Mid March, thoughts in a normal, sane world should have been turning to excitement for the year ahead and all of its events. Instead, globally we all find ourselves trapped and sinking deeper into a nightmare and facing an uncertain future. There won’t be an interview with Matt Baker about Chester Passion, there won’t be any Storyhouse reviews, there won’t be speculation about new businesses moving in, there won’t be arguments about when the walls are getting fixed. Instead we have our very own real life disaster movie to live through, wandering the supermarket staring at the empty shelves and wondering if you’re hallucinating.
Businesses everywhere face collapse, subject to government intervention, with every industry affected, not least the tourism trade which has suffered a virtual headshot. We find ourselves saying sentences and thinking thoughts that would have been inconceivable in modern memory. “Stay in your homes… avoid the affected” , like dialogue straight from the zombie apocalypse. The owners of our much loved and valued independent businesses plead on social media for support, despite the governments “guidance” stating we should avoid them. At the same time support networks have emerged via social media, with voluntary groups, the council and individual citizens working together, showing that for every toilet roll bulk buyer/hand gel profiteer, there are twice as many good people. There are many stories of businesses offering support for emergency services and the community as a whole. Storyhouse, despite closure have continued to support the vulnerable .
As the void slowly and ominously descends and more and more organisations close their doors , memories of simpler times now seem a dream, the Groves, packed with spectators for the raft race, the sports reporter having sport to report on, watching a band at Alexanders and so on : the world is frozen in an unprecedented limbo. You can feel the heartbreak in the air, and despair spreads as rapidly as the virus itself. None of us know what the future holds , buy I’m sure that many will say this is overly dramatic and that society will return to normal in a few weeks/months. I really hope that’s true and the summer sun will be shining down on crowded streets, full of tourists and racegoers.
The support networks that have emerged are a credit to Chester, showing faith and strength in adverse times. Hopefully, in a short while, we can resume the normal lives that we took for granted, and once again twitter can be used as a medium to argue about student housing and not advice on where to buy essential food supplies. My thoughts, as useless as they are, go out to everyone, especially the numerous business owners I have met and blogged about over the years, because I know how hard they have all worked. Like everyone I have watched as part of my own world crumbles and loses its meaning, and like everyone else I have struggled to comprehend the pace of the changes and the hyper surreal turn of events.
I wish everyone the best in these dark times, Chester will endure, I believe that. We will hear the “2 pound yer umbrella” cry again.