We were in the Caribbean when Covid-19 struck. The TV news items seemed unreal as the world coped with a deadly virus.

We were sharing our great holiday adventures with the new arrivals when the Captain shocked everyone with his words that “the ship had been ordered to return to Southampton with immediate effect!” There was a short silence in the dining room before everyone started talking at once. We looked at each other in horror realising that the newcomers’ hopes and dreams of a fortnight in the sun, had been shattered. We felt guilty because we had had our holiday.

We arrived home as lockdown was beginning. From then on life changed for us all. On-line shopping became the norm, only a twenty minute walk, no family visits and I was devastated not to be able to continue my role as carer for my 89 year old Uncle. In the early days it was all new: – using the phone to set up his government parcel delivery, medication delivery, and a weekly volunteer shopper. But, who would have thought it would last so long? It became a “pandemic” – a disease that infects us all.

However, as I write this I understand the majority of the British population has not tested positive for the coronavirus, the majority of us have not perished from the disease and the majority of NHS hospital beds are not occupied by Covid-19 patients. But, from my observations I suspect that loneliness, unhappiness, depression, sadness and isolation have been some of the results of the lockdown.

I am concerned that because of fear, many friends have not sought the medical treatment they needed:- the regular cancer and eye appointments deferred because the pandemic has taken over the health services. The loss of loved ones has been tragic but I hope the survivors will take some responsibility for the future and help those who suffered trauma with the loss of work, wages and status!

Positive outcomes have been improved hygiene, outdoor exercise and the value of neighbourly spirit and helping others.

For me Covid-19 has enabled me to update my IT skills, move into the 21st Century with a new phone and has provided me with the opportunity to work with my sister Soroptimists to give service as well as raising funds to support staff working for the NHS in local hospitals. I have also planted flower pots outside my home with bright red and yellow blooms to make it a more welcoming environment as a dear friend reminded me, “To plant a garden is to believe in the future” Audrey Hepburn

Shirley Hallam

(IPP Soroptimist Internationl Northern England)