Forgotten Frontline

Sophie Holmes, Suffolk, UK

This time last week I was up to my elbows in salivary secretions. People freely spluttering and spitting into freshly wiped spittoons, my face suspended over theirs, closer than strangers should be. A flimsy non FFP3 mask over my face and to the person laid in the chair what must have looked like bug eyes looming over them, as they trusted people like me to rummage around and fix whatever was wrong with their teeth.   


Fast-forward to a week; today. My birthday. A very unique, Corona bespoke birthday spent celebrating on my own and one I probably won’t forget in a hurry. The world as we know it having entered full-blown, police fine-enforced, lockdown.   


I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that the profession of Dentistry in all of this has pretty much been forgotten about. An afterthought it seems in the eyes of the government, as I sit and watch day after day of television announcements and speeches about the healthcare professionals on the frontline, who rightly so should be commended. A week ago that was people like me. People who have trained hard to get where we are. Who contribute a vital healthcare service to society. Who were the highest risk profession for spreading and contracting Covid-19 and who have shutdown in an instant to protect our staff. Now the challenge practices face, who up to today were still trying to see emergencies only are desperately trying to balance out the responsibility of social distancing versus the duty of care we have our patients; to not leave them in pain. Sadly at the moment, there’s no-where for them to go. We have no PPE and we can’t risk creating aerosols. The government’s afterthought causing a delay in the set up for Urgent Dental Care Centres, pro-longing innocent patients suffering.  


And while we’re forgotten, the majority of dental professionals, both NHS and Private are left with no way of earning and with no government help. It’s almost cruel how we could be doing so much more for the population but there is no safety net in any shape or form. And we want to help. Desperately. There’s a cloud of uncertainty for us looming as we face potential re-deployment into hospitals in order to secure a portion of NHS pay, or perhaps an option to volunteer for urgent care centres. Nothing is sure for us. And for private dentists, no help at all.  


So in the meantime, I’ll celebrate my birthday alone, with a present from the British Dental Association, who is fighting our corner by directly addressing the Chancellor. His disregard for an important, untapped resource they’ve yet to acknowledge. Let’s hope he at least acknowledges the letter.


Getting into a routine

Messycrafterpam, Lancashire

I seem to be getting in to more of a routine during this lockdown. Spent the first day panicking about everything, then read a really good article about how it was important to get structure into the day, and only watch or read about the news once a day – twice at most. That was good advice!  


I wake early at the moment-usually around 7:30 am. I am up, showered and dressed by 8 am and having breakfast. Yesterday I was determined to start work on some gardening - spent an hour tidying up, cutting back some shrubbery, and sitting with a mug of tea watching the blue tits fly in and out of the nesting box which is attached to the wall of my bungalow just under the eaves. My brother had put this up for me some years ago and had spent time researching the best position and height for it. Blue tits have nested in it every year ever since. After lunch I went walking for an hour in the country Park – right on my doorstep. The path down to the river has been very muddy following all the rain, but today I was able to get down and had a little sit on the riverbank. The water was flowing gently - I love the sound, It is really soothing, calming and relaxing. Life seems very strange and unreal. Like everyone else, I miss social contact and trips out, although I do chat to my neighbours over the fence. Today I plan to brave the supermarket for a few essentials-wish me luck!


All is quiet

Tilly Wonham, Hertfordshire

The cars on the road have lessened. The sky a perfect blue with no aeroplane lines. I no longer hear the school children making their journeys to school. All is quiet. 


As a semi-introvert and creative, being told to spend the next 12? weeks at home isn’t as daunting as it may be for others. What’s not to like? Well a few things actually. However, I love spending time with my husband and with us both working in schools, we are used to spending long summer holidays together so it is not a shock. It feels like we are practising at being retired: painting, walking, cooking, gardening. 


The children have left home and are isolated in their various cities. Somehow, the current situation makes us communicate more. Feel close when we are apart. I miss them more. I want to reach out and hug them, ruffle their hair , stroke their cheeks. They seem so far away with the thought of not knowing when we’ll be together again. 


The news on the radio makes me anxious. I have to limit the amount of time I listen so we have music instead. In the studio at the end of the garden I can hear the birds and watch the squirrels scamping around. Sometimes visiting cats peer in at me, but they know not to stay long here with our territorial beast lurking in the shadows. I sit in the studio and paint. Time disappears. I let thoughts flow in and out. Everything will be right with the world again.


Une vie banale, la France profonde

MJK, Magrie, France


With the pace of life suddenly slowed and the lengthening days seeming to stretch out like in childhood summers, my partner and I have more time for observation and reflection. And there’s a new competitiveness coming into play between us around previously tedious household tasks: we vie to wash the dishes, sweep the floor, set the fire in the stove, make do and mend – all those little tasks that were easy to put off before but now provide a few minutes’ distraction. The way things are going, we’ll be taking down the heavy 8-foot curtain in the salon next and shortening it – a job we’ve avoided for almost a year now…  

There’s more time to think about trivial physical actions, too. Chopping an onion perfectly, adjusting the gas ring to absolutely optimum flame for a slow simmering soup, making a tidy little twig-wam from dried sarments (vine prunings) left lying by the tailleurs after mid-winter pruning, that burst into eager flame as soon as a match is applied.  


