We have all experienced challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. In South Gloucestershire, our local communities have worked together to help and support each other throughout unprecedented times.
This has included all the:
- NHS staff, social care staff, teachers, delivery drivers and frontline workers keeping essential services going
- parents and carers working and home schooling
- volunteers and mutual aid organisations which mobilised support to the vulnerable
- businesses forced to close, some of which delivered food to those isolating
Our timeline of the Covid-19 pandemic is also available for you to read.
Book of memories
Our communities are resilient and have pulled together. We want to document your memories of the pandemic, such as the stories of:
- those who have gone above and beyond to help others
- the reuniting of loved ones after so long apart
- acts of resilience and courage
This online book of memories is a space for you to share your stories and help us all reflect on how the pandemic has made us stronger and thankful for our community.
How you can contribute
You can contribute to our Covid-19 memory book by completing this online form.
All messages will be moderated before publishing, so make sure you have permission to post before sharing any content on this page.
We will review and publish your message as soon as possible. Approved messages will not be changed and will be published exactly as they are sent to us (for example, spelling mistakes will not be corrected).
Your memories will then be posted below for everyone to read.
You can read our privacy notice to find out more about how we handle your information.
My dear mother Lesley Anne Milsom got diagnosed with terminal cancer at the start of the pandemic, she was told she had 2 months to live at the age of 48 she past away a month before her 50th birthday, leaving behind my 12 year old brother and me her broken daughter with her 3 grandchildren.
Our Mum fought strong for 14 months but past away at home in my care after 3 weeks of an exhausting, emotional roller coaster ride.
The pandemic took away so many special memories we were unable to make together, but that never stopped her from finding the strength to keep strong for her family no matter how sick she got and how alone she felt and how much she bloody cruelly suffered, she would always smile so beautifully and always stay strong even though her struggles and suffering were eating away at her on the inside.
Mum was the kindest most gentle and honest person I have ever known she wanted nothing but to make her family happy and proud and that she always did even until the day she took her last breath in my arms, she still found strength to show us how much she loves us.
My beautiful mother how forever proud I am of you, I’m just pleased you are not having to suffer any more.
I know your watching down on us my angel and I promise everyday I remind myself how strong you were and how much we have to live everyday like it’s our last, just finding strength to do it all without you has been the hardest journey of all but were are finding a healthy balance as hard as it in this journey now without you.
Life is honestly so cruel, I will always and forever take care of our babies mum, until we are reunited, our beautiful mum/nan we love you so very much you are missed more than you will ever know! ❤️
The only good thing that came out of covid was my beautiful niece being born.
The down side was I couldn’t see her face to face or give her a cuddle.
Loosing friends to an invisable tyrant
Children were born luckily zoom provided
Distance between each other grow
I found myself alone missing so much of my old life realising it will never be quite the same
Virus i dont like you very much.
My memories are of HOPE, hope this would be over quickly. Then FEAR, as I looked up how long Spanish flu lasted and how many died.
The world pulled together to try and stop this and provide us protection with lockdowns
Then came denial DENIAL, as some denied this was even happening.
Next the FRUSTRATION, as the impact on our daily lives being interrupted grew.
Then government EXPERIMENTATION with variations of lockdowns to provide safety that people could accept as the virus mutates.
Then the world shared it’s learning and we had to make that DECISION to vaccinate or not.
Most of all for those of us still here, please have a sadness for all those lost to this terrible virus, those who should not have been lost. I wish the vaccines had been available for me and my family/friends back in 2020. As for me and my husband in 2020 we lost a friend and 5 family members including my Father, as well as leaving us with serious health issues.
May we learn the big lessons, from this and be kinder to those who are still here, whom the fallout may last beyond the relaxing of the rules those traumatised from the last two years (for all causes, loss, lowered health, loneliness, financial etc.)
Covid has been an absolute roller coaster!
I am manager in a convenience store and experienced feelings of panic and fear, loneliness but also sheer joy and peace amongst many others!
When covid first started being in the media no one was really taking it seriously, it was all happening in china then in what felt like a blink of an eye it was here and no one was safe.
In my personal life i live alone and all my family live at least 2 hours away from me. I was completely isolated when lockdown hit.
