By Features contributors and editors
By Elise R. J. Garcon
It’s 1am, and my housemates and I stand over a laptop, mouse hovering over the “Buy” button. Finally, we click, and that’s it – seven bundles of wool ordered to our house. Crochet is the newest in a long line of crafts that our little group has taken up across last term and since January 5th, after four of us found ourselves stuck in Durham thanks to England’s newest lockdown.
It’s turned into a regular part of our week; whether it’s clay modelling or gouache painting, we gather around our kitchen table to have a go, chucking on whatever Netflix show we’re watching. It’s become a meditative activity, even though we’re not often all working on a similar project.
Crafting together also means that we take time away from our screens, where we work and study seem to be always waiting, and breaks up the day. It means we spend time together outside of sitting and watching Zoom lectures on the kitchen table. The art we’ve created so far isn’t so bad either!
If you’re living with housemates, or even with family, I can definitely advocate the power of craft: just ask the colourful drawings all over our walls.
Last lockdown I stressed out over what to do with an excess of sourdough starter, bulk-bought books that I still have yet to read, sat on the sofa with the aim of completing Netflix, and spent hours compiling Zoom quizzes. It wasn’t until late summer that I learned that the world outside offered
the best escape from the pandemic panic.
Last summer I found solace in a packet of sunflower seeds. As the world around seemed to crumble under the strains of Covid-19, I managed my fears and anxieties by focusing on the growing shoots outside my living room window. Growing sunflowers added a sense of purpose as well as structure to the long summer days, with the growing stalks requiring watering, supporting, and the occasional re-potting. Soon, my flowers had surpassed me in height, opening up into bright yellow circles; a row of suns growing out of the ground.
Now it’s February. Sleet and snow are swirling outside, and sunflower planting is impossible. Yet during the winter lockdown the world outside has remained a source of structure, solace, and sanity. Early on the first of January, I climbed the nearest hill to watch the first sunrise of the year. Since then I have been taking advantage of the short days, climbing up that same hill twice a day to watch the sun rise and set.
While the days of this month have seemed to collapse into one another, with lockdown shaping each one into a mundane cycle of study-eat-sleep-repeat, watching the sky has allowed for some sense of
daily differentiation. This month I have learned that no sunrise or sunset is the same. Each one brings different shades to the sky, displaying a unique and distinct beauty.
On the days when I wake up tired, the knowledge that a kaleidoscope of colour is formulating outside drags me out of bed, forces me to change out of my pyjamas (which I could otherwise stay in all day), and leads me into the cold morning.
As evening draws in, the same anticipation leads me away from my computer screen and out into the fresh air. Even on the days when snow or summatives have kept me inside, making the time to stop and stare out of the nearest east or west-facing window has helped me retreat from the stresses of lockdown and find calm in the craziness of Covid-19.
While the U.K. was experiencing its first of many lockdowns in 2020, I found myself cocooned in an apartment in Hong Kong with my family, grappling with the loss of a term’s worth of university memory-making. Amidst the sudden change, I felt like a hedgehog in a sandstorm, coiling inwards and waiting for the winds to calm in due time.
However, I soon began to realise that the storm was perhaps not going to disappear with the same suddenness as its onset. And turns out, my introverted tendency of sinking into solitude when times get tough was perhaps the worst thing I could do for my sanity and my interpersonal relationships. In an effort to course correct, I resolved to make time to check in with people, some of whom I hadn’t properly spoken to in months. In the heat of such resolve, I made the decision to put up an Instagram story asking people for their email addresses. 11 people signed up; and we began corresponding through weekly or monthly emails.
In the process, I’ve reconnected with a classmate from primary school, kindled a friendship with someone I’d only previously known through mutual friends and social media interactions, and reminisced and caught up with my childhood best friend. Now, during the U.K.’s third lockdown, I find myself similarly cooped up with my family in Hong Kong, and one of the few things that keeps me from spiralling is this new weekly ritual of sitting at my desk and replying to my emails, practicing the habit of leaning on others for support and holding their grief in return.
By Immy Higgins
I’ve always enjoyed listening to podcasts, but this latest lockdown has got me hooked on one in particular: The Penguin Podcast. Delving into the archives has uncovered some real gems; from Zadie Smith illuminating her brilliant novel Swing Time to Nigella Lawson making my mouth-water as she chats about her first cookbook ‘How to Eat’. The simple premise of each author bringing three items that inspire and shape their writing provides a clear structure that keeps the conversation focused and engaging. If I’m sorting out washing or waiting for the kettle to boil, I’ll be sure to hit play and lose myself in one of these lively and interesting conversations.
During January I felt like all the days were blurring into one. After the warm, fuzziness of Christmas Day and the unusual New Years countdown over Zoom I was struggling to find something to look forward to as we were entering another lockdown. During this time I have realised that I need at least a pocket of time each day to do something different, to make each day feel like it counted. So I have embarked on learning a new skill: crocheting.
From Zoom calls with a family friend who kindly taught me the stitches to planning future projects for my mates (including a much wanted frog bucket hat) and constantly updating my nan and grandad on my progress, crocheting has opened up a way to make time in each day to be creative and connect with others. Most importantly, having ongoing projects that I can work on each day and setting goals I can work toward has helped me find nuggets of motivation to get through the seemingly never-ending days.
Whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed with uni work, I can pick up my hook and yarn and create something for me or others to make them smile. Finding an activity to channel my creativity uses the time I used to spend on social media before I came off of it; the big difference is I come away from a crochet session feeling happier and more relaxed, something I personally never felt after hours of scrolling on Facebook or Twitter.
Illustration made by Aadira Parakkat via Pixabay