Has lockdown changed who we are?

LymeOnline editor Francesca Evans delivering the first printed issue since lockdown

IT’S been 20 long weeks but the LymeOnline newspaper is finally back!

When lockdown was first announced, shops and restaurants closed and we saw our advertising revenue drop by 90 per cent.

We had no choice but to put our printed newspaper on hiatus and focus solely on our website, which we have built up to welcome a record number of visitors in recent months.

There were times when we weren’t sure whether the paper would ever return, but thanks to the continued support of our readers, advertisers and a little extra help from two grant funding pots, we finally made it and are ready to bring you all the latest news in print, and support the Lyme Regis community as it gets back on its feet.

One thing that everyone kept saying towards the beginning of lockdown was how we would all come out the other side as better people; we’d be more appreciative, kinder, more caring, well-rounded, socially-conscious, healthier and generally wonderful human beings.

I’d like to think there’s a little truth in that but there were times when it was hard to believe. At the height of the pandemic, the boredom of lockdown and fear of the virus spreading took hold, and the dark side of social media reared its ugly head.

Regular Facebookers were quick to snap at each other, especially over the increasingly-tense (and increasingly-tedious, I might add) ‘residents versus visitors’ argument.

Monitoring comments on the LymeOnline Facebook page became almost a full-time job in itself and it seemed the whole ‘Be Kind’ movement, sparked by the death of TV presenter Caroline Flack just a month before lockdown, had already been forgotten.

It’s hard not to feel disheartened when scrolling through the constant streams of negativity but it’s also important to remember that those taking part in such debates – while they may shout the loudest – are usually in the minority.

Fortunately for Lyme Regis, kindness does always seem to prevail, demonstrated by the outstanding army of volunteers who stepped forward to look after the elderly, vulnerable and those in need of support during the pandemic.

This exceptional community response was initially co-ordinated via social media, which proves that Facebook really can be used for good.

On a personal level, I’d like to think that lockdown has made me more grateful for my life here in Lyme Regis.

As the pandemic worsened during March I obsessively watched the BBC’s 24-hour news channel and got myself into such a panic that I decided to move back into Mum and Dad’s when lockdown was eventually announced.

For the first couple of weeks, waves of anxiety and worry washed over me – a feeling I’m sure many of you shared. I missed covering all the usual spring and summertime events (this week would have been Regatta & Carnival), and I ware scared that the normal life I had taken completely for granted would never return.

But moving in with Mum and Dad calmed me down a little and I soon got myself into a new routine of working at the dining room table during the mornings and exercising in the afternoons.

Fortunately, I’d had a steroid injection to treat a hip disability just a few weeks before lockdown, which left me pain-free for the first time in months and able to go on daily, long walks.

I explored all the footpaths around Lyme and Uplyme that I’d never ventured along before and took delight in spotting ducklings, squirrels, rabbits, deer and herons along the way. I became so grateful that I was able to get outdoors and exercise; for our beautiful surroundings and safe, rural location; and for mine and my family’s health.

I enjoyed the new regime so much that I dropped half a stone, got my fitness levels to the best they had been in years, swapped the 24 hour news for exercise and felt my anxiety slipping away.

In one five-day period I walked 26 miles to raise funds for Steps Charity Worldwide, which helps children with the same hip condition I have, and I walked the eight-mile Undercliff path between Lyme and Seaton for the first time – something I never thought I’d be able to do.

Eventually, a little bit of normal life that I had so craved returned. I moved back into my own flat and started working full-time with a renewed enthusiasm in our new and improved office, again feeling grateful that LymeOnline had made it through the worst of the pandemic.

Of course, that made it a bit harder to keep up with the exercise routine. And then shops, pubs and restaurants reopened, friends reunited and I started eating out like there was no tomorrow, as you’ll see from my special feature on Lyme’s burgeoning foodie scene (pretty sure I’ve gained that half a stone again, too!).

So more appreciative? Definitely. Healthier? Perhaps not after all. A better person? I’m working on it… but you know what they say – old habits die hard!

Woodmead Halls
About Francesca Evans 2546 Articles
Francesca grew up in Lyme Regis and has worked in community journalism in the area since 2011, having gained a First Class Honours degree in journalism and her NCTJ qualifications at Southampton Solent University.

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