Experiencing lockdown as a 12 year-old

With the Coronavirus spreading like a wildfire, the UK was put under lockdown restrictions with millions staying at home and Beeston is no exception. Following this announcement, schools were closed, and many pupils were sent home but what have they been up to?

Well, I can’t really tell you what the 1000 plus students at my school got up to during their quarantine time but I can tell you what I did!

Most of my time under quarantine is spent at home doing quite a wide variety of things including schoolwork.

If I’m not at home I’ve been at school two days a week as my parents are both key workers. At school, we tend to do all the work in the sixth form block computer room. In there we use Google Classrooms which is a platform where teachers assign tasks, and we must respond to them by attaching a Word document. What I like about it is that the teachers can respond to our work and mark it via email. I much prefer having a real human in the room though.

At school, there was only about 10 of us, and we sometimes got an extra bit of break to play football or hide and seek if it was raining. The sixth form building is great for hide and seek.

“I think we could all learn something from this lockdown even though it has often been super boring!”

In terms of communicating I often Whatsapp or email my friends, and on Friday nights I join the Beestonian Publess Quiz on Zoom (I really recommend it!) Since the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions have been partially lifted, I have seen some friends whilst following the social distancing guidelines.

When I’m at home I’m also learning new things. A few weeks ago I painted the back garden fence and I have tried several new recipes. I think we could all learn something from this lockdown even though it has often been super boring!

EC

The New State of Independents

If you are a regular to this magazine, you will have no doubt read about some of our amazing independent Beeston businesses and the inspirational people behind them. It is their words that you will be reading in this edition. After all, no-one can describe the impact that the pandemic has had on them and their businesses, better than they can.

First up is Houlia, artisan baker and owner of The Doughmother on Central Avenue. With just over a year under her belt, this has been a particularly trying time for her. Whilst larger, older, more established businesses may be able to batten down the hatches until all this is over and survive on their profits, this is not an option when you are still building your business.

“The impact it has had on all sorts of businesses is undeniable. Cafes, restaurants and businesses of a similar nature have been hit quite hard and we started feeling its effects weeks before the lockdown was announced. With the government giving daily briefings, it became obvious to me that I had to take it one day at a time and adjust to the new fluid reality.

I have to admit that my brain was racing during the first days trying to weigh up what would happen and how to best plan for the following days. But I soon realised that thinking about it was causing extra stress and worry while experiencing an already stressful situation.

Sourcing the ingredients I needed became significantly more difficult as wholesalers, stockists and flour mills faced unprecedented demand and had to limit their services to cope with the pressure. Simply closing the bakery until everything assumes normality again was an obvious choice but would not have been a very helpful one on many aspects. I decided to have the shop open twice a week, primarily on an order-collection basis, instead of having the shop open 6 days a week as before the lockdown.

This way I can still have a presence as a business and also keep providing the community with bread during the lockdown, to some extent at least. I can balance out what is on-demand with what is on offer, minimise waste during these days of ingredient scarcity and implement a degree of social distancing. Under extraordinary circumstances, it is important to search for new modes of functioning so that you can keep going. It builds a new kind of resilience and strength in people.

It is extraordinary to see entire societies slow down, adapt to the new reality, learn to live with less and strengthen community ties. So I, in a way, appreciate it as an experience, I think we can learn a great deal from it as individuals and communities. In the post-COVID reality, after we have mourned our losses, we will be stronger and more appreciative of life and things we took for granted before.”

We are so pleased to be able to continue to buy fresh bread and pastries and support your wonderful bakery Houlia. So with the availability of The Doughmother’s delights restricted but not gone altogether, and being somewhat confined to our homes, we might be needing a little help with managing our waistlines! I know that strictly speaking we are allowed out to exercise daily, but that is not without its stresses and some of us might prefer not to, or cannot due to being on the vulnerable list.

“The last few weeks, as for many, have been a real rollercoaster of emotions; fear, panic, sadness but also at times overwhelming joy and happiness.”

For that reason it is good to see that keeping moving, and ensuring your favourite jeans will still fit after lockdown, is being made easier by the menu of online classes around the clock. I asked Kitchen Dancing’s Jo, how she had managed to re-create the personal and engaging dance experience from behind a screen.

“The last few weeks, as for many, have been a real rollercoaster of emotions; fear, panic, sadness but also at times overwhelming joy and happiness. It hit me around two weeks prior to lockdown that I was going to have to find a way to transfer the amazing energy and feeling that we all get from our dance classes together, into a new reality where we couldn’t meet in person.

