There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“When lockdown began I was actually on long-term sick leave, but getting ready to return to work. Eventually, in May, I returned, but things were quite different. My route (the 510) was only running at peak time, and on-demand at other times, though we didn’t see much demand. Our passengers are usually more senior people, and I don’t think they wanted to cause a fuss calling out a bus like you would a taxi.

“We moved to a full service in July, but numbers have been right down since, perhaps around 30% of before lockdown. We provide a link to other forms of transport – the trams and the buses – so we’re a service that gets subsidised. We’re a life-line to many.

“I’ve had no problems with people following rules, everyone has been great. There was one strange event: driving through Stapleford one day, a woman ran to the bus, flagging us down. I stopped, thinking she wanted to get on but when the doors opened she didn’t get on, instead telling me that one of my passengers wasn’t wearing a mask. Mostly though, people have been tolerant towards wearing a mask and those unable to do so.

“I sometimes think we’re less a bus service, more a social club on wheels.”

“There have been positives to lockdown: the roads are clearer, for a start. People have been forced to stop, and take stock for a moment. Working from home has probably helped many people, not that I can drive my bus from my front room! But I do miss things. I’m a Quaker, and I’ve missed the meetings. I miss my passengers – you get so used to them, and their routines, their stories. I sometimes think we’re less a bus service, more a social club on wheels.”