Many of us are not surprised to find that we are once again in “Lockdown”. Over the last few weeks we have looked at the news from the North of England and seen the dramatic rise in covid cases up there. The numbers have increased in the South now and hospitals are once again on high alert and wondering how they will be able to cope with larger patient numbers.
I watched the “Festival of Remembrance “ from the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday and in interviews with many of the serving members it became clear that our Armed Forces are now heavily committed to supporting the National Health Service -supplying Nurses and doctors who are helping to cover patients needing intensive care and soldiers who are carrying out many of the tests that are being done all over the Country.
Members of our Armed Forces join up because they want to make a difference. Many people are not completely aware that they are essentially sign up willing to give up their lives for Queen and Country.
I think that no one is more aware of this than Her Majesty the Queen. Hence her determination to be at Westminster Abbey on Wednesday to leave a floral tribute based on her wedding bouquet on the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior whose burial at the Abbey took place 100 years ago. She wished to honour this anniversary in a quiet but simple service. It is one hundred years since her grandfather, King George V honoured the Unknown Warrior in the same place in the presence of one hundred women who had lost their husbands and all of their sons in the war. It was her mother, the Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon who left her wedding bouquet at the Tomb in April 1923 in memory of her brother Fergus who had been killed in the first World War . The Queen did the same when she married and the Duchess of Cambridge followed suit on her marriage. Her Majesty was also determined that nothing would stop her being at the Annual Remembrance Service at Whitehall on Sunday. It was a very much scaled down event but the Royal Family were there to show the Nation that they would never forget the debt that we all owe those brave souls who gave their lives in the service of their Country in many conflicts over the last one hundred years. Her Majesty watched it all closely from a balcony above the Cenotaph paying particular attention to all that was going on- she would never miss it.
In Petersfield, on Sunday, we had our own Remembrance Service at the War Memorial. In the last few years the Annual Remembrance Service here has been getting much bigger -this one had to follow Covid guidelines and numbers had to be severely restricted but we were determined that whatever was decided we would be there on behalf of the Town. The event was arranged and co-ordinated by Councillor James Deane, himself a retired Soldier and now a member of the Royal British Legion. James’s event planning has been at the root of all the military anniversary celebrations that we have had this year. We laid Wreaths for VE Day, for VJ Day , for the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and now for the Remembrance event which we felt would be in a lockdown -and it was.
James has planned them all and Sunday’s event was a masterpiece, beautifully distanced and stage managed. As is proper Tom Floyd, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, laid the first Wreath on behalf of the Queen and I followed laying the Wreath for the Town. To me this Remembrance event is one of the most important duties of the Mayoral Year. It is a time for reflection and to remember all of those men and women who have given up their lives so that we can live in peace. Jeff Williams, the President of the Royal British Legion laid the next Wreath and he was followed by our MP Damian Hinds and then Councillor Julie Butler, Deputy Leader of the East Hants District Council laid their Wreath. These were followed by those of the Police, Fire and Rescue and the various organisations that are an important part of the Remembrance ceremony in Petersfield.
I was especially touched to see the wreaths being laid by the Head Boys and Head Girls from the Petersfield School, Churchers College and Ditcham School who came to the ceremony in the company of their respective Headmasters.
The life that we lead now is often far from peaceful and conflict still goes on all around the world. We rely on our Armed forces to protect us and be the barrier between ourselves and these conflicts. We must support them, and respect them. We must always ensure that the values they are fighting for on our behalf are worth fighting for.
Cllr Lesley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 11/11/2020
I met an old friend this Sunday morning as we were both in my local shop buying newspapers. I asked him how he was and what he was doing at the moment. Inevitably we got round to the subject of Christmas. “I have Great Expectations “he said- and I asked him why. “ Well, it has been a gloomy year for us all but Christmas means that the New Year will be next and I have Great Expectations that next year will be a lot better because, let’s face it- this one couldn’t get any worse!”.
I think that we all now have “Great Expectations” that the future will get better and this is what keeps us going. We can’t turn our back on the dreadful Virus that has been multiplying again in our midst and as I write this it is with the knowledge that my daughter is in “Tier 2” in London and can’t mix with anyone apart from her three flat mates. Fortunately she is working from home as she has done all the way through as her Charity, SSAFA (the Armed Forces Charity) is a very active on catering for the needs of serving service people and military veterans.
Like many charities at the moment ,SSAFA is suffering from the lack of ability to hold major fund raising events and so income is much lower which affects their ability to use those much needed monies to help those in need. The next few months are an important time because this is a time when they raise funds from the sale of Christmas Cards either in their own Charity Shops or through “Cards for Good Causes” shops which are springing up in our High Streets or in other suitable empty premises like churches and halls.
My great friend Phil Willoughby ran our local Christmas Card Pop up shop for many years and it was taken over by the lovely Jules (Julia Crook) last year. She has had to step down this year due to shielding her elderly relatives and many of the wonderful army of volunteers who normally man the shop have also had to be very careful for themselves and their loved ones.
