A Travellerspoint blog

In Ealing, West London, UK

Sarah's experiences

I have lived in Ealing for 39 years, and in our present home in South Ealing for 34 years, but I never knew until a week or so ago that Margot Fonteyn lived near here, or that Agatha Christie’s parents are buried in our local cemetery. I didn’t know that Spencer Walpole, who was Home Secretary under three different Tory governments in the mid 19th century, is also buried there, nor that a local church, less than a mile from our house, is dedicated to his father-in-law, Spencer Perceval, the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated, who used to live in a house on that site.

In South Ealing Cemetery - grave of Agatha Christie's parents

Grave of Spencer Walpole

All Saints Church
~ built in memory of Spencer Perceval


And the reason I now know about these things? The Coronavirus lockdown in the UK, aimed at restricting the spread of COVID-19, allows us to take some exercise in the form of one walk, run or cycle ride per day. I don’t cycle or run (my usual exercise is swimming, not possible under present circumstances) so I go for a walk, usually with my husband Chris. We are fortunate to have two lovely parks nearby, but they can get busier at weekends and holiday periods (the lockdown has spanned the Easter period), and I also get bored following the same route every day, so we’ve started to explore parts of our locality that we’ve never visited before, including the nearby cemetery. We must have driven past this hundreds of times, and walked past too, but never once ventured inside. And what a beautiful, tranquil spot we have discovered!

So, life is pretty different right now, as it is almost everywhere in the world. But I’m also discovering that each country has its own slightly different response, and so each of us is being affected differently. Part of the purpose of this shared blog is to explore the impact the COVID-19 on all of us – what we have in common and what is unique to our own situation.

Lilac in our garden

Background: the situation in the UK

In the UK ‘lockdown’ was introduced just over three weeks ago, on Monday 23rd March. Prior to that some advisory restrictions were in place asking anyone with a persistent cough and/or fever to isolate themselves. Anyone with underlying health issues and those over seventy were also advised to self-isolate. The rest of us were free to carry on pretty much as normal, going to cinemas, restaurants, pubs etc., using public transport and going to work or school. Some places had started to introduce their own measures – for example, churches recommended avoiding physical contact between worshippers such as shaking hands as a sign of peace. And there was a run on hand-sanitiser and toilet paper as people became nervous about what was to come.

Cafe in Ealing Broadway

On Monday 23rd March the government announced lockdown measures. Since then we have been allowed to leave our homes only for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of our household
  • Any medical need, including to donate blood, avoid or escape risk of injury or harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling for work purposes, but only if we cannot work from home

Most shops are closed – only those selling food and drink, and pharmacies, can stay open. Pubs, restaurants, libraries, sports facilities, places of worship – all are closed. Cafés and coffee shops can offer a take-away service if they can do so within the physical distancing rules, and restaurants can offer home delivery. Those shops that are open are limiting the number of customers inside at any time, so queuing has become the norm. When standing in these queues I am often reminded of my mother’s stories about the post-war rationing that was still in place in the early days of my parents’ marriage. She told me she would often see a queue and join it without knowing what she was queuing for, as it was bound to be something hard to get like oranges!

And when we do go out, we must follow these guidelines:

  • Stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible
  • Keep at least two metres apart from anyone outside your household
  • No gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces
  • Take hygiene precautions when you are outside, and wash your hands as soon as you are back indoors

Plane coming in to land at Heathrow
~ our house is on the edge of a flight path so one blessing at the moment is that we have far fewer planes overhead!

Many people are furloughed – the term used for those not required to work but retained by their employer pending the return to ‘normality’. The government is paying 80% of their wages (up to a limit of £2,500 per day) and there is a similar scheme to compensate the self-employed who are unable to work. But many are falling through the safety nets, or waiting too long to see the money start to flow, so demand on food banks etc. is increasing – more on that later in my blog.

So what about me?

