Author: Isaac

Bow Selector: CoHab-19

Over the centuries and in countless stories, movies, comics, books and performances Robin Hood has fought and beaten a wide variety of foes from the Sheriff of Nottingham and Guy of Gisborne to an entire Norman invasion fleet (yes, I’m looking at you Russell Crowe) and even a fire-breathing dragon from another reality (in ‘Beyond Sherwood Forest’ a truly terrible TV movie from 2009. Just… don’t).

Rarely has Robin been bested by anything except at the end of his story when old and wounded his final act is to shoot one last arrow before asking to be buried where it had landed (which rather embarrassingly turned out to be on a top of a van travelling up the A614).

But last year the annual Robin Hood Pageant, set to take place for the first time at Newstead Abbey as the Castle was (and still is) being redeveloped, had to be cancelled due to desperately bad weather – and this year (still at Newstead but having been rebranded to the much catchier ROBIN HOOD LIVE) it was thwarted by a foe that again can’t be beaten by swordplay, arrows, tricks or quips; Coronavirus.

So what’s an outlaw to do amidst a global pandemic (why do people always say ‘global’ pandemic when that’s what a pandemic is, by definition…)? With no spectacular show, St. Patrick’s or St. George’s Day parades to appear at I’m doing my bit along with most other people staying at home, keeping away from everyone else and looking with frank admiration at the *real* heroes we have in our midst; the NHS workers, bus and delivery drivers, shop staff, police and fire officers and all those other essential personnel who are risking themselves to keep us safe.

I said as much in a short video I made for the good folks at NOTTS TV (which I’m told then turned up on the BBC too), me dressed in my Robin Hood kit and sporting my snazzy badger-like lockdown beard, imploring everyone to ‘be like Robin’ and think of the vulnerable and endangered. But having done that… what?

Spending time with my six-year-old daughter Scarlett, for whom this is an exciting adventure filled with bouncing around, having fun, messing up the house and so much more, of course!

Back in the day, when I was a lad and all this was fields (or industry and shoe shops, actually) we had ‘the winter of discontent’ and all I remember about it was things being a bit grim and power cuts. I definitely remember huddling in the dark around a candle – and when it got really bad we used to light it.

So I wonder what Scarlett will make of all of this – at the moment it’s a time when she’s learned to ride her bike and take up roller skating and pogo-sticking (thankfully not simultaneously), enjoyed building a whole village in the ‘computer Lego’ game Minecraft and written, drawn, sung and watched ‘Captain Underpants’ to her heart’s content. I genuinely hope, even though she’s missing her friends and family a lot, that she’ll remember this as a really happy time.

We didn’t have videocalls or social media in 1978-9 either, or streaming movies – but I do recall my having had a lot more energy then too. Maybe that’s because I was 14 then and, as it is now for Scarlett at 6 the world was still a place of wonder and love, even if nowadays Scarlett does ask some serious questions about the virus and wants to know when it’ll be over. Sadly I can’t tell her that, but I do know when she finally goes back to her beloved Round Hill school I’m going to both miss her incredibly – and demand a massive pay rise for all the staff!

In the meantime stay safe, sane and well – and if you can’t stay sane just remember that in the immortal words of Meatloaf, ‘two out of three ain’t bad!’

TP

For the love of scrubs: meet the team

Following on from Amy Victoria Gathercole’s article, Find out more about those involved in For the Love of Scrubs…

EMMA BARTLETT

The lady in charge of fundraising and fabric!

Why did you get involved?

“I saw a message from a lady on the main FTLOS page that said she was 73 and in the first lockdown group. She felt utterly useless to society and helpless. Making scrubs had given her purpose and a place to be useful. I’m doing it for people that use and are using sewing as their escape from a strange time, a chance to feel useful, keep their mental health in check, contributing to a terrible situation that they can’t control. This is something that they can do something about.

“Also for those that aren’t in the NHS (weirdly) that find themselves redeployed in care situations with no protection or training doing tough jobs that are taking them out of their comfort zone.”

AALIYA BISHOP

Our secret weapon and NHS and frontline liaison.

Why did you get involved?

“When I joined, I had the cheeky hope I could make a few scrubs and try to spot them in the wild when I next went to the hospital. Bizarre. Then when I connected with my fellow volunteers, I could feel the drive to help and to actually DO something from the cage their homes had become. I could connect to that feeling. It made sense and helping everyone to feel motivated and empowered is its own reward. Seeing and hearing the smiles and relief in frontline workers voices when I speak with them, well I feel privileged to be doing
what I’m doing”.

AMY GATHERCOLE

Handles the press, manages the Facebook group and files (Oh and occasionally gets time to sew…)

Why did I get involved?

“I saw a post online and became involved in the national
movement that was started by an NHS nurse (Ashleigh Linsdell in Lincolnshire) because I felt inspired.

