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The little things of lockdown: Museums tell Covid story with everyday objects

© Andrew CawleyLorna and Philip Begley with granddaughter Orla’s drawing of newborn twins
Lorna and Philip Begley with granddaughter Orla’s drawing of newborn twins

In years to come, when coronavirus is, hopefully, a distant memory, what will you remember from Covid-19?

Museums across the country are already collating exhibitions of the everday objects that tell the story of life during the pandemic, from disposable masks and gloves to children’s rainbow banners.

And, when lockdown is over, they’re hoping to gather personal items which tell the story of the people’s lockdown.

Sophie Goggins, curator of biomedical science at National Museums Scotland, said: “Collecting objects from the present day has been core to the development of the national collection over the last 200 years.

“Today, we collect things that highlight change and continuity, and show the ways in which the present continually reshapes our understanding of Scotland and the world.

“Covid-19 is one of the biggest challenges to society in living memory, and the reactions to it shine a light on how we live and work today. We are approaching individuals and organisations with a view to collecting a targeted selection of objects which reflect the impact of the virus.”

The national collection will include a pair of knitted hearts from the ‘From the Heart’ project, designed to connect loved ones who can’t see each other during C-19.

It’s the brainchild of Liz Smith, an intensive care nurse at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, who put out a call on Facebook to ask local people to knit, or sew, pairs of small, palm sized hearts. One heart is placed next to the patient, or in their hand, and the other is sent to the family or loved ones of the patient with a note explaining the scheme. While they are apart physically the hearts can connect them with their loved ones.

Since the scheme was announced, over 2,000 hearts have been received at the hospital to be used by patients and their loved ones.

The Sunday Post spoke to four people about the objects that will stay for them when this is all over.

A wedding photo

Our big day will be a double celebration

Wedding photographer Jacqui Paterson and fiancé Tony Hughes were due to get married on April 15 but had to reschedule the big day.

But they wanted to mark the original date. So Jacqui decided to put her creative brain into action and arrange a wedding photoshoot in their front room.

“We were so excited to get married and to have our plans taken away upset us but we still wanted that to be our wedding day,” said Jacqui, 34.

The couple, from Falkirk, dressed up in their wedding attire. Not wanting to spoil the surprise for their big day and with the bridal shop that has her dress closed, Jacqui borrowed a dress for the occasion. She teamed it with a customised leather jacket she had made for the exchange of vows to be held at Inglewood House in Alloa.

“It felt natural to capture some moment from the day we were meant to be married,” said Jacqui. “The plants we have in the photo are props we will use at the wedding so we restyled our living room and went with it.”

Bride-to-be Jacqui Paterson and fiancé Tony Hughes toast their love in a special photoshoot on what would have been their wedding day

Bottles of Corona beer were included as a jokey nod to the situation, and their dogs got involved in the shoot too.

“I used an app to control the camera on a tripod,” said Jacqui, owner of Chic Photo. “It was loads of fun to do and I’m glad we have something to remember the date by.

“They’re as close to wedding photos we’re going to get for a while, so we will treasure them.

“We were disappointed to have to postpone the wedding at first but as we have a few guests with underlying health conditions we realised it was for the best.

“It will be amazing to look back and remember all that has happened and how we chose to overcome the situation.”

The couple are looking forward to celebrating with friends and family on their rescheduled wedding date in September.

Jacqui added: “It will be a double celebration – getting married and being able to enjoy socialising again.”

A grandchild’s drawing

All we want to do is cuddle these wee babies. We’re close yet so far

Lorna and Philip Begley treasure every drawing from their granddaughter – especially the ones depicting her twin baby brothers, whom they have yet to meet.

The tiny twins, Joshua and Lucas, were born just as lockdown was announced. Now, nine weeks on, their grandparents are still waiting for their first cuddle. “It’s heartbreaking,” said Lorna, from East Kilbride, Lanarkshire.

“For the first few weeks we didn’t leave the house, but then we took our daily walk on a route that passed my son’s home.

“They held the babies up at the window and I could feel the tears streaming down my cheeks. It was just so surreal. We were so close, yet so far.

“We’re a very loving family and all we want to do is be there for them, help them, spend time together and cuddle those wee babies, but we can’t. It’s so hard.”

