In the nature of Phab, Oxford Phab members are a diverse bunch, and lockdown has affected us in different ways, but at the same time there are things which are the same for all of us.
Before lockdown a keystone of Oxford Phab was our normal club meetings at Wesley Memorial Church on a Friday night. Whenever possible we ran a minibus to bring members who could not otherwise get there, and did art and craft activities, played games, cooked and/or ate meals together. All the activities could be enjoyed by all our members, and also – something we appreciate more now that this is harder to do, we could just rage against the injustice of the world, chat, smile or laugh.
We do our best to replace this by getting together over the Internet for a chat on a Friday night, and also another chat session on a Monday night.
Meeting like this is a valuable social contact, but we are very aware that not all of our members can meet this way. Not everyone has access to the Internet and it does not provide the chance for smaller chats about subjects which might be deeply interesting to a small subset of our members, and deeply boring to the rest. I do still have occasional Jitsi chats with Phab friends to ensure the world continues to be set to rights.
The wider Phab
Another thing we did under the ‘old normal’ was to get together with members of other Phab clubs. While getting together in person is not possible at the moment the National Phab are organising quiz sessions through Facebook, which we then link to from our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/oxfordphab/ and some of our members join in those sessions.
Loss and remembering
Lives cut untimely short are not a completely new experience for us. Roy Lewis, who was chairman of Oxford Phab several years ago, was someone who everyone who was fortunate enough to know him will always remember. His wisdom, kindness, intellect and optimism certainly inspired me. He was also a ruthless draughts player, and could knock back Brandy and Babycham when we were out and about with an impressive lack of impact on his ability to hold an intelligent conversation on a wide range of subjects. He was not the first member we have lost, and there have been several others since, but I, and as many members as could, made a special effort to join the diverse group of mourners at his funeral.
It is particularly hard to lose Kelly at a time when we can not gather to mourn and remember. Although in many ways a completely different person to Roy, she too had an astonishing range of friends, inside and outside Phab who will miss her very much. One of the things which makes Phab special is that we find common ground within our diversity.
One of the things Kelly enjoyed at Phab was Zumba, and we are very fortunate that George Martini is able to do online Zumba sessions with us on Friday Nights, which we follow with a chat (as we did when we all met up at Wesley Memorial).
This can be just as energetic as face-to-face Zumba – and we are sometimes joined by people who have supported Phab through running garden parties, helping out selling refreshments and so on, who would not normally be able to join in, as well as particularly close members of other Phab clubs.
Nobody can be sure what the future will hold, but we hope we can learn from these difficult times, continue to support each other in new ways, as well as old and that the strengths which have brought us through previous crises will bring us though this too. We appreciate the support we have had from Wesley Memorial Church, friends and families of members, carers and NHS staff.