FF – Lockdown

It’s my photo this week. The picture shows part of the Rouge River near Toronto Zoo. It’s a beautiful place and feels a lot like freedom on day trips from the city. We take the kids often and let them paddle, climb and explore. It’s one of those places that is wonderful in every season. We went a lot this winter, when there was nothing else to do and nowhere else to go, but this particular story takes place back on the city streets, inspired by those bleak ‘eyes’ staring out of the image.

Toronto has had the longest lockdown in North America (one of the longest in the world; depending how you measure it); as we gradually lift restrictions, it’s clear that lives have been saved, but you only have to talk to a few people to learn the cost of the lockdown. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done it, I’m just saying we need to acknowledge the losses and find ways to minimise their effects.


It’s our designated hour for walking.

I remember the first weeks, when we skipped in the Spring sunshine, enjoying the freedom and the fresh air on our faces. We’d take chalk and leave trails for friends to follow. After our hour, we’d retreat inside, draw rainbows and paste them to our windows.

The rainbows are faded now. The sun’s shining, but we trudge. I catch a glimpse of a face pressed against the glass. His eyes are empty; he is young enough not to have known the Beforetimes. I wonder if he’s young enough that he will see the After.


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56 responses to “FF – Lockdown

  1. Bleak and thought-provoking. Faces at the window are so powerful, aren’t they?

  2. Scary commentary on the state of the world these days. Well done.

  3. I have very strong opinions on the virus. I wont state them here I will just say you decribed it well.

  4. Ain Starlingsson


  5. Wonderful atmospheric piece and sorry it’s based on true circumstances.

  6. michael1148humphris

    I remember my short time spent in Toronto so well , so reading your flash was so sad. I

  7. A year we will all remember. Really like the story.

  8. I identify with the change between the early days and the later, when is started to seem it would never end.

    • I’m glad it doesn’t feel that way to you now. I veer between feeling like it’s all over and fearing we’ll have another year of school closures and restrictions when cases inevitably start rising again

  9. I didn’t know you’d had the longest lockdown. This was such an evocative story – reminding me of the first time I went out for the limited period of exercise we were allowed during the first lockdown. Silent roads, few people but those who were out crossing over to the other side when they saw you coming… surreal. Stay safe.

    • Thanks! Pretty safe here as our lokdowns have kept numbers pretty low (certainly by uk / usa standards). I remember that road crossing though – thank goodness we’ve stopped that at least

  10. the idea of going back to ‘normal’ seems to pass from peoples lips very loosely. I think we do not want the normal of the past, look where it has got us. We need a real hard look at what needs to change for the better.

  11. A situation we can all relate to, I’m sure. The isolation separates us in more than one way. And it takes the joy out of children’s and young people’s lives. It would be difficult to explain to the kids how they’re still priviledged.

  12. Thanks for the pictorial inspirations! It works well for something else I’m writing, too.

  13. oops… continuing. we were lifting restrictions and now we’re re-instituting them. Ugh!

  14. Dear Jen,

    As the variant is rearing its ugly head I wonder if we aren’t headed for another lockdown. As I write this I’m sitting in airport where the mask restrictions are being upheld. I didn’t think it affected me that much, in the face of a rerun, I find myself in a state of anxiety. Your story is well written and evocative.



    • Thank you, Rochelle. I fear we’ll have another lockdown without ever really coming out of the first one here. As you say, I don’t think it was clear at first how much it affected everyone. The longer it goes on, the more those impacts become apparent.

  15. A clever take on the way things are. My little granddaughter has only ever known lockdown and face masks. She must think it’s the norm.

    Here’s mine!

    • I hope she soon learns some of the freedoms the rest of us used to take for granted. My boys remember, but I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse to be honest.

  16. after being in pandemic mode for almost two years now, i wonder it we’d be able to go back to what life used to be like. i want to believe.

  17. Such a good illustration of what lockdown has been like, how people have changed and have been changed. I get almost a science fiction feel from it – except that it’s real.
    (I really like your photo too. An iced over pond always takes me to a happy place.)

  18. I have often thought of what a strange time to be a child — I had nuclear and cold war (duck and cover) in my childhood nightmares. I hope your boys do get the chance to run and play like children again!
    Here in the US, we are threading water; about to be swept by another wave. If only — now I won’t expound on my thoughts about this.
    Your story is evocative and haunting — you captured in 100 words the emotions and realities of the last year and a half.

  19. Oh that last line… before time and after… I wonder if it will ever be the same carefree existence? What will they remember ?

  20. In the US, we started opening up when people started getting vaccinated. Then, people stopped getting vaccinated and wearing masks, so COVID started spreading again. Now, the Delta variant is taking hold, so we’re going back to masks. It’s up to the public when this ends. When people stop being selfish and start being responsible, when people get vaccinated and wear masks long enough to stop it from spreading, that’s when this will end.

    I didn’t know the picture was yours. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Ah! The “beforetimes”, I loved that word. We just emerged from another two weeks lockdown. I still feel sane but I am old and have my work, it’s different for the young ones. It’s first year of uni for my youngest but online classes don’t give you that excitement that comes from the first year on campus.

  22. What atmosphere!

    Your right about a price to pay for lockdowns. A lot is said about business, but the psychological and social side are largely ignored.

    • That’s my point exactly. The economic costs are incredible and also probably will be bore by today’s children, but it’s the personal cost that worries me as this drags on.

  23. The lockdowns have certainly been controversial, as your story reflects. No easy answers, and government handouts last only as long as people can still pay government taxes.

  24. Very skilfully written, Jen. The image of the small child looking out blankly is stark and evocative. Oldies like me owe a great debt of gratitude to the youngsters – the lockdown was mainly to protect us not them. I hope we never forget that.

  25. What an intriguing story. I hope the narrator gets her wish, that there is an after.

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