10 life lessons I learned from lockdown

Food writer and self-confessed cynic Neil Davey didn’t expect to find any comfort in the weird situation we found ourselves in back in 2019, but even he couldn’t help noticing the odd silver lining.

Here, he shares the 10 eye-opening life lessons he learned during the Covid-19 lockdown.

10 life lessons I learned from lockdown
Close up mid section of a young man wearing apron in the kitchen

Well, that got very strange, very quickly, didn’t it? I’m still not convinced it’s all sunk in, but maybe that’s for the best? That’s not to downplay the seriousness of the situation. Fear not – I followed Government guidelines. I washed my hands a LOT. I stayed home, I avoided people – although as a middleaged, grumpy freelance journalist I’ve sort of been in training for those for years. But it’s important to find the positives that came out of lockdown, be it dazzlingly clean fingernails or any of the following…

1. People are, for the most part, lovely

We came together wonderfully. We put the social back in social media. Where I live, we now have a WhatsApp group for our flats, which means, after 24 years here, I finally know more than three neighbours’ names. Ahem. Even with thousands of cancelled weddings, holidays and so on, people generally shrugged, put their plans on hold and didn’t complain.

2. Local shops rock

While the supermarkets looked, at the beginning of lockdown, like a scene from a biblical epic, it was a chance to explore local independents. Close to me there’s an Italian deli that’s consistently had top quality pasta, while the Turkish supermarket stocks EVERYTHING. And although the bakery had been so busy, you had to order three days ahead. They started giving away pots of sourdough starter. Which brings me to…

3. There was time to bake

There’s a reasonable claim that sourdough starters have become Tamagotchis for middle-aged men, with everyone claiming theirs is the best. Which is daft because mine is. Breadmaking has been discovered by thousands as a wonderful hobby. Sure, you can build model railways or collect stamps, but can you cover them in melted cheese? Exactly.

Learn how to make sourdough


4. Cooking got serious

What was, for many, a fun thing to do at weekends became a way of life. We were planning meals and making the most of ingredients we weren’t sure we’d see again…

5. The internet was brilliant

What a resource! Recipes, community support and sites like Eat Your Books, which indexes your cookery book collection, meaning you can search for recipes based on the ingredients you have.

6. The kitchen was a cave of delights

Probably. I thought we were hugely organised and knew exactly what was in our cupboards. Turns out we weren’t and we didn’t.  There are so many things we don’t remember buying that I suspect the top shelf may be a portal to another dimension.

7. I’ve finally understood the difference between ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ 

Also, it turns out that a fabulous device for working out what’s edible and what’s not is my nose.

8. It was a golden chance to learn a new kitchen craft

Been meaning to master Thai cookery? Lockdown was the time. Always meant to pickle? You’re going to be so grateful you learned that one.

thai food
Take a masterclass in Thai cuisine


9. Online shops are amazing

Supermarket deliveries are a lottery: “You  are 188,973rd in the queue, so maybe have a think about what you want for Christmas.” BUT there are lots of great online options for produce, meat, cheese, fish – and wine.

10. And, finally, mindfulness is not a fad

As a friend WhatsApped me during the pandemic, “I’m hyper-focusing on things I used to take for granted. I ate a cookie yesterday and I mean I REALLY ate that cookie. Every bite observed and considered.” The circumstances might have been grim, but it allowed me to savour the time.

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