5 May 2020. I won an online photography competition last week. The winner sets the next challenge so I spent a while trying to think of a topic for these times. ‘Hope’ was set a few weeks ago, so that was out. Trying to decide on something upbeat? something meaningful? something totally unrelated to anything that’s happening? something that might be interpreted as dark? I wish now that I had pinched another friend’s # ‘Love in the time of coronavirus’. But I didn’t. Settled on ‘awakenings’ because that was a general feeling in the air. At least it was a few days ago. And open to multiple interpretations.
All this week BBC Radio Stoke are running a series of interviews with my father-in-law. At 96 he is reminiscing about his experiences in WW2 as part of their VE Day celebrations. First as a young teenager in London in the Blitz – ‘we were just worried it would all be over before we got a chance to join in’. Then into the Royal Navy at 18, serving on minesweepers in the Firth of Forth – ‘better than a gap year.’ On to commanding landing craft on D-Day and then the push through Europe.
His first response when told he and my mother-in-law must stay in lock-down for 12 weeks to avoid COVID-19 was that it can’t be as bad as D-Day – ‘at least nobody is shooting you.’ The two of them have sourced food delivery companies and are managing to walk their dog. Three other friends in their 90s have set up house together and are planning to take part in a quiz night via zoom. All of them remember bombings, rationing, an uncertain future and the deaths of many friends and family when they were children and teenagers. My own father’s family was bombed out five times. I saw a piece online about all that children are suffering now in lock-down – all the fears, anxieties, unanswered questions, the disruption to schooling, not seeing friends, not playing outside… it went on and on and finished with the claim that they are the real heroes of our time for putting up with it all. Maybe that should be an awakening.
At school, the Geology Dept have gone viral on Twitter for a lesson about earthquakes using a beer glass. Really imaginative teaching. And the climbing roses have come into full bloom.
This is my personal Mass Observation blog. I invite anyone, particularly members of Radley College community, to join in to create a group record of this important period in our history as we face the COVID-19 pandemic.
© Clare Sargent