‘My gosh, that is such an interesting question,’ Abi says, when I ask her how the last 18 months has been. ‘Weird. My life has never been how I planned but this, well, this is super weird.’
It’s November 2021, and Abi’s in a prolonged lockdown in Auckland. ‘It started just after my 40th birthday, at the start of a really busy period I had planned, I was going to go away every single weekend. Instead, I’ve just been sitting at home for three months. It makes your world very small. I’ve actually done quite a lot of stuff in the last 18 months, but right now it feels like all I do in my entire life is either sit at my desk in my bedroom, or lay on my bed.’
Abi changed jobs during lockdown. She says: ‘I spent a year working with Greenpeace which I loved. I got to be involved with a lot of the strategic campaign stuff, as well as basically begging for money for them which went really well. Then I got offered a new job which I started last month. I’m still getting my head around starting a job in lockdown, which is pretty crazy.’
‘Covid has made me a bit frantic to do things; to experience things and get out and about and achieve, but I haven’t really taken much time since I moved to New Zealand to actually think about what I’m doing. Although saying that, I haven’t really ever done that in my life.’
I ask Abi how she thinks the pandemic has impacted her move to New Zealand. She says: ‘Covid added a lot of smugness to my move to start with. I was like, you know what, it was shit of me to uproot my children and drag them halfway across the world but look – look how amazing life is, and we were going to concerts and having a great time while my friends in the UK and France were locked down.’ We laugh about the irony of Auckland now being in lockdown while Europe experiences relative freedom.
‘It’s probably made it quite unsettled for my children, because all of the problems of things like moving and puberty, have become the fault of New Zealand and Covid. It’s exacerbated those things massively. So my kids have really struggled, and as I have the kids 100%, when they struggle, I struggle.’ Her eyes flick down, and then back up. ‘Yeah. It’s pretty intense.’
I ask how this lockdown compares to the first. Abi says: ‘So fast, and yet so slow. The days drag out, yet all this time has just disappeared. It’s also tied up with turning 40. You’ve got to have a mid life crisis, right, otherwise have you even turned 40? So I got Botox and fillers, got really fit and planned all this stuff to do, and then I just haven’t done anything for the last three months. It’s been this really weird period of frantic doing stuff, while not really doing anything. It feels like such a waste of my life. Turning 40 feels like the end of my youth and I need to make the most of it while I can. Life’s passing me by.’
Abi doesn’t live with her partner, so bubbling up with him means she’s at least been able to leave the house. ‘It’s been really fucking boring though.’ She means the lockdown, not bubbling with her partner, ‘and depressing.’ I tell her I feel a bit guilty about being in the South Island who haven’t had the same restrictions. ‘You should,’ she laughs.
She does love a fancy takeaway though. ‘Some of my favourite restaurants have been doing meal kits, or gourmet takeaways, and I LOVE it. I’m in my pyjamas and I’m eating really good food. I really hope they continue it. I mean, they probably won’t, but still.’
Abi’s found lockdown a great example of how elastic people’s minds can be. She says: ‘People are good at accepting a new normal, while also changing their world view to fit that new normal. In Auckland, we’ve gone from ‘don’t leave your house, it’s so dangerous’, to ‘oh yeah, it’s not that bad, maybe I’ll go to the shops because I’m bored’. It just becomes this choice between a shit, really shit and hugely shit situation. I think a lot of us are going through a lot of cognitive dissonance at the moment, because there’s this reality staring us in the face, but we don’t like it.’
‘We’re just all treading water, and sometimes you’ve got to find some fins so that treading water’s a little bit more comfortable, and maybe a snorkel mask so you can at least look under the water at the pretty fish.’