Community Spotlight:

Living under lockdown

By Paul Nicholls

You might have recently been reading our series of interviews talking to the interesting and inspiring people of Burpham and Jacobs Well, however this time I wanted to find out a bit more about how we are all ‘living under lockdown’. I’ve spoken to a cross-section of our community to find out how they are coping with this new way of living from a family and a business perspective.

The past 6 weeks have certainly been ‘strange times’, a phrase I’ve heard from a lot of people recently, and the changes made to our lives in order to manage, battle and overcome the Coronavirus crisis have had an impact on all aspects of life.

Something that stands out to me is the more appropriate use of the word ‘hero’. No longer is it used for overpaid sports stars but is now so much more deservingly used to refer to our NHS superstars who have, and still are, courageously and selflessly treating and caring for people admitted
to our hospitals (whether suffering from Coronavirus or anything else).

Of course there are many other ‘frontline’ services, ranging from the police, the fire service and the army to utilities teams and volunteer organisations (to name but a few), that we rely upon in times of crisis and who are currently working hard on our behalf to keep the community safe and healthy.

The weekly Thursday clapping that we’ve all been joining in with has been a wonderful collaborative display of gratitude and a time when we peer out of our front doors and have the opportunity to briefly chat to our neighbours. There’s certainly a sense of support and community and this is something that I feel has been heightened in this time of shared experience, all the more enriched by the various social media groups that have sprung up to offer support and companionship (in my own experience I am now actively involved in 3 separate WhatsApp groups). This has lead me to consider everyone else in Burpham & Jacobs Well, how have their lives changed at the moment, what are they doing differently? I’ve spoken to a cross-section of our communities and asked them “what’s living under lockdown like for you”.

I recently spoke to an NHS nurse about her day-to-day routines and how they have been impacted by the Coronavirus. “Working for the NHS has changed dramatically for me as I have been redeployed to a community hospital looking after COVID-19 patients who are continuing their recovery after having been treated in larger hospitals. Morale is good but the shifts are hard – the PPE makes it very hot and uncomfortable!”

I asked her how this has affected life at home, especially as the children are currently off school “My husband is working from home and there’s enough to keep him busy but nowhere near normal, the kids do school work until lunchtime, and they go out for a bike ride every afternoon around the estate. With the fabulous weather we’ve been able to enjoy a relaxing glass of wine in the garden when the children have gone to bed, so at least there is some calm at the end of the day to try and unwind.”

Many of us have been doing our daily exercise and from my own experience it seems a lot of people have headed down to the nature reserve on Bowers Lane and along by the River Wey between Bowers Lock and Stoke Lock.

I asked Richard Cant from the National Trust about living under lockdown:

Richard Cant, Lengthsman, National Trust
“For the last 15 years I have worked as a Lengthsman for the National Trust
on the River Wey Navigation, looking after the 3.5 mile ‘length’ between Millmead Lock in Guildford and Bowers Lock at Burpham. As you can imagine this is normally a very varied role and depending on the seasons involves tree work, vegetation management, and water level control through the operation of weirs. Spring is usually a particularly busy time for us Lengthsmen as the boating season informally starts at Easter and we always try our hardest to make sure the locks are painted and the grass is neatly mown so everywhere is looking its best.

Of course this year is very different because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Bowers Lock at Burpham navigation has been suspended for boat users (we’ve been open since 1653) and our visitor centre at Dapdune Wharf in Guildford hasn’t been able to open yet. All this means that we’re running on a skeleton crew of staff, and along with our conservation volunteer groups having to be cancelled we are limited to what we can achieve. However wildlife and the weather mean that I’m still on 24hr call out for water level control and incidents, such as the fallen tree blocking the towpath on Easter Monday (they seem to be able to sense a bank Holiday).

“One thing that I have noticed during this crisis is how many more people are using the towpath and enjoying their daily exercise at this beautiful location on their doorstep, many of whom never even realising you could walk along the river, let alone that it’s owned by the National Trust.”

One thing that I have noticed during this crisis is how many more people are using the towpath and enjoying their daily exercise at this beautiful location on their doorstep, many of whom never even realising you could walk along the river, let alone that it’s owned by the National Trust. Spring is a wonderful time with blossom, wildflowers, butterflies and ducklings all making an appearance, and I’ve felt even luckier during this time to live and work on the river, especially having my two young daughters off school and at home. I hope that if one good thing can come out of this situation is that people will continue to take time each day to get out and enjoy the outdoors, it really is so important for mind, body and soul.”

