News and events

My Furlough Experience

2020 well what a year and certainly one no-one will ever forget. As the Education and Events Officer, I began 2020 with a diary full of School Bookings, ideas to reach out to every sector of the community to educate on Animal Welfare and to raise awareness of the amazing work our Branch does. With 3 big fundraising events in the planning, a golf day at Dereham Golf Club, RSPCA One Fun Day and a stand at the Royal Norfolk Show it was going to be a busy, productive, successful and enjoyable year. Yet three months in and the world looked very different.
Suddenly, the Country was in full lockdown, I was immediately furloughed and with the schools closed I realised quickly I had a very different role to play now. I was now a year 4 and year 7 school teacher! But on top of that I had to make sure we had sufficient supplies to do 3 meals a day 7 days a week, deal with the worries, fears, anxieties and tears of both my children whilst trying to keep my own anxieties at bay. We had to adapt to this new way of life of staying at home, not seeing family or friends, just the three of us, my children and I in our own little pod of safety. So, adapt we did, school work completed with me drawing on things I learnt over 25 years ago, daily walks looking at nature, wildlife and the changes in our local River Meadow with the absence of so many people.

Just days before lockdown I had been fitted with knee braces to aid my walking, so we measured just how far we were walking each day and plotting the increase in the distance I could now walk. We decided to give our garden a makeover so armed with secateurs, spades and electric hedge cutters the three of us set to work. I have never felt so empowered as I did with the electric cutter in hand powering my way through the branches!! We looked at the task through educational eyes (of course) comparing tools for each job and working out which would be the best. We drew our vision for the garden and kept records of all the seeds we planted. We created a full fairy garden in one area and got very excited when the postman brought our houses and toadstools we ordered online. I was never a big online shopper but now I find myself browsing online ordering bits and pieces and loving the delivery of them and opening the box. My daughter and I got out the 1000 piece mystery puzzle we kept saying we would do and we sat for hours working together fitting in piece after piece. As a pre-teen she was already completely tech savvy so when I told her we would be facetiming Nana, or zoom calling Auntie she wasn’t fazed at all.

We set up Thursday night Quiz Night, so after we had been outside to see the whole street come together to applaud the work of the NHS, we would get online with my parents and sister’s family for Quiz night and with each person taking a turn to write and host the quiz it was hotly contested each week. Finally after several weeks my children I were victorious and won the coveted “Nobby Cup” – let me explain. Early on in Lockdown I decided to start a WhatsApp group of family members of funny characters reporting on vital news, which in truth was not vital at all but it did alert people to the goings on of each community; the day the bin man came, the day the cat from number 6 went missing and so on. Each day getting sillier than before, the vital news now was completely made up and brought a much needed smile to everyone involved. We all had alter egos based on where we lived, I was Bob from Beetley. My father went a step further and not only had his own character, but named his garden gnome Nobby. The adventures of Nobby were reported on each day and he in turn sponsored the trophy for the quiz nights (and people worried staying indoors would affect one’s stability!!).

On a more serious note, I decided to spend my time teaching myself to draw and paint, something I had always wanted to do. So after a few YouTube tutorials I was happily sketching, painting with watercolours and acrylics and creating presents I later gave to family members. I also decided to start writing a mystery novel, maybe due to the hours of Vera, Midsomer Murders and Lewis, I had been watching!! Finally, as I had given up smoking, I decided to subscribe to Ancestry to continue searching the family history my daughter and I had started on a free trial some years before. Aside from all this, which all had an educational slant to them, my daughter and I created tik tok video after tik tok video with the occasional cameo from my shier son. We enjoyed a fortnight away in our caravan with our new support bubble when this was introduced in the summer, before the new tiers system and second lockdown were brought in.
This year has taught many people many different things. To value the time we have with friends and family, enjoy our work and the people we work with, to make time in our busy lives to just stop and appreciate our surroundings and the beauty the woodlands, streams, and coastline. To do things that give us pleasure, for no particular reason other than pleasure, to help as much as you can, whether it is within your own community or to charities or just doing a good deed.

My community came alive during lockdown, with a community cupboard set up where you took items of food/drink you didn’t need and could take something from there that you did. More and more houses laid out items of bric-a-brac in the gardens so that as you took your daily walk, your child might see a new book they wanted, or a game, or some plants you could use in your own garden. All free, all out to make the walk a little more interesting especially for children. We had music and dancing in the street following the Thursday applause. We had a village Easter Egg hunt with Eggs donated from a supermarket delivered to each house taking part. We had a pumpkin trail for Halloween and recently a Christmas tree trail, raising funds for the school and for a new village play area and raising the spirits of everyone in the village. It’s strange, I’ve always been a village person and loved the idea of proper village life; slow paced no big supermarkets or attractions for shopping and days out but making your own entertainment and shopping in local corner shops. But I also love technology, texting, apps, and videos. Lockdown really was when old met new, the slow-paced living, supporting local business’ who had reinvented how they operated in order to survive, appreciating our local area and what it offered, spending time at home baking and making things but with the technology of zoom, facetime and teams to keep in touch with friends, family, work colleagues and schools. We have online apps to keep us singing, dancing and making a fool of ourselves, and shopping completely in the online world.

Birthdays and Anniversaries all looked very different but perhaps even more special because more thought went into the planning of the day and the gifts so I doubt anyone will forget their lockdown birthday. The year 2020, one that has changed the face of the earth, how we live, how we work, how we behave. It’s stopped the world in its tracks and made it think; perhaps that wasn’t such a bad thing.

I will take away from 2020 the precious months I got to spend at home with my children, living plainly and simply and not by the clock, learning and enjoying new skills, how much I love my job and the work we do as a Branch, my love of good old fashioned village life invigorated and my appreciation of technology increased. It’s reminded us all that we are not infallible and we never know when our time is up, so live life to the full, make a difference, make it count, act with kindness and appreciate everything you have. We as part of this year will go down in history so let’s make where we go from here, is something fit for the record books.

Emma MillsMy Furlough Experience