Post-lockdown story: Missing North London

September 1, 2020

Illustration by Max Ferreira depicting the main characters. From left to right: Emma, Judi and Nathan.

Exposure’s autistic author, Max Ferreira‘s story about three young people with special needs reminiscing about their youth group’s outings

One sunny day, an autistic girl called Emma is having a video chat with her best friends, Judi and Nathan.

“Hey, guys. How are you?” she calls as their screens come up on her computer.

“I’m doing good thanks, Emma,” says Nathan.

“Me too,” replies Judi. “Staying safe and keeping busy.”

Emma notices that Judi is looking worried, having only just come out of self-isolation last week.

“Is there something the matter, Judi?” Emma asks.

Judi bravely responds, “Well, ever since lockdown began, I do miss going to the youth group. The government has only just started easing some restrictions, but the youth centre is still closed.”

I especially love going on north London outings the staff organise at the end of each term

“You’re not wrong there,” says Nathan in agreement. “Like all the other countries we have to stay alert, keep social distancing, wear face masks and adapt to this hard time of the pandemic. This means many social events and activities have been cancelled or forbidden until further notice.”

“Exactly,” says Judi.

“What do you like about the youth group?” Emma asks positively.

“As well as seeing all my friends like you and Nathan, I especially love going on north London outings the staff organise at the end of each term. To me it’s like painting a picture of somewhere you wish to explore outside the city, but the attraction is right on our doorstep. For example, I liked going to the grounds of Alexandra Palace in Haringey – having picnics, playing games and of course going into the Palace itself.”

Photograph of Alexandra Palace by Max Ferreira. Edited by Angela Mascolo.

Then Emma says, “Yeah, I totally agree. The youth group trips were a highlight for me too. I liked going on walks in the beautiful parks in Enfield. But my favourite trip has to be the TeamSport Go Karting in Edmonton. We had a smashing time racing on go karts. Mind you, I still like playing my violin, but having the freedom to drive a real car is something I want to achieve someday.”

Going out to see a film made me realise that trying something new is very beneficial for my autism

“Yeah, that was better than playing the video game version of Formula One,” Nathan adds as he pauses to think about his favourite north London trip. “Those outings you two said were good, but I prefer the ones in Barnet.”

“What’s your favourite in that area, Nathan?” Judi asks with interest.

“Well, besides going bowling and trying different food places, I liked the time when we went to a cinema in High Barnet to see the ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ movie,” replies Nathan.

“Oh yeah, I do remember you were not too keen on the film to begin with,” says Emma as she also saw the movie.

Nathan rolls his eyes and replies, “Yes I know, but thanks to your words of encouragement it did push me to give the film a try and in the end I really enjoyed it. Since then it made me realise that trying something new is very beneficial for my autism. I even checked out a few good movies at home during lockdown like ‘Grease’ and ‘Shaun the Sheep.'”

The conversation went on for around 10 minutes as they reminisced about their other adventures at the youth group, from exploring Parkland Walk to going swimming in Mill Hill.

Then Emma had an idea. “Hey, how about we all have a little meet up for our own post-lockdown north London outing? Just the three of us?”

They are pleased to see each other face-to-face for the first time since going into lockdown

“Hmm, I’m not so sure, Emma. What about social distancing and touching overused public facilities? What can we do about that?” Judi asks nervously with overwhelming thoughts.

“Now try not to overthink these negative thoughts and look on the bright side for a moment,” says Nathan.

Emma adds positively, “Yeah, and according to the government we can still see each other face-to-face at a suitable distance, as long as we wear a face mask and keep washing our hands.”

Judi is still unsure, but at the same time she doesn’t like being bored in her flat and wants to be back with her friends. So she says, “Okay, I’ll talk to my mum about it and I’ll let you know as soon as possible.”

A week later Emma, Judi and Nathan decide to meet up at a nearby retail park. They are pleased to see each other face-to-face for the first time since going into lockdown. The three friends have a look at some of the shops on sight. Judi, who’s assisted by her brother George, is now starting to relax and enjoys having a big catch up with Emma and Nathan.

Later that afternoon it is time for lunch. Judi, Nathan and Emma buy a takeaway from a fast food restaurant. As it is a lovely day, they also decide to have it in a peaceful park nearby.

“Wow, I really enjoyed our day out at the retail park,” says Nathan as he takes a bite of his burger.

Judi feels very lucky for the opportunity to see her friends again

“Yeah, me too. It just feels good being out of the house. Thanks again, Emma,” says Judi cheerfully.

“You’re welcome, Judi. Glad you all liked it,” Emma says as they enjoy the rest of the hour in the pleasant sunshine.

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As they’re going home in the car, George asks his little sister Judi, “What was your favourite moment from today?”

“Apart from being with Emma and Nathan, I really liked seeing the fishes at the pet store, as well as admiring the models, dolls and figures in the toy shop next door,” she says whilst looking at the pictures from her phone.

“Do you think you want to do this again someday?” asks George, as he drives down the road.

“Oh yes, George – it’s better than being indoors for too long,” says Judi, feeling very lucky for the opportunity to see her friends again.

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Up until the day Covid-19 goes away, we will hopefully move on into a virus-free future. But for now, we have to look after ourselves by washing our hands, being aware of our surroundings and staying positive with the support from friends and family. We are all in this together.

Check out the latest government advice on meeting people from outside your household:

Our thanks to Thrive LDN’s Right To Thrive grant scheme for making this project possible.