Almost exactly four years ago, April 15th 2016, we moved into Crown Cottage, here in Winster. It was the 14th house we had viewed, and the first that we had both been completely smitten with, and possibly in many ways the least suitable for a couple approaching old age. Heart ruled the head, and how happy we are that it did…
Little did we imagine that in four years’ time we would all be confined to barracks for a considerable length of time. We still love the house, so being under lockdown is hardly hardship at all.
I almost hesitate to say this, being very aware that for the vast majority, the whole Covid-19 pandemic situation is a nightmare, domestically, emotional, financially. We’re ‘lucky’ funnily enough – to be at the rather older end of elderly: retired with a steady even if modest pension, our own house with a pretty little garden in a lovely rural village.
Like many people in a similar position, we are enjoying what feels like the luxury of spare time, without commitments. I had wild hopes of sorting, tidying and finally – after four years – being on top of everything, and with a sparklingly clean house to boot. In fact the idea of all this leisure has slowed down my pace so effectively that to date I have achieved very little. The wonderful weather hasn’t helped, either.
We’re more relaxed, certainly, and becoming larger too, as we have the time and leisure to enjoy the challenge of concocting appetising meals using what ingredients we have to hand. There’s no popping across the road to the village shop several times a day.
Although definitely larger we might also be becoming fitter, physically and mentally. So many online opportunities for ‘culture under lockdown’ have popped up to do everything from Pilates to playing the piano, from ‘visiting’ museums and ‘attending’ theatre and ballet performances, singing in virtual choirs, playing online bridge with friends… And some of the entertaining (possibly more so to nostalgic adults?) educational programmes for children, such as those to provided by BBC Bitesize
I have found myself joining apparently 2 million youngsters around the world and their families – including Nick and Sam and Nell – doing a half hour’s ‘PE with Joe Wicks‘ at 9am every weekday morning. No one can see that I studiously avoid trying anything ridiculously demanding but I do what I can. More appropriate but possibly a bit too sedate is Fitness for Seniors which John and I do together.
Yesterday morning, on my own in the kitchen I was happily tackling an arm exercise which involved having a tin (in my case of evaporated milk) in each hand. With both my arms flailing rather wildly above my head, the postman came to the door, which unfortunately has a window in it. His expression of bemused horror swiftly tried – and failed – to change to a jolly smile of greeting as he scuttled hastily away.
It’s not all jolly japes. Of course there are hardships, the main one for most of us seniors being unable to visit family and friends. But we have enjoyed daily family FaceTime and WhatsApp chats, virtual drink and meals with friends and many telephone calls with other friends one normally might only catch up with at Christmas.
Lots of planned events – holidays, concerts, plays, Chatsworth Flower Show – have had to be cancelled. And many less exotic but equally enjoyable local activities – bird-watching trips for John, meals with friends, parties, walks have all been scrubbed from the diary. But it makes sense if one wants to avoid the risk of catching the dreaded Covid-19 virus, indeed it feels a small price to pay.
And on a more personal level, how does one cope with increasingly wild and shaggy hair… We’ve ordered scissors and looked at videos, but that’s the easy bit. Plaits, topknots, bunches? (For John.) I can hardly see through my hair anyway, which doesn’t sound encouraging.
Local, small shops including of course our own Winster Village Shop have turned up trumps working so hard to accommodate the new, changed demand. The Chatsworth Farm Shop has completely transformed itself, offering a brilliant delivery service locally . The Bowling Green is operating a very slick takeaway service. I hope that people will all remember this, when things return to normal.
But what will normal look like? So much has changed. So much warmth and compassion has been expressed – and acted upon – by members of the public. Let’s hope we will all continue to become kinder, more compassionate and less self-centred.