From the Home Front – By Joanna Farnsworth

As we celebrate Victory in Europe, who would have thought we would be fighting a unique and terrifying battle some seventy five years later. In this world war against Corona virus we all have a role to play, medics and carers on the front line and and those of us doing our bit to support them, simply by staying home. Within a matter of weeks we have all reconnected with our communities, our environment, going backwards in order to move forwards to a more sustainable way of life.

For years I have endured the commute into London, which just seems to get longer and busier, frayed tempers, jostling to keep a secure footing, I am already exhausted and stressed by the time I reach my desk. I have often questioned whether there is any future living in our semi-rural community when large modern housing estates are being built on the countryside all around us, the roads are increasingly busy and starts earlier and earlier to secure a place in the station car park. Everything has felt like a race, to beat the traffic, to get parked, to get on the train and get to site. Equally I have questioned whether the enormous mortgage to have our modest house is worth it? We rarely had waking time at home to enjoy it, the garden gotten overgrown, the maintenance neglected due to the sheer lack of time to tackle the tasks.

…and then everything changed…

Whilst this pandemic has been devastating for all of us in one way or another, losing loved ones, losing trade, losing salaries, savings and our social lives, in another way it has been liberating and generous. Spending time with our loved ones, appreciating what we have on our doorsteps, the generosity of neighbours and nature, just enjoying the place that we call home. The four walls we have may be big or small, we may not have a garden or even a balcony , but there is delight to be found in all corners of the space we have created, our sanctuary. I have taken great joy from seeing the seedlings I had bought a few years ago but never got round to planting, in all this glorious sunshine starting to push up through the soil.

I am lucky to be still working, and working from home whilst we have managed to reopen site it has been a huge effort which seems disproportionate to the output we are slowly managing to achieve, we are only able to operate with a fraction of the workforce at distance and enhanced cleaning regimes. Financially it doesn’t add up but morally it is the right thing to do, to keep the wheels of Construction turning, providing a living to those who we can, protecting their safety with the strictest measures any of us have ever seen. My colleagues on the front line are working tirelessly to do this, whilst those of us who can are working at maximum speed and efficiency to provide them with every resource and support required to do so. The tide has turned all by itself and revealed that business can operate more sustainably, efficiently and cost effectively by utilising the skills of its staff to work differently and in a way that is vastly better for their mental and physical health.

We are all communicating more purposefully, gone are the endless round of meetings that drag on for the sake of it. We have all had the technology to hold virtual meetings but rarely took advantage of it, we are sharing information and creating transparency in a way that we have never managed to succeed before. The needless interruptions have all but ceased and work is focused more productively and creatively than we could have wished for. I am falling back on my Surveying skills more than ever, analysing, questioning and seeing the answers in sharp focus. Before it was a case of not seeing the wood for the trees but now every branch, and leaf stands out to be accounted for.

I am no stranger to mental distress, but have found these last few months strangely calming and uplifting, of course the good weather has helped. I am outdoors as much as I can be, taking my morning coffee before work in the garden. Lunch is alfresco wherever possible and an early evening dog walk for as far as the dog wants to walk is really uplifting. Every weekend and day off is spent tidying up around the garden to the point it is starting to resemble its former glory, I chat to neighbours from time to time over the gate and again every Thursday evening as we clap along with the nation. We have shopped for our elderly neighbours and joined in the cheer when the local plan, to build tens of thousands of homes around the village was revoked. There had been little consideration of the impact on the community, the lack of infrastructure, public transport and damage it would do to the historical context of the area. Building to meet demand is one thing, doing it in a considered and sustainable way is quite another, as we have all seen the community and environment we live in is so important to our well-being.

However small and austere our Victory in Europe day celebrations may have been they also felt so special at this time. Celebrating with a small home made piece of bunting draped across the front garden gate as neighbours sat in their gardens enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. May we always remember the little things that mattered to us more than ever now, our key workers, our homes, our surroundings and our neighbours.  

We may be apart but we are all so much more together in spirit than we imagined possible.

In memory of

Lt. Thomas Kerr, my Grandfather who died before I was born, served aboard HMS MMS 133 keeping our shores and our Naval fleet safe from Enemy mines.

Sgt. Alexander Turner, my Great Uncle of the Scots guards who was awarded the Military Medal for Bravery after he captured singled handed two Enemy tanks and lorries at the El Taqa Plateau in El Alamein.

Gordon Turner of the Scots Guards who returned home Safely with his brother Alexander.

L/Cpl. Michael Joseph Turner (Joe) of the Seaforth Highlanders who was killed in action in Belgium in May 1940.

And most recently to My Father in-law Robert Alfred Farnsworth born in the East end of London in 1939, raised in Silvertown, who could not believe that we didn’t find a single UXB on site. He had lived through the East end bombings, but sadly lost his final battle, to Covid-19 on 01 May 2020.

Thank you to all who have given so much to give us freedom and peace and this place that we call home.

I never knew my Grandfather but reading his words bring me such joy, a postcard to my Great Grandmother sent whilst he was at Sea in 1941

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