And so we have reached the last instalment of our #AllowedOUT series, in which we have hopefully reminded you that just because we are in the midst of a global pandemic, it doesn’t mean we should forget about life happening here in Epsom and Ewell.
We reckon that once things get back to normal (and we’re talking about normal-normal not post-lockdown normal) we’ll be celebrating our local community more than ever before. And so with that in mind, let’s see what the last of our local folk have been missing and where they’ll be heading to in the hopefully not so distant future…
Strictly speaking I’m not an Epsom resident, but I do spend over half of my working week (pre lockdown) in the town so I feel like a local. It’s going to sound cheesy, but what I miss most in Epsom is the Rainbow Leisure Centre – my place of work. I’ve been based there for two years now and it’s so nice to walk through the doors to a smiling face. I miss heading over to Chapters Café for my new favourite hot beverage – a coconut milk latté. I miss the camaraderie and banter with my colleagues and coming together to solve an issue. I miss seeing regular customers and groups that I have worked with the local community to create, such as the Parkinson’s group, Malookoo who run a weekly dance class for adults with additional needs and The Jam Place dance and musical theatre group. I miss seeing the café fill up after school with parents and children going in and out of swim lessons as much as I miss seeing parents with babies taking their first dip in the teaching pool. I miss going up to the spa and catching up with the girls whilst booking in a cheeky after work massage. I miss walking through the gym and seeing it full and the sound of our group exercise lead commanding her classes. I miss the ‘dad jokes’ from the general manager and working with local school children training in new sports for the Surrey Youth Games, which were due to take place in mid-June. I miss working in a team who genuinely care about each other, the place they work in and the customers they serve. What I do know is that when the centre re-opens our challenges will be different, our priorities will be different and how we work will be different. But I know that the team will be just as committed, just as focused and just as keen to get back to welcoming local residents through the doors. If lockdown has taught me anything it’s not to take the simple things for granted and that 6 weeks (and counting) isn’t enough time to get super fit, but that I will be using my gym membership more often!
I haven’t left my house or garden for 63 days and based on current NHS guidelines I won’t leave these confines until the end of June. This is just one of the many joys of being a high risk or extremely vulnerable individual whose health tries to put limits on him. I haven’t been out for one of my government sanctioned exercise sessions, I haven’t been to a shop I haven’t even put the bins out.
What am I missing? EVERYTHING. People, noise, the smell of street food in the market, a fresh espresso, a pint of Guinness the view beyond my garden. But what do I miss the most, where is my first visit going to be in July?
The first day I can go out I am going for a run outside, I’m going to leave Ewell, run towards Epsom and up onto the racecourse and I am going to bask in that view be it raining or sunny, hot or cold.
After that I’m going to Sainsbury’s. I love food shopping, I love thinking about food, buying food and cooking food and I miss wandering the aisles seeing what’s new. I will treat myself to a sushi lunch and from there – into town to Ben’s Butchery to pick up some more food.
And that evening I’ll meet up with a couple of friends and enjoy a couple of pints of Guinness in ‘The Spring’ If this lockdown has taught me anything it’s that I don’t need much to be happy and I am a man of very simple wants and needs but there are a few things like pushing a trolley around a supermarket and choosing some good quality meat that make me even happier.
Pre-lockdown, I never could have imagined that I would miss anything about our Surrey suburb. (Sorry, but as a twenty-something year old, there wasn’t a lot of love in my relationship with Epsom and Ewell). Although neither could I have imagined a time in which I found such joy in waiting for a delayed South Western Railway train to arrive. But here we are.
I realise that despite not being able to remember the last time I dared to dip even a toe in one of our borough’s public pools, right now I would love nothing more than to jump into one of those grubby things. Bold and unapologetically in close proximity to half naked strangers. The thought of sweaty waters, toxic with unknown bacteria and other unmentionables is now rather tempting. I also miss sneezing guilt free as I ramble through Nonsuch Park. Gone are the days when I didn’t have to explain to the individual standing two-metres away that I am the victim of hay fever rather than you-know-what. Believe it or not, I also miss the chaos that normally ensues as The Derby approaches. On second thoughts, do I?
I miss the people too. I miss standing at the bus stop outside Wilko, eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers, and for a moment escaping my own life to imagine what is happening in theirs. I miss someone making my coffee for me in the morning; the barista whose name I do not know but vow to learn soon. I miss getting stuck behind a slow walker down the high street. I miss the unmasked faces of my neighbours.
I – like most others – miss the weird and mundane. And it turns out what they say is true, it isn’t until you are deprived of something ,that you realise how dependent you are on it. Little did I know how much I would miss everything that was so close to home.