I am more fortunate than most. I am retired and on a decent pension, so I don’t have the financial or job security worries that many others have. I share my home with my husband Chris, so I’m not having to practice social distancing alone. I live within an easy walk of shops and of parks, for my daily exercise. And so far, thankfully, I have avoided catching the virus, nor has it yet touched anyone close to me.

So my main problems are boredom and frustration – that is, not really problems at all in the greater scheme of things. I would love to be able to go to the cinema, meet friends for lunch, see my sister, go out for dinner or even just for a coffee with Chris – but I can’t, which makes life somewhat boring. And I would love to be able to book a holiday, or even several, but I can’t really do that either, or at least not with any certainty of being able to take it, which is what I find frustrating. But I can:

Walk in some lovely local parks and appreciate the coming of spring


In Walpole Park

Discover new things about our part of west London, Ealing, as I mentioned above

Primroses in South Ealing Cemetery

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More photos from our walks in the cemetery

Send for take-ways to replicate the dining-out experience at home, which has become our weekly Saturday evening treat

Have virtual get-togethers with friends – so far I have enjoyed an evening drink with a couple of great colleagues from my consultancy work, had several Sunday morning catch-ups with Virtual Tourist friends in the UK and Switzerland, and attended a larger virtual VT meeting involving friends from the UK, US, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Bosnia.


I also have plenty to do. We were fortunate to be able to fit in a holiday just before (or more accurately as) the Coronavirus pandemic started, to Indochina, and I am kept busy with writing up my blog entries on that trip.

And I am very involved in supporting the charity Chris co-founded some years ago, Plan Zheroes, which matches food businesses (caterers, shops, restaurants etc.) who have surplus food with charities who can make use of it. There was a flurry of activity in the first couple of weeks of the lockdown as restaurants that were having to close needed to get rid of the food they had in stock and turned to us to find good uses for it. Likewise caterers found that the workplaces they usually supply no longer needed them and also had sometimes huge quantities of perfectly food that would have gone to waste had we not found charities to take it. At the same time more charities have been getting involved in sourcing food for people who are struggling under the current restrictions, with incomes precarious and children who would normally get a school meal now at home. More recently chefs in some of our partner food businesses have been volunteering their time to cook meals for the vulnerable and/or NHS staff and we are helping them with fund-raising for ingredients and with distribution of the cooked meals.

Talking of the NHS, there has been an upswelling of support here for the doctors, nurses and other health workers who are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Every Thursday evening at 8.00 pm many of us are coming to our front doorsteps, standing on balconies or at open windows to applaud them, and the BBC are even covering this weekly event live on TV. Children are painting pictures of rainbows to stick in front windows with messages of gratitude and support, and so on. Cynics are wondering if these expressions of appreciation will endure beyond the crisis and lead to better funding for the services, but only time will tell, and this is perhaps not the place for politics!

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Signs on a local house and in a shop window

So, I’m doing OK I guess – how are you doing?

In a local garden

Posted by ToonSarah 00:32 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged parks london england history coronavirus covid_19

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Interesting to hear what is happening back home. Also enjoyed seeing your pictures of spring flowers. I really miss those. I think you're right there's probably beautiful or interesting places near all of us that we never get round to visiting. Now's our chance.

by irenevt

Thanks Irene :) It's great to be involved in this mini-project with you and to share our experiences!

by ToonSarah

In these sad times ,it was uplifting to read your blog,thanks..No parks near me, just a 200m walk to the local supermarket. Strange to see the queue,strung out at 2m spacing. But it is nice to enjoy the sunny weather Alec.

