All participants were asked to write a letter to their future selves and a response.
“So glad your letter made you think. Of Words and Worlds far from your birth.”
Peter’s Letter Oct. 2020
Dear POP – Peter of Past,
Well, hello you?
How you doing ? No, really?
Good glad you are being honest isn’t life easier!
How are things in your relationship?
Things going well?
How did you do for her birthday?
What about Christmas ? and your anniversary?
Have you managed to get away anywhere?
How is sobriety going?
Are you still attending meetings? I hope so, if not why not?
You still working on the 12 step program with your sponsor? I hope you are because it’s your recovery.
Have you passed your driving test yet? if not why not, it takes concentration and effort.
Are you still paying your way? Are you in control of your finances?
Are you in a new role regarding voluntary work? Or have you branched out in a new direction?
Remember how much you enjoyed creative writing?
Is the recovery football team still going strong ? Are you still involved, reaching out to people?
Lastly you know what I’m going to say Matey!
Are you keeping the house clean and tidy?
Organised house ! Organised Peter.
Remember my friend , you only get out of life what you put in!
See you in the Future
Peter’s Response Mar. 2021
It’s been a long time.
Life is still tough with lockdown and everything but we are nearing the end hopefully.
Now is the time to be thinking about the new normal whatever that is.
Your relationship is as strong as ever and things are going along nicely.
In regard to Birthdays, Anniversary and going away, forget it.
This global pandemic has put pay to that.
I’m afraid it’s going to be with us a little longer, but hopefully the end is sight.
Sobriety is still my key priority and is being maintained.
I’m over half way through oak trees and it’s been really helpful.
I’m not going to lie keeping on top of house work has been a struggle but I’m working on it.
Look after yourself
and I will see you presently
Elizabeth’s Letter Oct. 2020
The last 6 months has been a trying / testing time in so many ways, no flexibility to see loved ones, friends for a cuppa , lunch , go to the flicks, go on holiday or even a short city break.
During this time I have faced some very emotional situations which I hope to have overcome through sheer determination & perseverance.
Hopefully this will have been accomplished by having a close friend to talk things through & also by being able to listen to music. I hope to have become more confident with my inner self & feel worthy of the smallest of things that often I feel has the biggest impact on my life.
Hopefully a safari will take place sooner rather than later & I can make plans to walk once again with the wildlife , flora & fauna in the Masai Mara. Africa here I come….
Most importantly to be healthy & wish all my friends that I hold dear to my heart are also.
Looking forward to the next 6 months of life & living it to the best of my ability x
Elizabeth’s Response Mar. 2021
A further 6 months have passed since I last wrote to you. Where has the time gone? Well we eventually have a small glimpse of light at the end of what seemed to be a never ending tunnel, after a very long & sometimes dark difficult lockdown. Hopefully by the summer we will have brightness with the ability to see our family , friends once again. Give each other the simplest of things in life like a hug. This has been missed as it would often make you feel safe / secure & of course loved.
Plans are already being made to celebrate special occasions that have been unable to take place during lockdown, an 18th, 50th , 60th & 90th birthdays & a diamond wedding anniversary. All to celebrate with family & friends we love dearly. Eventually travel abroad or in the uk will once again be permitted with no restrictions to stop you exploring this beautiful planet.
On reflection there have been several things that have kept you going such as being involved in a creative writing group which was both therapeutic & enjoyable, working on the shed project perhaps bringing out the inner artist in you & doing one or two courses to enable you to volunteer & give something back to friends you’ve made along the way & a community which is often frowned on & misunderstood. This along with the love of Khoshka & Ebony you’re beautiful fur babies, listening to music, a bimble, a soak in the bath listening to calming soothing sounds of the water, reading a book, writing to a friend have all assisted in getting you through.
Although you’ve yet to book that holiday to the Masai Mara so you can walk amongst the wildlife you so dearly love, see the flora & fauna, it is being planned for 2022. I bet you can’t wait. All of the above should never again be taken for granted , we must all learn to appreciate life, live it to the full & not allow our fears of which you have many to stop us doing anything we have only dared to dream, as we do not get a rerun. One life which every day we must live to the full.
I must finally congratulate you on getting through this difficult period of time, although it’s not been an easy journey.
You’ve made it x
Paul’s letter Nov. 2020
Well it’s me talking to you so listen to me, instead of thinking all will be well in the morning, well this time it won’t.
You have enrolled in this group of people who are looking for help and support while they are dealing with important issues the same as you so don’t f*ck it up by trying to be clever because you’r not.
Be yourself, be honest , truthful to yourself and no bullsh*t becous you will only bullsh*tting yourself, listen you may learn something about yourself you may not like what you find , if that is what you find well that’s just tough t*t.
I will speak with you again
Paul’s response Mar. 2021
Hope you are copping with lockdown so far.
Five months of isolation. I must be honest to you, I have been damaged.
The noise from the building work around me was cawsing irashnol thoughts
The nightmare of drilling ,hammering in a multitude of combinations, beginning at 8-30am till 4-30pm five days a week for almost ten weeks. I had no where to escape the noise.
I still have not looked within my self at my own mortality facing cancer and it’s destructive inevertability if I am not strong enough for surgery that will no doubt prolong my life.
and Coping with the aftermath of suffering the Covid 19 and the damage leaving me in such a mess, and to place the crowning of it all the cherry on the top of the Fucking cake.
Coping. with the death of the love of my life.
not being able to say good-by and denying me the opportunity to tell her how much I love her …. Yes it has been a year.
I don’t know how I would have severed this past year with out the help of the group people who have become my new and loved family struggling in the same way we all are helping each other with understanding and hope for the future
so I think you, yes ME. I think you may have learnt something quite pershous
Fondest regards, to Me
Me. Paul x
Spencer’s Letter Oct. 2020
Hello old sport,
How are you getting on? Six months have passed since I wrote this note and there was much that you had intended to do.
