This extraordinary time of isolation has made me reflect on many things and has evoked memories for me from my childhood, all happy ones. I’m not sure they were such happy times for my parents’ generation, for whom it was a daily struggle to make ends meet and to create as normal life as possible, for us, children.
As a child I lived for 10 years in a Displaced Persons Camp near Husbands Bosworth, in a Nissen hut made of corrugated iron. My infant friends and I had no experience of ‘real’ houses, such that we glimpsed on our weekly bus-rides to Market Harborough, with our Mums on their shopping trips. The nearest grocery shop was in Welford, 3 miles from our camp, but meat or fresh produce could be obtained in the nearest town, some fifteen miles away. Our mothers had to remember to buy everything needed for that week, or we would go without. Our meals were very simple, mostly vegetarian through necessity, but there were no hungry children, nor conversely, any overweight ones. Our whole days were spent playing physical games outside in the fresh air.
Our whole world was contained within the camp. Life was very simple, similar to our restricted existence at the moment. Yet people were so inventive: our mothers sewed, knitted, embroidered, created fantastic clothes and soft furnishings. Our fathers produced vegetables on their allotments, built miniature huts for chickens and rabbits, went fishing, organised sports for older children and teens.
In recent times, before COVID-19 stopped the world in its tracks, I often reflected on the mad, relentless rush that our lives had become. COVID-19 has brought tragedy for so many people, unrest and worry for all, but it has also uncovered the amazing heroism and kindness that humanity is capable of. In between the sad news stories of the losses people have faced, there are brighter moments when I hear of tales of compassion, empathy, amazing inventiveness, but above all, this crisis has awakened our awareness of the very strong need to be with our loved ones.
Today, we enjoy the wonderful help of new technology and can get in touch with each other at the press of a button which helps to ease the separation from family and friends. My own mother knew nothing of her family for eight years during the last war (1939-1945) having been separated from them in 1940. The Red Cross helped her to trace them and in 1948 she received the first letter from them. Her mother and her three sisters had survived the war, but sadly her father did not.
I want to believe, that as we are gradually released from the lockdown, all the positive and best traits of humanity that have come to the fore in these difficult times, will continue to sustain our nation’s spirit in our ‘new normal’ life.