At midnight I was writing about the experience of ‘lock down silence’. Those first few days when we stayed inside our homes, our senses working overtime. Quiet, deserted streets. No passing cars, no engines revving or wail of distant sirens. No drifting sounds of people calling to each other. No children chattering on the way to school. Even the seagulls were unusually quiet. It was as if a snow drift had blanketed the whole town, from the Abbey down to the harbour. It was an uncanny silence that I have never experienced before.
As I thought back over the last sixty days I re-lived those extraordinary first few days which, with the images from the hospitals, were grim and at times frightening. It was lonely and the silence only amplified the absence of family and loved ones. If you dared to think beyond the moment it could be terrifying. The silence seemed like a herald of life about to be lived in a completely new way.
As I reflected on the days, weeks and now months of lock down I began to concentrate on some of the many good things that have grown out of this pandemic. Suddenly my computer screen shifted, I must have pressed a delete button (?) All I know is that in the early hours of Sunday morning I lost half of my written blog. Despite several attempts and failure to retrieve it I decided to call it a night, let it go and sleep.
I woke to the ‘silence’ of mid-May, which has evolved since it began in March. There is still the sound of the wind creaking the pub sign but now there is the occasional passing car. I wondered for the sixty something time this year ‘What day is it?’ Every day seems like Sunday. Then I remembered it was Sunday and, like many other people, I had nothing to get up for. I lay back and listened to the seagulls soaring and screeching over my roof. They are bemused at the lack of fish and chips available this year. I looked out at the calm sea, the breaking waves, and the now ‘evolving’ silence as morning dog walkers greeted each other and a few joggers pounded the pavements with their daily exercise. As the day crept on, I finally went out for my exercise and was greeted by small children enthusiastically playing hopscotch outside the cottages. They are home from school and keeping them occupied is a full-time job. Two of their Mums had chalked out the numbers on the pavement and they were having a ball. I had a go myself and suddenly I was five years old too. This is a time to be silly and have fun.The silence has already helped many of us to come to our senses. We are listening and hearing more intently, we are observing and seeing more clearly, and the silence is helping us to be even more thoughtful , focussed and practical.
The one sadness is that at a time when we need it most we can’t use our sense of touch. We desperately need hugs. We want to hold the hands of loved ones and give a reassuring pat on the shoulder to friends. Distancing is so difficult but it’s amazing what ingenious, alternative signs of kindness and appreciation are replacing the hugs and touches. Who would have thought that families standing on their doorstep beating pans would bring tears to the eyes of frontline health care and medical staff? Who would have thought a ‘Thank You Rainbow’ stuck on a dustbin lid, would bring a smile to an overworked refuse collector’s face?
As the weeks pass and lock down continues, isolation has meant that ‘Difficult Days’ are becoming more commonplace, often they ambush us when we think we are dealing with things well. I’ll share some experiences of this in a later blog. Looking out for random acts of kindness is one way of working through these tough times. We’re all familiar with the incredible frontline workers whether it’s medical and health care, shop assistants or delivery drivers. Alongside that, as Covid 19 rips the lid off society, we see the deep seated problems of poverty and breadline existence, and it is heart warming to see the response of individuals and groups. Here, in Arbroath, Sandra Ramsay, who was already running a charity for people with mental health problems and families affected by suicide (Reach Across), switched her focus to providing fresh food for hungry families. The schools saw the problem first. Children, who were now at home, were not receiving their daily free meals. Families, who suddenly had no work, had no money for food. Once local people heard about Sandra and Reach Across’s initiative, so many people stepped forward to help. Sacks of potatoes came from nearby farms, the local baker provided freshly baked loaves to go in the weekly boxes. HOPE,our local organic garden charity for people with learning disabilities, decided to donate all its fresh vegetables and fruit every week and Wild Thyme an organic food shop and cafe is organising the distribution. it is an incredible undertaking. Last week alone, a local chef ( restaurant now closed) cooked over a thousand simple hot meals for hungry families. What amazing spontaneous community action.
Still locked down in Scotland I have time to listen. I am beginning to hear. I have time to look and I am beginning to see. I know that a food box being delivered with a freshly baked loaf of bread is like a hand reaching out to touch and reassure a vulnerable person that someone cares.
With all this going round in my head I decided that today’s blog would encourage you to look for similar things happening in your local area. There are stories in newspapers and on radio programmes as many people are galvanised into caring and sharing. The stories illustrate what strong values we have and, as the country begins its slow journey to recovery, these values have to be retained. If we are to make sense of that future we need to create a fairer and more caring society.
No doubt the future is going to be tough and of we are to demand change we will need to provide evidence of how holes have been plugged. In the long term, we want to be able to identify where this long overdue change is needed, how to make it happen and where responsibility and real accountability should rest.
Right now you might be feeling there’s not a lot you can do. Actually there is something, and it’s simple. Start listening and seeing what’s going on. If you hear about someone ‘going the extra mile’ or see something that makes your heart sing, simply share it. You can write on the Follow Grandma blog or just share it with your neighbours. You may lift others who are feeling a little low and you may be surprised to find how much it can lift your spirits. We all need helping to come to our senses.