I never thought my first ever blog post would be when my Business is on-hold!

The Natural Business Network (NBN) was created and born just before the full intensity of the COVID-19 virus hit us, with two meetings that went ahead on Thursday the 19th of March 2020, at the White Hart Hotel in Andover. The very next day, at around 6 pm UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all pubs, clubs and restaurants must close.

My first thought was thank goodness the White Hart followed the exact protocol in serving our coffee and breakfasts at the NBN meetings the day before, with freshly served and washed tablecloths, china delivered to our widely spaced out attendees with plenty of handwashing by staff in-between serving every single coffee, and every single delicious breakfast. The food hygiene rating of 5 was comfort also. None of my total of six attendees (A great turnout for the first-ever NBN meetings!) has succumbed to any illness to date.

Closure of nightclubs, theatres, gyms, leisure centres, betting shops, casinos, spas, galleries museums all followed. One by one public event’s have been cancelled and I find myself asking what will my mum do if there is no Wimbledon this year? Whatever will all the football fans do?

Loss of that the opportunity for attending public gatherings is hitting us all hard. The atmosphere, the camaraderie took away. I love a bit of live music and the liveliness of a business event. Simple dinner parties or quizzes can not currently be enjoyed. One big sadness is having to wait for a friend’s daughter’s wedding whilst it is moved from April to November. Still, it will be even more special when we get there and they enjoyed a private afternoon tea for just the two of them for their un-wedding day. I suspect we may have to celebrate twice a year for some time!

Earlier in March, I had attended the 2020 launch event of the Test Valley Business Awards held in a charming barn in Kimbrige Barn in Romsey. The drive there was beautiful with the sun shining and the countryside looking fresh. A remember a slight trepidation at having to follow the guidance at that time of no handshaking allowed.

I arrived to experience people laughing, touching elbows, and shoes with shoes – it looked like some kind of Irish jig was being employed! Rather a surreal feel as usually with those that do, cheek kissing and hugs are the norms. Many of us attending have known each other for a lot of years, been through the ups and downs of business life together. How surreal it was to keep a small distance, as it was at that moment, apart.

With new people being introduced to me the excitement of these events was strangely frustrating, and odd without the warmth of human touch with the usual handshake. I quite like a fist bump, as touch is still involved.

I had not realised what a tactile soul I am, given permission. And that sense of unease about what was to come was fully justified.

At that point, these usually noisy and exuberant events involve a lot of getting up close to hear what the person with you is saying. This was still going on. And there was still a fairly safe feel to it – not any more.

A month on and things have worsened and changed drastically.

It is now the norm to be 2 metres apart. Scary to visit the supermarket, and work is non-existent or overwhelming for everyone. We are in the unrelenting grip of COVID-19. Friends and family are falling prey to this frightening and inconvenient force of nature. Distress and worry are all around.

However, the vast majority of human beings have really stepped up to this challenge. I have seen only help and kindness on offer. The few who are oblivious to what is required from them are few and far between. With amazement, I have watched our government, NHS and all kinds of organizations do the very best they can in these rare and unpredictable circumstances.

The local community in my home town of Andover have shown themselves to be brave, kind, resourceful and basically brilliant.

In response to the very odd situation of not working I am reaching out with learning to Zoom, keeping in contact with as many people as I can, including my much-loved friends from Goodworth Clatford Amateur Dramatic Society who I am a volunteer make-up artist for their entertaining and successful fundraising yearly productions, who have been patiently indulging me, by letting me play with Zoom Meetings for them. A group of wisely mature souls in many cases, they were a relief and a delight for me to see.

I have like many, been finding the technical challenges of Zoom and Microsoft Teams hard but satisfying. One good to come out of this is an unexpected pleasure in seeing friends and old business contacts face to face online. It has been very reassuring and fun to catch up, share concerns and mull over and action positive and practical solutions to this weird and alien world that we are currently experiencing.

Positive thought – rumour has it the world CO2 emissions have dropped so much with this societal disruption that the fresher air will result in us living 5 years longer! Let’s hope we can learn from this and keep that particular ball rolling the right way.

So with the aim of trying to bring us together, to have an opportunity for some interaction, share useful ideas, thoughts, and information, I am converting my NBN meetings over to Online one’s and hope to support those of you that join in.

The first one is at 7.30 am and the second at 10 am on Thursday, the 16th of April 2020.

Please Register via Eventbrite. Links below.

All are welcome. And I promise not to cheek kiss or hug the screen!

Best wishes and keep safe.

Susan Risdale




Never realised how much I loved you Mr Handshake. Can’t wait to have you back!