Name: R. Hayton, 40- 60 years-old

When did you first begin to realise coronavirus was something out of the ordinary? 

The news had all been about China and I can remember watching pictures on the tv of locked down Wuhan and saying to my husband "they could never do that here, nobody would stay in for weeks on end!" Then a few weeks later, mid-term, I was standing on the school play ground and the children were all coming out from the classrooms with PE bags and classwork and teachers were all a bit on edge saying they "didn't know when we will be back", but soon. There was also a couple of mums hugging and one was crying saying she was worried about her business during these times. I felt puzzled, and strange, I hadn't told the children much about the bug, so as not to scare them, just to wash hands a lot. We were all so naive. 

 When did it first impact you in a significant way?

Within the first few days of lockdown our family became unwell one by one, and all quarantined for 14 days. We didn't know if this was covid or not, it was such a complicated mess of where to get a test from, and while symptoms were manageable at home it was safest for all to just batten down the hatches and stay at home in our safe little bubble, living in the garden as it was so beautifully sunny.. Outside was pretty quiet, not just on the road outside our house, but the skies were empty of planes and all we could hear was birdsong. It was like being up in the night but in spring sunshine. It was really quite healing, just having a pause in life and the constant bustle & rush of living. 

In what way ? 

Life just pressed pause. My mum said she likes the roads being like the 1950s again. You could walk in country lanes and not fear a speeding stream of cars coming along. -we are a keyworker family, so we still had work, and the worry of bringing the bug home or passing it on. 

How worried did you become and why? 

 I don't think we worried exactly, we both work in jobs where managing risk is part of the day to day. But we were cautious and followed the guidelines to keep away from vulnerable family and friends etc. 

 Are you still worried and why? 

I believe there will be a second wave, and that worries me for how long this is going on for now. What started as a 3 week lockdown feels like it may stretch forward for the foreseeable. My worries broaden to think of the long term impact on people's livelihoods, mental health, and safeguarding issues for children and vulnerable people who haven't been seen and supported, and teenagers who have been out of the routine of school and lost direction and motivation to launch themselves properly. I think gatherings in urban areas of youths and unrest is a bigger risk & danger than people realise. Society is opening up and offering yearned for freedoms to a generation that are in need of engagement, but no schools or youth centres and support are open to direct energies. I hope that they don't get lost along the way.

What were the biggest problems coping with lockdown?

Home-schooling whilst also working and caring for others in the family. It's impossible to juggle everything satisfactorily. I feel I've not given the children what they need in terms of their education, but kept them on an even keel emotionally and physically.

How did you manage?

You find the strength inside when you have to. Living in a supportive and friendly community like Five Oak Green has been really heartening. There's been a hilarious secret market through the village. One day I left out 3 sticks of rhubarb on my doorstep, they vanished in 5 mins. Later replaced with a bag of the elusive self raising flour, and then later on I had a phone call from the neighbour that received the resulting rhubarb crumble on his birthday courteously of a third neighbour!

Keeping spirits up
Keeping spirits up

 Were there times when you despaired?

Despaired when I saw groups of youths smoking by the stream. No social distancing and no concern for themselves or others. Where do you start explaining? 

What kept you (keeps you) going ?-Sense of hope, faith that things will get better and we will come through this. My grandparents generation survived and thrived through far worse. Probably a little too much wine in the evenings, and enjoying the "sanity walks" we did daily around the parish to see newborn lambs, calves, piglets, buzzards, meadow flowers, the apple blossom and friendly neighbours who were genuinely pleased to see you! Clapping for key workers on Thursday and seeing neighbours for a few minutes.

What was your lowest moment ?

My elderly aunt becoming ill.

What was your best/funniest memory ?

Talking part in the online village quiz, walking or cycling round the parish with the children.

Do you think the government handled/is handling the crisis satisfactorily?

We are in uncharted territory. We are never going to be able be separate from a global pandemic. It has felt the media have thrived on bashing any aspect of perceived failure of the government. I would like to have seen a bit more building up of all the success of volunteers across the country: volunteers sewing groups, shopping for vulnerable households, building Nightingale hospitals, keeping shops open and food parcels. Having said that I think the UK should have closed down ports and airports early and made testing as easy as picking up a take away!

Please add anything else of your experiences during the pandemic.

I joined the Capel volunteer group to see if I could do something useful. It's been heartening to be in contact with such a lovely and useful group of people sharing skills and time. Community feels a lot closer knit.

Footpath and Alders Stream, February 2020
Footpath and Alders Stream, February 2020

Were you also affected by flooding in February? 

Gosh that was a few hairy days. Within the space of 10 minutes I was shocked at the size of the puddle on the green, and walked up to check the Alders and was really surprised to find calf-deep water and seeing it rushing into the Hoppers and through Brookdene. We put up all our flood boards and built a dam across our garden! Luckily only the garden flooded. We used sacks and filled them with sand from the garden building projects we had planned.

How have you coped with both problems?

Being prepared and keeping in touch with the community.

Please add anything else of your experiences during the flooding.

I really felt for the people who had flooded and the businesses like the garage, Hoppers, Queens Head and village shop.

It does make you think how on earth the whole area and downstream would ever cope if there were 4,000 extra homes in the parish!