Lockdown Living History Research Challenge

Thank you to all contributors for the Leamington History Group’s Living History Lockdown Project.
A new contribution from a youngster was added on 29th April.

 The ‘Leamington Scrubbers’

When the Covid pandemic took hold, Ashleigh Linsdell, a nurse from Cambridge, started a grass-roots movement For the Love of Scrubs to encourage volunteers to get to work: hospitals needed large quantities of well-made, washable scrubs for all front-line workers.
Across the country regional groups were quickly formed. Funds were raised to buy fabric, and companies made their patterns for scrubs freely available. The ‘Warwickshire Scrubbers’ organised themselves into smaller hubs, with co-ordinators who distributed materials and the collected finished items.
In Leamington around fifty ‘scrubbers’ set to work. People were incredibly generous with the time and energy. Patterns were printed, rolls of fabric were cut up and sewing machines buzzed. Airing cupboards were raided for bedding that could be repurposed, and kilometres of thread and elastic were bought. We produced hundreds of sets of scrubs, all made with care and respect for NHS staff, and went on to supply paramedics, care homes, GP surgeries, and many others who needed them.
We also made laundry bags, scrub caps, headbands and thousand washable fabric masks, distributed to families through charities and foodbanks.  And we had fun and made new friends.

It gave us a focus and kept us sane! 

Disbelief – the Overdue Plague

I can remember a TV documentary in the 1980’s saying that the world had not suffered a plague/killer flu pandemic for 60 years and it was now overdue. I, like most people, never gave that statement a second thought until last year.  Even then amidst government statements in the early part of the year suggesting that the threat to the UK was minimal it didn’t sink home properly until the lockdown in March. Even then the thought of the lockdown lasting more than a few weeks seemed totally alien.
The time has been strange, we are unable to socially mix in the same way as before, we have to keep two metres away from others, only meeting perhaps one person at a time and only outdoors. Also,  there are continuously changing rules on entering other households. It is illegal to have a holiday and we are generally unable to visit friends and relatives who are seriously ill in hospital for fear of spreading the infection.
I have never experienced anything like this and hope I never do again. This for me has been a time to catch up on my music recording which has given me personally a project. However, for many other people the time has been very difficult, particularly for those living alone. Instinctively we are herd animals and for us to be separated from others is difficult.
A chat on the telephone or “Zoom” helps but it is not as nice meeting up face to face with friends as before.  On the plus side, unlike other pandemics in history scientists are able to use technology to overcome the virus with vaccinations so perhaps soon we will be able to enjoy life again.

I suppose if I have learned anything from this time it is how much in the past, I have taken for granted in my day-to-day life.

By a Young Man, aged 11 years and 1 day.

Before lockdown we ran free in a world of our own,
We danced among the dewy shades of green grass,
And on those wet days when drops of water fell from the sky
We would stay inside all safe and dry.

During Lockdown the skies were all grey and we had to keep ourselves to ourselves.
We sat at home with Zoom calls and homework with days of nothing else,
When our grandparents were at home, alone.
We felt guilty for calling them only on the phone.

When restrictions were lifted the grey clouds disappeared,
But the virus kept spreading,
So the rain returned, – with gusto,
And when families should’ve met, they had to go.

We hope that when Lockdown comes to an end,
We will be free to roll in emerald green meadows like before,
Yet when the hibernation ends, we do not know.
But after Lockdown we should be free!

However, we will still have to restrict ourselves,
Even when this story is put up on the shelves.

From Ilmington Hill, Michael Jeffs

Beyond belief 

No one could ever imagine, in spite of previous history telling us so, that such a global virus could impact so harshly on our town and country – socially, economically and financially. Rapidly, everyone had to re-think their plans and adapt – changing how  we worked, how we educated our children, how we communicated with family and what we did in our leisure time.  Suddenly, our freedoms were challenged.
The first lockdown in March, markedly different from the second, brought many new experiences. Currently we all don masks around Leamington Spa – and line up outside supermarkets without a quibble; and contrary to popular media stirring, there were no actual real shortages of toilet paper and groceries! Restaurants and pubs closed so we had socially-distanced garden meetings with friends – but then when the rules changed and confused us all. We challenged ourselves in family quizzes and cooking international dinners – on Zoom with friends  –  Mexican, Irish and Portuguese!
Certainly, our technological skills have much improved in an age where we can work from home and connect with family – this was especially important for our elderly relatives whose social contact was minimised during this time – with all Church, clubs, shops or cafes closed.
At the start (March 2020) our daughter’s University exchange visit to Melbourne ended abruptly.  As the reality set in of possible isolation in Australia for the pandemic – and with few funds – she was lucky to get one of the last flights before complete shutdown!
So, with two adult children at home – one completing a PhD and the other working in IT – we all crept around the house so as not to interrupt the constant video-conferences happening in each room!  We also painted the outside of the house – a major achievement – although difficult to find stocks of paint! With the glorious spring weather, we attended the garden and explored different areas of Leamington on daily walks, learning so much more about our town. In August, our extended family went to New Quay, Wales during the lockdown ‘gap’ and even managed to eat out (in the cold and rain) because the Welsh pandemic rules differed from England.