I received a call from Phil just a few weeks ago- you know how it starts- “Lesley, I’ve just been thinking- are you doing anything at the moment?” (I smiled to myself- this is the busiest year as Town Mayor that I have ever had as a lot has had to happen behind the scenes these days). “No Phil why?” Within moments I found myself agreeing to have an interview to run the shop and now, as of last week we are up and running in the old Thornton’s shop in the High Street. The cry has gone out for helpers and many now have come forward- I have four ‘Lady Lions’ from the Lions club, two ‘Save the Children’ Ladies and a wonderful group of volunteers as well as Mike Robinson who has stepped in as joint manager when I realised that being your Town Mayor still comes first, of course .
I am unashamedly wanting to plug the Christmas Card shop- in the short time we have been open we have sold many cards to people who don’t normally send them but feel that in this year when they haven’t been able to be in close contact with old friends and Family sending a Christmas Card with a note will help people to know that they are still being thought of. “Cards for Good Causes” takes 30% for overheads covering the shops costs and the remaining 70% goes directly to the Charities. Please come and see us we have lots of cards and lots of stocking fillers. Remember those lonely relatives and friends far away .
Keep well and please do “Shop Local”- we have some wonderful new independent shops in Town and many old favourites which are still here.
Great Expectations?- Yes, things will get better as long as we are all mindful of the guidelines- numbers are down in Germany and Scandinavia because they have been following them.
Cllr Lesley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 26/10/2020
Well Autumn has come in with a “Bang”. We were getting worried about the level of water in the Lake being very low but I personally reckon that if this rainfall carries on then our worries in that respect will be over.
Time to get the winter woollies out, look out the thermals and see if the heating works again. We may have had lockdown and had to distance and be aware but until now it has been a fairly warm and sort of an extended summer. Now reality hits and we realise that it’s eleven weeks until Christmas and goodness knows who will be able to come on Christmas Day this year but despite that we will still enjoy it!
As we roll along towards November we think more about Remembrance and, unlike every other year, we are unable to buy our poppies from many British Legion Poppy sellers in the Street or from boxes in our local shops and garages. The main army of people who sell Poppies are in their seventies or over, and the Legion does not want to risk any of them being infected with Coronavirus, so there will be very few sellers on the streets or in our supermarkets. Equally there is a small risk of infection being carried from coins in the collecting boxes, so not many of them will be around. The British Legion does a great job in looking after our ex-service men and women and this costs money. This money is greatly supplied by the Annual Poppy Appeal and this year we can support them by going onto the Royal British Legion Website, type in “Poppy Appeal “ and fill in the form by 31st October at the latest. They will send you 20 poppies free of charge. Please sell to your friends and colleagues and return the money to the Royal British Legion. The website also shows many other ways to donate and you can get all manner of different Poppies from the “Poppy Shop”- which you will also find on the website.
There have been rumors going around that the Town Council have cancelled Remembrance this year. As you will all be aware the rules relating to gatherings change all of the time and we must obey these rules, like them or not. At the moment we can meet only in numbers of six but I can assure you that whereas we cannot have the marching young people who help to make this annual event so memorable the Town will be remembering the fallen and all who served in conflict in the service of the Country. The Annual Service at the Cenotaph in London will still be happening in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen. HRH the Prince of Wales will lay her wreath on her behalf as she watches from the building above.
You may wonder why I am mentioning this now and not at the beginning of November? Well I had to give you all the opportunity to visit, or get a member of your family to visit, the British Legion website in order to get your poppies. Since the beginning of the 20th Century so many have fallen in armed conflict or received life changing injuries and very many of us will number our relatives amongst them. We must never let them be forgotten.
Remember also-Keep safe, follow the rules and keep well.
Cllr Lesley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 07/10/2020
I cannot believe that we have reached the end of September already and with the start of October we all start to look towards Christmas .
This has been an extraordinary year for all of us -we never even knew what a “lockdown” was this time last year. We do now. We little realized that our young people would not be taking the examinations that they had been working so hard for. Neither that there would be very many of us working from home or “ on furlough”. As summer came we realized that the numbers of people struck by this virus were falling and we looked hopefully towards the end of it. Not to be! All over Europe the numbers are “racking up” and we are now in the firing line again.
Students have gone to University and, as Students do, have been out and about in their University Towns getting to know new friends and fellow students. They have been hit and many are now in lockdown. There is a difference this time and although many have tested positive the numbers going into hospital are relatively few at the moment. The problem comes when these poor Students want to come home at Christmas and spread the virus to older family members. Okay, the Government are limiting contact to six people- yet Grandparents will want to see their young people lets hope that everyone takes the greatest care.
I always usually love this time of year as your Mayor. The diary is normally getting busy, filled with a vast range of things from the part that the Town Plays in the Remembrance service – which year after year gets more and more support. To the Christmas Lights event at the end of November when the Square is bursting with Charity Gazebos, the Hometown Hospitality area and the stage is filled with Children singing. The Salvation Army plays Carols in one corner and the Tree gets lit. I am afraid that these events will be very different this year. There will only be a limited number at the Remembrance event because, regrettably, that is all that is allowed. We will have no young people marching this year but I am sure that we will have a full event next year…I very much hope! Similarly the Christmas Lights will go on but only one person will be there to switch them on- but they will be splendid again this year because we are not forgetting Christmas-even though it will be quieter.
