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Vamping the van

I’m watching an ambulance. It’s just pulled up to a neighbour’s house.

The two paramedics put on their personal protection equipment (PPE) in the road whilst the carer at the house opens the door.

Coincidentally, two houses down, another carer arrives. She stops at the front gate to get dressed into her PPE – a plastic apron, gloves and mask. Only then does she enter the premises.

This scenario, which played out over 10 minutes is no doubt replicated countrywide and the world over at the moment. Ambulances are a reasonably regular visitor to that house, so a normal circumstance perhaps, but made extraordinary by a global pandemic.

Why extraordinary?
Because whilst the rest of us are learning to stay well at home, there’s a band of key workers learning to stay well whilst working.

Drawing out an extraordinary story
Three weeks ago I wrote a blog, What takes you to look at the world differently? in which I explore how we respond to remarkable encounters, especially ones that take you by surprise.

We need an outlet to process what we experience – a chat with friends? Writing in a journal or meditation perhaps?

At times like this I wonder about the medical and funeral staff. I wonder about how they process what they are experiencing. They are under no illusion about who they are or what they’re role is.

I know undertakers who refer to their clothing as ‘the black armour’ and others who come home, make a cup of tea and have a good cry in the bath.

We all find our way. As you’d expect, I process through illustration.

And so begins my next project…..

Vamping up the Van

This is my wife’s work van. It’s a bit problematic with a dodgy battery, a sticky lock at the back door, a fan that only blows on the windscreen and not on your face, until it’s summer when it decides to blow a year’s worth of dust into your eyes.

It is also a fantastic blank canvas.
A big one too!

I’m dedicating the ‘van canvas’ to all the key workers who are working in difficult circumstances and allowing the rest of us to stay home and stay well.

This is the beginning of my thank you.
…and it’s incredible what’s already happened as a result.

I love the power of illustration. So much.

It all started with a heart for the National Health Service (NHS). The van is currently parked outside our house. Our 90 year old neighour who is cheekily good at flirting with me, came out to chat. He saw the heart with the NS [his own initials] and asked if it was for him. He wanted a photo together under it.


It ended as a rainbow thank you as is the vibe here right now. Rainbows fill front windows everywhere thanking the NHS and giving fun things for kids to spot when out walking. Several people walked past me and said, “OH I LIKE THAT!”

The key workers themselves started to appear. This side of the van facing the road, encouraged conversations with people walking past. Here we have the beginnings of a police officer, doctor, nurse, carer, funeral director and a firefighter.

vamping the van

As I coloured up the illustrations, more and more people stopped to talk to me.

A few cheeky comments like, you missed a bit! interspersed amongst the dominant –  a lot of positive words, That’s great.Keep up the good work! I love that! That’s so cool!!

Some folk came past several times to check my progress.

With my back facing the road, I heard a woman say, Oh wow, thank you. She sounded like a professional insider to me. I turned and said hello.

She pointed at the NHS heart and said, It means a lot. That hit me. It turned out that she’s a nurse on the COVID ward at our county hospital. She talked about the people they’d lost and told me that they receive a lot of verbal abuse.

Their administration have told them not to wear their uniforms in public.


She continued, It helps to know that people really do care.

Her comments winded me; the desperateness of the situation and the power of what a simple illustration can do.

As I got to the funeral director, I knew I wanted to model him on someone we know who is finding it hard at the moment.

Not being able to care for families with a hug, a warm touch of a hand on a shoulder or any other personal comfort, hits emotionally when they know how much of a difference it makes.

The picture brought tears to his eyes and he told me how much it helped. Remarkable things are happening.

As a result of my illustration, some people represented on the van have even made donations to Captain Tom’s 100th Birthday walk for the NHS.

THIS is the calibre of our key workers

Here, they all are so far….

They are by no means finished. I have a lot of van left to fill.

When the sun is shining again, I will continue with shop assistants, bus drivers, paramedics, cemetery/crematoria staff, priests, postal workers, physiotherapists in covid wards, hospital cleaners, bin collectors, delivery drivers and anyone else that comes to mind.

Please let me know of any other key workers you know of.

They all deserve our thanks.

Cath x

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