The mask and the red death

As we enter a second lockdown, initially for a month, I’ve thought about how much has been written and debated about the Coronavirus since it appeared globally at the beginning of the year. Some real, some false and some downright dangerous. Injecting bleach. Really? I’ve known a few people who have been asked to self-isolate, as they may have come into contact with someone who may have had it. Someone I know at work caught it, but are better now. But I don’t know anyone locally who has been diagnosed with it. So, I was stunned to find out that one of my Beeston-based Facebook friends announced recently that they had been infected and have had it. So I contacted them, to find out whether they would be willing to share their experience of catching the scarlet coloured killer. They were happy to, as they wanted to make as many people aware of the seriousness of the pandemic.

Paolo Lannattone comes from Ausonia in central Italy and has been living in Beeston with his family for more than five years now. They love Beeston and plan to stay here for a long time. He is a piano and music theory teacher at MLC Academy in West Bridgford and has composed music for Italian films. He also attended the last year of a degree course in Music Technology at the University of Derby.

Firstly I asked Paolo how he initially became aware that he might have caught Covid.

“In mid-October, the NHS app reported to the whole family that we had been in contact with someone who tested positive. So we self-isolated. A few days later, my wife and daughter started having the first symptoms and requested the test. It came back positive. A few days later, I too started having the first symptoms, such as fever and a cough. So I too took the test, to which I also tested positive.

“We don’t know exactly who transmitted the virus to us. The app respects the privacy of users, so it only warns that you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. So you must self-isolate. However, I must underline that thanks to the NHS app we were able to self-isolate a few days before having the first symptoms, thus avoiding any further spreading of the virus.

“A few days later, the symptoms became more difficult to manage. In addition to having a fever and cough, a strong sense of fatigue and shortness of breath appeared. For 10 days, it was very intense. Although I am an amateur runner, running more or less 20km a week, I was struggling to climb the flight of stairs in the house. More than once I thought that soon I would end up in the hospital with a ventilator because my breath was really short. It helped a lot to sit or lie in bed, so I could manage my breath a little better.

“Fortunately I did not need any hospital treatment. Although for a few days I was afraid of having to call 111, as I was advised to by the NHS operators who were in contact with me daily. Just in case I needed it. I’ve had the symptoms of Covid-19 for about 25 days now and they have not yet completely passed. I tire easily. I have sudden coughing episodes, especially when I wake up and when I go to sleep. I have completely lost my taste and smell and have not yet recovered them.

So you are still struggling?

“After my fever passed, the NHS allowed me to go out again. I don’t go out much because I don’t have much strength in my legs. I go for small walks with my wife Claudia and dog Jackie. At present, I don’t know how long these symptoms will last. Some acquaintances of mine, who contracted the virus, has had the same symptoms, and they’ve lasted for two and a half months now. Considering my situation, this is an entirely probable scenario. I think it is good to have patience and wait for it to pass. Hoping it does not leave deeper consequences. Considering that science does not have a thorough knowledge of this virus yet.

What about the rest of the family. How are they doing?

“Claudia and Ali are getting better. Ali has returned to Bilborough College. Claudia will go back to her job after the lockdown. They got exactly the same symptoms but fortunately it hasn’t lasted as long for them.

“What’s your view about the imminent availability of a vaccine?” “Obviously I think the vaccine is great news, but it will take longer than we think to get it for everyone. The first problem is that it needs to be preserved and transported at minus 80 degrees. I’m not sure about how many facilities we have in the UK for this kind of storage at the moment. The second is that the number of requested doses is very high and we have to be patient. It won’t be available for all for a while.

“There are of course other drug companies around the world that are working on a solution to the virus. So maybe between them, they should be able to come up with something to see the virus off. Or it may be one of those diseases that humanity has to live with, like the flu, the common cold or malaria. And as Paolo says, we will just have to wait and see what happens.”

CF

It’s my un-party, and I’ll cry if I want to…

Ahhh admit it, you know the words to the poptastic hit made famous by Lesley Gore from back in 1963, or its other various forms which include a cover by Drake and Rhianna in “Take Care”. Or maybe the American Metalcore version by Motionless in White? With their additional lyrics “Die if I want too?” on their track “Necessary Evil”? Of course you do.

