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

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 85: Saturday 13 June

My day started like any other. I woke up at 7am, showered, quickly checked my emails and then set about planning my day. As a University student, I have tried to stick to a fairly rigid schedule, although for obvious reasons this has been challenging. At 8am I spend a few hours studying until at around 11am I take a break for coffee. I spend what feels like 20 minutes (it was probably more like an hour) mindlessly scrolling through reddit looking at the countless videos of the riots in the US before guilt sets in and I get back to studying. 

I will forgo giving my detailed opinions around the recent events surrounding #BLM, but suffice to say that I, like many others, was deeply disturbed watching the George Floyd video. Sadly, it does not seem like the case that this kind of prejudice and violence is confined to the US and although I am unsure of the solution, bringing any attention to the issue – albeit in a non-violent way, must surely help. With this in mind, at around 12:30pm I decided to head down to Dane John gardens to check out the #BLM protests that were happening in the city. I arrived as the protests were getting underway and watched as people excitedly headed through the gates, flooding the normally tranquil park with a sea of colourful banners and flags. Although everyone did their best to keep social distance, this was almost impossible with the number of people, and therefore I sat out of the way on the castle walls. Throughout the protest people seemed genuinely passionate and there was a real sense of togetherness, it was great to see Canterbury get together for such a positive cause. 

At around 1pm, I left, and spent the evening on the beach having a few drinks with friends.

By Malcolm Thomas, Student

Groups of people sitting on the grass in Dane John gardens

Day 87: Monday 15 June

It was an unusual way to spend this morning, painting a beach hut that in all likelihood will remain empty and unused this year. A bright blue shed that stands on its own on the promenade, isolated from the other huts. Normally at this time of year the seafront is packed with families basking in the sun, playing in the sand and queuing for fish, chips and ice creams. But now it’s empty, just my mum and I, brushes in hand, joking around, chatting and setting the world to rights before heading back to another day of being at home.

It has been an interesting few months being stuck at home with my family, all of whom are also trying their best to work in a less than ideal situation. Despite all of this however, this time has presented one surprising opportunity. As the youngest of two brothers, with both our hopes of moving out drastically altered by the events of the preceding months, it dawned on me that this could be the last time that my brother, my parents and I are all under the same roof for any great length of time. This chance, this gift of time, even when tensions have been a little frayed, has been a joy. Throughout it all, we have somehow managed to find the time to come together and in spite of everything, still have a laugh and work together. It reminds me that everyone is adapting to the situation and making the best of it. In times like these, we may as well embrace the joys of building sandcastles, rather than worrying if the tide will roll in and sweep them away.

By Nicholas Short, Canterbury Library, KCC

Blue beach hut

Day 88: Tuesday 16 June

Over at Canterbury BID (Business Improvement District) we continue to work from home, but average over 5 zoom meetings per day and host a weekly webinar for our business community. Thanks to technology we have been able to continue communicating, supporting, lobbying and planning at this time of great uncertainty for our business community. This means that while we have been so very physically distanced, we have never felt more connected to our city.

Monday morning saw the first signs of life returning to the high street as our non-essential retailers started to reopen. It has been weeks in the planning and behind every closed door a huge amount of preparation has been put in place to ensure customer safety. Walking through the streets, seeing local business owners greeting customers like long lost friends, was the most heat-warming feeling.

There are acts of kindness and communities coming together every day; from local artist, Lucy Oram who, free of charge, decorated the retailers windows with bright bold images; through to the groups of businesses pulling together to buy hand santiser and masks to share out to customers. I want to shout ‘come to Canterbury’ from the rooftops, but for now, we must allow a slow and steady regrowth. My request to everyone reading this is to remember to shop local, and keep smiling.

