Catherine is my aunt, not many (in fact, very few) years older than me. We went to the same school, spent holidays together in isolated places like Pevensey Bay, in grim weather. We both suffered the indignity of having a parent (her father, my mother) involved in politics, where, as young children, we were dragged along to various events and no one spoke to us. As we grew older, and the family became split, we still used to send each other Christmas cards but never met up. That is, until 2018, when Catherine celebrated a special birthday and her daughter decided to organise a ‘Surprise Birthday Party’. I thought she must be mad; how was she going to know if Catherine would want to see those family members she hadn’t seen for so many years? But I went, so did my cousin and uncle who lived in Italy and her brother and his wife. Her daughter knew what she was doing. Great party, good to meet up. We have kept in touch ever since, meeting ‘half way’ for a meal, via text and phone calls and as a ‘last resort’ when she gets stuck on a crossword clue. In this time, Catherine’s husband, Bruce, died.
‘Lockdown’ is not a good place for the newly bereaved. Because Catherine doesn’t have Broadband, doesn’t have a computer, she has heard of my Tea Towel Blog and the Virtual Tea Towel Museum but has never seen it. Her daughter prints off some of the Blogs so she can read them. I asked Catherine if she wanted to write a ‘diary’ for ‘We’re all in this together’; said she could write it by hand and post it to me. Here is her first offering (I offered to find an appropriate tea towel) and I hope there will be more.
“Gathering my thoughts, while watching ‘Miss Marple’, with Joan Hickson: really old fashioned, sheets, bedspreads, eiderdowns, posh tea shops, Morris Minors etc. A thought came into my head, will we live in our ‘Jim-Jams’ forever? Or make an effort to get dressed everyday? I, personally, will get dressed; I can’t bear the thought of not having a shower. Yes, I know, I am a ‘Water Obsessive’, twice a day.
The realisation of this ‘virus’ suddenly hit this morning; this is ‘for real’ now. I was tearful, edgy. Though I think a lot of it, in my case, is having no Bruce to talk to, worried for Amanda and Wade (her daughter and son-in-law) and she is worried about me….. and so it goes on. Amanda has said, for peace of mind, that I shouldn’t go out. I can go to the post box, nearby, to post my letters but to give people a wide berth, don’t touch anything, wash my hands when I get home. Should I go out with Marigolds on and a pillowcase over my head and face?
It is 11.15pm and here ends my first letter, cats to feed and reflect on my lovely day with Amanda.
23 March 2020: My first day of being indoors. I’m drawn to the news on TV but trying to distance myself from it, as it makes me edgy and tearful and scared. Bruce’s brother has a friend who is ‘high risk’. I’ve told him to stay away from her but his reply was “Let’s not panic yet”. I am so cross about it, I can’t text him back.
Yesterday was a superb day with Amanda. we had a lovely roast dinner and a glass of wine (me, not Amanda), aptly named ‘Bruce Jack’. So a toast to my Bruce and Barbara’s dad.
Did a little birdie tell my daughter I need exercise!?! Amanda took me on a 1½ mile walk round the country lanes, nearly got knocked over by a Tesco’s vehicle. I’m sure he only saw us at the last minute. We passed some beautiful houses and gardens, primroses, hyacinths on the grass verges, donkeys and horses in the fields, enjoying the sunshine, and noshing at the same time. One garden had alpacas in it, a day to remember. When we got back, (after 2 hours!), I indulged in a cold lager and a long, long sit down.
10.30am: Now off for a shower break, must get dressed because Inspector Frost is on, am watching so much TV, I’m getting square eyes.
Just phoned the doctors about getting medication. They have said that if I’m well, I can go to the surgery and put the prescription in myself.
Just taking a ‘turn’ around the garden, for a bit of fresh air”
Thank you, Catherine. I think the importance of recording people’s experiences is that you can see how quickly things are changing. Everyone I know talks about the draw to watching the news but also not wanting to watch it. I hope you are going to write again.
PS: The tea towel was my birthday present to her at ‘that’ party.