During the first workshop we thought about the moment when the reality of the situation hit home for us…
Bring it on Boris
It was Mother’s Day. Things already had begun to get stressy. We already knew it was going to be low key, different, challenging. I was going to the Royal for a slap-up lunch with my youngest, a change from long cherished plans which involved a weekend in London with all the children. But the Royal was cancelled too.
We live in a magnificent landscape. From the front windows of our weathered, stone house, which has stood square and solidly in its hollow for 500 years, we have south facing views of the Peaks. To the rear, past our honeysuckle, roses and fresh cut grass, are gentle sheep studded slopes which sweep up to the much wilder and more rugged landscape of Kinder Scout and Edale beyond. The weather then was wonderful. Golden sunshine all day to a theme tune of birdsong and spring smells, a backdrop of mild spring ordinariness.
Meanwhile in London panic detonated and politicians frantically hustled to put in place measures to combat the enemy within, as we got on with the business of family life. Lockdown loomed. The Media were tuning up their accelerando of hysterical hyperbole. A salvo of words and images.
Roast leg of lamb, just pink with leeks and roast rosemary potatoes and then we walked on Lantern Pike, where we passed family upon family of likeminded Englishers, making the most of a last, sneaked opportunity to escape the reality of March 2020.
Bring it on, Boris.
Halfway around the World and we still couldn’t tear ourselves away from being woken up by the dulcet tones of Justin Webb. So, we knew about Coronavirus. We knew we were closer to China than the UK. We knew my parents were worried about us. But we were on a BIG TRIP, and everything seemed fine as we strolled around Buddhist temples and bustling WET markets.
We were on Cat Ba Island and had booked a three-day boat cruise around the UNESCO islands of Haloing Bay.
Instead of breakfast, our host presented us with an official looking letter. To paraphrase. All boat trips are cancelled. All hotels must close. All restaurants must close. You should leave the island NOW!
Slouched in the familiar maroon leather armchair in my mother’s cosy cottage in the Yorkshire Dales, idly scrolling through the news feed on my mobile phone whilst my mother dozed, I suddenly sat bolt upright and said, “Bloody hell!”
Mum was startled awake and my brother, who had been making a brew, loomed large in the kitchen doorway, framed by sunlight so all I could make out was his silhouette.
I put my specs on and began reading. I paraphrased the details. “It’s saying this Corona thing might lead to people over seventy and the vulnerable being told to isolate in their homes for… THREE MONTHS. Shit! Oh, sorry Mum… but that’s you… and David. Bloody hell! This is getting serious.”
My brother put the tray down on the coffee table and said he thought we needed to take things a bit more seriously and it was time mum stopped gallivanting to the village Coffee Mornings and Bring and Buy sales as she was in her eighties.
Mum shifted in her chair. She liked her independence and loved the village activities. More importantly she didn’t like being told what to do by her youngest child.
“You don’t want to believe everything you read on that blessed Facebook, it’s scaremongering.”
I looked at my brother who raised his eyes. “Tell that to the old folk in Italy and Spain, Mum. You watch the news and have the radio on all day. You know how many are dying.”
“Well they have a bigger population of elderly,” she countered.
“Yes, true, Mum but we’re talking about you. You’re elderly. You need to be careful and it’s not Facebook, it’s the Daily Torygraph.”
It fell silent and I suppose we were all thinking of how things might change in the next few months as we sipped tea and nibbled on sweet, comforting biscuits.
In retrospect, we hadn’t a clue. Life was about to change radically, for us all. We were all going to be so hugely restricted and it was going to hit some of us extremely hard. We are all still safe and well but the image of the three of us is sharply etched in my memory as the moment when what was to come, really hit home. It was a parallel with the ‘Where were you when you heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination?”
We were in for a hell of a shock and were going to have to adapt to new ways. “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it.”