I have been an avid supporter of the Thursday evening clap in support of key workers. In fact, my entire neighbourhood has embraced the idea. Every Thursday at 8PM would find the entire street at their doorsteps––me at my open upstairs window mindful of social distancing; the mysterious man who lives immediately opposite a noticeable and singular absentee––clapping in united and wholehearted support of the workers who are risking their lives during the coronavirus pandemic.
The first Thursday, we all clapped for five minutes; the second Thursday it was more like ten; by the third Thursday, and every subsequent one, we were still all going strong after a quarter of an hour, until our hands ached; no one wanting to be the one to break up the party.
And party was how it felt. It was a celebration; a joyous occasion; a nice way for a neighbourhood to show solidarity and stand together during a period of difficulty. In the end, I was clapping as much in support of my neighbours as I was for the key workers.
But then the clapping stopped. Annemarie Plas, who initiated the idea of Clap for Carers, suggested that after ten weeks it might be an appropriate time to cease.
I realise that there is a time when all good things must come to an end but, personally, I wasn’t ready to cease clapping. Partly, I didn’t like being told when to stop but, also, I felt that my own neighbourhood had created something beyond the original remit of the Thursday clap: we were doing it for ourselves.
The eleventh Thursday evening approached. I stood defiantly at my open first-floor window; the couple across the road were already in their front garden, him equipped with the saucepan lid he typically banged. It seemed like an encouraging sign that our private community clap still had legs. But, that evening, we two households proved to be the only participants in our street. We clapped away enthusiastically, but it was not the same. One week later and even the couple and their saucepan lid were gone.
That Twelfth Night, I didn’t open my first-floor window. Instead, I hid behind my net curtains, peering out at my lonely, deserted neighbourhood, wondering if anyone else would be brave enough to clap first. But no one did.
It all felt a bit of a let-down. The shared joy so quickly turned to feelings of shame and guilt and sorrow. From behind my nets, I watched a blue-uniformed NHS worker hurry home and, privately, I still applauded her.
© Simon Turner-Tree
Simon Turner-Tree can often be found lurking in the shadows.
Simon has collected some of his blog writing together in Watching Life Pass Me By, available from Amazon.