This is a personal blog that will attempt to describe my experience of living in On the Brink, our co housing community, during the Covid-19 pandemic. I know that every person, wherever they live, will be having different experiences and challenges to their lives and their lifestyles and my heart goes out to you if you are having a difficult time.
This is my experience.
Lisa and I developed the symptoms of Covid-19 just after the middle of March. We had been observing the official precautions and it remains unclear how we managed to contract the virus. At one level we had a nasty time, Lisa more than me. Lisa was admitted to hospital when her symptoms worsened about two weeks after the start of the symptoms and was on oxygen for ten days before returning home. Phew!!! It was a horrid, frightening time for us. But living within such a wonderful, enormously supportive community has made the experience bearable.
We didn’t move to On the Brink in the expectation of needing care. However the lived experience over the last few months is that the love and support that we have received throughout this challenging time from our co housing comrades has been enormously moving and has sustained us. Thank you to all of our fellow co housers.
Listing all the ways that our co housing comrades have supported us would be a bit tedious but it includes leaving meals by our door, sending us flowers picked from the garden, WhatsApp messages, Zoom calls, telephone calls without number, offers of shopping trips... I don’t think any of this was coordinated, but certainly when Lisa was in hospital and I wasn’t well myself and couldn’t think of what to eat a delicious meal would magically arrive at the door unbidden.
I am welling up just thinking of those times and of the way that our comrades rallied round without any fuss. Within myself and for the first time in my life I found it possible to ask for the things we needed to live behind the closed door of flat 7. The worst of these for me is to ask for someone to take away our rubbish. It felt humiliating and exposing – but we asked and the task was completed as necessary without further ado.
The best thing for me was to receive cards and messages from the young people living here...
Here’s a sample:
Listening to the young people playing in the garden remains a major delight. They barrel around, swooosh down the drives in their mini vehicles, build dens, rearrange everything in the garden over and over and fill the airwaves with yells and whoops. Hearing and seeing them is as good as oxygen.
During this time there is a part of the garden where building work is going on. Our little balcony overlooks the site where the three new houses are being constructed. Of course there’s noise and dust – but there’s also tangible proof of a new future for On the Brink. Before our eyes the deliveries of stone and cement are being transformed into three lovely new living spaces. Each day the builders perform a ballet – moving around the site – carrying stuff, putting stone on stone, it’s great to watch. And it’s a real marvel to be able to watch the delicacy with which the JCB driver does the heavy parts of the work. What skill they all have.
More routine parts of the work of keeping On the Brink going are being adapted to these constrained times. Meetings are being held via Zoom calls and it is possible to join in discussions and decision-making even while being confined to barracks. Everything has changed but lots remains the same. We still need to talk with each other about finance and legal matters, we need to plan our future together and look forward to new developments within the community. Technology has been a great boon to these lines of communication – what would we do without it?
While Lisa remains inside our flat being ‘shielded’ I have cautiously started moving round the house, gardens and grounds and even on my bike for short rides around the neighbourhood. And the community has recently started to develop safe ways of re-establishing at least some of the social features that make living here such a delight.
Following government guidelines (and common sense), we have started to have social times together on the lawn where those of the community who are able to join in meet to eat or to celebrate significant events. We have celebrated Tanith’s graduation after three years of very hard work and also celebrated Mary Toon (Kate’s mother), and the 97 years of very full life that she had lived on this earth.