MARCH 2020: Sleep, eat, work, walk, eat, TV, sleep, repeat. March 2021: Sleep, eat, work, walk, eat, TV, sleep, repeat.

I was going to write an abridged diary of the past 12 months for this page, then I realised that every month would be pretty much the above.

There were a handful of halcyon days last summer - sitting in pub gardens, meeting other humans for walks, spending a weekend by the sea - but by and large it’s been a Groundhog Year that we will never get back. It feels like only yesterday...we often say, looking back on significant events. Well the start of the first national lockdown doesn’t feel like yesterday to me. It feels like a long 12 months since March 2020 when we listened to the PM announce that our lives would, for the foreseeable, be restricted as never before.

Almost immediately, it felt like a rug being pulled out. Each day brought news of some catastrophic fall-out from the pandemic creeping towards our doorsteps. Places I loved and had completely taken for granted - cinemas, theatres, bistros, arts centres - closed overnight, some perhaps never to re-open. Schools were shut. Parks and playgrounds were eerily silent, with empty swings forlornly creaking to and fro in the breeze. Travellers were stranded, as international borders closed. Jobs and livelihoods were under threat. Then there was the virus, and the swift succession of high profile casualties - politicians, Royals, celebrities, even Tom Hanks (who will surely star in the inevitable Covid movie as a kindly genius scientist battling his own demons while creating a world-saving vaccine).

“This is our war,” someone said in the early days. Except even during the war people could go to the cinema, dances, sports matches and other people’s homes. In the early days of lockdown I felt like a fugitive whenever I left the house; scurrying to the shop, head down, not making eye contact in case anyone had clocked me going for a walk earlier. Were curtains twitching? Were neighbours keeping notes? Irrational paranoia sets in quickly when the world has turned upside-down.

Suddenly I was working at home, at my kitchen table, and making phone-calls perched on my bed, because I can only get decent reception upstairs. The job of a journalist is more complex than people give us credit for, and I’ve been immensely proud to be part of a brilliant team which managed to produce a newspaper daily in that challenging first lockdown, and has continued to work extremely hard throughout the pandemic. No-one was ever going to clap for us on Thursday evenings, but journalists have been key workers; delivering a broad range of content and keeping people connected, while nonsensical and dangerous fake news has spread online like wildfire.

This week we’ve reflected on the last 12 months, which have been devastating in so many ways. Like many people, I was bereaved last year and couldn’t attend the funeral. The fall-out of this extraordinary period will be with us for a long time, forever in some cases.

But, weirdly, hasn’t it been quite calming too? Domestic confinement may be dull but it’s also been an opportunity to take a step back and breathe out. Certainly in the first lockdown I liked the stillness, the quiet of traffic-free roads, and the birdsong. Of course I’ve missed going on holiday etc but overall I’ve enjoyed being at home in my comfies; putting CDs into alphabetical order and sorting out years of photos, with not much else to do.

Now the challenge may be returning to ‘real life’. Whatever that will be.