 month payment holiday – they are looking at my claim but I am hopeful
  • Mobile phone (Vodaphone) – payments put on hold (no change to service) for a month and will review at the end of April
  • Loans – 3 month payment holiday
  • Home and building insurance – 3 month payment holiday
  • Utilities – waiting to hear
  • Council tax – no holiday offered but there is an option to claim for help which I am not doing yet but might
  • Universal credit – (I filled in the claim, but missed my turn in the huge virtual queue to verify my ID, so I logged on first thing in the morning and by the evening I had moved to the top and was able to verify) I may get nothing, but I think it is worth a try for something.

Sorry to anyone who has got this far, I have almost put myself to sleep…..

So a dull day yesterday. But productive. My finances are sorted as much as they can be, now it is time to baton down the hatches and try and ride it out til June. When I am hopeful of a government grant. At least there is nothing except essentials to spend my money on at the moment…

Talking of essentials, it is Saturday of course, so time (5pm, a couple of hours earlier than usual but we are in hard times) for a triple gin and tonic. Followed by Prosecco, because in these tough times, we need to try and keep some kind of normality if we can.

Part 5:
I woke up this morning and cast my mind back to the events of the day before. Confused images of my mum dressed in party wear and running trainers, jogging down the street having completed a park run in New Earswick flashed in to my mind. A vision of her skipping in to a house party, bottle in hand, and becoming lost in a crowd of revelers. I remembered my panic as I braved the hoards of party goers, frantically trying to find her and remove her from the Corona Virus breeding ground before she inhaled any deadly particles or touched a surface infected with germs. The music was banging, the drunken people were squashed together like hill walkers on Snowden last weekend. It was horrendous, where was my mum and why was she here when she should be self isolating? This wasn’t usual behavior for my peaceful, church going, bicycle riding, tea total, lovely and reserved 71 year old mum…. Then I realised it was all a dream. Thank God! At least something interesting is happening in my dreams…

As I lay there debating whether to change in to gym attire or put a work out off until tomorrow (plenty of time, no rush,…) I sadly realised how, in such a short time, things have changed so dramatically. The fear of loosing my business overwhelms me most days, and the weird feeling that my time is not ridiculously busy and stressful is taking some getting used to. The thought that day after day is filled with not much is strange, and although novel (note to self, I must write one, get it published and make my fortune before lockdown ends) I could not live like this is given a choice. But after my dream, I was overwhelmed to realise that the simple things we all did, that we all took for granted, are now more of a horrifying nightmare. Who would go to a house full of people now? The thought of being close to anyone, especially strangers, is suddenly a shocking idea. The thought of hugging or kissing a loved one now feels so far removed from normality that it makes me sad. We all took physical contact, closeness to the people we love, for granted. But to me anyway, this feels like a lifetime ago. It is a very sad and difficult part of this evil virus. I hope one day the world will be able to hug and kiss each other again (only if we want to of course, I am not encouraging another #metoo situation) I hope strangers won’t cross the street to avoid each other forever, and I hope I don’t have to shout across the road to my lovely neighbours for too much longer. I hope to hug my mum again very soon and for very long. And I hope that it won’t be in the too distant future, if she so wishes, that she can put on her party dress and running shoes, and attend a house rave if that is what she chooses to do.

Nikki Bowling is a small business owner like many of us, and she decided to start writing a regular blog to talk about how she is coping with day to day life amid the Covid – 19 pandemic. If you enjoyed reading this you can see her regular instalments here https://survivingc19lockdown.blogspot.com/2020/03/day-7-party.html or you can check out her website and social media posts by clicking on the links below.

www.nikkibowling.com

www.yorkweddingsuppliers.co.uk

www.facebook.com/nikkibowlingphotography/

www.twitter.com/NikkiBPhotos