The small things in life matter most, it’s said, which is lucky given most of the big things have been cancelled anyway. Guardian readers from around the world share the small pleasures that have helped them through lockdowns.
‘The last honest thing in our modern life: football’
Since the Covid pandemic hit the airwaves, time has collapsed. To keep myself sane, I watch the last honest thing in our modern life: football. I jump from the English Premier League to the Spanish, Italian, German and the African Cup. The game of football is inclusive, eloquent, simple and multinational. Football is not so much about the occupation of territory; it is about shifting position, manoeuvring and running a series of attacks and retreats, not necessarily winning with physical dominance. In football, there is always hope for the underdog. Ahmed Tharwat, Minnetonka, Minnesota, US
My fabulous across-the-street neighbour. We stand on our front porches, catch up, hold each other up and laugh at the absurdity of life.
We became friends when we waved to each other from across the street three years ago when they moved in. But what elevates her above being just a good neighbour is the enormous kindness that flows so easily and naturally from her. The pandemic has deepened our friendship because it is so easy to share the fears that become larger when faced alone.
I was there when my neighbour called in tears, panicked that her sister in intensive care would die. They were there when I worried about the cancerous growth in my face. I knew that my neighbour’s husband’s job was putting tremendous pressure on him, to the point he was about to resign, even when so many were out of work. I thought of him constantly when he went to interview for the only job open in his field. I cheered when they told me the good news.
We are happy in each other’s company, no conversation necessary. My world suddenly became richer and warmer when this woman I’ve grown to love moved in across the street. Suzy Kunda, Walla Walla, Washington, US
‘Watching old movies’
I started watching old films at the start of the pandemic because I also wanted to help my parents with something to do during those long lockdown days. The first six months in El Salvador were very strict; I saw my parents (aged 85 and 76) twice at most during that period, and we only live 15 minutes apart. I created a WhatsApp group called películas (movies) and would send them recommendations. We went to the Oscars website and made a list of the best movies of a given year, starting with films made in 1950. We look for the Oscar-winning foreign films, as well as those that included the best actor, actress, supporting and director winners. Jorge S, San Salvador, El Salvador
‘My daily playlist, which a nurse plays to her patients’
My daily Spotify playlist, From the Bunker, is at number 340 today. Some are always foreign bands, some are older, and some are new releases. I started it shortly after the first lockdown began here in Rome. It now goes out to people in the UK, the US and Italy. A nurse I know in Somerset makes it available on her wards, and she said the other day they were all singing along while giving out vaccines. It hopefully cheers people up. I’m not sure everyone picks up on the daily themes, but it’s fun and I get good feedback. It’s important having that feeling of connection with everyone since I’ve been working from home for almost a year now. Sean Perry, Rome, Italy
‘Playing Dungeons and Dragons online’
I started playing Dungeons and Dragons online with friends and it’s been a lifesaver. I find online socialising a little hard as we all sit there and realise nothing is happening, so don’t have much to talk about. But the game means I’m socialising with structure, which makes it easier. Without being able to travel in reality, travelling in the theatre of the mind has been a consolation. Unlike computer games or TV, the maths and creativity involved makes it feel like a less passive form of entertainment. My character is a 19-year-old volatile half-elf warlock called Leeora who has cropped white hair. I’m about to run my own campaign – as Dungeon Master – with a team of five friends who I’m looking forward to guiding through our imaginary world. Ashleigh Loeb, London
‘Treating lunch with respect’
Treating lunch with the respect it’s rarely given has kept me going. As a teacher, I’m usually rushed off my feet, eating a shoddily assembled sandwich or wolfing down a cream of tomato soup, while double-checking my PowerPoint. Being able to shut the laptop, pop into the kitchen and sit down for a well considered meal with company has been amazing.
They have never been Michelin-star quality, but my favourites involve salad with bread and cheese. My fiancee is half French and always insists on a range of cheeses. We also went through the obligatory sour dough phase early on. We’ll also have left overs from last night’s dinner. When I was teaching in school, these would be served between lessons, using Tupperware stained orange like Trump’s skin. Now, we’re serving it all on plates. It’s became a proper meal. George Shaw, Bury St Edmunds
I am a neuroscientist and around the start of the first lockdown, I started researching the cerebellum, also called the “little brain”. It is such a fascinating part of the brain, and its functions are way more complex than sometimes thought. For example, I have learned that the cerebellum plays an interesting role in relation to prediction and cognitive functions such as perspective-taking. The projects, readings and connections with other scientists I have made thanks to the cerebellum have been a great source of joy. Sofie Valk, Leipzig, Germany
Towards the beginning of lockdown, I started writing erotica. It was great fun and I found the time flew by. I have written four short stories. I sold one to an online feminist magazine, and am 42,000 words into a novel. It has changed my life and, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I would never have done it.
I guess the impetus came from a need to find something I could do while staying in. I’m a voracious reader of any kind of fiction and I refuse to be bored. Initially, a story came into my head and it turned out to have erotic overtones. (I have no idea why). I really enjoyed forming it in my mind and I started writing it out. I was quite pleased with it and wrote another one. And another. Writing erotica is a turn on, which is a huge bonus. The antithesis of boredom.
It changed my life by giving me an all-consuming focus. I can’t wait to get started every day. I think of plot twists at 4am and resist the urge to leap out of bed and make notes. (My husband is very supportive, but I don’t want to push my luck.) . Sarah Phelps, Buffalo, New York, US
‘My rabbit, Lola’
I’m 26 and beyond the point where I thought I’d be interested in small animals. I wanted a dog, but I don’t have a garden, the money or the time. But I felt that loving something unconditionally and having it love me back would help during the lockdown, and life beyond.
I tried several pet stores but all the rabbits needed to be sold in pairs for their own needs. Devastating. But at the last store I visited, it turned out a rabbit had been handed in a month before and was ready for adoption. She had to be adopted by herself, too – it was perfect. Her name is Lola, but her original name, when I adopted her, was actually Cow. I renamed her; Cow is not flattering.
Now I can’t imagine life without her. She is so sweet, affectionate and entertaining of an evening when we have nowhere else to go.
Lola is very dog-like. She runs over to you immediately when you enter the room, begs for food and chases balls and toys.When you’re sick of TV and you can’t go out for a walk, it’s nice to just watch her. Faleena, London
At the beginning of the first lockdown I had just moved out of home and into a flat with a friend. On the weekend before it was announced, I bought a small plant at the local garden centre. I didn’t want anything too high maintenance, just something to brighten up my room. I chose a jade plant (Crassula ovata) and put it in a pot on my windowsill.
Over the weeks, I started to notice that tiny new leaves were sprouting, which brought me so much joy as I didn’t have access to any outdoor space besides the local park. The welfare of this plant started to become so important to me during lockdown – every new leaf seemed to reflect the care and attention I was giving to it. I would give my boyfriend – who I couldn’t see for months during lockdown – updates over FaceTime, pointing out any new shoots. He was only humouring me initially, but he gradually became invested and now he thinks he has joint custody.
Disaster struck in November when the heating came on, and I didn’t realise that my poor plant was getting roasted. Leaves started falling off and I overcompensated by watering it too much, which exacerbated the problem. I realised that I had subconsciously thought, if my plant was doing OK, then so was I – but here it was at death’s door. I spent many hours watching YouTube videos on houseplant care and moving it to different spots in my room trying to find a way to resuscitate it. I finally found a tip that said to lie the plant down on newspaper and leave it for two weeks. It made a full recovery. It’s now doing great. Serena, London