Gary Fox: bus driver

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“When lockdown began I was actually on long-term sick leave, but getting ready to return to work. Eventually, in May, I returned, but things were quite different. My route (the 510) was only running at peak time, and on-demand at other times, though we didn’t see much demand. Our passengers are usually more senior people, and I don’t think they wanted to cause a fuss calling out a bus like you would a taxi.

“We moved to a full service in July, but numbers have been right down since, perhaps around 30% of before lockdown. We provide a link to other forms of transport – the trams and the buses – so we’re a service that gets subsidised. We’re a life-line to many.

“I’ve had no problems with people following rules, everyone has been great. There was one strange event: driving through Stapleford one day, a woman ran to the bus, flagging us down. I stopped, thinking she wanted to get on but when the doors opened she didn’t get on, instead telling me that one of my passengers wasn’t wearing a mask. Mostly though, people have been tolerant towards wearing a mask and those unable to do so.

“I sometimes think we’re less a bus service, more a social club on wheels.”

“There have been positives to lockdown: the roads are clearer, for a start. People have been forced to stop, and take stock for a moment. Working from home has probably helped many people, not that I can drive my bus from my front room! But I do miss things. I’m a Quaker, and I’ve missed the meetings. I miss my passengers – you get so used to them, and their routines, their stories. I sometimes think we’re less a bus service, more a social club on wheels.”

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Sarah: care nurse

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“I am a student nurse, so when lockdown began I felt I had to do something, so I went to work in a care home- partly out of duty, partly to gain some valuable experience. It was a home for dementia patients who were particularly vulnerable and not easy to contain for social distancing. It became clear it would be a challenge. Staff numbers were down due to shielding and illness

“Working in PPE was a challenge: even in March, you’d be dripping in sweat throughout. We had to make a single mask last a shift, so removing them for a sip of water was difficult. The gloves broke all the skin on my hands, that would be constantly sore. All this was necessary, but whatever I expected, whatever I had imagined, well, it was more difficult. I shouldn’t have really been thrown in at the deep end as I was, but at the time this was a major crisis and you just did what you had to do. It was a baptism not of fire, but of alcohol gel!

“It was hard to lose people to Covid – the first resident to die was someone I’d bonded with, and trying to describe the day to day reality to those who had not experienced it was impossible, so I kept it to myself and grieved alone.

“Around June I thought I was going to collapse. It was overwhelming and heartbreaking. We couldn’t send those with covid to hospital and instead had to keep them here and hope for the best, though I never saw a single oxygen bottle on site. I thought I couldn’t continue, I was so tired and my lack of training meant I had huge responsibilities with little in the way of knowing what to do in often impossible situations. This was all for minimum wage.

“I get angry when I hear people moaning about mask-wearing: I wore full PPE in sweltering weather for 14 hours. You can wear a mask for the time you’re in a shop”.

“The people kept me going though. You fall in love with the residents, their beautiful smiles when you help them and you know you have made a difference. You pour your love into them, and when it is returned…well, that’s job satisfaction. No one goes into the care sector for the pay. Working in care changes you, covid adds another level. You see how precious life is: these people with rich lives beforehand, suddenly taken away so easily. Often the ones who appeared stronger succumbed faster than those who seemed weakest: it didn’t seem to have a logic to it.

“Our home suffered, but in comparison to others not so badly. We lost about a quarter of our residents – other homes lost all of theirs, many at least half. I get angry when I hear people moaning about mask-wearing: I wore full PPE in sweltering weather for 14 hours. You can wear a mask for the time you’re in a shop. It’s not about you. It’s about the people I was caring for, and those that are vulnerable.

“That said, I was proud of Beeston and how it rose to the challenge in the early days of the crisis: we all looked after each other, and it was wonderful. People seemed to have got more tetchy now, more judgemental. We have to rediscover that spirit that united us early on. We will probably need it again very soon.”

For privacy reasons we have changed the interviewee’s name

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Paul Swift: mutual aid organiser

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“I anticipated the lockdown, so we prepared early. I have an elderly uncle who is a vulnerable person, and that made me think. While big organisations take time to respond, we could be ready from the start.

“Friends in Derby had set up Mutual Aid groups, so I had something to work from. A Facebook group was set up after a bit of research and promoted on Beeston Updated. I was astounded that within 24 hours we had over 1,000 members. People wanted to help. As we grew, we looked at ways to facilitate getting people to organise on more local levels, street by street. People with different skill-sets offered help so we could run as tightly as possible: for instance, an IT expert worked out how best to set up networks.

