Creating Heritage: A diary during Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Part Fifteen

Over the last year, I have had numerous requests from my team for me to write my ‘Talking Heritage’ blog, and unfortunately I have told them that I was too busy each time. Now, following a week that is sure to go down in history, I have stopped and taken the time to reflect. My job at Canterbury Museums and Galleries is to preserve our City’s heritage and culture, making sure it is relevant and engaging to all. We spend time thinking about what and how we ‘collect’ objects that help uncover our history and tell our story, as well as which we might dispose of, so that we can make room for the new.  In this time of uncertainty and unorthodox decisions, I have decided that instead of choosing an item to talk about from our collection that I will start a new collection. From today, Saturday 21st March 2020, we will document the everyday lives of our community as we pass through this point in time.

Michelle Moubarak, Museums and Cultural Programme Director

Day 99: Sat 27 June

Life under lockdown has been a strain for everyone – alleviated by the fantastic efforts of emergency workers, including the great support provided by Canterbury City Council for vulnerable residents. We should all be thankful to NHS staff, other carers and first responders, and the Council team.

For us, the strains have been offset in two ways: having all four of our children at home, working or studying remotely from here, instead of spread around the country; and benefitting from the good fortune to live in a small village, surrounded by countryside and waterways. So we have never been short of company, or of fresh air and opportunities for exercise – walking, running or cycling in the footpaths and lanes around Fordwich and Westbere, kayaking to Grove Ferry and beyond, and, in recent weeks, attempting to train a newly acquired black labrador puppy, with mixed results so far!

My Saturday was a typical mix of these things. After breakfast, a gentle hike across the rolling heath land sandwiched between Sturry and Littlebourne Roads; in the afternoon, a few hours paddling on the river; at the end of the day, walking across to the Old Dover Road to visit my elderly father.

I suppose everyone is ready for more variety. For me and some of our children, the return of Premier League football has been a welcome change. It looks and feels a bit different, but we’ll have to get used to that in lots of ways. Next weekend, we’ll see further signs of normal life gradually returning, as shops, pubs and restaurants re-open, and a long overdue haircut finally becomes possible.

It’s been a difficult time for everyone. Let’s remember the blessings we still enjoy, and appreciate the work of those who have helped us get through this.

By Michael Fordwich, Crisis Hub Volunteer

Riverbank with grass and trees surrounding it

Day 100: Sunday 28 June

Since my last blog, I have been working as a Support Volunteer Coordinator for the Crisis Hub, helping organise volunteers to do deliveries for vulnerable people and assisting the coordinators however I can. It’s incredible how well this hub has been put together at short notice and the number of volunteers that have come forward has been nothing short of amazing. Everyone has really pulled together to help everyone out and they should be commended.

Today was a day off, so I did an online workout session with Set Go Gym. I’ve been doing online sessions with them for the last couple of months – trying to do at least 30 mins to an hour a day. This has been great for both my physical and mental health and I feel great! One bit of bad news though, I had to cancel my charity walk I was going to do this year for Alzheimer’s Society. However, I’m hoping to do it next year instead, so that should give me time to prepare!

I also achieved a milestone and completed a book that I had been writing for nearly ten years! I still need to go back and edit it, but the fact I managed to finish it was incredible! That’s been one of the positives of lockdown, I can work on my writing more than before.

Finally, I called my fiancée to check up on her – like I have been doing every day. She lives far away from me and I miss her terribly, but I hope to see her when it is safe to do so. And when I do, I know that first hug we give each other will be the best thing ever! If she’s reading this, I hope you are staying safe. Love you 3000!!

By Dan Wright, Visitor Services Officer and Support Volunteer Coordinator for the Covid 19 Community Response Team

Screenshot of the Set Go Gym Facebook page

Day 101: Monday 29 June

It is now almost three months since my first entry for this blog, in which I recall mentioning that I’d just been redeployed to our Community Support Hub, supporting those who need assistance during lockdown.  I also remember discussing my household having already descended into a feud over a competition we created to decide the best chocolate bar.  So how have things developed since then?

I managed to start today productively: I’d washed and hung up my laundry before 9AM!  I’m still working at home and with the Support Hub – we’re now in a winding down phase, so today has been relatively easy-going compared to how it had been. While I was originally making lots of phone calls to residents, my role has become mainly administrative, turning calls into actions and updating records. I’ve felt something like a computer processor at times, moving lots of information around at high speed and going a bit cross-eyed. It’s been occasionally stressful but also rewarding, and very nice to work with people I don’t usually encounter.

After work I went for a walk before dinner – after the heat last week I was glad of the cool breeze.  While I’m tempted to pretend this is a daily occurrence, my attempts at exercise of any kind have become rather sporadic. At one point I hoped to offset a week’s inactivity with a compensatory half-marathon length walk! Although lockdown hasn’t encouraged the healthiest habits, I think I’ve managed to keep relatively sane, just keeping myself busy and focussing on what’s next. I think it’s only when this has completely passed that we will be able to process and reflect on what has happened.

My Mondays used to usually end with a pub quiz. As this hasn’t been possible during lockdown, our team has substituted this with an online video quiz every Monday. We each contribute a round, with penalties if they’re too difficult. I did a standard science round this week, but previous weeks have been a little more out there: a few weeks ago every question was in the form of a different quiz or panel show, ending with a stress-inducing rendition of the Weakest Link!

By Josh Dack Visitor Services Officer and Call Administrator for the Covid 19 Community Response Team

Screenshot of people taking part in a virtual pub quiz

Day 102: Tuesday 30 June

Today is the last day of June, the 30th in fact. My day unfolded slowly, being the last few days until the closure of the Community Crisis Hub, that has helped so many vulnerable people at the start of this dreadful pandemic.

