Florist in lockdown
Jane, Near Manchester, England
“A riot is the language of the unheard” Martin Luther King. The police killing of black man George Floyd in Minneapolis has sent shock waves around the world, resulting in thousands of people taking to the streets in cities across the globe in protests. A white police officer restrained Mr Floyd by pressing his knee on his neck as he lay face down on the road, FOR SEVERAL MINUTES causing him to fight for breath. I am appalled at Donald Trump’s tweet that followed. The anger, frustration and pain of the protesters is palpable, some protests turned violent and now Trump is threatening military action. I have just read that Trump posed for photographs, bible in hand, outside St. John’s church next to the White House, saying “We have the best country in the world.” religious figures are outraged. Where is his human empathy? He is ill qualified to speak in a language that might heal wounds. I would love to hear a privileged white male leader in power speak with genuine compassion, heartfelt words and say “We are sorry, we were wrong, we hear you, we want to do what’s right, we will change, and we can all heal together.”
Yesterday saw a range of new lockdown rules introduced. We can now hold a gathering of up to six people outside, as long as you continue to follow the two metre social distancing guidelines. And we did. We had a picnic on the common opposite our house, with friends and family. The weather was Mediterranean, the laughter was loud, it felt good. It is apparently illegal to “participate in a gathering indoors consisting of two or more persons.” And “No person may, without reasonable excuse, stay overnight at any place other than the place where they are living” Stand by for a whole load of cringe worthy excuses from MPs when they are caught flouting these rules!!!
IKEA is open. Why would you? People queued in scorching sun to buy Swedish home wares. Visitors have flocked to beaches, despite cafes and bars still being closed. There is much talk of a ‘second spike’ of the virus. June is birthday month for me and Grace, we could have several small gatherings instead of one big one, as long as the weather holds out. Keep well everyone xxxxxx
From South Oxford
A Note on Grass
Oxford, June. Two manifestations of this time: on the nicely ragged field behind Marlborough Road called Dean's Ham, someone has mowed, or possibly run, two spiral mazes - Troy Towns - into the grass. In ChristChruch meadows the normally billiard-table lawn under the willows has been left to grow into a crop of hay. This is wholly disquieting: abandoned castles, ends of eras, grass on the ruins of Troy.
Hello from Eastbourne
Private by Franklin Lewis Macrae
It is highly unlikely that we will go back to school until September. The year groups that are going back are only going back for a day a week. When we do return, the social distancing measures are extreme. Our classes may be reduced to 15 people per class. I am so lonely and fed up and bored and I know I also being difficult. My mum asked me to describe my dream day out when quarantine is over. In my opinion, going to Wales, climbing a mountain and potholing with my best friend would be awesome. My school were planning on taking us on a camping activity week with really fun things like rock climbing, canoeing, hiking and things like that but it was cancelled. I am extremely disappointed about this. However, my parents have promised that as soon as we are allowed, we will go camping in Alfriston and climb up the Downs at nighttime with our head torches. We did this last year. We had to run through a field of horses and over the public footpaths, over fences to get off the track and into the hill. We were on private property but it was vast, not like a garden. Miles and miles of Downland and noone around. It was light enough at the start of the adventure but dark on the way back with only moonlight to guide us and we only had one torch. It was amazing to be off the footpaths. This year we will have head torches, my mum and dad bought us all one each at Christmas. We saw old ruins, wildflowers, goats, sheep, dewponds, all sorts of things that you can't see from the footpath. The goats looked surprised to see us! It was mum's idea last year to do this. I can't wait to do it again.
An Oxford day out
Today is Willow's birthday! Willow is my doll and she is two today. I made her a necklace and I drew her a card and we will be having strawberry tarts later.
Mummy has asked us to tell her our dream day out after lockdown. I would like to go to Oxford to see my granny and pappa. My granny would show me another fair isle pattern to knit and I could knit some more dolls'clothes. When in Oxford, we always go to the Natural History Museum. We don't have one here in Eastbourne so it's always a treat to go to it. There is a gigantic room with dinosaur skeletons, stuffed animals, birds, intriguing shells from all over the world and a DNA model. Above the main hall there is a second floor with glass cases filled with butterflies and dead insects. There are butterflies with ultramarine and emerald wings and shiny beetles. In a smaller side room there is a bee hive inside glass and every nook and cranny is stuffed with live bees. There are stools to stand on to watch them. Franklin claims that he saw the queen bee but I never have but I do know that the Queen Bee has a red dot on her back. You can touch some of the stuffed animals, there is a fox, a brown bear and some snake skin.
