Home | News | Features | Hyndburn History | Sport | Food & Drink | Lifestyle | Pets | Business | Columnists | Links
Tel: 01254 304079
Charities | Classified Adverts | Hobbies | Contact Acorn News | Community Events | Motoring
  Julie Hesmondhalgh's Column




Hello everyone and greetings from Cardiff.

I’m a long way from home as I write this:  filming a BBC six part drama, The Pact, until mid-December. I am one of the very fortunate people in my industry who are working right now, in these most uncertain of times.  We were supposed to start on the job at the beginning of lockdown and we’ve managed over a month so far, with a dedicated Covid supervisor (an award-winning playwright in her other life, but known as “Covid Jen” on set, poor thing), regular testing, daily temperature checks and masks on all the time, even in rehearsals, up until the actual take.  Sometimes at a distance you catch a glimpse of a crew member’s unmasked face as they eat their lunch and it’s always a surprise.  You find yourself imagining the bottom half of people’s faces, and the reality is often very different (“Ooh I did NOT imagine that nose below those eyes” etc).

It has been a whole new world and a not unchallenging one, but we’re a good five weeks in and no one has tested positive yet, so something is working.  We will continue to film, in spite of the Welsh lockdown, because we’re classed as Covid-safe.  And of course, we can’t work from home. My family were due to come and visit during half term but we’ve cancelled the trip naturally.  We all have to do the right thing as much as we’re able, and however inconvenient and upsetting.

I feel that people are really struggling at the moment.  The second wave, the worsening weather, the increased restrictions, the confusion, the end of furloughing.  And of course for those who are, and have been, shielding throughout, it must be particularly stressful.  I might be wrong but I feel we’ve lost a little bit of the incredible community spirit that emerged from the first lockdown and which I wrote about in my last column for Acorn News. As the rules relaxed, and some of us drifted back to work and to school and to the pub, we could on occasion kid ourselves that there was a bit of normality returning. Please let’s try to continue to check in with our elderly and vulnerable friends, family and neighbours.

Restrictions will inevitably cause some loneliness and isolation, and that little check-in phone call or casserole on the doorstep could really make a difference, especially as the nights draw in and the festive season approaches.  Christmas can be such a difficult time for so many, bombarded as we are by images of fun and togetherness in the lead up. And this Christmas, many families look set to be unable to celebrate together.
Looking after our Mental Health, as well as keeping physically well, has never been more important.  If you’re struggling, please don’t suffer in silence.  There are many organisations, who are there for you; who are dedicated to providing support and a friendly ear for anyone who feels lonely or sad, or worse. I have listed some at the end of this article.
There are also lots of online resources providing help and advice on how to look after our mental and physical wellbeing in these anxious times.  A good general guide is the Five-a-Day for Mental Health:

1 Stay active:  according to your ability, of course.  From going for a run, to getting out down the avenue on your new walker (mum!), from a full online yoga session to some gentle stretches and deep breathing in your armchair. When you feel down, you don’t often feel like it, but it really, really helps.  Chemical things happen in your brain! On really rainy days I’ve taken to putting on some old favourite tunes and dancing round my kitchen, like I’m at the Lar-de-dars in 1985!

2 Learn something: there are so many great podcasts, audiobooks, streaming documentaries out there.  Pick a subject and enter a world you knew nothing about before.  I’ve enrolled on an online British Sign Language course this year and am struggling through my level 1 at the moment.  The time absolutely flies by when I’m deep in concentration trying to memorise the signs, and, I’m loving it. It has given me a real sense of achievement.  You don’t need to enrol or anything, you can learn so much from YouTube these days. From DIY, to how to play guitar, to languages.

3 Connect: make that call, send that email, write a letter! Again, sometimes you can end up feeling so out of sorts that you can’t be bothered, but we’re humans, and we need other humans as much as we need food and water. And you might make someone’s day. Ask someone how they are and really listen to their answer.  Letting someone talk about their feelings is one of the greatest gifts you can give. But equally, don’t be afraid to reach out and tell someone if you’re struggling.  It’s okay not to be okay.

4 Put something back:  is there something you can do for someone else?  Ask a neighbour if they need anything when you go to the shops?  Plant a few spring bulbs somewhere for passers-by to enjoy?  Make a cake for a friend? Write a letter to your MP about something that you think could be better in your community?  Make a little donation to a cause?
I help run an organisation called 500 Acts of Kindness.  Every week 500+ people (it’s more like 1000 now) donate a pound by standing order, and any contributor is free to nominate a person, family, group or organisation in need to receive £500 from us, no questions asked. We have been going for two years now and have given over £30,000.  The breadth of those we’ve helped is astonishing.  For example this week we contributed to an electric wheelchair for a little boy with muscular dystrophy; bought a new laptop for an ex-prisoner who discovered writing in prison and who was changing his life in amazing ways before his computer was stolen; donated to a group supporting refugees; and provided a tumble dryer for a man bringing up 3 children alone in a two bedroom flat. Every week our regular contributors tell us how much joy the weekly update gives them:  knowing that their £1 is doing such huge things, changing people’s lives and allowing people to breathe a little easier.  All for less than the price of a cup of coffee. All of us feel we get more than we give being part of this group.  It feels like a little beacon of hope in these dark times.

5 Be in the moment: it’s all we have right now.  Who knows what will happen in the coming days and weeks?  Who knows where we’ll be at by Christmas?  Try not to worry about the future, but focus on right here and now, with your full attention.  Look out of your window; notice the changes taking place in the natural world as autumn turns to winter. Take some big deep breaths and ground yourself, just for a minute, especially when you feel yourself spiralling off.  And remember, it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling.  Be kind to yourself.  Try and do something you enjoy.  Put on that album you’ve not listened to in ages, watch an old favourite film; plant some seeds. But just be here now. One day at a time. 

Sending lots of love and warmest wishes to you all.  Stay safe and look after yourselves and each other.

Until next time,


You are not alone. Some organisations offering support if you’re struggling:


Call 116 123 free of charge 24 hours a day

Papyrus-uk.org (Suicide Prevention for under 35s)
Hope Line UK 0800 068 4141
Mon-Fri 10am-10pm
Weekends and bank holidays 2pm-5pm

Lancashire Mental Health helpline
0800 915 4640
Mon-Fri 7pm-11pm
Sat and Sun 12 noon-12 midnight

Carers Helpline (run by people with experience in caring for people with MH issues)
0333 103 9747

Maundy Relief Counselling Service
01254 233 467

Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline-Refuge
0808 2000 247
24 hours

Childline: 0800 1111






back to top


© Acorn News 2014             Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Contact Us Designed by PetersWebPixels