Lockdown Thoughts by Rita (Age 89¾), written Spring 2020

Was it Confucius who said “May you live in interesting times”?  Well we are aren’t we?  Having been born in 1930 and living through a World War, I’ve never known anything like it, except there are no bombs or blackout.  My mother had, of course: the Spanish flu of 1918.  It badly affected her life, as this present situation has done, and will do, to many.

On a personal note, like many more, having been classified as vulnerable with health issues, I’m doing what I am told.  The post box outside my house is as far as I’ve walked since March, and will be until the government (or my daughters) say otherwise – a bit of role reversal here!  But it’s all for our own good isn’t it?

On the positive side, in multiple ways good things are happening and life in the slow lane (or on the hard shoulder) is revealing all sorts of acts of kindness and it is heartwarming.  Living here in this warm and caring community has brought back good memories of the early 50s.  Many years ago, my husband Norman and I went for a walk right over the common.  Two complete strangers invited us through their garden and into the kitchen for a cuppa and a slice of homemade cake.  We found this astonishing and delightful. Take note Mr Heartycough (ed. a grumpy old gardener of this time), this was in Naphill.

In the 50s our young children played cricket in the road, or tied a line across the road for tennis, only rarely needing to stop for a solitary car.  No buses then either.  There is time now to hear birdsong and smell the roses.  “Gather ye Rosebuds While ye May”.  (Well I’d better be quick; greenfly were there on mine yesterday).

The downside of course is not seeing our loved ones, and giving them a hug, and a constant feeling of unease about their welfare.  But we do have time for long phone calls with absent friends, empathy if they are struggling, plus lots of giggles about our difficulties, haircuts come to mind.  “Can I borrow the hedge trimmers?  But I won’t need the ladder.”  Bows and Kirby grips will have to do, last worn at 6 years old.  On the TV last week appeared a famous presenter speaking from lockdown at her home. She looked very bedraggled.  “Join the club.” said I.

The friend who helps with my cleaning is also greatly missed.  “I can write my name in the dust on the sideboard” said the lady of the house…”Ain’t education wonderful” replied the housemaid.  Does any of this really matter?  Of course not.  There is a poem somewhere about dust containing fragments from everywhere, including Westminster Abbey.  Now, there’s a search for the poetry group to discover.

These are all very minor irritations.  As long as we all stay safe and keep on with all the kindness and compassion for each other now and in times to come…..

Sorry if this has been boring. I must get out more.

PS  As Churchill said in the war ‘kbo’.

LOCKDOWN – The Experience of Lorna and Don Murray, written Spring 2020

The main threat to our lives has been Covid-19 – turning, at 80, from shuffling off this mortal coil into a quickstep. There, that’s the serious stuff out of the way.

Straight away our daughter in Thame offered to get our main shop and deliver it on a Sunday then go to Hughenden Park with the dog. Then a change, we were overwhelmed by the kindness of our young neighbours who got us everyday things, another gets our Saturday paper and our wonderful pharmacy keeps us tablet-ridden and alive. I have found it difficult asking people to get things for us as I think I’m being a nuisance, but needs must.

I run Downley Art Group and suspended it three weeks before the end of term but two members, Averil Powell and Sue Hammond thought of putting us on WhatsApp, so every Thursday morning we sit in our own homes and work until noon when we put photographs of our work on WhatsApp. Those who haven’t got it are telephoned to find out what they have achieved.

The Chipmunks, Don’s woodcarving group, has also been suspended. In fact, the village, like everywhere else has come to a stop except for food store, the newsagents and pharmacy. These establishments have been amazing in taking orders and delivering goods to those in lockdown.

Every road has a representative who takes note of anyone who needs help. I fact, so impressive are the residents of Littleworth Road that they appeared in a Ross Kemp television program.

The wonderful weather helped a great deal in the people could get into their gardens and go for walks if possible and we are lucky in Downley in having the Common and woods. As lockdown eased, I ventured out, masked and gloved (disposable) just visiting the pharmacy (of course) and our small supermarkets. Everything was set out very well with spacing and sanitisers but a lot of people weren’t masked. However, today, ruling has come through that masks must be worn in shops.

Although I realise this has been a terrible hardship for many, for us, it has become a way of life.

Eveything Has Changed……… Rohan (14), written Summer 2020

The coronavirus changed everyone on the planet and people are panicking, worrying and stressing out about things. Everything closed on Friday the 20th of March. I still remember opening my phone at 4pm on Wednesday the 17th of March 2020 and reading all the news. Nothing was going to be the same. Schools were closing and I was going to be learning online from my home. This was actually quite enjoyable and gave us independence on how and when we worked. So far, almost nothing has gone right this year and it is terrible. Some fun things have been done to keep our minds out of the real reason we are all home but we all knew in the back of our heads that people were dying everyday. This experience of lockdown and staying at home with no social interaction until very recently was actually very strange and eventually, it was the new normal. This, however good it sounds, isn’t a good thing. In the present month of June, this lockdown has eased and I can easily tell, this is going to take a long time until everything is normal again.