How are you getting on with the guitar – can you play Day Tripper yet? If not then it may be time to chuck the damn thing on the fire!
Hopefully you’ve kept up the good work with exercise and new experiences including trips away when conditions allow.
Now would be a good time to reflect on the places you’ve been! What about the painting? At the time of writing your birthday was on the horizon so you may have got a few “arty” gifts – if you did I hope you made the most of them.
Have you finished the decorating and is there a new carpet down?
Oh what about Christmas?
How was that?
Did you get to see the family?
Is Aunty alright?
Hey, you may have a new job now?
Are you meeting some decent people?
Did you get that dog?
Clue me in!
Your good friend, your good self.
P.S – Was your shed the best? It was, wasn’t it?
Spencer’s response Mar. 2021
Hi there historical me!
You’ve got a bumpy few months in front of you and it stems from your rapidly increasing alcohol intake. Yes, I remember… you’re in control… no trouble… you can stop when you want… it’s a stressful job… Look you’re just trying to fool yourself – literally! I’m you man!
We don’t like things sugar coated so I’ll put it simply. The detox isn’t going to last unless you stick at abstinence and you haven’t so far have you. You need to admit you have a problem because you do. I don’t know anyone who cracks open a can at 07.40 apart from you. Why is that, do you suppose?
I’m not here to lecture but to guide you. Don’t throw yourself into helping people so much – you think you’re offering an emotional oak to lean on but you’re going to be at the reed stage for a while yet. Be less trusting. I know, crazy, but there are selfish people out there who want to get well no matter what.
Distance Thompson, distance.
Be kind to your wife.
Okay now the good part. You will have some sort of epiphany in February and fingers crossed you crack it. You sort out your CV and start going for jobs and you start drawing – I know!
Look it all works out but you have to stick with it and never take your foot off the pedal. Who knows you might get there before February!
Oh and you get massively into cooking sauces and whittling.
Wendy’s Letter Oct. 2020
Hey you, yes it’s me, Wendy, don’t ignore me, just listen.
This is a serious situation, its rubbish that I have to think about myself, it’s not my usual style but needs must, I need to stay alert, no shortcuts, no saying it will be ok its only ten minutes, no doing what I usually do and run after everyone but myself, this time if you don’t look after yourself you can’t look after anyone else, just remember that.
Don’t be hard on yourself remember everyone is in the same boat, or that’s what they say, let’s wait and see shall we. Try to actually listen to the news updates, try to make informed choices, just do whatever it is you can to stay safe and to keep those around you safe too, I’ve never known anything like it, and by what is being said and by what is shown on TV no one else either.
Ok over and out
Wendy’s response Mar. 2021
Well hello Wendy, well what do you make of all this then?
What the hell had happened in the world, the UK, the north east and in your hometown. Very similar stories the world over, some have fared better than us some have fared even worse than us. But everyone somewhere has lost someone, or knows of someone who has passed from this Covid.
It’s good to see you are still with us, I have managed the best I could, sometimes fine no issues no problems, but boy this last lockdown has really taken its toll, and I bet everyone else would say the same too, I am glad about the restrictions being lifted but I worry that’s it’s all a bit too soon, am staying cautious, and keeping a distance, am ok outside I feel quite safe I can handle that and can dodge people of I feel there too close, shops well that’s a different story all together, I don’t think people realise you have to keep your distance in there too, I hope people stay vigilant and remember this is not over, we are always now going to have covid, just like we have the flu, we need to be prepared and accept that we need to have the jabs when offered, and keep in mind, that it can mutate, it can survive and it can strike again.
But hey I have survived as have lots and lots of others so what we have been doing has been working let’s take a lesson form that, not slip up stay safe and well and crack on with our lives this is not a dress rehearsal, this is real life a one and only life so be warned.
Catch you later
Barbara Bone’s Letter Nov. 2020
A letter to myself in six months time today being November 20 th 2020. Today’s a blustery cold November day , the fireworks have been and gone , with lockdown there were no colourful blasts of patterns in the sky , only sudden swooshes and hard thuds that could be heard. As it’s November, it’s a reflective month of remembrance, filled with personal thoughts of lives lost this year . Lives not only lost but deaths and funerals of folk who I wasn’t able to properly mourn. They died during this Covid 19 pandemic , but not of Covid, their funerals were for the select few . An aunt and an uncle died of old age, three neighbours have died , one of dementia , one of pancreatic cancer and his wife died just months later of another swift cancer. They left behind two university aged children, who have lost both parents within 2020. Despite my uncles death , down south, I was able to be there virtually at the cremation, with a service booklet provided earlier . It was a very different experience which may be worth keeping on after this pandemic ceases , so that those who are elderly or frail or living miles away can in some way be there to say goodbye. Come on , think positively. Next year September 2021 I have an invite to a party to celebrate my Godson’s first year of marriage.
He married Katie in a small 15 person Covid wedding , so his first anniversary party , will God willing be a large family celebration. I’m grateful right now for zoom , facebook and whatsapp . I can keep in touch with U3A groups, family Quaker meetings and groups and worship. It’s amazing how used to new technology some of us have become. Monday’s I speak via whatsapp with one sister and on Fridays all four of us discuss how life is. Zoom is for larger gatherings and facetime for grandchildren. What do I hope for, for late April next year when I re read this letter? The roll out of a vaccine for the nation. It’s going to take time, so if it’s in its beginning stages I’d be happy. Sunshine and a yard full of flowers ? , we did quite well this summer with roses , potted plants I’d ordered and seeds that grew. Will there be a little more freedom? Face masks still worn by everyone? The highlight of Nov 20 th (today ) was that I managed to get a priority shopping slot for the local supermarket on 22 December, in time for Christmas . Will I still be shopping online weekly? I hope for sunshine to fill the yard , so a coffee can be had and an iPad read with a fresh breeze drying the washing. Will there be a hug for and from my daughter and her children by then ? They long to come to granny’s for macaroni cheese. An Oxford scientist friend tells me that a pandemic usually runs its course within two years. That’s a lot of time given up to remain safe , washing hands and not visiting family. Where will we be in late April 2021 ? Will my state of mind be as good or not when I re read this? I pray for those stuck in tower blocks , fearful of lifts. For those whose autistic children find lockdowns for the area or country difficult. I hope I shall have a new shower fitted by April . This one works but leaks and needs changing. Easter is April 4 th in 2021 . I hope it’s a day of celebration.
