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

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 36: Saturday 25 April

The tree peony opened up this morning and brought a lot of colour into the garden. Spring has well and truly arrived. Tree peonies are beautiful, but unlike other flowers, they don’t last long. Pity.

Everything is eerily quiet. Each day blurs into the next. Stuck in a surreal time/space bubble. Feels like calm before a storm, yet the storm is already here. For some reason, books I read a long time ago keep popping into my head, uninvited: Gabriel Garcia Marquez Love in the Time of Cholera, Francis Fukuyama The End of History, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett.

I try not to worry, but humans worry a lot. All the time. About everything.
Golden Retrievers worry a lot. All the time. About one thing – food.
In my next life, I am coming back as a Golden Retriever.

I have noticed the word ‘discombobulated’ mentioned a lot recently. This funny-sounding word means confused, perplexed, bewildered, disorientated, unable to think clearly. I feel discombobulated.

My sleeping routine is out of kilter. Losing track of time as days merge into one continuous stream of suspended activities. I go to bed in the early hours of the morning and wake up around 11am. Too late for breakfast, too early for lunch. I am going to get one of those clocks I saw on Facebook, the one with days of the week instead of hours and minutes. At least then I will know what day of the week it is. Here’s hoping.

Yoga helps with the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. Daily workouts with Adriane keep me grounded. Note to myself: lock the dog away before starting the workout. Golden Retrievers and yoga do not mix.

Routine is key.
Panic is not an option.
My time will come.
Now is not my time.
We will go back to the places and people we love.

By BB, Collections Volunteer

Pink flower

Day 37: Sunday 26 April

Like most people during this lockdown, I’ve found that one day blurs into the next. Sometimes, I can hardly believe that little over a month ago I was celebrating my birthday with my friends – laughing, chatting, sharing far too many bottles of wine. And hugging. Hugging is what I miss most of all. As we are entering week six of lockdown (I think? Like I said, I’ve lost track of time these days), I’m feeling the lack of human contact even more keenly. 

In my student residence flat, which usually houses eight people, only two of us remain, the others have left for home. It has been difficult feeling so isolated in every sense of the word. I was lucky enough to find in one of my flatmates an incredibly close friend who has been by my side this entire year. Understandably, she has gone home to be with her family during this time, especially since she is considered high-risk due to underlying, chronic health issues. I miss her dearly; I miss being able to just walk into the next room over and have a chat, working on our assignments together in our comfiest clothes and cackling over some joke one of us cracked. 

Thankfully, my residence has decent internet connection and I’ve been able to keep in regular virtual contact with my friends, family and partner (to whom, I owe most of my mental stability) but it’s not quite the same. The loneliness is stifling sometimes. Taking walks when the weather is nice has really helped with keeping my spirits up. I love feeling the sun on my skin and letting my hand drag through the leafy green bushes as I walk. I’ve been trying to appreciate the little things these days – I feel like it’s more important than ever.

By Corina Apostu, Collections Volunteer

Road with a car parked, houses and a grassy area

Day 38: Monday 27 April

As I’m writing this, there has been a total of 3,016,437 reported cases of Covid-19 worldwide. Of these cases, 888,551 resulted in recovery, and 207,970 in death. These statistics are disheartening, I know, but for the families of those who have lost their lives to the virus, death is now the heart wrenching reality.

Fortunately for me, my reality hasn’t changed that much in the time of Covid-19. My university would have now broken up for this academic year anyway, and I finished all of my coursework at the beginning of April.

Along with other fortunate workers that have been spared the anguish of being furloughed or losing their jobs entirely, my mum is working from home. This is great for me as it means that I have someone at home all day to keep me company. Every day we go for our one walk together with our dog, which is especially enjoyable.

In addition to my walk, my daily routine typically consists of listening to music and talking to my mum. As well as this, I do also try to ensure that I update myself with the global and regional news and Covid-19 statistics at least once a day, whether that be online or on the TV.

Today the weather started off cloudy and miserable, but as the day has gone on the sun has gradually started to shine. My mum and I took our dog out early because rain had supposedly been forecast for later in the day, although, as I mentioned earlier, it’s sunny now, so I doubt we’ll have any rain just yet.

Later on, my mum and I will play with our dog in the garden, which will provide everyone with some extra exercise and fresh air.

By Ellie Chawner, Collections Volunteer

White fluffy dog sitting on grass

Day 39: Tuesday 28 April

It’s been over a month since I packed up my 3 years at university and returned to Pakistan, all in a day’s notice. I would’ve thought that by now routine would sink in, life would feel a little bit more normal, even if not in the pre-COVID sense of the word, but it hasn’t. Each morning is a tally of how long this has been going on for, and each night is passed in the hope that it will all be over soon. I’m stuck with the idea that this is temporary, so it’s okay to not be as productive as usual. I think the uncertainty is the worst; not knowing when or what to look forward to anymore.

