Members' Stories of Lockdown - UK



I left CLC in the summer of 2012 and never expected to be coming back to work here. As a school leaver, I expected to go to university and get a “job” in “the city” like many of my peers. Fast forward seven years, one degree in classics from the University of Bristol and four years of teaching Classics full-time, and I was sitting in an interview opposite my old housemistress in the other half of a building where I spent the last two years of my time at College.

When I was offered the role of deputy Housemistress of Cambray, I could not have imagined how tumultuous my return would be. I accepted the role just before the end of the Christmas term but did not move into the house until the half-term of the summer term, over six months later. Moreover, I might have moved in, but there weren’t any girls to look after! All of the pupils were of course home at this time and were learning remotely.

During the summer term, I continued my previous job teaching Classics at another secondary school in Cheltenham, all remotely of course. This was particularly odd as I had said goodbye to these same classes at the end of the Easter term; however, it was really good to finish the year off with them all properly, or as properly as one can while teaching remotely to pupils living all over the world.

That term, I met some of the Cambray girls through Teams and chatted to them about the house and their lives at home in different levels of lockdown all over the world. While this gave me a feel for some of the great characters within the house, I was looking forward to getting to know them, and the rest of the house, much better in September.

In the meantime, I found ways to fill my time. I emptied every SFC2 locker in College into bags which were transported to houses to be packed away. I helped to pack up many Cambray girls’ rooms into red crates. I completed some admin ahead of the new year. And I waited. Waited for the return of the girls who would make my job what it was supposed to be.

Over the summer holidays, I continued to live in Cambray with my boyfriend (only until the girls returned, of course!). Apart from Anita and her family living in the house, it was completely empty. It was strange not to hear pupils running around and chatting, but peaceful too (something which I would come to miss once the new school year started). The beautiful weather made everything a lot more pleasant and allowed me time to adjust to my new way of life. With no holidays abroad for the first time since leaving CLC, I had to find ways to entertain myself. We took plenty of walks, particularly enjoying hiking up Leckhampton Hill on a truly beautiful day. I even began running.

Olivia Gilbert, a friend from days at CLC, moved back to Cheltenham during lockdown and, once we were allowed to do so, we started to meet up a lot to help keep each other sane. This ranged from socially distanced walks and running (we have knocked 6:30 off our 5k PBs so far) to going out for supper most Friday evenings. It has been great to meet up so much more often than our lives had previously allowed and this has confirmed for me the fact that friendships made at school can stand the test of time.

I worked in the quarantine house for the two weeks preceding the start of the September term, alongside the events team and some very diligent house staff, two from within the Cambray team. It was a useful trial run as it was based in Cambray, so I was able to see what would/wouldn’t work this year. The main issue was coming up with imaginative ways for the girls to have fun, which they seemed to manage after the first few days. Getting to know these girls, who had come from all over the world, reminded me of why I loved CLC and its international student body. These girls made me excited to meet the new Cambray girls, and they have not disappointed! I am enjoying the new role a lot and am excited to get more involved in College as time passes, whether that be as part of the Wellbeing programme, as a tutor or, hopefully, teaching within the Classics or Maths department. College is such an exciting place to be working and I am really looking forward to getting to know school from “the other side”!

Gabriella Archer

2006-2012, Farnley Lodge/Beale


On Wednesday 13th May, my friend and I completed a bike ride for Refuge Charity, a charity that supports around 6,000 women and children on any given day, experiencing domestic and sexual violence, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, stalking, and trafficking.

We thought this to be a very important cause to donate for during the lockdown period as vulnerable people are staying at home with abusive partners, and as a result, the rate of domestic violence has soared since the start of lockdown. We raised money through our Just Giving page which is linked to Refuge Charity, as now is a crucial time to support charities which aren’t getting as many donations as usual due to the current situation.

We planned to cycle a route of 50km each on the first day, which would amount to 100km, but after getting lost in Greenwich, a broken-down bike and consequently having to run part of the journey when we reached East London, as well as having to climb over a COVID testing unit with our bikes, we finally made it to Putney where we finished, and cycled over 120km combined.

