From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
I took a most interesting deviation for my exercise today. A large part of it consisted of a walk down Ryde Pier. This is usually a bustling place, because as many will know it is one of the main entry and exit points for the Island. In the last few days a picture of the pier has appeared on Facebook, taken from one of several webcams scattered around the place. In that picture it looks completely barren - a very strange sight. There are no people visible, nor cars, none of our underground trains, and no sign of habitation at all. So, I just had to go there, and it is well within my foot exercise range.
Well, I wan't to be disappointed. The pier is a very weird place now. With no catamarans running there are no Wightlink staff, no cars in the car parks, nothing! It's almost the only place I've visited during this time of plague that looks as if humanity had departed entirely and perhaps forever. There is a sense of dereliction about it and it's very obvious now just how tatty the pier has been allowed to become over many years. That made me feel rather sad. An odd phenomenon I have noticed elsewhere is that the sea is quite unusually clear for this part of the world. I could see down to the bottom at the pier head near where the catamarans usually berth. Through the water I could see really large shoals of fish feeding around the supporting piles. If my fish recognition is correct, they were mostly grey mullet, but there may have been other species present as well. I have never seen the sea as it is in the Solent at present. It's as if the clarity that we have if our now relatively unpolluted air has a maritime equivalent. What has caused this I cannot imagine. Maybe it is the lack of shipping, which has become notably sparse. I don't know and I wonder if anyone is studying the phenomenon. Perhaps a reader of this may know.
It really was an interesting (and invigorating) walk...
Hello From the Hudson Valley
Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York
I went to Stop n Shop grocery store this morning. I hate going there now that the virus has been running rampant through this area in which I live. But we needed some things like milk, and orange juice and bread and lettuce. I get very anxious as I pull into the car park and mentally plot my route through the store so that I might be efficient and only spend a short while there. So I won’t have to expose myself to the virus which I imagine wafts up and down all the aisles. We are required to wear masks in public. I put mine on as well as a pair of surgical gloves. I can’t wear my glasses with my mask on because the lenses fog up. And I can’t touch my face to fix the fog for fear that my gloves might have the virus on them. I leave my glasses in the car. I keep my mobile in my pocket so I won’t touch it while I am in the store. I hold my credit card in my hand instead of carrying it in my pocket so I won’t have to rummage in my jacket pocket for it with a possibly infected glove at the end of my Stop n Shop mad dash grocery store shop. I read so many of your plague journal entries about obtaining your lovely fresh food from farm shops and I am jealous. Stop N Shop is as far from a farm shop as one can get. It resembles some sort of computer generated dimly lit airplane hanger.
When I was exiting Stop n Shop, I overheard two snippets of conversation. Just by the door, two young women were looking through a trolley holding the food they had just bought. One was saying to the other “I dont know what I am going to do. I can’t afford to buy a lot of food.” Then I passed two women who were greeting each other with masks on. I overheard one say to the other “yes… I know.. when we go back in on Mondays more people have always died.”
Im sorry for this depressing journal entry. It is raining and I am having a bad day. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and warm. Maybe that will help.
Isolating in Great Chishill
Angela Mary Patrick, Cambs
The pond looks like green pea soup, no fish to be seen, and disappointingly all the precious little tadpoles seem to have disappeared.
Big clean up of the filter, pump turned off,
all done, turn it all back on, nothing!
All electrics dismantled and put back still no joy. Pump then taken apart and thoroughly cleaned all the way through, still no joy.
Crawl under the bushes and inspect the fuse box, some lights are on, middle light off.
See little yellow button it gets pressed and Hey Presto the pump starts working to our absolute amazement.
The pond however is still green!
Discovered that the UV light needs checking
Managed to undo all the fiddly screws take out the bulb, spend a few days on the internet trying to buy a new bulb no luck.
BUT, yesterday spoke to a nice young man at local Dobbies, (only taking calls, not open )
yes, he has the bulb and yes, he will deliver and yes, he will fit the bulb!!
Welcome visitor arrives this afternoon and within a flash he has changed the bulb.
This bulb reduces green water, so is vital for well being of the pond. A ‘bomb’ was also added to the filter box to speed up the process.
Bill paid by PayPal, no charge for labour, amazing!!!
Looking forward to observing the pond life soon, that is if it’s still there.
Our usual handyman lives in Norwich and can’t travel due to the shutdown.
Paul Lowden, Malaysia
“Help me!” I think the season cried; Stevie
Smith later claimed it was a wave to her.
How odd this turning point and upsurging
Growth should promote such a call for some care.
Had it been French I would have suspected
A Gallic joke, a little pun “n’est ce pas”?
Where are your village dances now? Maypoles,
Rings of singing bells, bric a brac [Aha!]
Splat the rat, wobbly tent, those cakes-again-
Barrelled beer aplenty and the vicar’s
Smile. Are they all gone like the pensioner
Clipping the green? Will grandchildren be seen
Popcorned haired trailing home down country lanes?
Will it, shall it, ever be the same?
Thoughts from the Suffolk coast
Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold
I saw old friends out walking yesterday. I hadn’t seen them in years. We stood across the road and told our ‘lockdown stories’. They said they were beginning to feel stir-crazy and I said ‘me too’ and we laughed. But even laughing seems strange when it is at a distance - more like a performance and a little self-conscious.
My friends in Portugal tell me that they have had no where near the number of deaths that we have had in the UK and say life there feels safer. They say they'd be scared to be at home. And in Spain, I understand that the police have been much more strict. I hear they do not allow people to go out walking in the way we do and if people go shopping, they must have receipts to prove they have been and made only essential excursions.
Yet - when I walk outdoors or go shopping for milk or other provisions - it feels like a pared down version of the world I knew before lockdown. It feels sunnier and more peaceful - yes - and there’s less traffic (although that is changing and there is an increase in cars on the road). But generally things look the same. Closed like a Sunday but the same.