When this first started, it was very strict. No one was allowed to meet anyone. All of my friends were in their own homes, not allowed to meet up with me. I was stuck at home. All I could really do was attend online lessons and play computer games for entertainment. It was entertaining, but it does get very boring, staying at home. School was weird. I am in year 9 and as work was set, it was nothing like school. In school, we were able to do anything together. We could do practicals and experiments in all sciences and do group project work together in Geography. It felt like there were no limits. Now, everything is boring. The same tasks with different topics, endlessly reading through powerpoints, watching documentaries, submitting pieces of writing. That’s what it feels like. Every now and again, there’s an exciting task but when that happens, it feels like its Halley’s Comet, It doesn’t last long and it comes once every 75 years. Enjoyable tasks are rare at home. At this point in lockdown, 4 months in, all my school work is merging into one at this point. July is supposed to be better. Then again that’s what they said about June last month. And well, they were right.

With each month of lockdown passing, it wasn’t getting any better. Until June. This was the first month where things were starting to go back to normal again. Shops reopened, it’s almost summer so I won’t have to worry about school until September in a fortnight, and I am allowed to see up to 8 friends. I’m even allowed to go and play in their front garden! This rule of social distancing still makes things weird, but even that will be eased from next week. Things do seem to be going well now actually.

This lockdown period will without a doubt, change everyone. This is because that this way of life is now the new normal. We are all quite used to it now and when all these restrictions are gone, it is going to feel strange. People will naturally still social distance and nothing will be the same. The world has changed in half a year. That’s when this all started and it feels like it will never end. I am not going back to school until September and that will be almost 1 year away from school. That won’t feel normal for a good amount of time. This may affect many things and could have a negative affect but hopefully this will be over soon and we won’t need to worry about anything. There will be a vaccine and there will be no social distancing or people with masks or anything like that. I hope.

Working From Home……James (24), written Winter 2020

I had been sent to Poland for my first ever overseas business trip which was originally booked to last 10 days and therefore span a weekend. Everyone I had spoken to had told me to stay in Krakow for the weekend to see the sights.

After a week of hard work I had just arrived in the city, checked into my hotel and went exploring in search of an evening meal. Halfway through this meal I receive 2 calls from separate people telling me that Poland are closing their borders at midnight to curb the spread of Covid19. I ran back to the hotel, called an emergency travel line and was on a plane to Munich and then Heathrow 4 hours later.

The following week of work in the office was the first of the government advice to work from home if you feel you need to, a few people had begun testing the remote working services and I had made arrangements to come home to my parents that weekend to do a test run for myself. After the first day of WFH the announcement came that it was no longer a suggestion but now an order: STAY HOME.

Many friends were then placed on Furlough and at the time I envied them, a holiday would have been nice. At the time this was all going to be over in a matter of weeks. As the months ticked over the novelty wore off and I considered myself one of the lucky ones. But again as summer approached I envied those friends to be able to spend some much needed time outdoors, a difficult thing to do with a laptop and team video calls to Belgium every day.

Over all this time our office in Sussex had actually stayed open and undergone a restructure to create a “Covid Secure” workplace. We started filtering back in and were almost back to full strength by September. This made the second lockdown far easier on myself as my personal routine hadn’t been affected at all. My “new normal” consisted of going to the office, regular exercise on my mountain bike along the South Downs and a weekly shop. All of which deemed acceptable under the terms of Lockdown 2.0.

I wasn’t happy about the additional restrictions and the loss of a normal summer, but I accepted them and did my best to adjust, so once Christmas came around, new updates like the “Tier System” had faded into everyday life.

Once again, the weekend before Christmas forced a last minute decision for me to again go back home 3 days before Christmas to avoid the Tier 4 closure of the Buckinghamshire border. Over the course of the holiday Sussex joined Tier 4 on 26-Dec and the UK was in Lockdown 3.0 before work even started back up again.

The new normal will continue until the vaccination programme finally allows us to put this behind us. My hopes are to enjoy Summer 2021.

Replies by Downley residents to questions about the positive aspects of the Coronavirus Lockdown

“More walking in our wonderful countryside.”
“Have been exploring the footpaths around Downley; I’ve seen more in the last six weeks than in the rest of the time since I moved to Downley.”
“I’m spending less on commuting and coffee out and about.”
“We have been wasting less food – the panic at the start of this really made us think about using leftovers carefully, as well as how fortunate we are.”
“A lot more WhatsApp messages and more calls to family. Even the little one wants to FaceTime his friends! Hope it all carries on after the lockdown ends.”
“We will be observing Ramadan in lockdown. We won’t be able to break the fast together with family and friends, but there will be no external distractions so we will be able to focus more on prayers at home.”
“My two kids are really getting on much better, and we are enjoying what we have on our doorstep. We are lucky to live where we live.”
“Been doing lots of online training with my dog!”
“We have been cycling more than usual and spending much more time in the garden.”
“Getting fitter with Joe Wicks and running the ‘Downley 8’ route as much as I can manage!”
“I have started running again at 59 – 4 miles every other day and loving it.”
“Got the chess board out for the first time in 15 years.”
“More time together as a family: the kids grow up quickly and you don’t get that time back.”
“I used to DJ a lot in my twenties…now I’ve bought some new gear and have been practising again. Teaching the kids how to do it has been fun.”
“Both I and the children have been learning photography on a short course.”
“I am sewing for the NHS: 54 scrubs bags and 33 headbands for masks so far.”