As part of our Mind Yer ‘Ed series, Stephen Cuddy, aged 60, shares his experience of the pandemic and how he’s used cooking and other activities to keep his mind occupied.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, the pandemic has been harder for those aged 50+ who are members of the LGBTQ community, because many of us live alone.
“There’s a lot of depression in the gay world anyway and there are a lot of people I know who feel completely down right now, and sometimes I don’t recognise them because they’re so down. I think it’s just leaving them feeling vulnerable.
“I think it’s about the economic situation and the cultural situation as well. So many people in my circle of friends who are gay go to the theatre or the concert halls. It’s a big part of their life and they can’t do that anymore.
“It’s so sad when you’re on the tram and you’re going down Mosley Street or you go past The Bridgewater concert hall all dark and closed. It brings it home to you how fragile life is in a way. It’s a bit of a wake-up call.
“It’s not so much anxiety that I feel, but fear for the future more than anything. I just think we’re going to come out of it into a different world. I try to handle that feeling and I try to do little things to take my mind off it. I’m quite good at putting things to one side.
“One article I read about being creative and optimistic as opposed to worrying all the time triggered me into doing something and accepting that nothing is perfect in life. You just have to deal with it the best you can. It woke me up.
“That routine is beginning to kick in more and more each day. It’s about staying busy and not watching the telly or putting the news on all the time.
“I’ve rediscovered the kitchen recently too. Normally I’d have been a bit lazy and bought a ready meal, but I’m roasting my own chicken and vegetables now.
“For me it is all about the oven. I love slow-cooked food and I like the smell that fills the house and the warmth created in the kitchen. It’s very comforting during this time and it’s a bit like having a gin and tonic.
“My favourite meal to cook is bacon, or chorizo, and cheese pasta bake. It’s easy to do, cheap and tastes good hot or cold. The leftovers will keep well in the fridge, too.
“I’ve found walking a good coping mechanism as well, and I’ve also been out in the garden more. It’s never been so neat and I’ve never planted so many plants and shrubs in my entire life. I do think there’s a connection between the gardening and the walking that’s keeping me healthy, mentally and physically. I just love it.
“Normally, I go to Gran Canaria at least once a year, and I actually bought a Gran Canaria palm. It’s only about four foot tall right now but it just makes me smile and keeps me balanced. It gives me happy memories.
“It’s like a survival mechanism kicking in – the need to keep busy. Those are the three things I always look forward to doing.
“When you’re in the garden, when your outside and when you’re cooking there’s an optimism about the whole thing and a sense of normality. I can’t believe I’d let something so simple and free and so good just lapse. I think it’s taken COVID to wake me up a bit to what I truly enjoy.
“I’ve learnt there’s still a lot energy and strength inside me and that I am much happier being active and busy. When it’s over I’m definitely going to get a part-time job or volunteer. The most important thing is to face your fears and be happy.”
For more information on how you can keep well in both body and mind, get advice from Independent Age here.