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Local People: Finding your flow in lockdown

21st August 2020

Local Living writer Sarah Chase meets local people who, during the months of lockdown, rediscovered hobbies, talents and passions that had long been side-lined due to work and life pressures

The Pilot and Framer

One of the first industries to experience the brutal reality of lockdown was aviation. Geoff Little, a pilot with British Airways for 23 years, quickly found his commercial rota all but empty. Although he has been flying cargo flights, including that all-important PPE, around the world, his work diary has been quieter than usual.

Geoff’s interest in photography began years ago, but he has found framing his work less straightforward. ‘I like to experiment with the framing of photographs as I’m producing them,’ he explains, ‘but professional framing services are prohibitively expensive for the experimentation stage.’

Geoff Little

Late last year Geoff booked onto a professional framers’ course, scheduled for March this year… ‘Fortunately, I completed the course about a week before lockdown happened,’ he says.

Lockdown allowed him the time to research techniques and source equipment, much of which came from the workshop of a retiring framer – coincidentally, an ex-pilot known to Geoff.

‘Aviation will always be my career, but over time I would like to become known as a professional, competent, reliable and meticulous framer,’ he says. ‘I’ll be framing mostly for myself, family and friends to start with, with a short-term goal of becoming an Accredited Professional Framer with the Guild of Certified Framers.

‘Having a new interest with the mammoth task of learning and mastering some of the many framing techniques has allowed me to switch off from the worries of the outside world,’ he says.

The Anaesthetist and Gardener

The first weeks of lockdown were extremely busy for Dr Julie Naylor, a Consultant Anaesthetist working as part of the Anaesthetic team at Peterborough City Hospital. ‘With all elective surgery cancelled, we were running emergency lists only,’ she says, ‘so I was working in the Emergency theatre and the Trauma theatre.’

Julie had been awaiting surgery herself for nerve root compression in her neck, which had caused increasing pain for years. Having been cancelled twice, her surgery eventually went ahead at the beginning of May, and Julie found herself off work, recovering, for two months. 

Julie Naylor

‘I needed something to help fill my time, but which wasn’t physically demanding,’ she explains, ‘and I decided to start studying for the theory part of the RHS Level 2 Diploma in Horticulture.’

Julie had designed and planted her first ‘tiny back garden’ in Manchester, 20 years ago, and an interest in all things horticultural had been born.

‘I moved to my current house three years ago,’ she says, ‘and I made a fair few changes to the hard and soft landscaping – extending borders and replacing paths.’

The pressures of lockdown have made Julie realise the need to find balance in her life. ‘My mental well-being has always been helped by spending time in my garden,’ she says, ‘and my hope is that the course will make me a better gardener.’

Further plans include volunteering at the Barnack garden of designer Adam Frost. ‘Learning about plant selection and design from Adam and his head gardener Dan Jones will be a fantastic opportunity,’ Julie says, ‘which I hope may lead to my working in the garden more formally in the future.’

The Designer and Artist

Regular readers will know the work of Steven Handley, even if they don’t realise it.

‘As Head of Design for Local Living magazines I am responsible for the overall look of the magazines,’ he explains, ‘the typography, the presentation, the visual elements coming together on the pages.’

The enforced break from publication following Lockdown created ‘a sudden shift’, says Steve, ‘from extremely busy workloads and deadlines to nothing. It was a dramatic shock.’

Steve Handley

Although his career in the world of magazines has been focused on design, Steve’s first love – discovered as a student at Lincoln College of Art – was Fine Art. Lockdown reignited this interest, giving him time to explore his creativity: ‘painting at my easel, while my wife, Clare, cross-stitches or puts together enormous jigsaws has been pure relaxation,’ he says.

“Gladiator” by Steve Handley

Steve has taken as his working theme ‘Heroes and Icons across the Decades’, and he has rendered an eclectic mix of portraits including Dracula, Joy Division and Clint Eastwood in black-and-white watercolour. He hopes to take this rediscovered love further, by producing limited runs of giclée prints to sell.

‘A website is in the works,’ he says, ‘and this will give me a chance to showcase my work to a worldwide audience. Let’s hope they like it!’

The Shop Worker and Seamstress

When she was furloughed from her shop assistant role at Jollys Toys in Thrapston, Lucy Milner was not short of ways to fill her time.

‘I quickly became involved with our village’s support scheme,’ she says, ‘coordinating prescription and shopping deliveries to self-isolating and vulnerable people. I also increased my volunteering at our community-run shop, which became a vital lifeline for the village.’

Lucy Milner

Crafting projects have always played a role in Lucy’s life: ‘I invariably have a knitting or crochet project on the go,’ she says. ‘I’ve had stalls at craft fairs in the past, and I have taken commissions for items such as quilts, cushions and baby blankets.’

Lockdown was different, though. ‘I had time for more ambitious sewing projects, such as dressmaking,’ she explains.

‘I already had a pattern or two, and some fabric in my stash, so I began with a linen dress, followed by a couple of tunics, some pyjamas and a pair of trousers.’

Lucy was lucky enough to find an online supplier, who accepted orders once a week. ‘Getting those parcels of new fabric was wonderful!’ she says. Drawing on the skills she’d learned years ago at her school needlework lessons, she hopes her teacher would be proud.

‘It’s lovely to know I’ve made something that’s unique and mine,’ she says, ‘and I’ve definitely learnt more complicated techniques during these past months.

‘I’d like to develop my skills further and, perhaps, make a coat.’