This picture of our hamlet in Gloucestershire is a picture of sunny tranquillity. That is, until you realise this is taken by a tree feller, who for two days, seared the air with the noise of his chainsaw!
Despite that aural intrusion, the last couple of weeks of lockdown has been peaceful and, frankly, have felt like a very pleasant, seamless drift from one day to the next. The only things that keep me aware of what day it is are the maintenance of our routine of sourdough bread at the weekends and the date labels on my Guardian newspaper subscription vouchers. I do wonder when and how the lockdown will end but, in the meantime, no complaints here yet.
What might become boredom has been fended off by the recognition that there is always an endless number of jobs to do in the garden (and the good weather in which to do them) and some work to promote our village climate action group. On the latter I have been interested in following up the themes that arose at out village meeting just before the lockdown that related to strengthening community cohesion, neighbourliness, sharing and mutual support.
Of course, a number of community based initiatives related to the virus outbreak are already underway in the village independent from our climate action group. One group are making protective headgear for front line medical staff using 3-D printers. Another, including Long-Suffering Wife (LSW), is sewing up gowns for nurses. Our climate action group wants to build on that community spirit while focusing on things that reduce carbon emissions.
The WhatsApp Group that LSW set up in early April for sharing of services and things in our hamlet has been very successful. Similar groups are already up and running in other hamlets around the parish. Together with the village Facebook presence, they have served as useful support mechanisms during the lockdown. A new group that our village climate action group established that is specifically focused on sharing seeds, seedlings, plants and surplus crops has also thrived. Social media technology is really helping with social cohesion although we are also using old fashioned means of notice boards and local magazines to ‘spread the word’ to those who don’t use it.
It is almost distasteful to imagine that there are positives arising from the coronavirus outbreak. So many have died, so many are worried about their jobs and incomes, and so many are suffering from just being cooped up in their flats and houses.
However it is also possible to recognise that the lockdown introduced to dampen the Covid-19 infection rate has had some beneficial impact on community spirit, carbon emissions and air quality. We are spending more time communicating with our neighbours (albeit while socially distancing) and we are working, entertaining ourselves and shopping more locally, and are therefore driving and flying less.
Given that the ongoing climate emergency is going to eventually come back to be the headline risk to humanity, the question becomes: how do we sustain the effects of the lockdown that have had a positive impact on carbon emission levels and community resilience against the climate emergency, beyond the lockdown?
The area I am thinking about most at the moment is whether we can find ways of sustaining at least the majority of the extra revenue that has resulted from many more people in the using our Community Shop during the virus outbreak. Revenues and footfall have more than doubled and so the shop is thriving relative to normal operation. The shop has long been a great community asset but it is now even more of a hub around which neighbourliness, gossip and information can circulate. It would be great to sustain some of those economics and the stronger social feel after the lockdown is eased, not least because local shopping will reduce carbon emissions in line with the objectives of our climate action group.
Meanwhile, Zoom meetings are keeping LSW and I in touch with our sons in London and various friends – possibly more than usual in fact. The ‘Clap for Carers’ session on Thursday evenings is becoming an ever more sophisticated event in our hamlet with a trumpet player now accompanying the saxophonist that started the musical dimension. These events are ripples on a steady drift through a largely unchanging stream of locked down days.
How fortunate it is for me that the weather is so warm and sunny and I have the means to enjoy it. The local woods have been full of bluebells and now are strewn with carpets of wild garlic. The trees and hedgerows have that brilliant green foliage that Spring brings. The skies are blue and populated with attractive clouds rather than the vapour trails of aeroplanes. The birds seem louder and happier this year and the lambs more numerous. My phone is full of pictures of sweet little lambs; how many does one need?