Blog post by Julia Shay

Eynsham Lockdown 2 Diary
November 2020

I haven’t entered a contribution (other than photographic) to the Eynsham Lockdown blog before – kept hoping that it would all end and the editors wouldn’t need a contribution. But here we still are, and it is getting colder and darker and it feels as if we are going to need each other to get through the winter.

My question is, have we gone back to the 1950s (baking, being at home, not driving, shopping once for the whole week) or launched forward into the next decade or so when all communication might become virtual? Instead we shot into the future overnight – how many of us had heard of Zoom last February? This morning I had not one but two Zoom meetings! Yoga first (it should have been in the Village Hall) and then a “coffee morning” of quilters in the Oxon and Bucks area of the Quilters’ Guild immediately afterwards. I have got the balancing act of stitching on my sewing machine, with the laptop sharing the sewing table, off to a fine art.

So you see, one reason I didn’t want to write an entry is that I am so lucky compared to so many people. I am fairly recently retired (had to wait a long time for it but that’s another story) and we have finally paid off the mortgage. So I feel almost guilty that Lockdown 1, except for the awfulness of having to keep six feet away from beloved small grandchildren, really went rather well for me. I had been doing far too many things in “the olden days”, and here I was with an empty diary, with my health and enough money to live on, and I could stay at home and indulge my long-awaited hobbies, (except that the need for making face-masks did take up rather a lot of my time when the need was greatest). There were family members to support too – elderly relatives shielding, and younger relatives trying to work and home-school at the same time, some of them worried about their business, and only some of them near enough to even see. But none of us were at real physical risk, or in danger of homelessness or hunger, as so many have been, and many more may become.

Despite all these positives, living in a world where there is physical danger for everyone but the load is not fairly shared, and when the powers that be are proving utterly incompetent, did not make for any real peace of mind. I worked in the NHS for ten years, and I have been both enormously proud of the work that the NHS has done this year, and furiously angry that these workers, and particularly the “outsourced” workers like porters and cleaners and security guards were being so let down by the poor planning and organisation of PPE by our leaders. The NHS were not the only workers at the coal face – the care workers, bus drivers, delivery drivers, supermarket workers were all shouldering a huge burden while I was free to enjoy the fine weather and the quietness. So it seemed best to lie low and not say too much.

Now here we are still, lockdown lite is back, and though there is a huge light at the end of the tunnel in the form of viable vaccines, we have the winter to get through. The anticipation of Christmas is always (for me) a mixed blessing, as I think it is for many others. I love the lights, the decorations, mulled wine and mince pies, and Christmas cards dropping through the letter box (for us oldies at least). But what a workload, and what an expense, planning and sourcing and paying for and wrapping and sending all those presents, which may or may not be of benefit to the recipient. Trying to be generous and prudent and innovative and ethical all at the same time! And looking forward to seeing friends and family, but knowing how the intensity of extended close contact can really exacerbate the cracks beneath the surface. And also knowing that the “real” meaning of Christmas, whatever it may be for you or I, is very hard to hang onto amongst the busyness and the celebrating, especially as old certainties disappear.

We don’t know, as I write, what we will be allowed to do, or not do, over Christmas. But rather than risk lives, I would rather wait till the Spring and enjoy real live contact with those I miss when it can be done under safe conditions, and not at the cost of our, or others’ lives. But there will be people who live alone, who live far from their families, who have worked all through this strange period, for whom that hoped-for Christmas contact with their friends and families may be the only thing that has kept them going. So who am I to pontificate?

We have known losses too. A good friend, who we had encouraged to move from her boat into a cottage in the village last year, died suddenly in February. I had been looking forward to getting to know her better. Her funeral in London on March 10th was the first event that we “missed”, meeting instead with other local friends outside to remember her, followed by a slightly awkward pub lunch. Weirdly, the last time I saw Faith was when I had to rescue her after she had been accidentally locked-in in St Leonards Church, having gone in to sit there quietly in the late afternoon.

Then my husband’s cousin’s husband had chest pains, spoke to but didn’t see the G.P., and died in the night during Lockdown 1. Who knows whether he would have been saved under normal circumstances? No family gathering for the wider family on that occasion. And on the second day of Lockdown 2 my only cousin Neil (his sister died too young too), a gardener who had recently moved from Berkshire down to Dorset, drowned swimming with friends in the sea, caught by sudden bad weather, or currents, who knows. “Excess” deaths all.

So, dear friends and neighbours, stay warm and safe (if you can) and hang on in there until we can leave the 1950s, and the 2030s both behind, and return to a (hopefully) more normal 2021 somewhat older and even, perhaps, a little wiser. That is when we will need to start picking up the pieces…..

Sometimes

Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man; decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.

Written permission was given for the inclusion of this poem. (Eynsham Lockdown Editor)

Author: Eynsham Lockdown Editor