Tuesday, 02 June 2020

Week 4: Your diaries of life in lockdown

Week 4: Your diaries of life in lockdown

MAYORESS Dorothy Arlett lives in Elizabeth Road, Henley, and has been supporting her husband Ken with his mayoral duties, while also adding a few more of her own to his to-do list.

THE Mayor’s diary was full of meetings, civic dinners, charity auctions, presentations, concerts, lunches, district council meetings and town council meetings. Nearly all have been cancelled.

The diary now lies on his desk with black lines through the old entries but now has new entries of Zoom meetings, telephone meetings and WhatsApp call times with family.     

Beside his diary is a list of  jobs to do, written by me. Some have been completed, with a black line through...

Today’s technology is wonderful and has been great for catching up with loved ones during our forced separation.  

My dance class on Zoom is fun, and I meet with the girls after class for coffee, except we make our own coffee and  chat as usual. It’s so refreshing to see everyone and catch up. 

The lockdown for teenagers and older children must be bliss. Hours spent on their mobile phones, the fun of having  Instagram, Snapchat,  school homework  online and chatting to their friends — surely they should not be bored.

Gardening and maintenance has been enjoyable and time consuming, there’s plenty of time now. The Mayor and I have been enjoying the glorious weather  and we are so lucky that have a garden. 

I dream of Toad Hall  [garden centre] opening  soon, and buying some lovely plants for the borders, plus other items on my list.

The seeds sown for veggies are sprouting now, budding trees, birds nesting and blossom. Nature is alive and well. Staying at home adds to the pleasure of watching nature progress each day.  

During the summer our usual tipple is Pimm’s, a very refreshing drink when the sun is shining. Easter has been hot and  Pimm’s was required, so called one of our two personal shoppers to collect a bottle — delicious.

Easter eggs this year, no...(the two delivered we gave away), we ate delicious hot cross buns from  Chris the Baker, who lives on our street. He makes  buns, bread and lardy cake. We added an extra circuit around the block to burn up those calories.  

We’ve been watching MasterChef. Greg and John (first names now) taste some amazing food. The competitors are very inventive with dishes they produce; blue soup, sugar rush desserts, the presentations on the plate — wow!

Our large chest freezer is full of food. We choose restaurant food to eat from ours. Ken will have steak (only one left) and I will choose a chicken dish, one leftover portion of casserole.  Cook it, eat it, and then wash up.  We are so looking forward to dining out at our super restaurants in Henley again soon.     

I have also been researching  dinosaurs. Our seven-year-old twin grandsons adore them and know all the species by name.   Part of their home education is writing and English. The letter arrives by the postman (thank you) and I reply to all the questions. All good fun educating myself while in lockdown.

I have not been writing a novel on coronavirus, nor writing  a daily diary, but I am writing a list of what we shall do when lockdown is lifted and praying the shops will all open again. 

It is painfully  difficult for so many and each day more deaths bring so many families heartbreak and grief. The message is the importance of staying at home, and social distancing. 

The Mayor and I  will be banging our cookware on the doorstep on Thursdays at 8pm,  making a noise loud and clear,  that we all support our NHS, our key workers and all carers, our kind neighbours and community spirited people of our town.

TIM HODGES, 75, and his wife, Judith have lived at 93 High Street, Wargrave for 25 years. He went into the self-isolation phase a week before the lockdown as his son had returned from a trip and suffered from coronavirus symptoms.

THE day after the lockdown, with pubs, restaurants etc closed, Wargrave High Street was eerily quiet with no aircraft, little traffic. The air, punctuated with bird song, feels so much better, due to lack of traffic fumes.

My photography business has been wiped out with all corporate events cancelled. Apart from sorting my back catalogue, I have been taking photographs of the stars and moon plus the odd photographs of birds in the garden or on my Thames walks, which is a refreshing change.

We had to get organised and plan meals seven days in advance. Our freezer was a voyage of discovery. It was almost like an archaeological dig!

The hardest part was not being in physical contact with family and friends, but we now have a virtual drink with friends and chat to families with Zoom.

On the positive side, Wargrave High Street is full of camaraderie due to the Thursday night clapping for the NHS and neighbours coming out when it is someone’s birthday in the street.

Shopping has not been easy- particularly in the beginning when panic buying set in. Waitrose looked like the Marie Celeste.

The smaller shops are going the extra mile to help the community, adapting their working practices. A & I Stores in Victoria Road, Hare Hatch Sheeplands, The Egg Box have all been terrific and the positive comments about them have been endless.

