Rehabilitation Board Re-opens

Blog post, 23/6/2020

high st 24 6 20 orig

Glastonbury High Street shortly after lockdown ended … quieter and more relaxed even than whilst everyone’s away at the festival.

I decided to re-open today, because it’s exactly three months since the lock-down began. So far it’s lunchtime and no-one has come in yet, but I am contemplating the curious collection of responses I had to my post about re-opening that I put up yesterday on the Glastonbury Notice Board.

First, from a friend who used to live in Glastonbury and who emailed from Malawi to say ‘well done’ – after I hadn’t heard from her for ages and I wasn’t even sure if she was in England or in Africa.

Second, from a local web designer who told me that my website is ‘not secure’ and offered his services to fix this apparent problem. He didn’t mention the price.

Third, from someone who tells me it would be really useful for the community if I could print stuff out for people, because the library is still closed and that’s where people usually go for such things. Well, I do this, usually for friends, though such customers often take 20 minutes and I earn maybe 50p. I didn’t reply, though I shall be happy to print things out for her if she turns up; but to be honest I don’t really want dozens of such customers coming here.

Fourth, from someone who would like to talk to me about installing an outdoor hand washing facility outside my door. This is a citizens’ initiative which I assume is prompted by the Coronavirus pandemic. I told her she could talk to me about anything she likes, though a hand washing facility might be better in the car park; and that personally I’m more worried about a potential water shortage than I am about germs. I think she’s going to come and talk to me about it anyway.

And fifth, an email from a friend in Vienna – it was lovely to hear from her but she had nothing at all to say about the Rehabilitation Board project.

​I haven’t been sure when I should re-open. Is the Rehabilitation Board a retail outlet or is it an office? If the former then I could have re-opened on June 15th but with black and yellow tape on the floor showing where people can queue, a perspex shield in front of the till, and if anyone were to look through any of my books without buying them I should put them away in quarantine for 72 hours. All of that would feel absurd, especially as I only get two or three customers a day, the floor is covered with bright red carpet and I don’t have a till, only a little cash box.

But if it’s an office then I should be working from home (as I have been for the past three months), though that rather destroys the point of being open to the public. Anyway, Boris Johnson – via a very helpful lady at Mendip District Council – gave me a small business support grant, which means that I can afford to stay open for the extra three months and I will be able to complete the twelve month project that I’d originally set myself.

So I came to work this morning, for the first time since March, because today felt like the right day to do it. I put a notice on the door suggesting that people should observe social distancing; there’s plenty of space and perhaps everyone could just use their common sense about it. I got here for 10 am – an hour later than it used to be – after going to Paddington Farm to buy my organic vegetables for the week. I came here on my bike, so that I can go home – at 4 pm, an hour earlier than it used to be – and I can cycle via my allotment and check it out on the way.

The High Street is relaxed. I’m off the High Street of course, but I made a point of noticing on the way. The hoped-for swarms of tourists haven’t materialised, which leaves the High Street as a pleasant environment with traffic reduced to next to nothing. Normally (as in ‘back to normal’ I suppose), the town only belongs to those of us who live here between the Autumn equinox and Easter. This year we might just have it for the summer.

​Part of this Rehabilitation Board project is that I keep a detailed diary, and whilst I have been ‘working from home’ I have begun to turn my scribbly notes into a coherent narrative, beginning last December. It is very interesting to be chronicling this particular time: first climate change was beginning to arrive in everyone’s minds, and activists from Extinction Rebellion were coming in to print logos on flags and t-shirts; then suddenly lock-down happened and all that stopped but another aspect of the uncertainty of our time had appeared. I don’t know what will happen next; but I am sitting at my desk in the little (but strangely significant) town of Glastonbury and watching it all, and writing.