Alan Staniforth – Whitby and the pandemic : a virtual archive of people’s experiences

Pandemic Experiences

I am in my late 70s and therefore in a ‘vulnerable category but I am active and in good health, I am ‘comfortable’ financially, I live in a house with a large garden in the country with my own adjacent ‘nature reserve’ and a fantastic view down the coast, – ‘I’ve never had it so good!’ . Given this position I am reluctant to say that I am actually enjoying lockdown as I am fully aware of those many people in a far less favourable situation to whom my heart goes out.

Not being able to see my family, particularly the grandchildren, is hard but alleviated a little through modern means of communication. A planned visit to Ireland and a walking holiday in Scotland have had to be put on hold until some unknown future date but these are the only things I am actually missing.

One of the most striking results of lockdown has been the quiet of the countryside. With very little traffic on the roads one can really hear bird song as never before and air pollution levels have apparently dropped dramatically. With little need to travel other than occasional shopping I have hardly bought any petrol for weeks!

Short ‘exercise’ walks from home result in meeting people who you are aware must be local but you do not know. You invariably stop and chat (at a safe distance!), something one never seemed to have time for before.

Lockdown has coincided with the driest and sunniest Spring on record. The garden has never had so much attention and whilst many people talk about their spring cleaning I have many more interesting ‘jobs’ to do!

One small but interesting aspect of these times is haircutting. With hairdressers all closed there are many uTube videos demonstrating how to do it yourself. For me, going to the barbers was always a bit of a chore and having just missed out before lockdown my hair has grown longer than usual but then apparently it reached its limit and virtually stopped growing. Perhaps my barber will be out of a job when lockdown is eased!

I am old fashioned. I have never really taken to greeting friends with kisses and cuddles. One is so often unsure what is expected. Is it a single kiss or a double? Is it on the lips or the cheek? Is it a hug or a handshake? Is it just when you meet or when you part as well?

The pandemic has solved the problem, at least for now!

What changes brought about by the pandemic am I likely to continue to pursue as we get back to ‘the new normal’? Although my wife and I were looking towards less air travel before the outbreak I think this will definitely be the case now. Grocery shopping on line, a new experience, is very likely to continue. Less use of ‘real’ money and use of ATMs and probably fewer if any visits to the barbers!

Now, in early June, the weather has changed to cooler and wetter, the virus spread appears to be slowing a little and lockdown is being eased. There is more talk now about ‘the economy’. What will the future hold? Will we have to live with this virus as best we can? Will we have to continue with some form of ‘social distancing’?

Now is a great opportunity to change the way we live for the better. Reduce the amount of travelling we do with all its connotations of pollution and cost. Reduce our consumption of unnecessary goods and manufacture more of only what we need. Grow more of our own food and improve the health of the nation and the environment. Will we meet this once in a lifetime challenge or allow a powerful minority to dictate to the majority? Only time will tell. 

Alan Staniforth June 2020