Monday, 25 May 2020

Coronavirus diaries: Residents talk about their experiences of lockdown life

Coronavirus diaries: Residents talk about their experiences of lockdown life

LIS RANSOM, from Binfield Heath, is a retired journalist and a parish councillor. She is keeping a diary of life in the village where she and her husband Peter have lived for 40 years and are now locked down. She says: “I decided to chart what happens to us and the family during this extraordinary time. Our children already have very different stories to tell. Our eldest daughter and husband are in London businesses, our second daughter and son-in-law are frontline medics in Birmingham and our third daughter is in the Channel Islands with her husband in the Border Force there. Our son, working in construction, lives near us. So there’s a wide variety of experiences to cover. I hope it will interest our grandchildren and future generations.”

Sunday March 22

Mothering Sunday like no other. No church, no family gathering. Bewildering. Archbishop of Canterbury does online service and asks us to light a candle of hope in window at 7pm.

No lunch with children, grandchildren. Make roast for two. Can’t find sherry.

All four children Facetime, telling us how to behave from now on. No going out, no socialising and, worse, no grandchildren. A new way of life.

Have garden and at least the weather’s good. Shades of wartime, start to dig vegetable plot.

Welcome visit (at required distance) from son and grandchildren with good wishes, homemade card about dinosaurs, plus handwash, gloves and masks. Also distributing eggs, bread, fresh veg, butter from local restaurant forced to close.

NHS staff allowed in shops early - free drink and bouquet for Mother’s Day. Medic daughter delighted. London daughter battling empty shelves.

Spain overtakes Italy as worst hit. Thousands ill, hundreds dying each day. France and Germany bad too. UK a week or so behind. Aim to slow it, keep NHS coping.

Sunny, so people rush to Snowdonia, beaches and parks. All packed out, so now closed as unsafe. PM warns of more restrictions on movements.

Belgravia on TV doesn’t disappoint.

Remember to extinguish candle but not its hope.

Monday, March 23

Bright start. Diary helps remember which day it is. Email from Caravan Club to say everything closed, no escape that way, even just for the two of us.

Parish council must suspend meetings, operate online. Village social committee tries multi-conference call. Great technology, which works until realise I can hear them but they can’t hear me.

We’re in for the long haul, possibly months. Panic, disorientation, disbelief. Schools closed. Childcare problems but grandparents can’t help. Frustrating for working parents and for us. Good news for our medics – children of NHS workers can stay at school. But NHS short of protective equipment and daughter goes into patients’ homes. PM says he knows, is dealing with it.

Daughter-in-law and other villagers set up Mutual Aid volunteer group to support those elderly and alone. We are fit, healthy 70-somethings, so are we volunteers or beneficiaries? The latter, apparently. Tough, but grateful for their brilliant initiative. Village shop offers help and deliveries. Cake bake-in for Reading hospital staff.

London daughter sends pictures of cleared shelves in supermarket: not just loo roll and gel but everything gone - by lunchtime.

Facetime from Guernsey grandchildren (aged three and four) dancing to Abba. Why is that suddenly so sad?

Download three volumes of Hilary Mantel trilogy on Kindle. Opportunity to read it. Could also get on with planned children’s book.

The Archers loses one episode a week. Unheard of, thought it was for public information.

Two friends walk past – exchange cheerful updates at a distance. Hairdresser shutting, John Lewis has closed. So has optician.

Local grandchildren phone with news about a dinosaur. Will cycle by later and wave.

PM addresses the nation 8.30pm. Watch, dumbfounded.

Tuesday, March 24

Shutdown. Powerful, unprecedented message from PM: stay at home for three weeks. Allowed out for one exercise. Just two people together unless same family. Shop infrequently. Only food retailers and pharmacies open.

Deaths 335 in UK. Criticism of people not “social distancing”. All non-essential work stopped. No pubs, theatres, restaurants. Chancellor will pay for everything from suddenly limitless funds. Government puts through emergency measures – could shut borders, airports, force people to stay inside or detain on public health grounds. Leisure centres might turn into hospitals.