This is a time where people are stepping up and supporting their communities in so many ways. I’m very creative, I love to sew, make many of my own clothes and knew that in joining this movement, I could put my skills and my time to good use. The three of us organising this effort locally are proud to help and support with the Facebook group, fundraising promotions and organising all of the offers of help that are flooding in. We’re just thrilled to be able to help and truly make a difference and let so many others work together on this community effort to support our local heroes. I am really enjoying seeing so many strangers come together & contribute their time & skills for such a worthy cause.”

Katie Williamson and sewing machine.

“Meet Sally Singer, she’s about 115 years old and sewn uniforms through WW I and WW II, so it seems only fitting that she’s now helped through the war on coronavirus too! Her bobbin reel is made of a bullet casing!

Before I got her 10 years ago, she was owned by several generations of seamstresses in one family. Truly amazing, I’m honoured every time I sew with her.”

Andie Welsher – Ilkeston

“I work in Hospitality, or at least I used to! Being laid off with no money and plenty of time on my hands and having taught sewing to adults and children for 10 years I knew I needed to help the only way I could by sewing scrubs. I spent my last £70 on fabric and set to it. Our NHS needs us and I’m happy to be there for them in my own little way.”

 

Barbara Miller – The Meadows

“I owe the NHS so much. They looked after me in isolation for over 3 months and saving my (hideously infected) right foot. They also patiently dressed the leg ulcer for over 2 years. During this virus crisis, the Yarncraft Group I’ve run for many years is on furlough. I was hoping to find a way to support the NHS which didn’t require money (I’m on Benefits!) and I’m so happy to think I can help in my own little way. The people in this group are amazing – so generous with time, materials and effort. It’s also really lovely when the NHS people who receive the kit post their photos.”

Georgia James – Beeston

“I’m two and a half months away from graduation and three and a half months away from starting work in the hospital itself. Waiting when I could be helping is frustrating as heck since I’ve done pretty much all the learning (waiting for final exams now), so this is my way of contributing in the interim.”

 

 

 

Joy Taylor – Bestwood

“After seeing someone else’s Facebook post I thought I’d give making scrub bags a go. I haven’t really sewed properly since having children and I miss having a hobby for myself. It’s been great to have some time to myself during the lockdown, where I can guilt-free have space from 3 kids to do something for myself and for others. Double win!”

Sarah Morris – Nuthall

“Making the patient/relative hearts is particularly important to me. As a nurse, the aim is to save a life, but if that isn’t possible it is to make someone’s death as peaceful as possible. This virus is taking away the ability for staff to do this with families not being able to be present.

If having a small heart token takes away some of that pain it’s a tiny part I can play.”

Click here to donate.

AVG

The show goes on…

Let me tell you where I am readers. I’m here in the only place I feel safe at the moment… my shed. The first is a group called the “Men’s Shedders Association” But this isn’t just any garden shed, I’m not perched on a lawnmower with my feet on a bag of charcoal. This baby has carpets, curtains and even a coffee maker.

I’ve been self-isolating way before it was trendy. Although I didn’t call it that, I called it “hiding from my kids.”

This shed is quite compact, about six foot long by four foot wide, about the size of a downstairs toilet in the North or a one bed flat in Central London. On the 14th March BC (before Corona) I did my last live Stand up gig. Now I can’t get on stage, so like everyone else, I’ve decided to start working from home. Every week I do my own live stand up gig to a webcam here in the shed for the people on Facebook, it’s essentially a cross between Babestation and B and Q.

In Italy they sang songs from balconies, it was tender, it was beautiful. Here in Nottingham you’ve got a Yorkshireman bellowing punchlines in a wooden bunker at the bottom of his garden.

The response has been amazing, I’ve been on BBC News, Sky News, Five Live, over twenty thousand people have watched the first show as it was streamed live. It seems one man’s pandemic is another man’s career break. Someone even asked me who I’d got to do my PR! What?! PR? I didn’t plan this!? I didn’t think, forget “Live at the Apollo”, I want to be the acceptable face of the Coronavirus!

I think people were looking for a distraction though, which comedy certainly has the power to be.

Doing these jokes now feels a bit like missionary work, I don’t think of myself as a comedian
anymore, I’m basically Bob Geldof with punchlines.

My friends have said, how can you do stand up with no laughter Scott, isn’t it weird? No, I’ve performed in Doncaster, I’ve been here before.

I’ve got one physical audience member in the shed with me, my wife Jemma. Her role is sound engineer, morale officer and when she lays down a draft excluder. She also makes sure I stick to time, by frantically tugging on the leg of my jeans when I start waffling on. We go live every Thursday night and on that day I put a bit of extra effort in. I empty the dishwasher, I cook, I clean the entire house, I deal with the children, the last thing I need is my only audience member turning against me.

