Heaven knows what it will look like at the end of this. The only consolation being I have nowhere to go.
I have, after four years, cleared out the cupboard under the stairs, contacted a milkman, somewhat guiltily because I should have made use of their fabulous service before now. First delivery yesterday. I got eggs from a lovely neighbour’s young son up the road freshly laid by his hens, made lunch out of whatever I found first in the cupboard (a tin of salmon which I am sure has been there years) and put some washing in to hang out later on a lovely sunny day.
I made a shopping list of things I probably won’t get and put the dish cloths in to soak, before spending some time out in the fresh air. Safely of course.
I rediscovered that fresh air really does do wonders for the soul. And it’s fresher than it’s been in years. I have marvelled at something so simple as a daffodil, listening to the birds singing, sitting down to write a letter and contacting everyone I should have been more in touch with down the years.
This morning, as I sat down to write this column having taken the puppy out for our walk before 7am to avoid anyone else, I received a request for help. I broke off to respond with a Facebook post about an urgent call from frontline staff in ICU in Halifax and Huddersfield hospitals, who urgently needed wipe boards and pens to communicate with each other and their patients while they were wearing protective masks. You don’t think of something so simple as our frontline heroes trying to talk to each other and those in need of their care do you?
Within half an hour they were either on their way, along with hand cream, to sooth their poor scrubbed hands. To the elderly gentleman who answered the call because he wanted to do his bit, ‘thank you’. You have done. And to the ICU matron who took the time to say ‘thank you’ back. No ‘thank you’ and your team, the medics, the drivers and all the cleaners and care workers.
And the same to the police, fire brigade, teachers, food delivery men and women, supermarket workers and many more who are risking their lives for us. Thank you seems so inadequate doesn’t it? Talking of which wasn’t the doorstep applause on Thursday just the most emotional communal experience you have ever shared?
Settling down to write again, I remembered a virtual chat arranged via Zoom with The Friends of Dorothy, a Leeds-based group to support elderly, and sometimes lonely, members of the gay community. So after a 20 question Yorkshire quiz (which I lost) I settled down again to start writing. Who knew that Benjamin Waugh, from Settle, founded the NSPCC, or that the remains of a prehistoric hippo were once found on Briggate? Well I do now. You see with all this virtual teaching you really can learn something new every day, as my dad constantly told me.
As my supplies dwindle (don’t worry, neighbours on our WhatsApp group are going to try and get us some more), I approach what we have left with the same sort of frugality not seen since the end of rationing. I have not yet googled 101 recipes with left overs, but nothing, I repeat nothing, will be thrown away ever again as I admit shamefully it sometimes was. If what’s left of my lettuce goes limp it will be going into a damp tea towel like my mum did, or be tossed into a soup which I have already made four times with varying degrees of success.
I have also developed an acute sense of smell on goods that are past their advisory sell-by dates. Though I haven’t yet had to cut the mould off the cheese that gran used to tell me wouldn’t do me any harm.
I have culled my Facebook pages of idiots. I enjoyed that. I have taken full advantage of my phone and video services, at the same time remembering an era when to make a telephone call was either saved for birthdays, emergencies, or after six o’clock at night when calls were cheaper, but never free. And I have picked up a book, yes a real book, to read not just at bedtime but during the day. I have enjoyed the luxury of being able to do so.
The one thing many of us now have is time. Time to think, time to share, time to care and time to spare. But we also have one other important commodity that on the face of it has been taken away from us and that is choice. Or we will have when this nightmare is over.
We can choose to support those local businesses who have supported us when we needed them the most. Those who closed for the good of their staff without having to be told to. Those who remained resolute and determined to help, even in face of adversity. We can vote with our feet and with our pockets no matter how empty they seem now.
We can plan the biggest neighbourhood party of all time, with home-made sandwiches and inexpensive gifts of gratitude.
And for all those on the frontline fighting to keep us safe, we can all promise right now never to take life and its blessings for granted again when we emerge greyer, less groomed, but hopefully much wiser and infinitely kinder into the world that is waiting, I pray, just around the corner.