A year like no other: the Kettering memorial mason's busy year
Lockdown has affected Michael Maynard's business in different ways
The last 12 months have been difficult for Kettering memorial maker Michael Maynard, not only did his father become one of the Covid statistics, but he has seen business boom for a reason he did not foresee.
Michael Maynard, owner of Maynard and Sons Memorial Masons, was first aware of coronavirus when granite imports from China stopped arriving in the UK in January 2020 as the lockdown in that country took hold.
In February, new found suppliers in India had been sourced but then these too were hit as lockdown was imposed across the subcontinent.
Mr Maynard, 66, was left in the uncomfortable position of telling people their loved ones could not have the gravestone they had ordered as the world's ports closed during the pandemic.
He said: "We knew something serious was happening when exports from China stopped. There were a lot of phone calls but they said 'there's a pandemic'.
"It's hard to explain to a grieving family that they can't have what they want."
As lockdown started, Mr Maynard was running his business from home but as the year carried on plans to open business premises in Regent Street came to fruition.
Working alongside his son Julien, the pair have seen a doubling in their business.
He said: "We have been busy. People have put their lives on hold and as soon as the children went back to school, the customers have been calling us.
"We listen as they tell their stories through stifled tears. I have been a memorial mason for 40 years and have never witnessed such stories and the grief we feel for so many of our clients.
"The whole thing is horrendous. I remember the Prime Minister saying 'We're going to send this virus packing.'
"I spoke to one funeral director who told me they have been doing 15 funerals a day - they usually do eight to nine - and it's been three to four days in a row. That's incredible."
Michael's 93-year-old father Reg died in Southend and although he had both dementia and bowel cancer, he was also Covid-19 positive at the time of his death in a care home.
He said: "Making a headstone is an honour. It's the last thing someone can do for their loved one.
"I would like to provide a permanent memorial for the town, somewhere people can pay their respects to everyone who has lost during the pandemic - people who have died of Covid, those who have died of cancer because they couldn't get the treatment they needed.
"It's been grim over the past few months. I've heard many stories of people who have lost loved ones, stories of relatives of those loved ones in care homes who may only get a glimpse of a mum or dad.
"I want people to have somewhere to go to remember.
"Somewhere near the library in one of the public spaces and make it look nice for the people of the town. I'd be happy to do this.
"A year from now I think we will still be wearing facemasks and washing our hands to keep clean. In a year's time we have got to be wiser and learn from the mistakes of the last year."