by alectrevor

Thanks Alec, I agree about the weather :)

by ToonSarah

The only time I've been outside since March 12th when I had a doctor's appointment (before things really shut down) was on March 16th when I went to a cemetery to take photos. Cemeteries are nice. We get take-out once a week. And Bob goes to market, to get prescriptions, to the dump and to the hardware store. Also he gave blood yesterday. And he is also finishing up putting siding on the summer kitchen, painting, mowing the lawn etc. But I just stay in. I'm happily retired and re-creating my blogs here and entering cemetery photos. I miss the physical therapy at the pool, but other than that, not much has changed. I do worry about my widowed sister who has no one to talk to. I can talk to Bob, even if he doesn't hear what I say a lot of the time :)

by greatgrandmaR

Thank you for your insights Rosalie. If you fancy writing a short piece about the impact on you in the US do let me know and I'll add you as an author. Alec too if you're interested?

by ToonSarah

Hi Sarah. Fascinating. Our lives here in California haven't changed much except for the absence of smog which is a joy. We are retired and our daughter is working from home so we are three at our house. We have always gone for a walk each morning and have a set route for each day. We both paint and read voraciously so have plenty to do and now the garden is in and we can work in the yard. I've always cooked three meals a day so nothing new there although I've had to be a bit more creative since we can't go out often for fresh vegetables. That will soon be taken care of by the garden and we can always use frozen and grow sprouts! We don't often go out except to our painting groups and we do miss that but keep in touch online.

We have had to cancel our trip to our youngest granddaughter's high school graduation as it's been cancelled. I do feel sorry for all the seniors in high school and university who are missing all the graduation activities. We'll just postpone the trip and celebrate a year late. We're still hoping to be able to travel in late autumn but are staying flexible on that.

All in all we have not been inconvenienced by this and are actually enjoying a bit of freedom from committee meetings. We've had some on Zoom but most have been cancelled. I have discovered I don't particularly like Zoom meetings but they serve their purpose. As usual, I never seem to have enough time to get everything done.

by Beausoleil

Great to hear from you Sally. Would you be interested in writing this up as a separate entry if I added you as an author? You could just cut and paste from this comment if you wanted!

I know what you mean about Zoom, but I'm finding it quite a useful way to have a bit of a social life with VT friends and others. We've started a regular Friday evening meeting which I guess would fall at lunch-time for you - let me know if you're interested in joining one :) Last night we had VTers from the UK, Portugal, Iceland, Israel, Belgium and Bosnia - a bit chaotic at times but fun too!

by ToonSarah

Hi . I Live in York England. I"m retired, slow at walking and now live alone. So my life hasn"t changed a great deal. Good friend vists and shops. We sit in the back garden at 3m apart,sunny weather at the moment. In the Lockdown in England , only food, chemists, butchers and bakers open, all others closed. No places where people gather, Sport, Pubs, Church,etc are closed. I walk once a week to the local supermarket, it is quite strange to see people waiting to enter the shop,standing at 2m spaces. Inside the shop the floor is marked at 2m areas, at the cashout the assistant is behind a glass screen. Payment is by card. I miss my weekly night out to the club, where i used to partake 3 pints beer, and play Bingo and enjoy the entertainment.
The bus to town used to run every 10 minutes now 30 minutes . I keep busy on my laptop, reading and writing blogs. All the Best Everbody. STAY SAFE. Alec.

by alectrevor

Alec, I've added you to the list of authors so you can put this on your own page rather than mine :)

by ToonSarah

I am not sure how it would work for you to put me down as an author.

by greatgrandmaR

I've added you Rosalie, so you should now be able to add an entry as you would to your own blogs. Let me know if it doesn't work!

by ToonSarah

It's good to know, Sarah! Please keep well!

by Vic_IV

I wrote something on my own blog. Can you add me from there?

by greatgrandmaR

No Rosalie, you need to add it here. Just click on @Add a new entry' top right on this page. You can copy and paste what you wrote already and add the same photos. But if I add it, it would look as if I wrote it, and I wouldn't be able to include your photos ;)

by ToonSarah

OK I figured it out as you were telling me how to do it. I think it is there now. I just might want to add some photos or some explanation about the cemeteries. But that isn't important for the virus changes.

by greatgrandmaR

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