The other part of the museum is the Pitt Rivers. In here there are totem poles, Egyptian mummies, coffins, jewellery, Roman skeletons, African masks and other fascinating things. There are also magic statues. If you stare at the magic statues and you are a kind and good person, their eyes will glow and they will raise their arms to you. If you don't believe in magic, they won't do it though. There is a heavy gold and silver helmet encrusted with jewels and a matching necklace for a baby! The Egyptian Princess is very interesting. When she died, they took her insides out, mummified her, then put her in a coffin with her treasures. Her coffin is wonderfully decorated. My favourite Egyptian is Cleopatra. My favourite thing in Pitt Rivers is the magic statues and then the DNA model, I have been fascinated by that since I was three. After the Pitt Rivers, we would go to the Vaults for lunch and then I would like to climb St Mary's Tower. Then I'd like to go into the Covered Market as they have a wonderful sweet shop in there. I don't know when we will be allowed to go back.
Paul Lowden, Malaysia
Le Banal: The Unremarkable
The unremarkable are the majority
Dull to some expecting constant
Drama tabloid-style life
To erupt daily from the sheets
Of their street; grey, bland,
Inoffensive, the sort of folk
One remarks “I never knew he was there”
Or “Was she the one wearing that dress?”
“What was his name again?”
“They kept to themselves.” A crime in itself.
The same people who pull injured
From wrecks, confront terrorists,
Work frontline for the NHS,
Plunge into surf, raging waves,
Pluck kids from burning attics
And then disappear when the lenses
Arrive, happy not to be front page.
No chiselled jawline, revealing décolleté,
Artfully air-brushed locks, immaculate dentistry
Just, well, ordinary; facial spots, sweat stained shirt
Apologetic looks of disbelief above M&S suit.
Like the tree outside in school uniform green,
Branches knobbly, a standard 36”, leaves flat
Unpolished, serviceable, trunk perhaps a 40”
Leaving room for growth, about as dull
As a tree can be…when suddenly
Overnight an epiphany. Hidden pods
Disguised as scabby encrustations
Explode into incandescent vermillion
Bejewelling the limbs with rubies
And with an infinite elegance of design
That only mathematical Nature could devise
It opens into a pentagram, seeds ready to disperse.
Then they’re gone. Today as you pass them by
Nothing to possibly imply that beneath the surfaces
Of the unremarkable lie those resurrection forces.
Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham
I have never seen a sundog. They are more common in winter in the northern hemisphere. The term ‘Sundog’ popped into my head the other day for no reason but it reminded me of how I first heard of it when I was looking into weather conditions and clouds. I was doing some research for paintings.
‘A sun dog (or sundog) or mock sun, formally called a parhelion (plural parhelia) in meteorology, is an atmospheric optical phenomenon that consists of a bright spot to one or both sides of the Sun.’
Why a dog? Because the bright spot (now there’s a good name for a dog) next to the sun is like a faithful dog that sticks close to its owner.
The sun has been faithfully appearing day after day, and staying around all day. It has helped my mood. The strength of the sun reminded me of the time I had sunstroke when I was 10 years old and living in Kuala Lumpur (1959). I was, and I still am, very fair skinned. I was sent to lie down in a darkened room for a whole day. I felt very sick with a pounding headache. A mouse visited me for a while, scampering around the perimeters of the room.
I probably got the sunstroke after playing with my sister for several hours by the Gombak River, a tributary of the Klang River which runs through the city. My mother must have forgotten to call us indoors. The banks of the river were sandy and of a colour similar to burnt sienna. Several years earlier when we were living further south near Chaah during the Emergency I had a dream. It went like this: our car carrying the family stalls while it is crossing a shallow point in a jungle river. Suddenly out of nowhere a huge crocodile hurtles towards us. Quickly I scramble onto the car’s roof, brandishing a large kitchen knife and fight the creature making it retreat and therefore saving everyone! End of dream.