The only solution was to go online which, to be honest, scared me to death due to my lack of technical ability, but when reality hits you either have to adapt or risk losing your business and everything you’ve worked so hard for. Fight and determination certainly kicked in. Thus the ‘disco den’ was born!!

I spent the first couple of weeks going round in circles with technology, investigating various online platforms, having frustrations with Wi-Fi and lots of head-scratching around the grey area of music copyright – the trials and research are still ongoing to create the ultimate online dance class and what’s even trickier is negotiating exclusive access to the Wi-Fi with the kids…

However, for now, I feel happy with the route I have taken with free music-themed dance fitness classes live from the ‘disco den’ (aka my lounge) on Facebook Live and Zoom which makes it accessible to all, with the option to contribute an amount which the participant feels is worthy of their experience. Any earnings over and above my usual weekly classes will be donated to a local charity. Although finances are being squeezed at present (especially as I also run a travel business), it makes me so happy to share my love of dance and music with others and also to see the positive impact it is having on others wellbeing at this time which is far more important right now.

This whole experience has not only heightened my passion for what I do, but strengthened my resilience and determination to continue down the bumpy road of self-employment. In the words of my hero, Dolly Parton ‘Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen. Pour myself a cup of ambition…!’ So here’s to stumbling through this difficult time together and coming out on the right side!”

Absolutely Jo, your energy and passion for life is bursting out of the laptop as I join in every Wednesday morning! The wellbeing aspect to our daily lives, in such a time of uncertainty and worry, is made that much easier by dancing your cares away a few times a week.

Hardly surprisingly, with all this extra time in our homes that compost and bedding plants are constantly on order and home improvements have taken precedence over the general housework tasks. Which brings me to our last small business owner Mark Lowe, who makes practical objects for the home that are as elegant as they are functional.

I caught up with Mark’s wife and business partner Marianne, who revealed an added tragedy to their lockdown story which has put incredible strain on their family and the business.

“Prior to lockdown, my parents were involved in a major road traffic accident in Aberdeen, Scotland. Mark and I spent a week in Aberdeen and then I stayed for another. My parents are now back in Nottingham and I am currently caring for my father, my mum is still in hospital. For us, at Mark Lowe, it hasn’t been a normal lockdown. Our business was put on hold and I haven’t been around very much.

With ‘lockdown’ we are both at home and this has given us time to spend on the business. We spent time developing new products prior to this and had exhibited them at a show. We have since photographed them and added them onto our website. The only issue was that with no essential travel we couldn’t go to our professional photographer and so the photography was completed by Mark, which I think he’s done a great job of!

We have limited access to materials and of course orders and postage are delayed, which we have had to be aware of when receiving orders. Thankfully we have some stock and choice options – lampshades in different colours and a range of cords in different shades.

We are at present mainly an internet based company and so this hasn’t been affected as such. Unfortunately, we had signed up to do three large design shows nationally and these have had to be cancelled, understandably. The knock-on effect of this is, we often meet potential buyers at the shows who have seen our products online and want to see them in the flesh and aren’t currently able to. Also, there are buyers who do not internet shop and this is where we would meet them.

Our children are at home, therefore we have joined in with the masses of parents homeschooling, and all its joys! We are staying positive and trying to make the best of our time together, being creative and organising our business, so that hopefully we can continue to grow and develop in the future.”

It is truly inspiring to hear how these wonderful creative people have both adapted so quickly to the sudden and dramatic changes, whilst considering their responsibility to keep their community safe. It is even more vital that we show our support for all of our indie businesses to help them weather this storm because they are living and breathing people in our community, and their creative contribution adds warmth and colour to our lives.

In the meantime, why not pop on over to their Facebook pages and show them some <3

https://www.facebook.com/thedoughmother/

https://www.facebook.com/kitchendancingjo/
http://www.kitchendancing.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/marklowe.co.uk/
https://marklowe.co.uk/

DU

The more things stay the same the more they change

I used to get/find/stumble upon inspiration for my Beestonian columns on my commute to work, either peering, half-awake, from the window on an Indigo or pottering along towards the West Entrance after a coffee in Greenhood. It gave me time to think about something to say and how I might go about saying it…

My current commute is about 3 seconds.

I thought it might be witty to just stop there but 1) the Beestonian’s (other?!) Yorkshireman is the funny one and 2) I’ve got a page to fill and an editor wanting copy.

So, words I shall write and if your lockdown’s not eased too much, you can keep reading if you want.

