Covid A Year On - Looking ahead to This Time Next Year

Steve Collins created this collage to represent where he hopes we will be in a year's time.

Steve Collins created this collage to represent where he hopes we will be in a year's time. - Credit: Steve Collins

As we mark the anniversary of the first lockdown we cannot help looking back and reflecting on the challenges and pressures of the past 12 months.

But we also wanted to celebrate our determination and provide an insight into the way we have changed for the better, perhaps, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

This Time Next Year is a community project hosted by the Herts Advertiser to bring together different voices and perspectives looking ahead to a post-Covid world while also marking the year we've just endured.

Thank you for everyone who has taken part so far. You can still send submissions to hertsad@archant.co.uk

The New Normal by Grae J Wall


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Stand back for a moment
Close your eyes
Take a breath
We are at a crossroads
The world has taken an unexpected pause
And never have we had such opportunity
To begin a brand new normal
Look through your window
At the clear blue sky
Step outside and inhale an air
Untainted by traffic and industry
Listen to the birds chorus their approval
And smile at the impulsive caring
We now afford each other
Does that old normal
Of fossil fuels and plastic seas
Hold any sense of warm nostalgia
Do you long for the fight and clamour
Of eternal economic growth
GDP at any cost
Continents on fire
Floods and feuds
Flags and broken promises
Gated territories and hate speech
Fleeing hordes from war torn worlds
Washed up on beeches
Whilst we turn the page
To more of the same?
We have taken the homeless from our streets
And housed them
We have offered help to those in need
Looking out for our neighbours
Both at home and overseas
We have recognised the fundamental importance
Of those that care for others
For the future of our children
And the wellbeing of our elders
That a society can be measured on its empathy and love
And when bold solutions are required
To face down global threat
We are able to come together as one planet
And say enough is enough
You will not defeat us
Have we learnt these things
Have we really changed?
What will be the new normal?
Are we brave enough
To take this moment
And let it live?

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year.

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year. - Credit: High Beeches

Untitled poem by Anna MacLeod Franklin

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Today I am feeling selfish. I am feeling happy and hopeful, and I am thrilled to reclaim my dining table. It is no longer homeschool, piled high with scraps of paper and cardboard, felt tip pens, sellotape and glue and glitter and paint. No longer a place of quiet frustrations and held in tears, and 'am I letting him down' and 'is he okay'.
Now I will sit at it and drink my peaceful coffee in soul soothing solitude. And dream of the day when I can surround it with people and feed them and play the music and pour the wine.
And I'll miss him.
And I'll know that when I pick him up his little face will be tired and happy, and his hug will be huge and heartfelt.
And all will be well.
#bandofmothers

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year.

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year. - Credit: High Beeches

We're OUT out by Hillary Childs

2020 was the year we forget.
Home schooling, home working, 
let's go shopping, at home.
How much bread did you bake?
Where did you get the flour from?
Zoom parties, Zoom meetings, Zoom gym and Zoom courts!
Zoom zoom zoom, we're going to the Moon,
Mars, actually.
A vaccine!
Our saviour!
Not long and we're free!
No more staying home, waiting for my Ocado delivery,
A year from now this will all be behind us.
Back to Prosecco with a playdate,
Not wine at the door.
Friends in the living room,
And parties galore.
Our beautiful city will be booming again.
Coffee and cake,
In a café, with some friends!
Dinner at the pub,
Hell, let's do lunch too.
Browsing the shops, just because,
Like you do.
Let's do soft play! Go swimming,
Let's go to the zoo!
Can we pleeease go to Center Parcs?
And Legoland too!
Let's go to Paris,
We can take the Eurostar,
Have lunch on the pavement,
Not McDonald's in the car.
2022 you'll be the best,
But 2020 lowered the bar (oh a bar!).
That year at home,
will just be a scar.
We'll hug and we'll dance and we'll laugh with our friends,
Because for us lucky ones,
We'll be together again.

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year.

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year. - Credit: High Beeches

Award-winning Harpenden photographer Steve Collins created a collage which he feels illustrates where he hopes we will be in a year's time.

"The image is  created from images captured at the annual Harpenden carnivals of recent years. Lots of happy faces, families having fun, enjoying being together.

"Communities coming alive in the summer. No longer fearful of the pandemic. No longer condemned to hiding our faces behind masks. No longer afraid to hug our friends. No longer needing to stay socially distanced. To feel again that life is worth living and full of things to look forward to.

"To paraphrase The Beatles, I hope we can get back to where we once belonged."

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year.

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year. - Credit: High Beeches

County and district councillor Annie Brewster offered her own thoughts on the year ahead and the 12 months we have just experienced, with a particular focus on the outdoors.

"Despite the pain of restricted human contact, there is much I have absolutely loved this last year, nothing greater than seeing residents embracing outdoor life in our beautiful district.

"Despite being so close to London, St Albans district is comprised of circa 82 per cent glorious Green Belt. That is over 13,000 hectares, equivalent to more than 20,000 football pitches, and my delight has been the growing number of people of all ages taking to walking, running and cycling within it.

"Empty roads during the first lockdown saw dust covered bikes emerging from garden sheds for a fun family outing.  Bike repair shops were inundated with old relics and electric bike sales shot through the roof, particularly popular with 50-80 year olds.

During the last year, a number of cycle lane schemes have been Government introduced via the Emergency Active Travel Fund.  These have tended to help experienced commuting cyclists in many Hertfordshire towns. 

"Twelve  months from now, I would like to see  more off-road, safe cycle networks to link all our rural and urban communities. Although a keen runner, I’m a hugely timid cyclist, terrified to venture onto our busy highways.  However, whenever on holiday, I’ll take every opportunity to hire a bike, electric if facing big hills, when there are safe off-road routes to ride on, the more scenic the better! 

"In 2020, we have all fallen in love with the outside and it has never been so important to remain fit and boost our immune systems to fight COVID-19. 

"Sadly, creating cycle routes is not a simple task.  It is not only the cost of feasibility work and implementing an appropriate cycling surface but it nearly always involves researching historic rights of way, resolving land ownership issues, conducting safety audits when coming into contact with the highway, the list goes on. 

"Whatever the issues, I believe the benefits outweigh them all. We cannot continue to tell people to get out of their cars and take to two wheels if we do not provide enjoyable and safe routes for cyclists of all levels to ride upon.

"My hope is the pandemic’s gift to our district is a cycling network we can all enjoy and I will do everything I can to advance its delivery."


Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year.

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have been thinking about what they would like to see this time next year. - Credit: High Beeches

Pupils at High Beeches Primary School have also been thinking about the future.

Year 6 pupil Harry said: "I would be very happy if you could bring an end to coronavirus and our school bubbles. It would be so nice to be back to normal and be able to see our friends and family when and where we want to. I have many hopes and dreams such as being able to play my team sports again, and to start secondary school without fear of a future lockdown and remote learning. I just really hope that everyone is happy, healthy and enjoying their freedom this time next year."

Classmate Marc said: " 31st December 2019, a day that won’t be forgotten for years to come. Though, at the the time, the outbreak seemed so far away, this would later be a life-changing pandemic in all of our homes.  

"2020 was a hard year for all of us, even at the start of 2021 we’ve had another lockdown, but now that we’ve started to relax restrictions we can reflect all we’ve done through lockdown, or rather what we’ve missed! 

"I, as an 11 year old, have mainly been impacted by the closure of schools. So by this time next year my main goal is to have settled into secondary school well with the pandemic under control. I would also like to interact with all the friends that I can’t currently see. Finally, I want to have continued all my clubs and social gatherings - without a screen!"




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