However, i had work. I remember working the very first morning of lockdown and being alone in the shop before we opened and having the song lyrics “”its a new dawn, its a new day, its a new life”” swirling around my head. I was absolutely terrified.
As it turned out so were my colleagues. During the first few weeks people who felt they needed to isolated either having symptoms or through being vulnerable. We have newspaper deliveries and the council revoked all the permits for the kids so we had to find new ways to get those customers delivered too, a lot of our customers are vulnerable so were unable to get out and about!
The majority of the customers coming in to store were respectful of the new rules. We had 2 customers in at a time which ment customers were queing down the street, it was something i had never seen before and i don’t believe i will ever see again. The community spirit was amazing! Everyone was looking out for one another. My biggest problem was i was absolutely rushed off my feet! I ended up working up to 70 hours a week. There was, at one point 3 of us left out of 9. There was times that the public got nasty towards us. Shouting at us, calling us names. Unfortunately that is part of the job. At times it did get too much and we would go home and just cry, we were just doing our best in an absolutely horrible situation that no one had experienced before. Those of us that have mental health issues found our mental health declining and this caused some friction between friends and colleagues but in the end we pulled together.
One of my happiest memories of 1st lockdown is walking the dog. It may sound strange, but walking her on empty streets in the middle of the day was amazing. It felt so calm. No cars no people not even planes! I suffer with anxiety, this was like heaven to me.
Unfortunately after the first lockdown peoples attitudes changed. People got nastier and less patient. I personally struggled more with not seeing family and slowly closed myself off more in order to deal with it. When masks came in that was especially hard. My worst experience happened after asking someone to put their mask and that ended up with a particularly nasty incident where police had to be called. I myself am excempt from wearing a mask and have recieved abuse for this too. Vaccines caused people to really not care about other people any more. They were vaccinated so no longer had anything to worry about which to them ment everything was back to normal. For us this was particularly scary and made a lot of us feel like less than a human being. Our safety no longer mattered.
Covid is still everywhere. Its now just being ignored by the majority of people. Life is at some kind of normal now but i wonder how long for.
I saw the absolute best and absolute worst in people since 2020 and have learnt a lot. I never want to experience anything like it again, well, except the peace. I loved the peace!
A real sense of community in Hawkesbury Upton
Delivery from the shop if needed
Volunteers in community shop
Checking in our neighbours
Clapping for NHS weekly
And photos taken of villagers for a history book from Covid
My son also made cards and delivered biscuits to our local nursing home whom in lock down to visitors and he left at the door.
Acts of kindness went a long way.
My grand daughter was born on good Friday 2020 in Surrey. We didn’t get to see her until the end of May due to travel restrictions. Weeks of zoom calls kept us going. Her parents couldn’t even register her birth as the registry offices were closed, Being reunited was so special.
I watched the news every day – I was inspired by the doctors and nurses who helped people who were ill.
People stood outside their houses and clapped to say thank you.
No school for 6 months
have to be 2 metres apart
hand sanitizer was sacred
no toilet roll
couldn’t leave the house
As a teacher, lockdown was initially lovely because I taught my lessons online in the sun! and emailed all my students loads – some would even talk online way more than they would to my face – they clearly missed the interaction.
But as the pandemic progressed, it got harder, more work to keep in touch, knowing lots of the students I cared about were struggling at home and I was very helpless. It was a long battle of isolation but we made it through!
I don’t have very many good memories about the pandemic but my best is my family meeting up in my grandma’s garden and having a BBQ.
In science when we had a mask on and we had to wear goggles, the goggles would always steam up and we wouldn’t be able to see.
My favourite memory during the Covid-19 pandemic was finishing my online learning during the summer lockdown and playing pool outside with my family as it was warm outside. Lockdown brought me and my family closer than ever.
Lots of things happened, loss, grief, happiness, togetherness, but somehow we made it out.
Things happened, wearing masks, sanitizers in every shop, multiple lockdowns and multiple claps for the NHS every Thursday night. My parents struggled but got through it and in a way so did the world.
My most significant memory of Covid-19 was getting to play football after being in lockdown and seeing my mates.
Coronavirus is bad
It’s making me sad
Sitting down watching the news is making me snooze.
People around the world are getting ill. I am now standing still.
