Stories from Lockdown

What has lockdown been like for everyone? Over the past few weeks we have been chatting to members of the community about how they have found these past months.


Margaret has felt the full impact of isolation.

When lockdown started, I had already been confined to home for almost a year due to a fall.  I was, however, managing to get better movement and with the help of injections and medication my pain was more controlled. Of course, I realised I was  probably not going to walk properly or maybe unaided again.

So lockdown started and I thought, not much difference to before. It wasn’t too bad for the first couple of weeks; however after that the realisation that this was going to be much longer, and our world forever changed, really sank in.

No visits from family or friends, the absolute silence, no traffic, no sound of people talking, children laughing, they might have been annoying sometimes but now I longed to hear them. No knock on the door. Only my thoughts and sometimes not good ones.

The telephone and text messages became my companion, keeping in touch now has a different meaning. Some special people have helped so much.  Sometimes I have felt so low, it’s very hard being entirely alone, (and I know there is always someone worse off) so much time to think about the past and loved ones no longer here, and I wish I could turn back time. I have watched Sunday services online but missed being able to be there.

I had been looking forward to the VE Day celebrations at St John’s; still maybe next year but not quite the same. I spent it alone.

Great difficulty in getting a grocery delivery, my one piece of independence taken away from me. There is a slight improvement now but not a great deal (I had been using online shopping prior to lockdown).

Thankfully, we started to get better weather and getting in the garden was a real boost. I’ve weeded and trimmed fuschias where I could reach and found someone to cut the grass. Wish I could do more but everything I do is from a sitting position. I’ve been removing buttercups, the trailing kind from the grass, tedious but I’m enjoying the lovely sun, grown dahlias from seed and a few asters. The rest of my seed planting was a disaster as the propagator blew over in the strong winds and my seedlings were scattered beyond hope. 

The easing of lockdown: it’s such a mixed emotion. What is safe? We are all so unsure. I have seen my family;,still no hugging but it has been great to have human contact again.

A friend asked me if I’d like to visit the caravan and kindly took me down and home again. I enjoyed the sea air and saw quite a few friends who stopped at a safe distance for a chat. The caravan is self-contained so no worries on close contact with people, as we are still unsure what will happen as people get out and about more. 

I still feel apprehensive as to our future, so changed in many ways. Freedom apparently may come at a big price for some. I just hope everyone remains careful and contains the virus.

Dealing with a health condition

Derek and Aly Buckle have enjoyed life in the slow lane as health problems forced them to shield.

Just before lockdown began we took a short break at a holiday resort on Hayling Island. At dinner time on day three we were told the resort would be closing in the morning  and all guests would have to leave after breakfast. At this point I don’t think people realised how serious COVID-19 was and how fast it was spreading.

Two days after this, lockdown was officially announced. This meant Derek would have to shield for 12 weeks due to having coronary heart disease. As he is very much an outdoor person this wasn’t something he wanted to hear but knew he had no option.

We welcomed a slower pace of life more time to get through the rather long job list. By the second week most of the jobs were completed, the house spring cleaned and garden tidied. We were happy and content and always found plenty to do. Aly finished the jumper knitting she started in 2012. If you notice all the colour changes in the picture below you’ll understand why it took so long, plus she thought she’d lost the pattern! It was also a good time to get in touch with friends we hadn’t contacted for some time especially those who live alone.

Derek was due to have his pacemaker checked during lockdown at Royal Surrey County Hospital. As the due date got closer and no cancellation letter arrived, we both because rather anxious at the thought of Derek having to enter the hospital. However two days before the appointment a letter arrived. It was not cancellation as we thought,  but telling us how to find the pacing department using different approach instead of the usual main entrance. We followed the instructions, fourth entrance, drive round to back of hospital, a few right and left turns and there we were. Not quite what Derek was used too or expecting. He was expecting to arrive at the same department he had visited many times before but using different entrance. Instead it was a mobile unit.

We were told how and where to park the car and to stay in car. We were greeted by two technicians from a window in the portacabin  in full PPE who explained in detail what was going to happen without any need for Derek to get out of car. Hand-sanitizer was lowered down to him. Next came a hand-held device also lowered down which he had to hold against his pacemaker whilst adjustments were made on computerised machine. About 10 minutes later all finished and on our way home. We were extremely impressed at the treatment and how a mobile unit such as was set up.  Praise God for the NHS.

Derek deals with technology

Towards the end of the 12 weeks we were both getting a little restless and wanted to venture a further than our back garden. We can happily say now our daily exercise is walking around the park and just beginning to meet up with people.  Social distancing of course. And really happy that we can attend  church  again.

Derek & Aly Buckle

How lockdown has updated NHS systems

Olivia and June Jasper (pictured above) both work for the NHS in a GP practice in Farnham Hospital. They work in administration supporting the smooth running of the practice and during Covid have seen a change in the way the practice has worked.

“We have been supporting our colleagues working on the frontline,” says Olivia. “There have been a lot of changes including supporting people to work remotely from home so that there wouldn’t be too many people in the office at anyone time.  We had to make sure that we could keep all the medical records secure,” says Olivia who deals with referrals and administration”. “But working this way is for the future and has had its benefits.”

June, who deals with registrations, records, screenings says that one of the most important things to do was to “work out how we could run a good practice where people felt secure and also in touch during this time.   We now have telephone consultations first and then if a patient has to come in we arrange social distancing with the clinicians . We have scrubs and other PPE, we have visors which Liz Larkin [DT teacher from Farnborough Hill] made in her workshop amongst others we received. We have had to manage how both patients and staff feel when coming into the practice.”

