Life in our home has become a little quieter since lockdown eased enough for Youngest Son (YS) to leave us for his new start in Northern Ireland. The Monopoly Deal box has gone, the breakfast coffee isn’t quite so consistently good (YS is a qualified barista!) and there isn’t as much energy and enthusiasm in the house. We miss him.
The upsides are that he is with his girlfriend again at last, is excited about a new career as videographer in Belfast, and my study is empty of all his stuff. I have also taken on YS’s grocery lockdown delivery slot for the Village Shop which is making me feel more helpful and virtuous.
Otherwise, Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I continue much as we have throughout the lockdown. The main twist to our lockdown routine has been triggered by the gradual opening of the village pub, now, mercifully, under new management. It has been great to re-integrate visits to our local pub into our activities once again.
We first tried the take-away arrangements, sipping beer on the kerbside from a bottle and glasses that we had brought. Then, at the weekend, we paid our first proper visits, post-lockdown, to see the changes the new leaseholders have made to improve the pub and make appropriate social distancing possible. Although the pub was busy, we felt safe and the changes that have been made to the interior – narrowing the bar and moving the kitchen – have made the pub look and feel like a local pub for the first time.
Critically too, the new leaseholders already know loads of people in the village and so I believe villagers will want it to succeed more than ever. The pub has had a chequered history and now is a difficult time for anyone in the hospitality business, but, as we chatted to fellow villagers, it felt like a positive new beginning for The Hog at Horsley.
I am hoping for new beginnings and directions elsewhere too. The coronavirus outbreak has forced massive re-thinking in government and in many families. There is talk of building back the way we live and the economy in a better, greener way. A recent YouGov poll suggested that only 6% of people want a return to the same type of economy as before the coronavirus pandemic. Hoo-ray!
Hopefully the re-build of the UK will involve increasing home working, walking and cycling and an improved electric car charging network to reduce carbon emissions and reduce air pollution. Perhaps Treasury money will be found to create an enlarged skill pool (re-trained baristas perhaps) for the retrofit of homes through improving insulation and replacement of oil and gas boilers; that would create jobs and reduce our carbon footprint.
Maybe too, we will see promotion of renewable energy, more sustainable and diverse food production, and a continuation of the local community support groups that have taken off during the lock down. I’m still hopeful that something positive will come out of the mess the virus outbreak got us into.
In our small village climate action group we are looking at how, amid the virus disaster, we can help to perpetuate some of the positive side-effects of the lockdown on the village’s carbon footprint and its resilience to the climate emergency. We are trying to promote our existing community assets such as the pub and shop, encouraging local and sustainable food production, and investigating community energy schemes and better, greener local transport solutions. We have a plan – indeed, just last night, I presented it to the wider Stroud District Climate Action Network – and we just need more time and energy (probably a little more than we actually have) to implement it.
My involvement has been focused on trying to help sustain the revenue growth the Community Shop has seen during lockdown. I am reluctant to become a full blown volunteer (beyond my new weekly delivery duties) or Committee Member. That is because I fear that, on top of other regular commitments LSW and I already have (and will have when the football season starts again!), signing up formally might be an obstacle to the sort of travelling we want to do – once that is unencumbered by the current coronavirus fears and constraints.
However, I am anyway getting increasingly involved in trying to understand how we sustain the popularity of the shop as lockdown continues to ease. It’s interesting and more complex than I thought and I think that I can help – we’ll see how this participation develops.
Another recent new beginning is that LSW and I are re-starting outings away from the local vicinity. The easing of the lockdown has allowed LSW to see more of her old workmates during tours of local, recently re-opened gardens. Then, this week, we drove several miles south to Old Sodbury. There, we took a break from the numerous local walks from our house to explore one of the many Cotswold Way circular walks.
It was a lovely blustery walk that took in big views and an impressive Iron Age fort, and it was fun simply because it was new to us. We will try some of the other parts of the Cotswold Way – it is something I have long wanted to traverse – but we will have to get used to meeting more people on the way than we are used to in our equally attractive local walks.
We are very spoilt for lovely, quiet walks where we live. Amid all the current change – positive and negative – those remain consistently enjoyable.