Lockdown Unlocked – A blog from a social distance by Thomas Willshire #13 Graham

Last weekend Polly and I finally took a trip across to Calne in Wiltshire to see her Mum, Debbie. I have prattled on in recent weeks about my trials and tribulations during lockdown but they pale in comparison to those that Polly and her family have suffered. Polly’s Father, Graham, had been very poorly for two or three years and eventually passed away from bile duct cancer a week into lockdown. Caring for Graham and then visiting him properly in his hospice was complicated for Debbie as she was and still is suffering from a debilitating lung condition for which she is shielding to this day. These unfortunate circumstances have meant that Polly’s family has spent the lockdown grieving in the most unnatural and cruel of ways. The pandemic has forced them apart when what they’ve wanted and needed is to be together. Polly, her brother Cameron and Debbie have demonstrated incredible dignity and strength over the last three months and I’m in awe of all three of them.

Graham couldn’t really have been a better Father-in-law to me. All he ever wanted for his daughter was happiness and thankfully he could see that I just about provided her with that. At our wedding her referred to me as being “all right, I suppose” and I was hugely grateful for the enormous compliment he meant it to be. In his last days his words to Polly and I were to persevere with our dramatic endeavours, to do our best to be happy working in the industry we love. This was telling advice from an artist who after working freelance for some years created an illustration course at Swindon College from the ground up. The course gained international renown and attracted students from all over the world. I think Graham would have said that was his proudest achievement, surpassed only by Polly, Cameron, his marriage to Debbie and, of course, his MG TD Midget.

His funeral took place on the 23rd of April. Fortunately, the weather was glorious. The entire ceremony had to take pace outside because of social distancing and rain would have made that very difficult indeed. The lockdown restrictions gave the day a muted feel; it was far from the celebration of Graham’s life we all would have liked. There were eight of us in attendance with Debbie, forced to shield even then, watching on from her car. The sight of her sadly peering through the windscreen of her Fiat 500 is something I’ll never forget. Thankfully, Debbie’s consultant had told her five of us could sit in her garden after the ceremony as long as we observed a social distance so we spent some much needed time together in the sun that afternoon, remembering Graham.

Since the funeral Polly has been torn between the need to see her Mum and the fear that doing so could subject her to the virus. It’s been a hard-fought emotional battle for her which she’s coped with very well. Seeing Debbie this Saturday has marked the end of that conflict and it feels wholly healthy and right.

Whenever I start to feel depressed or stuck in the mud with the lockdown I remember that strange day on the 23rd of April. I think of Debbie who is stuck in Calne, still shielding and grieving for the loss of her husband. I think of Polly and Cameron grieving for the loss of their Father. I really have had it very easy overall.

I’ve been meaning to write about this aspect of our lockdown since I started the blog and I’m glad to have finally done so. I never want to forget the impact that the lockdown has had on my family so I can be sure to make the most of the time we have together after the pandemic’s cloud has finally lifted.

I’ve finished Act 2 finally and am just tightening everything up before I launch into finishing the first draft with Act 3.


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