I hope loyalty continued with these small concerns; they deserve to succeed as they are more adept than the big boys.

I feel extremely sorry for the local pubs, restaurants, hairdresser and other retail concerns in the village. They have been hit very hard. It is hoped they can weather the storm and their custom returns. The church looks bereft; a virtual congregation is not a vibrant one.

Wargrave is lucky to have access to lovely routes to exercise; the river, the footpaths, the woods.  Everyone one meets along the way says hello. Everyone is friendlier.

Pulling together has provided a positive mindset to help one another and I hope this will continue after the pandemic.

KATHRYN WILLIS, 43, is a photographer, who lives in Churchill Crescent, Sonning Common, with her husband Richard, sons Jake and Harry and has been self-isolating since March 16.

THE day after lockdown was introduced I went into the Royal Berkshire Hospital to have a baby.

As both our parents are aged 70-plus and with schools closing the week before, it meant our oldest son couldn’t stay with his grandparents. So we had to make a last minute decision and ask my sister-in-law if he could stay with her.

I was feeling rather apprehensive about going into hospital with the current situation but you can’t stop babies arriving, that is for sure. Things didn’t quite progress as planned and after an eventful time, baby Harry was born the next evening by emergency C section. He was finally here after a rather rocky road to get to this point. Due to complications it did mean we were both in hospital for five days.

Visiting restrictions seemed to change each day. By the Friday, birthing partners were not allowed to see you until you were discharged and, even then, they were not allowed on the ward.

Richard had to wait the other side of the door with the midwife carrying Harry in the car seat and handing over at that point. One lady was having to stay in for 10 days as her baby was quite poorly and I really felt for her, as her husband not being allowed to visit.

We came home on the Saturday that the clocks changed. I think someone was having a joke with us, with losing an hour on top of losing plenty of sleep with a newborn.

I was incredibly grateful to all the NHS staff at the hospital and also so relieved to finally be home.

It has meant that we can’t introduce Harry to anyone as yet, especially his grandparents, which is upsetting. Hopefully, if we all keep doing as asked and “stay at home”, the lockdown will be relaxed in the near future.

We decided to celebrate Harry’s arrival on Easter Sunday with a cream tea, by Time for Tea, which offers a no-contact delivery service. The weather was on our side so we sat in the garden.

Our immediate neighbour had a milestone birthday last week, so we played over the garden fence Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday and converted a child’s age card by adding a zero to the badge. It’s difficult times but one thing that has come out of this is the amazing community spirit and feeling grateful for the simple things in life.

MARION POPE, 84, and her husband Michael, 82, of East View Road, Wargrave, have been trying to remain in isolation since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.

WE are lucky in that we grow our own vegetables and fruit so our allotment near the recreation ground and house has kept my husband from boredom.

The three greenhouses in our garden have had a massive spring clean. Let us know, if you need any old pots! We grow geraniums, statice, marigolds and tomatoes and battle with greenfly. Our row of garden peas are starting to show their heads above the soil. Oh for some rain, our butts are nearly empty. Michael also maintains our bowling green (opposite our house, thank goodness).

Although I do despair about the amount of time it takes to mow and fertilise. Still he is happy.

Jigsaw puzzles can while away the hours and hours and hours until at the end you find a piece missing. Exasperation!

I have spring cleaned the house to within an inch of its life and the attic will be next, but with two rooms up there and a loft ladder, it is extremely hot (a good excuse not to do it).

We do miss our two grandchildren, Imogen and Rowan, at the end of our road but we have provided them with plants and seedlings to grow in their garden.

Potatoes in sack pots are quite good. Also runner beans in jar jars and blotting paper. You can watch the roots and shoots appear and plant them later.

Imogen and Rowan’s parents are both teachers so they have a fairly structured day. Our two sons (one in Cornwall, the other in Salisbury, whose wife is a doctor at Salisbury Hospital) and their families we contact by phone.

We would have had a silver wedding, a golden wedding, a diamond wedding and a 60th birthday celebration plus Henley Royal Regatta to enjoy in the coming months but these have all been put on hold.

But we are incredibly lucky to live in a village surrounded by beautiful countryside.

We have a village stores called A& I, which have been a godsend to all Wargravians. Murthy and Praba, his wife, have a wonderful stocked shop and with their family they will do anything for anyone.

Our village surgery in our village is second to none and with a chemist opposite medical problems are dealt with efficiently.

I am a parish councillor so it is most odd to communicate by computer or phone without holding our monthly meetings.

