Around 10 weeks ago (March 22, to be precise) I published a Pig Guide news story that, looking back on it now, was actually a cry for help for me, for you, for all of us who where were suddenly watching the world around us shift and change in a way that none of us had ever seen it shift and change before. Pretty much anything else on the agenda for the ‘normal life’ that we all so blithely took for granted had literally locked down, literally overnight. How would we cope? What was going to happen next? What shall we do?
Scroll forward 10 weeks…
While our everyday lives are still about as far removed from life as we knew it at, say, the beginning of this year, a new kind of rhythm and energy gradually began to replace the ominous feelings of downbeat dread that dominated those dreadful days at the end of March. Community spirit, perseverance, support, determination and kindness came to the fore and, in my little world, a whole new modus operandi was launched.
The Pig Guide’s Lockdown Larder – which started life as a tiny little bulletin aimed to support six local businesses who simply refused to lock up shop – grew, throughout April, to become the regularly updated 5,000 word behemoth that it is today, viewed and shared by almost 26,000 people to date. The Our Lockdown Life series was a natural spin-off from the Lockdown Larder; the personal stories shared by five local businesses (Thoughtful Bakery, Larkhall Butchers, Yak Yeti Yak, and both The Grapes and Chapter One pubs) served as an inspiration for individuals and other local businesses alike, and again attracted thousands upon thousands of click-throughs that sent the stats for this little local business into a tailspin. Meanwhile, at the personal PG HQ cliff face…
With so much time on our hands and no restaurant bookings to punctuate the week, dinner time became even more of an event than ever before. As food sources became increasingly problematic, I became a mistress of the art of the ‘foraged feast’ (I wrote a little feature for The Bath Magazine on this subject towards the end of March – you can read it here, if you’re interested.) And then, as grocery delivery services became more and more established and supplies began to stabilise, I attempted to replicate familiar restaurant experiences at home (“This evening, Mr Pig, we are dining Marlborough Tavern/Clayton’s Kitchen/Yum Yum Thai/Chez Dominique style, etc etc”) to varying degrees of success… or otherwise.
Fortunately, a handful of pro kitchens came to the rescue – in click’n’collect/home delivery format at least. Over the past few weeks, we’ve chowed down and tucked in to a fabulous Tasting Menu (the Tour of India feast, no less) from The Mint Room, glorious fish and chips from The Scallop Shell, Jimmy Muffins from Eveleigh’s Cafe, pizza from The Pizza Bike, Nepalese curry and momos from Yak Yeti Yak and a ready-to-go Sunday roast from Homewood. And while not eating…
I took care of my 91-year-old dad and delighted my agent by writing almost all of a short story collection (45,000 words to date.) I found ways to cope and deal with a family tragedy at a distance; I found other ways to help others cope and deal with similar experiences. I celebrated my birthday in fine, lockdown style… but still haven’t mastered the arts of yoga, sourdough or cleaning the bathroom. And despite grim thoughts I may have harboured to the contrary, The Pig Guide remained open all hours; as the weeks rolled along, it became clear that we wouldn’t be closing our doors anytime soon.
A whole host of businesses we supported and promoted on The Pig Guide Twitter feed and in the Lockdown Larder pledged to sign up for annual membership on fully reopening – a heartwarming bonus that we never once asked for, but gave us further impetus to keep calm and carry on.
Our ongoing collaboration with the Bath Echo went from strength to strength as our regular weekly Pig Guide column – in online, subscription newsletter and, as of a couple of weeks ago, back in print again (good work, guys!) – further expanded our reach.
Ellie – proprietor of The Grapes on Westgate Street – instigated a virtual pub quiz, hosted by MC extraordinaire Matt Donovan (many of you will know him as the supervisor at The Raven), raising much-needed cash for Thoughtful Bakery’s COVID-19 fund and featuring a Food and Drink round hosted by this little piggie (if you want to join the fun, it takes place every Monday evening at 8pm – DM @TheGrapesBath on Twitter to pay the £1 entry fee and collect your Zoom sign-in link.)
Lovely Somer Valley FM presenter Richard Burgess offered me a regular slot on his Drivetime show (every Monday between 4-6pm) – as anybody who knows me personally can probably imagine, I keep Richard talking for far longer than he originally envisaged; who knows where this will lead?
And it’s clear that there’s more – not less – to come. The tiny green shoots of recovery are sprouting fast (some say too fast, but only time will tell) as, following in the footsteps of takeaway outlets, coffee shops, ice cream parlours open air markets/farm shops and delis are slowly but surely (and safely) opening their doors, and the once-deserted highways, byways and thoroughfares in and around the city centre are poised to welcome fresh footfall.
So: we’re all where we’re at, and the world did – and does, and will continue – to turn. Hang on in there, Piggies! And remember…
Shop local: support as many local businesses as you can, as often as you can
Keep yourself updated on all the relevant information
Be kind, stay safe, look after yourself and other – we’re all in this together.