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

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 29: Saturday 18 April

It’s been about a month since the museums have closed and I have completely lost all sense of time. I’ve read that social media and online forums are awash with people outlining in detail their ‘lockdown dreams’; unusually vivid and bizarre dreams experienced during the pandemic. Some are symbolic of our current daytime fears or have entirely different distressing themes, whilst others are fantastical. I’ve definitely experienced the latter. I had a weird dream recently involving UFO’s invading earth..

Today I had to go to a garage in Folkestone to have a new wheel fitted. The mechanic said it would be ready in an hour so rather than hang around, I decided to go for a walk through Kingsnorth Gardens nearby. At first I think I am the only person here, but whilst gazing at the water lilies in the pond, I see someone walking their dog. I do a double take. They are dressed head to toe in a full white bodysuit with a hood, mask, booties and gloves looking like some kind of forensic scientist at a crime scene! We wave at each other and the dog walker wanders off.

In the afternoon, I go for my daily walk along the beach, five minutes from where I live. When you stand on the sea wall on a clear sunny day you’re able to see the curvature of the coastline from Folkestone to Dungeness, but today the sky is hazy and atmospheric. It’s low tide so I venture onto the sandy beach and head towards Dymchurch stopping briefly to take a few photos.

Before I approach my street on the way back from my walk, I stop at the nearby field. It’s lambing season and a small flock of lambs have gathered by the fence. They’re a bit skittish and run away as soon as they see me, bouncing up and down as they go. However, one sheep who is not startled by my presence, stops and stares at me long enough so that I can  take a photo. Seeing the lambs reminds me that spring is truly here and gives me a sense of hope and optimism.

By Gemma Bates, Visitor Services Officer

 A sheep at a wire fence

Day 30: Sunday 19 April 

As I look out of the window it is a beautiful sunny day. The birds are singing and the leaves on the tree opposite are gently swaying in the breeze. Usually the road outside is busy but today it is quiet.

I am isolating at home with my fiance and daughter. We live in a small cottage and from the upstairs balcony we can see the sea. We have been keeping busy by sorting through boxes and moving furniture around, as my daughter and I recently moved in before the lockdown.

We try not to have the news on too much but these are strange and worrying times. I have relatives in Spain and Italy. My older brother in Spain has told me their lockdown has been stricter than ours. He and his wife can only go to the shops for essentials but not for an exercise walk like we can. 

I read yesterday that 800 people have walked out of hospital and are on the road to recovery after contracting coronavirus. This is very positive news as recently the news has been very negative and grim.

One thing I have noticed in lockdown is the wildlife. A few nights ago I heard raspy barking outside the cottage as foxes roamed along the road. I have also heard what sounded like an owl hooting loudly on the tree opposite.

We have noticed how fewer planes there are. This made me think about the environment and how it is better for noise and air pollution. 

We have also noticed in lockdown how our sleep patterns have changed. We all keep waking up a few times in the early morning as we have been having weird dreams!

During the lockdown, we have been eating healthier than we would usually do. We take it in turns to make the meals and sit together. This has brought us together more as a family.

We also like to read a lot, listen to music and eat lots of ice cream! This is made and delivered by a local family run farm. We are glad that a local business is doing so well. After lockdown is over we will continue to buy ice cream from the local supplier.

By Sandra Bytheway, Cafe and Retail Assistant and Visitor Service Officer


Orange flower

Day 31: Monday 20 April

It’s four weeks today since lockdown was officially announced in the UK.  It’s an interesting time concept as we can all document those 28 days so clearly in this new reality.

When we knew the inevitable was going to happen, my glass half-full mind fantasied about sharing cooking skills with my eldest son, in anticipation of his probable departure from home next year, and the creative projects I would devise with them both. Ha!

Reality on that first Monday morning was a full school timetable, with no teacher to explain it or answer questions.  My youngest was constantly wandering off or asking for help whilst I tried to do my other job (working for a recycling and waste charity).  It’s busier than ever as we are adapting to how we deploy our skills and funds to assist with COVID 19 in the poorest parts of the world where we work. Stress!

The holidays were a constant battle to get them off their consoles as their argument is that they talk to their friends through them. We have now found one unifying activity (that isn’t Uno) – running! Our app helps keep momentum with its competitive challenge. Neither of them are ever the slowest, it’s a position I’ve no need to fake.

At 3pm, we downed laptops and took a rare car excursion to jog in Kings Wood. I couldn’t miss the bluebells, and the extra bonus is it’s a decent length downhill run and so I could walk the uphill part.  We foraged some wild garlic and my eldest said he’d make pesto with it, so maybe all is not lost..

Once the virus calm down, I hope that the environmental effects will become the headlines. This is a massive opportunity to take note of the improvements in air and water quality and how we have all managed to amuse ourselves in this quandary.  Let’s hope we all carry forward some of this mindful activity.

By Trudi Field, Visitor Services Officer

Woods with bluebells

Day 32: Tuesday 21 April 

By now, the lockdown and social distancing are both fully established as the new normal, and it strikes me how at ease with these measures I feel now. Crossing the road to avoid that lady with a buggy is an automatic and natural action, and I’m finding more ways to keep myself busy in the house every day. It’s definitely going to feel strange when social distancing isn’t needed anymore, whenever that may be; I don’t want it ever to feel too natural.

