Hi Norma. How are you? Can you tell us a little bit about your lockdown experience please?
Luckily, we’ve not been confined to our apartments but during the Spring we were confined to the village precinct. We weren’t supposed to go beyond the garden gate. Thankfully, we’ve got two large gardens here so there was still plenty of space for exercise. With the good weather, it meant that groups could meet outside too.
Is the winter weather having an impact on you?
Well, it is more difficult to meet outside now. You can’t design villages for pandemics, so we’ve got to live with what we’ve got, but I think some more sheltered space outside might be nice. Although, we wouldn’t really be out in this weather. It’s not only the rain, it’s cold too.
How are the internal facilities working for you? I hear most are closed?
They are. There’s one very good thing here though. The village hall leads off the bistro and there’s a sliding door between the two rooms so that it can be closed or open. The catering staff worked out that they could get 40 people seated safely using both the dining area and the hall. So that was very good and it meant we could have meals in the restaurant again. So that’s an absolute plus point for the design here.
However, the COVID restrictions with all the sanitising, meant the hall couldn’t be used for anything else. We haven’t had any indoor entertainment whatsoever. We’re not able to hold our meetings or see films together. We’ve been offered all sorts of things that could be done on computer, by Zoom or even DVDs. But people haven’t got the equipment. Some don’t have a computer and don’t want to know. I’ve found out recently that some don’t even have a DVD player.
Having the restaurant open, does that mean that you’re still able to feel a little sense of community though?
Yes, I mean you’re two metres from everyone but you can talk. Apart from people with hearing problems, they find it very difficult indeed. However, there’s still that feeling of people being around rather than feeling isolated. So yes, the facility to have a restaurant meal is excellent.
I know you talk with a lot of people here, I just wanted to understand how everyone is feeling?
It varies enormously. Some have almost been trying to ignore it and pretend life is nearly normal. They’re the groups that meet outside for instance. Then we’ve got other people who are too frightened to leave their apartments. They won’t come down often. Of course, some are shielding too and they’ve been tucked away completely.
How have you been feeling?
I’ve been okay I suppose. I’m busy so that makes a big difference. I’m involved in the Residents’ Association so I hear about a lot of things. When the regulations changed yesterday, I had several phone calls from people asking for an interpretation, so I feel involved.
Does that make you feel like you’ve got a bit more of a control over the situation?
I think it’s just me. I lived on my own for many, many years before I moved here so I haven’t been as lonely as some people. I’m used to my own company. I haven’t been bored. I get fed up but that’s very different from being bored. I’m fed up with it all now actually. It’s gone on too long.
It has Norma. Can you talk us through your daily routine during lockdown?
I still get up fairly early because I’m best at doing things in the morning. I grind gradually to a halt later in the day and often I’ll have a little snooze after lunch. I spend quite a bit of time on the computer, I’ll do a little bit of housework or take the rubbish out.
It’s quite funny, everything here takes longer than it should. I can remember when we first moved in, a dear, sweet lady said, “It takes me about an hour to go down and buy a loaf of bread. Five minutes to buy the loaf of bread and the rest of the hour to talk to people”. Obviously, we can’t talk to people as much now but that’s the general principle. I went down to get something from the shop this morning and there was a lady sitting on her own having a cup of coffee. I hadn’t seen her for a while, so I sat down and had a little chat with her. That all takes time.
I do try and go for a walk each day too. Not today, it’s just ghastly outside, but I shall walk round the building. That’s another thing, the building is big enough to do quite a sizeable walk indoors, up and down the various floors and down the corridors.
So where do you usually meet people?
I’m a member of the garden group and, of course, we have to meet in the greenhouse or in the garden. When we had activities that was how you met people because you had a common interest. Apart from gardening we’ve really not been able to do anything this year.
Have you been continuing your volunteer work?
Yes. I work on the reception desk on Monday mornings. During the latest lockdown, I’ve been helping to receive all the Amazon deliveries too. So I’ll ring each apartment and tell them to collect their parcel. If they can’t leave their apartment, a member of the care team will deliver it.
It helps me because I’m in contact with people and I’m also being useful. On a Sunday night I find I’m actually looking forward to my Monday morning. I’m very tired after it – three hours is quite a long time to be answering the phone and doing things – but I do enjoy it.
What has been your lockdown essential?
I’ve got to say technology. Zoom, emails and WhatsApp on my phone. I’m not brilliant with it but I can use it. I’ve got a great-grandson, he was two last month. I haven’t seen him since last Christmas but I get photos and Zoom calls quite regularly so I feel I know him a bit.
Thinking back to the summer, how were family visits managed?
We’ve been limited during both lockdowns, no visitors allowed other than bubbles. Bubbles have been very good. During the first lockdown we couldn’t see anyone or leave the village precinct. The next relaxation meant we could meet in the carpark or through the fence. I used to sit on a wall just inside our garden and my family would be outside. They took a photograph once with the fence between us and it really looked as if I was in a cage. Not very good at all.
The next phase allowed people to come into the garden. I had a very pleasant picnic with my daughter on a lovely sunny day and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We’d have just hooted with laughter at the thought of having a picnic here in the garden at any other time. In the middle of a pandemic that was okay. Then your bubble was allowed to come indoors but the rest of the family haven’t been able to. It is quite limiting and limited. I think it has to be.
What’s been your lockdown highlight?
I think the ability to have the entertainment outside in the garden and being able to join in from the balconies. Those events have been very good, they’ve raised morale. It’s a great joy of living where I do. My apartment is inward facing so you can see all the other people on their balconies and wave to everyone. We used to clap the carers that way. We had VE day service out there which was absolutely brilliant. Roughly once a month we had some sort of music thing. Our Events Organiser has worked her cotton socks off.
Do you think the garden events might continue after lockdown given their success?
Yes I do. The Summer music lent itself to a garden setting perfectly. Far better outside than it would have been inside.
What’s been your low point of lockdown?
Oh dear. I think the second wave. It was just felt like, ‘Here we go again’. It’s just been worse this time round, especially with the bad weather. One of the worst bits looking back is the fact that we couldn’t go out even to shop in that early stage. I had to rely on the shop here or my daughter-in-law delivering. I suppose it’s been difficult at any one point.
How do all the shopping deliveries work here? I imagine you have lots?
Yes a lot of people do get deliveries online. I’ve never had deliveries online before because I’ve been able to go to the shops and I prefer to do that. The Resident’s Association actually set up a lovely system, first of all with the local butcher. He used to set up a market stall once a week on a Tuesday and that grew to several stalls.
Obviously, the market had to close completely. But the butcher was very local so we organised a new system with him. He rang all of us for our orders and we paid online with a card. He then delivered them in bulk at the end of the week. That was very successful so I got in touch with a greengrocer and they’ve done the same. So we’ve had fresh groceries to order every week. It’s very popular.