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Country versus city: Where is the best place to live during lockdown?


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From those struggling to self-isolate in dense urban areas to others who live in the countryside, how are they coping with coronavirus restrictions?

From those struggling to self-isolate in dense urban areas to others who live in the countryside, how are they coping with coronavirus restrictions?

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Home work: Declan Fearon working in his garden

Home work: Declan Fearon working in his garden

Declan with his wife Maria and granddaughter Moya before the lockdown

Declan with his wife Maria and granddaughter Moya before the lockdown

High life: Jillian and daughter Daisy (6)

High life: Jillian and daughter Daisy (6)

Jillian with husband Dave

Jillian with husband Dave

Daisy looks out the window

Daisy looks out the window

From those struggling to self-isolate in dense urban areas to others who live in the countryside, how are they coping with coronavirus restrictions?

From those struggling to self-isolate in dense urban areas to others who live in the countryside, how are they coping with coronavirus restrictions? Here, Claire O’Boyle speaks to two people adapting to their new ways of living.

‘I’m lucky to be able to get out in the garden, soon it’ll be the best mown lawn in the country’

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Home work: Declan Fearon working in his garden

Home work: Declan Fearon working in his garden

Home work: Declan Fearon working in his garden

Businessman Declan Fearon (63) lives in the countryside close to Jonesborough, Co Armagh, with his wife Maria, a nurse with the NHS.

It's been an extremely strange time," he says. "For the guts of three weeks now I've barely been out of the house. The one exception was at the weekend when my wife and I drove over to my daughter's house nearby to look through the window at three of our seven grandchildren.

"You see, we have a new grandson who is three weeks old so we were able to take a look at him through the glass, even if we couldn't hold him.

"The coronavirus situation has had a huge impact on us, like it has on everyone else. In a way I feel like we're very lucky because we're out in the country and we have plenty of room in the garden to get out and get a bit of air.

"Some days I feel as if I'm competing to have the best mown lawn in the country, I'm tidying it up that much. We'll be able to play golf on it before long. And I'm doing wee quirky things too, like a bit more cooking and bingeing on box sets.

"But it has been difficult too. For 40 years I've run a business, a factory 500 yards from my house where we create bespoke kitchens and furniture. We have 15 employees. So for 40 years that's been my lifestyle.

"I've been up and about, in and out of my work and the house from 7.30am until 6pm in the evening, or later, but we furloughed the business on March 24, the day after the lockdown came into effect.

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Declan with his wife Maria and granddaughter Moya before the lockdown

Declan with his wife Maria and granddaughter Moya before the lockdown

Declan with his wife Maria and granddaughter Moya before the lockdown

"It was a very upsetting thing to do, especially thinking about all the people we had to send home from their jobs.

"It's the biggest call I can remember making in all that time but I think it was the right thing to do to protect us all for when we come out of this thing.

"I'm in a high-risk category for Covid-19 because I've got a heart condition, which was detected quite recently.

"I was due to have a procedure soon to deal with it, but because of everything that's going on it's been cancelled for now.

"I decided to isolate myself even before the government lockdown, so I haven't been into Newry in more than two weeks, which is very strange.

"Normally I'd be in and out of the town at least once or twice a day, so I am feeling the effect of this in a big way. I'm in the house on my own quite a bit because my wife is carrying on going to her work in the hospital.

"It's strange to have my routine completely knocked on the head.

"From days when I'd be so busy morning to night with people milling around all the time in and out of the factory, it's become very quiet and there's a lot less activity going on.

"I'm doing some work in the house on my laptop, bits of admin and keeping in touch with my son who also works in the business.

"But compared to what it was, it's very different. My wife and I were supposed to be going to New York with our daughter and son-in-law a few days before St Patrick's Day, but we cancelled. I'm relieved we did because the situation over there seems to be dire, and at least we avoided getting caught up in it or bringing it back home with us.

"The thing about it all is that, while it's strange and difficult to adjust to, I think it will have a lasting impact. It's definitely made me sit up and think what was all the rushing about for. If we're lucky to come through it all then maybe it's time to have a look at it and change our perspectives a bit.

"As well as my wife working in the NHS, my daughter is a consultant up in the Royal in Belfast, so it's a worrying time. It's certainly made me sit back and take stock.