This is where I really need your help please. The collection that is normally made at the lights event, like last year, would have been part of the “Town Mayor’s Appeal” again and the collection would have gone to the Salvation Army. This has been a really grim year and many of our older and lonely townspeople will be on their own again. Last Year we were able to collect enough money to cover the cost of almost 100 hampers which we were able to give as Christmas Presents to these people. They were made up and given out by the Salvation Army and were a great success. We would like to do it again this year but are unable to have a street collection to raise the funds. Please, if you can spare us a pound or two, would you be kind enough pop it in an envelope marked “Mayor’s Appeal” and drop it into the post box at the Town Hall or the box at “The Old Stables “ – the lovely wine bar and restaurant ( with darn good coffee!) in Page’s Court- up the alleyway next to the travel agent in the High Street. With many thanks to owners Paul and Georgie Stuart.
As many of you know we lost our Deputy Mayor George Watkinson in late July. George was a well-known and much loved Councillor and he had three loves in his life. The first was his wife Jackie and his family, the second was the Winton Players and the third was this Town. George served the Town Council for twenty five years and would have rounded off his long service by being Mayor again in this civic year. One of George’s main charities was the local “Rosemary Foundation” and my idea this year is to support the Rosemary Foundation again in his honour and to ask for donations towards a bench and an oak tree both in George’s name
Please help – just a few coins or a cheque made out to the Mayor’s Appeal in an envelope and given to Paul and Georgie or popped through the Town Hall post Box will help a lot towards this Appeal. Normally we would be holding lots of events to fund raise but they, like many others are on hold this year. You are most welcome to post your donation through the door at the Salvation Army Hall in Swan Street-once again marked “Mayor’s Appeal” so that we know it will be for the hampers.
Many thanks to you all.
Cllr Lesley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 30/09/2020
I feel like we are living in a parallel universe at the moment.
The Covid 19 virus properly hit our country in February and the Government put Lockdown in place towards the end of March. At that time we were all apprehensive about what we were facing and in the main, obeyed the rules that were imposed on us. We could exercise for one hour per day, not travel on public transport unless absolutely necessary and go out only for essential shopping.
The elderly and vulnerable people were to shield themselves and help groups were set up to deliver supplies and medicines to them. In Petersfield Help the Aged, the Salvation Army and the Food Bank together with charities and other agencies in the Town Council’s “Agencies Working Together “ scheme were very quickly mobilised. Offers of help quickly flooded into the newly set up “Corona Virus Helpline” and the Town came together to help and support the marooned.
We got our information from the Downing Street daily broadcasts and the morning broadcasts on the “Petersfield Community Radio” not to mention the Coronavirus pages, set up as part of Petersfield Pulse. In my daily walks I came across a number of residents who were extremely worried, some had relatives who were in Hospital and others had friends and relatives who were suffering at home. Distances were maintained while we chatted and all appreciated the steps that the local Supermarkets had put in place to ensure that supplies could be bought in the safest possible environment.
At the Town Council our Staff were sent home to work- which they did very well and efficiently. Our Ground Staff carried on working in their usual manner as they were to be in the open air and most of the new machinery which we now have can be operated by a single person. Our very professional Finance Officer stayed on and working happily on her own turned in all of our “End of Year” and Annual Statements. The Council itself went into “Emergency Procedures” with the day to day business being dealt with by our very able Town Clerk in consultation, if needed, with myself and the heads of the relevant Council Committees.
Time moved on and we started to get bored with being kept in. The rules were flouted and people would meet on the Heath in larger numbers. The amount of rubbish in the Council bins told us that many more people were out and about- a very good thing as long as the regulations were observed. Gradually things started getting back to something a little more like normal. We were told that we were still to “Social Distance” and we got used to socially distanced queuing for the banks and to get into the supermarkets.
But it got increasingly obvious that, although as businesses opened up and they had taken great care to ensure that regulations were observed, many were totally now ignoring or even forgetting (!!) these simple rules and doing exactly what they wanted, oblivious to the fact that the newly released vulnerable were scared to move around. Even though numbers of the death from Covid was now over 40,000. Walking around the town it is more and more obvious that little notice is now taken of distancing.
Many people now are able to work successfully from home. As we have a lot of London Commuters living in and around Petersfield this would seem like a plus to me and for them. No long hours spent on the train or the Underground must be a bonus-as well as being altogether beneficial to the environment. Some have been told they won’t be back in their offices until next year, some have been asked to go back in one day per week.
I have heard of more than one City Investment Company who will send employees home to isolate for 14 days if they use public transport to get to work. On public transport and in many companies the use of face masks are compulsory. We are now asked to wear them in shops. Yet many flout this rule deliberately because they say that it “undermines their civil liberties” to me it just seems to be sensible that if we happen to be carriers of Covid 19 by wearing a face covering and unless we are one of those small percentage of people who are unable to wear one due to medical reasons then we will prevent up to 30% of the transmission of this “thing”. Also many of these people have, fortunately for them, older relatives who are still vulnerable and if they pass it on to them they may lose them.