Barbara Bone’s response Mar. 2021
Well it’s been a journey. 20 th November was a blustery cold day , and here I sit on 3rd March with a cold foggy day outside, grey sky , and no sign of the sun , it has disappeared. It’s been gone for a couple of days and this week I had hoped to plant out some bulbs which would flower in the summer. It’s just another day in the country’s lockdown. I can see that I can add a couple more funerals to the list of those which happened without me being there. A lovely 95 year old friend has recently died and I await her cremation and a service by zoom.
All these folk who have to organise funerals without the crowd of family and friends supporting them , means that words and hugs go unsaid and done. I can’t physically reach out to people and that makes me sad. On the upside my Godsons isn’t the anniversary of marriage and a party for that awaits us all in September . I do hope family can meet together then.
I’m still grateful for zoom , facebook and whatsapp. The Gurney family now have an end of the month get together on zoom . So all who are related from near and far attend and last month we had a cress growing competition and a quiz, with each of us with several questions ready to deliver..
It was hilarious and we all had baked , so as to chat with tea and cake too. The Grandchildren will be back to school hopefully next week, which is also the week of my hubby’s birthday and our wedding anniversary on the same day. So that will be a quiet affair. I hoped back in November for the start of the vaccine roll out . I have been pleasantly surprised that as a nation we have now got over 17 million of the population already vaccinated with one shot and awaiting the second; and the doctors and public health are doing a grand job alongside volunteers who help to vaccinate in large centres. My youngest sister volunteered through St. John’s ambulance and has been busy vaccinating folk. I still have a priority shopping slot for a weekly shop which is fantastic. No problems re aisles full of people , not socially distancing. Christmas went well with zoom chats to family during the day. I have a yard of spring flowers at present. And the daffodils are about to bloom alongside a lonely snowdrop. My youngest daughter has recently moved out to a house of her own , which gives me a garden to visit this summer as we are a bubble. So I hope for long summer days later in the year and a chance to plant bulbs in the new garden. Unfortunately my eldest daughter , hubby and grandchildren are not in our bubble and as the children might return to school and the parents are out to work, so hugs are not yet an option. My granddaughter has become quite a proficient baker of bread, and various cakes. Her idea of a school friends virtual party is to all bake simultaneously on zoom. I shall be truly happy when all close family have had a first vaccination . I know it’s not the answer to the end of Covid 19 but it will be a beginning. The new shower has not materialised yet. When my second jab has happened I shall get in touch with the workmen. I think Easter on April 4 th will be another zoom affair. Returning to using buses and going to shops is but a dream.
Liz Gregson’s Letter Nov. 2020
As I write this on a chilly November evening I wonder what the next 6 months will bring. As we continue to live with ongoing social restrictions a long hard winter is forecast. What will life here be like in May 2021? A vaccine is planned to be rolled out early next year, so I hope there may be changes. I wonder how much life will have returned to some form of normality and how will it be different to the time before? How will I feel about it? I have loved living in Newcastle and the buzz and diversity living in a city. Now it feels diminished, as many places have closed for so long reopening may no longer be viable. As people continue to lose their jobs and livelihood how are they going to cope and what will be the impact on their physical and mental health and their families in future? As poverty increases the atmosphere in the city may feel different. We have been living through a pandemic with social restrictions that a year ago we could never have imagined would be possible in this society. I used to take so many things for granted, being able to meet with my family and groups of friends, going out spontaneously shopping, for meals, drinks, to the cinema and travelling. We may have fewer choices in future. How will I feel when we are eventually allowed to go out freely again? I will welcome seeing my family and friends again and having more freedom, but will I ever take available choices for granted again? It has been nearly 9 months since I was in a room with a large group of people in the theatre and a conference. After social distancing and only being able to meet with up to 6 people, usually fewer, at any time will I readily adjust to being with a lot of people or will I find being in a crowd overwhelming? As I have become accustomed to wearing masks or face coverings indoors I appreciate the need to prevent infection spreading. However, my glasses steam up on cold damp days further limiting my vision. Being visually impaired it is harder to recognise people when most of their face is covered. It can be embarrassing when I meet an acquaintance, so I hope that in 6 months time I may be able to see people’s faces again when I’m indoors. I used to go away a lot and during the first lockdown I welcomed spending time at home, enjoying the glorious spring and exploring local parks. After 6 months I loved having a change of scene while on holiday in September. I am reluctant to consider travelling at present, even if it was allowed, but I hope in 6 months time I may start to think about going away again, even if initially this is within the UK. At the moment there are a lot of uncertainties about the future for all of us, but we must try to keep ourselves and others safe. I hope in 6 months time there will have been some changes and the outlook will be more positive.
