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A communal primal scream

Sylvie's contribution to our Stay Home collecting project

I live in a typical Victorian terrace house in north London. My house is mid terrace, so we feel nestled in, quite securely.

Our street is tucked away in a bit of a 'backwater' (that's how the estate agent described it), with a closed off planted, pedestrian area in the middle of our road, which is wonderful for children to meet up.

This August will be my 25th year in this house. I would never be able to afford to buy anything in my area now.

The house has seen a huge amount of joy and heartbreak since I have been here, I sometimes wonder what memories it holds on to from before my time.

Take part in our Stay Home collecting project

A noticeboard with cuttings from different newspapers about coronavirus
A pin-board over our desk. It is now dominated by the lockdown front page.

In what ways has the coronavirus pandemic changed the way you use your home?

Our home is now a workplace for two adults and a teenager. My two sons are currently living independently. We three, at home, are aware that we are incredibly lucky to have enough space that we may all work separately during office hours, however, we are sharing computers a bit which makes the work tricky.

I am stationed at the kitchen table, which I hope isn't symbolic of my role in the family. However, it does mean that I am more likely to jump up and prepare meals, take on a spot of cleaning and I am a first 'port of call' for distracting coffee break chats and school homework issues.

I am a secondary school Art teacher: I have found that it is a full-time job writing lessons which may be interpreted by students from home who may have access to no art equipment.

I do enjoy receiving the carefully crafted work and I love reading the written reflections that are sent in by my form group listing their day to day activities.

Person sat at a table using a laptop whilst drawing
Working at the kitchen table

How do you feel about your home? How have these feelings changed?

I am in love with my home and it feels appropriate, on this 25-year anniversary, that I get to spend some quality time in it. It is mine, and the sense of stability that it has given me is wonderful. Not a day goes by that I do not appreciate my four walls.

How does staying at home affect your relationships?

We feel very fortunate to have a bit of outdoor space at the back. The lockdown weather has been remarkable, so we meet up for lunch at the garden table every day that we can. We are sharing so many more family meals at this time. Conversation, however, can be a bit mundane, as there are less stories to share from the news and from independent experiences.

Morning walks are important to maintain emotional balance. We find that we are a little bit snappy with each other on the days that we haven't managed one of these.

My husband isolated himself in one room for over a week when he was unsure whether he had the virus. We left meals outside his room and soaked his plates in boiling water after he had used them. On some evenings he managed to watch programmes on TV with us, simultaneously, on his laptop, from his separate room.

A fireplace surrounded by bookshelves and paintings
Part of my lounge, which is sometimes used as a place to paint

What do you appreciate most about your home? What do you find frustrating?

I appreciate the space that we have. My ground floor has surprisingly high ceilings for a house of this size. The house has a bit of Victorian character.

Sometimes the house 'weighs a bit heavy' on me as there is always something that needs repair or replacement: there are currently two windows that are rotting. It would be easy to haemorrhage overdrawn money on it.

The lockdown has made me enjoy the house more as my husband has had a bit of furlough time with which to catch up on a few DIY jobs. Like many others he is attempting to begin a garden veg patch. I find clutter to be the most frustrating thing and I look forward to the time when the recycling plant reopens.

How has lockdown changed your habits or routines at home?

Our habits and routines are hugely altered, but it has surprised me to notice how quickly we have adapted to our 'new normal'. I am a big fan of routine, we get up at the same time each weekday, take a 40 minute walk after breakfast, before too many people are around. We have discovered so many new walks from our front door. I enjoy the quieter roads and the sense of tranquil calm.

This calm, however, is far too often punctuated by the wail of screaming, urgent sirens.

We stop work for lunch at a similar time each day. My daughter now has FaceTime piano lessons.

We definitely treat ourselves to more TV viewing in the evenings than we would normally have time to watch. We eat much more economically and sweet treats are reserved for weekends only so that we can avoid too many trips to supermarkets.

Drawing of a rainbow taking through a window
My daughter's rainbow for the NHS

How is your sense of home affected by your neighbours or those living nearby?

Our road enjoyed its first street party in 2017. It was a wonderful success that went on into the evening.

Every household brought a dish (odd numbers brought sweet and even savoury), it is amazing how simply a feast can be generated.

We cleared the road of cars for the day and played egg throwing games and slow bicycle races. The street parties generated a WhatsApp group and the cooperation is incredibly reassuring at this time. We normally share contacts and advice and put Easter eggs in windows. Teddy bear spotting and rainbow drawings have all been an important part of this lockdown. The central pedestrian area, which is normally alive with children playing, is a bit desolate.

My teenager dearly misses hanging out there, sitting in the bushes with her friends, roller blading and chalk drawing. The Thursday evening clapping sessions are an opportunity to thank the NHS, but also a valuable chance to lock eyes with neighbours and to enjoy a communal 'primal scream'!

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