Looking through the empty streets, waiting for a time to meet.
Stay safe. Stay strong.
Teaching 4 year olds online is something which will stay with me forever. Dressing up as Scooby Doo to teach phonics seemed to keep them all engaged via a screen!
Teaching in bubbles at school was, in a strange way, really lovely as I had the chance to teach children I hadn’t taught for years. It was hard, we had to think creatively but we achieved so many great things and made awesome memories!
My nan is all alone
which really isn’t fair
She has no one to talk to
and I wish I could be there.
I can call grandad on the phone
but I cannot give him a hug.
I must stay two meters away
because of this stupid bug.
I want to see my friends
and not just hear their voice.
But because of social distancing
I’ve really got no choice.
We took it all for granted
but now I know for sure,
that when this is over
I won’t do that no more!
Dear future people,
Covid-19 was a big impact but taught us valuable things such as getting closed to family.
It may of been a crazy 2020 but 2022 etc is hope.
No toilet paper
Not allowed out
My most significant memory of Covid is the home learning. I had to do a lot of learning in and out of school to make up for the time missed.
I still remember where I was when I first heard of it and how we all joked about it.
Social distancing really isn’t much fun
The only people I can see are my dad and my mum
Only one exercise a day is allowed
The NHS is making us proud
All I do is sleep and go on my phone
I get bored and constantly moan
I watch Netflix and TV all day
My bed is where I constantly lay
Facetime is my new best friend
Text messages are what I always send
I can see my family from across a fence
Thinking of getting out of here is causing suspense
I miss my mates, I’m tired of being home
By the time this is over I’ll be fully grown
Running on the treadmill and doing squats
Even though I’m eating lots
I listen to music and shop online
I look for reasons to buy a new top
Lockdown is hard, it will be over soon
By the I’ll be out until you can see the moon.
As well as juggling working full Time and homeschooling the children too as I was a key worker too at that time, one of my most memorable monuments was the fundraising I did just before lockdown started. I’ve had epilepsy for over 35 years so spent all my free time before lockdown raising money to donate 100 epilepsy information packs to the NHS. As I’ve been in and out of hospital all my life I always wanted to give something back to the nhs. So 2 days before lockdown I took the 100 epilepsy information packs with laylas book epilepsy book for kids inside along with child friendly epilepsy 1st aid leaflets and stickers and young carers leaflets inside to the NHS office in Bristol by the bus station where the staff were so grateful and promised they would give them to every local doctors surgeries and hospitals epilepsy wards locally. We have donated 500 epilepsy information packs to schools and libraries and NHS and epilepsy charities over the past 5 years aswell as raising £17000 for charities that helped us over the years. It was nice in January to give another 182 packs to the nhs and schools and libraries as a gift too raising epilepsy awareness.
It was challenging homeschooling during lockdown but joining in with pe with Joe each day helped keep us all active plus seeing Joe raise money for the nhs helped a lot as I really missed doing my weekly charity collections during lockdown too so was glad when restrictions were lifted so I could go back to fundraising again which distracted me from my disabilities and unemployment and financial difficulties too.
Our Covid Journey
Where do we go to at night time when we’re alone in our sleep
I go to the old land of ‘normal’ just for a quick little peep
When, oh when can we go back and stay for ever and a day
Visit our friends and relations – so hope it’s not far away
Moving forth we reflect with compassion and pride
Those we lost and the heroes who came alongside
They led us through the covid maze
With heaps of help and plenty of praise THANK YOU!
In October, on my way home to Frenchay, I collapsed at Bristol bus station.
A resourceful employee phoned for, but could not get an ambulance; so he borrowed an off-duty bus.
We had to go the long way round to BRI, because of the one-way system.
The bus was parked outside the hospital, the driver went in, got a wheelchair, took me into the triage area, and disappeared.
Two tests were negative for Covid; but head and heart scans revealed a heart problem.
Forty-eight hours later, I was discharged – with an inserted pacemaker – and carried on from where I left off, at the bus station.
I wish I could get in touch with the kind driver, who I think was called “Matt” or “Matthew”.