The first thing I do at the 9am start of my working from home day, is to check my emails which the call coordinator sends. There are usually two, one with the caseload for the day and one is an invite to Google Hangouts, where I go to next, to say good morning to the team for that day.

The caseload for the day is people who we were unable to contact before, which we need to ask if they need our help and that the hub is closing at the end of the week and to refer them to other agencies that can provide the service that we have been providing, like delivering food and meds.

I spent the day calling the clients on my caseload, with no replies, I tried several times throughout the morning and afternoon, and still no reply. I contacted Derek the call coordinator through Google Hangouts and he said that we could try again tomorrow.

By the end of the day at 5pm, my colleagues all signed off for the day, except me as I had half an hour to go checking the Canterbury Information and Roman Museum mailboxes. I like doing this as it reminds me of working at the Beaney, which I really miss and hope to go back to as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Working from home has its advantages, such as tea breaks in my beautiful garden, comfort breaks whenever I want and watching the news at one on tv on my lunch break. I live with my parents and enjoy their company, but I do miss the Beaney and my colleagues, you can’t beat the human touch.

By Dito Perez, Visitor Services Officer and Crisis Hub Call Handler

Garden with decking, plants and furniture

Day 103: Wednesday 1 July 

I woke up early today for my last shift on the Community Crisis call hub. When I wrote my first Creating Heritage blog entry, I had just started my third shift working on the hub. It’s strange to realise that I’ve been doing this for almost three months now. The weeks, then months, have gone past in a blur, with the only notable changes being the occasional very hot day, rainy day, birthday or important government announcement.

As the hub is closing soon, we were making the last few calls to ensure everyone who is still in lockdown is receiving any support they need from other charities and organisations. Working for the hub has been an interesting and rewarding experience which has helped to give my time in lockdown some sense of routine and purpose. I’ve also had the pleasure of talking to so many lovely new people in my local area who I otherwise never would have. However, I am very much looking forward to returning to the Beaney. 

When my shift ended, I took a drive to pick up some food shopping. This past week I have been trying to go out more to get back some sense of normality, in preparation for returning to work. After this, I took my dog Gus for his evening walk before helping my mum pick some home grown vegetables for dinner. She planted a vegetable garden as a project to keep busy at the beginning of lockdown, and now most things are ready to eat. We picked carrots, beetroot, kale, and the first of the broccoli. Later in the evening, I sat outside and worked on a design for my new artwork submission for the Beaney’s ‘Museum of you’ exhibition. 

By Amy Hey, Visitor Services Officer and Crisis Hub Call Handler

Dog sitting next to a garden vegetable box

Day 104: Thursday 2 July

Up until recently I have found it fairly easy to keep in high spirits during lockdown so far. Whilst remaining careful to keep as much distance from others as possible, I have been able to volunteer for both the NHS and Council on top of my usual job teaching at the University of Kent. Being able to help others less fortunate and who are unable to get around during the pandemic has brought me happiness and a sense of meaningful accomplishment that the bureaucracy of academia otherwise stifles. However recently the sheer enormity of the task that is ensuring the University of Kent remains a institution capable of providing the conditions for meaningful research and teaching has started to dampen these spirits.

Today I have sat in meetings most of the day to discuss how to save both the University as an institution and hundreds of jobs that are threatened by both the results of management decisions over the last decade and the pandemic; the University estimates it will lose £20 million in lost accommodation costs, and have suggested a payment freeze on top of the ~300 jobs it aimed to cut over three years. A meeting with my external examiner and confirmation that job will be safe should fill me with a sense of relief, but a sense of foreboding about what the University will look like in the next few years makes me sad for what future students, colleagues, and myself have to look forward to.

Still, that is perhaps to come and it is not all guaranteed; there are many excellent minds working at solutions, and things are fluid. The sun has come out and I am going to take the opportunity to take the motorbike out, something that gives me a wonderful sense of relief and never fails to relax. Much is to be done but, for now, it is time to take pleasure in what there is, as Sartre use to say, en situation.

By Chris Henry, Crisis Hub Volunteer

Man on a motorbike

Day 105: Friday 3 July

I woke up early to go for a short run before starting work. It’s much easier to socially distance in the early morning as it gets so busy here in Tankerton and Swalecliffe, Whitstable. I have been really missing my running club – running alone is just not as much fun! While I’m out I notice all the pictures of rainbows in windows, most of the bright colours have faded as they’ve been up for well over 3 months now. There are clusters of painted stones lining my run along the promenade with messages of hope, solidarity, thanks to the NHS and more rainbows from the local children.

After a shower, I get my daughters ready for school. The eldest is in year 6 and has recently returned to school with strictly enforced social distancing rules. The youngest is in year 4 and cannot return full time until September, meaning she will have been out of school for 6 months by the time she returns. She’s so bored of Mummy’s homeschooling now and desperate to see her friends again!

I have been working from home (along with my husband) throughout the ‘lockdown’ period at the dining room table. I’ve also taken on extra work, like many council workers, supporting the council’s emergency hub. The emergency hub closes today, so I’ve been thinking about the last 3 months I spent coordinating local volunteer delivery drivers. It’s been a privilege to speak to so many kind, energetic people who are so willing to give up their time to deliver food and medicine to our most vulnerable residents. It’s been hard work but so worth it. Now that the hub is closing and the lockdown is relaxing, it feels like life might start getting back to normal…maybe?

By Emma Bartlett, Regeneration Officer (Housing) and Crisis Hub Volunteer Coordinator

beach shells and stones with colourful illustrations on them

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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