Though harder than I initially expected, I am so glad we did it - and cycling has turned out to be a great way to relax and de-stress during this strange period of time, I really recommend it to everyone who is looking for something different to do!

Anna Ratsin (right on photo)

2012-2017, St Helen's/Cambray 

Maddie Pizzoni

2003-2008, Glenlee/Elizabeth


I am reaching out to this amazing network to raise awareness about the efforts of Med Supply Drive UK. As a newly graduated doctor, I desperately wanted to help the frontline NHS workers who are working tireless to protect us all during this pandemic. Whilst awaiting my expedited graduation (via Zoom!) and my registration with the General Medical Council, I joined Med Supply Drive UK, an organisation run by NHS doctors, medical students and individuals who all share the same concern for NHS frontline healthcare workers with inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

I was appointed head of logistics, and in less than four weeks we have helped coordinate the acquisition and distribution of over 75,000 pieces of donated PPE to NHS frontline staff and over 100 different healthcare settings. These donations vary from small quantities purchased by individuals, to larger donations from industries whose activities have been put on hold due to the pandemic. For example, some of the masks and overalls have been donated by those who work in the construction industry, and the beauty industry have been able to donate gloves and masks.

It has been heartwarming to see how communities have banded together to support the NHS and to learn that the Cheltenham Ladies' College has also been involved in supplying equipment to the NHS by laser cutting and 3D printing visors. I will continue working hard to help protect my future colleagues whilst I wait to be deployed to the frontline, and implore you to look and see if you have any idle PPE that you could donate. Please check for more information. If you are unable to donate yourself, please consider sharing our campaign to anyone you think may be able to help. 

Elizabeth Ogundiya

2006-2013, St Margaret's



My London choir (the Royal Choral Society) usually sings Handel’s Messiah on Good Friday in the Royal Albert Hall. The choir has done so every year since 1876, only cancelling twice in the past (1940 and 1941 during the London Blitz). Sadly, this year we were unable to perform due to COVID-19, a huge disappointment to all of us. As the choir was keen to keep up the tradition, the marketing team came up with the idea of us recording ourselves singing our individual parts at home (having followed a few complicated technical instructions). We then had to send our recordings in so that the Royal Albert Hall technical team could put them all together. Our conductor filmed himself conducting in his garden, and our organist played on his keyboard at home (in the manner of the Salisbury Cathedral organ, however that works…). 

The result was screened by the Royal Albert Hall on Good Friday as part of their ‘Home’ series at the exact time we should have been performing it. I hope you enjoy it (see the link below). We will look forward to performing Handel’s Messiah together in the Royal Albert Hall on Good Friday in 2021.  (In the first group shot, Emma is on the top row, second in from the right.)

Emma Perry (née Johnson)

1987-1989, Elizabeth

Emma is one of the Guild Editors.


Many of us work in isolation as artists.  Perhaps, in that sense, things may be physically no different now than they were before Covid 19 when we were working on our own in our studios.  However, the impact on our state of mind and on those we love will affect the way we work now that we are truly in isolation and facing such a devastating worldwide situation. All of us will be reacting to it in different ways.

We are lucky to have this occupation, but it is one that will suffer. Artists cannot sell their work, galleries are shut, income will dry up and there is a great deal of fear and worry to stifle our inspiration as we put our families first.  But we are needed – for giving ourselves, and hopefully others, pleasure and distraction. Getting our stuff out on social media, either as individuals or as part of our communities, will hopefully keep spirits up and keep us together and comforted.

Out to sea 21 x 55cm

I, for one, initially thought of doing little things to get me back into the swing while my mind was taking the whole thing on board, worrying about the family, the community, the country.  Even though still life remains at the forefront of my practice, I’ve started doing small landscapes. I’ve been reminded how much I love the flat horizon of the East Anglian landscapes. 