Jo White, Headteacher, Burpham Primary School
“On the 20th March school life as we knew it changed with the announcement that all schools should ‘close until further notice’ for all but a small minority of children. Headteachers like myself from all over the country suddenly found themselves faced (after very little notice or guidance) with the challenge of running a virtual school, a childcare centre and a food service. It feels like a lifetime ago that the school was buzzing with over 400 children and 80 plus staff and I think it is the eerie quietness of the building now we are down to less than 5% of that which is the most unsettling.

“I am so appreciative of our strong school community and the support from staff and parents has been incredible.”

I am so appreciative of our strong school community and the support from staff and parents has been incredible. We all have a mental list of the things we would like to get done if we only had the time but actually most of my list has gone by the wayside and I’ve decided that the only way through this
is one day at a time. It feels too early to be talking about silver linings when so many families are facing such loss and hardship, but I hope that the ‘powers that be’ will reflect on the things that really matter and it may be that education is never quite the same again…”

Rev Jo & Rev James Levasier, Burpham Church
“Living under lockdown has been an interesting experience for us as I am
sure it has for other families. Suddenly finding you’re ‘stuck’ with each other all the time and having to do everything online has not been without its challenges. A month ago, I’d never even heard of Zoom and Teams, and we’d never explored live streaming, whereas now the whole family is involved in this every day. A steep learning curve! We are very mindful that others are in much more difficult places, and it has been very frustrating at times that we are not able to get out there and do more. I am constantly grateful for the gift of technology and the wealth we live in which gives us access to a whole host of ways of communicating.

The Levasiers under lockdown

Other pluses: we’ve eaten a lot more meals together, developed some new family traditions and haven’t had to get up so early for school! Most of all I think this has made me appreciate the amazing people who make up our church family as I’ve seen them in action in the community.”

“A month ago, I’d never even heard of Zoom and Teams, and we’d never explored live streaming, whereas now the whole family is involved in this every day.”

Russell Brown, Director, CMB Accountants
“It has certainly been an unusual time during lockdown. It’s getting easier now, but initially it was a real struggle trying to assist our three children with their schoolwork who seem to think I can instantly recall what I learnt in my lessons some 37 years ago! We find the daily exercise routine very rewarding, and an opportunity for us all to get out. It’s been great exploring the trails around Burpham Nature Reserve, a lovely area. It’s good to also see familiar faces doing the same things as you – there is a real feeling in the community that we are all in it together. Helping neighbours with their shopping and medication has become part of the routine. Alternating workdays between home and office has been a nice change, and one that will probably continue. Clients have needed assistance with COVID-19 Business Support measures, and it has been a pleasure helping them
with this process.

“It has certainly been an unusual time during lockdown. It’s getting easier now, but initially it was a real struggle…”

From a business perspective, the impact has been dramatic for those adversely affected. Typically, this has seen an abrupt fall in income, or having to adapt to new working patterns or practice. The emphasis has been on helping clients to fully understand the business support measures available to them. The headline announcements include the Job Retention scheme for furloughed staff or the Self-Employment Support scheme. Both of these aim to preserve the majority of an individual’s earnings subject to certain conditions and duration. Other support measures or deferral of tax payments may also be available in certain instances. At the moment, routine compliance work has understandably been put on the backburner, with the priority being on trying to ensure that clients are in the best position that they can be once things return to some sort of normality.

Hopefully, things will return to normality as soon as possible, and the footie season can resume – those premier league tickets are not looking such a good purchase at the moment. Stay safe everyone.”

Kate Carriett, Headteacher, George Abbot School
“Being Headteacher at George Abbot is the sort of job where no two days are ever the same. Interactions with people are at the core of any teacher’s work. Not seeing most of those people in person for 5 weeks has brought many challenges!
We were expecting schools to close but not quite as soon as they did, so there was a lot of quick work to be done. I am really proud of the school team’s response. We have virtual learning working for all of our students and daily education support at school still being provided for the children of our key workers and those who are most vulnerable. Assemblies are being delivered, teachers are providing lots of resources and lessons by Zoom, work is being submitted remotely.

“We were expecting schools to close but not quite as soon as they did, so there was a lot of quick work to be done. I am really proud of the school team’s response.”

I am dividing my time between being at school and working from home. There, my husband and two sons are busy with remote work and education and there are moments of both calm and chaos. I have tried really hard to keep in touch with the outside every day – in the last five weeks, like many of you, I have taken great joy in the leaves unfurling, the bluebells emerging, the crescendo of birdsong as traffic noise has dimmed and the simple pleasure of seeing the sun go down at the end of the day.

Best wishes to all in our community for courage and good health.”

It’s been interesting to hear how we are all dealing with the lockdown in our own ways and coping with the individual challenges that our jobs are presenting. I do hope that you too have found some comfort in these shared experiences.

 

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