It’s easy to blame a lack of commuting time for a lack of inspiration but I think actually I’ve just hit some kind of lockdown stasis. It’s also been marking season at work and it’s not my favourite part of the job. I enjoy ‘teaching’ but in most cases, marking is the one part of learning facilitation that I find a bit of a drag. There are notable exceptions, I was marking dissertations over, what was technically speaking, the spring vacation and it’s great to see the original research work that our students undertake – they do a great job. The added bonus marking wise is that every dissertation is on a different topic.

I think I’m also suffering a bit from hope. Hope of what exactly I’m not sure, but as discussions begin about things easing and recovering, my own emotions seem to do the opposite. Maybe our copy deadline is just bad timing, and in a week’s time my clarity will be restored, and words will flow from my fingers like something that flows easily. But at the moment lockdown actually appears more straightforward than what might come next. Shutting down was/is a much simpler process than opening up again.

My own research is about benchmarking Earth systems, it’s based on the idea that by going further and further back in time we can find out how a given system can respond to a given forcing, and what happens if and when it breaks. There’s always a no-analogue problem though. That is, it’s possible the system can go into a state it’s never been in before; that however much we try we’re not going to find a perfect time in the past to explain where we might end up next.

“We’re not approaching a new normal, we’re heading for complete unknown.”

And at the moment it feels we’re moving day by day, more and more into a no-analogue space. We’re not approaching a new normal, we’re heading for complete unknown. Our current lockdown is unsustainable, but the forcing isn’t going away anytime soon. So how do our existing systems cope with that? If we’ve time/space/stimulants enough to worry about it further, should they?

What we hope (i.e. argue with confidence for in grant proposals) is that we understand the present and past systems enough that we can project what will happen to them with confidence in any potential future scenario. My guess is that our scenario testing will be substantially examined in the coming weeks, months and years.

We also, though, relish the challenge (clearly not personally this month!) and trust that we can find new ways, technological, philosophical or other, to keep going and keep growing. Maybe we focus on the positives, of which there are many, or re-scale our horizons and gain new perspectives. Maybe we churn out words into the ether as something selfishly cathartic…

If you know please contact my editor.

MJ

Lockdaaaaaann

Eeee Yup fellow and probably sum what megaly bored, Beatsonites! I hope this issue has brightened your day, we have cracking writers here at the Beestonian and together we aim to put a great big smile on a face or two, even if we are not currently in glorious glossy print. Last issue I shared my frustrations with the retail sector (I went full-on grrr Lulu hulk mode) with how things are a bit, well putting it bluntly, a bit on the crap side at the moment. After weeks of lockdown, even with social interactions that continually being at work brings, plus having personal projects to keep me busy, I started to miss my old life of gigging, being a social butterfly, dining out and drinks at the local.

After a pretty stressful shift, I brought a flamingo Daiquiri box of cocktail (on offer and essential may I add), enough munchies to start a small business and pondered what could I possibly do with my weekend that didn’t involve cleaning. Well, flamingo flavoured was actually code for quite disgusting taste of floor cleaner and needed enough juice added to it. I’m sure it wasn’t even alcohol anymore. Cocktail in hand I then set about reclaiming my old life back by getting with the times and delving into the world of watch parties (not to be confused with dogging, does that class as social distancing?)

Anyhoo, So I started my Lockdown sesh, yup the Friday night to end all Friday nights, dodgy cocktail based drink in hand and realised the benefits to all this, I had no bus to catch, there’s little to no queue for the loo, some 7-foot twonk isn’t going to stand in front of you and no pissed teenager is going to trip and pour a two pint of Strongbow over you while screaming ‘omg am not gonna be able to get up for school tomorrow!’ (I am not shaming I was also the drunken teenager and it’s always more fun that way round). Instead, the Friday night start to the weekend is a more sedate affair during this point in time (i don’t need to tell you what’s going on, we ALLL know), all that’s needed is some sort of device to tune into the interweb and a working connection. My favourite plus in all this is I sat in my cookie monster onesie no effort made, no makeup which has usually morphed into Alice Cooper style in the sweaty clubs and hair so messy I could have been mistaken for having shock therapy.

Fear of missing out is now a thing of the past, staying in is the new norm and quick to respond was the internet. Pop up and watch parties started to be announced all over the place, normally on Facebook but occasionally on YouTube, whatever your musical orientation there are live music performances to suit everyone. Leftlion magazine Nottingham host Sofa Sessions, which features acoustic artists every night at 8 pm until, as they say, the Lockdown is lifted or they run out of artists. There’s also Folk Beeston – Club show every Friday night from 8 pm, I tuned in to the soothing sounds of Colin Tucker, Tom Paxton, guests and a rather amusing finger puppet show by Dave Mooney. We Shall Overcome runs successful virtual gigs as does Punk for The Homeless, I tuned in to catch Paul Carbuncle, poetry by Eagle Spitz and the raw musical stylings of Pixie Styx. The Steampunk in me tuned in to see Alice’s Night Circus as she bravely took to fans requests that included Green Day and Disney (not together you understand.)