Roy and Margaret, my parents, also feature. My dad plays the ukulele and my mum sings. Listening to them do a rendition of The Urban Spaceman with my mum playing the Kazoo, was the first time since this crisis began, that I realized, just what a long haul this would be.

But It’s been amazing to see how my parents have embraced technology. Before the pandemic they were useless. It’s all changed now though. I’ve got my mum inviting me to three-way video conferencing sessions on Zoom, dad is in the spare bedroom, with a headset on, streaming a live vlog to his followers on Twitch. By the end of this pandemic, even your Gran will have a podcast.

“These days feel like a little window into my retirement years and I’ll be honest, it’s not looking good. I’ve got no money, no pension, no social life and the worst thing is, the kids are still at home.”

I’m trying to embrace this downtime, to see it as a moment of reflection a time to take a breath. These days feel like a little window into my retirement years and I’ll be honest, it’s not looking good. I’ve got no money, no pension, no social life and the worst thing is, the kids are still at home.

I’ve felt something these past few days that I haven’t experienced in years. Boredom.

Last Tuesday all I did was griddle some aubergines, that was it, a whole day and that was my only achievement. I needed the toilet, but I decided to hold it in, just so I could have something to look forward to on the Wednesday. I can’t wait for Friday, that’s the day I finally get to top up the bird feeders.

We are trying to ration our food at home now. We are down to our last pack of pasta and our delivery slot is still two weeks away. If things carry on like this I’ll have no choice but to go up into the loft and strip all the fusilli from my daughter’s primary school pictures.

We did a freezer eat down last week, clearing out all those leftovers. It feels very cathartic, but those were some weird meals. It was like Heston Blumenthal was on the pans. On the menu were potato waffles, sweetcorn, falafel and some unknown accompaniment, which I’m now convinced was breast milk. Either that or cod in butter sauce?

But In the midst of this trauma, there are things to celebrate. There is a real sense of community now, people are pulling together. We have a WhatsApp group in Nottingham, where people shop for those who can’t get out. Everyone is very reasonable on there, you have to think about what you ask for. You can’t have people risking their health just to pick you up some fresh peppercorns. “We’re in a state of national emergency Malcolm, I think you might have to accept that your food might be a little less seasoned from now on!”

No one knows what the world will look like when we come out of this. I was watching a video of a concert on YouTube the other night and something didn’t seem right. At first I thought it was the lack of mobile phones, then I realized what it was, people were stood in a crowd! It freaked me out! I wanted to yell at the television! “What are you doing guys, are you insane! you should be 2 metres apart, come on, social distancing! where is your hand santiser, where are your masks! Is this an essential concert?!”

Close contact could soon be a fetish. They’ll be underground cuddling clubs, proximity perverts hanging around in alleyways in long trench coats. “Come in here and stand next to me, go on, breath on my neck, that’s it, touch it, go on, you know you want to, touch my face, shake my hand, let’s go down to the basement for a game of Twister!”

Humour is one of the best tools we have to get through this. Only a fortnight ago, we were laughing about how we were having to greet each other. We touched elbows, we saluted, I even did a fist bump with the pensioner across the road. It was the most gangster thing ever. When all this has blown over we’ve made plans to pimp us his mobility scooter, then go down the old folks home and start dealing Viagra.

But I’m really missing my job. I’ve done shows every weekend for nearly a decade and I feel lost without it. I miss the hen parties and the stag nights, the punters on their phones and the drunken heckles from the shadows. I’ve done gigs where I’ve driven for four hours on a Tuesday night, in torrential rain, to perform to two people and a dog, for no money, at Bobby Wingnuts Cackle Dungeon…..and I even miss those ones now too.

I can’t keep doing jokes to my wife in the shed, it’s not normal. If you carry on like that you won’t have a career, or a wife.

After all, when this is over I think we will all need a laugh. Comedy is going to be in such demand and I can’t wait to be on the frontline, back in that comedy club where I belong.

But until that day comes, I guess this shed will just have to do.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB

How our local community is sewing up a storm

Currently, our world has been thrown into unrecognisable turmoil, chaos and panic. We are all feeling like we are living in a sci-fi film or ya know, just Groundhog Day on repeat. Many are struggling to cope, nearly everyone that you speak to (at a social distance or via a video chat in this new world of connectivity) has found a way to help and this looks very different for everyone. For some, it’s signing up to the NHS helper scheme, some are walking their neighbour’s dogs and others are running community WhatsApp and text groups. For me, I’m co-running the Nottinghamshire chapter of a national initiative called For the Love of Scrubs with two wonderful women who until a week ago I didn’t know. Who says meeting strangers online is always a bad idea?

