As the next review of the Greater Manchester “lockdown” is due on 19 August, it appears that Out In The City cannot meet until at least Wednesday, 26 August. If anything changes, I will be in touch.
Jean Friend, from Chadderton shares her experiences of adapting to the ‘new normal’ over the last few months and how she tries to keep her spirits up.
“Myself and my partner created a social bubble as soon as we could. I asked her this weekend what had helped to keep her mentally well. Cheekily she said: ‘Well I have not had you pecking my head’!
But her serious comments were very similar to mine. We both agreed keeping busy was important. I have done lots of jobs around the house that have needed doing for ages. Not having the usual demands from others has helped us both to relax.
I would describe myself as a depressive (probably not the best word to use) – by that, I mean I get down easily. Since leaving work 11 years ago I have been able to keep a watch on this and slow, if not stop, the downward spiral.
Unfortunately, this weekend I wasn’t quick enough. A particular political issue has been upsetting me and I engaged in a discussion on social media that sent me down the spiral. Disengaging from social media is a good idea and avoiding negative news reports also.
When I am down the advice of getting some exercise really doesn’t work for me. Just getting out of the door is almost impossible. So having a reason such as meeting a friend or going for my prescription has helped. Before we made our social bubble we would cycle to a meeting place and go for a socially distanced ride. We were lucky with the weather so finding green spaces was a great help.
I am lucky enough to have a garden and lockdown has given me the chance to grow more this year.”
MIND YER ‘ED: I’VE BEEN TRYING NEW THINGS AND REDISCOVERING OLD TALENTS DURING LOCKDOWN
Pauline Smith from Radcliffe talks about her experiences living alone during the pandemic and all the new things she’s been trying while in lockdown.
“I went into lockdown on 12 March before the Government made an announcement, which in my opinion, if you’d followed any type of news outside of the UK, we should have gone into lockdown at the end of February.
I was at a Talking About My Generation reporters’ meeting, where there were only four of us. I realised then that now was the time to actually stop coming into Manchester. Some of the social groups that I’m in didn’t shut down till the end of March, but I’d already made my decision.
I had to think about how I was going to survive this, as it wasn’t looking to be a short-term thing.
In the first instance, I had someone else do my shopping, but then I realised this was crazy. I live alone so if I kept this up, I knew I wouldn’t actually see another human being for months, so I started going out.
I’m at Lidl for about 8 o’clock in the morning when they open and I’m very fortunate that the market hall is literally on the other side of Lidl. During the trip, I’ve at least spoken to the woman on the cash aisle and to the butcher, the egg man, and the greengrocer lady. So, I still get human contact and I’m getting really high-quality produce.
I’ve missed human contact in the sense of being able to share space with friends and family and being able to hug people. Other than giving somebody cash at the local market, that’s the closest I’ve come to touching another human being since 11 March.
One of the ways I’m surviving lockdown is by looking at new things. Even though I’m 72, I’m still open to learning new things. I’ve found that the more interests you’ve got, the easier it is to cope.
I’ve discovered I could write poetry again, which I hadn’t done since I was a teenager. Since the start of lockdown, I’ve written 11 or 12 poems. Some were written for particular people and have not been published. I’ve written some prose pieces as well. I find it emotionally satisfying that I’m writing things that people are going to enjoy.
Also, because I couldn’t get all my ingredients when shopping at Lidl, I got creative when cooking. I looked online and found recipes that I could tweak and turn into something else. I found that with very simple recipes I could eat magically in a sense. I enjoyed that, because I enjoy the relaxation of cooking, my creativity is really coming out.
The other thing that has really helped was calling friends and them calling me. I decided to start calling people that I may not know well, but I knew were struggling. I then signed up for Brew Buddies where I also call vulnerable LGBT people.
My son has been very supportive too. When everyone was all doom and gloom, he’d be calling me twice a week and would often Facetime me as well. He said: ‘You’re much more relaxed because you’re not racing to meetings, sometimes five times a week.’
I don’t get so down by the whole thing that I think it’s overwhelming. I think a lot of people have really struggled with lockdown because it’s really affected the way that they live and in a sense, I’m fortunate because I’ve lived chunks of my life before where I’ve been alone. Although I live alone, I wouldn’t classify myself as lonely.
It’s very much the old “is the glass half full or half empty”. My attitude now at this stage is even if the glass is empty, I can fill it up, if it’s halfway, then it’s halfway full and if it’s a really nice glass of wine, then I’m not just going to gulp it down. You’ve got to really experience the lows to appreciate the ups.
I haven’t thought as far ahead as to when lockdown is over but if you’d ask me what I’d look forward to the most, it’d be that I’d be able to mingle again.
To be able to see my friends and family, hug each other and be able to look in their eyes rather than look at them on a screen. To go on public transport, go to a concert or a play or sit in a restaurant where every table is full and the waiters are not wearing masks. When or if that’ll ever happen, I don’t know.”
