A daily pattern during lockdown
Busy hands while thoughts of others
Early anxieties about how long it might last, how we might get food, how safe it would be to go out, gave way to a calmness arising from a daily pattern which included regular exercise and the delivery of the newspaper by a kind neighbour. The supermarket delivery arrived once a week or ten days and we ate well, but I found I needed to do something, to contribute in some small way to what the NHS had taken on.
Being isolated on account of age meant I really was locked down, but, thanks to a prompt from my daughter, I settled on sewing masks, a few scrub suits and scrub hats. I also kept quilt and toy making on the go. Being isolated on account of age meant I really was locked down, but, thanks to a prompt from my daughter, I settled on sewing masks, a few scrub suits and scrub hats.
You could log on to ‘sew4thenhs’ website and offer to make scrubs and masks. While waiting for that I tried out the patterns from ‘youtube’ and from my sister. The photos show part of the 50 masks I made at the very beginning and then I made a few scrub suits and was told putting in draw strings would help!. That was before receiving the better patterns from the NHS.
I also kept quilt and toy making on the go.
Although my hands were busy my thoughts dwelt on the dreadful rising death toll, the heroic work of the medical and care teams and the fear of so many others. How had we, the UK, bungled it so badly and allowed the virus to result in so many deaths? (We had been so smug a little earlier when we saw the dreadful news from Italy.)
We contrasted our good fortune to have space in our house and garden with the circumstances of young families in high rise flats with many children at home and no gardens to play in. I delighted in giving online lessons to my granddaughter (7) and loved the long weekly calls on FaceTime with our married children which kept us in touch with all our grandchildren.
Another set of anxieties arose when lockdown was lifted. Was it really safe to go out? Would people keep their distance and follow the rules? Driving the car seemed strange at first. Seeing our family on separate occasions was wonderful but also very unsatisfying because keeping our distance was so artificial.
Listening to Grannie’s story
The photo was taken at the end of a two hour lesson with Aliki, my older granddaughter who is seven. Her younger sister, Anna, had just come to join her at the end of our session and they were listening to me when their mother took this photo. I think we were planning to meet up. We have all met up twice in ‘distanced’ picnics since it was permitted to do so.
I have ‘taught’ Aliki five mornings a week for about ten weeks. As you can imagine we are the firmest of friends! By engaging Aliki in this way, not only does she cover her school topics and more but it also allows her father to work and her mother and baby brother to have a quick nap while Anna is out at nursery school. It gives a rhythm to our day for all of us.
Reading during Lockdown
As we got used to having time in lockdown, so reading became one of the great pleasures. And finding a book of 1012 pages seemed promising, especially when its quality matched its length. The book is The English and their history by Professor Robert Tombs of St John’s College, Cambridge. Although he is a historian of France, he wanted to explore how the idea of ‘England’ came to be created and developed. The idea came before the reality. But at least by 1000AD England had become, as they say, ‘a thing’.
Tombs sustains a rattling narrative, taking us through the violent struggles and successive invasions which shaped the nation. He takes the story right up to the period before the European Referendum. At every turn our status as an island plays its part, sometimes projecting power into the continent of Europe, at other times shielding us from the turbulence in other countries. There are frequent small details that add colour to the story and keep it relatable. He is not shy of including the well-known bits of history, with analysis. Given the context of my reading, my interest quickened when there were major challenges to the nation’s safety and stability. How was the crisis faced up to and dealt with? This helped to put the current ‘plague’ into context and proportion. Perhaps a little escapist, but as Tombs ends his mammoth book he says “I hope that a knowledge of history can help us to respect the past, understand the present, and be sensitive to the future”.
Another good read: A little History of Poetry by John Carey
Here was the perfect book for lockdown, an introduction to poetry from Beowulf to the present; it tells the story behind the world’s greatest poems. Each chapter was just the right length for my (poor) attention span, clear, informative and made gripping by the clever use of biographical details and historical context. The poets and their poems were well chosen and the commentary authoritative. Altogether it was a spell-binding read – and educational!