Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Lilly of the valley picked and photographed for my Mum who is self isolated and chipper in Liverpool. It is her birthday today and normally we collect this from the garden together. I am reminded every year by the heavenly scent that she is heaven sent! Lovely cracked delft charger and much worn lidless Sheffield plate teapot from Richard Scott Antiques in Holt. Richard too is self isolating, caring for his wife and the churchyard. I miss him and all his customers. I hope his little shop will reopen soon.


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

Hancock on the Stump yesterday and against the odds was able to declare not just his “audacious goal” of 100,000 tests successfully met but a fairly astonishing 122,347. Before long that was dissected by the Hacks, finding firstly that the total claimed includes ‘thousands’ of postal test kits sent out on the day, but not actual tests, then from a London Care Home news that they’re waiting 9 days for results - hardly much use in a rolling scenario and, then of course, the absurdity of daunting round trips to get tested. One 80-miler was quoted directly at Boris the previous day, who said he’d look into it...

Good news from Guy’s: they’ve started trials of treatment using plasma derived from blood donations of survivors who’ve built some immunity - it’s hoped it will boost recovery of those currently affected and there’s no shortage of either donors or willing recipients.

And as a glimpse of ‘business as usual’ demonstrating the capacity of the NHS, he announced fertility treatment is to be resumed.


Saw my first Swallows while collecting a sack of wheat for the birds. My farming neighbour says they’re a bit late this year, have chosen the usual spots and, as usual too, continue to ignore sites he thinks would suit them better. We used to have some here, but our ‘improvements’ over the years have, sadly, deterred them. Their chosen spots are no longer available and others you’d think as good or better are ignored. These can’t be the same birds, there is something evidently special about chosen sites obvious only to Swallows.


Fell to a spell of relaxed nostalgia last evening, John Martyn’s “May you never”, Nick Drake “Time has told me”, while cooking, a search for the first, fabulously camp series of Versailles, that sort of thing. 

I remember “In my life” by the Beatles first time round... I’d started work and had bought Rubber Soul as soon as it was released. Got home and stuck it on the old Dansette up in my bedroom, and played it to death. Next day the woman next door came in my Mum’s little shop and said something like “Your Chris has got the new Beatles then” and Mum apologised if it had been intrusive. “No” said the woman (Mrs Headey - it was always Mrs this and Mrs that in those days, no Christian names) “me and the kids loved it”. All from easier, less threatening, less anxious times.


So, we’re 6 weeks into the declared 12 weeks of restrictions for our own good. Half way, is that all?  27,000 dead and counting. Nothing can compensate those suffering now, and the last thing I want in my ramblings is to appear complacent from our rural ‘bubble of affluence and advantage’. It’s just where I write from and about the things that surround me.

The Rev Richard Coles, Soppy Old Thing that he usually is, was reflecting on a life lost - his sister in law - and, cleverer than me found 5 eloquent minutes or so. It was at 8.40 or thereabouts on R4’s ‘Today’. You could probably find it via the BBC Sounds app. It was a very measured listen, worth looking for.

Good news for our Esteemed Editor who, you may remember was unable or maybe unwilling to take part in the overnight Mayday garden rituals this year: another chance for frolicking with Peter today - World Naked Gardening Day. 

We were out earlier, in contravention of strict social distancing - but absolutely no touching - with our neighbours, prior to dispersing to our gardens. I can only show the scene prior to the revel. Or should that be reveal?


Florist in lockdown

Jane, Near Manchester, England

We went to the posh butchers again, then to the grocers. I bought some purple asparagus grown in Norfolk, I’ve never seen it before. We are now stocked up with provisions for another week. Local walks are particularly beautiful right now, the bluebells are spectacular and the woods are turning a lush green. Is it more breathtaking than last year, or is it just that we have more time to pay attention and notice??