As a child, I grew up with Grandparents who always told me to “look for the helpers and try to be one”. So, rather than sit about and be or feel useless during the lockdown, a band of 900 people (and growing) have formed a community (effectively a mini-army to be honest), of people who are sewing, distributing, helping and supporting those making much-needed scrubs and other vital PPE for the NHS and frontline keyworkers.

The moment that the country realised there were not enough scrubs to supply the frontline, any seamstress and sewing enthusiast with access to sewing machines and a fabric stash took up the call to arms and started becoming home based manufacturers. Unite all of those wonderful people together and you have a movement who can do a lot of good and we are! In the space of a week, the Nottingham chapter of the national movement called For the Love of Scrubs have raised nearly £4,000 and a Facebook community group is thriving, with people joining to donate buttons from their mother’s tins that were in the loft to offering their small business’s services to help make mass amounts of laundry bags.

The group was set up by three ladies ( Emma, Amy and Aaliya) who would you believe it, originally only volunteered to sew up 3 pairs of scrubs each…and now the group has 900+ members of people all wanting to do similar. It’s a pretty amazing place online, full of fun characters and conversations and so much knowledge and support. There are people from all walks of life; from professional wedding dressmakers and pattern cutters and tailors to members of the W.I. and other similar organisations, through to school children who are involved. The youngest members are children helping mum, through to 92!

To date over 650 sets of scrubs have been sewn up around Nottinghamshire by volunteers and a local factory even opened up to offer a hand and they are starting to be delivered to doctors, nurses, healthcare workers and to specialist COVID 19 units who also now need them. As well as several hundred laundry bags to prevent possible contamination to workers scrubs and uniforms and headbands with buttons on, as well as what are now known as ear savers to help protect the ears of those how having to wear masks constantly.

It’s an incredible feat and I thought that the best way to share with you and why this is so important, (as it’s helping people so much) was to ask the community themselves. People from all over the county have joined the community and volunteered their time for a large variety of reasons; from helping their mental health to wanting to make new friends whilst their craft groups aren’t running for the foreseeable future. Meet some of them and the team here.

If you can share and care please tell people about our story or if you can donate to the cause please do. If you’re in need of scrubs please contact us at ftlosnottinghamshire@gmail.com

Click here to donate.

AVG

How similar is the lockdown to life during the Second World War?

How similar is the lockdown to life during the Second World War?

To some, the Coronavirus pandemic feels like the end of the world, with the majority of shops, restaurants and pubs closed and having limited travel. But to those of a certain age, it’s a reminder of the Second World War.

Only this time the enemy is practically invisible, but the results are easily seen, with hospitals filling up with contagious patients. Food of course had to be rationed from 1939, as German U-boats were sinking UK supply ships. This led to food shortages and stockpiling. Something that we’ve all experienced, with supermarket shelves stripped bare.

This behaviour has caused food to be binned, as it’s past its sell by date. Whereas, in 1939 and indeed until 1954, every scrap of food was eaten. Yes, rationing went on for nine years after the war had ended. Not all foods were rationed at the same time. Meat was one of the first commodities to be limited, with other staples following a year or two later. But it wasn’t just food that was controlled. Movement was too, especially at night, as all lights were switched off. The Air Raid Warden would knock at your door, with that famous Dad’s Army line, “Put that light out”…

To compare life now, with that of 75 years ago, Jean Mary Barton, the granddaughter of Thomas H Barton OBE, founder of Bartons buses remotely spoke to her sister in law Barbara Barton, about her wartime experience.

“I was born in 1926 and lived firstly on Denison Street, and then to a new house on Hallams Lane in 1938. My father Carl worked very long hours on buses and lorries for his father. When he had time off, he took flying lessons at Tollerton Airport. When the war started, he was hoping to join the RAF, but at 38 he was considered too old. He was not ‘called up’ as he worked in a ‘Reserved’ occupation; transporting supplies and men. He also did Fire Duty during the evening. I had two younger brothers, and so mum had her work cut out looking after us and the house. I was tasked with keeping an eye on the boys, and it was difficult. Whilst riding our bikes, my brother Elson, rode under the back of a lorry going down School Lane. He hurt himself quite badly. mother was very cross with me”.

“I was 13 when it became obvious that war would be declared. I was going to attend boarding school at Hatfield, North London. Queenswood was recommended by a family friend. Although war started before I went, Mum said I would have to go, as she had already paid and it was expensive. I was absolutely terrified when Dad took me down with my trunk. I asked him years later how he could have taken me. He said that his children weren’t his concern, and it was up to our mother. So, when children from London were being evacuated to the country, I was going from the country to London”.

