2020 and COVID-19 – A most unusual year, not just for Newmarket.
As news trickled in from China at the beginning of the year, no-one could have realised what momentous events would take place, or not take place, around the world. Folk in the U.K. watched the news as this disease crept ever closer to our shores.
Of course, as usual, panic buying set in and the stores were very quickly emptied of, firstly, toilet rolls, followed quickly by paper towels, tissues, sanitisers of all sorts and strangely enough, baked beans. Soon it became a gamble when one went shopping, to see which product you needed would still be available. Many sporting activities were the first to cease.
Then the most draconian edicts for generations were issued by the Government and all semblance of normal life ceased. In order to “flatten the curve” and save the N.H.S. from being swamped a lock down was introduced. Those who could work from home were not allowed to go to their workplace, schools were shut, mainly it seemed, to release their parents from seeking childcare in order to continue working, particularly important for health workers and others in essential occupations.
The elderly, it was quickly realised, were most at risk and those with pre-existing conditions especially respiratory were adjudged to be vulnerable and were told to self-isolate for 12 weeks. For the rest, leaving one’s house was to be done only for brief spells of exercise or shopping for essentials. Only food shops, pharmacies and other “essential” businesses were allowed to remain open, the rest, and all of the hospitality industry were shut down.
It was quite eerie to be in the High Street and see (A) a virtually empty highway, and (B) exceedingly few shops open. Those that could open such as pharmacies were operating during restricted hours. Seeing people queuing to enter the banks was strange, and of course the magic mantra was displayed everywhere, “keep two metres apart”.
This of course automatically increased the length of any queues and smaller premises were allowing only two customers in at a time. As the pandemic spread, so the rules were tightened, but eventually the tide was seen to turn, and the brakes were released ever so slowly and cautiously.
Actually, documenting this phenomenon was not easy, since how many would be using their cameras when out shopping, and trips specifically for such a purpose were ruled out. It was frustrating to arrive at the supermarket to see a huge queue, but the camera was at home. Then remembering the camera, turning out and there was no queue at all.
All plans for celebrating the 75th anniversary of VE Day went by the board and so far, few photos have come our way of what any family and their neighbours actually did in their own way on May 8th. The Society had sorted out some bits and pieces to mount a display, but they were now locked away in the Memorial Hall.
What we do have currently are the following photos. This section needs a re-think since events and rules keep changing the scene. Now, in March 2021 with the advent of the vaccination programme and the happy thought of life very gradually returning to normal, there is a need to sort through quite a number of photographs to best illustrate this moment in time.
Happily, Joanne and Stephen have been taking photos on their regular exercise walks. In an ideal world, other members might have done something similar. Unless things like this are recorded at the time, future historians have no chance. Societies like ours try to present the local history, but that is only possible if folk at the time recorded it.
The following photos were taken by Joanne Garner:
Non-Street Parties of VE Day 8th May