Covid 19 is here, and to most of us it is already affecting the way we live and feel. Unfortunately in the United Kingdom there have been some mixed reactions. The government have started to intervene, imposing travel restrictions to countries outside the UK, advising the population to avoid pubs, clubs, theaters and restaurants.
The supermarkets are bare, there is not enough supplies to go around, the elderly and vulnerable have been advised to take refuge, shops, restaurants and services are closing down, alongside many schools.
The government in the UK have not as yet, forced closure of recreational facilities but seeing how lock downs in other countries such as Italy have come into effect, its only a matter of time. Many people will lose their jobs, be confined to the home, avoiding non essential travel, with bowling alleys, restaurants, swimming pools, and other industries being closed until further notice.
As more people are having the way of life they are used to, changed so drastically, I wonder, what lessons can we take from the 1940s and 1950s about Covid 19?
In the 1940s to early 1950s the effects of WW2 were not dis-similar, with food scarcity, the closing of businesses, mass loss of jobs and low morale. Schools were closed, children were sent away to the countryside. This, thankfully is not happening but with schools closing and more people self isolating we are seeing a rise in home education.
Alongside new technology introduced by schools to facilitate home learning, we can use this opportunity to teach invaluable skills to children about the home, life and garden. Young people in the 1940s and 50s were taught at an early age how to cook, bake, rear animals, garden, explore green spaces, craft, sew and even help with cars!
During the closure of schools during 1940s children were thrown from the life they were used to into the ways of the home and countryside. They learned how to grow their own food, how to keep the home and even learned how to cook for themselves. If you are in self isolation with your children, maybe set aside a patch of grass in the garden for seeds, or bake bread with them. Teach them how to do the things you are doing, as they are doing them. You might be surprised what they learn to do and enjoy!
If you go to a supermarket at the moment, you will notice that the shelves have been stripped clean by panic buyers and hoarders, and ‘black market’ individuals selling hard to find items at a significant mark up. During the 1940s and early 1950s, food was hard to come by due to the effects of World War 2 and the government introduced rationing to the Uk. Supermarkets are now beginning to implement their own rationing systems but not enough is being done to curb this.
The average 1940s- 50s rations per person/ week were:
1 onion (per 3 weeks!)
Being asked to limit yourself to 3 items of each thing, per shop is really not unreasonable when you think of the limits imposed by the government for rationing back in the 1940s/50s! Special provisions were made for the elderly and vulnerable during this time, and we are starting to see supermarkets doing the same.
Photographs were being released on social media of elderly shoppers with empty baskets, or standing in aisles stripped clean. In response, small amounts of retailers have opened designated, early hours for those in need to get their shopping done before the panic buyers swoop in and take the rest for themselves.
What can we do to help them? Ration ourselves! Show restraint when buying at the supermarket, take only what we will need by the week, do not buy to the excess, think about how strained the resources are to make our groceries, during Covid 19 and instead of panic buying, think about how we need to spread our resources. Take the pressure off those who make and grow our groceries, buy mindfully. The more our shelves deplete, the quicker they have to make things, and with a depleted workforce, the harder it will be.
Make do and mend! Make what you have in the fridge go for longer, by reducing waste, planning meals, making and eating meals made from leftovers. Do not eat and drink to excess during self isolation and then go and get more and more, during the era of panic buying. I take a wicker basket to the shops, I take only what I can carry in it and will do multiple shops if necessary, being mindful of what I am purchasing. This helps me budget, stops me making bulk purchases and allows me to be mindful when shopping. The 1950s housewife would do her shopping with a basket and do as many trips as necessary, keeping her fit and trim and also making sure that she only had what was needed.
The rise of Victory gardens during a time of scarcity, is another thing we can learn from the 1940s and 50s. Growing our own food can help us plan out our meals for years to come, even if embargoes or panic buyers limit our shopping picks. Setting aside some time to grow fruit and vegetables is a peaceful hobby which can be done from your own home, during self isolation. This can be done with family members who are also self isolating. Veg boxes such as Groobarbs or Riverford deliver farm grown vegetables to your door, bypassing shops and long waiting times. If you cannot grow your own, have someone lovingly grow some for you, without taking from those in need and helping local growers!
Morale. As a culture, we love going out, so when restrictions hit, morale will be low. Remember parks and open spaces are still open, with the national trust opening its gardens and green spaces for free for the time being.
If you are in self isolation, take time to spend it with your family, trying new things, playing games, eating and preparing meals together. If you are alone, try new hobbies, read, cook and help other people who might need assistance during this time.
Help your neighbor, have some community spirit, be mindful of what you use and waste, and keep safe during this time. Music and dancing was a big past time during the 40s and 50s with new crazes sweeping the nation. Due to social distancing, tea dances might not be the best idea, but in your own home you are in charge. Decorate the place, get out your music system and have a go. It might not be record players, wirelesses and bunting now, in the age of smart TVs and Ipads but you can still boost everyone’s moods.
To all carers and NHS staff, the author is one of you, so I know morale isn’t easy at the moment. Although the government has no ministry of morale, and there are no propaganda posters any more, the walls of your facebook can be enough to inspire anyone! In residential or ward care, I know a lot of places are on ‘lockdown’ and it can be so easy, out of boredom or panic to turn on each other but I promise you, with a bit of good old fashioned community spirit we can overcome this. Help your colleagues by using kind, motivational words, not engaging in gossip (loose lips sink ships!) and being helpful and professional. To those who know a carer or NHS staff member, get them something nice or tell them how good they are doing! They don’t get to work from home, potentially come in contact with covid 19 virus and work hard to protect the elderly and vulnerable. Be your own motivational poster!
At the end of a crisis was a time of prosperity, of an industrial boom, of VE day, street parties, there will be light at the end of the tunnel! Please look after each other during this time, help your communities, be mindful of what you use, take what you need, and motivate eachother! We can overcome this!