Cohabiting with a big pink saxophone

‘At first it felt like a bit of a holiday. You have to work out where you’re going to lock yourself down, so that’s the first dilemma isn’t it?’ Julie had several options, and elderly family to consider, but in the end chose to lockdown with her partner at his house. They’ve never lived together before, in the 30 years that they’ve been together.

‘In the beginning, we didn’t know how things in Blighty were going to go, so you don’t know what the right decision is. Trying to make a decision without all the right information is tricky. In hindsight, it was the right thing to do.’

In the UK, it wasn’t altogether clear how long the lockdown was going to last, and Julie thought, ‘you know what, what will be will be, and I’ll be able to cope with it.’

‘We’re in quite a privileged position really. We’re not old enough to have to be locked in and can’t go out, neither do we have any health problems. We’ve paid off our mortgages, I get my pension and Rob was furloughed so getting 80% of his wages, so we didn’t have any money worries,’ she smiles, ‘so then it became a bit like a holiday.’

Each day they’d enjoy planning their government-approved daily walk, averaging about 8 miles each time, picking different locations from the Yorkshire countryside on their doorstep.

‘The weather was absolutely lovely, we were really enjoying it, but watching the news, and hearing how many thousands of people were dying and seeing the total increasing was just awful. I felt guilty, to be enjoying it. I felt very privileged.’

Julie’s been dropping off packages for people in need, and making sure she’s been in contact with people who are on their own. She’s also the Chair at Swarthmore Education Centre and the Company Secretary of Bramley Baths, both voluntary roles keeping her busy.

‘We’ve been worrying about the jobs, and whether the businesses are actually going to survive. The Baths have no income coming in now, but we still have costs to pay. It’s kept me busy and focused on something important, and stops me going stir crazy. It gives me a purpose, helping them survive the COVID-19 storm. A bit of pressure and a challenge,’ she laughs.

‘It’s funny how you adapt very quickly to this new normality, and you find a way of dealing with it. Like anything in life, whatever happens to you, no matter how shit it is, and whether it’s your choice or not, as humans we’re very adaptable. You draw on the skills you’ve used in the past in a different way.’

‘It’s like we’ve gone back in time a little. I’m cooking Sunday dinner with Yorkshire puddings, and I’m actually quite enjoying it.’

Julie had intentions to do two big things during lockdown; write a book and learn how to play the big pink saxophone she bought for lockdown.

‘I haven’t managed to blow a note out of the damn saxophone and while I’ve been playing with some of the chapters for my book, I haven’t actually done much writing. I’ve been making myself busy on other things, creating a new routine, being together with Rob, walking and spending some quality time together. Or is that distraction activity? There’s also this underlying fear, with the book in particular, of not wanting to mess it up, or not get it right. Perhaps I should reread Susan Jeffers book, Feel the fear and do it anyway.

I ask Julie whether she thinks her and Rob will they stay cohabiting, now they’ve tried living together? She laughs, ‘no, not yet. Not yet,’ and quotes Sarah Millican: ‘we’re independent people, who are in a relationship together,’ she smiles. ‘That’s healthy, isn’t it?’

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