There’s old school dance in the form of Moon dance Lockdown Sessions, it’s mesmerizing to actually watch DJs play, normally most can only see the top of most of the DJs heads while they perform but with live stream, you can watch it in their own habitat while they dad dance and drink away the night (Judge Jules set for Back to the old Pool was hilarious) while having a good old nosey around peoples places without getting arrested.

I finished my evening feeling without it taking me an hour to get home by tram, I simply switched off my laptop and my adventure was complete. If this is the future of entertainment at least it has its perks, so for now I can get that all-important music fix I miss so much, and while it’s not the same as live hopefully it goes some way to keeping me sane (well ish) Thank you and goodnight!

LD

Spring Lockdown: The Elder and Hawthorn

May is a glorious month for trees: the white blossoms of the Hawthorn – sometimes referred to as The May Tree – come into full bloom.

The elder with its sweet-scented blossoms hang heavy ready for keen foragers to revel in the short window of opportunity to make cordials and fermented beverages. Privets, when left to grow, produce small highly scented yellowy-white blossoms that attract the bees and pollinators. Along with the presence of heavy hanging lilacs over garden fences and hedges, May is a reminder from our resident tree community of the multi-sensual gifts of nature’s growth as buds and seedlings begin to flower and shoot, leaves of deciduous trees begin to unfurl.

Our bird community is in full nesting flow: dawn and dusk choruses sound louder with reduced traffic, the busyness of garden birds gathering nesting materials a reminder both of the importance of the ‘wildflowers’ that provide the insect habitats necessary for birds to seek food, but also a reminder that between now and September, tree cutting or felling should be halted so that resident birds are able to nest and rear their broods.

The swifts have returned. Bats have begun their warm evening flypasts for gnats. Despite the hardships that prevail in the human world, the trees in our communities remind human inhabitants that there is an abundance of affirming life, and more importantly in these hard human times, that hope remains. In these uncertain and stressful lockdown times, the mental, emotional and physical comfort gifted by the life enabled through the presence of trees (give a tree a hug, hippy sounding I know, but it feels good!), the presence of our tree community feels especially welcomed.

In this column, I want to share my love of two trees that can be found along the embankments of train tracks and along the canal towpaths. Both marker the transition from spring into summer: to warmer more abundant times whose flowers and berries help sustain through to the autumn: The Elder and the Hawthorn trees.

The Elder and the Hawthorn

These are both wonderful ‘hedge’ trees, and can be seen along canal side towpaths, railways embankments and along the edges of waste-grounds. These hedgerow trees gift a range of culinary and wellbeing gifts for those who wish to research more and forage. John Wright’s (2016) book A Natural History of the Hedgerow gives fulsome detailing of the history of both these trees in the shaping of the landscapes of the British Isles, and of their ascribed mystical properties, natural history importance as well as their well-being and culinary uses. I will summarise some of these below. As a caveat to what follows, if you do find yourself inspired and wanting to forage for the flowers, please do follow the forager’s code of practice, ALWAYS double-check anything that you might want to pick for consumption, make sure you are legally able to access the plants / have permission, that you only ever pick a few specimens from one plant, that your plants are located away from polluting roadsides and are above large dog height (for obvious non-polluting reasons!), and that what you pick is only for your consumption. When in doubt, Don’t. (see Richard Mabey’s classic book, Food For Free if you are interested further).

The Elder (Sambucus nigra)

The Elder is a remarkable tree, and can be identified at this time of year from the multiple headed tiny white flowers that produce a head of flowers all from one stem (panicle). In addition to attracting pollinating insects, ladybirds are often to be found on or near an elder for the presence of green and black aphids that are attracted to the flowers. In turn, birds and bats feed on both the flower heads and insects, and Elder attracts a diverse range of butterfly, moth and fungus – the latter most obviously the edible but highly gelatinous Jelly Ear fungus. I personally err on the side of caution around picking fungus, preferring instead to gather the Elderflower heads that can be consumed when processed, either heads individually when lightly coated in batter and fried), the flowers processed to make a light, highly fragrant sweet cordial or fermented to make a fizzy champagne-like alcoholic homebrew. One only needs to gather one or two dozen dry open flower heads to achieve such a brew, ensuring that all insects are knocked off the stems before processing). There is a wealth of recipes online, but please if you are tempted, do your research and gather responsibly as previously outlined. Flowers left to grow on the Elder will turn over the course of the summer into dark elderberries in early autumn. While these have trace toxic elements and should not be eaten raw, they can be processed to be made into a cordial or dried. Through the process of drying and cooking, toxicity is removed, retaining the rich vitamin C and antibacterial properties which has seen elderberry cordial regarded as a hedgerow staple for making cough syrups.

The Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Hawthorns have a long history of being used in hedge planting. The ‘thorn’ of the name indicative of its spikey think branches that interweave, proving ideal in the history of enclosure for dividing up land and discouraging any trespassers through their tightly interwoven branches. Sometimes referred to historically as whitethorn (and so as not to confuse it with the lower-lying blackthorn from which sloe berries can be gathered), the Whitethorn’s white flowers that also gift it the colloquial name of ‘May Tree’, turn into dark red haw berries which are much beloved by birds, and can be used when processed in making a bitterish but tasty jam or jelly that goes well with cooked meats and cheeses. A word of caution though: the Haw berries are a challenge to gather (protective gloves and a lot of patience!). The young green leaves of the Hawthorn that reveal themselves before the blossom can be eaten in early spring, and in past times the hawthorn was also known as the ‘bread and cheese’ tree because of the nutty flavour of the leaves that provided excellent accompaniment to bread and cheese to supplement past rural diets – once the tree flowers, however, the leaves are too bitter to consume. Unlike the fragrant Elder, the hawthorn’s blossoms, well, stink. I might be kind and say an ‘acquired’ scent, but it has in the past been compared to rotten fish. No matter, the smaller garden birds, the Sparrows and Dunnocks, Robins, Blue and Great Tits and Wrens love this tree for its contorted branches in which to hide from predators. The blackbirds that nest in my back garden Elder love the high tips of the Hawthorn from which to sing their morning and evening song.

DR JN

 

Parenting in the apocolypse

Hey Beestonians, I do hope you are doing well and are safe at home. That’s how we start our sentences now isn’t it? Not, ‘what have you been up to?’ or ‘been anywhere nice?’ Now we chat to people like we’re Victorian novelists.

Every communication begins with ‘I sincerely hope this letter finds you and your family in good health.’ Mr Darcy is spinning in his grave with excitement at it all.

Those of us with children at home seem to have fallen into one of three categories.

  1. Diligent home-schooling and regular work sent to school for marking, routines adhered to and alarms set in the morning.
  2. Maybe we do a couple of lessons a week and send a photo of a drawing to assure the school we are still alive, no alarms and very little diligence, a few arguments per day but no throwing things.
  3. The kids are feral/unsure as to location.

We have settled into category 2 at the moment. We do a couple of bits of school work and send a picture when we remember, but mostly do our own thing and try to stay sane. Our daughter’s school topic was Vikings, so instead of scholarly research and reading we built the most amazing Viking settlement out of Lego and had a full on war. No one learnt anything, but we will remember the fun we had. I reckon that’s the goal in a time of our lives when goals are paused. Just getting through the week sane and healthy, and maybe doing a couple of fun bits and bobs that the kiddos will remember.

By far the most memorable part of all of this for me is the sheer relentlessness of being a parent. I know that sounds daft because you sign up for that part when you have kids, but you also send them to nursery and then school and regain your time and head-space. My daughter has been going to some form of education for the last 7 years, and now she is HERE ALL OF THE TIME, AND WOULD LIKE ANOTHER SNACK PLEASE. I’ve taken to faking needing a wee just to get a few minutes alone upstairs. It’s not that I don’t love her company, but if she asks me another question about Roblox I’m moving into the back seat of my car.

I’m hoping her memories of this period of her life will be positive. We have tried to strike a balance between maintaining school contact and allowing her the freedom to make videos about balloon modelling in her room and send us endless edits. I hope that her main memory is that we were all together for a while. Both my husband and I work long hours and the kiddo is foisted upon grandparents a lot, but she will have had months with us, and got to know us a bit more. I hope that this makes us respect each other a little more and look forward to long weekends of doing nothing when this is all over.

I have a feeling that we will miss this little isolation bubble when we can choose to leave it. It’s either that or we go full Category 3 and teach her how to hunt the local cats with her teeth.