Why a “parallel universe?” – well, businesses throughout the country have taken a great deal of thought and planning into making their premises safe for their staff and customers. Teachers have spent hours making classrooms and corridors as safe and functional as possible. Yet walk down any High Street and you will see loads of groups who are totally oblivious to distancing or the need to take care for the sake of others.
The numbers are racking up again in the rest of Europe and I have heard that we could possibly have another wave here in about eight weeks’ time.
Why does this matter so much to me? Because my Mother lost her own Mother when she was two months old from Spanish flu’ (my Grandmother was a nurse who had just gone back to work) and she lost her Father only four months later also from Spanish flu’ (and from the effects of having been shot in the throat at Ypres. Spanish Flu? This was the last major pandemic to hit us at the end of World War I when over 400,000 lost their lives in this country in two waves.
Cllr Lesley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 07/09/2020
It seems a very different world now from the one that we were part of this time last year. I can remember having a picnic with my family and whingeing about the melting heat and wishing that we were under cover. Had I known what we had in store this year I would have savored the moment, the company of our friends.
We all know that this year has been very different. We have been asked to stay and work from home, pubs, cafes and “non-essential” shops were closed down and for some reason we were lost without our daily lattes. We were also introduced to the new concept of “social distancing”. The distance was to be, and still is, two metres -or six foot six in old language!
Every day we watched news and saw what was happening in the rest of the world and it was very, very scary. Suddenly we realised that our daily COVID figures were even more terrifying with 20,000, 30,000 and now climbing towards 50,000 deaths from this virus which now dictates our lives and our foreseeable future lifestyle. We all came to appreciate the pressure and sacrifice put on NHS workers.
It was very noticeable that during the lockdown people were apprehensive. Most people went exercising and all ages would enjoy walking out for an hour or so each day. If someone got out of the way the other would smile and say “thank you”. Volunteers signed up in large numbers to help the vulnerable who had to stay at home. They shopped, delivered medicine and kept the lonely residents feeling that here were people who actually cared. The Government introduced the furlough system in order to help firms maintain their workforces and keep as many as possible with jobs to go back to when they could work again. A lot of small businesses became desperate and the catering trade rose to the occasion adapting to circumstances many started “take away” meals, pubs became small grocery stores and wholesale food businesses started selling products to the ordinary customers instead of to the trade.
However the mood of the Nation gradually changed and we got fed up with being inside, fed up with not being able to go on holiday and what were the statistics about? They didn’t really affect us did they? We have clamoured for the shops, pubs and cafes to open up again. The Government relented and we were let ‘out’ and told to be aware that social distancing was still in place, that this virus was very much alive and there would be a second wave in the autumn when the virus would attack again.
But now – we are a bundle of contradictions – going to the beach in large numbers ..social distancing? No, we would be alright. Happy to congregate in parks in big groups – but let the children go back to school? Perhaps not… we would rather take them to the crowded beaches! Still the numbers go up and we have been told that apart from restaurants, cafes or public houses where the distances could now be one metre we are still to keep to the two metre distance in every other place. County Councils have been given large sums of money in order to put in safe distancing measures in our High Streets. Shopping in supermarkets, so safe in the lockdown, is almost back to normal. Most of the supermarkets themselves have maintained their previous distance measures however these are followed by only some of the shoppers while the rest blithely ignore the signs.
We have now been asked to wear face coverings in public places and most people are doing so. Still the numbers climb- albeit a lot more slowly now. However, very sadly, a number of people flatly refuse to do so. It is understandable if face masks cannot be worn for health reasons but apparently some object because it is against their civil rights or other such, similar reason. I feel that we must do all that we can to protect our hard working Health Workers. Things may be better for a large number of us at the moment- It is summer and they say that this virus fares better in cold weather. Yet Spain has once again got rising numbers of victims and we are now imposing quarantine rules on tourists coming home from there. All I ask is that we be wary , wear a mask because it does give us and others a measure of protection.
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 29 July 2020
We had a very short but moving ceremony to raise the Armed Forces Day Flag on Armed Forces Day last Saturday. As we stood to attention I was very aware of the people around me. Only a few of us but mainly men who had served their Country in conflicts and by the very nature of Military Service had stood ready to give up their lives on our behalf, if necessary, in one of the three Services. It had been arranged by Councillor James Deane, himself an ex-Army officer and, as with all the military connected events that James organises, it was done well and with meticulous attention to detail. I realized that the flag raising meant a lot to these people who had experienced the worst of times- some in Aden, Northern Ireland, the Falklands , Kuwait and Afghanistan to name but a few of the conflicts in which our people have served. They have survived where many have not and many more bear the scars. We now have many military charities which exist to look after our serving and ex-servicemen and women and Armed Forces week salutes them all .
