After The Applause

Kelly Grehan

It’s now 9 weeks since the Clap For Carers event started. It’s creator now says this week’s event, the 10th, should be the last.

The first week my family went outside and clapped, alongside our neighbours, with a motivation of showing anyone in the street who was working for the NHS that we appreciated them. This was repeated in streets across the length and breadth of the country.  Many people reported unexpectedly bursting into tears on that night, back on the 26th March and indeed it was emotional. It was dark that week as we had not yet entered British Summer Time and I suspect many of us were in a state of bewilderment.  It was only 3 days then since the full lockdown had begun and we were all adjusting, apprehensive and even fearful. Empty shop shelves, closed schools, furloughing – these were all new to us then. Things like hearing the daily death count had not yet become the norm. The separations we were experiencing were new and raw and we needed to thank our NHS staff that night because their actions were the one thing we could all be certain of – they would do their best for us all. And that belief has held true to this day – the one thing that has not changed or diminished. 

Since then we have been outside every Thursday at 8pm. The weather has changed, our gardens are starting to bloom and we now bring out pots and pans to bang, some of our neighbours bring horns and bells: We have a good time.

I have concerns that rather than rewarding carers, the clapping actually does them a disservice because it fuels the rhetoric that NHS staff are ‘angels’ who act out of an unselfish vocation, and for reasons I’m not sure I can fathom this rhetoric seems to provide a cover to the argument that they do not need better pay and conditions, as it clapping shows appreciation so a pay rise or PPE are not really needed. Any arguments to the contrary are always met with accusations of ‘politicising’ the situation or a lecture on ‘now not being the time’ for such discussions.

Equally  I’m not sure many of us think of carers when we go out to clap on Thursday nights now; I think it has evolved into something else.

As the days drift into weeks and even months where there is little to differentiate one day from another for many of us, it provides some sort of structure to the week. Every week I find myself thinking ‘is it Thursday already?’

It’s almost comforting having something to mark off, an activity that separates one week from the last in the way weekends, work trip and the kids . But, more importantly, as with most people it’s the only activity I now do which involves people outside my household which isn’t done through a screen.

Before lockdown I’d always got on well with my neighbours. We had a WhatsApp group and sent each other Christmas cards but now I genuinely look forward to seeing them.  We really enjoyed spending VE Day together (but apart) and I think we are genuinely excited when anyone of us has good news and upset when any of us has bad news. In short we are a community. 

I think there is somewhat of a longing in most of us right now for community and shared experiences, and the Thursday night clap has become that. 

So, while I agree the time has probably come to end the clap, I hope we can find other shared experiences because, if we have learnt anything from this awful experience it’s how important connection is, even if it’s only for a few minutes a week.

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