Jeff Prestridge  

Keeping spirits high

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

I have been quite dumbfounded by the nation’s response to lockdown.

Far more accepting than I ever thought possible.

Being of a cynical disposition – a prerequisite for being a journalist – I thought that us Brits would not take too kindly to being told to stay at home while our splendid NHS battled heroically against the onslaught of coronavirus.

A battle they continue to wage – and for which we owe them our eternal gratitude.

Of course, furloughing has lessened the financial pain of personal confinement for many households, but there has been little sign of disobedience – bar the odd bit of forbidden sunbathing on Brighton beach and sneaky visits to the Lake District (oh, how I would love right now to feel a gale blowing in my face, walking the Fairfield horseshoe, camera in hand, with an egg mayonnaise sandwich and flask of black coffee in my knapsack).

By now, I thought we would have seen a little bit of civil unrest, a little bit of shop looting, but it has not been the case. Far from it. Quite the opposite.

What we have witnessed is a nation coming together in its moment of acute need.

Ever since being required to work remotely from my new flat in Wokingham, I have been overwhelmed by moments of true stoicism and acts (however small) of human kindness that make our country so special.

Of course, none has been bigger than war veteran Tom Moore’s multi-million pound fund raising for the NHS in the run-up to his 100th birthday.

Yet it is the little special things that have made me tingle and shake off the depression that occasionally sweeps over me like pea soup fog.

For example, the weekly applauding from our front doors of those special NHS staff on the coronavirus frontline, an event that brings everyone together for a minute on a Thursday evening irrespective of whether our neighbours are reincarnations of the argumentative Mr Casey in TV series My Family.

For those precious 60 seconds, all neighbourly disputes are forgotten.

On a personal level, people (strangers) now regularly say hello to me while I am doing my daily exercise – something that never happened before lockdown.

I have also been touched by the mountain of cakes and treats that have been left outside the front of the police station in Bracknell, from where my partner’s daughter works.

Some of the cakes would make Bake Off’s Paul Hollywood lick his lips.

And I have marvelled at the kindness of my partner’s mother who has taken to leaving homemade blueberry cakes outside the doors of neighbours in the complex that she lives in.

Of course, such kindness, such understanding, has not easily bled across into the financial world.