As I stood watching the flag being raised I began to think about the other people who have been serving us with little heed to their own safety and putting us first. Doctors and Nurses at the sharp end of the Coronavirus have been in as much danger from this virus as we have yet have gone to work -many into intensive care departments that had to be hastily adapted to cope with the large influx of seriously ill patients which they had to and still are having to look after. The numbers may have come down at the moment and some of them can take a short breather but they could rise again due to people taking no notice of the distancing rules. Many of us have taken the National Health Service for granted over the years but I think that it is only lately that we have really come to realise what these men and women are prepared to do and at what cost to them. Indeed many, far too many have died yet their colleagues have carried on looking after the sick on ventilators. We moan about 8 hour days-yet these people are working 12 hour shifts with many taking little time off for breaks. That dedication too is courageous, must be respected and we must be forever grateful to all of them.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank a group of volunteers. They are not working for any particular Charity or network . They don’t expect any recognition but from the beginning of this crisis have helped many of their vulnerable, housebound neighbours by shopping for them and picking up prescriptions or just letting them know that they are not alone and have people who care about them. I have heard about many neighbours having a cup of tea together (each one making their own) and having a chat separated by the garden fence. One of my older Council colleagues who lives alone has been greatly touched by a young eight year old neighbour bringing him the occasional cake that she had made. ”They were jolly good too!”
Lastly my thanks go to the supermarket, small food shop and market staff who have kept us supplied from the very beginning of the Lockdown. I am thinking especially of the checkout staff who carried on working in the beginning without screens or face masks. They must have been as worried about taking this dreadful illness home as the rest of us yet they carried on. They have been helped by people on furlough . All the supermarket staff have done all they could to make sure that customers could shop safely while they carried on with deliveries, filling up shelves and all the very many other tasks that they carry out on our behalf.
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 1 July 2020
It seems that we are moving on slowly from Lockdown and that March and the start of it seems a very long time ago. We have all come through this period with households being in their own “Bubble” for long weeks and many of us have been and are still respecting the social distancing guidelines .
Thankfully we are now gaining a little more freedom with more shops opening up where we will find that the Shop Owners, Managers and Staff have worked really hard and have been very careful to put systems in place to welcome all us back safely onto their premises. Many shoppers have commented of being brushed past on such visits especially in supermarkets by those who choose to wander the wrong way and taking no heed of the need to exercise the guidelines by keeping apart. Words can often be exchanged which does not help and only helps to escalate exactly what we are trying to avoid. Surely there is no way that anyone would want to be responsible for passing this awful virus on, indeed as well as they themselves becoming infected and taking back to their families. In the next few weeks those more vulnerable citizens of the Town who received letters saying that they had to stay in lockdown will at long last be able to go out. It is highly possible that many will be anxious and most probably some will be puzzled by the seemingly inability of many people just to distance themselves. I would ask that we all follow the example of our volunteers and help and respect each other on every occasion they can.
I think that we all must agree that this year so far has been a year like no other and the next few months will be very strange as we all attempt to return to a kind of normality. I have been absolutely bowled over by the number of townspeople who have come forward as volunteers. The organisations have been splendid and all of them have done a sterling job in looking after many of the housebound and the needy. I have mentioned most of them already but no-one can fail to appreciate the help given by the Petersfield Coronavirus Network set up by Sarah Thomas, Malcolm Muggeridge and Maurice Snell among many others. Help the Aged run by Sheridan Rocher were very quick off the mark as well and with the help of Churchers College catering department have provided and delivered hot cooked meals to many of the housebound. The Salvation Army and the Food Bank have provided much needed food for people in need. Church volunteers have been calling on the elderly parishioners to see if they are coping in, what has been for many, lonely and isolated times. Many more of our Agencies have been working to support the needy. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the many other volunteers who have been quietly helping their neighbours -for example shopping for them, getting their medicines from the pharmacies and even having a quick chat as they delivered necessities at a distance.
There are signs everywhere that we are starting to get back to normal and this week we will be opening up our Boardwalk on the Heath enabling walkers to walk one way along it and taking pressure off the narrow Sussex Road pavement. It has been good to see so many people using and appreciating the open spaces which have been kept well maintained throughout by our own Town Council Grounds Staff.
I do hope that many of you will visit the Hampshire County Council website to comment on the temporary measures being put in to try see how effective cutting the access of traffic to parts of the Town might be. It is meant to be a short term experiment. I can see some of the plusses and some of the minuses- the limiting of traffic in the High Street and access for more bicycles to park will lessen pollution meaning cleaner air. However the loss of the short term parking in the High Street will make life more difficult for those who may not qualify for disabled badges but don’t find movement easy and who just want to go to the Post Office, Library or one of the Banks. It will also be difficult for those using one of the many Charity shops in town to drop off donations or pick up purchases during the day.
I wish you all well in these uncertain times, please be careful-both for yourselves and for others. We do not want a second wave of this dreadful virus or to add to the over 42,000 deaths that have already happened and have many, many more families in mourning.
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 17 June 2020
Around 38,500 people have died of this terrible virus so far. A dreadful total – one of the highest per population in the world. During the daily bulletins we hear that the “peak” has passed-I must come from another planet I think because to me around 2000 deaths a week seems a similar number to the number of deaths we had last week and the week before and that we are still very much in trouble. People have been meeting in groups. Shopping in the Supermarkets is an increasing nightmare. The shops themselves have kept their distancing measures in place but many people don’t seem to care any more and wander all over the place. Our open spaces are being used by many more people -which is a great thing, it’s why they are there, but people are meeting in large groups, not social distancing, leaving litter everywhere and totally oblivious to the risk. Looking at the number of cases in Europe (some countries can number fatalities on one hand) the deaths in the UK are still in their hundreds. The last thing I want to see is another total lockdown. Please everyone take care wherever you are and respect those who are still distancing even if you are not. This thing spreads fast, you might not feel too bad with it but it could be fatal for your parents.
