Little did we know, as we set off to the Fleece Inn in Bretforton on 15 March for an evening watching the excellent Les Barker perform his comic poetry that this was to be our last social outing for over two months. There were increasing rumblings about the coronavirus and the potential for lockdown, but we hoped that it would not happen.
The following day we travelled to Leicester where Alan met with his final year cosmology students to give what turned out to be his last face to face lecture. It was apparent from the beginning that this was to be a very different day, with the head of department coming in to ask if he was prepared to deliver the remaining two sessions online, and to ask how he planned to assess their work if exams were cancelled. We left Leicester fairly certain that all face to face teaching was to be cancelled, and as we drove back we listened to the radio and heard the Prime Minister give his statement as to the measures to be taken to combat the virus.
By the time we hit the Evesham bypass, which was uncharacteristically quiet for the rush hour; we had planned a supermarket shop (our last) and decided to continue with the St Patrick’s Day themed dinner party we were having the following evening. That night the conversation revolved entirely around what lockdown might mean. On Friday evening, instead of going to the Wheatsheaf as usual, we stayed home. That night the pub closed its doors for good. The following Monday, 23 March, lockdown began in earnest.
What did it mean for us? Firstly, Alan had to quickly adapt and deliver his last two lectures online, then write a challenging assignment to replace the cancelled exam. Having done that, he wrote himself a long “To Do” list and began to take advantage of the fine weather to catch up on all the gardening jobs that needed doing, plus some long overdue decluttering in the house, interspersed with walks around the local area.
For me, the first job was organising my father in Scarborough, who at 88 had just returned from holiday in Tenerife. He needed shopping and medication delivered, which was an interesting challenge! Having sorted his shopping, I turned my mind to my own. Getting supermarket deliveries was tricky, but a combination of strategies has meant that we have remained well-fed, with the weekly luxury of a takeaway from the Wheatsheaf. My days have been largely taken up by the Badsey Society Facebook page, which has become extremely popular recently, and by trying to finish a family history project I started two years ago. I have also been doing a family history project with our granddaughter on Skype, as we can’t meet face to face.
For both of us, evenings have been taken up with conversations and quizzes with friends, and on a Sunday morning, 4 generations of our family have been getting together, all on Zoom.. This involves such diverse locations as Badsey, Barry, Dubai, Gloucester, Llantrisant, Redcar and Scarborough.
Has it been a life-limiting experience? No, in many ways it has been liberating, having more control over how we spend our time, and although we have not been able to meet with friends and family in person, we have actually spent more time talking to them thanks to modern technology.
Shirley and Alan Tutton, May 2020