A few months ago, as we were preparing for our Readiness and Resilience Project, we watched reports about a new and worrying virus that was sweeping through China. The first UK case was confirmed in York at the end of January, the UK’s first Covid-19 death was announced on 5 March, and WHO declared a pandemic a week later. What would our government do? What should we do? We continued for as long as we could, but one by one, local services, venues, and events were postponed – and then came lockdown.
The casualties for us as a group have been displays at local events, the training sessions we’d already set up, we’ve had have to postpone our AGM of course and our meetings will now be online
For so many, the public health crisis has brought much more hardship, with the loss of work and income, and the inability to meet and embrace our loved ones. Saddest of all, our local paper has reported 13 deaths between 1 March and 17 April.
We are all going through a period that we could never have anticipated. Staying at home means the roads are almost free of traffic and Halstead High Street is eerily quiet. Look closer though and you’ll see a line of people standing the required 2m from apart, from Sainsbury’s as far as the Age UK shop. We’re so lucky that queuing plays such a strong part of our cultural heritage. And occasionally we are rewarded with the rare sight of toilet rolls, hand sanitisers, cleaning products or pasta (but never all together) on supermarket shelves.
Lockdown isn’t an entirely negative experience though. Walking along Head Street during the first week. I was hailed across the empty road by the eager wave and noisy greeting of a cheery stranger. Slowing down brings opportunities: to indulge in those pastimes we rarely have time for, learn to do things we wouldn’t have considered in ‘normal’ times, or just to watch and listen to nature. The lack of vehicle noise has meant we can hear the birds. One morning I heard the call of cuckoo through my open bedroom window; something I haven’t heard for so long. And taking our permitted exercise along footpaths and country lanes in sunny weather has really reinforced just how beautiful our local countryside is, and how lucky we are.
If ever proof was needed that we our green spaces and natural environment should be protected then surely this public health crisis has provided it.
And then there’s the clap for carers on Thursday evenings which takes on its own character in different parts of town. As well as the banging of saucepans there’s usually a firecracker or two and even the occasional sound of bagpipes.
There are some who suggest that being forced apart has actually helped communities to come together. No doubt we’ll be reflecting on the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic for years to come. And those memories will be proof - if proof were needed - that heritage starts in the present.
Do you have any interesting stories or images from lockdown? We'd love to hear about them if you do. Just send us your details on the Your Heritage form.