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Reflections on lockdown - with Ann Storr

Next in our mini series reflecting on life in lockdown, we spoke to Ann; a freelance storyteller, mother of two teenagers and lover of The Office about the impact of lockdown on her life.

I’m a freelance brand storyteller specialising in food, science and sustainability. So, I haven’t worked in an office since 2015. Before lockdown, my days would start with walking the dog and getting my kids to school; I’ve got two teenagers and they go to school 40 miles in opposite directions, which makes my mornings nuts. Once they were off, I’d either head home to work or up to London.

I attend my co-work space, Impact Brixton, at least once a week to share being around amazing ambitious people, delivering story workshops, meeting potential clients and going to events; no day looked the same and I loved the buzz. I consciously chose a co-work space in Brixton, even though I live in Kent, as I missed South London after moving to the Kent countryside. I miss Impact! After picking my youngest from the train station, it was home to the dog, cooking supper and then probably back to work for the evening.

I’m used to being at home, and l love having the kids around. As teenagers, they aren’t looking to me to educate them – (thank god GCSE physics would have been a shit show), so I provide coffee, crisps and the occasional piece of fruit to combat scurvy.

What lockdown has offered me is a chance to reflect. I am fortunate that my work is digital, and in the first few weeks of lockdown I signed new storytelling clients which was amazing, as that particular side of my business is new. Over the last 4 years I’ve got busier and busier, and I couldn’t take a break as business was taking off, even as my marriage broke down. I’ve been able to slow down, take a look at where I’m going, identify what is unique about my offering and lean into more marketing opportunities. Without the rush of running around town between events, meetings, friends and opportunities, I’ve been forced to face the gremlins that have haunted me since I was 14. The panic of the first few weeks meant I couldn’t cope with podcasts on my dog walk or as I hoovered my little house. I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect and challenge myself, knowing that I wouldn’t have to make myself ‘event ready’ and the luxury of saying to a client “I’m working at 60%” and hear them agree; to put this into perspective: the night before my first major client opportunity, my ex told me he wanted to break up. I have attended professional research interviews, day long strategy meetings and writing groups all as my marriage went through its death rattles, always wearing my work face. Being allowed to Not Be Okay has been like taking your bra off and pulling on your comfy pants with your besties as they open the prosecco – my relaxed, best self, has come to the fore, unencumbered by expectations.

My teenagers should be off with their mates, building bonds and memories, making mistakes. Thankfully our late-middle-aged greyhound Rob mostly sleeps and takes every cuddle that a household of three women will give him. He is our saviour though I swear he flinches when a camera looms into view.

Even as a food waste expert and lover of leftovers I have really struggled in needing to provide meals and snacks, every sodding day. Even though we rarely ate out, I hadn’t realised how often we’d grab a bagel or I could have Koi Ramen or Pizza or even just a coffee made by Not Me. I’ve come to really resent cooking, and I’ve relaxed my junk food rules, buying more crisps and fizzy for the kids. I may have been eating tinned spaghetti. With cheese. sometimes with frankfurters. And sliced white.

I found out I was eligible for government support which was incredible, as work from one of my retainer clients dried up overnight. Impact Brixton have also supported me brilliantly, allowing flexibility and bringing me in-house as part of their on-boarding team; this has meant I can show up to events and meetings, and don’t lose the community that I’ve been part of for 2 ½ years. I adore ‘Doing it for the Kids’; a wesbite for for freelance parents trying to make flexible working work which provides so much advice just a question away, and the AllBright Academy have been proactive about daily content. Locally there’s nothing, not a sausage.

The hardest part about lockdown was not having hugs! I’m a single parent, so not having someone to hug you after a disappointing email or argument with the kids has been really hard, but also an amazing lesson in self-reliance. My birthday was a month into lockdown, though, and the wealth of flowers, calls, love and a day long conversation in couplets with an old friend made my all-alone lockdown birthday truly special. Parenting teenagers through this, with the future so uncertain, is awful – the grief their generation is experiencing is profound and I worry about the impact this will have throughout their lives. My Dad was born in 1940, so a war baby, and it’s such a part of his generation’s identity. These children are coping now, but with what is known about the long-term impacts of food insecurity, of stress and grief, there’s a sadness and fear. But the fight and rage for equality that I see in my kids and their friends will change the world.

I have most enjoyed working my way through watching ‘The Office’ and K-Dramas with my kids and having the time to watch many, many Lorde videos/You Tube videos and thank the sweet Lord RuPaul that AllStars 5 was in the can – it gives us a focal point to the week. I’ve got back into kickboxing and I’m grateful that I live in a house, because the thuds of my weak hipped air kicks would deafen an elephant. I am also grateful for the time to read and reflect on my anti-racist education has been important, reflecting on where I need to learn, to listen and take action; I’m sharing what I have learned over the last few years with friends and colleagues, and listening to others. It’s a process, I’m committed to the long-term journey and the persistence that it will take to rebuild our systems for our black and brown communities. Workwise, I have enjoying being able to have time to explore the strengths and weaknesses of my offering and address them. This has been beneficial and I believe I’m giving my clients the benefit of my increased focus.

It’s never too late to make a change. What lockdown has reminded us is that none of us know what the future looks like; so, don’t wait. Want to be a writer? Start writing and set up a Medium account or find Facebook groups who can help you on your journey. For those of us fortunate to have a little breathing space, take this opportunity to interrogate your journey and see where you can improve and also how to help those in your community. Move your body in a way that soothes and stretches, and that the first step is never a small one. It’s terrifying. Find people who are there to hold your shaking, sweaty hand.

Ann Storr

This series was the brainchild of Georgia Lombard. Editing and compiling has been done by Bex McKinty - a Belfast based blogger writing about anything from food and films to people and politics with the underlying aim of empowering womxn from all walks of life. Follow her at @girlscantthrow

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