Michael’s 84th birthday was celebrated by the cutting of a caterpillar cake in our garage with our two little grandchildren singing Happy Birthday at the end of our drive by the front gate. Presents and balloons were left by the gate.

A clay pot (with a penny in it) made at church by Rowan and a beautiful machined rainbow bag by Imogen, which we have hung in our window along with our assortment of teddy bears, plus the rainbow picture made by Felix, aged five, who lives opposite.

I miss our church services on a Sunday but we can pray to God anywhere. Our granddaughter Laura was due to be ordained in the Cathedral at Bury St Edmunds at the end of June but this has now been put on hold. We pray that we will be there to witness this special occasion.

People within our village and parish have a strong community bond and we all know that any problem which arises would be dealt with in a caring manner.

We think every night of those who are ill, those who care for them and pray that this distressing time will pass and health and happiness will return to our land.

CLIVE MILLS is officially classed as a “vulnerable person”. He is 76 and lives in Rotherfield Peppard. Being a retired civil engineer, he is finding it “difficult” to conform to the current situation.

AS a trustee of the Fish Volunteer Centre in Sonning Common, which has teamed up with a fantastic bunch of volunteers in Sonning Common called SoCo Corona Virus Support, I am of some use.

I man a telephone with five others (three from SoCo, two others from Fish) providing in some cases comfort but, in the main, taking messages from people requiring food or the collection of prescriptions.

The people I have spoken with have been absolutely fantastic and the stories from some, once you get chatting, are brilliant.

One lady was very excited because her daughter was just about to leave Oxford Brookes University having completed her degree course in paramedic medicine. 

Excited but very concerned, the  conversation developed since my granddaughter is wishing to do the same course starting in September.

This very same granddaughter celebrated her virtual 18th birthday on Good Friday. I have now experienced virtual champagne, gin and prosecco.

The good news is that we can celebrate it all over again, hopefully before not too long.

I hope many things will return to “normal” and much that we have learnt during this time I trust will remain the same. Our caring for one another is truly remarkable, as is the clapping for the NHS and support for organisations on a Thursday evening.

We live in a lovely part of the country, made even better by the way many people have volunteered to help  others.

The coming together of Fish and SoCo has been truly inspirational and has proved to be a vital lifeline to so many.

Technology has certainly helped. What with WhatsApp, email and Zoom, families have been able to get together, not around the TV but the computer screen and children on their PS4s and Xboxes have been able to play virtual games with their family and friends.

The Great British spirit still lives.

CAROLINE ALDRIDGE has lived in Kidmore End with her family since 2004 and chairs the parish council.

THE coronavirus pandemic has made my life both larger and smaller.

Smaller because social distancing means that I can no longer visit my 88-year-old mother in Epsom, 49 miles away, but larger because I have joined the neighbourhood WhatsApp group.

I am now connected to my community in a way that I could not have dreamt of. We share ideas, photos, thoughts, recipes, shopping and errands, picking up essential items and prescriptions, and generally helping out our neighbours in any way that we can.

We “meet up” on a Thursday night to clap and cheer for the NHS, share pictures of our “Friday Night suppers”, and boost morale with photos and snippets of video or advice.

This week our village highlight shows that Covid-19 is no match for us. The Flower Ladies, who decorate the church every Easter, wanted to do something special. What to do? Church doors are locked and flowers are not considered “essential”. 

A request was put out on the WhatsApp group: “Please, look in your garden and pick a few flowers. Leave them at the church gate in the blue bucket on Friday”.

Lots of flowers and foliage arrived, and the wonderful Flower Ladies produced arrangements and wreaths, decorating the church door, gate and well. We are not alone in Kidmore End, but many people are.

It can be very lonely in this new covid-19 world. If you have not chatted to your neighbours for a while, drop over a note (remember social distancing rules) or make an old-fashioned phone call. A few minutes make a huge difference.

AMANDA STEWART is a journalist living in Woodcote with her partner, two sons (one semi-feral), five sheep, seven peacocks, eight hens and two dogs.

ALL of my hens are called Vera (for ease) Vera 1-8 (and I don’t think they’d mind if they knew). I’ve also decided that they’re “happyish” — although they cannot talk to me of course.

They do however communicate in their own way and I like to think that they quite like me, regardless of what I may or may not be wearing each morning (long gone are smart outfits during lockdown).

In fact, much to my pleasure and amusement, the “girls” now come galloping across the field when they see me emerging from the house. Indeed, to me, it’s such an uplifting funny sight as they run/fly with their little wings flapping along so fast you’d think that I was the arriving “Messiah.”

