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Podcast - Pharmacists After Hours Ep.5: Crocheting rays of sunshine to brighten up a dark lockdown day

In the latest episode of a new podcast series, which explores the interesting hobbies pharmacists get up to in their spare time, pharmacy professor Parastou Donyai speaks to C+D about how knitting helped provide silver lining through the clouds of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you took a stroll down a sleepy Reading street during the first nationwide lockdown last year, you might have spotted small, crocheted rainbows appearing in windows.

Those little rainbows were the work of Parastou Donyai, professor of social and cognitive pharmacy at Reading University, who took up knitting at the age of ten. Since then, the classic pastime has become a creative outlet after she had children.

But knitting and crocheting took on a new importance for Professor Donyai following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I guess for my own wellbeing, to be getting on with something, having a purpose, and then just seeing the appreciation the children showed […] was really sweet,” she says in the podcast.

Professor Donyai estimates she made about a dozen rainbows of different sizes and shapes, depending on what neighbourhood children requested.

Seeing the rainbows displayed in neighbours’ windows was “so satisfying”, she said. “Certainly, when we had the opportunity to go out with the kids, we’d try and spot them in the windows and see how people had displayed them.”

When she found out that there had been two lockdown babies born in the area, she crocheted the infants little monogrammed boots.

“With gift giving, there’s kind of that satisfaction, isn’t there? It’s the recipient, but it’s also on my part, it’s the giving. So, I crocheted the babies’ names into the little booties and I gave those,” Professor Donyai comments.

Crocheted figures of Elsa from Disney's Frozen and England's football captain Harry Kane


Improving pharmacy students’ needlework


Professor Donyai’s knitting has also made it into her work as a pharmacy educator. She explains that her department uses a bin dressed like a large fish – called Franky the Fish – for disposing of unused medicines safely, to “have a discussion about pharmaceutical waste” with her students.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she got her students to crochet miniature Franky the Fish toys, with the idea being that “if we distribute these, then maybe people will remember to take their medicines back to the pharmacy.”

Once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, she hopes to set up a knitting club for students, following a successful lunchtime session she held with staff before the pandemic.

Listen to the full podcast below:


You can listen to the podcast above. Alternatively, follow C+D's podcasts by searching “Chemist+Druggist podcast” on your preferred app or on Soundcloud.

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