By Sally Graham

Day 18: I am isolated on a small farm near to Leek on the Staffordshire Moorlands. We moved here, just a few miles out of our original village two years ago. It’s peaceful, only the birds and sheep. Usually, I love the silence.  But something intangible has shifted and the blue sky has darkened. Over the past three weeks, since we have been instructed to barely leave our homes, this place with its vistas and peaks, has felt oppressive. Outside looks and sounds the same but something untouchable has changed. It’s our choice to live here, a mere six miles from civilisation, but today the loneliness of this farm is crushing. I miss my friends, my mum, the beautiful cappuccino my favourite café does so well. Is it ok to say it out loud like this? People are dying in the hundreds and we are so well. Our Prime Minister was in intensive care, the NHS is devastated and I keep thinking about frothy coffee. But there is more to it than this, there is. I call my Mum on the phone but now I have nothing to say. No venting to my mum, this one I keep to myself. I resist the great urge to tell her of this new loneliness, because I want her to be happy and she won’t be if I am not. I look at my laptop screen and out into the garden but I cannot begin.

Day 19: I flip open my laptop and again try to seek solace in my work. I have always felt quietly proud of the contribution our business makes to society and the work which we do, but this morning I’m not sure. The work we are doing doesn’t feel like nearly enough. The caregivers of this world and the traditional service providers trump what we contribute ten-fold and I feel almost ashamed of the luxury of our isolation. I look for any way in which our business could help this effort. There is a national call-out for ventilator design work, and I quickly rally our team and look to volunteer. This feeling of futility has surprised me and I don’t like it. I check social media. My community are looking after each other but I feel an unfamiliar feeling of otherness. On my final trip up the stairs I look out of the window at the top. The distant lights of Leek look back at me through the night. Its familiar face lends me some comfort. It is still there, just the same.

Day 20: Mother nature has exploded all over my garden during the night. There are sparkles on my yellow primroses and my cup of tea tastes all the better for it. My quietest little child joins me in pyjamas and in a rare moment of hand holding, we go and look at our cat in the tree. There is no rush to school or to start my work so I take coffee to my husband who started early this morning. He is cold in his study and looks endearing in the woolly hat he has taken to wearing for most of his waking hours. I know he is unsettled too; I see it in his face and sense it in his manner. But he has a silent tradition which has served him well. My way of dealing with it is different, I want to dissect everything I see and read, discuss it and chew it over at length. It can wait.

There has to be a way to comfort my family and pull us through the gloom which has settled on our house. Being physically away from humanity has led to a cold feeling of loss which has been worse than the self-isolation itself.  My darling community has snapped to attention and with the help of modern technology we can still take our part in it. We may be quarantined but the love is still there. We need to stay on our farm but we can still contribute. Projects are emerging, volunteers are called upon and small businesses need our support now, more than ever.  There is work to be done and through action comes solace. I may no longer have neighbours to wave to over the fence and my closest confidante is, temporarily, a sheep, but I know that we are part of something much, much bigger. It’s coming and it feels good.

 

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