"We don't really need the foreign holidays or to be so busy in our lives all the time. What we actually need is to slow down and realise what matters - our families, our health, a good quality of life in our local areas.

"It's been a huge wake-up call and a huge chance to make some serious changes when this very difficult situation comes to an end."

‘Living in a fifth floor flat, we feel trapped. I long to take my daughter to the park to play’

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High life: Jillian and daughter Daisy (6)

High life: Jillian and daughter Daisy (6)

High life: Jillian and daughter Daisy (6)

Jillian Kettley (46) lives in a fifth-floor flat in Newtownabbey's Rathcoole estate along with her daughter Daisy, who turns seven later this month, and husband Dave.

It's been a really difficult few weeks. It's been hard for all of us, and especially because I'd be classed as a high-risk person. I had a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, and while I'm about to hit four years clear it won't be until the five-year mark that I'll be able to feel truly confident.

"My immune system took a real knock through the treatment so when everything started to become more serious with the coronavirus outbreak we knew it was going to be major.

"When you have cancer, you learn to take every day as it comes and try to avoid going down the road of stressing about everything because it really doesn't help.

"Living in the high-rises at the minute really isn't easy. Daisy and I don't get out - except that I get to leave the flat to do some volunteering at the Dunanney Centre to help other people in the Rathcoole community. But other than that, Daisy and I are pretty much stuck inside.

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Daisy looks out the window

Daisy looks out the window

Daisy looks out the window

"Dave is a key worker so he's carried on as he works in distribution for animal feed. He's the only one of us really going anywhere.

"We have three bedrooms in the flat, with a separate bathroom and toilet, a living room and a kitchen.

"It's quite good in size compared to what some other people have, but being trapped inside all the time makes you realise just how small it is. We don't have a garden to open the back door into. We don't have a balcony, and our windows have latches on them so they only open a very small crack.

"You can take the latches off if you need to, but for now with Daisy so young I don't even want to go there, so we keep the latches on. I keep the blinds pulled right back so any sunshine there is can get in, and the windows are open a crack for some air, but that's it really. It will be hard as the weather gets nicer.

"There are communal areas outside, and we have communal lifts to get you down there. But if we do that then we're running the risk of being in close contact with other people, and none of us know who may have symptoms or could have been exposed to this.

"Not getting out into the fresh air is very difficult. I suppose it's getting me down a bit, and the longer it goes on the more I'm feeling a bit anxious. But I know it's the right thing to do. Luckily Daisy has taken it really well. She's not at the point where she's tearing her hair out wanting to get outside. She misses the park and getting to school with her friends, but she's been really understanding and accepting of the situation.

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Jillian with husband Dave

Jillian with husband Dave

Jillian with husband Dave

"Her school was great in explaining a bit about the coronavirus so she knows we're inside to stay safe and that it won't last forever.

"What I'm desperate for is to be able to take Daisy to the park. Normally we stop off on the way home from school so she can have a run about for 20 minutes before we go home to do her homework, but now everything is limited to inside.

"We're still doing some exercise. She really enjoys dancing and we put music on and she makes up dances and practices her cartwheels. I've got my stepper on my phone, and we go walking around between rooms to get our steps up.

"It's actually been fine because we're just doing our best to fill our days, and be flexible with it. I think trying to impose a strict timetable on ourselves just wouldn't work, because this just isn't a normal time.

"Our usual routine is completely gone. I don't work, but I volunteer in the community as a Listening Ear and at other groups, and between that and school as well as Daisy's Girls' Brigade we usually have a lot to keep ourselves busy.

"For now though we're just trying our best, like everyone else. When Dave is off he's doing wee cookery classes with Daisy, and as well as that we're trying to do a bit of school work every day because she's always really enjoyed learning. I don't want that to be something she loses because of all this.

"The next thing to think about is Daisy's birthday, which is later this month, a couple of days after mine. We've told her she's going to be like the Queen, with two birthdays in 2020.

"She'll have a small one at home with me and her daddy and then a lovely big one later on when all of this stuff comes to an end. It will give all of us something to look forward to."

Support is available for people isolated or in need during the coronavirus crisis in Newtownabbey through the Good Morning Newtownabbey project, tel: 9086 6385

Belfast Telegraph