March 2020 was the start of an incredibly difficult time for many people.  The pandemic confined people to their homes as the disease spread around the world. Many were infected, and some did not survive.  The nurses, doctors and medical professionals were working round the clock, providing care and compassion.  The tourism industry collapsed, the culture sector ground to a halt, and for tour guides there was no work at all.

We all changed our routines, spent more time locally, and found activities to occupy ourselves.  For Julie and Debbie, that meant continuing to read about Florence Nightingale.  And with the increase in the use of conferencing technology, Julie was able to offer online talks on Florence Nightingale’s London.

After four months, the rules eased, and the summer looked promising.  The Rule of Six was brought in.  Julie and Debbie ventured forth, using public transport for the first time since March.  They walked the route, and checked each stop – to see whether there was enough space for social distancing.  They took tape measures and board game characters, to represent potential customers.  Each location was scrutinised, to see whether a group of six people (one guide and five customers) could safely stand two metres apart from each other.

Tape Measures at the ready

It soon became obvious that the walk had to be revised, since people walking between stops would also need to be two metres apart, and this would inevitably mean it would take longer.  So, Julie and Debbie decided that the walk should stop at the statue of Florence Nightingale in Waterloo Place, rather than at the museum.  In guiding terms, it is always sensible to make an impact at the end of a walk, preferably with a strong visual subject.  The larger than life sized statue of the Lady with the Lamp certainly fits the bill.

Statue of Florence Nightingale, Waterloo Place

The Florence Nightingale Museum re-opened on 1st August 2020, with reduced opening hours, restricted numbers and enhanced cleaning measures.  Florence Nightingale was very keen on fresh air and ventilation, hand washing and hygiene.  Her message had never been more relevant.

And the guided walks resumed.  The groups were small – no more than five people – but most of them were fully booked.  It was such a wonderful feeling to be out and about again, talking about Florence Nightingale, interacting with new people, earning some income, and enjoying the sights of London.

But the pandemic was not over, and it appeared inevitable there would be another lockdown.  It looked like it would be a very long winter.  However, over the intervening months, a question had been forming in Debbie’s brain.  With all the research that Julie and Debbie had done on Florence Nightingale’s London, would there be enough material to write a book?  Debbie and Julie discussed the idea over a working lunch in a City restaurant, and then arranged a conference call with the museum.  Everyone agreed, it was certainly worthwhile trying.

So Julie and Debbie started writing.

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