Getting back to normal


Rye’s streets were packed last Saturday with visitors of all shapes and sizes – adults, children and dogs – and a street festival was in town, shops and pubs were open, and it was a bank holiday weekend – so life was getting back to normal. But is it that easy?

Covid came to our attention nearly two and a half years ago with rumours from China, and my sister is now only just able to visit her children and grandchildren in New Zealand – and that is a long time in a small child’s life.

There have been around 175,000 deaths in the UK linked to Covid since it arrived here, and there have been around 300,000 cases in the UK in the last 14 days. But vaccines, testing and self-isolation have reduced Covid’s impact it seems.

However there have been impacts over many months – on our children, our work, our employers, our social life. Little has not been affected by Covid, though many have worked hard to dull it’s impact – by changing our ways of working, by helping out friends, neighbours and people we never knew before, and by being very careful in our lives.

But what about us? 

And now everything can go back to being normal – or can it? How has this past 29 months impacted on us as individuals? And do we realise what impact it has had on us? Let me give you a personal example.

I was editor of Rye News when Covid kicked off and, while I could see it might be quite disruptive, and we might need more volunteers to help those most at risk, I was personally dismissive at that point about the views of some who had worked with epidemics before – but a lot of the necessary precautions still came to pass – and we may still need our masks in some situations.

However I stopped being editor last summer because I was frankly worn out (I thought) by not being able to do things face to face. However, the real problem proved to be cancer, and two sorts in fact – which is why I now have a huge bandage on my stomach.

Getting back to “normal working” though is easier said than done. “Offices” and “meetings” are not always as productive as they should be, and some people are still very wary of meetings and Covid re-appearing – and plagues do re-appear (as diarist Samuel Pepys recorded, and as Spanish Flu did after the first world war).

Reasons for caution

And Rye’s town hall, for example, seems still quite nervous about Covid increasing again, which seems quite sensible when many visitors may come from areas where Covid rates are higher than locally. So, for a variety of reasons, Rye News may not be completely back to “normal” for a while, partly because it reflects its community, and partly because there may be lessons to be learned from how we all coped with Covid.

The masks are still out, often when shops are busy and even more so, for obvious reasons, in the chemists. Neither will I be back to “normal”, whatever that was, but I think I am far off grasping yet what impact cancer, let alone Covid, may have on what I do, think and feel.

However, I can recall the impact of one event – my parents dying within a week of each other. My father was killed before I was born (during the second world war) but my mother died from sepsis after days in a coma, and my stepfather died from a heart attack the night we buried her. So two deaths in a week.

I got immediate leave from work and then got on the first plane out of Gatwick, scaring to death the passenger next to me by asking: “Where am I going?”. A travel agent at Gatwick sold last minute tickets and I was literally last on the plane to “somewhere Greek”.

Feelings need sorting too

It proved to be Zakynthos and the taxi driver had a cousin with a cottage on the beach (too close to the bars) but I felt I was getting on with my life. But I had not dealt with unfinished business and unsorted feelings, and that affected me, my work and marriage – and led to me qualifying many years later as a psychotherapist. So who knows what feelings, thoughts and problems Covid may have left us with.

So I am far from sure what impact Covid has had on me, or on how, for example, I think Rye News can or should be run or on what stories Rye News will actually cover over coming months – but I hope they will include some of the good memories of Covid.

For example, I recall having two pints of cider delivered to my door rather than having to go to a pub that possibly could not open at that point, or might be full of germs. The many volunteers who stepped up, as well as those who helped out schoolkids with computers and phones so they could access remote classes and the odd meals with a very small number of friends in back gardens.

But I still pocket a mask whenever I leave my house and I have cards in my wallet recording my four jabs – except they’re no use against cancer! However, my son visited at Easter after two years’ gap and a daughter is due soon. How far life returns to normal though remains to be seen and I hope, though Covid may have made many of us often anxious and fearful, that life will return to normal – but perhaps a “better normal” – and we will have learnt from our experiences.

An editor in a mask in March 2020 when Rye’s restaurants were open for a sit down meal – rather than a takeaway

Image Credits: HM Government , Rye News library .

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