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

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 106: Saturday 4 July

Yesterday I completed my last day working as a Crisis Hub call handler for the Canterbury City Council. For nearly three months I have spent the majority of my time speaking to local residents who have been greatly affected by the coronavirus pandemic and helped to provide support by arranging their prescription collections and food parcel deliveries. The role has been both challenging and rewarding and it has been wonderful to hear that the team has been able to help thousands of residents throughout the crisis.

Today has been dubbed as ‘Super Saturday’. Pubs and restaurants all over the country will reopen again for the first time in over three months. As much as I would love to go out for lunch we decide to avoid our local eateries for another week or so and drive to St Margarets Bay instead to explore the beach. After tentatively walking down the narrowest and steepest steps I’ve ever seen, we reach the bay. We walk past colourful beach huts and people socially distancing outside a reopened pub but are intrigued by an isolated white building at the far end of the beach. As we get closer, we realise it’s a private property but are reluctant to walk any further when we are confronted by a sign that says ‘DANGER OF DEATH’!

We later drove to Samphire Hoe, a country park located at the foot of the White Cliffs. There are quite a few dog walkers around enjoying the open space and we follow one of the walking trails. The whole area is a haven for birds and wild flowers and it’s amazing to think that this entire site has been created using the spoil from the Channel Tunnel excavations. On the way back to the car we walk past some cows grazing and stop to take photos of the magnificent white cliffs.

By Gemma Bates, Visitor Services Officer and Crisis Hub Call Handler

Day 107: Sunday 5 July 

I woke to the usual chirping of the birds outside. Feeling the fresh breeze through the window, I note that the weather has somewhat cooled down from the Mediterranean-like temperatures we experienced a while back allowing for easier, more comfortable sleeping. I look at my watch and it is already 9am..!

Covid-19 and with it, the lockdown, has just as for so many people changed their plans in many ways. I was meant to be in New York City today attending my brother’s wedding on US 4th July weekend. Unfortunately, those celebrations will have to wait until next year.

As many will know, this weekend also marks the start of the further easing of lockdown restrictions across England. I’m looking forward to, amongst other things, going to the pub with friends and colleagues, watching the latest film in the cinema and visiting the barbers! Our Cathedral is also due to reopen for public worship today (albeit in a limited way) and is now open for visiting and I hope that I, as a member of the Cathedral Choir will be able to sing again in the Cathedral one day soon…

The most positive aspect of lockdown for me personally has been the ability to give something back to the community. Having volunteered as a Delivery Driver for the Community Hub during lockdown, it has been a great experience for me knowing that by ‘doing my bit’ I have been able to help others by delivering essential supplies to people who could not leave their homes.

Off to catch some fresh air now on one of my daily cycle rides. I think today I will take a gentle ride out to Chartham and back along the beautiful river path.

By Adam Southey, Community Crisis Hub Volunteer Delivery Driver

Canterbury Cathedral lit up at night

Day 108: Monday 6 July 

When the world was put on hold back in March I was fully prepared for claustrophobia to kick in ‘real’ life my job sees me travelling almost constantly. However, the opposite has been true. Being in one place for weeks instead of a different place every day has given me the chance to see things in a different way. It’s a lockdown cliche, but it’s been liberating to take pleasure in small things, family, home, the seasons, the weather, the garden, the beach and the sea. Each day I’ve taken a picture of the same view of the sea. It’s essentially one place, but different sun, wind, rain and tides have made it look, and feel like a different world every time.

Today is the day things go back to normal, the shops are open, pints are being poured, tourists wander along the beach, the work emails are coming in thick and fast, even the mediocre English summer weather has returned.

It was lovely and ’normal’ to sit in a cafe at the weekend and I’m looking forward to the freedom to go out, meet friends, get back to work and travel, but it’s tinged with a slightly nostalgic feeling for the quiet streets, empty days and time to think.

By Caspar Davies, Volunteer Crisis Hub Delivery Driver

View of a beach with 'No swimming' written on the floor

Day 109: Tuesday 7 July 

Like most days, Lockdown Tuesdays start for me at about 7.00am, when our nine-year old Jack shouts from his bedroom “Can I get up yet!” Quite why he still does this is a mystery. He has a clock in his room and is perfectly capable of telling the time. Though old habits die hard, and I have to admit I enjoy this daily ritual. After some minor crashing around I’ll hear his little feet patter down the stairs before he settles down to playing on his console, cramming in as much gameplay before school lessons begin. 

