Anna Doble’s account of her lockdown project listening to 300 vinyl records prompted emails from readers explaining how they had lifted their spirits over the past year.

A surprising number were not listening to albums, but recording them. Others were writing and drawing, or reading a daily short story before breakfast. A number found new or extreme ways of getting exercise. Here is a selection of your stories.

A tidy-up in the loft unearthed my mum’s five diaries that she wrote during the war, living in Salford, as a teenager. I had seen them before, but the writing is so small, usually in pencil, that I didn’t have the patience to read them all properly. My kids urged me to “do something with them”, and I felt I had to, or all of those memories and intensely lived experiences would be forgotten forever. So I began to transcribe them.

I loved it when she added “good time”. It made me feel so happy that she’d had these nights of fun, of dancing with mysterious boys – usually referred to as an initial: “danced with O” or “danced with F”. All of a sudden I felt like I had this 17-year-old friend, who was my mum.

Wow, what they had to put up with. The day after the Manchester Blitz, she writes, “My 20th birthday.”

But what struck me most was the joy – they didn’t let the war get in the way. Despite Manchester getting really badly bombed, my mum went to the cinema 58 times in 1940. It resonated with what’s going on now, that even in lockdown you can still get joy from doing things.

Eileen's five war diaries

She met my dad, Les, in 1941. I could tell she liked him when a week after their first date she writes, “Had permanent wave.”

That year women were called up for war work and Mum learned to drive. My dad joked, “Oh, they’ll give you a milk float.” She went to the grocery store where he worked and said, “Les, come out and see my milk float,” and it was a big lorry. She delivered ration kits from Carr’s of Carlisle, all over the North – in her bobby socks.

They got married in 1942, when she was 21, and that’s when the diary stops. She put: “The happiest year of my life.”

The comfort it bought me? I felt like I had spent lockdown in the company of my beloved and much missed mother. It made me less lonely and renewed my respect for what that generation of women had to go through.

Fiona Heakin, Surrey

Dancing accountant

I am a qualified chartered accountant and currently work as a finance transformation manager, but alongside that I am a passionate choreographer.

In April, as a result of the lockdown, I decided to take my dance to Instagram. I started providing free online dance lessons every Sunday, to help people stay at home, keep fit and learn something new. In doing so, I also raised over £1,000 for the NHS charities.

Priyanka Shah Malkan dancing

After I stopped the tutorials, I decided to continue posting videos of my dances, as people’s feedback was that it was making them happy, which made me happy. We all need to smile in these tough times.

Priyanka Shah Malkan, London

St Albans from A to Z

My lockdown project this time was to walk every street in St Albans. The first Monday the clocks went back in October I realised I couldn’t handle walking the dog round the corner in the dark every night. I needed a clever way to like the dark and cold, and make up for missing an hour’s walking every day on my commute.

Jim and Heidi walking in St Albans

I photo’d an A-to-Z and started doing walks, going up to the end of every cul-de-sac. It was all recorded on Strava, then at home I coloured the walk in on my map. I did some at weekends in daylight but most in the dark. There was very little traffic – I could walk in the road a fair bit if I chose.

Map of St Albans

Altogether, it was 150 miles on 45 walks ending at the most famous arch in St Albans, the old monastery. Heidi, a German Wire-haired Pointer, a trained therapy dog who visits hospital dementia wards (when there isn’t a pandemic), walked every street with me.

Jim Hodgkins, St Albans

First-time skateboarder

During lockdown I decided that skateboarding could be fun. Call it a midlife crisis if you will (I’m 51). I borrowed a longboard from a lad at work and then bought one for myself – from a teenager on eBay. I went around the village pavements and used car parks to practise away from people and have since found some hills and small jumps to try.

Susan Palmer

It’s a very “free” feeling rolling along on the longboard, and the nicest thing has been the reaction of others. Everyone has been supportive. The first day I went to the skate park, there were some lads there – young men or teenagers – and I asked if they would film me on the board. They were very nice about it. My children, aged 10 and 12, don’t think it’s embarrassing, they think it’s cool.

