In English village, life goes on behind closed doors

Hartley Wintney (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


It is an ordinary day in the English village of Hartley Wintney -- Lyn Briggs grooms a poodle, Karel Brabec tinkers in his garage and Norrie Short plays table tennis.

But due to the COVID-19 lockdown it all takes place behind closed doors in this idyllic setting just 40 miles (70 km) southwest of London.

Like most of the 66 million Britons, the 5,000 residents of the Hampshire village have been staying at home since March 23 when the government ordered a lockdown to stop contagion.

The result is that life no longer revolves around the main street with its organic shops and coffee chains or the cricket ground, which is one of the oldest in the country.

Instead, pretty much all life takes place indoors.

At 22, James Lewington should be at college. But instead it is at his parents' place that he reviews his geography course work, cup of tea in his hand, phone placed next to his laptop, while on the other side of the window his father is riding a bicycle.

Ruth Jarman rehearses violin pieces with her three children.

And, because there is no school, Alice Sweeney is busy in her living room with her mother Vicky in front of an online gym class.

Briggs, owner of two large poodles, Lulu and Laika, says: "Now that the rest of the family stays at home all the time, dogs have some competition to get my attention."

For some, the restrictions are an opportunity to devote more time to certain passions, such as Pam Large, 89, who for lack of being able to continue playing golf, practices watercolour paintings in her kitchen.

For others, it's time to discover new experiences, like the Ewbank family who spent Easter Sunday on the living room sofa and took part in a "virtual communion".

Penny Ewbank, who works for the fire brigade, described this unfamiliar new life as "a little surreal".

"Life in lockdown has been a really interesting time. As a key worker, I am still going out to work, but time at home as a family has been incredibly special and not something we may ever get again, so we're making the most of it," she says.

But neighbour Valerie Bucksey, like so many, is separated from her family and is suffering from the sense of isolation.

For her, the worst thing is "not seeing our grandchildren and family except online, missing physically being with our grandson to celebrate his third birthday".