Losing 9 very close friends and unable to attend their funerals (not all Covid) also husband being diagnosed with incurable prostrate Cancer, and lastly losing my precious mum on Mothering Sunday, but also how my own family have been by our sides the whole time with help and support x
Being inside with all my family there’s 8 of us, having to home school my younger ones, having to deal with angry teens wanting to go out and a husband who loves working who had to stay in.
On top of that we had no money and my family were dropping food at the doorstep. We will all never forget it but in the end it’s bought us all closer (although we are still suffering financially years on).
Sarah Weld, Deputy Director of Public Health South Gloucestershire
As a Public Health specialist, my role has been at the frontline of co-ordinating our local response to Covid-19. This has included leading and supporting a Local Outbreak Management Team which has been responsible for implementing national guidance in infection prevention, testing, contact tracing and support for isolation, vaccination, communications and engagement with our local communities and outbreak prevention and management.
Much of my time over the last two years has been supporting care homes, commissioners and all those who work with care providers to prevent and manage Covid-19 outbreaks in care settings and I have seen first-hand how serious the impact of Covid-19 has been on the most vulnerable in our society.
Every aspect of my work has involved working in partnership with colleagues across South Gloucestershire, BNSSG and the South West and at times directly with central government. It has been hard. Some days have been really hard. A word often used by members of my team to describe Covid-19 is “relentless”.
Every time we’ve thought the virus would let us rest it has come back. As individuals, family members, in our work and in the other roles we have in life we have all had to play our part in responding to the pandemic, taking action to protect ourselves and others.
As we mark the two-year anniversary of the start of the first lockdown it feels important to acknowledge how much our daily lives have had to change, and also to recognise that we have achieved great things together. In partnership.
What have been the lessons I have learned personally and professionally?
• Above all, the importance of partnership. I have worked daily with partners across the system to respond to the pandemic and also directly with local communities. What we have achieved together would not have been possible without each other. We are stronger when we work together and are united in our purpose and resolve.
• Resilience. I have learned how resilient I am. How hard I can work. How rapidly I and my team can respond to the next new challenge. But through that I have also learned how important self-care is. How important it is to take time to look after my own health and wellbeing and also to encourage and support others to do the same.
• The importance of childcare and school for children and their parents and carers. In addition to the huge amount of work and energy I have had to put in professionally to respond to the pandemic I, like so many others, have had to this whilst juggling my children being at home. Our children have missed out on so much. To try and make up for this as a parent as well as carrying on working has perhaps been the hardest aspect of the pandemic.
Looking ahead, what is on the horizon for your service/organisation?
The impact of Covid-19 is enormous. It has exposed significant inequalities and highlighted how important actions to prevent disease, improve health and reduce inequalities are. Recovery will take many years and will need to be supported and delivered in many forms. Improving population health outcomes is at the heart of plans for health and care integration.
As a division Public Health and Wellbeing have responded to this through a division “reset” in which we have reviewed our priorities, functions and team structures to respond, building on our learning from the last 2 years.
Key priorities are:
• Taking action to give every child the best start in life
• Public mental health and wellbeing
• Taking action to prevent and reduce inequalities
• Working in partnership to prevent disease, improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities across the council, with our local health and care partners in South Gloucestershire and as part of a BNSSG population health and inequalities work programme.
Enabling our local communities to live safely with Covid-19 will form part of this work.
Daily vulnerable person visits to elderly mother, enforced early retirement ( not really experienced yet due to caring role) Not seeing my family up north but 3 times in 3 years, Christmas in July. Feeling concerned about shopping for food. Missing two granddaughters birthdays, as well as my daughters. Feeling envious of people with dogs as they got to go for regular walks. Life as I knew it disappeared for a l-o-n-g time. This is not what my latter years were supposed to feel like. Repeat in 5 years or so? Can’t wait 🙄
Unable to meet up with friends n family . My children had a worst Christmas and Easter when they couldn’t be with their cousins and grand parents.
Anxiety levels were so high and were engulfed in sadness as we heard the number of deaths each day.
Proud of all the people who continued with their duties and were resilient .
On the positive side People spent more time with their families.
Released we take everything that God have given us as granted, lock down showed us that these were precious . our freedom , the air we breathe to the food that are on our table.