MIND YER ‘ED: I SUPPORT OTHERS BUT I NEEDED SOME HELP TOO
Tony Openshaw from Chorlton, shared his experience of living through lockdown alone.
“I’ve found lockdown really difficult, the reason being I live on my own. Having contact with people was something I’d taken for granted. I have a very active social life having retired five years ago. It has been really isolating and I felt very lonely.
I’m involved in a group in Manchester called Out In The City which is a social / support group for members of the LGBT+ community who are over 50. Two years ago I started running the group as a volunteer but we’ve had to stop meeting up because of lockdown but we’ve been keeping in contact.
I accepted the offer from Age UK to have a regular phone call so that a volunteer could ring me every week to give me some support. That was really nice because I have ended up giving support to a lot of others but I have to think about myself as well … it is what I needed.
All my neighbours would come out and clap for the NHS. I’ve lived on my street for 37 years but I’ve got to know them better over lockdown than I ever did before. The lady over the road even popped her number through the door to see if I needed any shopping or help which was nice. After we stopped clapping weekly we started dancing.
Every Thursday now we go out at 8.00pm, with up to 50 people sometimes and we have music and dance! We’ve been doing that for about eight weeks now. It’s good exercise and it’s nice to get to know the neighbours. I also found out that our street has its own Facebook page and they’re taking song requests on there!
I’ve been making some podcasts, I started about a year and a half ago with Sonder Radio who encouraged me to start making podcasts. They know I like reggae and dub so I’ve made about eleven of those, two of those in lockdown. It’s like being a DJ but I give anecdotes and facts too. I did one specifically for Black Lives Matter. I really wanted to support it but I was a bit worried about going to the demonstrations in Manchester, however, I did go to the local ones in Chorlton.
There’s another group called Manchester Cares who put older and younger people together for social reasons but they’ve also had to stop meeting so I’ve also been making some podcasts for them, which I’ve called Tony’s Coffee Time Picks. I do it all at home on my laptop.
I used to volunteer for George House Trust but that has been suspended because of the virus. I really miss that. For ten years I was supporting someone who was HIV positive and blind. I would take him out every week for social activities. Unfortunately, he died when he was 50, which was emotional for me having known him for ten years. Instead of being involved with somebody else on that level, I started to do driving for them, taking people to appointments. I used to do it once a week and I found it really rewarding and I miss doing that.
What the lockdown has affected is my mental health and my emotions, not seeing people. As soon as restrictions were eased I wanted to go and see people in the park, social distancing, and wearing masks. I’ve been to the pub and to a restaurant so I was quite willing to throw myself back into it as soon as possible, still taking all of the precautions. I wanted to throw myself back into life again because that’s what I’ve missed.
I was in a relationship for 31 years and my partner died with cancer when he was 54 and that was nine years ago. Had he still been alive we would have been together 40 years this year. Being gay meant that my family ostracised me totally. I have a younger sister who I’m close to and she’s very supportive but she lives in Slovakia and I only see her once a year. That’s why I’m on my own and I feel quite isolated because I don’t have the support of family, just friends that I’ve made.
It does feel like groundhog day where every day is the same so I’ve just tried to contact people when I can. I try and have a positive outlook, I feel like I’m a positive person.
A lot of people lean on me because I’m the organiser of Out in City. So I have tried to be a backbone to everyone in that group and help them. But I recognise that I need it as well – you can’t just give out all the time. I recognise that I needed help as well.”
HIVe Step-Up Scheme
The Passionate about Sexual Health (PaSH) Partnership is a collaboration between BHA for Equality, George House Trust and the LGBT Foundation. The PaSH Partnership delivers a comprehensive programme of interventions to meet the changing needs of people newly diagnosed with HIV, living longer term with HIV or at greatest risk of acquiring HIV.
The sexual health team have launched a step-up scheme, which offers a range of exclusive interventions to Greater Manchester residents at risk of contracting HIV. They will be providing one to one sessions based on safer sex goal plans, providing HIV and STI testing, offering condoms and lube, and hosting a range of exciting workshops to offer rounded and holistic support to build confidence and promote sexual wellbeing.
The scheme opened from the 1 August 2020 and an individual can self-refer via the website: http://www.sorthiv.org.uk/self-referral
To be eligible, an individual must be 18+ and a resident of Greater Manchester and meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Diagnosed with repeat urethral / rectal STI infections
- Reporting unprotected sex with multiple / casual partners / group sex
- Been prescribed PEP in the last year
- Need support in adhering to a PrEP regime which protects them in combination with their regular clinic monitoring and prescription for PrEP.
- Use chems with sex
- Sell sex / have transactional sex / pay for sex
- Having sex with someone living with HIV with a detectable viral load.
HIV: Let’s sort this together.