How 2 Islanders in England are experiencing the pandemic

·4 min read

For two Islanders living in England since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, the vaccine and a return to international travel can't come soon enough.

Susan Parsons and Gracie Finley Stickings are both originally from P.E.I. but now live in England, where cases are once again surging, partly caused by a new variant of COVID-19.

"It's been a long and difficult time here. A difficult place to live over the last nine months," Parsons told host Laura Chapin on Island Morning.

Parsons is from Belle River, P.E.I., and now lives in the town of Halifax in West Yorkshire, England, which is northeast of Manchester.

We're all just holding our breath and waiting for the vaccine, to be honest. — Gracie Finley Stickings

She said most people in England are anticipating a full national lockdown any day now, partly because of how quickly the new variant of COVID-19 is spreading, and partly because the government allowed two families to get together on Christmas.

Finley Stickings lives northwest of London, in Buckinghamshire, an area that is already facing restrictions in what's called Tier 4, which she said is "a lockdown by any other name."

Under these restrictions, people are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, only going out for essential reasons.

Hollie Adams/Getty Images
Hollie Adams/Getty Images

"I think they thought perhaps by calling it a different tier, it didn't carry quite the scariness of lockdown. It is very much like we went through from March through to the summer," said Finley Stickings.

"We're all just holding our breath and waiting for the vaccine, to be honest," she said.

Teachers are forced to do some teaching online, and some groups they'll be teaching face-to-face. It's been absolutely exhausting. — Susan Parsons

Parsons is a public school teacher and has gone through many ups and downs with her students over the past nine months.

"One of the things that's been so difficult, and one of the things it's important to realize about living here, is that the news will change every day, or even within half a day," said Parsons.

"So at one point we'll hear one thing and then in the afternoon we'll hear quite the opposite."

Students who plan to take exams prioritized

Right now, she said, it looks like high school students who are planning to take exams this year will head back to school in person next week.

"The government has maintained all along that they are the most important groups, that they must get back to the classroom," said Parsons.

Submitted by Susan Parsons
Submitted by Susan Parsons

What's been difficult, however, is that students often must return to online learning if one student in the teaching bubble gets diagnosed with COVID-19, said Parsons.

"So teachers are forced to do some teaching online, and some groups they'll be teaching face-to-face. It's been absolutely exhausting," she said.

Planned to return to P.E.I. last summer

Finley Stickings is an actor — in fact, she took on the role of Anne in Anne of Green Gables at the Charlottetown Festival for many years, from 1968 to 1974, and again in 1984 and 1985.

This past summer, she was supposed to come back home to act at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico.

"We had a wonderful season planned at the Watermark, and I think I knew in my heart of hearts early on it wasn't going to take place," said Finley Stickings.

"I'm very fortunate in that I'm not at the stage of my career where I'm career-building. I do it now, I keep doing it because I absolutely love it. But it's not the underlying thing that I have to do to keep a roof over my head," she said.

Mike Viau/Watermark Theatre
Mike Viau/Watermark Theatre

Finley Stickings said she is fortunate to live in the countryside, and spent the summer working in her three-acre garden.

Many others in the theatre industry, though, haven't been so lucky.

"It is like every other profession, so many professions, they have been terribly affected," she said.

"Certainly in the U.K., we're going to lose many many small regional theatres, I think, which is a real shame. That's kind of the heart and soul of the theatre, in this country at least," said Finley Stickings.

"Fingers crossed, the Watermark will go on next summer, whether or not I'm allowed back in to work, I don't know. We're going to have to wait and see."

'Desperate to get back'

Parsons has already tried twice since the pandemic began to come home to P.E.I. to visit family, in particular her mother and sister, but both times she had to cancel her plane ticket.

"I'm desperate to get back and see them," she said.

"Hopefully May, I'm thinking. That's what I've set my sights on," said Parsons.

Finley Stickings is also looking forward to her first visit back.

"Love to everyone on P.E.I.," she said. "Gosh, I miss it."

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