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 3 June 2020 (edited so that the emphasis is on people and not politics)
The one thing about Lockdown is that you see a lot of people who have spent most of their day living within their four walls and just want a change and a chance to chat. Oh believe me this has involved no breaking of the rules, no arranged meetings and making the best of the daily recreation time. I have seen a side of Petersfield that I wasn’t really aware of -I know that we are a town full of exceedingly kind and generous people but we all have a story to tell, and in this normally busy world we don’t often get the chance to just be ourselves and let the curtain that we hide our real selves behind get ‘drawn’ aside for a time.
My morning walk is around three miles long and I usually encounter the two ladies having coffee together first. These two are neighbours, living in adjacent houses. Both are widows and separated from their families by the distancing rules. At 10.30, each (suitably warm) day, out come the folding chairs and their own coffee mugs and they sit in their respective front gardens passing a pleasant hour, two gardens widths apart. Both now on their own and very sure that the lockdown had been absolutely necessary. They were worried when Boris was very ill as “He seemed to know what he was doing,” they both avidly watch the news and didn’t feel that the time is right at all to relax the lockdown-why not wait until the numbers of pour souls dying come down? They are very worried, now that the rules are relaxing a bit, that people are taking no notice of the distancing rule because one had gone to M&S to do her shopping and seen people talking in random groups, while the other had walked round the Pond. “Never again! They just walk straight past you! Don’t they care that thousands have died?”.
I leave them and walk further on to pass one of the best tended gardens around. Beautiful at the front, with a well laid out vegetable garden at the side, tended by an extremely knowledgeable newly retired man. His wife works part time for one of our main supermarkets. She goes in at 3am three days a week to set up and process home delivery orders, there are many others working through the night with some starting at 2am. She is more than happy to finish at 10am as she misses the main rush avoiding the customers who can be rude, confrontational and can often get extremely angry if they miss out something that they want. On her working mornings she comes straight home and goes to bed for a few hours. On non-working mornings she sits on a bench beside her front door at coffee time with her husband and watches the world go by. I like to stop just for a few minutes to have a ‘socially distant’ chat. She is a very wise lady with the ability to put a very serious situation into perspective. Also very worried about a near neighbour who was taken away by Ambulance but hasn’t come back yet and hoping that she hasn’t got “It”.
Further down the road, after avoiding two cyclists who have never heard about “distancing” I come to a house with lots of teddy bears in the window. It turns out that the couple who live there put on plays for young children, I look forward to their next project, an outdoor play done in front of children (and their parents), all sitting appropriately distant. Their enthusiasm in these dark times is lovely to see.
All of these people are just a selection of the ones I come across on my walk. I find it interesting that they all expect the threat that we are living under to stay with us for some time to come.
In contrast, I went into Town on Thursday at midday with my daughter. We took my Setter to the Vet for her inoculations and for a check-up. Great care was taken by the St Peters Practice to maintain distance and the dog was taken from the car and examined in the surgery without us then returned to us very quietly but with great care for our beloved canine, our safety and the safety of their staff. We parked a few minutes later in a completely different world. The High Street was an absolute “Corona” nightmare. People were casually chatting in large groups with no intention of standing two metres apart or getting out of the way as people tried to get past on the pavements. Older people were just wandering around looking as if they were glad to be out again. Queues for Boots were standing about half a metre apart. It was as if the actual townsfolk had taken the Prime Ministers’ broadcast to mean that the lockdown had ended! And not, as he intended it to mean, that we could have more time for exercise but still had to stay at home. We should only go to work if we could get there safely otherwise we must stay at home.
Two metres is 6ft6, the width of a park bench, it’s longer than you think! And it could literally be the difference between life and death. Over this last weekend, the Heath was full of people enjoying the freedom but many taking little notice social distancing.
This virus is dangerous, over 36000 people have died over a few short months – there is no magic cure, some people are lucky enough to show no symptoms and can pass it on to others without knowing it. I am afraid that a lot of us are not treating others with respect.
I have talked about people that I have come to know on my rambling. Good, bright people who are very aware of the present danger they are doing what they can to keep you safe when they are out and about. Please take a minute to think about them and good people like them-obey the distance rules, stay at home unless you are out for exercise and most importantly ….stay well.
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 20 May 2020
‘If I am ever asked what did I remember about 2020 ? I will, (if I am spared) say that we all lived through a time when we were faced by an enemy with no face, that the battle against it was fought by an army of able people without guns and ammunition but who wore uniforms and gave selflessly of their time, humanity and medical knowledge. That we were asked to “stay inside and save lives” and in the main, we did.
A time when total strangers rushed to help the vulnerable who were stranded at home needing food and medical supplies. When Aid Agencies like ‘Help the Aged’ mobilised within hours and persuaded the cooks at Churchers College, who gave freely of their time, to provide hot meals twice a week which were then delivered to the elderly at home.
