Faye Sharpe in conversation with
Mark is my neighbour. He’s a talented brewer of very fine beers. He reduces his stock, 2 pints at a time, by leaving me a gift at what is now dubbed ‘The Flower Pot Pub’.
26 weeks summary
When Covid-19 was declared to be a pandemic, I was concerned. When Lockdown was ordered in the UK, on the 23rd March, with similar measures already implemented elsewhere, I understood the need to take things seriously and to willingly comply with ‘guidelines’.
I am, by nature and by circumstance, a solitary person. “I’ll manage,” I said. “I can take care of myself.”
I made more use of already established social media to keep in touch: WhatsApp, Messenger, Skype, FaceTime. Zoom was a new one to me. A friend on one call remarked, “It’s like we’ve all been sent to our rooms to just think about it!”
Think about what? Life, my life, was good. Nothing to complain about. Much to celebrate. What was this ‘it’ I needed to think about?
On the 8th April, at the peak of the curve, I got a FaceTime call in the middle of the night. A family member had hanged himself. I couldn’t travel to be there, to console or be consoled.
This was my ‘it’. Hope and Despair. Life and Death. The World. The Universe. Everything. I would spend the rest of Lockdown in solitary confinement, commonly regarded as ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, thinking about ‘it’. I felt cruelly and unusually punished, guilty as charged. I asked myself unanswerable questions, which made me feel incompetent as a human being.
When I was invited to participate in 26Weeks, I accepted a welcome distraction. But who would be my conversation partner?
I was doing the washing up. My kitchen window was open. My neighbour, from his yard below, shouted up. “Hi Faye! How’re you doing? Are you ok? Do you need any shopping? I’ve got loads of hand sanitiser!” I smiled, thanked him and replied that I had plenty of hot water and soap and had re-organised my shopping routine.
I don’t know Mark very well. I don’t know any of my neighbours very well. What do we have in common, other than our postcode? Then it came to me. Mark Collins is a very talented brewer. Though not a pub regular, I am partial to a pint of real ale. That was a start. So, I asked Mark if he’d partner me on 26Weeks. To my delight, he accepted.
Mark had stopped brewing and put himself on furlough but he had several hundred pints of beer he couldn’t sell and couldn’t keep. So, with sympathy, I said, “Well, if I can help in any way,” and added only half-joking, “I like beer!”
And for a few weeks, while the stash lasted, from time to time, a text would ding on my phone telling me to check behind the flowerpot by my front door. A litre of fresh beer in a plastic, zip-sealed milk bottle appeared like a present left under a Christmas tree.
We FaceTimed our three conversations for 26Weeks. I listened to Mark’s concerns and challenges and celebrated his clever innovations to overcome them.
These 26 weeks have taught me that none of us are ever really alone. It’s our thinking that makes it so.
26 weeks – Final Piece
The sticky residue that clings to the lip of Pandora’s jar,
a drop of vaccine on the tip of a needle,
a snowdrop spring.
The dig-down-deep dankness at the bottom of a well,
a coin of courage found in the mud,
a wish made.
The stout-hearted stubbornness of a heart declared Open,
a hot water mash,
one more brew.
Faye Sharpe and Mark Collins