I have wondered if I would be brave in a desperate situation such as an attack or a mugging. I wonder, if I were younger now, whether I would put myself in the firing line of a pandemic in the way the front line workers have done and are still doing? I remember feeling quite scared going into the Co-op a few weeks ago before they had set up protective plastic sheeting at the till and marked out areas on the floor to make sure people did keep their distance. These alterations to the way we live our lives are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
While younger people are enjoying more freedom I am still thinking of the dangers. I have become more fearful because time is much more precious now I am older. However, being in lockdown it is as if time has stopped. The time between March and now is like a strange dream.
I have also wondered how brave I would be if I caught the virus. Having had a very serious chest infection almost 23 years ago and experiencing the weeks and months of coughing and weakness I can feel the fear again. Maybe a little bit of fear is good as it makes one careful.
How has this time of lockdown changed my life? Some of the changes are : I am washing my hands more often and more thoroughly. My shopping habits have become more organised and designed to avoid popping out for the forgotten item or two. With the garden centres closed I have even learnt to take cuttings and I am successfully growing new plants. New life is reassuring in times of Covid.
James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
An abstinent palette
light easing through the window
transluscent curtains virginal
between once washed sheets
i wake into damp stillness
to a portrait of GMH hanging
in a sprung black frame
on the whitewashed wall.
pottering in bare feet
down rickety wooden stairs
to the stone cold kitchen floor,
i view the pile of washing-up
decorating the sink, roll a cig
and scratch my beard.
i am living the life of an aesthete,
no relationships or TV,
an undiscovered literary force
buried in the country,
a minimalist in miserable obscurity.
in place of the careless debauchery
of a single rutting life i fill my days
with the rat-a-tat-tat of typewriter keys
churning out raging pages of “marlena,”
a first-person shocker: 50,000 words
of grim grammar and clueless construction.
lost in the wilderness of language,
grasping at grains of sand, i pursue
the narrative arc, meandering
towards the horizon
and the end.
after that death
i buy a pair of shorts
and leave for Africa.
with thanks to pw
From the Editor
I have been trying to contact all contributors to let you know that Sheila has slipped a disc, and at present is unable to deal with putting your contributions online, and designing the pages. I have neither the skill, knowledge nor the machinery to make this happen. So for the moment, the journal is paused. We hope that it will be possible for Sheila to slowly catch up on the backlog, and get each day’s pieces online, albeit a couple of days late. Maybe more.
Please keep your pieces coming in each day: DON’T stop writing. I will save the pieces and all will be published .
READERS- do keep checking back to see if we are back online.
It takes Sheila several hours each day to produce the journal online, and I’m sure I’m speaking for all of you in saying how grateful we are to her for her devoted and skilful work over these last ten/ eleven weeks. Sheila, we wish you to be free of pain as soon as possible! We can’t manage without you!!
Sheila and I were supposed to be holding a garden meeting this morning to discuss the future of the journal, once its promised twelve weeks has run. We both realise that recording coming out of lockdown is as important as lockdown itself, also that many of you have said how you will miss it and each other. We would, too ! So , we are hoping to extend it, though it might change from a daily basis to something a little less regular, to accommodate the demands of life returning to something more normal (!?!)
We will let you know soon what our thoughts are, and ask for your responses.
Meanwhile, please keep sending in your daily or two daily or weekly contributions, so that we can save them for publication soon. At least that way I get to read what you are all doing ...the rest of you will have to wait a day or two! ( MUCH more interesting than the Archers, which has completely lost the plot.)
Meanwhile keep well, keep safe, keep gardening, keep cooking, keep having opinions, keep being angry or funny, keep writing.
PS From Sheila:
Today's (Yesterday's) journal is without your lovely pictures (mostly) but I will add all the pictures you sent as and when I can. It takes a while to integrate pictures but love them adding interest to the pages, so please don't stop including them if you wish. I will catch up as the pain allows me. Thanks for your forbearance (nice word).