“There was a gun turret in the school grounds and it tried to pick off the planes before they dropped their bombs…”

“When we arrived, there were other girls there too, mainly daughters of officers in the Armed Forces, or politicians and other professions. Not too many were from ‘Industry’ like me, so I found it rather difficult fitting in. But as the war progressed, quite a few girls left for the country. So by 1945, only about 10 remained. We were only allowed to walk in the grounds for exercise. When the German bombers came over for the Blitz, they flew to the north of Hatfield and then turned and made a southerly run over our school to London. There was a gun turret in the school grounds and it tried to pick off the planes before they dropped their bombs. This made our school a very dangerous place to be”.

“We were not allowed to sleep in the dormitories, we had to sleep in the corridors downstairs on camp beds and I remember mice and rats running around. It was very cold too, as the windows were open and we had little heat. It was considered healthier to sleep in the cold and we were not allowed to be ill. During the school holidays, I would mostly help mother with the boys again. I felt the effects of ‘rationing’ more at home, as dad would get the most, and mum would give the boys more than me, as they were growing. We kept chickens in the garden for eggs. A local farmer ensured that Queenswood was well supplied with food”.

“My father built a very unusual air raid shelter, which I understand is still there today. He used a liquid tanker and sunk it into the ground. We had bare essentials in there, but felt safe when there was a raid over Chilwell Depot. I remember one night, incendiary bombs were dropped in the fields at the back of our house and we all came out to look after the plane had gone. It was really beautiful to see the fields all lit up. Once when the Trent was flooded, the bombers used an incorrect trajectory to Chilwell Depot and bombed Hurts Croft instead. One house was demolished, but no one was killed, as apparently the lady was warned by the ghost of her dead mother, and they hid under the kitchen table. A reconnaissance plane flew so low once, that I swear I could see the pilot. It flew towards me as I was walking up Chilwell Lane and I thought he was going to shoot me. They were charting the course from Chilwell Depot to Stanton Ironworks, so that they could bomb two targets in one run”.

“As today, all the theatres and other entertainments were closed. Shops were almost empty, and it was not until the American soldiers arrived, that fun for teenagers like me returned. They brought nylons and chocolate and they liked dancing. So they brought much needed merriment, as they were based at Wollaton Park. This went on for almost a year before they left. When I left school, I joined the Health Service. My payslips came from Nottingham Council. But that changed in 1948, when the NHS started. I worked as a Radiographer and specialised in chest conditions such as TB, which was the number 1 killer at that time. I worked for the Chest Clinic on Forest Road and the City Hospital until I retired”.

Thanks to Barbara Barton for organising and conducting the interview with Auntie Jean.

CF

Nature in a time of lockdown

Beginning this article with one of my favourite quotes is a little self-indulgent, but I think quite apt given our current circumstances. George Orwell wrote his essay, ‘some thoughts on the Common Toad’ from which the aforementioned quote is the last paragraph, in 1946. The UK was, at the time of its publication, reeling after five years of war and ongoing attempts to feed its population and to rebuild its society, and a bitterly harsh winter. Earlier in his essay, Orwell notes:

“Life is frequently more worth living because of a blackbird’s song, a yellow elm tree in October, or some other natural phenomenon which does not cost money.”

We currently find ourselves in unprecedented times, where humans, rather than the non-human world, finds itself lockdown #StayHome#SaveTheNHS #SaveLives being the mantra we must all adhere to if we are to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive.

For every single one of us, what was once our daily normal rhythm and routine is altered: work and social lives, our daily interactions are all altered, resources of money become scarce, and this can lead to heightened levels of stress and anxiety, not great for our immune systems and our general sense of health and wellbeing. Finding ways of thriving under such circumstances is a challenge. Creating new daily rhythms, new structures to our lives can help and we are fortunate to have the natural world as a salve and guide during this time. For us Beestonians, there is a gratitude at living in a part of the world where we have a nature reserve on our doorstep, a river and canal where nature thrives, and street trees and parks and green spaces to take time and appreciate. For myself, the dawn and dusk chorus is my new rhythm. Nature will continue however and whatever humans do, with our without us. Maybe, this lockdown gifts the time to reflect on the purpose of life and how we might live more harmoniously and sustainably aware of our place in the ecology of our local, national and international ecosystems.

For those of us who are able to get outside beyond our homes, a daily maximum two hours of exercise offers up the prospect of noticing anew the natural landscapes that exist in our streets, along towpaths, footpaths and parks. The change in seasons with the change to British Summertime offers more daylight hours, and we have so far been fortunate that the weather has been kind for this time of year. Reduced motorised traffic and fewer vapour trails of aeroplanes in the sky have resulted in reduced air pollution. The dawn and dusk chorus of blackbirds, sparrows and wood pigeons is more audible.