Most days pass by with thoughts like this, but in a strange sense (definitely owing to the privilege of being able to stay home with plenty to do), there seems to be more opportunity than ever. The screenplay I always wanted to write, the pile of books waiting to be read, free online courses to take. There’s suddenly time for all of that, but the lingering sense of fear and worry in every conversation and every moment alone takes away any motivation to do much. Life keeps unfolding like every stream-of-consciousness novel I’ve ever read.

So for now, I spend my days filling up journals that had been gathering dust while I spent my days in the outside world, looking at old photographs, and seeking comfort in the company of my dog, who’s probably doing the most to keep me sane during all of this. Maybe that’s enough for right now. For once, maybe it’s okay to just be.

By Aqdas Fatima, Collections Volunteer

Yellow notebook with polaroid photographs next to it

Day 40: Wednesday 29 April

I know that I can lose myself in a number of mindful activities that also enrich me, but at the moment there are times it’s a struggle to find motivation. 

Owning a dog, albeit a very petite rescue pug, has enriched our lives and taking her for walks has connected us more acutely to nature as a whole and our immediate landscape. Almost seamlessly it seems we have entered into the spring and I have been observing the changes to the flora and fauna, noting the ‘first’ of the butterflies, insects and birds – as I usually do annually. 

I have spent most of my life using my creative process referencing my local countryside, painting trees specifically. At times over the last few months, I have captured their anatomy using silver paint on black watercolour paper and recently using fine pens to doodle tree ‘portraits’. 

My monthly report was due today for Live Well Kent, the organisation that commissions me to provide wellbeing studio art therapy groups which I facilitate in The Beaney’s Learning Lab. 

I have been looking at ways to run the next block of commissioned groups online in order to support people, and I am researching how to create a virtual art exhibition of the work that is due to be shown in June for previous participants. 

I am also coordinating a group application for The Beaney’s upcoming ‘Museum of You’ exhibition. 

Today my family and I took a leaf out of Grayson Perry’s ‘Art Club’ programme on Channel 4 and used a page of A2 cartridge paper, divided into eight, to create a series of two minute portraits. It was proof towards my belief that connecting to our creative process is good for our emotional wellbeing, and it elicited shared laughter, positive criticism and some unique images! 

By Joyce Armstrong, Art Therapist

Pug dog sitting down

Day 41: Thursday 30 April

It’s a lovely day; the sun is shining, the sky is blue, the trees are in blossom and the birds are singing. Spring is in the air and I’m sitting in the garden, reading Abir Mukherjee’s Death in the East – the fourth adventure of Captain Wyndham, a police officer in the British Imperial Police Force in Calcutta after World War 1. If you like historical novels, all four books are highly recommended.

Both sons are working upstairs, one tutoring rich Chinese children in Shanghai, where he was living when the pandemic struck, whilst the other works for a company involved in analysing and researching prospective projects, principally in Africa. Meanwhile, I clean, hoover, decide what we’re going to eat and have endless political discussions with friends on social media. Strangely, they always seem to be about the same topic. My immediate decision is, however, what music should I listen to? The melancholic yet beautiful songs of Mary Chapin Carpenter or the awe inspiring guitar work of Jeff Beck? Well, the sun is shining so it must be Jeff Beck. Spirits need to be uplifted in this dystopian science fiction world in which we find ourselves.

By Andy Edwards, Learning Volunteer

Vase of yellow tulips

Day 42: Friday 1 May

During the Coronavirus lockdown, instead of being aimless and lacking a routine, I think a daily rhythm has been essential in dealing with the stress of worrying about loved ones and this strange new existence. As one of the few retired members of this blog, when I stopped work, a regular pattern had to be established early on, so I began volunteering, joining courses and keep fit classes.

Now, I have to work harder at making the day usefully filled. I live in a small village where a helpline has been set up by the Church, giving each of the helpers a list of people to keep in touch with to ensure any shopping or prescriptions are collected. I soon discovered that I was receiving just as much support by phoning people as I was giving to them.

My husband and I are immensely fortunate in living close to beautiful countryside where footpaths abound. This spring has been sublime, with the unfolding of nature’s bounty awakening our senses to the richness of birdsong piercing the silence like a continuous operatic performance. The loudest being the tiny wren and the most melodious the fluting blackbird. This weekend we revisited this bluebell wood, pungent in delicate scent and dazzling with violet blue.

Easter was an unaccustomed observance this year, with none of the services to lead us through Holy Week. Good Friday was marked at the plain altar of our dining table. The lighting of the Holy Fire was a two participant procession through the house. On Easter Day we joined a service on-line with the Benefice, rejoicing in streamed hymns from an unknown congregation. Yet, we saw our fellow parishioners sitting in their homes and greeted one another with ‘Christ is Risen, Alleluia!’

An agnostic might ask, ”Where was Jesus during this Corona crisis?” A local poet, Malcolm Guite, wrote:
Good Friday happened in a thousand places
Where Jesus held the helpless, died with them
That they might share his Easter in their need,
Now they are risen with him, risen indeed.

By Shelley Morris, Power of The Object Group Facilitator

Woods with bluebells

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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