As I think ahead to a time where COVID-19 is long behind us and just the stuff of history books, and my son turns to me and asks “What did you do in the Lockdown, Mummy?”, I want to be able to answer “I did what I could to look out for my community – helping to bring people together and make sure they had the support they needed to get through this difficult time”.
The 75th Anniversary of VE Day provided an ideal opportunity to do just that – with a social distancing street party!
So, my first challenge was how to promote the event. After receiving a WhatsApp which gave me the idea for this national event, I realised I didn’t know anyone’s phone number – in fact, I didn’t know most of my neighbours. Perhaps I should print a flyer instead? After failing to link my phone with my printer, I then proceeded to handwrite a flyer and tried to photocopy it – no ink. So in the end, the only option was the good old fashioned way – handwriting. 3 hours later, 45 coloured flyers were done and posted – phew! Just in time for the first event of the day, a 2-minute silence on your doorstep at 11am….
I popped out expectantly wondering if anyone had picked up their flyer yet. I saw 4 people come out – not the greatest success, but there was still time.
Thereafter were some further activities like watching the Churchill speech and decorating your house in red, white and blue, but the next big milestone was 4pm for tea and scones on your front garden. I spent the time finding brightly coloured scarves, blowing up balloons and finding anything I could with a union jack on it to create a front of house display. And at 4pm I opened the front door, tentatively.
At which point I was delighted to see an array of flags and coloured displays, and people setting up chairs in front of their houses – success!
My housemate and I went up and down the street introducing ourselves to our neighbours (whilst keeping a safe 2 metres apart), checking they were OK, and making sure they had someone to do their food shopping. I don’t think many were drinking tea to be honest, although I did see a scone, washed down nicely with a glass of fizz and strawberries!! As time went on things were getting very jolly, with neighbours chatting to each other, from a safe distance away. Joyce (89), had been here 66 years, whilst Steve, Faith and Clara (25) had only moved in together 2 months ago. It was fascinating to hear everyone’s stories, and so nice to see everyone showing genuine interest in each other.
But Patrick’s story (74), peaked my interest. He’d not long been back in the country, having been with his partner in Paris. They were preparing to live together permanently, but she was now stuck in France. She used to cook for him, and he didn’t know how to and hadn’t had a cooked meal since lockdown, instead, he was living off salads and cold meats. He was very thin. And as the afternoon progressed, his frailty became evident, and he eventually collapsed. Fortunately, 2 NHS heroes living in our street came to the rescue. What he really needed was some hot food, so I cooked him a fish pie in the microwave, which he ate as if he hadn’t eaten before. The neighbours were horrified that someone in our street had been in need, and we hadn’t known. So we all agreed to make sure he was never without a hot meal again – a few agreed to do some batch cooking for him, and I did a trip to the supermarket and bought in a large selection of tasty microwave meals to put in the freezer. He was so grateful – too proud to ask for help, but so willing to accept it when offered.
So I guess the moral of this story is to get to know your neighbours. Be inquisitive – How are they? What are they eating for dinner? Who’s doing their shopping for them? Would they appreciate a cup of tea and a chat over the fence sometime? This can all be done whilst observing social distancing. And when we all look back on this in years to come, we can be proud to answer the question ‘What did you do in the Lockdown, Mummy?’