James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
John Mole, St Albans
A SECOND LOOK
Memory lies folded
in the bottom drawer
that time has told you
to forget to close.
must be your resolution
to return tomorrow
for a second look.
So take it now,
lay out your past before you
by an open heart.
Amongst all that is grim. Head down I was writing at my desk. I looked up, grabbed my phone, and disturbing the sleeping dogs, snatched a picture before the sun rose a fraction higher.
Thoughts from the Suffolk coast
Harris G, Suffolk
The weekend has come and gone again. The weather has been fine.
We really need rain. Really, really. The garden already has a tiredness about it - like late summer. I bought some yellow cosmos this year. Too pale and frail for this garden. Have lots of the usual cosmos too but where to plant it now the ground is baked so dry?
I’ve developed lockdown paunch. Too many homemade goodies. Had forgotten how good rhubarb crumble is - oh but remember now. And bread pudding. And ginger oat biscuits. Comfort eating? Perhaps. Overeating? Definitely.
Friends and relations I speak with are wary about the relaxation of lockdown. They don’t trust the official advisers or their advice anymore. Have all the figures been massaged? Will we ever know the truth? The fear, of course, is another wave of infections. A spike.
On the milk run, I see families out and about, getting on with their lives. Lots of kids on bikes. Youngsters in groups on skateboards near the supermarket. Carrying on regardless. Unconcerned. Hopefully their immune systems are strong.
See the royal couple are in the news. Going to sue over inaccuracies in the press. I’m not sure who advises them. A lower profile might be healthier. Stay away from the spotlight. Remain distant. Socially distant. Regally distant like the Queen.
Need to finish the decorating. Like the new colour in the spare room very much. Deep dark green. Cool and rich. Shows up the other rooms. Should I tackle another room? Need to finish this one and clear some stuff. Too many books now. But no charity shops open to give to them.
Might make caraway seed cake today or pistachio shortbread. Where’s my resolve?
Simon Davies, Bristol
Mary is right: we are having a good plague. That might seem an insensitive observation set against the deaths, illness, debt and inconvenience that others are suffering but it can’t be altogether wrong to be aware of one’s own good fortune. Part of this good fortune is having an eight square metre flat roof to which we return twice a day. Earlier it had daffodils and tulips, now it has various shrubs that include thyme, rosemary and a small but kitchen sufficient bay tree.
After lunch we take our coffee up there leaving books, newspapers and screens downstairs. We move the chairs into the shade of the chimney stack with its twenty four pots. The view stretches over southern Bristol to the hills of the countryside beyond. Nearer by are the university Wills Building, the Cabot Tower and a particularly unprepossessing 1960s office block. When you sit down the office block disappears behind the parapet but unfortunately so does the rest of the view.
After our walk, a cup of tea and a quarter of an hour’s television bringing us the news of less than fresh disasters, we return to the roof with a board game (Ticket to Ride, short version) for me to repeat my wins. On weekends (you must have some discipline) we take up a glass of cold white wine and a box of cheese straws. The dependably warm summer evenings and the Mediterranean blue sky make us feel as though we are in Greece. As the sky goes a deeper blue and the moon becomes brighter, we are serenaded by a full throated black bird a few feet away: nightly she sings on yon television aerial.
Hilary Q, North Norfolk
I SO love this journal and increasingly so as conversations start to happen.
Is it true that we only have 12 more days?
If it is, I equate it to the countdown of Elon Musk’s fabulous rocket except that we will all be blasting off in different directions - to our own space stations - that is, after all, what our homes are becoming - self sufficient pods and laboratories, increasingly personalised, with carefully managed docking! The teething problems are being overcome and many of us are settling into more consciously efficient and creative regimes which we will continue to evaluate and fine tune. We have jettisoned a lot about our lives that we might not otherwise have given ourselves permission to let go... and this all feels good, invigorating and positive.
But the chaos is still out there. Not just the pandemic but every other injustice which constantly flares up and which no age appears able to resolve.
Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari remains on my bookshelf.
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
There are terrible scenes coming from America where violence has erupted across the whole country.
It is the 6th night of protests following the death of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a white policeman who kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes until he died though he was pleading that he couldn't breathe. He has been arrested for murder but the other three policeman who stood by and watched have been sacked but not charged with murder. Decades if not century's of racism has bubbled up and there are riots in 75 cities, burning, looting, anger, sadness and misery. Trump has been moved to a bunker but he said there were vicious dogs if they breached his boundary. George Floyd's family are calling for justice and peace and for people to channel their anger else where.
Apart from everything else social distancing isn't happening in these crowds, riots and demonstrations.
On top of this major unrest 100,000 people have died from Covid 19 and 40 million people are unemployed and Trump is their president.
Here some people have gone back to school today and shielded people have been told they can go out. I don't know what is different today from last week or last month. Still 8000 new infections every day! They don't know where it is or who has it or has had it. The beaches were heaving yesterday and Bournemouth was packed like sardines. There is bound to be a spike in a couple of weeks. This virus is opportunistic and likes a crowd.
It is the sunniest spring since records began, over 600 hours of sunshine this May. Everyone has gone bonkers not helped by the government. Everyone (apart from the people rushing to beaches) thinks the unlocking is too soon, erratic and unconsidered. Fires have been caused by people having barbecues. The land is tinder dry and hasn't rained for weeks.
The artist Christo who wrapped up buildings and landscapes has died aged 84. The queen aged 94 has been seen riding her lovely fell pony Balmoral Fern around Windsor. She is wearing her headscarf, he has lovely hairy ankles.