“We didn’t want to step on the toes or duplicate the work of existing charities or local authorities: this had to be hugely cooperative. We had to keep it clear: help others to help themselves help others. The response was tremendous in those dark days: streets came together via WhatsApp and leafleting. It pulled people together and helped with isolation. Politics and other differences were put aside: we all worked towards that basic human instinct of helping others.

“People will always need community, virus or no virus”

‘As lockdown eased, it might be thought that these groups were no longer needed. But we aren’t out of the woods yet, far from it. This time though, we know how to look after each other. People will always need a community, virus or no virus.

‘I’d like us to reflect on how we can develop community, how we can collectively aspire to a better future. We’ve had a taste of lower pollution, cleaner air, communities working together.

“We proved we can do these things. I enjoyed the opportunity to explore my neighbourhood, and spend time with my nine-year-old son Edward. He took it in his stride, interviewing family members, documenting the experience in a journal. He read loads of books and made the most of the time off. I think we’ll emerge from this better people. I’m an optimist: you have to be.”

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Suzana Plimmer: secondary school teacher

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“We were told by my school that we’d be off for two weeks, so leave everything on our desks and we’d be back in a fortnight. That night, Boris told us we’d be having the full shutdown. I’ve got three kids away at different unis, so I called them home – get back quickly. One of them, studying in Liverpool, though it was all a fuss about nothing. I didn’t get to see her for six months.

“I had a couple of weeks just doing my Joe Wicks and whatever, but I felt in limbo. I was sewing scrubs and that was something, but I felt I needed to do more.  I went to my local Co-op and said: “If you want me to help stock the shelves then I’m happy to help”. Remember, back then it was hard to get anything, and I thought volunteering to help might make it easier for them, and for my community. They said yes, and I got to work.

“One night, the manager told me he was sending a load of food down to the Haven food bank in Stapleford. I was curious, so found out more, and ended up asking a bloke working there, Richard (Macrae, Stapleford Community Group Director and local councillor) if I could volunteer more. I started by going to the food bank twice a week at the food bank picking the food. There’d be people with short term needs, people with long term needs, people with mental health issues: we’d serve them all. I was shocked at how many people needed help.

“I gave the woman living there some nappies. She burst into tears: her baby hadn’t worn nappies for two days.”

“I moved on to deliveries, and what shook me was how there were people I knew, who never in my mind did I imagine they were needing help. I visited one set of flats, a building close to me but I’d somehow not really noticed before. I gave the woman living there some nappies. She burst into tears: her baby hadn’t worn nappies for two days. That moment did something to me. I thought how the evening before I’d opened my fridge and thrown away all the crap I hadn’t not yet eaten that week. I was struck by what a waste it all was: I could afford to throw food away while this poor woman couldn’t afford nappies.

“Since then, I only buy exactly what I need, nothing else. It’s morally corrupt to throw stuff away. I will never do so again and will encourage others to do so. I take my lunches to work, and every scrap of leftovers is eaten. Until I worked at the food bank I didn’t know the extent into which this was all happening. We’re a rich nation, yet people have to rely on these silent heroes to help them. The last few months have given me the opportunity to have some clarity. Life before was a hamster wheel, working long hours and not having time to think about much outside work. I’ve seen what is important and what isn’t important.”

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Glenys Lufkin: rylander

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“I’ve just missed chatting to folk! I live on my own, just me and the cat who is probably fed up with me talking to her by now, and although I can message, Skype, phone etc. It isn’t the same as face to face interaction. I know couples have had their own problems but at least with two of you conversation is possible.

“The biggest thing for me, which I fear may be the case for one or two is that I lost a wonderful relationship because of this lockdown.

“I had been with Nigel for 16 years.  We had weekends together (he lives in Leicester), holidays; long weekends away; meals out; cosy nights in by the woodburner, all those lovely things that keep a relationship going. We got on well, liked the same things, history, heritage, countryside, long walks. Then lockdown happened…

“It affected his mental health badly. He just didn’t know what to do and was scared. He stopped phoning and one evening he announced that he wanted to end our relationship. There was no one else involved, he just wanted to be on his own. I believe some sort of breakdown had happened. It’s all very sad, no real reason, but I blame this virus and lockdown.

“I will be ok. I’ve lots of lovely friends and family, gorgeous grandchildren. I’m just sad that he has no one. Apart from all that my garden has been my lifesaver. I’m out there every day, and grown lots of veg took on new projects, raised beds, etc. I cannot imagine lockdown without a garden. It is a great healer.”

