As of yesterday here in Newport, South Wales, I’m able to have a socially distant meet up with another household outside for the first time since lockdown began. I’ll be seeing my Mum and Dad for a long awaited cup of tea in my garden. But I won’t be seeing my Edinburgh-based fiancé, who I was meant to move in with in April and marry in May - two major life events we have had to repeatedly postpone since the pandemic began.
This was supposed to be our big year: I went to Scotland at the end of February and we made the last few arrangements for the big move. We were really excited; I left my good sports bra at his, thinking that in a mere six weeks I’d be there for good. Three weeks later came the crushing realisation that wasn’t going to happen.
For a long-distance couple, devolved government and the impact the different routes out of lockdown are having are ruinous effect. To get from Wales to Scotland (or vice versa), you have to negotiate the rules of three different governments and while Westminster is romping away with easing the rules, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and the Senedd in Cardiff are being much more cautious. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with what we can and can’t do in our own local areas without having to worry about the rules of another government entirely, but this too has become part of our reality.
We went into our relationship knowing that it was going to be a long-distance one for a while, but that was at a time when we could plan and there were timescales; now it’s just “it’ll happen some time”, and “we might know more in three months”.
We had family due to travel from Europe and the USA for our small wedding with afternoon tea afterwards in Leith. While we came to realise they wouldn’t make it, we still held hopes that our UK guests could be there, until we finally admitted defeat, willing to settle for just us and two witnesses. But then even that became impossible, and we made the decision to cancel. Although we knew it was totally the right decision and that we’ll get married in the future, when the time is right, we were devastated that it couldn’t go ahead; we’d thought that keeping it simple, yet exactly what we wanted, would make our big day stress-free and capable of going off without a hitch. We were lucky to get nearly all of our money back and although we haven’t rescheduled yet, we will.
We were used to talking on the phone multiple times a day and last thing at night, so I don’t think it really hit us at first. But as lockdown has gone on, and we’ve had to accept that living together isn’t going to happen for now, phone calls have now been joined by WhatsApp and Zoom, because we flexed our middle-aged (I am 51) digital muscles and learned new skills.
We spent what would have been our wedding day on Zoom and watching Shakespeare from The Globe (The Tempest, since you ask), and have got into the habit of scheduling events that we attend ‘together’ so that we can talk about shared experience (thank you Hay Festival and all the theatres that have moved online for the duration).
The ‘new normal’ isn’t that much different to the old normal, if we’re honest, except that now we’re resigned to the fact that we just don’t know when we’ll see each other again in real life. Of course we know that a journey to be with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with isn’t essential, and thank goodness we have multiple ways to communicate and the knowledge that we’re both doing all that we can to not be struck down by the virus, but things are still hard.
We’re not the only people in this boat and we know that eventually we will do all the things we were meant to. But while we’re thrilled that people can start to get together again, we are desperate to know when our turn will come.