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#stayathome stories – #11

In the latest installment in our series, Deidre Rooke shares how her rambles with her beloved four-footed companion, Izzi, have shaped her lockdown experience.

Izzi and I

by Deidre Rooke

Living directly in the true heart of Berlin, signs of impending changes become noticeable fast. As our world becomes smaller and quieter, having my trusty canine companion, Izzi—my beautiful, exuberant three-year-old black Labrador—is a wonderful blessing. Izzi is a delightful dog, funny and social, who loves the many varied people we encounter. We know every restaurant and café owner, and everyone says hello and pats Izzi. In these weird times, Izzi’s found it puzzling that her usual fans are not around. However, being able to escape the solitude of our apartment to walk Izzi allows me freedom, while walking early reduces the fear of meeting too many people. We began taking longer walks—in case Berlin’s lockdown became as strict as those in Italy—to run her energy off and keep me fit.

My husband Phil is away during the week. The German e-commerce company he runs in Leipzig has a team of nine hundred people across five countries and five factories. In order to manage the continuous changes in COVID-19 regulations across different marketplaces and how they affect the staff and the business, it is important for him to be there from Monday to Friday. Thankfully, headquarters has enough space for the few key staff members, whose jobs can’t be done at home, to work safely in the office. I am alone for most of the week (even in normal times), so Izzi is always important.

Walks around our eerily quiet neighborhood brought a sense of peace. Seeing glorious, famous landmarks against sapphire-blue skies and no people—just Izzi and me—was strange and wonderful. I’ve got to know one of my neighbors better as their gorgeous French bulldog, Bella, and Izzi love each other. I reached out to neighbors, pinning cheery notes and offers of help on the front door and received a flurry of thank-you notes back. I registered online to help others. I have also been busy sorting out our home. Our overly optimistic project to paint our entire flat one freezing February weekend was literally impossible, given our large and high-ceilinged apartment. Staying at home means our main bedroom is now painted (it looks great), and I’ve sorted a mountain of old paperwork. Things are mostly in their right places—for once.

I’ve had a few bad days and nights when worry and fear threatened to swallow me up. This too has passed. Phil and I love being out and about, hanging out and seeing what’s happening in Berlin. We enjoy going to restaurants and bars, so we are really missing this part of normal life. We missed dinners at two fab Michelin-starred restaurants: Prism and Rutz. We’d planned many weekend breaks away, and guests were due to visit us in spring and summer. Gone. But, of course, we are all suffering from this.

I have reflected on the notion of what society means. We need friends, family, and our wider society. Face-to-face human contact is essential. Bridging human-social-contact voids with Zoom cocktail hours, family chats, and disorganized, hilarious quiz nights has helped. I’ve even had a virtual cocktail lesson with a top London mixologist. I’ve tried to cheer friends and family up by sending care packages with something they miss or need. We’ve had delicious virtual dinners with friends with food we prepared ourselves from restaurants, such as Crackers or Cookies and Cream. Tonight, we dine on Prism’s sharing menu.

We are extremely fortunate to have a comfortable home and to be in a country with a great healthcare system. And I know I can bear the inconvenience of the lockdown by accepting it, even if it is difficult. I look forward to the days when we can meet our friends again, have long dinner parties filled with laughter, travel again, and see my UK family. I hope that we come out of this crisis more humble, more caring and thankful for all we have, and more willing to help those who are not so fortunate across the world and those who are suffering so badly during this crisis. But I am mostly deeply thankful to have had Izzi by my side during these strange and interesting times.

We’ll meet again, Ladies!

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