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Coronavirus: Living in self isolation

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams

As most of the nation enjoys the recent easing of stricter social distancing measures, there remain some residents of Windsor and Maidenhead still needing to live in self-isolation. Adrian Williams asked them how they are doing, and how they are keeping busy.

For some people, working from home has been one of the most challenging parts of the stricter Government measures to slow the pandemic. For others, such as Jessica Harcourt, spending a great deal of time using the Zoom networking application is par for the course.

Jessica lives in Furze Platt with her husband and their cat, and works as a freelance PA for a variety of companies – necessitating her working from home since long before the outbreak. Her husband, however, works in hospitality and has been furloughed.

“I’ve enjoyed having my husband at home – it’s nice when you finish working at lunchtime to have someone to have lunch with,” said Jessica.

The couple have also been enjoying ‘zinner’ and ‘zinks’ (Zoom dinner and drinks) with friends, the new trend for online dinner parties via facetime.

Sitting at the head and at the side of the dining table, Jessica and her husband are able to see a pair of friends, also dining together as a couple, from Jessica’s laptop at the end of the table.

“It’s surprisingly just like a normal dinner party. You just have to be careful not to spill wine on the keyboard,” Jessica said.

She is also a member of Maidenhead’s Tuneless Choir, led by Tabitha Beaven. The choir of 60 or 70 people all join together online, laptops and tablets perched up high so the singers can stand up and give full volume to their tuneless renditions of popular classics.

“At first it felt a bit weird – you’re singing on your own in your house. But Tabitha is such a good facilitator,” said Jessica.

Though she and her husband are shielding for health reasons, Jessica said she does not feel ‘isolated’

“I don’t focus on the future, I just focus on trying to find something nice to do every day,” said Jessica.

Others are not using the Zoom platform, and have a dislike of social media or even texting – including Roland Brookeman, better known as Roly, who played hockey for England in the 70s and 80s.

Roly lives in Clewer Hill, Winsdor, by himself. Since he has lived alone for 18 years, Roly acknowledged that he has perhaps found it easier than most to self-isolate.

To stay connected, he has five friends living all over the South who have made a pact over the last month and a half to speak to ‘a vulnerable friend’ by phone once a week.

In Roly’s case, self-isolation has been less about necessity and more a matter of ‘doing my bit for my country’ by giving the virus as little chance as possible to spread.

Roly has remained physically active for all of his life, despite suffering two strokes and a prolapsed disc. But, unable to play golf and bowls as he would like, he is using the pandemic as an opportunity to write his memoirs, detailing his early life as one of seven children raised by his 16-year-old sister, then sent off to a boarding school in East London, where he fell victim to bullying.

“Now I’m sitting here in my flat, living on my memories, so the best thing is to write about them,” Roly said.

“It keeps you sane, keeps you occupied and helps get rid of a lot of negativity. There’s no use being negative. Sometimes it’s very difficult, because you’ve got to be positive without the help of anybody else.”

While a part of the Great Britain field hockey team, Roly won 98 games and his team appeared in the Windsor, Eton and Ascot Express for boycotting the in 1976 Olympics.

Then Roland’s life ‘turned upside down’ and he went from ‘hero to zero’. His wife battled cancer, recovered, then the couple eventually separated. Roly moved to Spain to work as a coach for three years, but moved back to the UK to be closer to his children. He struggled with depression, and two years ago, ended up sleeping rough for six months.

Now back on track, Roly is thinking of returning to world of hockey coaching in Windsor, once the threat of the pandemic has receded. He would also like to return to Spain to pay his respects to his brother who died of cancer recently.

Also using the time in isolation to stretch his writing arm, Maidenhead author Robert Newcome is working on his third book. He writes historical fiction, with his latest set on a Greek island in the 1940s.

He has writing for over 20 years as a hobby but has taken it up full time recently. His first published novel, The Name Beneath the Stone, has reached a readership of about a thousand people.

Robert was invited to discuss The Name Beneath the Stone during lockdown on the History Hit podcast (20 April).

He is currently at home with his wife Zita Newcome of Teddies Music Club, who has had ‘an interesting time’, creating online singalongs and dances to entertain young children currently at home.

“I have to admit that the lockdown has been a relatively pleasant experience for me,” said Robert. “I've set myself a routine with the day broken up into two hour chunks, and have more or less kept to it without slipping off to watch 'homes under the hammer' too often.”

Not everyone finds routine useful – Roly said that he is ‘trying not to have a routine, because it’s very easy to get bored’.

He reflects that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of ‘the simple things’ and being more caring towards others.

“It’s important that you take care of yourself so that you can look after others,” said Roly. “You can take care of people who are less fortunate that you, still realising that you are a very important person.”

Jessica has similarly positive outlook on the pandemic.

“It’s a very strange time, but in the grand scheme of things, it is a blip,” she said. “We’re not going to get this time again, where we’re all together, so I want to make the most of it.”

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