Lockdown Story – Chelsea Pensioner Roy Palmer
19th June 2020
Chelsea Pensioner Roy Palmer, 81, talks about his time in isolation and the life experiences that have helped him to cope with the Royal Hospital’s restrictions during the pandemic.
Roy was the first Chelsea Pensioner to go into isolation, after a guest at the gala dinner where he was toastmaster developed coronavirus:
"I got a phone call saying I had to go into isolation as I’d been in close proximity as the guest went in and out. Somebody from the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital came and took a nose swab and a throat swab. I wasn’t worried because I didn’t feel any different and later I heard I was clear."
“I write a poem every day of the week”
Both during isolation and since, Roy has kept himself occupied:
"I have enough interests to keep me going. I write poetry and have been writing poems every day of the week – sometimes at three in the morning. I think it’s therapeutic. I read a lot too –-a book every two or three days. I like historical fiction, things like Sharpe and a series about the navy. I’m now reading about the Roman era. You learn a lot because it’s all based on fact. And my berth has never been so clean and tidy!"
He’s also learning pace-sticking – an aide to military drill used in competitions – and enjoys immersing himself in a film or his favourite soap:
"My wife and I used to watch Emmerdale together and now it’s a habit. It’s nice to have a bit of escapism."
“The experience of being a carer has helped me”
Roy spent 28 years caring for his disabled wife and feels this helped to prepare him for the challenges of life during the coronavirus pandemic:
"I’ve had quite a lot of experience of being isolated. I was my wife’s carer so even if I went shopping, I was always back within half an hour. I think this experience has helped. I wasn’t lonely, because we had each other, but I was a bit isolated."
“It’s hard not being able to help people”
Roy says that he understands the restrictions but finds some of them difficult:
“I don’t find the social distancing difficult but we’re all old people and it’s hard to get it into our heads to stay six foot apart! I also like to help people – pouring their tea or holding open doors – and now I can’t.
I like to talk to people and I miss sitting at a table with eight people in the Great Hall. Now we’re one per table, It keeps your distance but you just walk in, say ‘Hello’, sit down and eat and walk out again. It’s hard to have a proper conversation.
Normally, I’d be going and doing things in my Scarlet. I like everything that goes on and want to be part of it.
The other thing is not being able to go to visit my missus up in Lincolnshire where she’s buried. I do sometimes get a bit maudlin, looking at photos. When it’s over, the first thing I’ll do is go up to Lincolnshire where my wife’s buried – even if they tell us at 12 o’clock at night.“
“The Royal Hospital is doing as much as they possibly can”
Roy is reassured by the Royal Hospital’s response to the virus:
“They’re absolutely trying their best. They say ‘could you move over?’’ if you get a bit close to someone. They’re trying to keep people entertained and doing as much as they possibly can do. I used to live in a sheltered accommodation place when my wife was alive and they wouldn’t get the sort of treatment we’re getting. I know that for a fact.”
He says that the vast majority of the Pensioners are coping well during the crisis:
“People seem to be taking it all in their stride. I think they’re happy that people are trying to do something for them. We are fighting against it less than young people – but if we were young, we’d be the same. Most of the Pensioners accept it and are quite positive. People come up to you and say, ‘So you’re still alive then?’ and you’ll say ‘Yeah, yeah’! We’ve got to enjoy ourselves while we’re here - that’s my philosophy.”