My goodness, it’s Saturday 28 November. How time seems to have flown, even with the big Lockdown 1, Tier restrictions (we were in Tier 1 – medium alert) and now Lockdown 2, which ends on 2 December, and then, we will go back into Tiers, announced Thursday, and we will be in Tier 2 – high alert. Only a month till Christmas Day and then another week till 2021… a New Year.
So, this is just a recap of some past events and also looking forward.
After managing to get away for a holiday in September when the pandemic seemed to have eased a bit, we arrived back during the second week of October to find the rate of infections, hospital admissions and, sadly, deaths, starting to increase again to a worrying level. The rule of 6 had come into force in England on Monday 14 September meaning that, apart from a set of limited exemptions including work and education, any social gatherings of more than six people indoors or outdoors was against the law.
Early in January we had booked holiday cottages in Wales for a family get together at October half term. The rules in early October were slightly different in Wales in that children under 11 did not count towards the rule of six and a larger number could meet outside, so we planned to still go ahead making sure to abide by the rules in Wales. Then one daughter in Manchester was unable to go because it was put into Tier 3 (very high alert), which precluded meeting socially indoors and most outdoor places with anybody you didn’t live with. Then another daughter in London was unable to go as it had been put into Tier 2 (high alert), which precluded socialising with anyone you did not live with in any indoor setting. Never mind we thought. The rest of us would be able to go and at least meet socially outside in the beautiful Welsh countryside. Then on Monday 19 November the Welsh government announced a countrywide Lockdown from 6pm on Friday 23 October, the afternoon our rentals started… so our Welsh gathering was off!
Instead, over half term we stayed here in Eynsham and had three of our grandchildren to stay. They very much enjoyed walking around the village and having refreshments in the cafès. They were also very impressed with the amazing Halloween displays on the Eynsham Pre-School organised community Halloween Trail around the village. Villagers taking part had gone to great lengths to decorate their houses and gardens with all sorts of Halloween related features, including two we saw where gravestones had been erected all over their front lawns.
On Sunday 8 November there should have been the annual Remembrance Day Parade and Service in the Market Square. As this day fell during Lockdown 2 it was very different this year. A colourful and moving display of poppies was draped over the Market Cross. The red poppies, together with four purple poppies which commemorate the animals that lost their lives during conflict, were hand made by Eynsham WI members in 2017. Since the physical sale of poppies was curtailed this year, with house to house and street collections not being possible, we were encouraged to donate online and the Royal British Legion then emailed an A4 image of a red poppy, Every Poppy Counts, which could be printed out and we were encouraged to display it in our windows. I spotted several on my cycle rides around the village. On the morning of Sunday 8 November I was at St Peter’s, which was open for private prayer, and in the lead up to the 11 o’clock silence a very poignant single bell tolled outside. On 11 November wreaths were laid at the War Memorial including one from the Eynsham Scouts.
Looking forward, everyone is wondering what family arrangements to make for Christmas. It was announced on Tuesday 24 November by the Government that between 23 and 27 December Tier restrictions would be lifted and up to 3 households would be allowed to meet in an exclusive ‘bubble’ (which could not be changed during this period) at home, at a place of worship and at an outdoor space. The Government advised that such meeting up with family and friends had to be a matter of personal judgement, taking into account the risks to themselves and to others who might be more vulnerable.
Scientists advising the Government have recommended that we ask ourselves whether meeting up at Christmas is essential or whether it could be held at another time or online. However, if we do feel it essential to meet up they say, amongst other advice, physical contact should be avoided – elbow bumps rather than hugs, and there should be no singing and dancing. So no Rockin’ around the Christmas tree this year! Meeting vulnerable relatives, including grandparents, should be outside where possible. Where people in a bubble are staying in someone else’s home overnight, which is not recommended, good hygiene is key, windows should be kept open, face coverings should be worn where social distance cannot be maintained, that quizzes are safer than board games to avoid handling game pieces, and the time spent together indoors should be as limited as possible.
So, although the restrictions have been relaxed for these five days over Christmas, it is still a time to be “jolly …. careful”, in the words of the Prime Minister. This is particularly important, I feel, as many State schools do not break up until 18 December and, assuming that these rates continue, it is a sobering thought that on 19 November, according to Department for Education figures, 876,000 students were off school due to Covid-19 related reasons, either self-isolating or with the virus. Many households are going to be faced with some difficult decisions this Christmas about what to do for the best and to keep everyone safe and well.
Here in Eynsham the spirit of Christmas will be alive and bright. Friday 4 December sees the 2020 version of Light Up Eynsham. At 6pm villagers have been asked to take part in a simultaneous switch on of Christmas lights around the village. The event will be counted down by Eynsham Rotary Club, there will be a live Facebook feed of the event and we are promised that a “special visitor” may arrive. Around the village we are encouraged to switch on our lights and to enjoy a glass of mulled wine or a hot chocolate out on our doorsteps in a safe way. Then on 6 December the Light Up Eynsham Winter Windows village trail begins and lasts till 24 December. It is in aid of the Community Primary School and there will be 15 illuminated homes and businesses taking part. All these arrangements are a testament to the determination and community spirit of this wonderful village to ensure that some Christmas cheer will be lighting up our lives this festive season!