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

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 22: Saturday 11 April

I worked as a call handler today assessing the needs of vulnerable people contacting the council for assistance during the coronavirus. I helped arrange 20 urgent food parcel deliveries.  People were grateful for the assistance and many felt anxious about how ‘eerily quiet’ their neighbourhoods had become. After my shift I took a trip to Stodmarsh nature reserve with my partner to enjoy the warm late afternoon sunshine.  We re-energised ourselves this week by going for walks on quiet North Kent coastal paths and visiting nearby woods carpeted with bluebells and wood anemones.

Our household shopping trips now take at least four times as long. I found a few boxes of eggs in a local superstore yesterday, after waiting in the 25 minute ‘one out, one in’ queue. I am also shopping and collecting prescriptions for a housebound neighbour and we share our anxieties about the continuing spread of the virus around the world.   I am concerned about friends who are self-employed as they won’t be receiving financial help until June. I hope there will be some positive news about the end of the lockdown next week. Ingmar Bergman’s outstanding film ‘The Seventh Seal’ is now so relevant. An exhausted knight returns from the crusades to Europe trying to survive the Black Death.  He enters into a dialogue with the figure of death over a game of chess, to stall him for as long as possible. I won’t spoil it for you by telling you the ending.

By Maria Pacan, Visitor Services Officer

2 people playing chess outside

Day 23: Sunday 12 April

Routine I find is the answer to these very weird times. I get up at the usual time and return to bed with a coffee and mull over things. Then I go through the whole of the downstairs of the house wiping and cleaning down door handles, the cloakroom, remotes, phone etc (I know I am a bit sad) before my husband emerges.

Then I commune with the dog for a bit, listen to the news, potter around and do any boring housework that needs doing. We then do some exercises together (10 today and I do them twice), followed by yet another coffee and then the highlight of the day.  We live in a lovely rural community and our village shop and butcher are still open. So we take the dog for a walk, chat from a distance to anyone we know, pick up the paper and any odds and ends from the shop.  

After that the day just melds into a rather dull miasma. My husband is really missing his Sky sports. Did you know that today they had lowered themselves to showing the World Axe Throwing Championship, seriously! I read, listen to the radio, do a bit of web surfing and chat to friends.  Then, with relief, I prepare something for dinner and a ‘normal’ evening can follow.  On days that I help with the council crisis support call centre duties all the above goes out of the window and I feel a vague sense of panic – eek, work! – I do enjoy it though.

I try not to dwell on the current situation. But I do wonder if once things finally get back to normal, whenever that may be, we will find that we totally misjudged the situation and have made a lot of wrong decisions. Time will tell.

On which note I will retire to the kitchen, fill a large glass with something chilled and hack a bit of roast lamb to death. Happy Easter to one and all!

By Susanne Hewitt, Visitor Services Officer

'Happy Easter' text with Easter eggs surrounding it

Day 24 : Monday 13 April

Approximately 11,000 hospital deaths from Covid-19 now. A stitch in time and day one of The Somme springs to mind. I rarely work Mondays and won’t be today. I contact various vulnerable people, friends and family. Mum’s 88. Dad’s 84. North London. What else have they lived through? What is art & knowledge without wisdom?

I safen some hazardous driftwood nearby. Today’s chilly. I await the turning of the tide. Literally. It will frame my day and affect my signal. Online activity assists, yet nature and dancing remain my sanctuary. The nearby boatyards are shut. The increased silence lush. Wildlife soundscapes sharper. Two resident swans nest nearby whilst protecting their patch. Yesterday a bee stung me. First time in decades. For a few minutes I was anxious. As today unfurls my stung right eye area swells up. 

A sentiment and communication stuns me. Suddenly the silence of those I’ve lost, and am going to soon lose, supersedes all. Unexpectedly, distilled emotions flood out. I dance through it. Some tears fall.

I step’s so beautiful. Life is Beautiful. Resilient. But Fragile. I’m so lucky to share this unique gorgeous small commune.

Later I feel feverish. Yikes! The weekend sun? Covid-19? The bee sting..touch wood. I can still touch that! Six weeks ago I danced cheek to cheek abroad with strangers. Without a raised eyebrow. Today I used a leaf to open a gate. Risk assessments now dominate our altered states.

Still no football (so what) but I hope health and key worker heroes galvanise and kick off about codswallop once they can. Before the new weird and political spin runs riot. Direct questions and strong words are allowed. “Don’t get fooled again!” implore The Who on the Radio. Great lyrics.

The fever, now seeming more like a flush, has passed already.

I had pleurisy and swine flu in 2010. It was awful and scary. The recent demand for ventilators unsettled me. You won’t see me complaining about technology when it saves lives I love. Just like that, I could be in hospital and pop my clogs. Better say and do something good whilst I can. “Make love, not war! Protect nature! Never trust a toaster! Kiss me, quick! If you have your health, you’re a Millionaire! Forwards!”

Peace & Love.

By Peter Sean Morgan, Visitor Services Officer

A Beaney t-shirt, colourful kite and cuddly bears used to make a flag on a boat

Day 25: Tuesday 14 April

My neighbour and I have come up with a way of meeting up that keeps us both safe. We have morning coffee and afternoon tea together in our own gardens a good six feet apart with a fence between us. 

