One year on: how the pandemic and lockdown transformed life at home and the way we spend our spare time
This time last year, Scots stood on the precipice of lockdown - warned not to go out, not to see friends, not to hug loved ones or visit gyms, restaurants and pubs. Homes transformed into lifelines, filled with jigsaws, games, virtual quizzes and more to help us stay busy and positive amid months of lockdown and climbing cases of coronavirus.
Eager to fill the eerie silence which fell on deserted streets and city centres, we seized upon everything we could to help pass the time. From impatiently tending our sourdough starters to holding Zoom quizzes, Scots searched high and low for activities to keep themselves busy and occupied while the toll of the pandemic loomed large in the background.
When cases and deaths from coronavirus peaked in mid-April last year, searches for meditation apps skyrocketed in Scotland. Google searches for meditation apps climbed rapidly in early April, rising to peak popularity later in the month as the World Health Organisation announced that 200,000 people had died from Covid-19 around the world.
Likewise, YouTube saw searches for online yoga classes and guided meditation soar across the globe, with videos related to the latter category gaining 94 million views since the beginning of March last year. Yoga with Adrienne quickly became a household name for those suddenly forced to swap fast-paced, high-energy gym workouts for more relaxed routines set to the pace of slow, dragging days in lockdown.
Finlay Wilson, perhaps Scotland’s most famous yogi typically spotted donning a kilt whilst striking warrior pose, gained a whole new, international audience for his online classes in lockdown - as people tuned into his lessons and free videos from all over the world in the early weeks of lockdown.
“When people started thinking in lockdown about what they were going to do, I don't think they were necessarily looking for something competitive, they were looking for something that feels more like a safe space or could let them connect with exercise and people in a safer way.”
Wilson says he’s noticed that the often daunting prospect of turning up to your first yoga class in the wrong clothing or feeling self-conscious has allowed more people to gather the courage to get involved.
“This way, you get to join in from the comfort of your own home and don’t even have to switch your camera on, and I think there's something really reassuring about that. People who normally would be restricted by geography, like a lot of our rural clients, come to more classes now that they no longer have a commute and significant others join in with partners when usually they would never even set foot in the studio.”
Going forward, Wilson hopes that a blend of in-person and online teaching will help to continue the appeal of yoga classes like those held by Heart Space Yoga & Bodyworks in Dundee. While so many of us are keen to delve back into the real, material world and return to our favourite community spaces, it feels important to Wilson that no one gets left behind in the rush.
Payment software company takepayments carried out research late last year which found that among the many hobbies Brits took up over the course of our three lockdowns, the most popular and enduring were quizzes and Lego.
Sales figures for Lego have climbed continually throughout the pandemic, as the NPD Group put nationwide sales of toy construction kits up by 59% – with toys like Lego’s Land Rover Defender achieving soaring success in the market. On the whole, the market research company placed total toy market sales for the UK in 2020 at a whopping £3.3 billion – with games and puzzles enjoying the highest category growth increase of 19% on last year.
Arguably another one of the pandemic’s unsung heroes, jigsaw puzzles have also grown from strength to strength in sales during lockdown. An activity once dismissed as dull and outdated rose to match the popularity of hit video games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the adorable life simulation game which has been topping boxed video game charts in Britain ever since its release last year.
A spokesperson for a Scottish jigsaw puzzle manufacturing company said that business has been booming over the last year, with their decision to keep prices at pre-pandemic levels - rather than increase these as demand for jigsaws soared in lockdown - helping to drive unparalleled demand and considerable sales of their affordable, picturesque creations in a highly competitive market.
Virtual pub quizzes, such as those held by Goose’s Quizzes on streaming platform Twitch, ushered in a sense of normality with pubs closed in lockdown. Founder Andrew Wildgoose, awarded a British Empire Medal by the Queen for his fundraising efforts at the end of last year, says the experience of pivoting to online has been an undoubtedly rewarding one:
"It all feels slightly surreal at this point when this time last year we were going into lockdown and doing our first quizzes online. It's now sort of figuring out what the market is going to look like when pubs reopen and people start going back to them.”
After hosting over 700 quizzes online over the past year, offering a mix of charity, corporate and free quizzes held on Twitch, the team at Goose’s Quizzes have asked over 14,000 questions of their pub quiz punters – with many enjoying the chance to participate in an entire new community online.
“What we've really tried to grow is a community of people who can get to know each other through our quizzes. No matter how bad things get, each evening there's something for them to come along to and enjoy,” Wildgoose says. “We would always consider ourselves facilitators more than entertainers, we're here to simply help people engage with other people.”