So landscape will be my starting point and will keep me busy for now. But this strange new world has made me review my priorities (something I hope the world will do once things have settled). Things are ever changing……. I wish you all well.


Across the reeds 22 x 43cm

I was at Farnley Lodge 1968-73. My husband and I are 68 and 65 and live in the countryside in Suffolk. We are keeping well and isolated. Our two boys are both married with young children - one couple, in Bristol, are expecting a second baby in June. The other couple in Oxfordshire have a 4 month old. All are home working and coping. We consider ourselves so lucky compared to many many people and are deeply indebted to those working in the community and in the hospitals - with a brain damaged brother living not far away, I am deeply aware of their role and their sacrifices. 

Lillias August (née Hartley)

1968-1973, Farnley Lodge


I was asked to share a few thoughts on ‘home working’ at a time when so many Guild members, families and friends are living and working in very different ways.

I don’t mind admitting that I am a ‘workaholic’!  It all started very much by accident when ‘the business bug’ took hold of me. I loved and thrived on a fast-paced, global, corporate business environment. However, this life changed some 15 years ago when my widowed mother lost her eyesight and experienced age-related health problems. As an only child with no other relatives, I could no longer keep all the corporate balls in the air and care for my mother at the same time. I took what felt like an enormous leap of faith and started my own consultancy.   

In my corporate life, work and home were intertwined but I did at least leave home every day for a busy, professional office environment. When starting my consultancy, I wanted work to feel like work and have the discipline of an office environment. I created an office adjacent to my home which had its own door, phone number and Wi-Fi, and was set up to look and feel professional. At the start of each day, I went into ‘work mind-set’, dressed as I would when going ‘out’ to work, exercised or walked first thing, and kept home life until later in the day. I created a plan and some key goals and priorities, and a daily task list.  I avoided going to the kitchen regularly, doing domestic tasks, having a snooze or reading a book as I would never do those in a working day. Any urgent or important personal business was scheduled in to the day (eg: medical appointments for my mother, etc).

As the weeks and months of my new world evolved with client engagements, external meetings, travel, pitches for business and lecturing opportunities, I created a pattern which worked well for my clients and myself: ‘external’ meetings from Mondays to Thursdays, office days on Fridays. Okay, some weekends were used to mop up urgent work, too!

Fast forward 12 years…

Working ‘from home’ is both empowering (you are your own boss in your own space) and potentially isolating (you lose the camaraderie and buzz of an office environment if you enjoy that, and can feel lonely). It could be easy to ‘drift’ during the day or become distracted (e.g: children, domestic responsibilities, hobbies, etc.) so I found that by setting some objectives for the day/week, I stayed focused and felt a sense of achievement when I completed work.  I need to see people face-to-face and speak to people, so I use the phone, Skype, FaceTime, zoom and other technologies all the time. While CV-19 prevents us going out, such interaction is even more important. Company intranets and other communications forum can be particularly valuable.

It can be easy to ‘sit at your desk’ to the exclusion of other interests or, conversely, become easily distracted (children, domestic tasks, pets, personal phone calls, etc. ). Each of us is different and needs to create a pattern which works best for us, our clients or customers and types of work.   Do build in breaks to move around, get some fresh air and reach out to others.   At this time of unprecedented lockdown, perhaps we can also recognise other people’s situations and cut a little slack; in my experience, most people try to do their best most of the time and often have their own challenges and difficulties ‘behind the scenes’.

Do cut yourself a little slack too! There’s no roadmap, no right or wrong, no precedent for this situation. Life’s a journey and working at home and in new and different ways during CV-19 is a voyage of discovery for all of us! Give yourself a pat on the back for what you achieve each day, don’t be too hard if every day isn’t perfect, and do reach out to others - and let them reach you.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, if anyone would like to reach out to me (or vice versa), please do feel free to let Caroline Harris know and she will put us in touch.

Carolyn Dodwell (née Roberson)

1975-1977, St Hilda’s

Carolyn is the Guild Area Rep for Cumbria and the incoming Chairman of Bellis.