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“You must all stay at home!” I don’t think any of us will ever forget the night of Boris’s historic announcement - 23rd March 2020 - that triggered the first Covid lockdown. I sat, glued to the television, the solemnity of the event was palpable, and I physically shook as I listened to what was being said.

Life In Lockdown

So what did lockdown actually mean?

It was immediately clear that normal life had literally changed overnight and no one knew when it might return. “You can go out for one brief exercise session a day.” I panic, I’m an outdoors person – my dog gets two long walks a day, I run, I cycle, I garden. While the ability to go out at all was welcome, it was hard to picture the adjustment needed for one brief exercise session a day. With a very active dog that is used to two walks a day, it was going to be tricky. And then if I walked my dog, how was I going to fit in a run three times a week? I found myself in the bizarre position of trading a dog walk with my partner so I could still run occasionally.

Apart from being a very active outdoors person, I am also an optimist. We were going to have to adjust to this new situation, however strange and frightening, but I was determined it wasn’t going to get me down.

For about the first three days I kept a lockdown diary but I soon realised that I found writing in a diary every day quite boring, but also it seemed to focus on the negative thoughts. The diary was soon consigned to the bin!

It's not all bad

On day one of lockdown, 24th March 2020, I went for a dog walk, staying local of course. That meant no trip in the car to the park, but luckily I have plenty of fields on my doorstep. What struck me on that first morning was how incredibly quiet it was – the roads were empty. All of a sudden the bird song could be heard so clearly. It was as though the birds were putting on a special show to cheer everyone up, and the show went on for weeks. It was also a beautiful day. Late March, but blue sky and sunny. As I walked through my village to the very familiar fields, I was suddenly struck by how much beauty there was all around us. It was late spring – there were crocuses in gardens, and daffodils galore. There was even the odd rose. I found myself taking photos.

My ‘Flower of the Day’

It struck me when I got home that I wanted to share my photos. I winged one off to my brother in Canada, still very much in the grip of winter, and a couple of months off seeing any spring flowers in his garden, and to a friend. I called it ‘Flower of the Day’. Another flower picture followed the next day, and the next. Soon my brother and friend were sharing their flowers of the day or ‘Fleur du Jour’ as we soon came to call it.

For the rest of 2020 I never missed a day sending a flower photo. It was the first thing I did when I got up each morning. The variety was fantastic and really charted the seasons. I had all the spring flowers, then we moved on to May and bluebells, then the summer flowers – roses, dahlias, pinks, cornflowers. The list goes on. Some of the flowering trees were putting up a good display – flowering chestnuts were a sight to behold, as were the cherry trees, and the apples and pears in my garden. Some of my photos felt quite arty – valerian growing along the top of an old stone wall; clematis peeking out among my roses. Often I would take a photo of a flower in a neighbour’s garden – they were always very chuffed to think they would be ‘fleur du jour’ the next day! As the year drew on, there was still no shortage of flowers, though sometimes they were repeats. One day in late October I was amazed to capture buttercups, daisies and dandelions in the fields. My roses flower all year round.

As the year drew to a close I realised what a huge and positive feature ‘fleur du jour’ had been. Every day while out and about I had been looking for beauty and finding it. I was really going to miss it. Between us we had produced some great photos. I decided the best twelve should be encapsulated into a calendar – a surprise Christmas present for my brother and friend. They were thrilled.

2021 and ‘Things of Beauty’

As the New Year beckoned we decided to continue for 2021 but with a slight variation – we broadened the theme to ‘Things of Beauty’. That has obviously still included some flowers but so many other things too: an antique grandfather clock; ice boats on a frozen lake; a deserted beach; stunning buildings; snow-covered catkins; a rusty old tractor; ancient oak trees; mushrooms and toadstools (even if the latter did happen to be highly poisonous!); statues; an amazing rainbow; wonderfully sculptured cakes, and even the most delicious and beautiful bowl of blackberry and apple crumble with custard! As last year, I haven’t missed a single day. If ever I thought I might be short of photos, which I never have been, my adorable and very handsome spaniel, Patch, is always very happy to pose. And, yes, there is going to be another calendar, so once again I face the challenge of picking my top twelve photos. No easy task!

A ‘Glimpse of Glory’

I have a friend who has adopted a similar approach to life in lockdown. She is a vicar and each day, at the end of the day, she spends a few minutes quietly contemplating what she calls a ‘Glimpse of Glory’ – something that she has seen, or heard, or that has happened that day. It doesn’t have to have religious or spiritual significance but it is something that gives pleasure and that she treasures and appreciates.

A lasting legacy

The past year and a half have been, and continue to be, incredibly difficult and strange. We should never forget the impact this pandemic has had on individuals, on families, on society, and particularly on those working under huge pressure on the front line. The daily Covid figures ensure we don’t forget. Throughout it all, however, have been frequent references to the importance of maintaining our mental health. For me, focusing each day on finding my ‘things of beauty’ has been such a positive experience, and actually a lot of fun. Sharing with my brother and friend has been really quite special, as I send off my photo each day and wonder what I will get back from them. I could never have imagined it would go on so long. Even when I stop taking and sharing my daily photos, I won’t stop seeing beauty in the world wherever I happen to be. This really has opened my eyes to the beauty that is all around us, literally on our doorsteps.

Maybe this article has sown a seed and others might decide to look for their own ‘fleur du jour’ or ‘thing of beauty’. Sharing with others makes the experience even more special.