In the beginning the roads were quiet except for the hum of the delivery vans and we could hear the birds sing out as if we were hearing them for the first time. Pubs became shops and together with many restaurants and cafes became “takeaways”. Through it all the supermarkets and other food shops remained open. Customers waited outside patiently, in some cases, for their turn to go in to shop in stores where staff had been filling shelves all night, going in to work at all hours in order to make up home deliveries whilst the day staff worked hard to serve customers who at times were less than pleasant when they found that a special item wasn’t in and that was what they wanted- even though during the lockdown the factory who made it was closed because their management were shielding their workforce.
Yes, we were in “Lockdown”. The Government were taking advice from Scientists and the National Health leaders as to how they could protect the National Health workers who were working in situations where they could catch this awful “thing”. It meant that we were all to stay at home for most of the day except to get food or exercise for an hour. It made sense as other countries were closing down as well because horrendous numbers of people were dying. Oh yes, we had experts everywhere-from Scientists who argued that we shouldn’t be shielded, that although it was highly infectious and as yet they had no cure.
To the many amateur experts too who felt that it was fine to flout the rules and that “It wouldn’t happen to them!”- the problem was it often did.It was a year when we came together to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the ending of World War 2. That awful conflict that our parents and grandparents lived through, or didn’t. When, as the then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill said, when the Germans had conquered most of Europe and were now just on the other side of the Channel, “..We stood alone. Did we want to give in? Were we downhearted? The lights went out and the bombs came down. There was no thought of quitting. We came back after long months from the jaws of Hell!”In a way, for many of us, this is the feeling that we had in 2020.
We were “at the jaws of Hell”. Not knowing what would happen next would we all be “set free?” and look forward to the re-occurrence of the numbers of dying shooting up? Or would common sense win? Would we be asked to stay at home for just a bit more? As yet, no one really knew what the right thing to do was-after all, if we were set free and many more loved ones died we could blame the Government and if we were all kept at home for longer and we neither liked it nor appreciated why?..we could blame the Government.
Now I revert to the present day. There is danger outside if we are not careful. Unlike the war years we do not know our enemy or where it will strike but let us pause for a time and think of all those people who, during that conflict that ended 75 years ago, gave their lives or returned home injured in body or mind. Who worked in factories, shipyards, mines and farms, the ARP wardens, Police, Doctors, Nurses, Firemen, local volunteers and the many many others who supported the war effort.We also remember the NHS, the Armed Forces and the key workers and volunteers who are giving so much now and every day and also some of them losing their lives against this new enemy.
On Friday, wherever we are, let us raise a glass – or a cup to all of them. “..For your tomorrow, they gave their today”.
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 6 May 2020
I don‘t think that any of us have been surprised by the announcement from Dominic Raab to extend the lockdown for at least another three weeks. I know that this is hard for many of us, especially those among us who no longer have jobs and who haven’t even been furloughed, but I have just watched an interview in which a young woman described her feelings as she held her Father’s hand as he died; It caused me to look hard at my son and daughter and think how I would feel if I sat beside one of them while they struggled for breath.
The speed which this thing has spread through the world has been terrifying and yet there are still a number among us who feel that it won’t touch them and are oblivious as they jog or cycle within inches of us as we take our daily walk. We are asked to maintain a distance of two metres from each other when we are out unless we belong to one household. (That is six foot six in old language!) I must admit I do say something, but as they inevitably have headphones of some sort in they sail blithely on. Not very good for the blood pressure!
I would say to them – ‘Think of others!!‘ You might be carrying this virus and might pass it on to them and those who live with them who might be vulnerable. They might be carrying the virus themselves and may give it to you – Yes, it is that bad.
This is a time when we find who and what really matters and what doesn’t. When we can reach out to those who are dear and just tell them what they mean to us. If we are not able to call them or use the internet we can write it down. It is a time to think about those old friends in far away places – you know, the ones we may still write Christmas cards to – who would really appreciate a word at this time. They may be feeling just as scared as we are by something over which we have no control.
A lot of you are used to going to work each day – whether locally or on the endless commute to London, and only spending weekends at home or the odd holidays. Living together can throw up lots of different problems, the children can be very restless cooped up for such a long time and not really understanding why they can‘t see their friends. Couples are thrown together for longer than usual periods, habits irritate, everything can irritate and rows happen. This can escalate into real fear for just a few ( I know what that can be like as I grew up in this environment – luckily we escaped). Please be very aware that the Police have got special powers at a time like this so please seek their help if you are in real trouble you can dial 999 followed by 55 quietly on your phone. This will immediately alert them and they will locate you and can rescue you. I sincerely hope that no one needs this.
Stay well, stay 2 metres away (well 6ft 6ins!) and stay safe
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 17 April 2020
Another week has passed by and I find that it has been a week filled with strong contrasts. Last weekend we had reports about groups of people meeting on the Heath contrary to Government directives. I noticed on my daily perambulations that for some social distancing was a thing that others did.
Then the unthinkable happened our Prime Minister went into hospital and then into intensive care. The streets cleared and social distancing was much more in evidence. He seemed to be such a strong man and overnight he became one of the vulnerable. If it could happen to him then it could happen to any one of us.