Liz Gregson’s response Mar. 2021
I’m writing this as we are nearly at the end of a long hard winter. Since my last letter we went into another lock down, although as we have lived under restrictions for most of the time since September it feels as if this has become our way of life now. I found November an anxious, stressful time, but I got through it. Christmas was different to our plans, quieter, but still festive. January felt interminable, but I kept myself occupied, and February passed more quickly. I’ve been enjoying writing, including some poetry, sharing this and appreciating other people’s creativity and enthusiasm, which has energised me. I’ve also been going out for walks in the park on murky days,then revelled in the sparkling snowy winter wonderland until it became treacherously icy. Now I welcome the first signs of spring. Now it’s a year since the pandemic became a tangible reality. I have been thinking of anniversaries from February 2020, the last times I saw my mother, enjoyed a meal in a cosy pub, went to the theatre or travelled on a busy train. On reflection I was making the most of those freedoms while I still could, as the threatening cloud was hanging over us. I have gradually adjusted to the dimmer confines and no longer take things for granted. I have managed and found positives where possible. I still miss seeing family and friends and it’s been particularly hard when friends have been having a difficult time recently. Instead we speak on the phone regularly or meet virtually. I’m looking forward to when we can see each other again. I have missed going shopping, but on the rare occasions when I had the opportunity I only went into quieter shops, no longer browsed aimlessly, but became focussed. I’ve had to get used to a foggy view when my glasses steam up wearing a mask and try to see the funny side when I’ve made mistakes, rather than cringe with embarrassment. I’m looking forward to some culture again and going out for meals and drinks, but only when it feels safe to do so. Unfortunately, the city feels diminished; there will be less choice, as many shops, venues and businesses may never reopen. I hope that we will have more freedom before too long, although we still need to be cautious as too many people are still becoming infected with the virus. The government has a “roadmap” for potentially lifting social restrictions, but this may be too optimistic and Boris and his cronies have changed their plans at short notice before. I no longer make definite plans for what I will be doing in the months ahead, as the events of the last year have changed everything. However, it is not all doom and gloom. The vaccine roll out has been a credit to the NHS and volunteers, who are working tirelessly to make a difference. I had my first jab early on a bitterly cold snowy morning, but the staff at Gosforth Racecourse were welcoming and even the volunteers standing out in the snow were cheerful. It was the first time I have been in a place where there were quite a lot of (socially distanced) people, which reminded me how normal it used to be. This is a tentative step forward, but there is a long way to go. Today I sowed seeds, epitomising the optimism of forthcoming spring. In these uncertain times it may be different to spring as it used to be; there is hope, but streaks of anxiety, too many “what ifs”. However, I have to cope with whatever happens and try to stay positive.
Take care. Yours hopefully. Liz x
Kate Bowman’s letter Nov. 2020
I am writing to you to draw a line in the sand. Where we are in the Covid pandemic, wherewe have come from and what I hope for. I see no point in making predictions right now. The last year felt like an endless lockdown. It wasn’t, we had a few months of freedom when weplayed a lot of tennis, sat in the sun, grew vegetables, met friends, and sat in the garden with Mum – a brief touch of our hands before we received a hard stare from care staff. So,what do I hope for next year? First and foremost, I hope not to hear about the death toll every day. Not to minimise the importance of death during the plague of our times, coronavirus. Just because it means that the vaccines are enabling us to reduce transmission,keep vulnerable people safe and relieve the pressure on the NHS. It means that we can travel to see our family and friends, eat out without watching how close someone is to you ata table or the bar. On a personal level, I hope to be able to see my Mum, go into the care home and see the room that I haven’t seen since she moved there in October. I want to hug her and hold her hand. We are a tactile species and skin on skin is so important. We learn that when we become parents. I’ve set myself several goals for 2021. The first is to make a better fist of my vegetable patch. I made some bad choices – peas instead of beans, meaning you couldn’t eat the pod. My leeks failed and half of my tomatoes didn’t ripen though they grew in abundance. I discovered too late, my mistakes. So, I will be buying new varieties of seed and some of the same ones and I hope to prepare the soil and manage each variety better so that they yield well. I plan to be out on my bike more. During 2020, I spent more time playing tennis and I let my cycling go by the wayside. Had I been at work, then I would have cycled throughout the summer, but I was at home. I will also see a physiotherapist and explore my problems with my hip and back . I need to identify the cause of my pain and how to prevent a return of the pain that has made it a difficult autumn and winter. My final plan is to eat less meat, avoid products that harm the planet and try and contribute to a healthier planet – reduce our carbon footprint, use more bamboo and recycled products. I will also review the ethics and green criteria for my banking and savings plans. I look forward to reading this in a few months from now. Spring and summer will have come and gone – but what about the virus? What progress will I have made with my conscience! I wish you well Kate. I hope you find small things to enjoy each day.
Kate Bowman’s response Mar. 2021
Astrologers believe that the new moon is a time to make plans and focus on hopes and dreams. The new moon on the 11th February was in Aquarius, the unconventional and trailblazing sign. So, a time for me to give way to my most inventive thoughts and allow them to breathe. Strange then, that from 11th February to today, I haven’t felt particularly inventive or hopeful. I have felt tired and sluggish, a feeling of wading not flying. Today is different, today is a day to capture my mood, bottle it so that I can get it out every so often to remind me what there is to be joyful about. Firstly, I woke up to the sun streaming through the gap in the curtains. I got up, went into the kitchen and just smiled at the beauty of the day. Snowdrops, daffodils, purple and yellow crocuses dotted around my garden alongside striped pansies and ferns – what a vista of sun and flowers greeted me. By 9 am I sat outside and basked in the warmth and heat, listened to the birds singing their throaty songs which matched my uplifted mood. I feel like I have sloughed off my Winter skin which has grown along with the dark short days and now I can feel the sun on my face and a renewal of energy. Today is the day to invent, dream and hope. My sense of hope is strong. I walked in the park, listened to a mindful tape as I did so, and on impulse I stopped and inhaled the sweet scent of buds. I hadn’t realised that they smelled so fragrant so early in their growth. Such stimulus is thrilling and I went home buzzing with a plan to dig over my garden and sow a few seeds. My dreams are cautious, but many. I can’t pin them all down yet. To value nature, to breed a sense of nature’s values in my sons, to talk to my friends about climate, environment and how we can make small differences by cultivating a thoughtful approach to living. Cycling instead of driving; growing my own vegetables; organising my shopping with less packaging and eating sustainably. I applied for a green heat pump. Today I think, when the greener fuel comes, I must ditch my car. An electric car is beyond my pocket. I’d need a windfall for an electric car. With that thought comes a sense of realism, I may always need a car. Don’t take mobility for granted. This takes me towards invention. I need transport that is sustainable, usable as I age and convenient. I noticed electric scooters in the City this week. Is that the answer? Otherwise I need to convert my car, which is running well, into something more sustainable. What I’d like is to fly using solar. Bottle that and propose it to the University. Where there’s a will there’s a way – so my Nana used to say. Good luck Kate. Today is the start making dreams real.
