Yesterday I was reflecting on the number of times this past year I’ve been involved in singing Happy Birthday to family and friends, remotely, through pre-recorded group offerings (including bizarre costumes, photoshopping, and amusing backgrounds), outside in the freezing winter night air, in parks, carparks, and of course over everyone’s favourite almost-but-not-quite-live platform, Zoom. Well as COVID lockdown celebrates its first birthday today, I will absolutely not be wishing it any happy returns. It won’t get a card, or an invite to a socially distanced two-household BBQ or rule-of-six drinks party with friends in 2 weeks, and no balloon emojis on social media. Instead, I plan to use today as a rather perfect time to reflect on the best and most precious moments of the last year, because there really have been lots and lots of lovely ones.
Talking to one friend about walking the exact same route pretty much every day, I thought about making mine a little more interesting and have now started to note down lovely changes in people’s front gardens (hey don’t judge me for being nosey, it’s actually a well-known part for the GP job-spec), excitedly waiting for the white roses at number 1 to bloom and share their heady scent with passers-by, the attractive basement window boxes at number 47, the Easter display at number 4, and blossom erupting on the trees outside the church. These wonderful Spring moments are little pockets of hope to be clung to and revisited on bleaker days, I think. And like most Yorkies, the sight of the banks of yellow daffodils on the walls has been a real smiling-point on every trip into town. These are often a real draw for tourists, so it seems odd but selfishly lovely that only locals can enjoy them this year.
Lots of my happy memories involve the inventive lengths that we’ve gone to just get stuff done, or to make events special, despite the real-time absence of the usual people to share them with. Chivvying on neighbours with rainbows and other fun artwork in the windows. The socially-distanced doorstep serenading, carol-singing, chalk-drawing, water-fighting, and allotment-pilfering (though I my defence, I only stole one delicious onion and in exchange I watered everything. And have since apologised). The outdoor walking tutorials with my first ever trainee Jill otherwise I would never have seen her entire face! Reassuring a frightened patient who didn’t want to come into the surgery, but was relieved at the suggestion of chatting through the safety of the glass door and warmth of our practice’s porch (kind of), where I was able to observe her, and give instructions on how to use a little oxygen monitor. Looking at a hand wound through a front window on a home visit, when once again the patient was apprehensive about letting anyone new into their home. There was no facility to send a picture or do a video consultation to see if antibiotics were really needed. I saved that person the need for a prescription and the increased risk of antibiotic resistance next time. Well done me, right?
It’s true, the sadness over lots of cancelled events has been difficult to deal with, and as a musician I feel particularly keenly the amount of community music-making that has been put on hold, and even now seems to be probably the last thing that will be allowed. Pass me some ice for my bitter lemon would you?! But, it’s been surprising how much networking and team spirit has been overflowing on social media, as events have gone online. Please can I have some points for successfully delivering a session that involved small-group breakout rooms for 50 people last week, and an interactive game that rested on the winner being able to type in ‘toilet roll tube’ the fastest?
And of course this year has seen even more momentum for the desire to green-up the NHS. I’ve watched my little eco-healthcare projects grow and flourish, and teamed up remotely with fantastic colleagues around the UK to spread the message that disposable plastic masks are harming our planet. The story was on national news this week and made us all very proud. Now, go getcha mask (Danny Dyer’s accent from The Waw please), and tell me it isn’t a single-use one raises one eyebrow quizzically? Remember those that make it into waterways can ensnare fish and leach microplastics, and those that end up in landfill reduce the soil quality, which can have a knock-on effect of making it less stable for plants and trees, and remember what happens to rainwater when trees aren’t there to help stem the flow? Flooding. Sadly we’re no stranger to that here in York. Everyone lives within a short walk of one of the many waterways, and our lovely riverside businesses and many homes are damaged by flood water every single year.
So please don’t buy any more disposable masks. You can absolutely wear a washable one when you visit your GP or the vaccination hub. Let's leave the disposables for hospital surgeons. Wash your hands thoroughly, stay at home if you have a cough or fever, and avoid crowded areas if possible. And if you do happen to have a stash of plastic masks, please snip off the elastic before you bin them so that animals don’t get tangled up. And if you see them lying about in the street, please pop them in a bin. I shamelessly use Mini Eggs* as an incentive. One mask binned = one Mini Egg. So far I’ve got through an entire tube on my own in one jaunt to town, ha!
So go forth, friends! Your challenge this week is to pick up a stray plastic mask and bin it. Please post on Twitter or Instagram and tag @GreenLifeGP. And find your happy memories from 2020, write them down and put them next to your mirror, or on the wall next to your loo so you see them really often and they make you smile!
Next time I’ll be focusing on Easter eggs, and how to enjoy their chocolatey yumminess with a clean green conscience, which will of course require a lot of background testing and thorough sampling! Contact me if you want to be involved in this important research…
*other diminutive chocolate Eastertide snacks are available though really, why would you?!