© Andrew Cawley
Lorna and Philip Begley

The twins were born four weeks premature on March 14 and spent their first few weeks in hospital, where visitors weren’t allowed on the maternity ward.

By the time they were allowed back to the family home with parents Jordan and Hayley and big sister Orla, four, lockdown was announced.

“The realisation that we wouldn’t see them hit straight away,” said Lorna, 65.

“I’m normally a very positive person, but I struggled with this. The twins are here and they’re healthy – but not seeing them is just awful.

“We kept thinking back to when Orla was born and all the things we did with her, how much we were there for her and her parents in those first few weeks of no sleep.

“And it makes us so sad that we can’t do the same with the boys. Ordinarily we would be there taking the twins out a walk or taking Orla out and off their hands for the day, but that’s just not possible this time round.

“Hayley has been great, sending us photos every day, which is lovely because babies change so much in the first few months. We will treasure these forever because they capture the twins at a time we can’t see them properly.

“But it’s not the same. All we want is a cuddle.”

A mask

I’d put face masks into a C-19 time capsule

Returning to work after maternity leave is never easy – but it’s even more challenging when the country is in lockdown.

After just eight weeks off with baby Lottie, self-employed seamstress Lisa McMahon decided it was time to think about returning to work.

As well as making retro dresses and scarves, Lisa is busy with bridal alterations and making cushions, curtains and throws.

But she soon realised life for Lisa’s Sewing Box Alterations wouldn’t be the same as when she left it.

© Andrew Cawley
Seamstress Lisa McMahon

“I received a lot of enquiries from people asking if I made masks,” said 35-year-old from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire. “Weddings, communions and proms were being cancelled and I was anxious about how my business would survive.”

Lisa researched materials and decided on washable cotton, which is reusable, adding a filter pocket. “I’ve made over 250 masks, with more orders coming in every day,” she said.

Lisa, who has a cochlear implant, is making masks for children to wear at school and also plans transparent versions for people with hearing impairments who rely on lip reading. “This is a moment in history no one will forget,” she said. “If I made a Covid time capsule I would have my face mask there.”

A sewing machine

This reminds me of the happy times

When Christina McKelvie discovered her mum’s old Singer sewing machine at the back of the cupboard during a clear-out, she realised it was the perfect lockdown project.

The SNP MSP has spent painstaking hours rebuilding and rewiring the old family heirloom on her weekends off.

Christina McKelvie with her mum’s Singer sewing machine

“My eldest son moved out just before lockdown so I was clearing out his old room,” said Christina. “At the back of a cupboard, I found my mum’s old Singer sewing machine.

“It was all musty and covered in dust. But when I gave it a wipe, I realised it had been made with such craftsmanship that I wanted to do something…so I renovated it.

“My son is a joiner so I phoned him and asked what to do about the wooden box at the bottom. He told me to look out glue and clamps from his toolbox and I managed to get that back together and polished it all with beeswax.

“Then I cleaned and oiled the engine and, when I plugged it in, the light came on. I couldn’t believe it still worked.”

Christina added: “This sewing machine of my mum’s was legendary. We used to call the house Rose’s Refuge because, between her sewing and knitting machine, everyone had something she had made. I remember us being the first girls in Easterhouse with denim skirts that my mum had run up after cutting up my granda’s old jeans!

“And, when I had kids, they were decked out in mum’s hats, mitts and cardigans and wrapped in shawls she had spent hours creating. My dad was diagnosed with MND when I was nine and my mum, Roseann, was the one who held everything together. She was the lynchpin.

“It’s been eight years since she died. She would have been 79 in March. She died suddenly from a massive heart attack.

“I miss my mum so much. But it’s good to remember the happy times and this sewing machine certainly reminds me of that. I think by bringing this sewing machine back to life, it’s like constructing an anchor back to a time when I felt more secure. This machine is certainly heavy enough!”

Christina McKelvie and her mum

The new hobby is welcome for Christina, who hasn’t seen her partner of 11 years, SNP deputy leader Keith Brown, since lockdown began. “We live apart so we’ve had to make do with waving to each other in chambers.It’s hard but we’re stuck with it, just like everybody else.

“Who knows, perhaps by the time we’re reunited I’ll have turned a pair of old curtains into a nice waistcoat!”