I’ve rediscovered a book on my bookshelf by Diane Morgan called “The Charmed Garden” Sacred and Enchanting Plants for the Magically Inclined Herbalist. There is a chapter on the best time to plant seeds. ‘In traditional magic, most things should be sown or planted during the waxing moon. This is the time of growth.’ And ‘ Old magical tradition declares that one should be naked while sowing and planting. Presumably, this is to put oneself in a suitable state of nature; others suggest that nakedness is a form of supplication to the gods. A somewhat more cynical interpretation of the ancient injunction is that if it’s too cold to go outside naked, it’s too cold to sow or plant anything.’ How fabulous is that!? After consulting Google I discovered that the moon was waxing, so set to planting cosmos and phlox seeds. I kept my clothes on! I recall watching a gardening show once that interviewed a chap in Cornwall who NEVER watered his plants, he always planted according to the phases of the moon, it completely facilitated me. At one time we would have instinctively known all this, long ago when, like the aborigines, we were deeply connected to our land. I wonder if that sort of thing can be taught or is it intuitive? 


Things I have learned in lockdown so far:


  •  I’ll never be a domestic goddess, I’m too creative, which creates mess!

  •  Nothing is more important than health and peace of mind. Nothing. Except maybe laughter.

  •  My neighbours are all lovely people, some I didn’t know before lockdown.

  •  My daughter is even more awesome than I realised.

  •  Time really does fly.

  •  Like Monet, I must have flowers, always and always.

  •  I need a potting shed as I have trashed my kitchen.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk in a different blue bell wood down the road and very near to Auntie Bridget (doggy day care) so we went and said hello in the track. Earnie was very pleased to see her.

Then we delivered some vegetables to Roger the gardener who has not been out of his gate since mid February.

He said he had put on half a stone and I said I have lost half a stone! He's desperate to get out and about doing his jobs and I am desperate for him to come back and tidy me up and fix things.

We miss him.


Everything is blooming in the country side and there are swathes of bluebells or swathes of yellow rapefields all around. We are so lucky to be here.


Still planting things out. Half the time I am just standing, staring and scratching my head. Where will it all go? 


So the government did reach its testing limit after a fashion. A lot of home testing kits were sent out but with no results back in yet. There is a collective amnesia over the previous herd immunity, just like flu comments being discussed on the radio. The scientists not in the employ of the government are still saying, listen to us. Test trace isolate. Everybody needs testing, tracing and isolating and regularly. The death numbers are shocking. England is among the worst. 


Domestic violence is increasing. There is serious concern for the vulnerable children out of school and not being educated. 5% take up of the group who could go to school. When will the children go back and the how will they maintain social distancing? How will the world unlock? Will people want to go back into the outside world? Will they feel safe? Will they want to give up their afternoon walks with their kids, dogs and other halves?

In the safety of my kitchen I am looking at a beautiful bunch of flowers on the table and an empty box of booja booja chocolates that my sister sent me. Made a banana cake that seems to be the fashion now though mine is paleo.


Anyway, back to the garden, more planting and the grass needs cutting again.

Love Annabel xxx


All Day Exercise

David AP Thomas, North Yorkshire

A side effect of coronovirus. I was busy at the studio and Anna was doing the weekly shop. Or was supposed to be doing the shop, but I got a phonecall. The battery in the car was flat. It's obvious really, using the car once a week for a short journey is bound to knacker the battery. So it was a case of ask a neighbour, who is not well, for a jump start, phone the breakdown or charge the battery. The lovely neighbour did have a charger. 


It was just then that I realised the last time I took a battery out was when we had a rather raggedy VW that, despite it's age & foibles, was easy to work on. With our current car I was suddenly presented with a battery covered in a plastic box, with wire, connectors and fuses all over it. I'm not a natural mechanic although I can usually have a go, but I was baffled and slightly panicked. So, I did what I usually do when panicked and stated randomly unscrewing nuts & pulling out connectors, meanwhile collecting many tools of varying appropriateness from the cellar. All this time I attempted to keep an appearance of expert calm. My problem was, you see, that I live on a street where proficiency in the arts appropriate to gender are valued, so, I knew, or at least feared, that I was being overlooked with a critical eye. And it started raining, a cold wet miserable rain, but I hoped that it would add something to my performance of stoic male competence.


