In this, our twelfth Observatory Sighting, we share stories of ‘pissedoffness’ and explore some of the differences between this lockdown and the last one. 

“Pissedoffness” might not be in the dictionary but it pretty much captures the mood amongst several of our Observers this week. Whilst the positive and practical activity of the Spring appears to be holding up, there are also more negative feelings. Even potentially good news about the discovery of a vaccine for instance has been greeted with suspicion. “I don’t suppose we will see it here” said one, “not for a long time anyway. It might as well say on the label – only for people in London.”

We noted this growing sense of disillusionment and conspiracy in our last Sighting. Recent research sustains the observation. Hope Not Hate for instance have reported that 17% in the UK believe the virus was “intentionally released as part of a depopulation plan”. It is wrong, however, to imagine that this distrust and suspicion is all a consequence of Covid. The pandemic entered our national life at a time when the country had already been divided by Brexit and a prolonged period of austerity. 70% trusted others in their neighbourhood in 2012. This was down to 56% by the start of 2020. Covid briefly arrested, may even have temporarily reversed, the trends but it will take a more sustained effort to heal the deepest divisions.

We notice a widespread feeling that this national lockdown is different from the last one.

Last time it seemed easier. We were all getting on with it together and we thought it wouldn’t last. I was actually quite excited. Then after a while we thought it was all over. Now we don’t know what to expect. The same people are on their own again and mostly the same people are stepping up but it doesn’t feel the same.
Observatory Contributor

Of course, to some extent this is history already in revision. Whilst there was a positivity running through many of our Sightings in the Spring, it wasn’t all painted rainbows and clapping in the street. There was also fear, grief, anxiety and inequality. The Dominic Cummings rule breaking incident in early April visibly ignited anger but a sense of injustice, of not being “all in the same boat” had already started to bubble up. In many places there was then some respite in the summer but the false dawn may have destabilized more than it rejuvenated. 
I felt that there was a collective and quiet sadness this time that wasn’t there in March. Talking to friends and family last weekend everyone felt low/sad/depressed. I didn’t hear that in March. I think we had all been allowing ourselves to hope that life was returning, and now we have to close in again – and this time in the dark of the winter where restorative walks in the sunshine are harder to come by, and with no pandemic end point in sight. I’ve had a few conversations exploring the dual feelings of being upset and feeling sorry for oneself, alongside the full knowledge that others have it much, much worse. With rising unemployment, this is going to be a long winter for many.
Observatory Contributor

Some are wary of pathologizing the natural pissedoffness but mental health and emotional wellbeing is a recurring theme in many of our conversations. At worst there is no doubt that some are really struggling but at best there is also some sense that we are becoming more aware of the feelings of others and more empathetic.
I was in the hospital yesterday because I felt suicidal, I called the ambulance. I’m feeling so much better today, the medication has helped. It’s so good that I’m able to come to this group as I’m so isolated. It is really helping me just being able to see people. It’s the only thing I do in the week. 
Observatory Contributor

One person had been self-harming during the last lockdown and summer holidays. When she came back in September her arms were covered in blood and scabs. Once starting to volunteer again she showed us that she had let them heal and was feeling much more positive. When she heard about this November lockdown she didn’t come into the hub because she thought we were shut. ‘I’m so upset. I don’t think I’m going to cope with this again, not being able to volunteer.’ She is so chuffed that we are still open. I really worry what would happen to her if we’d have to shut again.
Observatory Contributor

The main thing I’ve noticed is overtly expressed sympathies as friends get in touch for a catch up where before we may not talk about moods and feelings. We expect the other person to be struggling, and are starting from an understanding, supportive place…. I think there is just a pattern of a deepened connection through a shared understanding and allowing for a struggle. Even with friends from across the world. At the same time I find it harder to casually catch up with friends, it somehow requires more energy, plus nothing to say to a question ‘what’s new’!
Observatory Contributor

The local experience in Wales, where lockdown was earlier, reminds us all that there will be an end to this. As some noted in the spring we then appreciate more than ever before the things that are most important. 
My county went into local lockdown about a month before Wales went into the short and sharp 2 week lockdown that ended today. (Time is blurring.) I am looking forward to seeing a couple of friends towards the end of the week, for a walk and for some gardening. I’m ridiculously excited about seeing them both.
Observatory Contributor

The cross sector collaborations which were such a feature of the first lockdown response have mostly held up and again been to the fore. We noted in The Moment We Noticed that good personal relationships seemed to be a more important ingredient of success than formal liaison structures. The significance of the relational element is again not only notable in the most successful and durable community collaborations but in other contexts too.
My friend’s daughter works in pediatrics. Throughout the first lockdown, her team was asked to move across to work on a Covid ward, as was the case across many pediatric departments. A recent survey showed that the vast majority of departments said that they would not be happy to cover a Covid ward again. Her’s was the only department that said they would, with 70% responding positively to the survey. The only difference? Her team was kept together when they transitioned to the Covid ward, all others were split apart. 
Observatory Contributor

And on a lighter note…

Finally too much of the rest of this Sighting has been about pissedoffness.  We end with the inspiration of an 8 year old.

Thanks to this week’s contributors

The Observatory is a voluntary collaboration led by the Relationships Project. We are dependent on the eyes and ears of our observers and partner organisations and we need more.

The voices heard this week include Avril McIntyre, Noreen Blanluet, Jane Williams, Daria Cybulska and Hannah Hoare.

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