Love always x
Mary Pickin’s Letter Nov. 2020
Well, what a palaver! I bet it’s been touch and go over the last 5 months. Christmas, for example, how did that go? Did we have that nervous breakdown? We were very close; what with the awful electricity rushing through our veins and the terrible dread we had at the thought of us causing people to die just because we missed the boys. Did we get to Ali’s in Bromsgrove as Michael suggested? Was it fab to see the boys together with their partners at their Auntie’s with Milo her new puppy, and us, watching the family interactions like a suspicious rat waiting to be turned upon.
Was it bloody chaos or did being; a) with their partners and b) at their favourite auntie’s house keep them from smacking each other? Did the COVID seriousness temper their rivalry? Or was it all called off and did we two spend Christmas dinner with Valerie and Verity next door eating vegan.
Did you and I manage to lose another stone before Christmas? – It was possible even though we were losing hope of denying ourselves stuffing, baileys, chocolates, baileys, Christmas pudding, baileys, more chocolate, cream, baileys and more cream? We made a brilliant start in September 2019 didn’t we – when COVID didn’t exist and the future was my son and partners’ civil partnership.
We lost 17lbs! And then Lockdown stopped all that. We didn’t gain but we didn’t lose either for 8 months. Last Christmas we managed to be careful because we wanted to compete with the future in-laws. They are glamorous, slim, effervescent and young but it’s our replacement, their stepmother that held the greatest incentive to slim down to sylphdom. – Her being 10 years younger and 5 stone lighter. Have we stopped competing with everyone yet? Did we just dive into a Christmas trifle and forget about our worries?
Are we in a “good place”, wherever that is?
Looking forward to hearing from us both
Your loving self
Mary Pickin’s response Mar. 2021
Thank your letter of the 25 th November. I’m sorry it’s taken us so long to reply. We can’t say we’ve been very busy but life takes over doesn’t it and to be honest you were speculating rather a lot and quite frankly you came across as rather gloomy and a little self obsessed. Mind you I have to admit I’m the same, always worrying about the future, especially now when things may or may not be sorted out by June 21 st. Why should we be worried about that, you may ask? Well we like the “maybe” bit of the forward planning but not the “maybe not” bit. If you remember our son Paul and his fiancé had to postpone their civil partnership last year. It’s now booked for 24 th July 2021 and Paul and 3 of our sisters are very excited about it going ahead. We are not. We’re absolutely terrified of something going wrong with the so-called “road map” out of lockdown and everything having to be cancelled with catastrophic results. What kind of catastrophic results? Don’t ask us. We’re mentally ill. People like us just think that way. We’re all doomed, doomed, doomed. It’s a weighty burden we have to bear along with our hefty hips, our bulging belly and our chins. Anyway putting that aside for the moment let’s talk about Christmas with the boys. We were very anxious about that weren’t we? What happened there? They didn’t come did they? And how did we feel about it? Relieved; relieved and GUILTY that we were relieved. We can’t just enjoy one good thing happening to you can we? The boys couldn’t come because the COVID epidemic had spiked and everyone was in danger of killing each other by travelling the country in hot sticky trains with stale air circulating round sardined passengers. We’d tried, before BJ called Christmas off to put them off. We even wrote things down to explain to Michael over the phone why we’d be fine.
“I’m in Tier 3 and don’t want to travel”
“I don’t regard Xmas as a time when we all MUST be together”
“I’m very happy to postpone the celebrations”
“I won’t feel abandoned”
“I can go to next door for a vegan Christmas dinner”
“I’d love to have a zoom with you”
All very good but then we went into drama queen mode didn’t we?
“I find it hard to socialise when I’m ill with anxiety because I feel so self conscious”
“I don’t want to feel like I’m ruining people’s Xmas but I do when I’m ill and I’m better off on my own , distracted by the TV.”
Then we felt guilty about trying to put Michael off so we wrote right at the top of the list “I wish I could see you”
Michael’s response? A very determined, “Mam I’m coming up. I’m a mental health first aider and you need my help” BUGGER!
Anyway BJ changed things and poor old Paul got COVID so that put a stop to that and a vegan Christmas dinner was back on the menu.
Yes Paul got COVID 19. Luckily it was a mild dose and he was ok after 3 weeks. He also broke his hand when he fell whilst running and we were so engrossed in your own worries that we forgot to ask which one! (shame faced emoji). Our sisters asked us on a family zoom and we hadn’t thought to ask. It was his right hand, by the way; his dominant one. Bad Mary!!! You’ve been coming out quite a bit lately. Self obsessed, griping about people, grumbling, critical of everyone, especially blokes and people who have a huge sense of entitlement.
Like Diana, there are three people in this relationship now – you, me and bad Mary. I think she’s been hidden for a good few years like Looby Loo but since Christmas she’s been coming out and being really mardy. Now, let’s move to a more weighty issue. How much have we lost? We don’t want to say do we?
Because we’ve been listening to Bad Mary with her “just eat these two massive bars of chocolate” “Cream’s not fattening” “Bailey’s has very few calories”.