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Lisa Clarke: lead nurse for children’s allergy, Nottingham children’s hospital, QMC

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“When it hit the guidelines were changing constantly, so we knew things were moving fast and we’d soon be having to change things majorly. I usually see inpatients and outpatients throughout the day, but that all stopped. The wards became eerily empty, and even A+E fell quiet. Yet you knew there was a crisis, and that was painful, not being able to deal with it when your response is always to care and help.

“At home, our daughter went to live with her boyfriend’s family, as there is a real Romeo and Juliet thing going off there – plus, she’s asthmatic, so I didn’t want to put her at risk. It was terrifying at first when people didn’t know much about the virus and didn’t know what our chances are with it. I’d remove and bag my uniform straight after a shift,  and shower before hugging my boyfriend – I still do.

“The whole veneration of NHS staff was actually quite scary. We were being treated as if we were going to war, not just going to work. It felt like we were being set up for martyrdom. That said, cycling home one evening when people came out to clap for carers was quite amazing: I felt like I was winning the Tour De France as I passed down the street.

“I worked on mask-testing and would have to spend hours standing up. I’m fit – I like to run marathons – but sciatica started to set in, and for eight weeks I’d put up with it despite the intense pain as I was so deeply into work. It’s since been under treatment. I also trained to work on A+E, which was an eye-opener. Non-Covid admissions were right down, but it felt good to train in readiness.

“I would advise anyone planning things to do so with caution: be prepared for anything as this is far from over.”

“My colleagues and the hospital trust were amazing: there was absolute dedication. They would bend over backwards to ensure very difficult situations – family not being able to see dying relatives, for instance – were looked after on a personal level and everything done to help.

“As the summer wore on, and cases fell fast, I felt less anxious about the situation, though I still did everything to avoid infection. Last week though, my daughter’s boyfriend developed symptoms, and we recently found he is positive. We’ve had to subsequently go into lockdown and isolation again, and I’m prepared for the worst. I can do some of my job from home, so will have to.

“I am worried about Winter, as flu cases and other respiratory illnesses start to return to complicate things. I would advise anyone planning things to do so with caution: be prepared for anything as this is far from over. I’ve booked time off for Christmas. Will I take it? Right now, I have no idea.”

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Andy Hallam: co-owner, Hallams Grocers

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“Lockdown was pretty horrific.

“It turned our business upside down: people wanted home deliveries, so we had to create a website to manage that.

“The Barton family kindly let us use the Garage as a packhouse as we simply didn’t have the space in the shop to get the orders up while maintaining social distancing. We lost all our catering contracts as the businesses we supplied all closed. Because of supply and demand, prices rose, lots of products became difficult to get hold of. People were panic buying things like potatoes – it was a hard time for us all, really. Footfall dropped dramatically, but while we had far fewer customers, people were buying more, often shopping for shielding neighbours.

“I’d be working up to 9 pm, after being up since 4 am. We didn’t have a single day off – in fact, we worked Sundays for the first five weeks of lockdown to cope. We had – and still have – early morning slots for NHS workers.

“In the first few weeks, we had to employ a doorman – the first time Hallams has had a bouncer in 110 years!”

“Things feel like they’re slowly getting back to normal now. Home orders have dropped right off and people are coming in more, though as many office workers aren’t in Beeston, the lunchtime trade – they grab a sandwich from Boots, then see a punnet of lovely strawberries and buy then on impulse – has not recovered.

“We thought the social distancing rules would be a lot more difficult than they have been. Everyone seems to respect it. We’ve not had anyone come in causing trouble about masks, or anything. People police it themselves now as they have become used to having to queue outside, but in the first few weeks, we had to employ a doorman – the first time Hallams has had a bouncer in 110 years!

“It’s still difficult work.

“We have to clean down so frequently, and have to deal with new routines and habits, but there is a normality settling in.

“The new normal, as people keep saying.”

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Ellouise Roccio: manager, The Bean

There are few people who will one day look back at 2020 and not see it changed them in some way. We wanted to find out what lockdown (the first one) was like for a variety of the population, and how they have emerged as different people. One phrase that was said in nearly every interview was “the new normal”. That means many things to many people, as we discovered:

“Lockdown was short and sweet: I was furloughed for two months before we could reopen and Alex (owner of The Bean and the city-centre Cartwheel) worked out how we could do it safely.

“Initially it was good: we’d just see people at the door and they’d keep their distance; it was quite nice that way. It’s been more difficult since we opened the inside.

