The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Colour illustration of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party by Sir John Tenniel, from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland".

Another week in lockdown. Another week in this strange new reality.

Perhaps it is fitting that my PA and I have been proofreading a braille transcription of Alice in Wonderland. There are no hookah-smoking caterpillars in my garden (as far as I know), but as I sit in different chairs around my table drinking tea, coffee or wine, depending on the time of day, I could easily be at the Mad Hatter’s tea party!

In some ways life hasn’t changed that much. I get up and start work at the usual time and keep to my daily work routines. On the days when I don’t have much work to do I try to spend the time constructively, keeping abreast of emails, talking to friends and family on the phone, and dealing with any church business that needs to be done now.

On the other hand, as I sit in my office, I am aware of how quiet my street is. I no longer hear the children arriving and departing from the pre-school across the road. I don’t hear the older children coming down this way at around three o’clock in the afternoon every weekday. The occasional family strolls past, no doubt out for their Boris walk, and I occasionally hear pedestrians exchange a word or two as they pass by.

On the other hand, if I sit in my back garden, everything sounds much the same. Families are outside enjoying the sunshine. I chat to my neighbours over the fence. I hear the odd car come and go. I have even noticed a few more birds singing joyfully, which lifts my spirits.

I am very fortunate. I got a grocery delivery from Tesco this week. I still have people assisting me with important domestic tasks.

Many visually-impaired people aren’t so lucky.

I have heard of shops refusing to allow visually impaired people to enter because we can’t see the markers on the floor intended to keep us six feet apart. In fact, keeping a set distance from others is well-nigh impossible if you can’t see where the other person is.

Many visually impaired people are still finding it difficult to get delivery slots with the major supermarket chains. Whilst it is great that some of these shops are offering allotted times to key workers and vulnerable people, these times are often early in the morning, when many of those vulnerable people couldn’t possibly get to the shops. Many of them have to wait for carers who might not arrive until lunchtime, and who are themselves dependent on public transport which no longer runs with the same frequency or reliability as before.

There will be a lot of visually impaired people who never leave their homes throughout this entire lockdown because no one can get close enough to guide them and they can’t practice social distancing without help.

I’m not blaming anybody. This is a new situation for all of us and we are having to learn how to cope as we go along.

Next time you applaud the NHS – who certainly deserve our praise – just spare a thought for the kind friends and family members who are taking the time and taking the risks in queueing patiently outside shops in order to help their disabled friends and relations to survive.