Let’s celebrate the can, not the cannot 

Thirteen long weeks and counting! A time of great sadness as loved ones are mourned, of disappointment and frustration as anticipated days with family or friends have been lost, never to be retrieved. 

It has been punctuated by the love of those close, yet at a distance, of a first meet up with family and yet at two broomsticks’ length, from a two-year old grandson who reaches out for a helping hand that you can’t give. It’s heart breaking. Right now, I just want to meet ‘normally’ with my children and grandchildren and to meet informally with friends. 

At last there is a glimmer of the new future. Parks and gardens have thrown wide their gates, and non-essential shops are opening, but with socially distanced queues and floors criss-crossed with tape, inviting one to play hopscotch? 

I gaze at my diary that now records the past, rather than planning the future. It still records the WI summer that would have been, with dates crossed out only as I reach them, just in case. I live in hope. 

But there have been glimpses of normality. A socially distanced chat with SWIN editor June, in her beautiful garden, under the apple tree in much welcomed mizzly rain; long and wide ranging telephone conversations with Sheena, our Federation Treasurer, whom I have come to know so well, as we set both the WI and the world to rights. We have become much closer friends than we were pre- COVID. 

I am minded to reflect, although it’s quite hard to, on the benefits of the lockdown. The UK has been over 60 days with coal-free power production. One rotation of a wind turbine now produces enough to power a house for a day. 

How I long to see those great giants off Cromer, to hear the roar of the waves and swim in the sea. We are growing more and making-do-and-mending all manner of things. Many have re-engaged with the earth, whether it be a new allotment (Betty Dominy I am in awe!) or salad leaves on a window sill. At home, bottles have replaced plastic as we engaged a milkman, and car mileage is non- existent. 

But there have been unanticipated negatives. As we move into ‘Single-Use Plastic Free’ July, a global movement, supported by the Federation, there has been an increase in the use of single-use plastics, with increased numbers of take away meals, disposable face masks falling from overflowing bins, rubbish scattered at beauty spots and on beaches, left to disintegrate and to pollute water courses and seas, as people have been re- leased. 

What can we do to make a difference? Challenge yourself with the ‘Single-Use Plastic Free Bingo’, announced in the June edition and repeated on Page 9 of this one. Small changes can make a big difference. Challenge your fellow WI members, Zoom it. Even trustees play Zoom bingo, with Toto James as caller! I have already hidden my clingfilm, a great incentive to find alternatives. 

As the girth is slackened and we get back into the saddle, let’s take up the reins of life, to celebrate what we can do, rather than what we cannot. 

Let’s look forward to the second half of 2020. There is plenty of time yet to enjoy WI Life, even if in a different way. Let’s plan for the now, a socially distanced afternoon tea or walk, a picnic lunch outdoors or an open-air book club. But most of all, let’s celebrate that which is central to the WI — friendship. The thing that has kept us going through these long weeks and has made life worth it. Long live the WI! 

Carol Gartrell, Chairman

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