We’ve nabbed five minutes with some of our favourite Chester personalities and amble’s head honchos (who are less interesting, but you can’t win them all). Read on for the lockdown experiences, thoughts, feelings and self-isolated musings of…
amble’s Creative Director
Hannah le Valle
How has lockdown impacted your life in terms of work and personal life?
Elle – Well, to kick off, I just about managed to get back into the country after visiting Australia. We landed the day before lockdown officially started and it was a stressful time. The COVID pandemic was at its peak and I was scared after travelling with masses of people across the globe that we would contract it and potentially pass it onto our loved ones. Thankfully, we didn’t get sick or at least show any symptoms anyway, but it really put things into perspective early on about what was important to me. Being unable to see friends and family quite quickly made me see just how much of a lifeline they are. We moved into our first home 6 months ago so if anything staring at four grubby cracked walls has given me a kick up the butt to finish the DIY jobs that have nagged me for so long. It has kept me busy and sane (if I am ever sane that is).
Laura – I mean not massively. My life seems to be pretty much wake walk work walk bed now I have kitty anyway and obviously I’m old so barely go out any more.
I missed people in the shop though. That is my main daily social contact and I think the reason I don’t get lonely.
Matt – Of monumental benefit in part to my personal life as my girlfriend now sees me. On a side note, she can now get annoyed at my dishwashing abilities and general forgetfulness/mess. My only work was really watching the news and chilling out for the first couple of weeks – though once the grants, furlough etc came to be a part then I had to actually do things.
Hannah – Honestly, in terms of my personal life, not a great deal! I’ve always loved being alone so I welcomed the time to reconnect with myself and my home. However The Green Rooms had exceeded all expectations and was busier than I had ever imagined it would be in it’s first six months so to cease trading for an unknown amount of time was quite a scary prospect. Some of the classes I’ve been running for a few years went online, it felt right for us all to keep in touch and to connect each week. Mostly though the events had to be postponed, The Green Rooms is about community and coming together and that just couldn’t be achieved on Zoom.
Gem – I’m lucky that I already work from home – but I definitely felt the loss of my social world. All outings, like the dog walks which used to help me chill out were suddenly stressful. I think I’ve had all the phases: cake bingeing, day-drinking, epic bouts of rage, houseplant-obsession…
How do you feel about the easing of restrictions being brought into place, do you have any apprehensions or are you keen for quicker developments?
Elle – I’m very anxious, it’s in my nature I guess. I’m fit and healthy so the thought of me catching it isn’t my problem, but I could never forgive myself if someone I knew caught it after being around me, and became seriously ill. I’m torn; I want the economy to get back on track and I hate seeing our independents suffer like this. I want to go out again like everyone else, however I struggle with the thought of others not adhering to the rules. Maybe I’m too mistrusting of the public
Laura – I’m not gonna lie, I loved lockdown. The slower pace of life, the quiet, the lack of traffic. I’ve been super cautious and haven’t really been anywhere except work and home so the lifting brings anxiety for sure. I’d like to keep being cautious but I think the problem is that some people are sensible and some aren’t, and those that aren’t are making the rest of us uncomfortable. So, I’m all for easing if on the whole people are still taking safety seriously and if they are not, to stay the f**k away from my shop.
Matt – Think it is a good pace personally but who knows and I don’t think the politicians/advisors know either. They can’t please everyone and people need to use their own discretion when deciding to go out or meet up with people etc. we’ll have to wait and see.
Hannah – Like most independent business owners, I was keen to get back to work after such a long break. I do have mixed feelings about the easing of restrictions because I feel that we’re all still very much under informed however I know that it’s vital that we support our city in any way we can. In the last few years there has been a huge surge of indies taking back our streets and it’s been exciting and refreshing to witness. Without us, Chester is faceless and to lose us would be a great shame.
