‘I’ve missed the gym and art galleries’: the big reopening in England

Rachel Obordo
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: John Phillips/Getty</span>
Photograph: John Phillips/Getty

From Monday, non-essential shops, gyms and art galleries will be reopening in England. People will also be able to stay at campsites, holiday lets and other forms of self-contained accommodation as restrictions are eased.

Three people talk about their plans and what the change in restrictions means for them.

‘We’re all just looking forward to a break’

Janet Newton, in Tyne and Wear, said she “can’t wait” to go to the Peak District on Monday with her family. The 67-year-old social worker is travelling with her husband, Rob, and dog, Baxter, in their motorhome and meeting their daughter, son-in-law and grandson, who will also be travelling up in their campervan. “I’m very keen on holidays so we made a tentative booking back in February,” she said. “We had to rearrange it as we planned to travel last week, but we’re now all just looking forward to a break.”

Newton said she would normally be travelling abroad and was “sad” it would not realistically happen until next year. “We’ve cancelled at least six holidays since the pandemic began – from spa weekends to a big trip to Botswana,” she said. “Luckily we’ve been able to recoup our money but as a family we work hard and invest a lot in holidays.”

On Monday, Newton has an appointment for her second vaccination at 8.30am and will be doing the three-hour drive to the Peak District straight after. During their week away they plan to do a lot of walking and cycling or “sheltering from snow showers”. “It sounds like the weather is going to be rubbish but we’ll just get on it with,” she said. “It will be good to be somewhere other than my office at home.”

She said they did not have any concerns about Covid as the adults in their family had had at least one vaccination. “We’ve been careful and have stuck to the rules but we’ll be outside most of the time when we’re away.”

‘I’ve missed going to the gym and visiting art galleries’

In London, Franck Pertois has already booked a time slot for the gym at 6.30am on Monday. “Mine is the very first appointment,” said the 56-year-old social care trainer. “It’s the time I like to go because it’s quite quiet.”

Pertois said he missed the gym and visiting art galleries and was looking forward to doing both as soon as possible. After his early-morning workout he plans on visiting Room 2 at Karsten Schubert London in Soho. “I really like private galleries because there is hardly anyone in them,” he said. “They’re very well managed and you get to see an exhibition on your own.”

Though he has already been vaccinated he said he had no plans to go out to eat. “I think there’s an element of safety and personal choice. I’ve discovered that I’m saving a lot of money since the beginning of the pandemic and part of me feels that going out to eat would be a bit redundant when I can have a very nice meal at home.

“I don’t know if the change will last but there are things I used to do on a regular basis, like eating out, that I’m not sure I will re-engage with after the pandemic.”

‘Going back to society is going to be difficult’

“Nothing changes for me,” said Geraint Lewis who lives on his own in Ludlow, Shropshire, and has stayed at home since 23 March last year.

Lewis, 66, who is retired and has underlying health conditions, said he would not be going out until May at the earliest after he has had his second vaccination on 25 April. “My children live 90 miles away in Cardiff and I’m dependent on Tesco delivery for food,” he said. “It’s not been easy.”

He said he has been unable to get broadband at home due to the remote location, and has spent the past year using a mobile for internet access. “What can you do? I’ve been catching up on lots of reading. I left school at 14 and I’ve taken the time to write things that people would do at university.

“I retired from working as a barber when the first lockdown happened but before that I would travel every weekend to Cardiff. My children are really worried about me but they understand the difficulty of not being able to meet for a while.”

Lewis said he sometimes walked a few hundred metres from his home but most weekends he did not because he did not want to risk coming into contact with others. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Going back to society is going to be difficult as I’ve been cut off for a year. The only people I see are the ones who deliver my food and my prescriptions.

“I’ve been alone but not lonely. I’m reluctant to go out because the chances are, with what I’ve got, I’ll die. I know I’m only 66 but I could do with a few more years.”