This brings me nicely to my point in hand, it actually was my party. Well kind of. Being a November baby I celebrate my birthmas in this month and have celebrated this occasion over the years with parties in nightclubs, bars, catching legendary performers – The Prodigy, (No Tourists Tour 2018), Alice Cooper (Spend The Night Tour 2017). This year I spent the day in at home, drinking copious amounts of rum and coke and binge-watching music documentaries. The contrast is stark, however I am a happy bear. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the pounding in my heart of live, ridiculously loud and heart-trembling bass, but the inner optimist in me is beginning to revel in this new life. I shall explain…

While we gloriously sugarcoat the good old days when we could do stuff with rose-tinted heart-shaped glasses, there are so many aspects I don’t miss. Rock City toilets for example. Only those with a strong stomach dare enter, the mix of two-pint beers and drunkenness make for a sorry state. I feel for the ladies who spend all night in there selling lollipops and the like. Don’t get me started on The Emporium Nightclub; I will leave that one there, only to say Rock City would be an upgrade…

There is more I don’t really miss about gig life, I don’t miss being five foot two and always, always being stood behind the tallest person in the venue. Don’t ask me how but they find me then barge past me to stand that close, I wonder if we should exchange phone numbers.

I don’t miss the smell, sweaty and nasty, being in a club and seeing someone I know who has been in the mosh pit. They smell like one and that is from across the room, they make eye contact and oh dear god no they are heading over for a hug. It is too late, I try not to breathe, smile and wander off to find air.

I don’t miss the queues. The night even begins with one to get in. An hour in the cold and people who know people have joined the queue ahead of you, as you try not to get too annoyed five of their mates have joined the joiners. Finally in the venue and there’s a queue for the cloakroom yey! Ok, in you go and get a drink from the bar? Good luck with that, its 5 people deep and no one ever knows what they want. Who needed to see any of the support acts anyway?

My personal favourite pet hate is trying to remember where you were stood in a gig or festival, after a loo trip or bar run, now trying to find your mates in low lights while holding plastic cups filled with beer and bouncing bodies are everywhere, at seven pound a pint trying not to cry when Betty Knobhead decides to start a mosh pit and you realise why the floor is so sticky. Still, fourteen pounds for two empty plastic cups, bargain!

And more than anything, the expense! It is an expensive hobby. A friend and I booked tickets for Hip-Hop “Insane in the Brain” band Cypress Hill back in 2018 – the tickets were £60, the hotel (the gig was in Leeds) was £120, so that was £180 not including train tickets food, drinks, taxi to the venue and back to the hotel. The gig was fabulous but the cost of a trip abroad, and the band were barely on stage an hour.

All these reasons swirled around my head as I sat on my comfy(ish) sofa on my birthday, as I poured myself a drink without having to queue, from a bottle of rum that barely cost me twenty good old pounds with mixer, with a lemon wedge plonked in for good luck. In a club that money could barely stretch to two rounds, and I had whole lotta rum for my money. Bargain. The only tall weirdos that will get in my view are not really that tall and already live with me. There’s no sweaty encounters with drunken acquaintances and the restroom is free of gross uninhibited strangers and features a clean porcelain toilet to use at my desecration. This is the life!

My conclusion is this, while ‘Rona has changed every person’s life this year, we have to find the silver lining. I have enough gig experience to tide me over, I can wait, it ain’t gonna be forever, and while I wait I try and look at the positives. Don’t get me wrong, as soon as this is over I will be at ALL the gigs, festivals, raves et al, but until then, pass me a drink and I will party at home in my pyjamas. Of course, I am still watching Netflix but what else have I to do?! Christmas? That’s sorted – bring it on, no unnecessary family trips and extra time in my pants singing “It’s my parrrrrrttttehhh!” Oh, by the way you are not invited…

LD

Small is beautiful

Growing up in a village in Derbyshire, we only had one local grocers, a tiny post office that never seemed to be open, and a butcher’s van that used to announce itself with a resounding ‘moo’ just before Saturday tea-time. This prompted a queue of 70s housewives clutching their clasp purses under one armpit, and often a wriggling child under the other.

