Inspiring Brighter Communities – Chris Cannon talks of her experience

02.06.2020

“I have been in Lockdown for 5 years. Covid-19 has helped me become more socially connected than ever before.”

As a younger woman, Chris Cannon (78) climbed Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike … but these days cannot even walk up the hill as far as the bus-stop.

Since being in lockdown in her home in Kelsall, Cheshire, Chris has enjoyed more attention than in the previous 5 years (someone is doing her shopping, someone else dropping off jigsaws or books and another neighbour has dropped off some plants for her garden) as well as Brightlife’s Social Prescribing Coordinator who calls her regularly to check she’s OK and to see if she needs anything.

Chris has been keeping a lockdown diary to record her feelings, thoughts and reflections which she shares here:

“When lockdown ends, it won’t really make any difference to me. Before lockdown, I would go 15 days every month without seeing or speaking to anyone… so this has been no novelty as I’ve been more or less locked down for the past 5 years since I developed mobility problems.”

“I have not been to Chester for years as the bus stop is at the top of a steep hill, which I can’t climb. This same hill has to be negotiated to get to the village shop, but friends would give me a lift there once a week. Usually I’d have one social event a week. First week is the local whist drive, second week is the Good Companions Club. I started keeping a diary where I recorded the days when I had not seen or spoken to anyone and was shocked to discover that usually it was 15 days out of every month!!

I’ve had plenty of practice when it comes to entertaining myself. As an only child I played with the other kids in the street in the summer, but in the winter, and the long dark evenings I was indoors- so I read, did jigsaws, made things, did crosswords – exactly what I am doing now!!

I do not possess a computer, so for entertainment I listen to my favourite radio station, Radio 4 Extra as it is a mixture of drama, documentaries, comedy and quiz shows. I used to love to play games. Scrabble and Backgammon and used to go to pub quizzes but these kinds of activities have all gone by the board now as I have no playing partner. I’ve been widowed for nine years.

It used to occur to me that now I wasn’t important to anyone – no one cared. My family consists of one stepson and three cousins. My friends are all scattered around the country. I still have friends from my college days (60 years ago) and we phone each other once a week. My oldest friend like me is a widow who lives alone. We often joke that we’ll never know if we have dementia, as there is no one to tell us!!

I grieve for the things I can’t do anymore. For someone who has climbed Ben Nevis, walked on Oxford way, around the Isle of Wight, it now takes me all my time to totter down the garden path! However, I do realise that attitude gets you nowhere, and it is far better to concentrate on what you can do and what you do have than what you don’t have.

In this lock down, I am lucky. I have a garden, I’m not cooped up in a high rise flat. Our village has formed a support group and I have been allocated a very pleasant lady who does my shopping. The bonus is that she goes to the supermarket which has more choice than the village shop – so I can order my favourite fish. I asked her to buy me some runner bean seeds but they were out of stock… so she gave me some plants from her own garden! That was kind of her.

The village is doing a book swap scheme. I phoned and suggested a jigsaw swap and the next day two jigsaws appeared on the doorstep. Acts of kindness really lift the spirits.

My stepson phones every week, lock down or not, but my cousins have taken to phoning me which is grand and I’ve also heard from old friends whom I usually only communicate with once a year at Christmas.

In fact during this lock down, I’ve had more attention than usual – which is cheering, and I’ve also been cheered up by the reported acts of kindness throughout the country, let’s hope that when this lockdown is ended, the good will and care for me and fellow humans will continue – so some good will have come out of it.”

Brightlife is an Ageing Better programme set up by The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK. Ageing Better aims to develop creative ways for people aged over 50 to be actively involved in their local communities, helping to combat social isolation and loneliness. It is one of five major programmes set up by The National Lottery Community Fund to test and learn from new approaches to designing services which aim to make people’s lives healthier and happier.

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