As my partner is working full time, one of my main tasks over the past three months has been homeschooling. Jack’s school has been wonderfully pro-active in supporting this; providing a daily timetable of lessons and activities. Alas I have once again found myself having to wrestle with my schoolboy nemesis – fractions! And (once again) found myself having to pretend I know what I’m talking about! But thankfully today’s lessons include graphs, a BFG comprehension, PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Economic), and ‘word of the day’, where Jack has to create a sentence using that word. Today’s word is ‘lavish’, with the resulting sentence being “Grand pig master lay in his lavish muddy puddle”. Mine is not to reason why! 

The projects on Ancient Egypt and coastlines he has been doing have been a joy, and a real education for me. However, despite all the support given by the school, as time goes on, Jack’s concentration and motivation has been waning more and more each day, with greater encouragement needed from me. I am relieved to hear, after discussions with other homeschooling parents, that we are not alone here. 

As you can tell by most of the contents of this blog entry, much of my lockdown has been concerned with homeschooling. As I write this, Jack is asking for help with plotting points on a graph.

Home schooling will be a happy and abiding memory of this strange time for me. Although we were already very close, I think Jack and I have got to know each in different ways, in ways that we work, and in ways that we would not have seen otherwise. The empty car park opposite our house has also enabled Jack to learn how to ride his bike properly. So again, the lockdown has brought another activity we can share together. If only I could find a bike that hasn’t sold out!

By Simon Bradshaw, Visitor Services Officer

Father and son taking a selfie

Day 110: Wednesday 8 July 

I got up today and realised I haven’t been outside for two weeks, without even noticing it. Meaning: Covid is still alive and kicking and I succeeded in my goal to keep busy/think as little as possible (working, reading, eating, eating and more eating) no matter what. 

Looking back to April and my first diary entry: I will admit it, I was looking at July as the luminous gate to a newly restored 2020. And let’s be honest, we all thought that by now life would have gone back to normal; July felt so far away. 

Positive things I have accomplished:

I worked in call support and volunteer administration (CCC Crisis Support Hub) for four months, which was a great experience. Communication with clients has been the best part of the job, as 99% of them were grateful, lovely, and, despite their forced shielding and worry about food and medicine supplies, even managed to crack jokes and spread positivity. The remaining 1% were demanding, but I’m sure their heart was in the right place, and they added that margin of drama that any working day needs to move forward. 

I managed to keep a roof on my head, fridge stocked, washing machine alive (it dates back, I think, to the early 1980s).

I managed to keep my lovely life partner by my side. He, on the other hand, managed not to kill me for all the new and surprising ways in which I have been annoying – during the most psychologically challenging moments of this (literally) catastrophic life experience. 

Also: finally, people have (kind of) understood that masks are necessary. Flights to visit family abroad have been booked. The world is still spinning. If it all falls to pieces, remember that Amazon Prime can deliver in under 24 hours.

By Sarah Agus, Visitor Services Officer 

Focaccia bread

Day 111: Thursday 9 July

Well here we are again, 108 days after my first blog entry! A lot of things have happened in that time, but oddly day to day life is much the same.

Looking back, some things are now just part of the norm, such as online meetings, or shopping deliveries, but others, like juggling two people working from home and looking after our daughter, are still as challenging. The government has announced that shielding will end on 31st July, but that we will be contacted by the NHS to tell us what that specifically means for our daughter after that, so there is still a lot of uncertainty about when we can go back to a more normal life.

Today I have mainly been working on plans to re-open our Roman Museum. The process is much the same as for The Beaney, but the Roman plan does include the possibility of collecting a “magic” amulet from the British Museum – Collections Management is never dull (well, not all the time!)

I also managed to watch the poem that we have had commissioned by Anthony Anaxagorou, which uses themes from these blog entries that we have been writing. It is really good (high praise from a Yorkshireman!), but I can’t help dwelling on the mentions of tea in it, as I realise that we only have 6 tea bags left in the house! Rationing may be required…..

By Craig Bowen, Collections and Learning Manager

Tea bags

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Artefacts in exhibition case The Beaney Museum

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