As well as the family-run grocers, down on the main road through Denby, there was a curious little wooden construction we called ‘the paper shop.’ A small painted shack, about six foot by eight, it had floorspace for three customers at most, plus a lovely woman called Brenda who resided behind the counter in her thick fluffy cardi. Reminiscent of The Cabin on Coronation Street, the walls festooned with sweets, cigarettes, newspapers, magazines and even the window was used to display a handful of small gifts and toys. In the winter months, the cramped space was heady with Calor gas fumes and there was always tinsel at Christmas.

Brenda lived on one of the council houses in our village and had a son around my mum’s age, they had gone to school together. As a consequence, they had a lot of common threads and she always seemed pleased to see us. Brenda was one of those kind ladies with curly brown hair and crinkles at the corner of her eyes when she smiled, and she seemed to smile a lot. She knew everyone in the village and always made a fuss of the children, she was the sort of woman that would just pop round with a present for the new baby in a family– my brother being one of the recipients eventually.

Call me sentimental, but I missed all those personal shopping experiences in the 90s when coincidentally I worked in a large city shopping centre. By then spending money was reduced to an EPOS transaction that was over in seconds and sales assistants began to recite from a script. These days you don’t even have to have any kind of conversation in some of the larger shops, you can literally serve yourself! My childhood experiences might be one of the reasons why I still favour the personal touch when I part with my cash and one of the reasons I enjoy living in a town like Beeston.

We have our fair share of self-supporting businesses in Beeston, some well-established like Hicklings, the friendly face of DIY, and Fred Hallam who have held their own against the supermarket chains. Chatting with friends, one tells me that the staff in Hallams have always helped her little girl buy strawberries on her own since she was three. She loves that they “put the receipt and change in her little hand.” We discussed how well Hallam’s readjusted to serve its community at the start of ‘lockdown’ another friend pointed out the locally grown produce they stock. Craig Dawson’s Family Butchers are also more than happy to advise you how to cook any of the meat you buy and are never phased when you might ask for ‘something cheap that you can slow cook.’ And then there are the perks – “Market stalls sometimes knock a bit off when you are a regular and they recognise your face.”

It is those personal touches that make the difference, and the genuine appreciation shown for your custom. Especially at the moment, you can see the joy in the faces of any local independent business owner that you give the opportunity to serve you. And this is because it IS personal to them. They have genuinely put all of their energy, time and their often their savings into creating their unique businesses because they are truly passionate about them. More than just a job, their involvement can be round the clock, constantly working to improve on what they can offer. In the same way that an independent relies on the support from their community, they also recognise the importance of supporting other local businesses.

Sure, it’s been a really tough year for all business, but the retail giants will probably survive by making a few cuts here and there, and I can imagine that online retailers like Amazon have actually thrived due to the pandemic. So it is vital that we help those gift shops, coffee shops, hair salons, restaurants, jewellers, newsagents and corner shops that make our town the vibrant and gloriously diverse place that it is. If they have had to close their doors for now, get in touch and shop online. Many of them have adapted well to making deliveries, you can even order your festive cocktails from the Berliner! Let’s try and make sure all of our independents are still here when we get to the other side – our local economy depends on it.

By shopping locally we are also less likely to spend money on fuel, wasting time in traffic and trying to find space in car parks. We can avoid getting caught up in the frenzied Christmas shopping experience. It might even allow us to slow down and live in the moment, appreciating the little things that make our festive season so special.

You can see a selection of what Beeston has to offer on the Creative Beeston Facebook page and find a huge selection of local makers on the Made in Beeston page.

Shop small, for all!

DU

Students breaking the stereotype

It feels like every day there are student stories in the news at the moment. Students are flouting coronavirus restrictions and holding parties in their flats. Hiding party-goers in their basements, attempting to evade police detection and avoiding hefty fines. Unfortunately, this is an illusion that some people have subscribed to and believed. But from what I can tell, it’s the minority.

