A look into our letters from lockdown, a year on.
More than a year into the pandemic and ultimately we've all had our own experiences. For many lockdown has been difficult and some have seen it as a positive experience - welcoming the chance to slow down and spend quality time with their household.
Throughout lockdown all our staff and foster carers within Futures Group (Futures For Children, Fostering Options and Foster Care Solutions) have kept in contact, ensuring that we all remembered that we we're all one family and we're all there to support each other no matter what hurdles come our way.
So, at the start of the pandemic, Nick, our Director wrote regular letters every Friday to all our staff and to our carers to reassure them.
There's been laughs, tears and many stories along the way, with one of our carers even asking Nick to write something specifically for looked-after-children to help explain pandemic, so along came 'Heroes of Covid-19'.
We would like to share our letters from lockdown, one year on.
Hello to you all,
I thought that I would write to you all as a way to keep in touch, but I cannot start without first letting all of you know that our first member of staff, one layer of our collective family, has lost her father to the virus that is affecting us all.
The reality of this virus, and how it impacts families who are living separated from each other and unable to come together at times like these I am sure is all the more vivid to us all, and I am certain that each of us would want to reflect and to pause and think of our member of staff and her family and to support her in any way that we can.
Like many of you, I have spent my first week working from home which is something that I have never tried before. Indeed as a Social Worker I always tried to distance my work from my home as there were times in my working life when working in safeguarding that I really did not want to take what I did in the workplace home to my family.
I never really changed my work practices, even when working in a different aspect of social work so this last week has been a psychological challenge to me as well as a technological challenge to me to continue to work.
I hope that I am motivated by the right reasons, to try to embrace all of our families, yours and those who foster for us with as much care as we can. There are limits to what we can do, and to what I can do for each of you, but I am highly motivated to carry all of us together in the ways that we can throughout this crisis. One of the things that we can provide for you all as an organisation that works in a priority sector is to ensure that there is some measure of financial certainty and stability for all those who work within the organisation throughout this crisis and beyond. That we have jobs going into this crisis, and throughout the crisis and to emerge into when it is over.
I am thankful for all of you who are contributing in whatever way that you are able to keep the foster carers able to carry on, the children safe, and you and all of our staff as secure as we are able. I am aware that some staff are the only wage in the household, and others will have partners that are able to work, some will not, and may have seen a drastic fall in income. This will be true of households that foster too. The collective commitment of all of us will be to carry on so those who have partners that slip through the support packages can manage throughout this crisis and out of the other side.
Of course, this is not a life and death issue, the virus is the life and death issue and all of us must respect and follow the guidance in respect of that, but we can also help each other by continuing to do what we can to provide safety for children and security for staff.
I realise that in many ways it is more straight forward for me than for some of you. I do not have the benefit of small children at home and am missing seeing my children and grandchildren, but I am certain that working from home is easier for me than it is for some of you.
I am also lucky in that I have a large garden to walk in and to work on, so am able to go outside when it is warm enough and mostly channel my physical energy into productive work, so I spent the first weekend rebuilding an expanded chicken run to set aside a larger area for my chickens to stay safe from the foxes that live in the woods around us. I was of course motivated by the need to rehouse Thelma and Louise, two hens who we rescued that had escaped from their previous existence and been on a road trip together before they turned up recently hungry and bedraggled outside our house. It was hard physical work but took my mind off things…. I am not sure I have quiet got the hang of mindfulness yet as I think it is supposed to be relaxing but I guess we each do things in our own way.
I guess I am writing to thank you all, to wish you all well and to try to keep in touch and to support each other so that we can emerge from this period as a family that has stood together and looked after each other as best we can.
With Kindest Regards to you all and your families,
Hi to you all,
This week for me the lockdown seems to have gone full circle. It is the anniversary of the start of lockdown.
In the first weeks almost without warning family members of some of us became ill and died. Nobody knew how to treat the disease, and funerals took place without us being there.
And I remember writing that in the middle of this chaos life also prevailed, nature continued and the first lambs that we had to help birth by ourselves, in the isolation of lockdown, were born.
To me, they were symbols of hope, that the disease would take a heavy toll, but life was irrepressible and life would find a way.
And so a year later, in the past week people close to me, close to us all, continue to lose family members, gatherings are still difficult to mark their passing, and as if they knew it is the anniversary, this year’s lambs begin to be born.
Some of you recall that we had some births that were more difficult than others last year, lambs are easiest when both front feet and the head emerge first, but some arrive in the Superman position with only one leg thrust forward and the other shoulder more likely to get stuck.
We had triplets last year and one of the lambs was born in this position and we called him Superman to celebrate that he arrived safely. Superman lived up to his name, he ate the most, grew the most and clearly believes he is now a hansom Ram. In order to spread out the timing of the births, and to keep our Rams together with unrelated ewes, we kept Superman with two ewes.
