For many families across England, Monday marked a momentous occasion – the first time they had been reunited with children, grandchildren and other loved ones after 10 weeks of the coronavirus lockdown.
Among those rejoicing as government rules were eased to allow up to six people to meet outdoors, including in gardens, were Barbara Seymour and her family in West Bridgford, Nottingham.
“I’m not going to cry until after,” insisted Seymour, 67, preparing a feast of salmon, roast chicken and caramelised potatoes before seeing her daughter and son-in-law Jenny and Eoian Matthews and two young grandchildren, who live in nearby Lady Bay, for the first time since March.
Usually, Seymour and her husband, Vince Davies, 66, would look after May, seven, and Ailbe, five, about four times a week and “spoil them rotten”, but since the strict nationwide rules were imposed, they have only seen them briefly and from a distance.
“I’ve got a good life myself but not seeing my grandchildren has been enormous,” said Seymour. “It’s the best part of my life, having grandchildren.”
On Monday, although chairs were spaced 2 metres apart and her family could only pop in the house to use the bathroom, the family caught up over drinks and food in the sunshine. The Amazon Alexa was expected to come out later for “boogie music”.
Although the evening was a “massive” event for both Seymour and her adult family members, the focus was to make it as normal as possible for May and Ailbe. “I want them to just think they’re back in the garden again,” said Seymour.
The couple moved to Nottingham five years ago to be near Seymour’s daughter Jenny, and when they moved into their current home, their grandchildren helped to plant the flowers in the back garden.
On top of a treasure hunt – finding pretty mismatching earrings in the garden – May and Ailbe helped to plant some winter cabbages with Seymour, whom they call Nana, and Davies, known as Grandpops.
“Not to be patronising to Mum, but I was a bit worried that she was really excited for this and the kids wouldn’t be that bothered. But they have been. Earlier on Ailbe was saying: ‘We’re going to Grandma’s!’”
Seymour said her work – running a company that provides training in the health and social care sector, including care homes, with Davies – meant the threat of the virus “was always in the back of our minds”.
The family have also decided to stick to their own more stringent rules, such as drawing up a diary of which friends they have seen, since losing faith in the government’s ability to advise the public after the Dominic Cummings affair.
Like others, they will still have to wait for a full family reunion. Seymour’s two adult sons, who live in London and Dubai, were not available for a Zoom chat during the dinner and she admitted it would “be a long time before we see them”.
In normal circumstances, the whole family would be involved in preparing meals too. “We have fun together, we like being together. Today will be half of what we normally do,” said Seymour.
While the hug that she is desperate to give her daughter is also off limits for the time being, the family have also written a get out clause for children into their rules.
Seymour said: “If they come near me I’m not going to tell them to back off because I think it would do them so much more damage.”