Remembering Lockdown by Dorothy Snelson

Yes, I know. Lockdown is something better forgotten.

Not everything about lockdown was bad, however. The roads were quiet, the air seemed purer, and people rediscovered the joy of walking and enjoying their gardens and public spaces instead of cinemas and nightclubs.

There was one place I went to a lot during lockdown and that was the grounds of Smithills Hall. I would sit on a bench and gaze at the windows and the tiny panes of glass, glinting in the sunshine, seemed to mesmerise me. I felt intimately connected to the past and the people who lived and worked there over the centuries. The overgrown Tudor box garden reminded me that they used the herbs planted there to treat disease in days gone by. Just as we were tackling a pandemic with vaccines, they had tackled plagues with their knowledge of plants and infusions of herbs.

The great studded doors no longer welcomed visitors and the picnic tables were empty. Everywhere was shuttered and still. Yet the stillness seemed to speak to me of the folk who went before. I reached out to them through the ages, those lords and ladies , cooks and maids, grooms and gardeners and children who I could almost hear, laughing and playing in the gardens. Dogs barked, horses whinnyed, and I saw and heard a panoply of life through the ages. I felt close to them, as if the space between us had closed, and I could glimpse into their world.

When the crisis was over visitors would return. For that brief time, however, it was just me, and the ghosts of the past.