There are 20 weeks to the civil partnership and we could lose 40lbs if we just got our back into it.Our sister Ali has persuaded us to move to a very low carb diet this week. She’s already lost 2.5 stones in 5 months, what have we lost in the last year? Zero, zilch, nil. Could it be that we both found pictures of our “rrreplacement” on instagram and decided we were idiots to try to compete? She is STUNNING! Five foot 11, long blonde hair, deep brown eyes “like dark pools of welcoming mystery” (as Paul put in his diary when he met her 7 years ago but that’s another story). Size 10, legs long and lithe, posing for a photo in slim line denims and thigh length boots with a slim belt caressing her slender hips looking not a day over 35 despite being in her 50’s . We had to laugh didn’t we? – Our waist is 44 inches. Eat your heart out Suzi. Michael named our stomach “Winfred”. He liked to rest his head on it when he was young. He said it was comfy. Well if we want to lose anything in time for July we’d better get back to our exercise zooms. Today is yoga. Oh my god trying to do a digestive squeeze with a very large belly is unimaginably ungainly. Thank god for small mercies like not having to do it in a live class down at the seaman’s mission. That’s something all 3 of us can look forward to in the early summer. Sending all our love, keep on Trucking. Your friend and confident, Me.
P.S Bad Mary says F*** off
Karla Graham’s letter Nov. 2020
I am not doing well right now. People tell me this feeling will pass but as the days go by, the less I believe it. Mental health is torture. It’s a constant battle between your head and heart. When I’m in that really dark place, I struggle to believe what’s right and wrong. My head is all over the place. I think to myself, do I take the easy way out or do I fight through all this doubt? I have no energy because I’m not sleeping and when I do I’m faced with nightmares that feel so real. When the night’s are so long I just want the pain to stop. There is nothing left for me here. I am worthless and useless. No one needs or wants me around. I am no good to anyone. I’d be better for everyone if I was dead. This life is far from easy and my world is falling apart. There is no light to break up the dark. I just want a normal life. When do I get a break from all this constant feeling? Feeling sick, worrying too much about everything, never being able to just switch off having panic attacks. I don’t think I will be around for March 21st if my life carries on the way it’s going. I can’t plan that far ahead because I don’t know what I could be facing from one day to the next. I feel like I have so many hopes and dreams but right now I can’t think of any of that. The world is changing everyday so who knows where we will be next year. I’d like to think that everyone will be okay and we’ll have our lives back and hopefully COVID-19 will be a distant memory.My future self would be proud of how far I’ve got. The 20 year old me never thought this day would come. I would have never thought that I’d get to age 23 because my life has been really tough. There have been times where I’ve nearly died and people would say I am lucky. I don’t feel lucky because I wanted to die.Lockdown for me has been really hard. Self harming started again. Not being able to see my family has been hard as I live on my own and being alone with my thoughts isn’t a good idea.I hope that in the future my health will improve and that I will be able to help people suffering with their mental health. Hopefully I will reach this stage. I feel like I don’t have things to look forward to in life because I don’t know if I will be here for it but I really want to pass my driving test. I would love to visit New York at Christmas time and my dream holiday would be to go to Disneyland Florida and Dubai and I would like to go to Paris and London. I’d love for my family and friends to be happy and I would love to be able to make more memories with the people I love. You are enough. You’ve got this. This feeling will pass. You are stronger than you think.
Lots of love, Me x
Karla Graham’s response Mar. 2021
It’s a shame how hard I have been on myself. I treat others with more love than myself. I deserve to be celebrated too. I am doing much better than I was in November 2020. I still have bad days but things are looking up for me. I hope it stays this way. Mental health in the world has not improved since my last letter. It is worse now for people more than ever. I wrote in my last letter that I don’t think I’ll be around for March 2021 but look at me now. I am looking forward to my 24th birthday on Sunday the 7th.
I am really proud of myself for getting this far and I did not think I would have because it’s been a real struggle. I now see that people would be lost without me. I realise now that people want and need me around. These past few weeks I have been a rock for my mam. I have the one doing her shopping in COVID-19 and I have been the one to sort out all her technical problems. Without me here, she would struggle to do all of that. I now see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am going to make a very beautiful life for myself, no matter what it takes. I am now starting to plan for the future. I never thought I would be able to do as I’ve always said I won’t be around for it so what’s the point in planning for a future I won’t have.
I am planning on being debt free by 2022. I can’t wait to feel what it’s like to be debt free and start saving for a holiday I have always dreamt of. Or maybe do my driving lessons as I have always wanted to drive my own car. I feel like being able to drive will open so many doors for me. I can just picture myself driving away, listening to my favourite tunes with no care in the world. I really feel it would help my mental health to drive. To have some thinking time or to think about nothing, just to live in the moment.
One day I will tell my story of how I overcame what I’m going through now and it will be someone else’s survival guide. I am so lucky to be writing this as there have been families broken apart because of a loved one being taken from them far too soon because of COVID. I feel so proud to be able to say I have reached this stage and to have made it to March 2021. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Who knows what it has in store for us all. It’s a new day to shine, go and catch our dreams. Today is a gift.
I am grateful to be here to write this letter back to myself and I have a list of things to look forward to. I am a girl who wasn’t herself in that last letter. Hopefully I stay feeling like this because this feels amazing.
Love, Me x
Chris Burridge’s Letter Nov. 2020
Well, you made it – another six months. I hope that you’ve managed to achieve the things you resolved and that you have eventually ‘got it together’ and adapted to your new career as a carer. I know it was working out at first and that you were supported by friends and family coming and giving you time out so that you could do your ‘me time’ things. This damned virus put paid to all that with lockdown and spending all your time together. Six months ago, I was hearing people talk about the chance to have ‘quality time’ together in lockdown – yes, Really! Anyway, he was able to join various Stroke Association support groups, albeit on Zoom. At least he was able to interact with other stroke victims and it gave you some time to get off with other things. These things seemed to be all household stuff, normal shopping (online), cooking, cleaning, gardening but you did start to go to Zoom talks, lectures, and activities. I wonder where all of that is now. I believe that the online presence will be around for a long time and you won’t be nipping into Newcastle for a class any time soon but I hope that you are still making sure to attend as much as you wish. I am aware that his support groups may start up face to face again and that will mean you taking him along to wherever and needing to plan your activities around that. Hopefully, you have friends coming along now and again and giving you some time out. Remember when you went to the supermarket and carried on driving to the seafront, just to see if the sea was still there? You felt so guilty because Sandra was sitting in with him. Did you register with the Carers Centre? It’s worth it just in case you need support sometime. I have to say that you have every right to live your life without feeling guilty about doing what you want to do. Perhaps your geology field trips have started up again and you can get out for a day now and again. Also, you should be considering some respite care by now, I know he says he wants you to have a break – so, do it! You have learned that you can leave him on his own (and he does have his fall alarm), and I hope it is not just the dash to the supermarket or a quick walk to the Post Office nowadays, and that you take real ‘me time’. Let me know how things are going, use some of that time that you have learned to make for yourself, and tell me about your plans and activities.