NHS at breaking point, making life or death choices. Many more people will die and we may imitate Italian experience, worst in world so far. Worried for our Midlands medics, hope physio has protective kit she’s waiting for. PM still sure it’s coming.

London streets empty, only builders and construction workers around. Son expects to close building site and leave on Friday.

Another sunny day (helps kill virus). Carry on digging for victory but seeds now in short supply.

Wednesday, March 25

Scenes of dying patients in hospital corridors, Italy and Spain. Desperate pleas from doctors to obey draconian distancing regulations or risk spreading disease. Will stay put and ask daughter-in-law to do shopping.

Midlands grandchildren coughing. Quarantine for physio mum.

Guernsey makes headlines – 23 confirmed cases, results back from overloaded UK test station. Island needs its own. Son-in-law’s border enforcement team to stop escapees from France or England to Channel Islands. Shortage of tea but most other things okay in their shops.

Half a million people respond to call from NHS for community aid – prescriptions, lifts, phone calls, shopping, deliveries. London pair have signed up, glad of positive role.

People may use allotments – food production and exercise – but distanced.

No bombshells from PM.

Thursday, March 26

Midlands medics stressed – children fortunately not very ill but orthopaedic son-in-law dealing with trauma from all over Birmingham, plus training to use respirators.

Prince Charles has virus, nation’s fingers crossed for Queen. Parliament has early recess.

We close village recreation ground and lock gates under government orders. Will people obey notices? Seems some are already climbing the fence.

More sunshine, tackle front garden. Lots of walkers and cyclists, some people who live nearby I’ve never met before.

What will PM say today? Help for self-employed – maybe good for London daughter. Firefighters to move supplies – and bodies. Army constructing 4,000-bed hospital in Docklands. Vacuum cleaner manufacturer making 10,000 ventilators to meet expected case surge.

I am summoned to jury service, end of April; will it happen? Supper with old friends postponed, hope we all survive to next date.

At 8pm nation clusters at front doors, balconies to “clap for carers” as thank-you to NHS. Loud cheering from our village. Midlands medics very moved.

Friday, March 27

Brother’s 67th birthday. So glad our parents never lived through this – but was the war worse? Certainly longer (we hope). Beautiful day, more gardening in front of house. Little traffic (great) but people stop and speak (relief). Keep the sunshine going, we can cope.

Channel Islands down to one flight in/out a day via Southampton. No passenger ferries. Two village friends still stuck in New Zealand, all borders closed.

Henley Royal Regatta cancelled for first time since war. Ditto Olympic Games. Local watchmaker offers to make ventilator parts.

Over-70s allowed in first at supermarkets, younger ones complain they take the best stuff. Now 40-somethings say they can’t control their parents, who walk or shop, hoping to bump into friends doing the same.

PM and Health Secretary have virus, joining 6,500 other confirmed cases. So far 759 died in UK. Testing frontline workers starts tomorrow. “Stay at home, protect NHS, save lives” is the message. Michael Gove, stand-in for PM, says crucial to get more testing. World search for vaccine.

Saturday, March 28

Getting harder to remember which day it is. All much the same, although there seems plenty to do. Everyone has projects, lots of phoning, texting, emailing. Online chats, choirs, classes, exercises, quizzes, discussions, meetings, films, lectures, even virtual dinner parties replace cancelled live ones.

Footpaths getting busy with exercisers keeping their distance. Local farmer says ground has gone from bog to cement – walkers to stick to pathways and look out for tractors.

Must cancel family camping holiday in France. Hang on optimistically for a bit perhaps. France is ahead of us.

World is so quiet. Planes and cars replaced by occasional mowers. Less transport, so cleaner air. Unexpected upside of the invisible enemy? Planet taking revenge for man’s pollution? Evening birdsong chorus without background hum of Reading.