“Everyone knows you leave track and trace, everyone knows the rules on hand sanitiser and masks, but not everyone seems to follow them. They’ll walk in, not wearing a mask and then say, “well, I’m in now, so no point in putting one on”, or they’ll think that sitting outside means they don’t have to fill in the track and trace forms.

“Trade has been good though – very good. The Bean’s really picked up, even before the Eat Out to Help Out scheme began.

“With people spending so much time at home I think it really helped to have somewhere to go”

“We were one of the first places in Beeston to open. With people spending so much time at home I think it really helped to have somewhere to go, to have somewhere open for them.

“We’ve got our Beeston trade back, and the university trade has begun to trickle back in, using our space upstairs to work from due to a lack of space on campus.

“I’m optimistic, but I’d not like another lockdown: I’ve ran out of things to do at home – I would probably just sit at home and cry” *laughs.*

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Unearthing a treasure with Jo Norcup

The Detectorists, that excellent slice of telly that bought a gentle, thoughtful and very funny slice of bucolic rambling to our screens from 2014 to 2019, was a surprise hit. On paper, you can see why: the story of two shy men who spend their free time wandering around fields digging up ring pulls and old nails doesn’t exactly scream glamour and intrigue. As for humour – well, what com’ can be squeezed from such a sit’?

As anyone wise enough to tune in, gallons. Mackenzie Crook’s writing was light touch and observant in the way the best comedy is: letting the comedy realise itself by shining a light on those idiosyncrasies that make us human: male friendships, obsession, commitment and growing up. Watching would bring laughter, often accompanied with a lump in one’s throat. It is, like much of our country, a bubbling lake of weird and feeling beneath a seemingly trivial soil.

Great. But what has this got to with Beeston? Since it was set in rural Essex, and rarely strayed far from the small village it was set around, it seems not much. So step forward Jo Norcup, and her co-edited new book, Landscapes of the Detectorists (Uniform Books, ISBN 978 1 910010 24)

Jo has been a regular at The Beestonian, writing thoughtful and revelatory pieces on local trees and how they form part of our emotional as well as physical landscape. In this series of essays, she works with her collaborator Innes M Keighren to explore how the show embodied some deeper issues. Jo and her team sweep the ground to dig these up and give them a close examination.

If you’ve read Jo’s pieces in this magazine, you’ll be wanting this. Her essay on gender, expertise and knowledge is fascinating, whetting the appetite for a rewatching of the series, and once again getting lost in the mechanisms of Danbury Metal Detecting Club. Add in a heartfelt foreword by Mackenzie Crook himself, and an afterword by producer Adam Tandy and you have a real treasure. If you’re a fan of the show, buy this book. If you’ve yet to discover the show, buy this book, and you’ll soon be rushing out to find out what the fuss is all about.

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How a pair of Beeston creatives joined forces to keep the flame flickering

We are, as this and every previous issue will attest to, a wildly creative town. Artists, musicians, crafters, writers et al keep kicking out staggeringly super work which we happily try and inform you of.

A global pandemic and fundamental shift in how the world works isn’t a reason for despair, it’s a chance to innovate. Say hello to Nottingham Stories: Separation and Serenade.

When she realised that the third annual Nottingham Chamber Music Festival was not going to be going ahead due to lockdown, the festival’s director Beestonian violist Carmen Flores didn’t just retire her instrument and bow while it went on. She instead picked up the phone and rang a local professional filmmaker, Tim Bassford of Turbine Creative. Together, they cooked up a brilliant idea.

Like the best ideas, it’s startlingly simple. They would visit a well-known Nottingham building, closed due to lockdown, and film Carmen performing Bach within. As Carmen rings out beautiful music to fill the empty spaces, Tim’s camera provides an accompaniment, highlighting the locations beauty. It’s not a film about music, It’s not music with film. It’s a synthesis. Carmen may be performing solo, but the overall feeling is a duet of eye and ear. Nottingham Council House, Delilahs, The Royal Concert Hall, St Mary’s In The Lace Market, Nottingham Contemporary and the High School all feature, each familiar, each filmed in ways that make you see them anew.

During the film’s individual premieres, donations to the Help Musicians charity (https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/support-our-work/make-a-donation) were encouraged, to support musicians who have struggled to earn a living while the COVID crisis grinds on.

The videos were shot in July and released on a thrice-weekly basis during September. They proved to be, as the best music does, able to bring out emotions you weren’t previously aware existed. Personally, I felt initial melancholy – I missed these places – hope. While the empty buildings still wait to fill and surge with life again, a flame of creativity burns, and it burns bright.

The films are available to watch for free here.

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