9th August: Remote Working and Warm Sun under the Oak Tree

In the morning, a corner of the living room is flooded with sunlight coming through our East-facing windows. Throughout lockdown, this corner has become my morning coffee spot where I can close my eyes and feel the sun warming my skin. As I – very slowly – sip my coffee, I will watch an episode of Friends or, if I’m not feeling too demoralised by Covid-talk, will catch up on BBC breakfast. My family are not the earliest of risers, so I savour every second of this peaceful hour until my dad walks through living room enroute to his office, reminding me that I have just 15 more minutes to enjoy Chandler’s one-liners before starting work. 

I have been working remotely from home for just over five weeks now. The job is with a young London-based practice and I am one of a team of ten architectural assistants. My first day began with a two hour long “MMM” (“Monday Morning Meeting”), sadly without the croissants and black coffee which would have typically accompanied it. Whilst I had imagined that my first day would have involved getting to know my colleagues over an overpriced sandwich at lunch, sat on the steps of St James’ Church in Farringdon, I was instead faced with a screen of unfamiliar faces and intermittent Wifi failures. 

Following our daily “just checking you are out of bed” call at 9am, we begin our days of silent screen-staring and mouse-clicking. I share an office with my dad; he has a desk at one end of the room while my desk is by the window looking out at the garden. I feel extremely lucky to have the workspace that I do; even if it means that I also have to subject myself to dad’s scrutiny (apparently I say “cool” too much in meetings…) Whilst constantly being around my family has its drawbacks, it is nice that they are able to engage in the work that I am doing, whether it be my mum asking why on earth I’m photoshopping a Hawksmoor church into a photograph of a client’s back garden, or my sister suggesting that I include a sea lion in my collage. 

Starting a job during lockdown is not ideal. But, in a funny way, it has brought as many new and unexpected opportunities as it has impeded. Most importantly, it has given my day-to-day life a sense of structure which I haven’t felt since running away from university and germs back in March.

Having lived in London for the first 20 years of my life, my family’s move to the village of Hinxton in March (population 300 !) was, unsurprisingly, a bit of a shock to the system. Whilst under non-Covid circumstances I would have undoubtedly spent much of my summer traveling irrationally long distances for a spontaneous trip to the local Spoons, I have instead found myself appreciating everything that rural life has to offer; ranging from spending hours perfecting my wood pigeon ‘coo-cooooooo-coo-coo-coo’ to taking evening walks through one of the many local fields to watch the sun set. 

As the world outside has become warmer in the summer sun the huge oak tree in the middle of our garden – paired with our reclining chairs – has become my new best friend. This is my go-to spot during my 1PM hour-long lunch break where I will often be found with a bowl of couscous and a huge smile on my face (which gradually diminishes as I get closer to 2PM). 

My bedroom is not particularly big, but in the last four months the one metre wide gap between my bed and the wall has become one my most cherished spaces. Once I finish work – usually around 6PM  if a client hasn’t become too carried away chatting about how important it is that their Persian rug is showcased in their new extension – I will head upstairs to my room, squeeze my camping-cum-exercise mat into my precious gap, and scroll through YouTube to find a low impact workout which will result in minimal banging through the floor. 

Other than its occasional use as a gym, in the evening my room becomes my “Zoom room” when I will be typically found crouched in the corner with my laptop to reach the strongest Wifi connection. My boyfriend and I have fallen into the habit of calling each other every other evening, eager to catch up with one another, but soon realising that we have limited responses to ‘What have you been up to today?’ But nevertheless, we continue to excitedly tell each other about the jaw-dropping couscous I made for lunch or the trousers he finally decided to order on Depop. 

For both me and my family, life has taken an unexpected turn in the last five months. The ways that I have engaged with the spaces and people around me have changed in ways that I never could have imagined. In the images above, I have chosen to cut myself out, not because I wasn’t looking my best, but because lockdown has forced me to pay more attention to where I am and who I am with. This is what I am grateful for.

Joanna Lake