For those unable to leave their homes, opening windows to listen to nature has become important. The sound of birdsong has a proven health benefit in reducing stress to the listener. Being able to focus attention to plants: whether indoor house plants or impromptu pots of windowsill herbs all give a connection to a natural life rhythm. To plant seeds is to enact a sense of hope, to watch new life form and grow offers the prospect that there will be tomorrows, and that while life will inevitably be very tough for the many of us, there remains a constant hopeful gift that the natural world gives: that the earth still orbits the sun, that flora and fauna still grow, and that we, ourselves might find more sustainable ways of living that are slower, kinder more sustaining in the future for ourselves, our families and our communities more generally.

On my walks around Beeston, I have renewed pleasure and attachment to our trees, many of which are or have been in bloom: cherry trees, magnolias have all been heavy of bow with blooms, large bees and hover files seem more present as they gather nectar and pollinate plants. Given my #TreesOfBeeston column, I would ask that during this lockdown time, TheBeestonian offers a space where we can share our favourite #TreesOfBeeston. Post on Twitter (linking @Beestonian, hashtag #TreesOfBeeston with your favourite trees you have seen during lockdown and why you love them. It would be good to map this renewed appreciation and focus positive attention to the wonderful trees we have and value as part of our local geography. It would be a bit like a little Mass Observation exercise, a local voluntary survey of the trees most appreciated, that can then be mapped, comments collated, as a reminder that the natural world in and around Beeston helped human Beestonians through this time.

I know many, including myself, have found salve and respite in gardening. To be able to plant and begin to grow seeds that will eventually grow into herbs or vegetables for later eating in the summer is to connect with the earth and to feel a little more in control of where our food might be coming from. For those of us who enjoy foraging for wild garlic, nettles and garlic mustard and dandelions, it is an opportunity to appreciate the wild plants that somehow manage to return and survive in the cracks of pavements and along grass verges (although picking these might be bad for one’s health so best leave these for the birds and bees). While saddened that events like Greening Beeston’s seed swap could not take place, finding local activities celebrating the restorative and sustaining power of nature during lockdown has been affirming. Incredible Edible Beeston had only just begun planting its first community patch, but its members can be found on Instagram and Facebook alongside Beeston Eco-Action Team, sharing advice on gardening, planting, growing. Such times give renewed focus that plant lore and knowing how to grow herbs and vegetables is as vital to resilience as knowing and appreciating the trees and natural ecosystems in and around Beeston. My own #ApothecaryAllotmentGarden project: growing as much of my own wild plants and veggies as I am able in my small back garden has become vital to my mental and physical wellbeing. Connecting with others who share these passions means that as a community, we are able to collectively offer civic support to others, share our plant and nature knowledge and grow in sustainable resilience through such trying times.

Stay safe, keep well and look for the enriching natural world in your daily lives.

Dr JN

References: Orwell, G (1946) Some Thoughts on The Common Toad. First published in Tribune, 12 April 1946. From the Complete Works, XVIII, 2970, p. 238. https://www.orwellfoundation. com/the-Orwell-foundation/Orwell/essaysand-other-works/some-thoughts-on-thecommon-toad/

Good things come to those who craft

Craft communities thrive on their sense of togetherness and the sharing of skills and ideas. If you’ve ever observed participants in a creative workshop you might have noticed the warmth in exchanges between them, insecurities reassured by supportive comments and genuine appreciation shown for each other’s work – it’s powerful stuff!

These are the subtle things that give sessions a depth of meaning for some that goes far beyond a simple gathering to create something together. Group creativity is providing a vital support for some people in our community, a place to be on a particular night of the week, an escape from the pressures of their daily lives and often an opportunity to meet people.

Members of one local community group explain the value of these meetings to them.

‘I love learning from others and sharing new craft experiences together has been brilliant. We’ve had a tough year emotionally and the group offered us an opportunity to distract from reality and just be.’

‘I’ve enjoyed arriving in the group at the time of making the quilt squares, Monday nights have given me space, time for reflections and exercising my mind.’

So what has become of these groups, now that all physical meetings have stopped?

Well as you might expect from a bunch of creatives, Beeston networks are using all of the resources available to them to keep communities connected. Both WIs are meeting online and some craft groups are keeping projects going over WhatsApp. Via Facebook, Creative Beeston and Made in Beeston are still supporting local makers and Julie, who runs the Crafts in Beeston group has been sharing other groups to join and inspiration for new creative occupations. That’s where I discovered Beeston Canalside Heritage Centre’s project to encourage local people to submit a piece based on what community means to them.

‘Despite social distancing and the restrictions brought on by the pandemic, it’s heartening to see the kindness, care and community feeling that has strengthened during this crisis both in the ‘virtual’ and the real world. While we may be apart more than ever, physically, we are more united as a community than we have been in a long time.’