Across our university campuses in Nottingham, students are raising funds and collecting food for our city’s residents who are in a less fortunate position, offering a helping hand to their community.

Max Adler, who acts as the charity secretary for the University of Nottingham football team, helped organise an initiative that provided children with free packed lunches over the half-term break, inspired by footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign. After teaming up with St Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, the team helped distribute over 200 free lunches in Lenton, using money from their own pocket. Any leftover food was then donated to food banks to prevent anything from going to waste.

Max said: “While students get looked down on, so do members of sports clubs – they’re often known to be quite loud and noisy. Following the government’s decision not to provide free school meals for school children over the half-term holidays, the University of Nottingham football club wanted to help the community. We understand the difficult times we are living in and we firmly believe that no child should ever have to go hungry.”

Zain Gillani, the football team’s equality officer, also said: “Getting involved in the community and helping out as much as we can has been one of our main priorities every single year. Whenever we see we can help make a change, we go for it.”

Alongside this, the Portland building on the University Park campus has also seen an increase in donations. An initiative was launched at the University of Nottingham to help support local food banks. Partnering with the local food distribution company Foodprint, university students were encouraged to donate food outside the Spar shop in the Portland Building, which would then be distributed to food banks and homeless shelters across the city.

Foodprint itself was a company founded by University of Nottingham students in 2017 to battle the amount of food waste in a society that also tackles hunger. To them, the latter should not coexist with the former. They have worked throughout lockdown, selling surplus food in their Sneinton store to avoid it heading to a landfill.

As well as food donations, students at the University of Nottingham are also encouraged to donate the drinks from their meal deals if they don’t want them, and on Sundays, students can use up the remainder of their balance on their meal cards to spend on non-perishable food especially for the food bank donations. Whilst this operation was halted last semester as a result of cross-contamination fears amid coronavirus, workers at the Spar shop have noticed that food is once again being left for food bank donations so it is believed the initiative will start up again.

While sometimes students might be scapegoated, taking a further look can provide an insight into what students are really doing in lockdown, other than studying.

FP

I am Beeston: Tim Bassford – Creative Champion

“I was actually born in neighbouring Bramcote, but have also lived in Chester, Belfast, Athens and the more exotic region of Mapperley Top.

“We moved back to Beeston about 12 years ago, as most of our friends and family were on this side of Nottingham. We just about got settled back into the area, around the time the tram work began and the Beeston social media became full of vitriol about the major upset it was causing. The mayhem caused by the roadworks reminded me very much of Beirut in the late 80s, without as many hostage sieges. It felt like we’d returned to Beeston at a pretty eventful time.

“I run my own company (Turbine Creative) producing marketing materials (videos, animations, branding etc). I studied Fine Art then moved into graphic design and marketing from there. In the past, I’ve had the privilege of working with companies like The Walt Disney Company, The Discovery Channel and the BBC. A massive part of my work involves video production for corporate clients. As well as creating videos for clients, I also love making short films and music videos for friends.

“Beeston is clearly an awesome town to live in and only getting better. For a relatively small town is has a massive depth of cultural, historical, sporting and social strengths. Beeston has so many different characters – the beauty of the Rylands, canal side and river (love the Park Run), the social celebrations at Christmas and summer markets. The spectacular university grounds and the nightlife on the high street and Chilwell High Road. I love the brilliant range of quality bars (Berliner, Crown, The Vic’ to name a few), the awesome restaurants, and as a family we’ve been able to get involved in various local sports clubs. It really has got a perfect mix. There’s also a load of great memories for me here from when I was a kid, going to ‘Fords – the family store’ on the High Road (which felt like Harrods to a seven-year-old me) and visiting John Menzies or Woolworths with my pocket money.

“I think in this challenging time we’ve really seen the people of Beeston coming together to support and help one another. I know our neighbourhood has been able to rally around and help each there with both practical help and moral support with communal singing, clapping for the NHS, social distanced parties. Although the various Beeston social media groups attract some more polemical views, they also present a real reflection of some of the amazing things Beeston’s community are doing to support and encourage one another. The Oxjam music festival must be one of the most amazing things that the Beeston community puts on. The Beeston Film Festival also is an amazing initiative that seems to be punching well above its weight on the international film scene.

