Who could have guessed how much the Coronavirus situation would have turned our lives around?
Pre-pandemic, I drove around wondering if I was likely to encounter floods on my various journeys. Those little anxieties were soon replaced by taking in the beauty of spring appearing all around me.
One journey took me from Northwich to Bridgnorth in the late afternoon – I marvelled at the blossom on the trees, the forsythia bringing a golden hue all around and recalling the words of Wordsworth as I enjoyed “hosts of golden daffodils”.
The journey home was not so wonderful as the wind picked up and I encountered a tree across the road, broken traffic lights and the inevitable roadworks which contributed to a truly awful trip! I should have taken that as a warning of things to come…
I did a fair few miles in the first half of March 2020 visiting venues in Stourbridge, Leicester, Telford, Wolverhampton, Sutton Coldfield, West Bromwich…and many in my own county of Staffordshire. I shared so many different talks and heard some wonderful reminiscences.
“We tied our mother’s best bra on to our kite!” (Schooldays)
“Our daughter loved Bizzy Lizzy so much, I made her an identical dress to Bizzy Lizzy’s for her 2nd birthday.” (Watching with Mother)
I especially enjoyed a mother and daughter at a group in Brierley Hill who, when we were reminiscing on traditional remedies, recalled teeth being taken out via the string on the door method of extraction.
The daughter looked accusingly at her mother and said, “You did that to me!”
The mother smiled and nodded her agreement. Then when we moved on to teeth being taken out with pliers, the daughter turned again to her mother and said, “You did that too!”
Her mother looked at her quite indignantly and said, “Oh no, that was your dad!”. (Goose Grease and Brown Paper)
Reminiscences of a quaint Staffordshire tradition were shared at a group in Cheddleton. The day centre members arrived by minibus and the group leader told each of them as they arrived that we were going to be talking about food that they used to eat.
A lady who was new to the group immediately chimed in with “Oooh I hope she talks about pobs!” Pobs were bits of bread soaked in hot milk before being consumed…I suspect I’ve left out the word “stale” when describing the bread! (Food Glorious Food)
I was thrilled to arrive at a group in West Bromwich one bitterly cold Friday evening to discover a full house of over 60 people gathered to join in with my Goose Grease and Brown Paper talk.
I strolled over to the raffle table as I always do (I do love a go on the raffle!) and was most intrigued to see one of the raffle prizes was a large bag of onions. On the label was written “Cure all”.
The person who had donated the prize had heard the talk before and knew that onions would play a huge part in the evening’s entertainment.
Unfortunately, even onions couldn’t come to the rescue, as March 2020 was well and truly hijacked by Coronavirus. From the 17th onwards, every one of my talks for the next three months was gradually cancelled.
I was so sad to see so many lifelines for older folks disappearing. One group did hang on until the last minute but were forced to cancel “by order of the Bishop”!
I was touched to have one or two groups offer to pay me anyway but I declined, requesting instead that they rebook when life returns to normal.
One very lovely lady from a group I’ve visited several times, would not take no for an answer, she said the committee had decided that I should still be paid. I thanked her but declined again. Her reply was “Well, we will pay you double when you come in October!”
Coronavirus became the main topic of conversation as we rapidly moved towards the inevitable shutdown of business for me and the groups I talk to.
I mentioned Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” earlier. I always include “Daffodils” in my schooldays reminiscences as it seems to be one of the poems that everyone learnt off by heart.
Little did I realise that by the end of the month I would be reciting that first verse several times each day. I wasn’t overly keen on being told to sing “Happy Birthday” twice over whilst washing my hands.
I muttered as much to my friend Heather and she advised that a leisurely recitation of Daffodils would also take the required 20 seconds…
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Stay safe everyone and remember to keep reciting Wordsworth as you wash your hands!