And of course, with access to the internet, there are a variety of ways that groups can connect. At the first Monday Zoom meet-up, the regulars talked about how enforced downtime had been affecting their creative pursuits. Although they had not yet tapped into the many online courses and workshops that had been popping up all over social media, they had found that they were now ‘having time to do things they don’t usually have time for,’ they ‘had a lot more energy’ and were ‘seeing more projects through’ instead of the usually amassed pile of *WIPs, UFOs and PHDs.

If you scan your social media newsfeeds you will hear of people learning new songs on their guitars, resurrecting their love for painting and there is a great deal of decorating going on! Is this spring fever or isolation fever? Although this surge of creativity may well die down when the dust settles on this strange situation and we become more at peace, one thing is clear, creativity is helping! You only have to take a walk around the block to see the handcrafted rainbows in windows and your spirits are instantly lifted. The rainbows are a message of hope, they are our way of connecting with each other visually through the medium of chalk and paint.

For dedicated crafters with kids, the extra burden of home-educating can eat into their valuable crafting time, so waiting until ‘the boys are on their screen time’ has been a good solution. Also creating together has been on the agenda in many households, strengthening family bonds. As a bonus, some members of the Monday night group who have previously only been able to support from afar are now able to join Zoom sessions all the way from the North and South of France. This Beeston born group has gone international!

A shared concerned is ‘how long’ we are going to be physically isolated from one another. Although it is relatively easy to order craft supplies over the internet these days and many local businesses are happy to post out or deliver, we spare a thought for those who don’t have access to the internet or are finding it difficult to connect. We like to create a scenario where they have been hoarding yarn for several months and are blissfully knitting by the radio, cat on lap, but we know that some individuals will be finding their forced circumstances hard.

Isolation can be incredibly difficult for many, especially those who struggle with their mental health, and within groups steps have been taken to keep in contact with individuals that may be suffering in silence. It is wonderful to see the local support groups online that have been set up to seek out some of these people too.

Routine can be terribly important to our well being, which is why most groups have stuck to their original time to meet online. You can join the Bee Creative Community Workshops at 7:00 pm on Monday evenings via the closed group on Facebook.

To quote Two Little Magpies, ‘good things come to those who craft.’

*works in progress, unfinished objects and projects half done.

DU

Motherhood in a pandemic

WELL. GUYS. What a year we are having. I hope you’re all doing ok, and I really hope you are all reading this at home with the curtains tightly closed in case that creepy neighbour walks past again and waves. If you don’t have one of those, it’s you. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

There are rainbows in windows everywhere, thanking our key workers for their brilliant efforts, and behind each one is a parent who is relieved to have a half an hour activity with their bored offspring. Homeschooling started weeks ago with an enthusiastic bang, parents with well-meaning lesson plans all sat down on that first Monday and smashed through a day of spellings and maths, with some colouring-in for balance. Now, 3 weeks into the lockdown, we rarely know where the kids are and aren’t entirely sure if we’ve fed them today. Lesson plans have been replaced with shrugs and a glass of red. Minecraft is now a STEM activity and Roblox ticks the maths box because, I dunno really, it has numbers in?

“There is a lot of talk of mental health and wellbeing around on the internet at the moment, and for people with kids who are themselves at huge risk of losing their livelihoods (HELLO!) I think it’s for the best that we don’t try to be superhuman through all of this.”

I really thought I’d be fine with homeschooling. Keeping the kid on track, not really teaching but allowing her mind to stay academically active. No. Nope. Not even slightly. Right now she’s sat in a bucket of what I suspect is rainwater, Skyping her best mate on an old phone we’ve agreed she can use and eating what looks like raw frozen chips. I’m indoors watching Bargain Hunt and writing this. We started well, but the Easter Holidays arrived and it felt a bit unfair to force her to do school work, so now every day is a Sunday afternoon and I’m not sure that time exists any more.

There is a lot of talk of mental health and wellbeing around on the internet at the moment, and for people with kids who are themselves at huge risk of losing their livelihoods (HELLO!) I think it’s for the best that we don’t try to be superhuman through all of this. Getting through each day as peacefully as possible is the most we can ask of ourselves. Feel free to learn a new skill, but also feel free not to. It turns out that ‘not having time’ was never the reason I didn’t learn to juggle or learn another language. If you want to clear out your underwear drawer, brilliant. If you want to eat ice lollies for breakfast, also brilliant! Do whatever you and your kids need to and ignore the pressure to do more. This is a pandemic, not The Real Housewives of Beeston.

DL

How has the lockdown affected our universities?

The last few weeks have obviously seen a change in how Universities have been working, or indeed how they have been able to work, but working they have been…

Teaching

In the days leading up to the ‘lockdown,’ much focus was on ensuring that students could continue to access the learning they needed to complete this academic year. The last few weeks of the teaching semester have moved online. We commonly record our lectures anyway, but teaching online is more than just providing an audio file to accompany a set of PowerPoint slides – and it is the important interactive elements of our learning support that led to many staff doing a bit of a crash course in various online platforms towards the end of March.

