Hester and Toria

Toria 1995 – Credit: Daphne Tomkins

Hester Thomas in conversation with

Toria is the daughter of Hester’s close friend, Daphne. She is a speech and language therapist working in a London-based NHS trust. Toria lives near Milton Keynes with her husband Adam and six-year-old son Will.

Note 1: March-May

It was fascinating to see the NHS anticipate and prepare for Covid 19. You could see a tidal wave coming. I was keen to be on the wards again and thought I’d be redeployed. But I wasn’t and I’m grateful now to be working from home.

It’s a positive change being here as a family 24/7. Will’s enjoying being with us and having our attention. We live harmoniously.

We’re mindful that, for us, it’s a time to treasure. We go for more walks and bike rides. Will gives names to places: Dollop Hill for a steep incline, Split Tree for a particular tree.

Dollop Hill – Credit: Toria Tomkins

At work we’re geographically further apart yet more connected. Change has been fast and communications exceptionally good.

Looking ahead there’s so much uncertainty about the next steps. From being at ease about things, I’m now more concerned. It will be interesting to see how the tide turns.

Split Tree -Credit: Toria Tomkins

Note 2: May-July

We talked about sights – and insights – during lockdown.

Toria: I’ve found daily moments of joy in watching the birds. Since Will and I made bird-food we’ve seen a lot more of them in the garden, and different breeds. 

It reminded me of my grandparents’ garden, which teemed with birds each afternoon at feeding time. They knew the nature of the greedy starlings and the timid sparrows and the order in which the birds would come to feed. 

Watching them lately, I’ve recognised and understood so much more about this simple pleasure that my grandparents enjoyed each day.

Hester: I’ve noticed things too that previously passed me by. The marigolds are astounding. Their intense green stalks, the brilliant orange of their petals, their delicate saucer-shaped flower-heads tracking the sun from rise to fall.

This prompted me to think of Granny Gadsby who, forty years ago when I moved to London, was housebound. I’d write to her about plays I’d seen, ballets watched, galleries perused. She wrote about her garden: the ferns uncurling, the irises opening, the roses blooming. And I wondered, ruefully, which of our lives was richer?

I’d always hoped, one day, to see as she did.

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