Local returns: three small steps

Unlike the Moon landing, there was never going to be one giant leap back to normality. A series of small steps will be the way out of lockdown. Yesterday we took three, in and around our home village, supporting local businesses.

Step one: a trip to The Framing Gallery in nearby Cryers Hill, to select and order frames for five pictures. We’ve made a habit of buying locally-created pictures on our holidays over many years, usually without frames for ease of transport home. The Gallery provides an excellent service and we’re glad it’s still around.  At the moment, an appointment booking system ensures that the Gallery can limit the number of customers on the premises at any time.

Step two: return to Prestwood and pop into Hildreths. This friendly local business traces its history back over four centuries, having started as a blacksmith’s. There are four main parts to Hildreths today: a hardware store, a garden centre, a gift centre and a cafe. The first three have remained open during lockdown, relying on their staff and customers to maintain social distancing. We bought several heavily discounted cache pots, as well as one of their irresistible lardy cakes.

Step three: like many people across England, we visited one of our local pubs. The Polecat was a part of Helen’s childhood, as she and her parents would sometimes eat lunch here. Oakman Inns have redeveloped and reopened it, not long before the start of lockdown. A little tradition has gone, but there’s no doubt that a modern pub-restaurant is better placed to adjust to unexpected circumstances.

The tables, as far as we could see, were further apart than normal, but not dramatically so. Hand sanitiser was available at the entrance, and a sign advised us of the new working conditions, including an app which we could use to order our food. Visiting the toilets – and leaving at the end of the meal – involved taking a one-way system through the rest of the pub.

In other respects, everything seemed normal. Perhaps because we were there at lunchtime and it wasn’t quite so busy as the pub tends to get for dinner, we didn’t need to use the ordering app. Table service was available and prompt. Nobody was wearing masks, including the staff. Everybody behaved sensibly, observing social distancing. It helps that the Polecat has a substantial outside space at the back, enabling small children to run around to their hearts’ content. Oh, and the food was excellent!

I must admit to a little trepidation before we went out yesterday. We’ve been in shops during lockdown, but strictly for essential (food buying) purposes. And, to use that dread phrase now in vogue, there may well be a ‘new normal’ in future, that isn’t the ‘normal’ we had before the virus.

Still, we enjoyed the morning out: three small steps out of the dark…