James Kenealey covid-19
Earlier in 2020 as the UK braced for the first COVID-lockdown of the year, Morson caught up with ex-forces ambassador Andy Reid to find out how a career in the armed forces, various operational tours and subsequent life-changing injury had given him some of the coping techniques required to maintain good emotional wellbeing during the periods of isolation.
As the nation was once again put into lockdown in November 2020, we spoke to Andy again about his experiences so far this year, his thoughts on maintaining good wellbeing during the winter lockdown and what he hopes 2021 will bring.
What has your year been like in between the lockdowns?
"At first, lockdown seemed to have come to an end and things started to look like they were getting back to normal again. We went away with the kids for a bit and took that time to have a bit of a holiday. Me and my wife went away for a nice weekend away for her birthday. Then it was just a case of trying to re-engage with people, rebooking in some of those meetings that had fallen off the radar. I went down to London and had a couple of meetings down there. It was very strange going back to London because it was very quiet. I got the train down to Euston and the taxi lady told me that she’d been waiting there 45 minutes for a fair, which is unheard of at Euston station. It’s been strange to see the bigger picture, people being affected that you wouldn’t normally think so. An ex-soldier friend of mine works for the AA and he said he did a Saturday shift and got called out once. It’s because people aren’t driving to work so they aren’t breaking down or getting a flat tyre. I’d never even considered the impact on the ‘fourth emergency service’ as they’re known as!"
What do you think the biggest difference is between this lockdown and the last and what advice would you give to people who might be struggling?
"I think the biggest difference with this one is that the kids are in school. The first one the kids were off so that was very difficult. We’ve got the coffee shop and we managed to keep that open during the first lockdown doing takeaways and deliveries but the kids were off and it was hard to manage.
I’ve stayed in that same routine, getting up at the same time everyday, the sort of thing that keeps you going through these times.
If it’s a nice day and the sun’s out it makes you feel better so it’s difficult when it’s dark outside and it’s 5pm, it makes the day seem a lot shorter and gloomier. I’d just say maybe put some time to one side, do some exercise or outdoor activity if possible. Try and still have some family time and do some fun things as much as you can."
What has your role as Morson Forces ambassador been like during this time and what advice do you have for veterans looking to leave the armed forces at the moment?
"Unfortunately, the ex-forces roadshows have all gone online so I haven’t been attending those. People have still been leaving the armed forces and those people are still looking to find a job, so it’s just on LinkedIn for me really. My profile has grown and people have been approaching me on there and asking for advice, so I’ve been signposting services and promoting the Morson Forces division on there. It’s been more difficult than normal because there haven’t been any physical roadshows. My advice to people in the armed forces is that if they’re coming to the end of their 22 years in the services is to think about reengaging and staying in the armed forces for an extra year. Hopefully, the COVID pandemic will have come to an end then. But if people still want to leave then there are still opportunities available out there. Infrastructure is starting to move forwards again so there are opportunities in that but it’s been quite difficult during this time to try and do what I’ve normally been doing."
How was Remembrance Day for you this year?
"Remembrance Day was a big time, trying to still pay our respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice was quite difficult. The government advised people to stay at home during Remembrance Day and instead stand outside to pay that respect. That’s what I did, I still put my uniform on and my medals and went outside onto my front and stayed out there to do the two minutes silence. It was difficult not to be able to take part in the parade but I watched it on the TV."
What does 2021 look like for you?
"Moving into 2021, it’s all about clawing back some of the things we’ve missed. For me personally, getting back a couple of the family holidays we’ve missed out on this year. The 400 miles in 4 days challenge that I was planning on doing in May 2020 was postponed and we’re hoping to get that done again in April.
Looking even further forwards, I’m looking to do a big event in October to commemorate the anniversary of my injury in the armed forces. I’m potentially looking at Kilimanjaro for that. I did it when I was 22 in the armed forces so I know it’s something that mentally I should be able to achieve but obviously now with my injuries we’ll see how that goes."