DL

The Naked Civil Servant

Last month, our very own Lulu told us what it’s like to be on the frontline in a large supermarket whilst dealing with the current pandemic, so this month, I thought I’d share my experiences of working from home. Something that I’ve never done before. I work for a large department in the Civil Service. I won’t bore you with the details, as they aren’t that exciting, and the general public seem to have little interest anyway in the ‘background boys’ that help to keep the country running.

Up until now, I have nearly always cycled that few miles into the city centre. Only occasionally using the tram or car, if I have problems with my bike, or the weather is too grim. Down University Boulevard, past the QMC, and along the canal to the office. About a half-hour ride in total, as I don’t have a particularly fast steed, and you definitely won’t see me in lycra. So I’m not really that aerodynamic. I think leaving the house for work is symbolic of earning a wage packet, so imagine my dismay when on the 17th March, an email went around informing everyone that if they can, they should take their Surface Pro home with them and work from there until further notice. Now my role entails part physical and part computer work. So for the first two weeks or so, I spent time sorting out emails, data purging, doing some online training and updating spreadsheets. It took me a few days to adjust to just spending 30 seconds going to work, rather than the 30 minutes I usually take. I was transferred to assisting on web chats, as my usual tasks have come to an end, although I’ve been going in once a month to do some tasks that can’t be done remotely. April’s visit was certainly a strange one, with going into an empty office. Walking around the city centre was weird too, as it was quite desolate at the time.

I’ve tried to discipline myself to not to get too distracted by reading books, spending time on social media and working out the next plot for Lego Nigel. There have been some distractions though in the form of our four pussy cats, as they vie for cuddles, head massages and having a full belly. Pippin is the most persistent for petting, as she keeps jumping onto my desk. I have to divert her away from the Surface Pro’s keyboard, otherwise, she might walk on it and suddenly an important database gets deleted. Virtual meetings through Teams is an interesting experience, as no one switches their cameras on. It’s like being involved in a Radio 4 afternoon play.

“It does feel like we are currently living in a former Eastern Bloc country, where there’s not much on offer and commodities are scarce.”

Although my mental health is still holding up, I would say that my physical health has gone down, as the number of steps that I do has reduced from about 20,000 a day to probably 2000. I haven’t got an accurate figure, as my Fitbit broke some time ago, and I’ve not got a replacement. Besides not cycling to work, I don’t stroll for an hour around the city centre taking photographs, like I used to. Instead, I just sit outside in the garden, having lunch and catching up on Facebook, or doing a sudoku. I know we are ‘allowed’ out, and now the rules about being outdoors have been relaxed, but it just doesn’t feel the same, and I don’t feel enthused to do it, although I have popped to Beeston on occasions. I guess if it was winter, I wouldn’t really go outside at all. This has caused my ‘muffin top’ to now become a whole doughnut, and it’s going to take a lot to shed all these extra pounds. Sleeping is a bit of a hit and miss affair for me at the moment. Not helped by binge-watching Netflix boxsets until the early hours. At least there’s no compulsion to get up early, as we can work whatever hours we like at the moment, as long as we do a full day. So that’s a benefit. My wife is still working. She’s in admin at the QMC. So she tends to wake me up as she’s heading out. Sometimes I can drop back to sleep, sometimes I can’t.

Visiting the pub doesn’t bother me, but the one thing that I do miss is not being able to have a trawl around Beeston’s fair mix of charity shops on a Saturday morning. It’s something that I look forward to doing, as I never know what I might come across, or who I might see. Shopping these days is a bit of a strange affair, with only a few open and having to queue to go in like you were going to a concert or the cinema. It does feel like we are currently living in a former Eastern Bloc country, where there’s not much on offer and commodities are scarce. Queuing up to go into Poundland seems like an oxymoron to me. At least the panic buying mentality over toilet rolls and pasta appears to have come to an end.

In a way I’ve been lucky to be still receiving a full wage, and not furloughed. In another way, I feel that I’ve missed out on all this paid free time, as I have a whole list of things that I want to do, including some DIY, gardening and sorting out stuff. I also have a heap of books to read, including some from local authors that I personally know, but have been amiss in reading their latest offering. I don’t think that I could ever be bored, as there’s always something I could find to do.

No one of course has any idea as to how long this situation is going to go on for. And what are we all going to be like mentally when it’s over? I bet there will be quite a few that will be suffering with agoraphobia and other similar problems. We’ve all become so used to dodging people now and keeping that imaginary two-metre distance apart, that we will all need reassuring that it’s OK to shake hands etc again, and you don’t have to shout over the hedge to your neighbour. It certainly will be strange going back to work, and being in an office of a hundred people, rather than sitting all alone in the house. At least I won’t have to worry about data being lost from the servers anymore.