Even walking the dog has taken on a new dimension. We can’t go far – the confinement decree states no more than a kilometre from home, and for no more than an hour once a day. So we walk more slowly, seeing and hearing more: amorous frogs calling above the gentle sound of the brook in the valley bottom; the faint hum of the wind turbines on the Pic du Brau; the rusting skeleton of a Renault 4 concealed in a clump of sturdy bamboo; crisp cloven prints on a clay bank where a boar has passed that way; drifts of fallen blossom drying in the soft wind.  


Who knows if we’ll still marvel at these small things in a month’s time or longer – news reports suggest that ‘le pic de la peste’ (as one local paper colourfully called it) might be two to three weeks away, and confinement will last longer. For the moment, however, they help the days pass and lift our spirits.


A poet’s eye view

John Mole, St Albans, Herts



I walk alone

in familiar company


stepping aside

abruptly from myself,


from who I was

to who I am,


our distance kept

for health and safety's sake.

A long gaze meets

in the space between us,


becomes the ghost

of pale necessity


but promises

a swift reunion


when we walk together

as we surely shall.


A Wymondham Plaguery

George Szirtes, Wymondham

26 March  It is fascinating and encouraging to see how people adapt themselves to the situation and seek to be helpful by working to the general good. The half a million volunteers for the NHS is one clear sign, as are the many offers of help circulating via websites and emails. Crisis brings out the best in some and the worst in others, but my impression - and long held belief - is that there are far more of the former.  


We keep in touch with friends. Some we ring, others we contact through email or Facebook Messages. This morning I rang Ron down in rural Sussex. He is one of the greatest book artists this country has produced and he is in his eighties. His wife, Willow, is a sculptor with a marvellous touch. Both have been through illness in the past but they are all right. More local friends of various and great ages are also all right.  


It is easier in the country and in broadly rural areas than in cities and bigger towns. There is breathing space - literally.  


The air is almost perfectly still. The sun is almost burning on the glossy light-facing leaves. The blackbirds come and go. Yesterday a crow dropped in which frightened them a little but the crow has not been back. Plump pigeons perch their bodies on legs that have always looked too fragile to hold them. They waddle along the top of the fence or wall. These are daily matters and don't change much but are good to look out on.  

19:52  In a few minutes time applause for NHS workers, at windows and doors. It will have to be the front door for us.


20:15  Well, it's an old and narrow street but the applause did ring out, joined by two people in the street. It is moving to register the appreciation of health workers at such a time. Come to think of it, it is moving to be clapping at all.


Without Art

Dawn Cliff, Yorkshire

Well, wasn’t last night emotional - the thankyou to the NHS. Our little road was quiet (we are set back from the main road) but as we clapped we both filled up with tears and could hear fireworks start and finish, pots and pans being clanked and others showing their gratitude. I don’t know if it was a build up of emotions or the thought of people coming together (apart but together) that moved us both but it was really quite a beautiful moment. I hope amidst all the chaos, struggling, and tears that all those caring for others especially the wonderful NHS (proud of you son) felt at least appreciated even if we can’t hug and kiss them to say thankyou in person. And please let us spare a thought for those like my lovely ‘daughter’ Kat who is working away behind the scenes in the hospitals searching for cures/treatment for such life threatening things . Love Dawn x such a time.

Come to think of it, it is moving to be clapping at all.


We got this! This could be cool!

t, Rural Norfolk

In times of crisis, I read, it is important to maintain structure and routines as anchors to normal life. We have discussed coursework, sensible mealtimes and the fair division of labour. Thus far none of these discussions have resulted in a routine which fits into the 6-8 hours out of 24 when we are both fully awake at the same time.

I collapse sometime around midnight. I am awake again at 4am as my brain spins like the Devil’s Rolodex, each card taking me to a more ominous outcome than the one before. The only way to stop the spin is to venture down to the cold kitchen and then spend the next few hours drinking tea and telling myself I will start each day with a workout. Some hours, and gallons of tea later, I crank up the DVD player.  


Meanwhile I have no idea when the teen takes himself to bed. Snacks are consumed, lights are left on, and the TV remote is nowhere to be found. He reappears, eventually; affable, hungry and oblivious to time of day. I hand him a list of chores, we debate what we might have for brunch, or dinner, and discuss ambitious projects we should really crack on with whilst we have this amazing opportunity of time. We agree we’ll start those tomorrow. I don’t think routines are going to be our thing. Our days are productive, we take a long walk together, eat meals together, but we’re really just cruising along enjoying the view, one day at a time, and I think that’s ok.


In a Canary Plantation

Amanda White, Canary Islands, Spain

It's a zingy, sunny day outside. Spring has really arrived to make a mockery of our present human condition. 


People here in Tenerife are famously outdoorsy - you're either a mountain person or a beach person, but right now all except key workers are all indoors people, walled up under virtual house arrest as they have been for two weeks or more, most likely climbing those very walls if they have kids to cope with in an apartment.


The death toll mounts across Spain. As of yesterday there were 13 dead in Tenerife which is the hardest hit of the entire archipelago. But by now the numbers of cases will no doubt have ratcheted up again with only one in the group, the tiny, windswept desert island of La Graciosa, population approximately 700, registering a thankful zero


Avec amour, Le Malandri D174

JC, France

So today I've been cooking a lot. 2 loaves of bread a cake and roast lunch so far; next on my list is Nettle pesto, thanks River Cottage handbook.

And all this on the day Mr B Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus...


Our plentiful nettles - remind me of the 'Nettle Patch Theatre'

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