I’m thinking of you, wishing you all you wish for yourself. Luv, Chris.
Chris Burridge’s response Mar. 2020
Thank you so much for your supportive letter. Six months is a long, long time but where did it go?
Well, I have stopped just muddling, and the calendar has lots of Chris stuff as well as his appointments and Stroke Association Zoom meetings. It does mean that I sometimes must rush things to get to evening talks online but I’m more organised than I was, and I also give him more responsibilities instead of doing it all for him.
He still has one carer in the morning, I know that I can manage it myself, but the Social Worker suggested it was worth it, and it is. I can even have a lie-in if I want. It is not easy being an owl married to a lark, but it is often later at night when I find the time for my things.
So, yes, we came out of lockdown, learned more social-distancing and more staying at home things. Even Christmas, just the two of us, and a duck. My latest endeavour was to fix a curtain track, not only that I put up a motorised one so that he can open and close the living room curtains as he wishes!
YouTube is really good for learning how to do all sorts of things, and you can buy almost anything you need online. That is a concern, I may forget how to interact with others in the real world, whatever that may be when we get to the new normal.
Oh, and I had my first vaccine in February and I enjoyed getting dressed and going out and the chat at the centre. On the way home I was listening to Radio 4 – Any Questions – and Joan Bakewell was on. Remember her? She used to be known as the ‘thinking man’s crumpet’. They were discussing the effects of lockdown on the nation, she said that she had had two episodes of depression. She described – me! A sense of paralysis, I couldn’t do anything, I didn’t have any thoughts except “I can’t have any thoughts, I can’t do anything, I don’t know anything.”
I did manage a Zoom call with my kids who said, “Go for a walk….” No, that’s the nature of the depression. I can’t. Anyway, she said that it’s transient, and I know this is how it is with me. Some days are good. I thought that it was a grief process I was going through, not for him but for what I had lost in terms of freedom to get out and go to classes, sit on committees, be involved with others.
Maybe it is – I recognised my denial, the anger, the bargaining, but not the depression. Well, now that I recognise it, I can cope, and I may well be on the path to acceptance. What I also recognise is that everybody else is in the same boat with this damned virus, but to different degrees, mine is a wobbly kayak, I hope yours is bigger and more stable.
So, what to do about depression? Activity, physical stuff, walking. I have pledged 10,000 steps a day, every day in March; and because it’s up there on Facebook and some people have already paid out, I have got to do it, paralysis or not. It means that I leave him alone for an hour or so while I whizz around the park to make sure I hit my target. He had a fall last week and I couldn’t lift him, I tucked stuff under him and covered him with blankets and a duvet until the wardens came. He’s okay, nothing broken I hope but he can’t get comfortable in bed at night, and it’s wrecking my sleep.
I am learning to look after myself as well as I am looking after him, and we’re both coming through this okay.
I don’t get to see the sea, but I will one day in the not too distant future. As we all will.
Until then Chris, Stay home and stay safe.
A big hug and lots of love,
Tony Huzzard’s Letters
Trinity Pupil’s Letter Jan. 2021
I got to see one of my friends that is at home at the moment. It feels weird because I would normally see him everyday at school. Recently I made a new friend too. Her name is Kaitlin. She has helped me a lot with things she means a lot to me. I don’t know what I would do without her. It’s lockdown, everything has changed. You have to be 2 meters apart, you have to wear a mask and we have to use hand sanitiser more. I hate it. I miss all of my friends like I used to and everytime I do see my friends I can’t hug them like I normally would, it’s stressful. I have to bring more things with me everywhere I go.
Trinity Pupil’s Letter Jan. 2021
I never knew how bad this lockdown was going to be but I managed to get through it by helping my mam and dad do things I never thought I would ever do. I turned the garden over, I cleaned, I followed my personal trainers advice and kept somewhat healthy throughout it. I also built up a better relationship with my family by having a laugh and getting to spend more time together. Turning over the garden was something I never expected to do. It got me doing something else than sitting in my room all day playing on my Xbox. It was really challenging. In the end, as my dad says “Why didn’t you use the cultivator”
Trinity Pupil’s Letter Mar. 2021
The all consuming feelings of isolation have become unbearable. Separation from physical closeness, intimacy and my own focus of identity and comfort, have brought me to the edge of sanity. When this forced lockdown first came into fruition, I imagined I would be able to withstand this brief hiatus of humanity and emerge unscathed. However, I have come out of this unending experience with a paranoid feeling that at any moment I could become an unwilling incubator, spreading the veracious virus to a plethora of vulnerable and innocent people.
My coping mechanisms failed me and I turned to the only friend I knew, alcohol. I could never have the urge to stay in as I am out every day. I couldn’t sit in a full day, bored so I went missing, which was my biggest mistake.
Through this lockdown I got moved from place to place as nooe could handle the fact I wouldn’t listen to rules. At one point after moving around, I was in a care home that didn’t last due to me getting arrested for criminal damage and arson. Not going to lie, I regretted it. I should have just bit my tongue and stayed in because then I wouldn’t have gotten into bother, but my mood was so low and I was stressed.
After months of being in lockdown I was sick of life, I just wanted life to go back to normal. I did move back to my dads but I kept getting arrested so they moved me to where I live now. I don’t like it one bit. I was a fool. I cut and drank my emotions away.