I am not, of course, and if I were, I would have learnt where the missing eggs were going long before I discovered the egg thief.

I had previously given up keeping hens and had in fact earlier agreed to swapping my hen house for a free meal at the Cherry Tree in Stoke Row but covid-19 has seen the end of those plans.

Instead, just before lockdown, eight ex-battery feathery critters arrived. This speedy arrival has not left much time for any permanent fencing to be installed. Not to worry though, we have a couple of dogs who will see off any intruders or egg thieves.

So, each morning (and highlight of the day) I’d eagerly set off with my “bed-hair”. I would argue that I was testing to see just how long I could go without washing my hair. It is a “scientific” experiment you understand, well at least that’s what I was telling myself, and I am sure I’m not alone in this experiment “ahem” ladies.

So, meandering, without too much purpose, I’d check the hen house. But, recently and to my surprise for any number of days, there had been no eggs?

Scratching my head (possibly because it was itchy) I wandered back into the kitchen mystified. They must be moulting? That’s it. That’s what happens! Feeling smug, in the knowledge that I was again a hen “expert” I put the coffee machine on and paused as I glanced out of the window, something caught my eye.

The chicken fencing was visibly shaking and there was a dog stuck in my hen fencing. It was a dog I recognised and knew. It was one of my dogs! Zola, the greedy chocolate Labrador. Of course — now it made sense! She was well and truly caught up in the fencing and what’s more, she had “egg” on her face, in every way.

Zola, whose hobbies consist of eating, more eating and hunting of food, had evidently found a way to get to the eggs and was clearly treating the hen house as a sort of McDonald’s.

She had, with incredible cunning, deduced that she could sneakily squeeze under (or over) the fence, devour the eggs, including shell and reappear back in her bed as if nothing had happened and no evidence.

Needless to say, after releasing her from the not-so-good-fencing, she has now been stopped from this “extra-curricular” lockdown activity and I have now sorted the fencing, oh and my hair!

ANGIE PATERSON lives in Watlington with her husband Nigel. She is a Church of England priest and fulfils this on a voluntary basis. She also runs the office for Henley MP John Howell.

I AM based at home so there wasn’t a need for a major practical change. However, it has been incredibly busy and with everyone working from home, I’ve used technology to help keep the team together and the work flowing.

With no evening meetings in the diary there has been spare time that I’ve not been used to having. I’ve tried to use the time well but some days it seems to just disappear.

I know that many people feel especially lonely at the moment so I am trying to call at least one person who I know lives alone every day. Sometimes it turns out to be a brief chat, at other times I have had wonderful conversations with people I’ve always meant to have a coffee with but never quite got around to.

Many years ago I had a hobby making greetings cards. I’ve revived that hobby and have been sending cards to people for no particular reason other than the hope of bringing some cheer and additional contact. It’s relaxing for me making them and good to have a purpose. I get a little exercise walking to the post box too.

I’m also taking the opportunity to try to get back into playing the piano. I’m very out of practice! I have some tuition books and am working my way through them to try to get my fingers working again.

Holy Week and Easter were very strange this year. It’s usually a very busy week with different church services each day. This year I linked in with the online services from the Diocese of Oxford led by our Bishops.

It felt a bit strange saying the responses to the screen but there was a sense of unity knowing that others were doing the same in their homes at the same time.

On Easter Sunday evening I took part in The Big Easter Evensong led by the Royal School of Church Music. The music was made available so that singers could join in. The director was online conducting, and with the aid of technology, some singers were live too, encouraging the rest of us.

As a member of the school’s council I was asked to do one of the readings. I recorded this a few days before and emailed it over to the team who put the various parts of the service together. I think about 1,700 people took part.

I miss my family and friends and look forward to seeing people face to face again.

LIS RANSOM, from Binfield Heath, charts the fourth week of lockdown in her village, reflecting how it affects her scattered family as well as the wider community.

Monday, April 13

Partial lockdown lifting in China, Italy and Spain. Moscow in trouble. Indonesia uses “ghosts” to scare people into staying at home.

UK deaths 11,300, up 717 today. No lockdown release expected. Breweries pour beer away, can’t be drunk fast enough.

Guernsey children build cardboard rabbit hutches; now need rabbits. No chance. Local grandchildren roll painted eggs down slope. Hard-boiled do best.

Welsh National Anthem for NHS, led by Llangollen, sung during Self Isolation Choir’s Messiah rehearsal.