“I’ve personally been blown away by the creative community in Beeston. There are so many artists, illustrators, filmmakers, writers, musicians, craftsmen. They’re all over the place! Sometimes Beeston feels like the Brighton of the Midlands. I’ve been able to find great creative collaborators in Beeston, including my sister-in-law, Carmen Flores, who also resides in Beeston and is an accomplished violinist. We recently worked on a series of short films for the brilliant Nottingham Chamber Music Festival. These films can be seen here.

“On a slightly less cultured note, I found another creative collaboration whilst out having a few beers with the Dad’s from school at the Greyhound. We stumbled upon an incredible band called Iron Python, a tribute ‘Hair Metal Rock n Roll band’. They were the most brilliantly camp and over the top performers, I have ever seen in my life. Jumping all over the bar and pneumatically groin-thrusting a beer pump here in a bar in Beeston. A few months later I asked them to be part of a national marketing campaign I was involved in and was subsequently able to capture their energetic performance in an award-winning advertising campaign!

“Another great thing about Beeston is that it is continually evolving and surprising me with its entrepreneurialism. There are some great independent shops, small businesses and a whole bunch of people exploring new ideas and new initiatives. I think the regular influx of students ensures a certain kind of energy and the fact that many residents work at the uni, hospital or in tech of some kind, means there’s always lots to talk about at the pub (when you’re allowed to go!). Of course, I can’t finish this without a massive shout out to The Beestonian and all of those who continually promote and champion the benefits of our brilliant town.”

CF

Creative champions!

Just before lockdown, the ABC Art Trail were preparing to launch their publicity for the 2020 Art Trail, we shared their Primary School Art Competition giving prizes for both Key Stage 1 and 2 inviting all schools in Attenborough, Beeston and Chilwell to take part. They gave the children a loose title ‘Where I Live.’

The organisers were ‘overwhelmed with the tremendous response’ and the competition closed on 29 February. Entries were in their hundreds and they were brilliant! It took many months of socially distanced organisation but we are happy to inform you that judging was able to take place and we can now share with you the winners!

As the majority of the ABCAT sponsors allowed them to keep their support money the winners will be receiving a prize. All winning entries went on display as part of an exhibition
at Canalside Heritage Centre on Monday 2nd November 2020.

Many thanks to the ABCAT organisers for sending us the photographs of the children’s wonderful artwork. Don’t forget to congratulate them when you see them.

Enjoy the full gallery of work here

DU

Sprucing things up

If you are one of those people that have spent far too much time in their home over the past six months, then you might be in need of the services of local Interior Designer Sarah Kirkby. Her domestic interiors service “Spruce Interiors” offers a range of services from a single room revamp to a full home renovation and is a self-confessed colour addict!

After completing her BA in Decorative Arts at Nottingham Trent University, Sarah secured herself a job at Dulux as an Interior Designer. She not only does the initial colour consultation and manages the project, but she also works alongside the client to ensure they get exactly the look they want, and this usually starts with her asking what colours inspire them.  When I popped into her new shop at 108 Chilwell High Road, Sarah was busy working on ‘kitchen CAD plans’ and the shop was being expertly managed by a friendly intern, Faaria who was happy to show me around.

Conveniently situated at Chilwell Road tram stop, with its show-stopping signage and slatted circular window display, it’s hard to resist stopping to take a peek through the wooden aperture at the tropical richness within. Immediately I spot a familiar grey linen shade of one of Beeston designer Mark Lowe’s table lamps, flanked by a luscious bright green fern, and am enticed inside. Though not a large space, there are plenty of inspiring things to feast your Ikea weary eyes on. It’s small but perfectly dressed.

From unique one-off lighting and furniture pieces to small ranges of hand-printed artwork goodies, the shop has been selectively stocked to its best advantage. Simple wood and metal racking houses the array of sculptural plants, soft coral walls show off a row of Sarah’s solid printed wooden clocks and the delicate framed screen prints of Nottingham based illustrator Laurie Hastings. As I bend low to study the plant selection I catch the musk of sandalwood from the shelf above and notice an attractive row of brown glass scented soy candles from PF Candle Co.