This afternoon my mum and I walked out behind Faversham through the rapeseed fields to the creek and boatyard. It’s a popular walk but there’s plenty of space to stay apart, and the yellow fields really are so beautiful. On the way back we drop off packages to a few family, friends, containing some of my dad’s birthday cake from yesterday.

Almost every Wednesday for years now, me, my parents and our friends have met at each other’s houses or the pub for drinks, nibbles and a game of Scrabble. It’s pretty addictive. Since the lockdown began, we worked out a way to continue playing over Zoom, with one team being the ‘lettermasters’ and telling everyone else what their letters are.

Eating cake over a game of Scrabble with good friends, in the middle of everything that’s happening, is quickly becoming the highlight of my week (especially since I’m Reigning Champion!). Doing things like this are more important than ever for our sanity, and I’m already plotting what else could be played over video chat. Scattergories, Articulate, Cluedo..

By Jemima Watts, Visitor Services Officer

Field with Rapeseed

Day 32: Wednesday 22 April 

I started the work day at about 7am, checking out the emails that had come in overnight, then a brief walk to the shops to get milk (my tea consumption is frankly staggering right now), and back for more emails until the first of our 2 team daily catch ups at 9.30. Since the lockdown began, and for us that was 17th March as I took the decision to close our Museums and other venues from the initial announcement, our service has been leading on the city council’s response to the crisis.

That has meant designing and delivering a completely new service, catering for an unknown level of demand for an unknown number of clients for an unknown period. Good thing my team is excellent with ambiguity! But it also means the days are full, and long. They have been dominated by crisis response stuff but today also saw the return of a little of my ‘day job’, with a very pleasant meeting with the executive team at The Marlowe Theatre, updating on their plans during lockdown and hopes and ambitions for recovery.

Following that a meeting on my overall service budgets – where we are likely to see significant drops in income, not least in the museums service, but also our other commercial venues and events, and what we can do to mitigate that and leave us on a stronger footing for recovery. 

It seems a long way off still but we are determined to weather the storm and remain a critical part of Canterbury’s cultural and visitor experience.

After that I had a bout of being grumbled at by Annabelle and Emmeline (12 & 11) for being ‘too busy’ when they wanted a picnic in the garden. To be fair to them they’ve been incredible during this; they understand what my husband and I are doing is important but it is still very difficult for them. They miss their friends enormously. I miss mine!

Final team catch up of the day, more emails, finished work at about 7pm. A 12 hour day is not bad for me right now! Then a dreadful family movie about Zombies whilst Joe was on a Zoom call with his mates, and bed. I forgot dinner. Will do better tomorrow…

By Caroline Cooper, Head of Commercial and Cultural Development

View out of a window with a sofa in front

Day 34 : Thursday 23 April

I don’t know what day of lockdown we are on any more and I’ve decided that having a constant reminder of the time that has passed and the implied expectation that this will end soon can be a little unhealthy. Especially if it results in the feeling that you are spending all your time just waiting for something.

I’m spending most of my time trying to complete assignments. I’ve been currently battling through my final essay for my MA but without access to a library and VERY limited access to texts online, it has been much more of a struggle than it normally would. In a way lockdown hasn’t affected me too much as I would have been stuck at home writing essays for weeks regardless. However, being completely on my own for over a month has definitely been challenging. I do spend a lot of time talking to my friends or phoning my parents and grandparents. Also constantly listening to music helps – and finding tv shows that make you feel nice inside.

Today I walked to my friend’s house for something different to do, I stood on the pavement and he stood far away in the front door and we waved and had a chat for a while, it was nice to have a real social interaction for once. The weather was actually very warm and sunny; the walk was also very enjoyable especially as there was no-one else around and I didn’t have to constantly think about how to avoid people.

My daily routines have remained very much the same for the past few weeks: wake up (late), write some of the essay, go on a walk and some activity like drawing or reading, or sewing a mouse. And repeat. I’m very much looking forward to being able to see the people I care about once again soon, and without sounding too depressing, have a hug.

By Emma Williams, Collections Volunteer

Blue toy mouse sitting on a windowsill

Day 35: Friday 24 April 

Another sunny day which I spent primarily in my garden. After my university stopped face to face teaching I have now been home with my family for 38 days. I have lost all sense of time and barely know what day of the week it is anymore. 

Each day pretty much consists of the same thing; waking up late, working on assignments, watching Netflix, doing some workouts, walking the dog (which is not as simple as it used to be), dinner then bed. It is nice being at home, mainly because I don’t have to cook as much or do any washing. Spending the majority of today enjoying the sunshine, I decided to try yoga. I was even able to get my brother to have a go. That was interesting. 

I do really miss my friends. Usually I would be spending this time going out and meeting up with people that I haven’t seen since Christmas. Instead I have had 3 birthday parties and a family reunion all on zoom.

I also miss not seeing my grandparents. They would have come down to see me the day after I returned from university. Instead, they both had to go into self isolation after my nan came down with symptoms of covid. It was really scary as I didn’t know what was going to happen. But thankfully she did get better. 

From this I have learnt just how important friends and family are. Video calling has kept me and my friends connected, we are even planning a games night. We’ll see how that goes. 

By Megan Piper, Collections Volunteer

Deck chair on garden decking

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