Cycling is usually my thing, but it’s nice to do something different. I was exposed to skateboarding in the late 70s, but we lived at the top of a hill so I never got into it. I’d like to try surfing too. Maybe I can get into that during the next lockdown.

Susan Palmer, Cambourne, Cambridgeshire

First-time ultra-athlete

My unusual lockdown project, at the age of 55, was to take part in two ultra distance journeys in the Lake District. As it’s my home, I was able to do it without breaking Covid restrictions.

I’d never done an ultra journey before, but took on two big days out – the Frog Graham (swim/run 69km, with 15,000ft of climbing) and the Frog Whitton (swim/cycle 170km with 10,000ft of climbing).

Andy Dickson above Crummock Water
Andy Dickson had done triathlons before, but nothing comparable to his lockdown feats of endurance

Only 20 minutes from my door, I was able to become the first person ever to complete the Double Frog.

I trained for this in lockdown – including “swimming” on the lawn – and completed the second journey on 29 September with a 3am pitch black epic swim across Derwent Water during a storm, more than 24 hours after I had started. I then ran the last 3km in my wetsuit.

I did it partly because of a diagnosis of osteonecrosis in both knees – I knew it was now or never, though the running was very painful – and also because I wanted to do something to mark the death in April of my uncle, the best man at my wedding.

Andy Dickson swimming on the lawn with one of his sons
In the early days of lockdown, real swimming (in the lakes) was not allowed

I was working from home and it was intense, as we were working extremely long days, trying to save our business. Training for the journeys gave me something else to focus on, and I now look back on 2020 as an achievement year not a nightmare year.

It’s probably the biggest achievement and adventure of my life.

Andy Dickson, Cumbria

Inventing games

My year-long lockdown project has been to invent and create card and board games and I now have eight games completed to playable level with more in the pipeline. My background is in military history publishing but I have always been an enthusiastic gamer, both with card and board games and online with the old Xbox.

Mark Marsay

Once the pandemic started and everything went to pot, with my business winding down and my wife taking early retirement, we wanted to keep our minds active and throw ourselves into something we both have a passion for. Our regular games nights with our friends had to be put on hold, obviously, so we decided to try creating the games we always wanted to play but couldn’t find on the shelves.

Having also seen a very dear friend recently crushed by dementia, I was acutely aware of the need to keep the brain active and engaged. Creating and playing the games does this and once everything is back to normal, the social interaction will also be a real boost as well. Sitting at a table in good company engaged in a game really does a lot for your sanity and mental wellbeing.

In a dream scenario I’d like to continue creating games and get my prototypes produced and marketed. I am really enjoying the new challenges this has thrown up, so I suppose in that respect the pandemic has had a positive effect.

Mark Marsay, Scarborough

Tree and flower study

Roger Phillips and Nicky Foy
Roger Phillips and Nicky Foy with a Mimosa in Pimlico, and a page from Roger’s book on trees

I am now 88 and so I had to isolate with my partner, Nicky. Lockdown caught me struggling with my painting and drawing, but then I took the decision to do completely new editions of books I wrote many years ago – Wild Flowers of Britain, first published in 1976, and Trees in Britain, first published in 1977.

I am using most of the original photographs but bringing in loads of new material. It keeps me busy, and will keep me busy until the autumn.

Roger Phillips, London

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I’m sitting, typing. The rain spreads across the window in glossy veins. We can’t go out, anyway, but the weather adds to the feeling of being stuck. So here I am inside, listening to music so familiar I can hear the next track as the first starts to fade. I flip over the record and reset the needle. And I’m crying. Happy tears… memory tears… tears of gratitude. Because you may be in lockdown but I’m at the gig of my life and all it took to get here was a song.

Anna Doble with some of her vinyl records

‘I’ve been listening to 300 vinyl records to get me through lockdown’

Source: BBC