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Stay home, stay safe, protect the NHS, hands, face, space, stay home, stay safe, protect the NHS ...

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Last year Charlotte Higgins from the Derbyshire Voluntary Action group approached me to discuss a book they were putting together to capture people’s response and thoughts to COVID across the county. Below is my offer, plus a few paragraphs to get to January 2021!

I’m writing this on 31 Oct, Halloween. No trick or treaters this year, our street is doing a pumpkin trail for children to see from the pavement, sweets in baskets at the end of driveways... all not normal.

It didn’t feel like it some days, but I suppose I’ve been one of the lucky ones, when lockdown started it was a bit of fun, the house we live in is large enough to cope with the four or us, we have desk space and access to IT, my wife and I can work from home and the kids can access the school systems to do their classwork, they were really pleased about that!

That first weekend seems an age ago. We often do park run on Saturday mornings so, as we couldn’t do the normal, my son and I lapped the garden - I don’t know how many times, until Strava told us we’d done 5k... it’s not a big garden.

I’m self-employed and run a local magazine, S40 Local, which had to stop for three editions, it’s well-loved but not classed as essential and I didn’t want to ask my delivery team to go out. It wasn’t a difficult decision to make and I’d qualify for the government payment scheme for self-employed people so that would cover some of the lost income.

It didn’t feel so bad.

My son mastered the unicycle and did every Joe Wicks class, my daughter did many of them and her guitar skills improved massively, and they slowly wore the grass away on the back garden, playing each day as the sun-scorched us. My wife spent all day working and I supported various schemes in the area and set about looking at another business idea I’d had for a while.

Rainbows, clapping for the NHS, Zoom, camping in the garden, walks every night, #hrp_challenge to give me focus, short cycle rides alone, Open Signs, hand sanitiser, masks … just a few of the things that became important.

What was underlined, was how lucky we were. Many people in the area needed help. People vulnerable or those self-isolating struggled to get food and supplies, and businesses and volunteers stepped up to ensure people could access the necessary services. We did a few deliveries for the local convenience store. We quickly found out how difficult it was to arrange food deliveries, as my mum, in Nottingham, who was self-isolating, needed food and had to order an emergency delivery from a supermarket!

Seven months on and we face another month of lockdown, but this time, with schools, colleges and universities still open, but nonessential businesses to close, a difficult one for me as we approach Christmas.

I really feel for small businesses and independent retailers, many of our small retailers did quite well as lockdown hit but were abandoned by many as things returned to normal and people flooded back to the supermarkets, we support the independents as we always have but it sometimes feels as though we’re in the minority, come on people play fair.

The flow of information about the virus since this thing started has been so poor, rumours, news, social media all making it so difficult to know what the right thing to do was ... and is!

What started in a market in China has spread to every corner of the world in six months, the fix for it still unknown, I feel for Eyam and how they responded to the plague 355 years ago.

I’ve put out three editions of S40 Local since things started up and I’m just about to start the Christmas edition. I have no idea at the moment if it will actually go to print and what it will contain, no church services, no Christmas tree festivals, no Christmas markets, not normal.

I am starting to feel that there really isn’t an end in sight, we’re starting to learn how to live with this thing and no one knows for how long?

It’s all starting to feel a bit like a dystopian George Orwell novel but let’s hope for an ending a bit more uplifting, and dare I say it ... Disney!

So, 23 Jan 2021, and we’re another three months on, and so much has changed. Back in lockdown again but a vaccination now being rolled out … my mother has had her jab, but we’re still not allowed to go visit her. The last time we saw her was before Christmas for a walk to Wollaton Park, a hot chocolate and sausage roll sat on the benches, it was extremely cold I seem to recall.

S40 Local is back on hold and home schooling is back, this time with some online live classes but I think the kids are getting bored of things, other than a walk with a single friend and a ride on the bikes nothing is happening. It can’t be good for their mental well-being.

I’m on a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions, feeling positive after a bit of local exercise, how many times I’ve been along Westwick Lane recently must be a high number! Frustrated at those ‘adapting the rules’ to fit themselves, simply delaying recovery for us all, then back to positive again as we look at ways to support the local businesses via our social media pages and get some great feedback.

I can’t be unique in this constant flow of emotion? It won’t be long before it will be a year since this all started for real with lockdown 1 (on my birthday) so let us hope that lockdown 3 is the last, and with us all acting sensibly and respecting those around us, we can return to the ‘normal’ soon.

My thoughts are with anyone who has lost a loved one to this virus, and to all who are still unwell, here's to a speedy recovery.

We'll keep you posted on the progress of the COVID book and as soon as we know it's available we'll let you know.

Stay well and stay safe.

Words: Paul Chapman


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