Zoooooom we went…I will remember online Friday night quizzing and party games. One favourite night of our creative talents centred on the TV show ‘You Bet’. We all bet on each others potential talent or lack of it. Others included such nights based on other game shows like, “”Play your Cards Right”” “”Would I Lie to You””, “”Family Fortunes”” , “”Blankety Blank””, “”Mr & Mrs”” and “”Catchphrase”” to name just a few .
We also engaged in online live comedy and theatre.
Remaining online I engaged in my work with families, children with additional needs, and professionals on building resilience around staying mentally well. Project 5, our charities tool at Jigsaw Thornbury, quickly found creative ways to keep engaged with our members, and work with other organisations online with fun games, interactive discussion and doodle boards. We had fun and excitement filming our little YouTube well-being videos too.
I will look back with both fondness and sadness. So much loss, isolation, managing family with cancer diagnosis and the treatment, health we couldn’t support.
As to my 5 ways to Well-being…well I reflect….
I helped and GAVE as volunteer in keeping my Aphasia group with their carers connected and engaged, shopped for neighbours, greeted and directed people to their vaccine nurse.
I NOTICED and was ACTIVE more and walked often.
I LEARNT and obtained new knowledge, skills and experience.
I CONNECTED with people in ways we’d never done before.
It was rollercoaster, a mix of emotions, experiences and resilience.
I’m possibly numbed and the trauma needs to be acknowledged at some point I’m sure. I think I’m strong enough to see my way through this rather than demonstrate the survival instinct many of us had to show during these times.
I am so proud to have led the communications response of South Gloucestershire Council throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the 108 weeks since the beginning of March 2020, every member of the council’s Strategic Communications team has gone above and beyond the call of duty, working long hours and at incredible pace to provide South Gloucestershire residents, businesses and visitors with a trusted source of timely and well-explained information on everything they have needed to know to help them cope with living through a pandemic, while of course, we too were living and working through it and coping with all that entailed.
You will find many examples of our work in this capsule, showing how we adapted and evolved our communications to explain the many different stages and the constant new guidance issued by Central Government, localising the information wherever possible and making it accessible for all.
As well as providing guidance and information, we also worked hard to highlight the amazing work that continued throughout the lockdowns, from the council’s frontline operations as well as partner organisations and volunteers including the NHS, social care settings, schools, businesses and local mutual aid groups – not only helping to share their messages but making sure their efforts were duly recognised and appreciated.
The campaigns we developed, such as Hidden Heroes and Covid’s Real Impact, highlighted the achievements of many local people and enabled some to bravely share their lived experience of Covid-19 in an effort to encourage others to act responsibly, follow the guidance, test regularly and get vaccinated.
Most of all though, I want to document how council staff pulled together and supported each other through what has been a relentless and mammoth task with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel. For us in the communications team, it was overwhelming at times but we made a real difference; our work will have saved lives and every single person in the team should feel incredibly proud of our achievements. My thanks to each and every one of them.
In the first lockdown, how quiet it was. No traffic noise, no traffic, no aeroplanes overhead, no vapour trails in the sky, everyone’s cars in front of their houses on a weekday. It was like what we always thought it would be like after the four-minute warning for a nuclear bomb strike. Eerie.
This was the most scary time. This germ we couldn’t see, smell or taste that was so easily transmittable. In 2020 I had friends die from Covid19 and family bereavements, my mother mother-in-law, my dad and my brother ironically they died of others things, old age, stroke and pneumonia. This was also a time where the sense of community grew. We helped neighbours, we clapped for the NHS, we used local businesses to keep them afloat. My husband and I would do a round trip of 12 miles to get bread from our ‘local’ bakery. We could walk in the middle of the road, hear the birds singing and the sun shone for 8 weeks solid. My husband and I managed to steer clear of Covid19 until September 2021. Now we have had three vaccines to protect us against the virus and the whole world is trying to live with it. Much has changed but I am still alive who know for how long? Will it come back so deadly or an mutation, nobody knows.
There were stories concerning a disease spreading rapidly across the world affecting breathing mainly, as I suffer from COPD and have had half a lung removed through cancer I decided on my own to start collecting tins of food soups and meals also pulses rice and pasta. Then came the announcement to stay at home, lock down. I knew that my collection would not last very long so I started looking for food and medicine deliveries. The council started sending weekly parcels and eventually I got a regular delivery from Tesco. I went from extremely worried to ‘well let’s settle and take up some hobbies’ thanks to the government the council and supermarkets I’m still above ground.