Both of these ewes lambed at the weekend. Not only did they choose the weekend but they chose halfway through the England v France Rugby match, causing the male Shepard of the household to have to abandon the rugby in favour of the sheep. For each of the ewes the birth of one of the lambs was simple, and one of each pair, in honour of their father, emerged superman style.
I have been watching rugby since playing it at school, and recently my wife has learned a few of the names of the positions, she appraises the likely outcome during the National Anthems by picking the team with the best ugly players. She finds ugly things have intrinsic beauty. What can I say? It has emerged that her favourites generally turn out to be the front row of the scrum. Having appraised the likely outcome by this method she has no real further interest in the game itself. In the Autumn Nations tournament, she was disappointed that Georgia did not win. Some of you, especially those who played until recently, or those who live with him, will know exactly what I mean.
In honour of the Rugby and also to reflect the relative ease and difficulty of their birth, the lambs were named, the first pair tight head and loosehead. The same evening, when the second pair were born we had prop and hooker. We have three ram lambs and one ewe.
I was roused from my bed (a small insight into how our domestic life works) and at about half-past six this morning, barely awake I was out in the bitter cold north wind watching for the next lamb to be born. This one came out breach, back legs first, an awkward birthing position, with danger the lamb will breathe in fluid before it is born.
We waited for it to be born without assistance, and the legs hung out for a while, and then started to wriggle and then stopped. We took this as a sign that the lamb may be in distress and Alison pulled and the lamb was born. It had swallowed fluid, it was not breathing and took a while to revive before it began to take the occasional laboured breath.
The other sheep in the field had gathered around, Claudia was very curious, and Alison decided to secure them in the next paddock before we opened the gate to take the mother and her babies inside. They were both ewes.
Alison had taken her coat off and left the lamb lying on it to keep it off the wet grass, but soon it became apparent that the lamb was lying in a pool of blood.
Usually, the umbilical cord shrivels and closes quickly, preventing the lamb from bleeding, but in this case, it seemed to have torn near the base, perhaps there was a slight umbilical hernia, blood was flowing out of the tear right at the top of the umbilical cord keeping the umbilical cord from collapsing and the lamb was struggling to breathe, life was ebbing away.
We have never had this before, and were unprepared, in the middle of a cold wet field without any of the resources from the lambing shed. It is only our third year of having a handful of sheep, and only the second year we have birthed them alone.
I knelt down in the wet grass, next to the lamb and used one hand to hold her down and the other to clamp the cord closed and waited for Alison to return from moving the other sheep.
Einstein said that time is relative, I think he may have meant when life is ebbing away, and you are kneeling in a puddle in a wet field and the wind is bitter and cold, and the sheep are nudging and licking both you and the lamb wanting it to move and stand up and you know that you have to hold it still so that it does not pull against where you have its life literally held between your thumb and fingers, I think Einstein meant that the time it takes Alison to come back from moving the other sheep seems like a long time.
Time stood still again as Alison went to fetch some cotton, and came back and tied the umbilical right up near the belly shorter than we would tie a puppy or you would ever tie a human baby and fortunately the bleeding stopped.
We took mother and lambs into the relative shelter of the lambing shed.
It reminded me of the start of the pandemic, and how fragile and precious life is. That sometimes we need to intervene in order to save a life, and initially, we may not know how but we still strive and sometimes we succeed. I know that a year ago for me, and for others, the birth of lambs and the promise of new life was juxtaposed against our loss, the confusion of how to treat covid. It is the anniversary of lockdown, and for some of us, we approach the anniversary of our loss.
I don’t think we knew it would take a year to emerge, but now we are emerging, the lambs and the spring reaffirm that despite everything nature continues, I am looking forward to the birth of new grandchildren and all of us are looking forward to seeing our families and friends and those we work with again. Despite the pandemic, we have found a way to begin to emerge.
The lambs have now struggled to their feet, and are eating well, society is beginning to do the same, it will take a little longer, but we will emerge, maybe battered bruised and bloodied by the experience, but we will emerge.
At the start of the pandemic, I determined that we would do our best to walk into lockdown as one family, to stay together, and emerge together at the end. I decided to write to you each week and many of you have written back. I hope that we have all cared for each other, I hope that at times in isolation our contact with each other has helped each of us get through the experiences of lockdown and I hope that whatever I write about, however, removed from your lives, or trivial it may seem it also tells you that I care.
We haven’t named the lambs next, but having lived there for years I do have an allegiance to Wales, so perhaps we will wait until Saturday, and perhaps, sticking with the rugby them, perhaps, just perhaps, we will name one Grand Slam.
With love to you all and your families,