Mark Edwards – Whitby and the pandemic : a virtual archive of people’s experiences


Mark Edwards, 61, single, president WLPS, organist St Hilda’s RC for 36 years. Lives with Mum, Joan Edwards, 86

Written 4th June 2020

As the situation developed, my relatives in Benidorm and Bulgaria went into their lockdowns, and it was obvious the new Coronavirus would reach England, I started buying extras such bread and milk to freeze, peas, tins. Not silly amounts and certainly not toilet roll (which was sold out anyway!)

In Lockdown I’ve shopped at Sainsbury’s on my own, with additional deliveries of ready meals from Oakhouse Foods, and vegetables and fruit from Mason’s on Flowergate. We’ve enough in for a month, bar fresh stuff, if necessary. The GP surgery starting sending repeat prescriptions automatically to the pharmacy so I only have to go round once a month.

The Lockdown has treated Mum and I OK, we get on well and like the same things. We’ve missed our days out and regular trips to coffee shops, garden centres etc.

The weekend of 14/15 March the order came from the Bishop of Middlesbrough to remove Holy Water, hymnbooks, service sheets, and to refrain from shaking hands at the Sign of Peace, while Communion was to be taken in the hand. Without hymnbooks I had to choose simple pieces that the choir ladies could do. I had already advised Father Pat Keogh that I would stop playing for Saturday Masses to reduce our risk. At Sunday Mass some ladies were already missing, and I told the others that I might not be there next week if things got worse – we didn’t yet know that the Bishops of England and Wales would close all churches from Friday 20th.

That day, we had Mass at 9.30, following the Stations of the Cross. I was asked to lead acapella singing; at Communion the atmosphere was so thick I didn’t disturb it. I met one of the choir in Yorkshire Trading some six weeks in, desperate to get back to church and to the choir. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that Mass might not start for some months, according to reports, or the probability singing might not resume, if at all. I’m wondering if I actually want to go back to playing as regularly as before.

Luckily most of my organ music is at home, as I have my own electronic instrument; and other than playing the organ, I’ve read a lot of books, some Ive had for years and not opened, some new. I bought a Kindle and joined Audible and listen to audiobooks in bed. Mum’s read at least one series of novels. The TV is on all day, mostly without the sound. We’ve enjoyed many repeats of excellent programmes but have tried not to watch the endless waffle on the BBC about the crisis.

I’ve done a lot of gardening, all pots as our gardens are small and paved. Now the weather is warmer I’ve been sitting out and reading, sometimes in the front where the lack of traffic made it a real pleasure. The birdsong has been deafening at times, and marvellous to hear. But once the lockdown started to ease around the late May holiday, the levels of traffic and noise went up.

My best friend and I have spoken regularly on Facebook Messenger, and I’ve also spoken to uncles in Benidorm and Bulgaria. I’ve also taken part in the Zoom coffee mornings set up by Steve Barnard, the Society’s librarian, an excellent way to keep in touch.

As things started to lift Mum and I began going for drives, sometimes ending at Clara’s, probably the first non-essential business in town to reopen. We can see the sea from outside our front gate, but there’s nothing quite like the clifftop. On Friday 29/05 we went down to Perry’s in Briggswath for coffee. Here we spoke to people who had visited other recently reopened garden centres so outings might resume. Incidentally this was the day when the barriers at Ruswarp Station were faulty in the down position, very inconvenient.

As I conclude this piece, we’ve just been to the GPs surgery on Spring Vale. Mum was called for her annual checkup. In a change of procedure, on arrival I had to phone reception, and then the nurse rang back when they were ready for her. I sat in the car. Mum was assessed on entering the room and provided with face mask. When she came out she was surprised at how few people were there; it used to be buzzing with patients and staff. This is obviously part of the ‘new normal’ as they call it. What will come next?


Mark Edwards