I have been super impressed with the street care teams, sorting the bins, rubbish, green areas and home refuse. Thank you.
Looking after a disabled husband and aunt of 97. No hairdresser or friends. Reading and more tv watching. Short walks with the dogs.
My overriding memory will always be that of the Great British sense of humour.
The world as we new it essentially collapsed overnight.
How did we react? Made amusing memes / jokes about the stampede when the pubs reopened and formed orderly lines at Tesco.
I personally saw none of the panic shopping, but I kept seeing Tesco cat!
It was a dark and scary time. Somehow the nation got through it, but I like to think the much maligned dry British wit helped.
My memory of the pandemic was when everyone in the world had to stop and do the same thing. Everyone had to isolate, everyone had to work from home (apart from key workers). For one time only, everyone in the world felt the same way.
Sara Blackmore, Director of Public Health South Gloucestershire
Over the last two years, working as a director of public health during the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been themes and like a chorus in a song that cycles around your head, these themes remained a constant.
The constants have been the relentlessness of the virus and the disease, the sadness of loss, the resilience and kindness of communities and colleagues, and the opportunities and innovation posed by the challenges.
During the last two years I was fortunate enough to carve out some time to cycle with a friend from Bristol to London. The trip, although a complete and welcome break from the day job, was a challenge and is a helpful analogy compressing the experience of the last two years down into a few days.
My cycle trip was at a time when Covid-19 rates were dipping but our route involved hills and rocky canal tow paths which at times felt as relentless as the long days experienced at work and as uncertain as the next issue that communities would be faced with, be it surge testing for variants or turning national guidance into reality within 24 hours.
Of course, there were times when the route was straight, the sun shone, and the view was clear. However not one but two punctures out of the blue felt like an unexpected peak in cases and a frustrated population. And the hills kept coming; the last two years have been all-consuming, and the sadness and loss felt by everyone.
Getting up and back on my bike on day three of my trip, when everything ached and London still felt a long way off, required resilience. But the support of my cycling buddy saw me through. This experience was minor in comparison to the resilience shown by communities over the last two years but it highlights the impact strength and kindness of individuals can have on those around them.
We have seen this in South Gloucestershire during the last two years as communities have adhered to ever-changing national guidance in response to the ever-changing nature of the virus. Individuals have dug deep and the impact for everyone has been significant. You only need to look at the delivery and uptake of the vaccine programme to see this. Digging deep and finding strength, endurance, and resilience that we didn’t know existed within us is something all of us should feel proud of.
There were times when I felt lost on my cycle trip. Lost and tired. But by working together we made the most of every navigational tool we could get hold of. The innovation and opportunities we have all tapped into and created over the last two years both professionally and personally in response to the pandemic has been epic.
Working with events management companies to deliver testing to residents is one such example as is the incredible innovation shown by our schools, parents and children to multi-task work and home life in a pressured environment.
Going forward the public health journey must prioritise the wellbeing of our children and young people affected by the uncertainty of the last two years, although their adaptability, creativity and resilience will serve them well although we must all be mindful of the widening inequalities gap.
My overriding thoughts at the end of this experience, and as we look at what is happening internationally in Ukraine, is that the kindness and resilience that sits in us all and, although perhaps previously undiscovered, gives us our individual and collective strength. And it wins. It must.
My memory of the Covid-19 pandemic was when the world stopped turning. I was scared when the pandemic first started because everyone was just in their house, no one was outdoors. It really felt like it was the end of the world.
When the pandemic first started the weather was really nice. I was so upset because I couldn’t go outdoors to enjoy the sun. Also I couldn’t visit any family members and my friends. It really felt like I was in prison.
My memories of Covid-19 are not too bad. Many say it was hell, however I found it was a good time to reflect and improve on myself and prepare for my future. There was some hard times where I would miss my family and friends but Facetime and other platforms helped this so there wasn’t complete cut contact. When things started to get back to normal it was confusing as rules were changing everyday as Covid rates were changing daily. Masks were tiring, I got out of breath a lot with them and my makeup would melt a lot.