Gem – I’m all over the place with it and feel differently, depending on the day. I had to get on a train to London last month and was fine (everyone was very respectful) but in my local shop, I’m a mess as no one seems to care. I don’t think I’m quite ready to hang out with strangers unless it’s essential – I can’t see myself being able to relax and have a nice drink or dinner – I’d just find it awkward and I’d get mad at anyone who was cavalier. I’m much happier supporting my fave businesses with online orders and takeaways.
If you knew this was coming what would you do differently? / If you could go back in time what advice would you give yourself at the start of lockdown?
Elle – If I knew I was going to be up for redundancy or find it really lonely what would I say? I don’t know, I think these are experiences a lot of people had and it’s completely normal and you need to ride the COVID wave in its peaks and troughs. The long lie-ins without a commute but also the underlying stress and anxiety of our future.
Laura – Oh God I’ve no idea – I really enjoyed the challenge of having to rethink the business model.
We were really lucky though as we’ve traded all the way through. I think for once our location was in our favour. Locals were using their daily exercise to pick up take away from us.
I thrive on chaos so BRING IT.
Matt – Move to Aldi gin (£14 a litre), beer, wine quicker than I had done.
Hannah – I would have rigged up some lighting at home, built shelves and indoor greenhouses and brought all of my plant pals home with me. Luckily I live very locally and I was able to visit the shop to keep all of the plants happy and healthy during lock down but had I have known how long the shop would be closed, I’d have had them here with me. And the coffee machine.
Gem – Been calmer if I’d known how long it would be in place for and when it would start to lift. My initial struggle was over the apparent endlessness of it, and not knowing what restrictions were around the corner. Probably eaten less cake too – it felt good but there are visible consequences.
Who/what has been your rock during this period?
Elle – There are too many people to choose from. It’s a weird situation and I think we are all so in tune with our emotions and conscious of how others feel we have more empathy than ever. I have lost count of the number of times people have checked in on me just to see how I am doing and vice versa. I hope that post lockdown this is something which continues. I know I will be more conscious of it! In terms of the best cuddle buddy – my rescue cat Tig has been epic company, she’s a little hot water bottle on my lap, we never argue and she lets me put whatever I want on the TV.
Laura – Rob has been a little ray of sunshine. Happy to work any time, any hours and to do what he could to help us survive. I couldn’t have done it without him. The 2 of us spent every day together and for me he was my only human contact for months. We are so lucky we get on so well.
Then Kitty, the little pup of joy (Kitty first really but Rob might read this).
Matt – The first month (and my birthday) would have been fairly miserable if I wasn’t living with the Mrs. If people were stuck on their own then I hope they didn’t suffer too much.
Hannah – I’d love to write something that would read better here but lock down has affirmed to me that I am my own rock. We’re all capable of so much more than we believe and if you can truly be at peace in your own company, you can go anywhere and do anything (once the restrictions have been lifted)
Gem – Cake deliveries. Have I mentioned cake a worrying amount? Running – just because I needed to tire myself out a lot in order to keep my anxiety under control and nothing to do with the vast quantities of cake. A lot of people are mentioning their pets – my dog is my anti-rock – he ate my glasses and wee’d on my Kindle.
What is the first thing you will do once lockdown is completely lifted?
Elle – I will hug everyone I love, a big bear squeeze. Maybe I shouldn’t be saying I will buy a nice cold beer in a pub garden but if anything, this experience has taught me how much I value those I love over physical items or that which can be bought.
Laura – Mate, I’m going to hug people and hold on for way too long so it becomes almost too awkward to make eye contact afterwards.
Matt – Carry on working ☹, plan a holiday in Colombia for a couple of year’s time
Hannah – I’ve loosely planned a staycation with some friends and our children and I’m really looking forward to firming up those arrangements! I’ll still be cautious even when the lockdown has been lifted completely so I won’t be jumping on any planes any time soon. The confluence of fact and opinion online means I’m still none the wiser about what’s real and what isn’t and I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Gem – Inappropriately long hugs with friends, morning swims, getting tipsy in the sun with mates without any safety measures (beyond carb loading in advance and water, of course).