Tuesday, April 14

Bank holiday over, weekday again: no difference. PM (in recovery) concerned obedient British public may not want to return to work after lockdown — at least three weeks away.

National shortage of paracetamol — post some to medic family. Son-in-law recovering well, had test, awaits results. NEC Nightingale hospital, constructed in two weeks, about to open.

Read about London plague in 1528… people shut away for months, so nothing new — 100 million died in Europe, across centuries.

Wednesday, April 15

Unwell son-in-law tests negative — puzzled relief, all back to work and school. Wonder what he had? How many other false assumptions?

Welfare phone call from bank and Phyllis Court Club. Feel cared for but aged. That won’t change, permanent line in sand.

Health Secretary thanks home carers, staff, volunteers. Must do our bit, carry on staying at home.

Watch TV drama about quizzes and coughing — odd timing.

Thursday, April 16

Could be just halfway through crisis. European countries easing up — France to open May 11.

Crops need picking, so flying in Eastern Europeans. Shouldn’t they employ students sitting at home?

Lockdown confirmed for at least three more weeks as UK deaths pass 13,000, up 861. Decision weighs science against economy and social distress.

Off to virtual drinks party…

Clap for carers, 8pm. Shooting stars visible every few mins for a week. Sign?

Friday, April 17

Meet neighbours at shop. Villagers making 50 cakes a week, delivered along with pictures and messages to NHS in Reading. Shop team working all hours, plus donating ingredients and gifts.

First rain in weeks. Outside activities curtailed but garden grateful.

Arguments over supply and use of scrubs and PPE. Have sewing machine, could I make some? How?

Husband returns to model train set. Parts have been arriving secretly by courier. Dining table now major rail junction.

Saturday, April 18

Dull, cool, wet, silent world. How to sanitise glass milk bottles on delivery? Don’t use gel — they slip straight out of my hand.

Guernsey dad fixes rainy-day swing from beam in sitting room. Happy girls.

One World Together at Home concert includes one Beatle, four Stones.

War veteran Captain Tom completes 100 laps of garden ahead of 100th birthday, raising £20 million for NHS charities.

YouTube theatre trip tonight: Treasure Island. Great escape.

Sunday, April 19

Should have been cousins’ lunch day. Postponed.

Mango in full flower — but no bets on any fruit.

UK deaths total more than 15,000, but today’s toll lower at under 600. Four weeks ago, PM said this might take 12 weeks; now looking at months.

Lots of neighbour-to-neighbour support in village; covid-19 aid group go shopping, collect prescriptions, do phone chats, deliver cakes and gifts. Benefit of small, tight-knit community; people saying crisis brings out the best.

SERENNA BIRKETT, five, lives in Sonning Common with her parents and sister. Since she hasn’t been able to go to school her mother has been teaching her.

I HAVE been helping the community by delivering food and medicine to the elderly and those who are sick.

I have done this as part of the Sonning Common Corona Virus Support Group, that my parents volunteer for. I have written a thank you letter to the doctors and nurses at the hospital and sent them sweeties and chocolates.

This is what I wrote in my letter: “Dear the doctors and nurses. I am staying at home so I don’t get coronavirus. Thank you for all your hard work at the hospital and for looking after all of the people that are sick.

“I have been helping my sister to wash her hands more because she is only two. It is so important that everybody stays at home so it doesn’t spread.”

I wanted to give them a present for all of them to enjoy because they are doing such a good job.

HALLIE HINTON, nine, who lives in Henley, and attends Trinity Primary School.

DURING this strange time, where we have to stay at home, my parents and I have been finding lots of ways to keep ourselves busy.

The most important part of my day is completing my online schoolwork. I find it so weird seeing my teachers behind a camera instead of in the classroom. One good thing about learning at home is being able to do fun stuff.

My mum and I have been doing lots of baking and my dad has been teaching me how to plant and grow things in the garden.

Normally my dad is at work a lot so I love this extra time together. I have been allowed to dye my hair pink, just like my mum, but it has to be gone by the time we return to school.

Normally, I spend my pocket money in Henley but one good thing about lockdown is saving money as I can’t go out to spend it.

To help me get energy for the day, I start at 9am doing PE with Joe Wicks, the Body Coach on YouTube. He is amazing and has taught me a lot of exercises.

Also, we have been watching the sunset in the garden because the weather is so lovely.

Sometimes I get bored but then I do some colouring, make up dances or build with my lego.

It’s really important to stay at home, so I don’t mind being a bit bored sometimes or missing the rest of my family if it means more people can stay healthy.

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