This item in our series about Wilbrahams’ residents and the coronavirus is from our District Councillor, Claire Daunton.
‘Are we Zooming tonight, or is it Teams? Not sure, it might be Webex, or could be Fuze, but not many people use that. Don’t forget to mute yourself ; that can catch you out! Have you noticed how many people are fuzzy? Of course they might have blur on. And some people still haven’t got the hang of the chat button. Have you seen the new rules in the VM [virtual meetings] document ?’
Does any of that sound familiar? It certainly is to me now. A whole new world, new vocabulary, new rules, new encounters – all in a few short weeks.
To say this has been an intense period does not come near to expressing the increase in work, facing new situations, being truly concerned to do the right thing, to help people in the right way. This has all been facilitated by online working, but that’s had its own stress. Will the link work? Will I be able to use this new system? Which password is it for this one?
There’s also the intensity of the face to face, screen to screen conversation, or contribution to a meeting. It feels more challenging, more immediate, requiring more concentration, especially when one can see the red ‘recording’ button in the top left hand corner – every word set down to be re-played by goodness knows who, or when. Online technology can keep one in its grip from early morning until late at night.
Just what have we councillors being doing all the time online? Well this one has been helping residents, dealing with enquiries, following up those in need of special assistance, helping local businesses to access loans, grants and other financial aid, working with the wonderful groups of volunteers, here locally, especially their coordinators, in both Wilbrahams. Huge thanks to them all. And all the while we’ve been conscious of the virus’ potentially devastating consequences on health and livelihoods.
We’ve also had to take on board complaints: one has to grow a thick skin and not be too upset when one’s hard work or the best intentions of colleagues, of things having to be done differently, are not received as intended. It is tough, and feels especially tough in these times.
One’s sanity is assured by excellent council colleagues and a level of co-operation and professionalism that has been extraordinary, and courageous. Leadership in these situations takes courage ; and I have seen this in colleagues.
And the many other positive aspects : meeting and greeting people on the daily walk ; discovering new footpaths ; appreciating the quiet and the clean air; listening to the bird song, even though the constant call of the cuckoo can drive one to distraction; seeing the stars clearly; talking to people over the gate or across a road; hearing stories of real dedication and service to others in small but important ways
I’m a historian, a medievalist, so I’ve tried to put this into context. In 1348-1349 when the Black Death was taking hold, with truly devastating consequences, some were worrying about the shortage of servants, craftsmen and labourers. Knights and others in that class had to thresh corn to make their own bread! In these times we have to worry about broadband speeds. But we, too, have to worry about who will pick our fruit and vegetables. They worried about what life was going to be like after plague ; and it was very different, with many fewer people, there were higher wages. For us, as well, it is bound to be different, what for us will be the effect on wages and on the crucial aspects of life? Let’s hope there will, at least, be some change for the better. We need a greener future, with a new look to the way society is organised, taking care of the vulnerable, building on what we have learned and benefitted from during these weeks of lockdown.