Eventually I fled indoors and took refuge in Dr Google, and (thanks You-Tube) the clouds of unknowing fled leaving me a much wiser and happier man.

But don't tell the neighbours.


Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA



I dream in distant spaces

where all is dark

enclosed by the woods

landscaped by nocturnal life

that rustles from sleep as I

tumble into timelessness.


Out there, in here,

(the boundary is blurred)

I fly between the trees,

navigate by the stars,

dance the surface of the lake

weaving my way between merry ghosts

my touch lighter than a pond strider

unaware of the daylight viral load

that weighs in-between the words

tying my sanity like steel rails

to wooden sleepers, waiting

for the thundering express

of anxiety to pass over me.


In the softness of the pillow

my head rests, another day done.

Having walked nowhere beyond 

the end of the road I am exhausted

and vanish thankful into sleep,

floating under the moon

free from threats of infection

and the anticipation of grief.


Isolating (seriously)

Jean, Melbourne Australia

Here's a new thing! My very first purchase outside of groceries and a couple books since mid March was a beautiful pair of bread proving baskets just delivered yesterday. I had never even heard the word - bannetons - but low and behold this is what they are called. As a relative new comer to sourdough bread making, I am sure they are going to be a big help! I was ALSO sure I didn't need any more 'things' but getting a package delivered was terrific and lifted my spirits quite a bit. I am surprised just what a pleasure it was! Partly I think because of the novelty - the post! a parcel! - and then because the baskets are quite lovely, slightly irregular, and Shaker like with their simplicity of form. Now can't wait to try them out!


Choose Something Like a Star

Kate, Hitchin

Sunny, warm, delicious life springing up everywhere. Yesterday I came by an article about the plague village in the Peak district - oh what they went through. I hope this virus doesn't have any parallels - we wont know yet. There was a horrific tale of a lady in the village who lost her husband and six children, within eight days... she had to bury them herself.


Reading stories like these just makes me marvel at the resilience of some people under such terrific pressure... and of course continue to feel very lucky and grateful.


I've been continuing my long nature walks, occasionally meeting Lizzie, and walking apart of course... the other day we saw herons, rabbits, red kites and a shrew that almost tan over our feet! I'm still painting every day. Mostly trees and skies - hopefully they will be finding new homes as time goes by ! For me work probably won't start back until September, but I can honestly say I also feel lucky to be getting universal credit and know that we in the privileged West don't fall off a cliff in troubled times.


Bumpy landing on the south coast

Catherine, Sussex, UK

I was surprised to find, in the woods which are full of sturdy, upright non-native bluebells, and a little tucked-away a patch of what I think are our very own little ones. I'm no nationalist, but it warmed my heart to see them hanging on in there. And it has to be said that they are prettier, too: smaller, more delicate and with a more profound blue to their flowers.


Yesterday, after nearly two days of not getting out (I was engrossed in some writing and unwilling to tear myself away), I took myself off for a late-evening stroll around my as yet unexplored neighbouring streets. Initially, I was shocked, as two lots of people in my street had rather overindulged, one group, front-lawn-based, providing a certain amount of shouting and blue language and the other a blast of thunderous drumbeats.

Still, once I left them behind: what a joy! I meandered along a very lovely street, looking into the windows and thinking about the people who lived there. I encountered only a couple of people, respectful of distance, and - three foxes! One was glimpsed darkly, slinking into the park, but the other two were this year's youngsters, not yet quite street-savvy, sitting in the middle of the empty road waiting for their foraging mum (or other caring relative - they are communally-minded) to return with food. Both presented the same profile: sitting neatly, with pointed muzzles pointing identically down the road (at rightangles to where I stood) whence their anticipated meal would come. On my way back they were still there, still waiting and still wary, but not yet frightened, of me. Such a privilege. I wish them well.


A note to Nicky: one of my first memories of that school is of standing in the phone booth begging my mother to be allowed to come home - permanently, that is. But in the end I came out alive. My final memory is of being driven out of the gates, deliriously happy, and thinking: 'The world's my oyster!'. Exact words. Actually, I suspect oysters are an acquired taste - which is rather how life turned out. But we're still hanging on .

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