Tonight, clocks go forward: summertime begins…

REV KEVIN DAVIES, 57, lives with his wife Emma and grown-up son in Checkendon. He has been the team rector of the Langtree team of churches since 2002. The family are trying to stay at home but Kevin has to go out to take funerals in churchyards and at local crematoria.

ONE of the big things about the church is that we love getting together. Meetings, services, events, friends — it’s like a big family.

So when this is taken away, as it has been, many of the key identifiers for Christians are lost.

Much of my work for the last two weeks, when the goalposts were moved, moved again, then finally removed altogether, has involved helping bereaved families come to terms with the new “graveside-only” rule for funerals; helping married couples decide what to do about their spring wedding; learning new technologies to see if some kind of Sunday worship service can happen online, where we “meet without meeting”; and making sure the leadership teams of our seven churches out here in the countryside are supported and know what is going on. As much as anyone can know what is going on!

It is a period of massive change and everybody is in some kind of shock, clergy included. Churches should at this time be coming towards the end of Lent (I was sad that our great little Lent study group had to end early) and gearing up for Easter.

In many instances, Easter services and sermons were well in process; now we are left facing the rubble of our plans and wondering what may be salvaged or whether to bother.

What we are able to offer has been also dealt a blow by the (absolutely right) standing down of all ministers over the age of 70. Sadly, for us, that means four of seven of my staff team.

However, last week all seven of us were able to meet and pray together virtually which, while novel, did mean that the older members of the team could still feel included in the work that we are trying to do.

Bishops and senior staff in Oxford have been very supportive with emails and phone calls. Our own Bishop Colin was due to visit last Sunday for a big service in our patch — he very gamely agreed to “appear” virtually as we ran the service online.

In the rectory, my wife Emma is a piano teacher. Over the course of just one weekend she mastered the technology to continue to offer her pupils tuition via the internet.

We have been astonished at the take-up and I am in awe of her capacity to facilitate this change and give to her pupils some degree of continuity in a world that has suddenly become a place of threat and not security. The school next door is silent, apart from a few voices at break time, when the three or four children allowed to remain, come out to play in a deserted playground.

A cock pheasant has taken to visiting our bird feeders in the morning and evening. Emma and I have called him Fred. He reminds me to say my prayers.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity to get in touch — with every blessing to everyone at the Henley Standard. Keep safe and look out for each other. Peace be with you.

ENID LIGHT, 86, has lived in Henley for more than 30 years. She has found herself reverting to wartime habits at this time of crisis.

HAVING been born long before the last war, I am one of those totally confined to barracks.

I am a widow living on my own in a small block of flats, where most owners fall into the same category as myself, but we keep our distance.

Thank goodness for modern technology, TV and computers in particular being a godsend. If. however, anything goes wrong, I now am unable to let anyone in to help and I find it impossible to begin to understand a word of what is being said to me by any fact-talking outside helpline.

I just have to accept the status quo. I even have difficulty changing my clocks now that the hour has been put forward — perhaps I will leave them on GMT and just add an hour on in my mind until they need to be put back again.

By profession I am a linguist and have a degree in German from London University.

For many years I worked in Buckinghamshire and ran an adult education centre. Prior to that I spent two glorious years as a BOAC air stewardess, travelling the world and meeting my husband. We had three children and now have seven grandchildren.

As an only child, I do not mind being on my own. I love reading and have stacks of books waiting to be read or re-read. I also have cupboards and drawers just bursting, all to be sorted, a task I have been putting off for a long time.

My hobby for most of my life has been stitchery: tapestry and cross-stitch kits. With longer daylight hours. I am now getting on with two unfinished cushion covers.

For exercise, there is nothing better than housework — even the men can do it! And, of course, it is never-ending.

In the garden, too. this is a particularly busy time of year and there is much to do. So immaculate houses and well-trimmed gardens are the aim.

Having lived through the war, instinctively I find myself reverting back to wartime habits: eating every crumb, turning off unnecessary lights and keeping the heating low.

On the plus side, with no visits or visitors. I can wear old comfortable clothes and no make-up. Bliss!

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