Both women recall how anxious everyone was at the beginning.  People had some days at home and some in the office to ensure that social distancing could take place, while some had to work at home the whole time as they were shielding. “At the beginning we were all frightened of getting a cough or a sniffle,” June recalls. “And then tents started going up in the car park where people would go to be assessed first so that we could protect the frontline staff; Out Patients was closed; a wall went up so that the only entry was through one side of the building; people were queueing round the block to visit the pharmacy. Everyone was amazing getting this all set up, Farnham Town Council lent the tents which are normally used for local events.  We  had volunteers helping and everyone did a great job.”

They both reflect what a steep learning curve it was for the practice but are grateful for all the new skills, particularly the IT ones which they will continue to develop.

“If you are looking for the silver lining in all this,” says Olivia, “we have seen the way that the system can be more efficient. There were things we were doing just because we had always done them, and we’ve been able to change that. We have learnt a lot.”

Patients have also seen differences in the way they have been accessing the services, from how they see the medical staff to how they pick up their prescribed medicines. “The reception team have done a great job,” says June. “I have been working in a general practice for 26 years and seen changes but more so in the three months!”

It is, of course, uncertain whether or not there will be a ‘second wave’ of Covid-19, but they both reflect: “Some changes are here to stay, helping the NHS provide an improved service for the future”.

Staying safe when health makes you vulnerable

Leaving the house in lockdown has been more problematic for some than others. What if you are older and/or have underlying health conditions?

Chris Fisher tells us what it has been like.

I am the world’s worst worrier and I find the coronavirus scary. I was very worried when lockdown first started and had a few sleepless nights, but I soon learned it was important to get into a routine and this helped tremendously.

Initially one of our big concerns was getting food supplies, but our sons helped us and we were lucky that from the start of lockdown we got supplies from our local farm shop. Because we are both 71 and I have underlying medical conditions, we were able to arrange home deliveries from Sainsbury’s and fortunately, we haven’t had to go shopping at all.

So what have I been doing?

I am not very good at DIY and gardening and I can’t cook, but trying to share all our activities with my wife, Sue, has been brilliant. We have been gardening and clearing cupboards but we had to stop clearing the cupboards because we had so many boxes to go to the charity shops!

I’ve been trying to do something good every day and it’s been important to look after my key relationships, which for me includes keeping in contact with my cousins in USA, Burma and Australia. I’ve been reading books, trying to stay active, doing exercise and enjoying nature which has been especially rewarding.

I have a project of saving all our old photos from the computer to memory sticks. We have over 100 photo albums and about 10,000 photos on the computer, so it is certainly keeping me busy.

I’ve missed going to church, but I am not very techie and don’t feel I can take part in any of our online services, but I enjoy reading Lesley’s e-mails. I have especially missed the church at Easter and was hoping there would be some good services on the telly. I saw the Pope which was good but not sure Justin Welby in his kitchen was what I was expecting at Easter!

Sadly, Sue’s aunt died during lockdown and unfortunately, only 10 people including the vicar could attend the funeral service, which was particularly upsetting for her Uncle Frank.

Our daily exercise walks are brilliant. In March and April we walked a lot down Old Park Lane and nearby country lanes and fields, with established oak trees and birds singing in the bushes. We’ve heard woodpeckers and saw pheasants and partridges, lambs in the fields (Sue sent videos of the lambs to our grandchildren). We’ve seen deer, squirrels, etc. and loads of flowers including bluebells in the spring. As summer came on we changed our route and have had many walks on the Common. We have been able to take the back paths which are often deserted and among the wildlife we have seen has been a snake.

I’m pleased that lockdown is easing and we have been able to see our boys but our new normal is different from the old normal. For instance we have just been into Farnham and rather than wandering around as we would have done in the past, we just went to the one shop we needed to visit and came home. We are still worried about the virus and worried for our granddaughter who is doing GCSEs next year. There’s talk of them not doing the whole syllabus.

I hope people keep up social distancing and I pray we find a vaccine soon.

Chris Fisher

The teacher

Teachers have had their whole way of working turned upside down by Covid-19. How, for instance, do you teach a practical subject? This has been one of the questions that Liz Larkin, a Design and Technology teacher at Farnborough Hill, has had to face. Farnborough Hill is an independent school for girls ages 11-18, so among her pupils are those preparing for GCSE and A-level exams next year, as well as those who should have taken these exams this summer.

Liz in her workshop at Farnborough Hill.

“I had to completely rethink what I was going to teach,” says Liz. “Luckily we were at the beginning of new projects because of the way the timetable rotation works. The year nines were able to finish upcycling aprons out of old jeans at home, though some had to have needle and thread sent to them and then I taught them to knit via video. The year eights should have been learning to solder and do electronics. But I got pupils throughout the school to learn CAD and CAM packages (Computer-aided  design and computer-aided manufacturing), making models which we could print on the 3D printer. “

While the year 11 and 13 students have probably had the most frustrating time, not quite being able to finish their projects at school and having to have their final grades estimated for GCSE and A-levels, the year 10 and 12 students who take their exams in 2021 have had to start their coursework at a distance. “They have been able to start design and research for their projects but were not able to be in the workshop refining their skills.”

Year 10 and 12 pupils were able to return to the school in small groups. “We had year 10 in for week and did blended teaching between home and school, and year 12 in for a few lessons and to give them university application support. We also held a socially distanced retreat.”

But since lockdown began all pupils have been following their normal timetable of six lessons per day but doing so from home online and even taking school exams online. “The first week was the most challenging. We were teaching from home and trying to get our head round all the challenges but as we have all got better at it, it improved. We learned so much but it could be frustrating to spend some of the lesson making sure everyone was connected.”

More frustrating though was the lack of real contact: “I missed the girls most, that lovely interaction that we have.”

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