After 2 days he is now out of intensive care and on the normal wards. Let us hope that he will recover soon because no matter what political persuasion we are at this time we all feel that he is trying to do his best for everyone .
Locally the agencies working together plus the many volunteers are doing their best to look after the vulnerable and doing a great job. Captain Linda Read, the local head of the Salvation Army is giving food to the very needy. Steve Field, her Sgt. and our Town Council Project Manager, collects and delivers food parcels to the housebound who have very little. This is only a very small example of the help being given. Help the Aged are delivering prescriptions, hot meals and shopping to the elderly and vulnerable. They are not the only ones many of the
others are working hard to help in any way that they can.
Now we have reached Easter Weekend at the end of Holy Week and It is also Passover. A very strange Easter when those of us who want to are not able
to go to church. The Church through the internet can come to us instead.
For everyone it is a holiday- but a holiday with a difference. Please, for the sake of the NHS, phone your relatives and friends do not see them. If you go out for exercise then keep your distance , stay safe and stay well.
A Very Happy Easter to you all
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 10 April 2020
We have been locked down for over one week. Most of us are keeping to the rules because we understand the reason why we are having to do this. The shopping frenzy is quietening down because our supermarkets and corner shops are keeping open.
It is unfortunate that there are still individuals who are flouting the law. People who are shopping who are taking no notice of social distancing, pushing passed in queues or out jogging and brushing passed innocent walkers. Please stop and think about how easily this awful virus spreads and that, while you might feel absolutely fine but someone’s aunt, uncle or parent with a health problem may not be.
Meanwhile council work carries on. The hall is closed but repairs are being done. The grounds are inspected regularly by the Head Groundsman Dugg Budd and the public open spaces will start to be mown from next week. Regrettably all the play areas will remain closed.
The staff are in constant touch and are all working from home now, with our very efficient financial officer, Michelle coming in every day to finalise the end of year accounts.
The other thing that we have to think about is the feeling of loneliness and isolation that many are experiencing at the moment. My daughter showed me this: https://www.ssafa.org.uk/news-articles/9-tips-to-stay-mentally-healthy and I felt that it sent a clear message. It was developed by Tom Fox who runs Thoughtify (https://www.thoughtify.co.uk/) for SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, of which my Daughter is Head of PR we have permission to share this with you. Look after yourselves, keep well, keep safe and keep the space!
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 2 April 2020
Last night the Prime Minister told us to stay at home and put us under a state of restricted movement.
He has closed all (non-essential) businesses. I am sorry that people who rely on these businesses can’t work but we are in a situation that is grim and measures have been put into operation to save our lives. This is what has been so difficult for us to grasp, because as a nation we value our freedom.
Coronavirus is not flu – where if we had it we can infect 1.5 other people – this is a serious infection where one single person can pass the virus onto 30,000+ people in one week.
It is the vulnerable that we should care for, the elderly and those with long term serious conditions of any age.
The NHS does not have the capacity to cope with these large numbers and we must protect as many others as we can.
Please follow the guidelines – stay at home. It takes something very serious to close schools and churches.
We will get through this.
Follow the rules Petersfield!
Cllr Lelsley Farrow, Petersfield Town Mayor: 24 March 2020
As the news unfolds and the number of poor souls who have died from this awful virus rise, we in Petersfield appear to carry on with our daily lives taking little notice it feels, of what is ahead.
I almost feel that we at the Town Council represent three towns; the large army of people who have come forward to volunteer to help those in need, those who are ignoring assurance that shops will continue to be stocked by buying in bulk and those people in the vulnerable groups who are ignoring NHS advice and socialising as normal.
Going by the Italian model the next few weeks are going to be grim, you must remember that self-isolation is not for you, it is for the people who might catch something from you. If any of us suffer any of the symptoms we must self-isolate for a two-week period. If you are over 70, have a long-term condition, are pregnant or a weakened immune system please stay safe and well.
The prospect of self-isolation can be daunting, but this is a deadly disease and we must learn from what has happened and is happening in those countries which are already at the height of the virus.
What is not acceptable is the behaviour of those supermarket shoppers who clear the shelves, buying in bulk when throughout the next few weeks these shops will still be operating. Because of this, some of the most vulnerable are going without vital supplies. This is even stopping those members of the NHS and Emergency Services from getting basic groceries at the end of the long and highly pressured shifts they work.
I am deeply disappointed at the reports that supermarket staff have been shouted at, sworn at and I have even heard rumours of things being thrown at them. These people are only trying to do their jobs in very difficult circumstances.
I called up the all the supermarkets in town on Thursday to thank all the managers and staff who are working so hard. I went to Tesco in person to see the manager when I heard that staff had been subject to abusive behaviour. Despite this, he was very positive and concerned about those in dire need and told me about his plans to expand his workforce of part-time staff, which I’m sure will be released in the next few days.
We are here to help you in the best way that we can. Contact us at the Town Hall asking for either our Aid Coordinator Stephen Field (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 264182 or Kathryn Ellis-Blandford (email@example.com) who is running our COVID-19 Facebook group (search Petersfield Pulse: Coronavirus) and updating our website: https://www.petersfield-tc.gov.uk/covid-19-response/
Cllr Lesley Farrow, Town Mayor: 23 March 2020
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