Behind the bespoke wooden counter are slim shelves busy with colourful tiles of all patterns, shapes and sizes – we are entering the design part of the shop that leads onto the design office at the back. There is more to this compact shopfront than meets the eye. As Faaria leads me to the back room I am impressed how the narrow space has been transformed into a fully fitted kitchen, a showcase of Sarah’s design ideas and where some of the initial kitchen design consultations take place.

“A new venture at such a time takes a certain amount of courage and self-belief and Sarah has both in large amounts.”

When I met up with Sarah later in the week, she told me that she bought the building at auction on April 1st. The realisation of how much renovation work was needed momentarily filled her with apprehension. With help from her Dad, local Beeston based joiner James Crawford from Appletree Joinery, and her helpful plasterer Nick Garbutt they transformed the ex-hairdresser’s salon into a stylish space that could accommodate all of its requirements. She talked me through the process as we walked through to the workshop at the back, where creative evidence of previous products sat on shelves and benches.

A new venture at such a time takes a certain amount of courage and self-belief and Sarah has both in large amounts. We discussed how lockdown, though putting all of her interior design projects in suspension, gave her the time to devote to moving the contents of her rented studio near Sneinton Market to her newly acquired building. Redeveloping the rooms to suit her plans for the place gave her something purposeful to do, but she says it also felt very strange to be in a new neighbourhood at such a surreal time. 

Having been based at the other side of the city, Sarah wasn’t familiar with what Beeston had to offer until the building came up at auction, but what little she saw she liked. Slotting her design business into a street that is now home to many creative independents, the location felt right. And although the bulk of her services will remain focused on interior design, Sarah’s commitment to design and supporting some of the Notts & Leicester based artists and makers she has met along the way meant the shop and business has been able to evolve. As a consequence, she has made her business more customer-facing now, and as soon as people step inside the shop they get a flavour of Sarah’s style. Her goal is to make interior design accessible to all.

During her art degree, Sarah developed her love for wood and specialised in screen-printing her designs on furniture and other wooden objects. The clocks, coasters and furniture in the window are all examples of products she has made over the years merging surface design and colour, with form and shape.

She explains how the aperture window was conceptualised, first as a way of addressing the gaping space that felt intense in full-sun and then as a way to recycle palette wood. She abandoned the poor quality wooden slats full of unwieldy nails in favour of lengths of stained construction timber, producing the perfectly shaped circle within a slatted divider. 

Why not pop down and have a nosy!

Visit: https://www.spruceinteriors.co.uk/

DU

Jamie Ireland: owner, The Cycle Inn

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:

“Our lockdown? One day! After the first lockdown announcement when Boris said “that’s it, everyone’s got to stay at home” we closed, but that same evening the list of the services that could stay open was produced, and third on the list was cycle shops.

“I came in the next day and was faced with a High Road with no people walking up and down it – I thought ‘how long can I stay open with no money coming in?”- but by the end of the day I was running around like a headless chicken.

“A lot of people needed to still get to the QMC to work, and with restricted public transport there was a surge of people needing bikes to get about. Then people were permitted one form of exercise, and if you don’t have a dog to walk, getting on a bike was suddenly a legitimate reason to escape for that hour.

“Lockdown showed (people) the freedom bikes gave them.”

“Within the first week people were rushing to buy bikes – we sold 20 bikes in a week, that’s usually a month’s worth – the whole UK bike trade has gone through the roof.

“There aren’t any 2020 models left in the country, pretty much all the 2021 stock has been pre-sold. It’s changed individuals and families -my neighbours never cycled much, now they’re a family of dedicated cyclists. Lockdown showed them the freedom bikes gave them.

“The ball is still rolling: people are reluctant to use public transport to get to work, to get to school. I’ve never seen such an epic boom – I’m working 6 or 7 days a week, 12 hours a day to keep Beeston rolling. But it’s great to see so many discover cycling – the more converts the better!”

MT

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.”

MT

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

MT