Grayson on the telly tonight.
Love Annabel xxx
Bumpy landing on the south coast
Catherine, Sussex, UK
Before we all piled in together here I imagined life would consist of wall-to-wall Scrabble, whether I liked it or not (I do, as it happens). At the last count we have between us upwards of 60 board games and the like. As J1 was growing up, being just the two of us we often played; despite having not a competitive bone in my body I still never tried too hard to lose, feeling that this was one way of teaching her about life and the unpredictability of justice. So I was slightly disappointed to find out that there were, after all, to be no constant games. In fact, there have been very few. This is partly because, despite being fiercely competitive it turns out that J2 isn’t really a fan, and J1 is too blooming tired, working four days a week and being heavily pregnant. Plus one can have too much of Mum.
Still, yesterday it was my turn to provide the weekly communal dinner (it has become a slightly moveable feast in order to suit J2’s new shifts). Cheese and lentil loaf, salad and hot buttery potatoes (Linda McCartney again, in case you’re interested), followed by crême caramel (Sainsbury’s, ditto). The original idea of these dinners was to follow up with a post-prandial game, although that mostly hasn’t happened, but last night J1 proposed a round of ‘Careers’. I have had this actual game since I was knee-high and so it’s a bit tatty, but all the more loved for it. It was one of my mother’s favourites (she was a huge fan of games, and as she brought me up alone we, too, played quite a bit). Last night’s order of winning wasn’t the usual one, which changed the dynamics, but in quite a sweet way, and no one got cross.
I wonder how many other folk, confined to home, have dusted off their old games? Or perhaps there has been a surge in online purchases? Some of the newer ones are rather good. I have one each of ‘Carcassonne’ and ‘Siedler von Catan’, which are a job to learn but all the more absorbing for it. I never win them, because they require a level of forethought with which I can’t be bothered. Which is why I loathe chess. I loathe ‘Monopoly’ too - but that’s because on the rare occasions that my mother and I were joined by my father (odd high days and holidays, or when he needed a London crash pad) he cheated incessantly. Just like in real life.
This morning the post landed with a heavier ‘plop’ than usual, and I was pleased to find this was caused by the arrival of one of the books I had ordered (this one so long ago that when it was mentioned on the confirmation note for a further order I promptly emailed back to say it wasn’t my order and please don’t charge me for it; then I remembered, and had to send a second email saying oops, please ignore first). It is William Morris’s ‘News from Nowhere’ As it is in my quarantine corner for three days I haven’t yet opened it, which is a bit tantalising, but pleasure deferred, and so on…
I, too, have been mourning in advance the wrapping up of this journal. I wondered whether something similar could continue in the form of a communal email - thingy (not sure how it works, but I get them from academic groups, in which discussion has continued despite no meetings for the foreseeable.) Just a thought, and it would save our heroic Margaret and Sheila all that work, while they could still enjoy the taking part.
On the subject of distress, J1 and her 20-odd colleagues have in their work as (currently deskbound) physiotherapists been receiving a rising number of calls from patients who are becoming suicidal. The physios are not trained at all in this area, and J1 was finding it hard going; I drew on my own past work memories and suggested they call on the Samaritans to give them a bit of training. Email and telephone call to them were reportedly unanswered: I guess they are up to their ears - further sign of the times. So J1 then drew on professional colleagues within the NHS, all psychologists, who have been super-helpful despite possibly also being run off their feet. Yesterday she put the finishing touches to an initial presentation on how to deal with these calls she has created on her own initiative (though with approval), based on the psychologists’ replies, which she planned to show and distribute at this morning’s weekly meeting. She asked me to check it for glitches: there were none, and it was really impressive. Further to their replies, there is the offer by the psychologists of actual training of some sort.
Under my window, the grass is having its three-weekly trim. The scent of new-cut grass is heavenly, but I feel sad that the lovely daisies, in their prime, will go. ‘Normality’ is returning…
From the South Downs
We glimpsed our children this weekend by meeting our son and his girlfriend at a half-way point on Friday, where we ate a socially distanced picnic. It was quite idyllic as we hadn’t seen him since the first week of February. It was wonderful to see young families walking along the river, picnicking and swimming and swinging from the ropes tied to willow trees. People were firmly in their family groups, and I had no sense of risks being taken, and yet to hear young children chatting, laughing and people laying out picnics and talking seemed a blessing. The attached picture should give a clue to the location as well as recording our times, and the weird juxtaposition of those who were enticed by notions of heroism to give up their lives and the way that is happening now. They are and were heroic and should be appreciated, but the use of the word by authorities is so often manipulative. Governments don’t need to pay for safe helmets that cover the neck if you are a war hero or provide enough PPE if you are a hero of the NHS. The term ‘heroism’ is too often a salve for government neglect of human need.
On Sunday morning early, we met our daughter in a small London park for another socially distanced picnic. It was so lovely to see her. She has just a few weeks more of her MA at the RCA and has to paint for her final show in the small back garden of her shared house and go to seminars on Zoom. She gave me these lovely sweet williams that filled three vases (see photo).
This contact with my children has made such a difference. I’ve been getting on better with writing and activities. I can’t help being glad the rules have been loosened a bit, though I know it is worrying and probably wrong. If people can be asked to go back to work though, they can surely see their families in a responsible way.
That’s the personal side – lucky me – I am so grateful for my life. The news is grim from America and from here. Why don’t we go forward?