Me: How much can you see of me?
Him: (looking through the camera) Waist and up
Me: Any fat ripples?
Him: Er, no…
Me: I want the truth, OK? In most situations, I expect a lie. But with this, I want the truth
Him: No, you’re fine. Let’s just get on with it
Me: Do you mean, ‘Let’s just get on with it Darling?‘
Him: (smiling) Yes, let’s just get on with it, Darling!
On my husband’s birthday, last March, the impact of Covid hit big-time. I came back from school wondering if I should be there; government support was announced for businesses; there were rumours of panic buying. My husband thought about the following Sunday, consulted with the leaders and cancelled it.
By the weekend, schools were closed. there were 104 deaths and Boris Johnson announced a national lockdown. Also, the first online service for our lovely church went out. It was a simple affair: a reading, some prayer, a few words from my husband: don’t be afraid, hold on, keep the faith. He did it all himself and it meant, at a time of great stress and uncertainty, we in our little faith community had something to turn to, to be part of.
There have been sixty-five Sundays since. This morning we recorded for the sixty-sixth, which will go out on Sunday. Next week, we open up again. We hope to do an online version too if we can.
Apart from a few days of illness or holiday, my husband has spent the majority of the last 66 weeks in front of a computer, putting together videos, readings, songs, interviews, a message and linking-sections to make things flow. Others have also worked hard, contributing their talents of reading aloud or singing. One couple has spent hours putting together self-recorded videos of people singing, with inspiring photos behind. The whole things was a very steep learning curve and a labour of love.
It was decided early on that an online presentation would be enhanced by different voices. So Yours Truly was dragged in to read passages or prayers, to do some links. Then I somehow ended up on the sofa with the Rev, welcoming people and singing Happy Birthday (we are a very birthday-orientated church). We found there were a number of different things to negotiate: the doorbell, the telephone, the pigeon in the fireplace who liked heckling in sermons. The light was wrong and made us look old and sleepless.
We relocated to the kitchen. There we had the boiler, the fridge, the loudly ticking clock. We moved the clock and turned the fridge and boiler off. Once we forgot to turn the fridge on again, and had to deal with soggy veg and lukewarm milk. Then there was the time I flushed the chain in the sermon – our system is like a plane revving for take off. We switched the system off.
We’ve had some laughs – mispronounced words, blanks, nudges when I’ve forgotten to move the screen down. In the end, we had this finely tuned system where the laptop was opposite us with the camera on top and I used the mouse to manage the screen. But the sofa was too spongy so I put it on a book. I will never be able to look at Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes without intoning cheerfully, ‘Good morning and welcome!’ Once, we had a rare argument shortly before recording. It’s the one where I’m glaring at the camera with a fixed smile. And twitching.
Will I miss it? Not really. It’s been far from perfect but there were good things too: the sense of togetherness, the online laughs, the detail of others’ lives shared and celebrated, or mourned. We are closer now, I think, than we were before.
Who knows? Perhaps one day, we’ll look back with nostalgia…
I’m a freelance writer and teacher with interests in education, mental health and community. I like to blog about everyday life, hope and the silly, incongruous things that shape us and make us who we are. My novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an amazon ebook has now also been released in paperback. It’s the story of what happens when a woman buys a house without telling her husband.
My full length novel, Braver, will be published by Fairlight Books in the summer of 2022. The book tells a tale of unlikely friendships and heart-breaking decisions. With themes around mental health, identity and the need to belong, Braver explores how a local community responds when something threatens its very heart.