It’s now 2021 and we’re still in a lockdown but schools are open. I have so much going on without lockdown affecting it more. All I want is this to just go by so everyone can get back on with life.
Pat Stott’s letter Nov. 2020
Clocks go back this month, long winter months ahead. Feeling depressed but then I normally do at this time of the year. The pandemic hasn’t made a difference to that but the freedom of the summer has made it harder to contemplate the months of lockdowns and dark cold days and nights ahead. Life hasn’t been so bad over the last few months, alright hearing the nightly statistics was horrible and losing three friends, thankfully not to covid 19 was made even sadder by not being able to attend their funerals and say goodbye in the way I would have wished.
Strangely it was the discovery that I could Zoom and join in with all my group activities that is making the thought of the coming winter months more bearable. My writing group held its first meeting this month and it was a joy to see everyone and be together once more particularly as Caroline was able to rejoin us from Alnwick. I also felt that I had a role on the u3a committee again as I booked speakers for the months ahead. Just hoping their reviews were truthful and members enjoy them. I did have a good summer, remembering particularly how much of the government’s money my friends and I spent on meals out in August. And the following month having lunch in the big tent in my local pub garden.
The cruise to Norway I was so looking forward to sharing with my 11 friends was cancelled and then the line went into administration, goodness knows when we will get our money back. It hasn’t put me off though and I booked ones for April, May and September 2021. Something to put in the new diary I have just bought and it really raised my spirits. I managed to find a gardener to come and clear my very unruly garden, he seems very nice and the quoted price fair for the work entailed. Still work to be completed but looking promising. I have planted lots of bulbs to herald Spring when it arrives as it surely will. Hopefully sitting in the garden next year I will have beautiful flowers to look at instead of weeds. Sitting here wondering what I could be writing in six months time. Perhaps that I am still writing, and enjoying doing so. That the pandemic will be on its way out and those I love and care about will still be with me.
Tammy ‘s Letter Mar. 2021
Letter to myself six months ago.
Fingers paused over the keyboard, blank screen staring back at me, now to start this final essay.
Rewind six months ago….. After about 10 minutes of trying to figure out what to write, i’ve now realised why nothing is jumping out at me like it usually does, simple thing is, I can’t remember six months ago, but instead of shying away from this i’ve decided to do a time from when I can remember.
Letter to myself Four months ago.
Why are you doing this to your kids, family, friends, but mostly, why are you doing this to you. You have so much support out there, people who are there to help and listen to you, nobody judging you, just supporting you. Grab it with both hands and relish in it. You need to take a step back and have a good hard look at yourself, you are hurting people and you’re becoming more ill by the day. You don’t need the dreaded demon as there is so much more out there for you. Go for a walk, play kerbs, learn new cooking skills (remember social distancing). It might be hard at first, but you will get there eventually. One last thing, if you get asked to join a creative writing group, go for it, lovely people and the most amazing work by people just like you and me.
David Black’s Letter Mar. 2021
So we made our way slowly down the path that led us to this point. Still as busy, if not more so and swaying slightly, but still your blameless. Hoping to get drunk in the sun, or on the buzz of a job well done, I suppose. Gifts coming from strange places so no need to worry about the latest free stuff! The air humming from your new heat pump, not in time for Christmas, but near enough. As for Christmas Day, the home kept you away, so you busied yourself with your health.
It was really John’s last Christmas, but who was to know that back then as we drank to life. He’s at rest now, this is where he wanted to be, so don’t be sad, as he is now free.
Is there nothing else but you and those books? And how do you spend your time? Walking to and fro as it starts to get gradually lighter outside.
Tao was upset by a lack of Revitalisation at first, but now you’re taking it slow and steady.
Why don’t we start up a cold frame and nurture some tender plants?
And let’s pretend that we’re somewhere foreign, living off the land.
But we’ll still be able to use the fridge if we get hungry, or too hot.
This is where you know you want to be this summer.
There’s nothing else but you and them, so your action must be to challenge them.
And now you know how to use your time, you must take action, it’s not a crime!
Take control and drive your hard bargain or else you will regret it all. You know where you want to be, this is where you want to be. There’s nothing else but you and them, so get the message over loud and clear.
I’m here, I will be acknowledged, I will not be fobbed of and you will not waste my time.
The room is still full of hot air, but you will open some windows and let in fresh air. In the evening sunlight and as the sun lowers, its job done, as you take your clothes off.
You’re still continuing to keep the lines of communication open with Douglas and Doreen. Sound of the phone ringing, you can hear far away, scraping the old phone that was the way.
Adam had forgotten Bastille day, you shared your writing, he remembered, like yesterday.
You told Emma how you think of her when you’re frightened or when in pain. How it helps to banish the ghost and ghouls, so they don’t return again. How time slows down to the speed of the specks of dust floating in the windows light.
Summer leaves will fall from Summer trees and Summer nights will slowly get a little longer. Summer’s coming, then it’s going, so hurry up, soon it will be gone! When disciplined I apply the Complete Health Programme principles, then its success!
Correct combination of foods to aid digestion, optimum time to consume foods, it works. Feeling healthier, happier, getting maximum benefits from the food consumed, It’s great!
I like to think of food and diet as a form of medicine as well as an enjoyable treat. So, I need to keep the faith and embrace this, slow and steady wins the race.
And as we come out of the rut of a global pandemic, stretching, and blinking into the light. And we all shiver slightly and run to meet with our friends and loved ones. I can see opportunities for fun and laughter. I can see a post-pandemic brave new world!
So glad your letter made you think.
Of Words and Worlds far from your birth.
The whole sound of new opportunities, of challenges and chances.
Of nights on the town, of pints and dances.
For now we will all have to stay for a little while longer.
Counting our blessings and staying apart.
For eventually, we will all be enjoying a brand, new start.
Thank you for reading.