The garden has had a lot of attention and my husband has made a new bookshelf with bits of wood he had laying around in the shed. My daughter is working from home and has commandeered her dad’s office. My deaf mother living on her own has managed to blacklist Age UK, my sister and myself, so she thought we weren’t replying to her text messages. Luckily we could respond using other people’s phones until we were able to get her phone sorted. Age UK is great, checking up on her and getting shopping for her when we are not able to. They have offered her meals on wheels, however my sister is keeping her supplied with a few meals each week so she hasn’t needed it. We were amused by the contents of the Age UK survival pack, that consisted of a travel mug, a hot water bottle, a blanket, a woolly hat, loaf of bread, cheese and eggs. So if we have a cold spell and her heating fails at least she won’t get cold.

My neighbour and I have been looking forward to going to Lanzarote again, as unfortunately we were unable to make it last year. We finally booked the holiday in December 2019 and were looking forward to flying out on Thursday 16 April 2020 for a week of sunshine. This has now been cancelled so the decision has to be made, twice bitten thrice shy or third time lucky. 

We try to put what’s going on out of minds as much as we can and keep ourselves busy.

By Julia Keeler, Visitor Services Officer

Sandy beach

Day 26: Wednesday 15 April

Captains log, quarantine entry 1504.20, H.M.S Home.

Today was a day like other days really, trying to keep busy and sane. Daily German and Danish lessons for the morning. Then in the afternoon I busied myself by doing some ‘fitness’ on the Wii, then unearthed my old PS2! I’m still tragically bad at video games. 

Tonight I will be having Pizza and wine. It’s a little tradition in my family to do this every Wednesday. And as my wise uncle (AKA ‘The Oracle’) correctly does it, scissors are the best way to cut Pizza. (He’s right, give it a go.)

In my house I’ve been lucky enough to reconnect with my lovely housemates. (My housemates also agree with me that scissors are best for Pizza.) We cook for each other and gather to keep sane, and well fed. 

For my downtime, I’ve been reconnecting with my other passion..comedy. I’ve been re-watching ‘Frasier’ and ‘Cheers’ at the moment. Frasier is my go to comedy. Comedy keeps me sane, so..keep laughing and smiling folks.

I miss my other ‘job’ as a professional barfly though. (Yes, I am the Canterbury version of Norm). I miss my local/s, all my friends there, and the wonderful staff. Staff who overtime I’m grateful to call my good and close friends. Hope to all see you soon my friends! I miss you all so much!

When this is go visit your local, toast those that gave you joy before this, tip them, and enjoy sharing a toast with them..and enjoy saying ‘Cheers!’ with them. 

By Gary Jephcote, Visitor Services Officer and Duty Officer

Pizza, laptop, wine and scissors on a wooden table

Day 27: Thursday 16 April

Day 27 (in a Geordie accent). Please do not ask me the day of the week, as I haven’t a clue!! Just back into work on Tuesday after two weeks leave! Oh what fun I had! And a very, very quiet birthday (no jelly and ice cream, but a lovely cake delivered by the mother-in-law to be!) Thanks for the card Sarah.

I popped into Canterbury yesterday to check on the museums (you’ll be pleased to know that they are both still there!) and to make some noise (fire alarm tests). It is so pleasant to walk through town with nobody around, you can actually look up and see things without the risk of ploughing into the hordes.

I am doing my bit at home, shopping for my elderly neighbours and ensuring they are both OK! And getting up early to make Laura a cup of tea before she goes off to work.

The house is spotless and the garden (even if I do say so myself) is looking quite good! And I can get into both sheds now! Now I will just have to wait until they reopen the recycling centre.

The cats do not know what has hit them, allowed out all day, every day and not kept in while we are at work.

By Dougie Mann, Duty Officer

Black cat in a palm tree

Day 28: Friday 17 April

Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head, made my way downstairs and drank a what day is it? It’s Friday, right? Hold on, no it’s Thursday. No, it can’t be Thursday, it must be Friday! Oh well, is it that important?!

I make the daily call to my parents who are in their 80’s and everything is fine thankfully, just low on milk! Weekly shop for them tomorrow, so another 20 minute wait in the queue at Sainsburys, with their list in my hand and a chat with the person 2 meters in front of me, followed by dropping the shop into no-man’s land (their porch!)

In the loft again going through stuff to list on ebay or sort out for the charity shop. I come across my old London 2012 Games Maker uniform. Seems like another lifetime ago, when the days were full and busy. Can it really be eight years ago now? I was bigger then, XXL. Maybe I’ll be able to fit back in the uniform again soon!

Going for a quick bike ride now to blow off the cobwebs. Cycling through Lorenden Woods near Faversham I stop to take in the view of the beautiful blanket of bluebells that lay in front of me. How quiet and peaceful it is with the sun firing through the trees onto the lilac ground and with the sound of birds chirping in the air.

On my return, following a leaflet drop I did earlier in the week for the Mutual Aid Support group in Faversham, I had a call from a neighbour in her 90’s. She was not asking for any help but actually offering help if anyone in her age group wanted to have a chat on the phone. How lovely that the community around us all is coming together.

I Whatsapp my mates later to arrange a virtual Zoom evening beer get together with them. Isn’t tech great? I wonder how this would have been when I was at school with them 45 years ago. Funny how we’re seeing less of people but communicating more in ways which we couldn’t have imagined!

At least they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall! 

By Andrew Metlock, Duty Officer

Bluebells in the woods

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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