We are one of the lucky ones so far, with no experience of the horrors and consequences of Covid-19 that many have experienced during this time. Now, with the rapid vaccination programme, we have hope that one day this virus will be extinguished once and for all and the world as we know it will get back to normal.

Covid-19 and the Lockdown Experience

Doesn’t seem a year that COVID 19 affected our lives and having to adapt to the rules that come with it….Personally , in our household we kept to the Government advice , sanitising , all objects that we regularly touch , handles , taps etc . even scrubbing toothbrushes daily.
My adult son lives with us and each weekend his 11-year-old son stays here at our house. All was well until January 2021 when he contacted COVID 19 from his place of work , he drove for a car distributor , collecting and returning cars each day… We were all tested  -and I was also tested positive. From there my son and I , together with my wife went into isolation , it was a period of 10 days, contacted daily by the teams at “Track & Trace” who were marvellous. In that period our Grandson was not advised to come to our house. All is now okay, although my vaccine jab was delayed by 28 days from the positive test which are the rules -all has been completed for my wife and myself.
During this lockdown period my grandson has attended school – he is autistic and qualifies for special needs and we help with the transport. As I go for long distance walking, I notice many people are more sociable with a “Morning” comment as you pass by.  Leamington History Group have also played their part contacting members to see if all is okay.

The Covid-19 Pandemic and Me (The Optimist)

I reckon I have been lucky in this last year. I have not had Covid and nor have any of my family or close friends. I have not starved, and I have not run out of toilet rolls.  However there have been downsides, such as delayed medical treatment and denial of meals out. My marriage is a constant anchor.
As I grow older there are changes in physical and mental abilities, but I have no evidence that the pandemic has made any of these worse than they might have been. There are less good days, but I am usually motivated to pursue various interests such as modelling, reading, art and local history.
The communications from the government, its advisors and critics have taken up far too much time and attention and my emerging ability to filter this information is a skill of which I am now proud.
Of course, I miss meeting and speaking in person with friends and family – but technology has provided new ways to communicate and laugh together. Humour and laughter shine out as part of our coping. Many humorous writings, poems, cartoons and videos have arrived on my laptop which I would not have expected to enjoy previously.

I hope to see you all on 21st June! 

The Covid-19 Pandemic and Me (The Pessimist)

What a terrible time we are having. We had no warning of what was coming and conflicting and rapidly changing advice or instruction on what we could or should do. Most people seem to have no idea how far is 6 feet or 2 metres; Boris even told us one metre plus at one stage – whatever that meant.
The panic about food and drink and toilet rolls was ludicrous. Those of us over a certain age were told not to go out at all but could not find a grocer to deliver – at one point I tried the phone and was 3,421 in the queue. It has been an awful time for shops, pubs and hairdressers just to name a few; how many of them will ever recover? Compensation does not seem to be fair.
The economic decline and compensation for people is costing a fortune and future generations will be paying for years and years to come. We fondly imagined that each peak in infections would be it, but crazy people made stupid rules which other crazy people ignored anyway, and another lockdown was followed by another peak.
Thanks to all NHS and Carers for carrying on. Vaccination has been exemplary so far.

Keep Calm and Carry On. I hope to see you all on 21st June. 

Grandparent in lockdown 

The first lockdown came as something of a shock: we had been in London, looking after some of our grandchildren, and at that point, were more anxious about whatever storm was raging that weekend, that curtailed our granddaughter’s netball tournament (but not a Guides’ sleepover, a train ride away!) and put paid to our grandson’s Rugby Tournament.  I was torn between feeling sorry for them and the relief of not having to try and be in about three places at once, – and coping with London traffic.
As time went on, it didn’t seem so bad.  The weather was very good, I could still do Pilates every week by zoom, and the garden had never looked so good. The summer wore on, and lockdown became boring.  We longed to meet up with family and friends.  As a former teacher, I grew increasingly worried about the children who were losing out by the very arrangements designed to protect them and the rest of us, – the ones who lose out every year when school and all its advantages closes for six weeks, and they instantly lose their “scaffold”, – the regular routines, the input, the school meals and activities, which some parents can’t keep up and others won’t because they feel that’s the teachers’  job.  (A feeling that has not left me).  Having seen some online lessons provided for children in Years 4 & 6, I take my hat off to the present generation of teachers, for their resilience and creativity in a nearly impossible situation.
By November, things were looking a little more positive, with promises of a vaccine on the horizon, and the possibility of a Christmas catch-up with family.  Then the numbers soared, Tier 4 was introduced, and things became bleak again.
In the midst of it all, regular social meetings were forbidden and societies such as LHG were forced to find other means of keeping the membership interested and supportive.  Some happily took to online methods.  Others didn’t and were not happy. The closure of Libraries, Museums and the County Records office hit people hard.  One of our members, who runs a Family History Group, has been penning a weekly Newsletter to keep her members in touch, as well as running online meetings and support sessions.
What has been difficult for me, living in an older property, has been when things have inevitably gone wrong, – leaking roof in a year of exceptional rainfall, worn out heating boiler needing replacement, electrics deciding to go off, and so on, – is getting hold of workmen who are able, and allowed to work under social distancing rules.

I am still waiting for someone to come and sort out the greenhouse and its leaking roof!

Optimism 17 May 2021

First Lockdown (March 2020) The Empty Streets of Leamington Spa – Photos by Mark Lepkowski