It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog….. There I was happily chirping on about summer holidays, places to visit, things to do in the area, how to camp with your baby, your dog and your mother-in law and then the dreaded C word hit. It all seems pretty contrite and pointless now in comparison to the disruption, chaos and heartache of the last three months.
I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that even at the beginning of March, when things were looking grim for the Covid-19 epidemic in other countries, I was blissfully unaware of the consequences it would have here. If you’d have told me then that the pandemic would bring the world to a grinding halt, then I’d have laughed at you. The “virus” was something that was happening in other places and I didn’t need to worry about it. Apart from a distant sympathy to those who had lost loved ones in China, it all went straight over my head. I never for one moment guessed that the coronavirus pandemic would be one of the toughest, strangest, most bizarre, most unsettling, challenging and yet strangely quietening things we would live through.
I’ll admit that the first few weeks were some of the hardest I’ve faced as a business owner, and perhaps as a human being. In the week leading up to lock-down, every day was a roller coaster, with the run-up to each daily 5pm News Briefing bringing a deep dread in the pit of my stomach. On day one, we closed the play park and bar as a precaution (“Oh, we’ll close them for a few weeks, I’m sure they’ll be up and running for the main summer holidays”). On the second day, the seriousness of the situation began to sink in and we closed the facilities block but we still thought it was all just a minor blip (“Oh well, not to worry. It’s going to be a sunny Easter, people won’t mind not having a shower for the weekend…..). By the end of the week, the entire enormity of what the nation was about to go through finally sunk in, and on the 22nd March we took the decision to close the site entirely and to everyone.
You may think I’m exaggerating or being dramatic when I say that the day we closed the site was completely unbearable for all of us. But, at that point, we had no idea what the future held. We knew only that the business we had spent 5 years and every penny of our collective life savings building up, was in serious danger. And not only that, but our home, our lifestyle, our daily stability and our children’s future seemed to me to be hanging by a thread. Never have I felt so utterly terrified of losing everything. Closing the site meant we effectively lost our income overnight, and the biggest bill that hung over our heads was the mortgage. If we couldn’t pay then we would stand to lose everything. It’s easy to think that the banks would be sympathetic, that they would offer some leeway in these times when so many businesses and homes are under threat, but I honestly don’t think they would be. They aren’t in the business of being sympathetic.
In the week that followed closure we all dug deep, found our fight and set about trying to safeguard the business. We contacted the bank, made endless lists of outgoings and scoured online advice to see if we were entitled to any financial government help. All this in the midst of dealing with our own personal fear of the virus that the media had hyped up so much that we believed it would jump out from a tin of beans in the supermarket and kill us all off by the time we’d unpacked the shopping. The schools were closed and we tried our best to explain it all to the children in a way that wouldn’t scar them for life and leave them with nightmares. And seeing mummy falling apart was pretty hard for them too. I can only hope that when they look back on this time, they don't remember the tears that I cried or the anger I vented - although in a way, these emotions are a normal part of life during a stressful time, and it's important that they see some of the tough times as well as the good ones; it's not a bad life lesson for them…..
But, we soon settled into a new sort of routine, and a new kind of normal. We are all getting used to the site without campers – Easter, the May Bank holidays and most of June have come and gone (all gloriously hot, when we would have been totally full!) but we've been able to spend family time together - have a BBQ on the field, or stay in the caravan. The children have enjoyed having us to themselves, and the site too.
In fact, there are lots of positive things about lock-down, it hasn't all been bad or difficult or stressful by any means. We have all slowed down the pace of life quite a lot and I've really enjoyed that. No more dashing for the school run, no more remembering what day it is and who needs what and who's doing what and who's where and who needs picking up from where. Our whole worlds are contained here in our little bubble, and there's something very easy and laid back about that. It's given me a new appreciation for the little things. It's given me a new appreciation of my family - I doubt there will be another time in our lives where we will get to spend this much time together.
And in the wider world (in our bubble I sometimes forget that there is a big world out there!) there are so many good things happening. The pollution levels above the cities is falling dramatically. The ozone layer is repairing itself after decades of pollution and the carbon emissions in the world are at a record low because airplanes are grounded and industry has slowed right down. The canal waters of Venice were once filthy and grimy, but now they are so clear that there are dolphins swimming in them. Oil prices are at an all-time low - the oil industry is usually a key driver in world economics, but now it's in crisis. India is seeing the top of the Himalayas for the first time in decades because pollution is clearing. Mother Nature is reclaiming her planet.
The world is fast realising that what matters is our health, and that of our friends and family. In the face of a very real threat to that, we are prepared to shut down; to lock ourselves away to protect what counts. And we are understanding that the people who can help us are the nurses, doctors, care workers, teachers, social workers, shop workers, cleaners. Professions that aren't portrayed as aspiring or inspiring; they simply get on with it, for usually quite low pay. The multi million pound earning celebrities, you-tubers and footballers are left in the shadows. The humble rainbow has been adopted as a symbol for these times - a symbol of thanks to the NHS, a symbol of hope, promise, light and gratitude.
And the kindness. So many acts of kindness. We've heard of 100 year old men walking laps of their garden to raise money for charity, communities have rallied around to help the vulnerable people, whole streets gather on their doorsteps to clap every Thursday as a mark of thanks for the NHS workers, taxi drivers are giving free rides to people who can't reach sick relatives, children's entertainers have set up free storytelling sessions on you-tube, chefs and home bakers have been baking treats for key workers, neighbours have been shopping for those that can't go out, homeless people were given rooms in hotels that were closed, businesses have donated goods and services to those in need and those on the frontline, amateur singers have been serenading neighbours in the street to keep them entertained and many many more acts of simple but unforgettable kindness.
The lock-down cannot go on for ever; as we slowly and cautiously emerge it’s tempting to try and imagine how the world will continue as it did. My brain absolutely aches with the work of trying to second guess when things will change, when things will be normal, when we can re-open, when we can see friends again; but there's no point in second guessing. The world, and us, is adjusting to its new normal, and will continue to adjust as these strange times continue to move and flux. What will the new normal look like? Will it ever get back to how it was? Who knows? In many ways I hope I can drop some of the bad habits I picked up along the way, and I very much hope we can keep some of the happy new ones we've picked up during the Covid-19 pandemic. I’d be untruthful if I said I didn’t miss the buzz of the business as it was – the long hours, the different people, the challenges of keeping everyone happy, of keeping the site clean, the skills we’ve learnt to make the business work. I miss it all. There’s nothing quite like the relieved aftermath of a busy school holiday when we’re completely exhausted but knowing that everything went well and we had a field full of campers who truly enjoyed their stay with us, who’s children will long remember their holiday in Wales and who appreciated everything we were trying to do. I miss the people, I miss the chatter. I miss you all!
There is no doubt that this lock-down has come at a huge social, economic and health cost, to the whole nation, and here in Wales, who knows how long that will go on for. But I hope that the world will learn; I hope that we all will learn. I pray the people I love stay safe, and I sincerely hope we never have to live through this again.
Take care and stay safe all. We can't wait to see you as soon as we can,