By Rachel Pilard, Marketing and Communications Manager at Canterbury BID

Lord Mayor standing outside Canterbury shop with owner

Day 89: Wednesday 17 June

I work as a Registered Mental Health Nurse, specialising in Mother and Infant Mental Health. The team I work for provides intervention for women with significant and enduring mental health issues such as bipolar or psychosis during the perinatal period. During the pandemic our team has seen enormous and unprecedented change in how we deliver care day to day. One of the most obvious and difficult changes has been the cessation of nearly all face-to face contacts, with the exception of ‘crisis visits’ where an individual is experiencing an acute mental health crisis. Even so, during these visits we are required to wear PPE including apron, gloves and facemasks, which practically, are difficult to breath and communicate in, and on a emotional level it can be dehumanising providing mental health support to someone in full PPE as I feel it highlights the professional and clinical divide between healthcare professional and service user and can make establishing a rapport difficult. Mental Health Nurses generally have exceptionally high levels of interpersonal or communication skills, which when providing telephone based support can be difficult to utilise, I have personally found it difficult to read the emotional context of many conversations, and have heard many service users describing feeling ‘not heard’ or ‘misunderstood’ during the pandemic.

On a professional level the clinical responsibility currently feels heightened, almost as if we are carrying the overwhelming load of increased stressors of service users and their families dealing with the threat of coronavirus. Whilst I remain confident about the ability of our team to manage this, it certainly takes an emotional toll. On a positive note, as nurses remain a constant during the pandemic, day-to-day life has mostly remained the same. There is a kind of comfort found in the structure and routine of work and talking to co-workers is often therapeutic.

By Nicola Morgan, Perinatal Mental Health Nurse

Woman with red hair wearing a mask and NHS lanyard taking a selfie

Day 90: Thursday 18 June

Last night I didn’t sleep well. I have noticed since the lockdown situation started that where normally I would sleep like a log, now I am plagued by broken sleep full of irritating anxiety dreams where I am late, or can’t help someone or have done something wrong. Now, I wouldn’t suggest that I am in any way worried in a tangible way but perhaps it is ticking along somewhere in the background.

So I woke early this morning, showered with my 3 year old, who decided he also needed to jump in, and made my way to work. The Surgical Emergency Assessment Unit where I work has remained open during lockdown. We have had fluctuating numbers of patients referred to us, some days being quiet and others being overrun. At the beginning of lockdown we were shocked by the change to the hospital, we were used to being full to capacity and suddenly practically overnight the hospital was emptied.

The new rules on the use of face masks at all times in the hospital grounds has come into effect yesterday. A fact that has caused much uproar amongst some staff and a logistical nightmare for the hospital management. We had previously only worn facial covering when we were within 2m of another person and now we are expected to wear them constantly for our entire shift.

My thoughts on wearing a surgical face mask for 12 hours straight…. wearing glasses that fog up constantly is very irritating, breathing your own breath is steamy and unpleasant and accidentally sneezing in your mask is just truly horrible.

However, the positives from Covid-19 that I have experienced all stem from the slowing down of our lives. I am enjoying spending time with my children, where before I would always be stressed about scheduling and getting from one place to another. We have dusted off our old bikes and fully intend to make bicycle riding a staple in our lives from now on. And finally, truly appreciating the glorious weather and how beautiful it is to live by the seaside.

By Jillian Gardiner, Staff Nurse

Seaside with white cliffs in the background

Day 91: Friday 19 June

Today is day 91 of lockdown and I have that ‘Friday feeling’. I consider myself to be quite lucky as I still get that, for a lot of people on furlough the days have rolled into one. I never went on furlough as I am an Enablement Support Worker and my team works 365 days of the year through snow days, pandemics and other unusual situations! I’m looking forward to the end of my shift as I go on annual leave for ten days. The thought of not having to wear a mask, plastic apron or gloves is a good one. I can picture days of pottering around my flat and ‘garden’ (a few pots on the balcony) and sitting on the beach or in my mum’s garden.

Back to the present though, I don my mask, apron and gloves and go to see my first person. I introduce myself and say where I’m from (feeling like I’m on a gameshow) and the lady looks at me blankly. Of course she can’t understand what I’m saying as the mask muffles my speech and she can’t lip read either. I repeat myself louder, resisting the temptation to pull the mask down which would defeat the object of wearing it, and she appears to hear me. My second person is running low on bread and milk and I wonder where I can go and get some without having to queue. I decide on the corner shop just up the road. The rest of my shift goes smoothly and before I know it I’m finished and home. I immediately get changed and put my uniform on to wash at 60°C, before the pandemic it would just go in with everything else. My husband pours me a cold glass of wine and we chill.

By Katie Beehan, Enablement Support Worker

Blue face mask and gloves bundled into a bag

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