St Albans Life under Lockdown

Louise Watson

Vegetable bed
Log pile
Social distancing in the market
Garden Gym
Daily joke board
Weekly donations to the foodbank

There are many challenges during this period of the Covid-19 lockdown, but there are positives too, and I’ve tried to include some of these and some impressions that will stay with us from this time.

Though still working from home part-time, we spend a great deal of each week in our garden, for which we are so thankful, and my new veg bed flourishes in the record breaking sunny days during April and May. Our garden’s boundary has a lot less holly trees after it dawns on us that they have grown completely out of hand over the past 20 years, so we set to work cutting and pruning them ! This does result in us having rather a backlog of cuttings to store whilst the recycling centres are shut.

Many of our daily exercise slots incorporate long walks or cycles in the Hertfordshire countryside, where we marvel at the clear blue skies free of planes and quiet roads, whilst the hedgerows are full of birdsong.

We also cycle to buy fruit and veg in St Albans market, uncannily quiet with, for the first few weeks of lockdown, just four stalls where customers patiently queue whilst social distancing. It’s good to see how busy Carpenter’s Nursery is whenever we visit and encouraging to know some local, independent  businesses are thriving. Some grocery items can be hard to find at first (toilet rolls, flour, eggs, yeast, baked beans) but this makes us conscious of the abundance that is readily available, and that we certainly won’t go hungry; after a few weeks supplies seem to settle down and we learn which are the quieter periods to visit supermarkets .Occasionally we combine our walk or food shop with queuing for a takeaway coffee at our new local cafe which opened during April: it’s just good to do something which seems relatively normal.

We miss seeing our parents, two of our children, and grandchildren, who all live at a distance, but we keep in touch by video calls, sometimes chatting over meals, reading bedtime stories and celebrate birthdays ‘together’ in this way. My dad, in his 90th year, learns to Facetime, and is cheered by seeing us as we chat. Our son living at home is furloughed from his job in May; his day develops a new routine including using his improvised gym weights in the garden.

One rather unexpected change is that, with a bit of encouragement, both my husband and son start cooking much more frequently and play a part in my newly devised cleaning rota.The three of us share many more meals than we have for several years and, quite regularly, board games during the evenings too.  Zoom becomes the tool by which we can still participate in pilates classes and other meetings, and church goes online too: we become accustomed to, but do not like, the pause between speaking and reaction on Zoom as it all seems very unwieldy, and it confirms to us that there’s no substitute for face- to-face contact

Instead of the familiar sound of school children passing up and down the lane beside our garden, we hear families on bikes and our local roads are unaccustomably busy with individuals and family groups, both walking and running, many of them either in the early morning or evening. It is gratifying to see families chatting as they walk and taking pleasure in others gardens, calling out in conversation across a street and even greeting strangers from afar. The joke-of-the-day board on one neighbours’ drive becomes a popular local landmark.

Our weekly ‘Clap for Carers’ is a welcome interuption each Thursday evening at 8, and comes to include a plethora of clanging spoons and pan lids as well as the occasional musical instrument: on 28th May the 10th and final week, we are treated to Reveille for a new day on the trumpet to round it off. As well as expressing our thankfulness to the NHS, it’s a time when we wave to the outside world; so familiar and close yet also distant to us at this unaccustomed time.

I bake more cakes than usual and also learn how to make a reasonable sourdough loaf with the assistance of a YouTube video on repeat! We drop off cakes to friends who we know are alone during lockdown, conducting our conversations from the pavement. Many of us help out our isolating neighbours with their groceries and our road also organises a weekly bread and cake delivery from Redbournbury Mill. A neighbour involved with Feed, our local foodbank, appeals for donations and we are grateful to participate in some way, filling a box in her garden numerous times each week. Garden equipment, online science tutoring, children’s toys, made-to-measure facemasks, sourdough starter, desks, builders pallets and surplus homegrown seedlings are some of the items we lend, trade or give through our roads’ WhatsApp group, as well as countless appeals for advice on a myriad of subjects. In short, we development a much greater level of community than we’ve ever had prior to Covid-19, through our shared experiences and needs.

As restrictions begin to lift a little in mid-May, it’s quite strange but a great treat to be able to take a cup of tea and meet a friend in The Wick or Clarence Park to enjoy a now unfamiliar face-to-face chat, sitting 2 metres apart of course!

This page was added on 22/06/2020.

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