Global Pandemic, Local Voices – No Guidebook for this Territory

In our first of hopefully several personal pieces, our long-time volunteer and Richmond local, Andrea Harper, has put down in words her feelings and thoughts from the past few months. Her words resonated with us and we believe that many of you would feel the same. Andrea’s daughter, Laura, took the photos dotted in between the page. We would like to thank them both for sharing this with us.

No Guidebook for this Territory

The Pandemic. What does that word mean for you? For many members of my wider community, my family and my friends, it means a journey of changing and mixed emotions. There has been extreme stress, isolation, sadness, loss and anxiety. On the other hand, for some there has also been an appreciation of new opportunities, discoveries about their local community and learnings about different ways of approaching life.

Some people revel in being able to step off the merry-go-round of rushing from one place to another. There is no visitors’ guide for this uncharted territory though, and for many of us, this has been the biggest challenge of all. New boundaries and practices have had to be adopted. Multiple unusual questions suddenly needed answers, particularly in the early phases of the first lockdown: should groceries be wiped down outside with an antibacterial spray before being brought into the house?  Should masks be ordered online and if so, what style? How should we negotiate important relationships with people we can no longer see in person and with those with whom we are in constant close contact?

In my house, older pastimes were revived and new ones created. That game of Boggle came out from the back of the cupboard. A version of ‘Masterchef’ developed, where a new and adventurous dish was cooked (sometimes a failure!) for dinner each night. Long walks around the neighbourhood became the order of the day. New laneways were explored and delightful corner stores discovered.

Spending more time outside meant becoming more aware of the subtle changes in the weather as autumn and then winter arrived. Teddy bears in windows, walls covered with red ivy, a collage of multi-coloured leaves on a footpath and chance encounters with birds, became magical distractions. Conversations with local takeaway coffee providers provided much needed contact with other humans, as did smiles and waves exchanged through the window with those who delivered groceries.

New small businesses were sought out to provide treats for special events which now had to be celebrated at home. Exercise moved from the local gym to online classes and special people in our lives were ‘zoomed’ on their birthdays. Novel words were created: a weekly Friday night ‘skyne’ (that’s a skype with a glass of wine) with friends was eagerly anticipated. As the weather cooled, a new TV series to binge on seemed essential. Many hours were spent devouring a complex and seemingly endless, sub-titled thriller.

Now, when I speak to others, the questions tend to be about the shape of a post-Covid future. What will remain of our old ways of doing things and what new aspects of our behaviour will become permanent? Will we be forever changed with a different perspective on our planet, our lives and relationships? What will be the impact on our local and wider community?

Andrea Harper, July 2020

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