My friend in Scotland went out and wore a face mask - in accordance with the new rulings. He said he felt self conscious because he was the only person in the supermarket wearing one. Will England follow suit? Boris apparently made some announcement about face masks and that he was thinking about their benefits.
In France they say every day love puts on a new face.
L’amour de tous les jours met sur un nouveau visage.
David Horovitch, Twickenham
It's sometime in June or July 1957 and I'm swimming in a river somewhere in Bedfordshire. I'm 11 years old and I've come on a camping weekend from my boarding school. It's very hot, early evening, the shadows of the branches overhead tremble on the moving river. I am aware of being happy in the cool water; so happy that I want to distill the happiness so that it can be recalled at will in gloomier moments to remind me that happiness is possible. It must have worked mustn't it, because I'm remembering it now. A little while later, I've changed out of my trunks and I'm sitting under a tree waiting for the coach to take us back to school. When it arrives I try to stand up but I fall back against the tree; my teeth are chattering and I'm shaking with fever. Two members of the staff are leaning over me. One of them scoops me up and carries me to the bus and I hear the other one say - 'I wonder if it's that Asian flu.'
I don't think it was ever diagnosed as such but it must have been. No great fuss was made; I was in bed for a week or two and so, I think were quite a few of us, I do remember that I wasn't the only one. I'm astonished to read in The Guardian that it claimed 30,000 lives in the UK. There was no lockdown, no isolation, no sense of a national emergency that I remember - indeed our charming prime minister with that melancholy moustache was telling us that we'd never had it so good. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. There were no good old days. In 1665 the Plague claimed a quarter of the population of London.
I've decided to film the sonnets on my iPhone. I did three of them yesterday. It's becoming an obsession. I'd like to find a way of doing them which is conversational without being prosaic. As I've learned them I'm free to look straight into the camera or wherever I like. The first sequence is addressed to Mr W.H., probably William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke, so I'd like to make it seem as if I'm really talking to him, not reciting a poem, although it's important that I don't do it like prose - actually it's the same problem as speaking the verse in the plays. (They're showing a Much Ado About Nothing I did at The RSC on BBC Iplayer. at the moment). It's intriguing but also, I suppose, about as narcissistic as you can get.
A friend texted yesterday -' Today I feel as though time has actually stopped altogether.'
Clean, sort, tidy
Lily, Camberwell, London
I feel well again. I have my usual energy back, can concentrate and think of and do more than one thing at once. So, it’s back to the routine. (Well we never stopped but it was more of a struggle, a drag and any activity required 5 minutes of nothing to recover.) And actually we start today by running very late this morning.
It begins with me sitting at the kitchen table. I usually write this in the afternoon as I have to give the boys attention while they do school. But for the first 30 minutes of the school day the eldest is researching the history of the river Thames on his own while the youngest does yoga with the i-pad in the other room. So I get this far but then realise I can’t work out what I am writing about. And then the children require my assistance and attention so I have no thinking time to see the theme that occupies me.
And maybe that’s it. Now that I am back to not sitting still for longer than five minutes before another task takes me, my space to think and reflect is gone. The slowness demanded by the illness made me more single minded. It was easier to reflect and notice. I’m back to flitting about. I can’t ponder long enough on anything to see its meaning or theme.
After managing to get 90 minutes of good work out of the boys we had lunch around the table. When it was warm the eldest and I would sit on the sunny steps in the garden with our sandwiches while the youngest would restlessly position himself inside in the shade, on the green and red spotty picnic blanket that makes your eyes go weird. He does not like the sun, or heat. Quite rightly, he is a very fair curly headed blonde and is already developing more freckles on his face than is just appealing. But this is not an issue today. It is damp from heavy rain yesterday and light rain today so we curl around our table with our individual regular lunchtime choices. My sister calls on Facetime as we finish up the last bites. My niece, now 1, sees us eat and stares, then uses baby sign language to say “eating”.
In the afternoon I return to finish the sorting of my office that I had started just before I got ill. I open up the cellar door, using the curve of a hammer to lever it up, pull up and swing out the paint spattered step ladder and use it to reach the rest of the dark dusty cobweb covered old note books, sketch books, saved birthday cards and diaries from the top two shelves. They go into plastic boxes and are deposited into the cellar. I have a romantic idea that all that is stashed and dumped in the cellar will be an interesting archive, for someone. I have scrap books from my granny and great aunt that beautifully catalogue their social lives of the 1920-30’s. And I love to search through the left over papers of family, looking for some ripple and hint of their daily lives.
Sheila, Norfolk UK
My knees hurt - like really hurt!
I’ve been on the static exercise bike but it’s just made things worse. I tried to go out on my lovely sedate bike (with low step-over and fixed shopping basket) a few days ago but simply couldn’t push off and get my feet in place to turn the pedals. Talking with my sister I recalled how we loved our bikes when we were youngsters growing up in North London. I was able to ride really fast with total abandon - and to master ‘no-hands’ was a complete joy. We even had a little song we sang when we were out together on our bikes.
We take these kind of things so much for granted and it’s only now that I’ve lost the ability that I am reflecting on how good it felt to ride a bike in the open air. To push off, get both feet in place, balance and then project oneself forwards is a fantastic skill and so good for the body and spirit.
I am in line for a knee replacement, but doubt very much that it will get done this year with the coronavirus outbreak fundamentally changing all our lives and expectations. I feel sure that the lengthy waiting lists will be impacted even further when systems are rightfully put in place to protect the medical staff from any risk of infection from this deadly virulent virus. However, whenever my surgery does finally get done, I know I will appreciate the simple pleasure of walking or cycling far more than ever before.
Roll on the day.