At the outset of lock-down, many village organisations were required to close. Others, and especially the community-run village shop and post office, had to find a new and safe way of working in order to provide customers, many of them elderly, at risk and self-isolating, with vital deliveries. One consequence of this was “The Paper Girls”. In this week’s Sunday Reflection, Jo Kirkland, one of that cheerful team, looks back over an eventful time.
On an early lock-down day back in March a text went out to our COVID-19 village group asking for volunteers to deliver the newspapers a couple of times a week. Four of us responded: Alpa, Portia, Lena and I. From that moment on we became “The Paper Girls”, a soon-to-be hit “girl” band with Jon Petersen as our hard-talking, star-making manager, delivering papers until fame beckoned!
It seemed like a way to do our bit for the village and a bit of fun, to have some banter in the group, and get out and about. Little did I know that it would come to define my week; to remind me what day it was as they all began to merge into one; to give me a chance to chat with at least four other people and also the households on my paper round; to track my progress on my bike up the hills of Hambledon and to feel I had a purpose other than home schooling and watching Netflix.
I already knew Lena and Jon but I had never met Portia or Alpa. In our treasured chats (some a bit longer than others – sorry if your paper was late some days!) while we waited for our papers, we discussed kids, families, nutrition, injuries, death, business, politics, hangovers, emotions. Jon fixed our bikes, we occasionally practised yoga, we found common ground and we made friends.
(Photograph shows, from left to right, Alpa, Portia, Lena, Jon and Jo)
Riding my bike around delivering papers gave me a new perspective on the village. Peering into people’s gardens and getting inspiration for ours, wishing a good morning to the cyclists and walkers, and discovering that Hambledon is more hilly than I’d realised!
Oh, and the houses – it’s been pure joy to see some of the houses hidden down lanes and behind hedges. Some magical, some mysterious, some grand, some picture perfect, all with personality and tended with love.
And finally, my “customers”. It made such a difference twice a week to lean my bike against their walls and have a chat. Just having a reason to get out and have contact with people outside of the four walls of my home was a gift, however much I love my family!
I already miss talking to Rosemary about her garden, to Ruth about her dog share and her family, checking on the progress of John and Ruth’s epic shed clear out and I looked forward most to my chats with The Blackmans. I didn’t know them at all until I became their paper girl, and I felt like we bonded over lock-down. We moaned to each other with a certain good humoured, stoic grace, we found out a little about each other’s families, one morning they met my boys on an unexpected “take your child to work day”. I was always disappointed if they didn’t come out for a chat when I left the paper. And it didn’t go unnoticed that, if Sue realised she might have missed me, she came out onto her driveway and called me back.
So now we’ve been furloughed with 80% of nothing and can be called back at any time. I think our manager has stitched us up there.
And as much as I hope that our services won’t be required in the future, I can’t pretend that on a Sunday morning I’m not drawn to the shop for a chat with my band mates.
So, I’ll add The Paper Girls to the positives of lockdown list. Because it turns out that even though I was doing something to help the village, really the village helped me.
Jo Perkins (Kirkland)