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Life Under Lockdown: A Christ Church Diary

Written by Simon Becke (1st year PPE and member of the Blue Boar self-isolating “family”), posted on Friday, June 12, 2020

Our latest blog explores what life is like for the few students who have remained in residence during the pandemic.

Twelve weeks since almost all Christ Church students were sent home, and six weeks into remote Trinity term, college life still continues for the few students that have found themselves quarantined in the House, albeit in quite a different form.

Simon Becke and his Blue Boar self-isolating “family”As a part of social distancing measures, students are instructed to keep a safe distance from staff and to form family units, so I can not speak of the experience of all twenty or so students still in Christ Church, but I can walk you through a day in the life of the Blue Boar Isolation Gang (or isolation family, if I’m being sentimental).

Without 9am lectures or tutorials to run off to, the day begins somewhere between eight and ten in the morning, when – after throwing on some sweatpants and a t-shirt – I can make the quick hop over to Meadows for an early morning walk. Since lockdown began, one always feels as if it is a Sunday morning when walking through college and seeing it devoid of students and tourists, eerily serene and quiet.

Sometimes, I’ll cross paths with a porter or the Dean, and stop and have a brief conversation about how we’re all holding up.

In Meadows, I’ve been able to watch the seasons change, from early spring when the flowers were just starting to bloom and the animals were just starting to come out, to now, when everything is so green, and you can hardly walk for all the ducks along the path. Of course, I would be remiss to not mention the return of the cows, which has been a welcome sight, a reminder for me of Michaelmas when I saw them for the first time.

Weather permitting, I sometimes work in the Masters' Garden or even a few times on the benches in the Cloisters, which had been a dream of mine, but the endless stream of tourists in term time had always prevented this. Most days however, I’m hard at work in the Blue Boar Exhibition Space along with other members of the BB gang! BBES was one of my favourite study spaces during term and has now turned into my group’s primary social space. We even have made a white board up with our weekly schedule of “events” that we plan to keep busy and get a break from time to time!

For lunch, I count my lucky stars (nearly) everyday that at least one Oxford institution has not shuttered its windows during lockdown: G&D's still operates on a take-away-only, socially distanced basis, so we have not been deprived of bagels or ice cream the past months! Often, lunch lasts at least an hour, as we get our bagels and talk about (argue over) whatever topic is interesting us. Today, it was how trade regulations can play into mitigating climate change. Make of that what you will.

Some form of work typically continues for the rest of the afternoon, but in the evenings, we stop to cook together. With kitchen access across the street in Old St Aldates, at least two of the group make the trek over to cook dinner for everyone. Cooking and sharing dinner has been a great way to bring the group together as it does feel like a real family because of that. If we weren’t friends before, we definitely are now! Our culinary experiments have been varied to say the least: home-made pizza (amazing), ceviche (a real favourite), frittata (scarily huge egg cake), ravioli (a loveable disaster), and with at least two weeks left before anyone else can go home, who knows what ideas we’ll come up with together!

The night can end in one of a few ways. Sometimes, we end up talking at the dinner table until much too late; others, we play board games or watch a movie together. Of course, as term progresses too many evenings have been turned into late night studying sessions. If you are in one of the BB rooms, already cozy and hidden beneath your duvet, you can normally always see the silhouette of someone still working in BBES. Even though college life is radically different with most people gone, we are establishing a strangely familiar routine, trying to hold on to all the things that we normally value during term time. What is different is that instead of the Library, you will now see the lights in BBES go out later and later every day as this Trinity term draws to a close. And this is how most of the days end, with the lights going out, college returning back to complete silence but then (if you pretend that you are not the only one left) our House almost feels like it always has.

We know that we have experienced college in a way that many of you couldn’t. We hope we've shared some insights into everything that is going on here, showing how life here is completely different to what it normally is, and yet strangely familiar. We did our best to uphold the spirit of the House and to represent our whole college community, even if we are the only ones left. And while we do love our isolation family, nothing we’ve experienced in the past weeks compares to college life as it should be. Buzzing Tom Quad lies now empty and moving through college you never bump into other students. So, while it was a unique time for us here, we can’t wait to see everyone return back to college to finally bring all of the Christ Church community back to where they belong and once again unite us in sharing college life with everyone.