CF

I am Beeston: Rebecca Jones – Postie

“I was born at the QMC in Nottingham, and I’m originally from Cotgrave. I have two sons, and when I had my oldest son, some 15 years ago, I moved to Mapperley, Gedling and then in the city area, where I have been for a few years now.

“I first discovered Beeston when I was training to be a nursery nurse, and went to Orchard Day Nursery for my college placement. Orchard Day Nursery is a lovely family run nursery which my school friend and I enjoyed going to. We also enjoyed exploring Beeston itself.

“I’ve been working as a postie for nearly nine years now, and certain aspects of my job have helped me with gaining more confidence. I have made lots of friends within Royal Mail, and this has helped me to get to know the people of Beeston, through the different parts of my job and being on Beeston Updated. When I started the job I knew hardly anyone from Beeston, now I feel part of the community. Now nine years later, I have friends all around Beeston and big thanks to my best friend Lisa Jones-Bragan, for her amazing support these past nine years.

“Being a postie can be an important part of the community, especially getting to know people and delivering to the elderly and those with disabilities. Checking on our regular residents can be a bit of reassurance for them. I have in the past done a welfare check on someone. As an ex carer, sometimes your gut instinct kicks in and some things can play on your mind until you get home, so I’d rather know and have peace of mind that people are ok.

“When Owen Jenkins tragically passed away in 2017, I got to see the beautiful, positive side of Beeston’s community. I delivered to the Jenkins family and got to know that they are the warmest loving family you will ever meet. I have got to know a lot of people from around Beeston now, as I have worked all around the area and further afield. Since the lockdown, I’ve felt a lovely sense of community care. One lady a few weeks ago on one of my regular walks gave me some hand sanitiser, which I really appreciated. I’ve also received a lovely Easter card and some mini eggs. I have seen several notes on doors and windows saying ‘thank you’ to the posties.

“Five years ago I fell over during a delivery, on the same week I fractured my hip, and so I was off work for three months. I had to have a titanium plate and some screws put in place. Since then I’ve done two 5k races, to raise money for Women’s Aid and Race for Life. I’ve also done a 10k run for Race for Life. Next year when the lockdown should be over, I’m hoping to do another run, this time for the OWEN (Open Water Education Network) charity, as it’s one that’s close to my heart. I try and visit every charity event that they attend, to help raise money for Owen, in his name.

“Although I don’t live in Beeston, I appreciate the opportunity of talking about myself, as I enjoy my job, working in Beeston and knowing so many lovely people”.

CF

A Zoom with a view

As soon as you get that email, your heart starts pounding, “please join Zoom meeting in progress.” Fantastic, yet another chance to be scrutinized by thirty people all at once. That’s not a meeting, that’s an audition. This is a growing phenomenon phycologists have termed, “Zoom Fatigue.”

The global pandemic has made video conferencing the most important tool in business. I wish I’d have had the foresight to buy shares in Zoom or Skype before the world caved in. Back in January they were worth pence, now you could sell them and retire in the Algarve with your very own butler.

When recruiting new staff for the office, historically a boss would look at your experience, or your ability to work as a team. Now it’s how good your broadband is and the resolution of your webcam. This lack of physical human contact isn’t normal though, in fact I think it’s an invasion of privacy.

When you’re in the office, you can avoid boring Colin when he’s walking towards you down the corridor. You do a tuck and roll into an empty meeting room, pretend to have another phone call, fake death, anything to avoid his mood hoovering demeanour. With Zoom its impossible, eight hours a day, seven days a week, he can be there with you, sat in your own living room, staring into your eyes and slowly eroding your will to live.

Having to be on guard all the time is tiring, you can’t relax. People often Zoom in front of a bookcase, to make them look intelligent. Always remember though that the other viewers are looking at what is behind you, so play it safe. The Dictionary, a couple of Bill Bryson novels, a few cookbooks. Don’t sit there with fifteen copies of Mein Kampf in the background and a Haynes manual for a Volkswagon Beetle; you’ll be furloughed faster than you can say “COVID.” It’s tapped into our love of being nosey. People are speaking but we really aren’t listening, we’re looking at their houses. It’s like an episode of “Through The Keyhole.”

Karen will be giving a presentation on the latest sales figures and all you can think is, “my god, she’s got a rubbish sofa. I think the springs have gone on that. What wallpaper is that? Al Fresco I reckon, someone got their bonus this year, look at the dust on her telly; disgraceful!”

