OPINION: Poignant service symbolic of devastating legacy of Covid

The Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges, lights a candle in the Peace Globe during the Remembr

The Dean of Norwich, the Very Rev Jane Hedges, lights a candle in the Peace Globe during the Remembrance Service at Norwich Cathedral for those who have died from Covid-19 one year on from the first lockdown - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

This week I walked the dogs without a jersey, let alone a coat, for the first time this year.

The warm sunshine led to a euphoric moment or two of profound gratitude. Gratitude for the familiar burgeoning hedgerows, hidden networks of violets, shy primrose, silver-tipped pussy willow, pale catkins, trailing periwinkle amongst the debris of many winters’ past.

Gratitude too for the fat pheasants complacent in their finery, victors largely untroubled by human encroachment over the winter months. And the tangle of hedgerow birdsong; for buzzard soaring high.

Gratitude even for the utterly bonkers Cockerpoo, chasing a villainous grey squirrel with such determination the wretched dog collided against a huge oak - before realising her quarry was already negotiating the intricate trapeze of its upper regions. How come we ever thought this animal would make a suitable companion for my mother in her 91st year?

No matter, the pup now has a home with us. Despite 18 months of havoc and destruction, she has somehow, irrevocably, tangled herself round our hearts and into our lives. Another one. Oh well.

Moving on, I was considering other reasons for which to be profoundly grateful to the Almighty.

Merely being alive on a glorious spring morning was definitely up there, as was the resilience, health and well-being of beloved family and friends.

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As I walked, I listed those who had lost loved ones during the pandemic, not necessarily to Covid, but to other pernicious diseases, several of them sought out far too young.

The courage and tenacity of their families, determining good should come from bad, is truly humbling.

Yes, we will honour Jim’s memory by ensuring disadvantaged young people receive the mentoring support they need. And for Mary, Caro and so many like you: we will remember and do our utmost to ensure your legacies too, live on.

Your loved ones, without question, deserve no less; but nor do you.

On Tuesday I was privileged to be in Norwich Cathedral for a deeply poignant Evensong to commemorate a year of lockdown.

Exactly 2,013 little crosses lay gently and reverently positioned on the ancient stone flags of the nave, signifying the devastating legacy of Covid on our county. But alongside these markers of suffering, there was also an undeniable, unquenchable, near tangible surge of hope.

Towards the end of the Service the great West Doors of our cathedral were thrown open wide. This remarkable building has been for over 900 years a refuge: a glorious and holy space of hope, solace, and peace set against centuries oft marked by plague, uncertainty and conflict, including two devastating world wars.

Her very walls seem soaked in the joys, the entreaties, the humdrum and the tragedies of generations long passed. But here she is opening her doors and her arms once again, just as she always has. A physical certainty in a world of uncertainty. A place to rejoice, to reflect, to grieve, to heal.

And shortly a place to meet Dippy the Dinosaur, too. Even Budge, that ubiquitous cathedral cat, may find he has met his match there.

I am secretly hoping that might be so! Meanwhile the aforementioned loopy Cockerpoo continues in her daft and daily quest to rid the world of the grey squirrel. I know lockdown would have been considerably more ordered, even purposeful, without these ridiculous animals of ours.

But not nearly as much fun, to be sure.

The Lady Dannatt MBE is HM Lord-Lieutenant of Norfolk