My year of lockdown with the Bayley Girls

I started this on Friday 12th March 2021, the same day that marked my year of lockdown. I remember I returned home from London with the smallest of suitcases thinking I’d be home for a couple of weeks. It almost seems laughable now.

Those of us living in the Big Smoke had a slight head start with fearing Covid-19. My sister, who barely had it on her radar, thought it was hilarious when she picked me up from Coventry train station. I was all wrapped up with a scarf over my mouth, gloves on, and I was nervous of people in close proximity. I just remember being so panicked about it all.

Mum’s lockdown birthday 2nd April 2020

My mum was so happy to have me home and I was so happy to be home. I’d share funny memes on Instagram about missing normal life, but I actually didn’t miss any of it. Ok, that’s a lie, I missed restaurants. But I knew I was lucky because I was in lockdown with my fave people – the Bayley Girls – and we had everything we needed (Netflix, Amazon, Sky, Disney Plus, Apple TV, oh and each other). We were good, but our number one objective was to protect mum.

I can’t believe a year ago I had a mum to protect and now she’s gone. It actually blows my mind that she’s not here anymore.

Photo of mum in the garden – 9th April 2020

We pretty much wrapped mum in cotton wool throughout lockdown – we were so terrified of her catching Covid we did everything in our power to keep safe. I even remember cleaning down the groceries. She had lots of pre-existing health problems; lungs, heart and kidneys so we were all very worried. Her doctor once told her “Helen, you look great on the outside but on the inside you’re falling apart.”

At the beginning of lockdown mum seemed quite good to be honest. She had been in hospital at the beginning of the year which was really scary and really took it out of her. She had been given oxygen units at home but she wasn’t totally reliant on them at the beginning.

Previous to the pandemic my mum worked in a lovely hotel, and was the longest-serving member of staff. She never wanted to retire – she loved her job so much. Thankfully, I guess, the pandemic disguised the fact her health would have stopped her being able to work. I like that she thought she wasn’t working due to the pandemic – with the hotel being closed my mum never had to suffer fomo and we all know how awful fomo is.

Mum loved flowers. Photo from 28th April 2020

Our lockdown was pretty much the same as everyone elses. We’d all watch TV at night, getting hooked on new TV shows and binge watching them until one in the morning. Some of my fondest memories from lockdown include family BBQs outside, laughing our heads off at Gogglebox, mum getting excited over my work-perk post, waving at the train going past, saying ‘cheers’ with our Magnum ice-creams, giving mum’s bedroom a surprise makeover, surprising her with new carpet in the house (“it’s amazinggg”), putting up the Christmas decorations early because mum’s doctor told us to “treat every day like it’s Christmas.” On that note, Christmas was beautiful – mum wasn’t very good around then but she pulled it out of the bag on Xmas Day and was the first to wake up on Christmas morning telling us that Santa had been. So cute.

Mum rocking her lockdown long hair – 2nd May 2020

If it was sunny, mum would have her breakfast outside and she’d sit in the garden watching her iPad while eating Shredded Wheat. Sorry, these little details might be weird but I’m scared of forgetting anything about her.

Mum really loved Piers Morgan (don’t @ her) – she found him amusing and liked watching him hold politicians to account surrounding the pandemic. I’d record Good Morning Britain for her every day and she’d watch it when she woke up. Not on the days Ben Shepherd was on though because he was “boring.” So savage.

In the afternoon she’d watch hours of Law and Order and I use to moan about the annoying theme song and the depressing storylines “mum, how many rape and murder storylines can one watch in an afternoon?”. At about 3pm I’d encourage her to have a nap. The reminder still pops up at 2.55pm on my laptop. I can’t bring myself to delete it.

Just the cutest! 23rd May 2020

Angie, Jackie and I were such a great tag team with mum. We’d all have our little things we did for her… like, Angie would pick out an outfit for mum to wear every day and I’d help her get ready. I remember Jackie would always come over and watch Bull with her on the sofa. We’d all take it in turns helping her up the stairs and get her into her lovely bed, she was so happy with all her girls around her. I’d give her a ‘facial’ every night and Jax would press play on the Calm app even though we all knew she’d prefer to watch Strike for the 100th time. I’d be like “Mum, relax, listen to Elijah Goldstein and his soothing voice.” She’d be like “Leanna, make it stop, put the telly on”. Sometimes she and I would watch influencers on YouTube. One night we watched hours of InTheFrow, Lydia Millen, and Zoella. I think she just liked seeing their big swanky houses they lived in, or maybe she just liked having me next to her.

Mum off to a hospital appointment – 22nd June 2020

At the beginning of lockdown, we were more of a helping hand and towards the end it was a lot more than that. She needed us because she just had no energy. The sound of her struggling for breath will stay with me forever. I tried to teach her how to breathe better, and made her watch easy online tutorials. So ironic I feel like I can barely breathe since she left us. Just getting out of bed would tire her out but she really did want to be with us. In the morning I’d do her hair and put some tinted moisturiser on her and some blusher (mum loved her blusher!) and she’d have a spritz of perfume and I’d take her down stairs. My mum was a glam Jan until the very end – even her PJs were pink-striped Victoria’s Secret ones. The ultimate angel going off to heaven.

Eat out to help out – 22nd July 2020

I think she worried she was in the way while my sisters and I all worked in the day, and if she was on the sofa while I was on a work call she’d sit and play on her phone (probably watching videos of dogs singing. She loved any videos with dogs in!) She’d never be annoyed with me in work mode but she once told me I was “so loud” on zoom calls.

8th August 2020 – enjoying the glorious weather

I wish I had sat down properly every day to eat lunch with mum, but I didn’t. Angie would make crumpets with lashings of butter and cheese, and mum always wanted a cup of tea with hers, much to Angie’s delight. Let’s put it this way – mum’s beige diet definitely helped with my lockdown weight gain.

When it was time to finish work Angie and I would do a fake call to mum and Jackie and be like ‘ring ring, mum I’m on my way home from work’. So silly but she played along every time. We haven’t done it since.

When Boris used to do his nightly press conferences, mum would pause the TV and shout us to come watch. I remember the night Queenie did her address and we all got quite emotional. There was just something special about feeling scared but also feeling safe and secure together.

Me giving mum her nighttime ‘facial’

Looking back at photos and videos you can tell mum’s health declined noticeably around August 2020. She struggled to get out of bed, she was starting to get tired. Simple tasks would wear her out, and we needed a downstairs bathroom put in as the stairs were just too much for her. Mum’s appetite also started to wane. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t feel like this every day. We’d say ‘Oh, she has good days and bad days’, but towards the end the good days became less frequent. I’m not sure I can expand on more of the details on this one yet as it still feels hard. We thought we had longer. She didn’t want to go anywhere.

Mum loving the Christmas decorations – November 2020

I will say that my mum was happy up until the very end. Not once did she truly moan about her circumstances. As a self-confessed ‘Neggy Nancy’ myself, I really need to be more like my mum and try to think positively. Soon mum, I promise. She never wanted to be rich, she wasn’t jealous of people (ok, maybe Kris Jenner) and she may have been small but her presence was huge. We’ve all noticed that the house is so quiet now.

The last #BayleyGirls group photo – NYE 2020

We’re obviously still in lockdown and I’m sad that my mum didn’t get to see the announcement about the 21st June. I know that she’ll want my siblings and I to go and do lots of exciting things when the world opens up and not just sit and cry watching videos of her and kissing our phone screen when we get overwhelmed. I’ve never really experienced true grief and it really is the worst. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

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