When life turns 'surreal' - How Harrogate is surviving lockdown in people's own words

No one’s life is immune completely from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, no matter where you are or what you normally do.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 9:31 am
Updated Monday, 27th April 2020, 9:42 am
Rebecca Oliver, who would normally be at work at St Wilfrids Church on Duchy Road in Harrogate but is now at helping organise deliveries for neighbours. Picture by Gerard Binks.

But that does not mean we are not all experiencing this unprecedented crisis in the same way.

Everyone is living the 'new normal' in slightly different ways.

To some of the people the Harrogate Advertiser spoke to, the lockdown presented opportunities for new ways of working or living.

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To others, there was the heartache of being separated from loved ones.

Harrogate Borough Council leader Coun Richard Cooper said staying at home was not a burden in the context of the sacrifices being made by key workers.

He said: “I’m fairly upbeat. I am healthy and have a roof over my head.

“There are many people who are poorly and sadly dying - people who I know.

“There are clinicians, support workers, care workers and many more who are working hard in difficult circumstances.

“When I think of that, staying at home isn’t a burden. It is my small part in an enormous collective effort to protect our NHS and save lives.”

Like many people, Coun Cooper, who, as well as his duties as a councillor and council leader, is still doing his ‘day job’ for Harrogate and Knaresborough’s MP Andrew Jones, has moved to a life online.

A keen runner, it doesn’t help when what he describes as a “niggling calf injury” stops him carrying out his daily venture out for exercise.

He said: “I miss the 6.30am early bird run crew sessions which I hope come back. But I haven’t had time to be bored.

“Even without face-to-face meetings, decisions still have to be made.

“I am proud of council key workers who have ensured tens of millions of pounds in grants have got to businesses quickly, bins have been emptied and vulnerable people supported and protected.”

In normal times Rebecca Oliver, would be at work at St Wilfrid’s Church on Duchy Road in Harrogate.

With the church and its hall closed and Fr Gary Waddington doing daily services from his house and streaming on FaceTime Live from the Facebook page @SaintWilfrid, Rebecca is now at home with her family, her dog and a new mission - to help organise deliveries for neighbours who need help.

Rebecca Oliver said: “The day before we were told to stay home, my eldest daughter and her boyfriend moved back in.

“So our household is now made up of four adults, a 16-year-old and my youngest, who is seven, plus the dog.

“Our routines are all very different but I’m spending a lot of time at home coordinating volunteers to help people in the parish with shopping and prescription collections.

“We have up to 40 volunteers at the moment and we are getting a steady stream of enquiries. That’s one good thing that has come out of this, the community are really pulling together.”

Vincent Staunton, who is usually to be found at Daleside in Starbeck as the brewery’s business development manager, is finding social media invaluable in keeping touch with family.

Mr Staunton said: “Life for all of us is very surreal, not being able to be with our families and then furloughed from Daleside due to COVID-19.

“I’m saddened for people who have lost loved ones.

“I keep in touch with my family with the aid of FaceTime and with my work colleagues and friends via WhatsApp. I never thought I’d be using some of this modern technology!”

Helen Shay, who works as a solicitor, says she has never been so busy now that she has been forced to work remotely.

“My job as in-house solicitor with York University lends itself to homeworking and the crisis has raised several legal issues,” she said.

“I’ve been very glad to help in a small capacity to combat COVID-19, assisting with the contractual documentation for university staff and equipment to be loaned to NHS just now.

“I’m Zoomed-out with meetings of all sorts. KPMG do a weekly webinar about Business Resilience, and I’ve signed up for online classes in Zumba and mindfulness.

“Living in Harrogate over 20 years, I thought I knew my area very well.

“But, walking out once a day, I’ve found new things I’d never noticed before like an old bridle path, and have learned to appreciate our beautiful Stray even more.

“Yesterday’s walk took a bizarre turn when my cat decided to trot along. I didn’t mean to take it for a walk!”

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