Universities have also been putting things in place to ensure students can get the marks they need to progress through their degrees, or, most importantly for final-year students, graduate with a degree result that is a fair reflection of their efforts. Graduation ceremonies themselves have been postponed but there’ll be little delay in final year students getting their degrees. Some have even already graduated, as you may have seen recently on BBCs The One Show, some University of Nottingham final-year medical students graduated early this year so they could start supporting NHS work immediately. A heartfelt round of applause to them, in particular, this week along with the final-year student nurses who have signed up for extended placements at this particularly challenging time.

Research

The move to a more virtual world has not stopped research across the University either, although in large parts of it there has been a shift to writing up work rather than doing new experiments, or a (re) new(ed) focus on desk-based work. Most of the University’s laboratories cannot be accessed at the moment, and travel restrictions have also paused some research programmes. Many of us have research networks across the UK and overseas and meeting these colleagues has now become a similar experience to meetings with people in our own department. There’s been a debate for some time in my own academic circles about how much we should be travelling anyway, given short- and longer-term environmental impacts of international travel. The coming months will see an increase in online workshops and conferences and it will be interesting to see how people take to these as an alternative to meeting in person and if behaviours remain changed in a post-COVID-19 world – no doubt someone will be doing some research on that.

Service

Laboratories that have remained open in the University have largely been those that have been working on COVID-19 related work, for example as part of a national effort to understand the genetic code of the virus. Equipment from both Nottingham universities was also loaned, early on in the shutdown, to the national testing effort. About £1 million worth of Nottingham PCR machines are now in the new Lighthouse Laboratories being used for running COVID-19 tests.

What next?

As we settle down into the rest of this academic year with a clear plan of what we are doing (and a big thanks to those colleagues who put in significant shifts to ensure those plans were in place), thoughts also turn to next year. Our big sisters and brothers in the national press have been speculating and reporting on concerns for university finances over the coming months, the sector will likely be hit substantially along with many others. We also wait and see if Freshers’ Weeks in the autumn are likely to be seen as a good idea, or if we’ll still be operating largely virtually for the new academic year. As with us all, we’ll just wait and see on those things and in the meantime keep supporting each other and others as best we can.

Take care.

MJ

Some kind of normal

Back in the day, I started off in a career in retail back at good ole Woollies, yes Woolworth’s. Ahh, the memories! Guarding the pick n mix sweets with eagle eye detection from tea leaves. Ahh, I leave it off my C.V. though, as trying not to pull the plug on the repetitive JML adverts and swearing the ultimate destruction of the endless novelty Christmas Toys isn’t up there with a master’s degree in biochemical studies. Over the years I have been a retail tart, bouncing round the big stores like a greedy kid in many a cake shop. I have seen so much from naughty flings, fallings out, fights, accidental store lock-ins, not so accidental store live-ins, sleazy managers, excessively sleazy managers and break downs, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you…

It’s the people I stay for, the banter between colleagues, the humour, the chatting to that one person who hasn’t spoke to a single person all day, the 96-year old whose life advice is to drink gin and listen to jazz, the regulars who join in the fun and brighten up the day. I’ve been threatened, hit on, slapped, yelled at, and ultimately cried in the loo cuz that’s the only place you can escape. I stayed in retail, I never set out to stay, at some point, the repetitiveness and the fact it paid the bills became normal for me, but that’s the whole point of this piece currently there is no normal, everything I thought I knew is wrong I can tell you that even with an extensive retail background I have never seen anything quite like it.

A colleague told me she was close to tears as she was thanked by a customer for continuing to work; being appreciated goes a long way. The sheer panic for self-care and fear of catching it or spreading it, no one wants to be at risk, meticulously washing hands to the point of giving ourselves dermatitis. Everybody is scared we are scared, it’s far from an ideal situation I’m not going to lie, the sheer anxiety while performing even the simplest of jobs has reduced me to a nervous wreck. The safety guidelines of a 2m distance are there to protect everyone I cannot stress the need to follow this enough. We understand it’s difficult and the sheer frustration at this being inconvenient however we are risking everything in enabling helping to be able to provide your family with essentials. No Sandra, that doesn’t mean going shopping in for Pringles and pineapple Jaffa cakes cuz there’s nowhere else to go and boredom has set in.

We are in unknown waters I really couldn’t have guessed the massive bog roll shortage or the fact so few people eat pot noodles even through a pandemic has stripped all the other shelves. Currently, I feel like a kid who is grounded only allowed out to go to work, if everyone behaves maybe we can get back to some kind of normal, even if that entails taking up cross knit, macramé or pigeon counting at least there’s a chance to be bored, stay in, be safe, and play nice!

LD

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