The tidiest place in your house now is anything in the range of the Webcam. Down that lens is the life you aspire too. Clean lines, fresh flowers, perfect lighting, it’s like an Apple advert. A few millimetres either side; crack den. Piles of dirty plates, last night’s takeaway boxes and underwear hanging from light fittings like voodoo trophies.

The worst bit is when you are waiting to go into the Zoom meeting. All you can see is your own horrible face and hair. You look tired, greasy and have jowls hanging down like a fat badger.

I’m starting to detest the “join with video” button. I don’t want to “join with video” can’t we do audio? You know what I look like. They should have a button that allows you to “join with someone else’s face” that would be wonderful. Imagine doing a meeting to discuss the new company logo with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

There is no good camera angle. I’ve seen more nostrils these past few months than a toddlers finger. You can try putting your laptop on books, hanging the webcam from a light fitting. You could send a drone with a GoPro hundreds of feet up into the air, but you still look ugly.

It’s not normal conversation either, because you are acutely aware of everyone’s body language. Even the slightest facial expression is registered. You feel like a Police Officer, watching a press conference, where you just know the person making the appeal is as guilty as hell.

“Janet rolled her eyes then, she hates me.”

“Now Keith looks bored.”

“Great, I’ve offended Carol.”

“Did Dave just swear at me?”

You can’t speak properly because of the delay, you just constantly say, “No you go first, no after you.” Are we talking here or holding the door open?

“You can get trapped in these Zoom meetings, because the worst thing is, everyone knows that you can’t go anywhere.”

Everyone is shouting at each other, it’s just mayhem, it sounds like a football match. It’s the internet, you have a microphone, stop bellowing at me like Brian Blessed you moron.

You can get trapped in these Zoom meetings, because the worst thing is, everyone knows that you can’t go anywhere. You can try and leave but no-one will let you.

“I’ve got to go guys sorry.”

“Where, where can you go, we’re in Lockdown!”

“Err, over near the plant for a bit.”

Every Zoom meeting ends the same way, doesn’t it? People frantically looking around their phone or laptop to try and find the “Leave meeting button” We are then all treated to ten minutes of waggling fingers in full 3D, coming towards us like pink tentacles as they fumble around the screen.

They’ll be a lot of people realizing how much their friends actually hate them now. If they don’t make an effort now it’s unlikely that they’re going to when the world returns to normal. People are literally spending all day sitting around staring at the walls and waiting for deliveries, they’ve had hours of free time and they still don’t call you. Imagine getting stood up now for a better internet offer, that would be brutal.

“Sorry mate I can’t come to your Zoom birthday, my third cousin is doing a Disney Quiz!”

Speaking of quizzes, please someone save me from this hell. Every single day there is another one, it’s absolutely endless, I feel like I’m in a never-ending edition of Mastermind. Our kids aren’t getting educated now, they are just learning loads of pointless trivia. They will grow up with no qualifications, unable to get a job, but at least they’ll be able to tell you what the depth of Lake Tahoe is to the nearest metre.

What I would say is that if you’re a quizmaster enjoy this moment in the spotlight. You might be popular now, but try hosting a zoom quiz after lockdown.

“No thanks Kev you weirdo, we only let you do it because you had the best broadband, now we’re off out for a drink with our real friends. This is one round you aren’t involved in!”

“Looking good on Zoom is now a major concern for people, it’s like the nightmare of the Instagram selfie but live.”

The Zoom host has all the power. It’s basically a dictatorship. Sitting there lauding it over everyone, monitoring the screens, like a perverted security guard.

“Obey me or I will silence you!”

Looking good on Zoom is now a major concern for people, it’s like the nightmare of the Instagram selfie but live. I have seen tutorials on YouTube. These American Zoom Guru’s, with their perfect physique, skin and teeth, telling us how beautiful we can look just by switching on a desk lamp. They claim that they can help you “slay your Zoom meeting.”

They offer handy tips like the clothing you should wear (simple and professional) the way you should always look interested, by sitting there with an inane grin on your face like a Waxwork Amanda Holden.

Working from home isn’t easy, especially when the children are trapped with you. But fear not, the Guru has advice for you there too. “Tell the children that when the computer is on, Mummy or Daddy are working. If they are going to choke on those grapes, they need to do it outside of work hours.”

Stop putting pressure on yourself, it’s an achievement at the moment just to get out of bed, just get through the days, that’s all we need to do. This isn’t about winning or succeeding, it’s about surviving.

Just have a whip-round with a wet wipe and put some pants on, that’s all you need to do. Oh and don’t worry about boring Colin, before you know it things will have returned to normal and then you can ignore him in person.

SB

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