Tag: post-Covid

Bereavement in the new normal: life after Covid for Saga Magazine

There is no new normal post Covid.

Every one of us is, after all, grieving to some degree.

That’s the idea behind my first feature for Saga Magazine, an article I have been working on this past week.

My article explores, through case studies and expert comment, the loss we have all experienced during the pandemic and how we, both collectively and individually, can hope to move forward.

Psychologists talk about the five stages of grief, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

But for one of my case study interviewees, Kerry, whose husband died last November, the whole experience has been an emotional rollercoaster, not a linear route.

“Sometimes at night, sleeping on his side in an empty bed, I call out to him. ‘Jeremy, where are you? Where are you?’ When there’s no response, I feel so alone.”

Kerry started keeping a diary as a means to express her grief, a key element of finding a path through the darkness.

“I started writing a journal to record the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been through. It’s my substitute for counselling,” she says.

Amongst the expert interviewees for the feature is Julia Samuel, the pyschotherapist and author whose book Grief Works I read and admired. She told me:

“The only thing we can be certain of in life is change. We have to grow with the change. When we try to suppress it, we do not thrive.”

Julia explained how, for every death, at least eight people are affected, often many more.

With the UK death total from the pandemic currently nudging 140,000, a lot of people have been touched by tragedy in the past year.

How do they – we – all find a new normal?

“When grieving, it’s like having less layers of skin, so you feel raw,” said Julia. “My advice is to intentionally do things to soothe yourself.”

Read the full feature in the June issue of Saga Magazine — subscribe here.

I’m available for civil celebrant ceremonies in the Northwest region.

Liked this? Read also: Why 1,546 is more than a number – it’s a true national tragedy.

Ten wonderful Welsh break to book as travel opens up from mid April

Travel is starting to open up.

The post-Covid road map put forward by the Westminster Government earlier this week provisionally allows for self-catering breaks in England from April 12.

The Welsh Government has previously stated its hopes for staycation breaks in Wales around Easter.

Cue the scramble of tourism operators to get their projects and properties ready for the influx of holiday-hungry punters.

I wrote a round-up feature for Telegraph Travel this week, highlighting some of the new projects around Wales for a spring staycation.

Look out, in particular for Hilton Garden Inn Snowdonia, located as part of an expanded Adventure Parc Snowdonia in the Conwy Valley with its artificial surf reef [pictured above]. There’s a soft opening from end March; room only from £89.

The hotel has rooms overlooking the inland surf lagoon while the accompanying Wave Garden Spa offers treatments and a wellness space.

Also worth booking is Plas Weunydd, the new boutique hotel as part of the Llechwedd quarry site near Blaenau Ffestiniog; bookings from Easter weekend with doubles from £105 B&B.

The hotel, the former 19th-century residence of the quarry founder, sits alongside Zip World Titan and Slate Mountain Adventure attractions.

Finally, Plas Dinas Country House near Caernarfon has three cosy, self-catering cottages for multi-generational escapes, plus royal connections. Bookings from Easter weekend with Gatekeeper’s Cottage (sleeps four) starting from £700/week.

It’s the family home of Lord Snowdon, who married HRH Princess Margaret in 1961.

Read my full selection of Welsh break to book right now via Telegraph Travel here.

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Behind the scenes as Chester Zoo prepares to re-open to visitors

Preparations for post-Covid visits to Chester Zoo.

The moment the gates swing open on Monday morning is one staff feared they would never see.

“We were three weeks away from closing down,” says Jamie Christon, Chief Operating Officer, pulling up the collar of his Chester Zoo fleece against a sudden downpour.

“I went through the four stages of grief in 48 hours. Then,” he smiles, “we decided to fight.”

Chester Zoo found itself threatened with extinction on June 1 when the government ordered it to remain closed indefinitely — despite having put measures in place to make visits Covid secure.

The subsequent fundraising campaign secured over £3m in a week to ensure the zoo, founded in 1931 and home to 135,000 animals, could be saved.

The public support contributed to the announcement by Boris Johnson this week that English zoos could re-open within a partial easing of lockdown measures.

“We had been haemorrhaging money since closing on March 21,” says Jamie. “It costs £0.5m per month to feed the animals alone.”

Fresh start

Mandatory online tickets (including those for members) are now on sale, although visitor numbers will be limited to 3,000 per day — compared to an average of 10,000.

But, while all three wildlife areas, plus the nature reserve, will be open, visitors will notice changes to comply with social distancing.

So, what to expect? I’ve come to Chester Zoo for a preview.

Beyond the gates, I find a series of 2m markers leading to self-scanning ticket booths and the first of 30 hand-sanitisation units on site.

A pressure-value system will operate at the entrance to manage numbers, Jamie explains, so ticket holders are advised to avoid the 10am opening queue.

Walking around the 128-acre site, we inspect some of the pinch-point measures installed at the more popular attractions, such as the elephant and giraffe enclosures.

New protective screens, regularly deep cleaned, stand between visitors and animals and stand-off markings on the floor indicate the line to stand behind.

Footsteps illustrate the viewing points behind the line to maintain social distance between visitors.

The new rules will take some getting used for both the visitors and animals. When we approach the Humboldt Penguins, splashing playfully in their giant tank, a couple swim over curiously.

“Some species, such as the penguins and giraffes, are very social animals,” explains Jamie.

“The eerie quiet of the zoo during lockdown has been disconcerting for us all.”

Day trip

If you’re making a day of it, then 12 kiosks are opening for take-away snacks and all the toilets will be open, albeit with queueing outside likely until a traffic lights system is installed.

The picnic benches have been strategically placed at 2m intervals.

All inside habitats and the gift shop will, however, remain closed for now. Some sections of the play areas for children are still roped off and the ATM is closed.

We finish our tour outside The Oakfield pub, the restored former family home of zoo founder George Mottershead.

It’s also closed, although the beer garden may open in coming weeks as Government regulations evolve.

It may be a while, however, before visitors are allowed back into the cosy library room to admire the archive of Mottershead family photographs over a pint of Deuchars IPA.

Despite the clear markings, the main challenge, I find, will be enforcing social distancing.

This task falls to some 100 furloughed staff who have returned to work, many retraining as welcome staff with a “friendly but firm” brief to ensure visits remain safe.

Looking ahead, there are plans to extend the opening hours to include two weekday evenings until 8pm, plus cheaper afternoon-only tickets as visitor numbers are slowly increased.

The zoo will also run more of the virtual-tour days that proved so popular online during lockdown.

Picnic time

Jamie will be there to open the gates on Monday morning and is hoping for blue skies, the re-opening ensuring the zoo’s conservation work in 40 countries worldwide can now continue.

“My advice is to bring a picnic and make use of the new outdoor spaces. We’re delighted to welcome people back,” says Jamie, who is planning a much-needed UK staycation for the autumn.

“After all, people power saved our zoo.”

Read more at Telegraph Travel.