For those living in England, 29 March marked the moment they could meet up with six people, or two households, outdoors or in private gardens, for the first time in months. It also saw the return of organised outdoor sports, such as golf and open air swimming pools.
Five people told the Guardian how they made the most of the date.
‘There was a great feeling of renewal, regeneration and resilience’
I love outdoor swimming and the group of people you meet through it. Someone brings tea, someone brings cake, and you swim together. This morning I swam at a small community pool about 10 miles from where we live, where I’m a trustee. It’s not run by a company, just by the community, with two full-time members of staff and grants. It’s the hub of the community. It’s only 30 yards long, not 25 metres; it’s just where the farmer dug.
We opened to the public at 7am, and just the trustees swam at 6am. It was funny swimming in the dark, and there was a great feeling of renewal and regeneration and resilience. The last time I swam with friends was probably in a river at the end of October … normally I do 40 or 50 lengths but I was tired after 20.
I go with my wife, she’s in the slow lane and I’m in the quick lane. But it’s not about speed swimming, it’s just about enjoying being in the open air. Neil Rushton, 68, GP, Wiveliscombe
‘We were there for hours today, chatting, chatting, chatting and we’re doing it again tomorrow at sundown’
I live in a large apartment block, and I never thought when I moved in I’d know the people who lived here. I got to know others in the building, through meeting by the lifts or through friends, and we’ve got a WhatsApp chat called the Golden Oldies. We met up, six of us, for the first time since last year today in the communal courtyard.
We did some social things over the years we’ve lived here, but didn’t really know each other that well before lockdown. But we have been a tremendously supportive group during the pandemic, keeping in touch, going for daily walks in twos when we have been allowed, and having weekly zoom sessions.
We were there for hours today, chatting, chatting chatting, and we’re doing it again tomorrow at sundown. I’m retired, but I do a lot of things on Zoom. It’s great, but you miss the face to face contact. It was lovely. Ros Napier, 71, retired teacher, Birmingham
‘Humans are made to interact and talk, there’s only so much you can do on Zoom’
Normally we play five-a-side football every week, in a group we’ve organised over about 12 years. It’s a mixture of friends, and friends of friends. It’s a good social thing; a competitive match, a good catch up and we usually stop and have a beer afterwards.
The last time we played together was just after Christmas. It’s been frustrating watching players on the TV, you want to be doing it yourself. Since we’ve said goodbye last time we played, we’ve all been counting down the days ‘til the reopening.
Most people are excited about getting fit again. It’s been a bit like Christmas during lockdown; you’re not going out, so you get some nice food, and eat too much of it. Everyone is really excited about getting out and having a run around, and being able to talk to other people. That’s been the main problem with lockdown; the social and mental thing. Humans are made to interact and talk, there’s only so much you can do on Zoom. There’s nothing better than face to face. Wesley Latimer, sales engineer, 41, Exeter
‘Monday night’s the new Friday night – this Monday night is anyway’
My wife Petra’s 38th birthday was on 20 March and we’ve arranged with two friends who live nearby to come over to celebrate with cheese, assorted smoked fish and some drinks after the kids go to bed.
Petra’s been in the garden mowing the lawn for the first time in three months and we’ve got the pressure washer out for the concrete. The kids, six and two, have even used some chalk to draw a mural. I’ve bought some wood and coal so we can keep warm outside and when our friends asked what to bring, we told them ‘empty bladders’.
I can’t really remember when we last had someone in our garden but it might have been the end of the summer when it was looking pretty ominous. It’s hard not to try to find something to look forward to given the listless lifestyle we’ve been living, so it’s very exciting to have people round and have normal human interaction that’s not through a screen. Monday night’s the new Friday night – this Monday night is anyway. Dylan Kerr, 39, civil servant, London
‘It’s a pleasure to do something you’ve taken for granted’
I spent Monday afternoon playing golf with three friends at Blankney golf club in Lincoln. We teed off at 1.20pm and spent the next few hours playing a two-against-two match.
It’s been excellent to be out – the weather was stunning and the course was in good condition. We haven’t played much so it was nice to be with friends I haven’t seen in three months, not to mention the fresh air and company. The score wasn’t important but me and my partner won on the last hole.
What a lot of people do now is bring a drink and have a can of beer and chat in the car park by the boot of the car. We didn’t bother to bring anything this time – it’s just lovely to be out. I’ve been playing golf all my adult life and for something I’m so used to doing being taken away, and then being able to do it again is surreal. It’s a pleasure to do something you’ve taken for granted, especially something like a game of golf. Darren Pigford, 50, police investigator, Lincoln