Life & Culture

Our lockdown projects grew and grew!

Cooking or crocheting, lockdown projects are keeping us going through tedious weeks. But for some, the experience has been bigger than they ever imagined


For some women, the pandemic has meant a hectic move to juggling working from home with home-schooling. It’s hard to imagine having any spare time. But others have started something new, often with the help of social media. The lockdown project is a help through difficult days — and not just for the person who started it.

Take the Facebook group, “Women whose husbands, partners and kids are driving them insane.” Created on a whim by Shaeda Nourmand, 48, it now has 30,000 followers worldwide.

Nourmand, a police community assessor, now furloughed, lives in Whetstone with her husband and three children. “It started off very lighthearted, a diversion for me, to keep me occupied, and as a place for people to share frustrations and jokes,”she says . “But now it has become more of a support network, with people also talking about sensitive family and marital issues and seeking advice from the other women on the group.

“There are some real cries for help, from women whose husbands are abusive and controlling making lockdown life untenable; and others who are living with a partner who drinks, sleeps and eats all day and refuses to work.” It can make disturbing reading.

The group has raised nearly £10,000 to help renovate the home of a woman whose husband’s brain tumour has left him practically disabled with no carers aside from his wife and teenage children.

“Weekends get rowdy as people get drunk and that comes through in the posts,” says Nourmand. “But I, and four wonderful friends, moderate the group and read every post before they go up. We have to use our discretion and it’s quite time-consuming.”

Nourmand has also urged the group to raise money to buy reading books and stationery for needy families during lockdown and also give help to foodbanks. “Most members of the group would love it to continue after this period of lockdown,” says Nourmand. “Women are feeling really supported by their invisible army of comrades. I think it could evolve into something more. I may take all the funny stories and put them in a book!”

For Deborah Nathan, in Netanya, her lockdown project started almost accidentally. In Israel, there is no furlough scheme, so when lockdown started she was laid off from her job as World Emunah’s director of communications and development.

“I felt quite low — I’d always worked,” she says. Crochet is her hobby, so she used a pattern by Israeli designer Mo Malron to make a toy rabbit, which she named Angie. Then she made some clothes for Angie and posted them on Facebook. “She took on a life of her own!”

Nathan received so many positive comments about how Angie’s ever-expanding wardrobe was cheering them up that she started making a new one every day, and created an Instagram account @best_dressed_bunny.

“I got lovely comments from people telling me that they loved Angie, that it was getting them through, even from someone whose close relative had died of Covid-19. I couldn’t let them down. It was very, very sweet.” Now she’s starting back at work, but will keep Angie in outfits.

If you want to nourish your children’s creativity, then Sarah Pottesman’s lockdown project is for you. “My aim is to offer some creative ideas to those parents who are interested,” she says of her Instagram account 

Sarah, a GP from Borehamwood with three children, aged six and under, set up the group just as lockdown started, after being encouraged by her sister-in-law.

Projects posted include stone animals, guess the smell/taste/sound, and a homemade passport combined with an empty suitcase for her children to pack to go on “holiday”. Simple but fun and using “whatever we have”.

She says she hopes that her group offers a bit of inspiration but also an antidote to some of the more “overwhelming” posts that can be found on social media. “I set it up to help parents with little time and resources,” she says. She has themed posts around them and many activities follow the KS1 syllabus. “I try to make the activities educational but I refuse to do schoolwork after 1pm!”

For others, food is the focus. Sophie Sacofsky, 29, from Tel Aviv, has a kitchen-based lockdown project, trying as many new recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi as she can. By splitting childcare with her husband, she has all afternoon to cook.

“I can spend two to three hours in the afternoon cooking his harder recipes,” she says, and usually makes three or four dishes for Shabbat every week, posting pictures of her creations to the Facebook group, “The Yotam Ottolenghi-inspired Cooking Housewives”, which has more than 19,000 members.

Then there's the  'What's for dinner tonight?' — which Jane Lazare, 61, from Manchester set up on a whim, just before lockdown.

“It started with a few of us sharing what we were making and posting pictures of the meal,” says Lazare. “It quickly became very image-based with lots of tempting dishes posted on a daily basis.

“There’s plenty of humour and a wonderful sense of community. The group is 99 per cent Jewish as one of the criteria for joining is that recipes must not include pork or shellfish.”

At first it was all about banana bread, says Lazare, “Then it moved onto shakshukas. But when someone posted a home-made challah it went viral, and now challah has become a major part of the conversation.” One woman in her community provides flour to fulfil local demand.

The group has been featured on television and has raised more than £5,000 for NHS charities. Lazare is now planning a lockdown cookbook to support Mind UK and Jerusalem’s Alyn Hospital.

“The book will feature many of the delicious dishes created by our members. It will be a tribute to the Facebook group — the humour, warmth and creativity of so many throughout this period.”



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