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Care in the time of Corona

Shirin Jacob, Ålesund, Norway

Life here is slowly going back to normal although there were ten new cases confirmed. They were all well enough to stay home. Some of my acquaintances have started to steel themselves for the next wave of illness and have started to stock up on essentials. 


My husband went diving with a childhood friend over the weekend. Another couple joined us. I commented to a Norwegian girlfriend the next day that it was interesting that all the strangers on the boat were genial and happy enough to reply to my questions about which island they came from but showed a total lack of interest in any information about us. It’s a common occurrence in town as well. I’m just dying for someone to ask where I come from. A launchpad to a conversation! I miss conversations. My friend explained that it was a fear of offending me in case I was a second generation Norwegian and took offence. I finally understood. 


In Singapore, I’ve often been asked by taxi drivers my country of origin. It did occasionally irritate me given I’m a third generation Singaporean. In the last ten years there has been a gradual resentment against the huge influx of mainland Chinese, Indians and other nationalities flooding Singapore and perceived to be taking their jobs and raising property prices. Discrimination is everywhere if you look hard enough. North Indians against South Indians, HongKongers and mainlanders, north Italians versus the southern. I used to be bullied in primary school because I was Indian and made to serve some of the Chinese girls during recess. As an adult I got used to being thoroughly interrogated at Immigration and then pulled out of the line in Australian customs to have your bag searched whilst your European husband strolls through Customs and Immigration. Yearly and repeatedly as I used to go there for medical conferences. One develops a shell and I’m always on guard with people till I feel I’m in a safe place with safe people. I have been very privileged not to ever experience what is happening in America now. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to be black or Hispanic and grow up in an atmosphere of fear. 

It’s difficult to understand if you haven’t walked in their shoes.


Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA

Bye darling ma


Sitting with a small sheet of polished

hardboard chamfered by father

on knees covered by a tartan rug,

worn slippers on a foot stool,

a piece of once-upon time carpet

exposing the worn grain.  A scarf

around her neck—draughts—

a dressing gown over a Shetland 

cardigan, stove pipe heater alongside,

attempting to warm hands, chapped skin,

reddened knuckles clasping a fountain pen,

writing her diary, a life sequenced

in spidery numerals written on

white paper stuck on red covers.


Dog walks, bluebell woods, code for

migraines—length and endurance.

Christ, Shakespeare, Chaucer,

Bach, Weedon and George. Her voice

across years: Darling, don’t forget

Maria Callas and Bach; grandchildren;

manipulation by quack Doc Quinlin;

regrets for a Greece never visited;

words from a rejected suitor:

“My Darling Rosebud forgive me,

I only reached out to steady you.”

A memento of her acerbic, partial eye:

“he didn’t look at us, our son,

standing at the altar wearing

an unfamiliar suit.”

Revelation: finger-written 

on a grubby railway carriage

window: love is all.”

Then there was the Church.

May all the saints preserve us.


But enough of dead perspective.

Slamming down the lid 

of a bin I say goodbye

to the diaries of a somebody

and watch the recycling truck

haul away her intimate pages

written in blue black Quink ink,

releasing her from me.


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

What a delight it was yesterday afternoon.  For the first time in many weeks best beloved and I were able to sit near one another in her garden.  It was so good to relax with her, see her face, and also enjoy the antics of a mother blackbird and two very demanding fledglings.  It might seem like a small unimportant event, but for us it was a big and happily taken step.


Getting political, I applaud Kier Starmer’s statement about the PMs culpability in the event of a resurgence of the plague.  The government seem utterly incapable of playing this disaster in any way that is not driven by personal ambition and petty politics.  What a shambles they are and what a shambles they have created in which all of us must live!  Enough said on this from me!


The arrival of a sprinkling of rain this morning must be good for our wildlife, as it indeed is good for me.  I think that every so often the world needs a freshen up and this very small amount of rain, so far, has achieved that.


Now for a sorry tale - perhaps a parable:  Last week I ordered a new laptop to replace my old Dell that is at least 12 years old and probably more.  The UK company from whom I ordered this bespoke monster were really impressive in the way they gave deadlines, stuck to them, and above all communicated with me.  Anyway, it was shipped a week ago with a well known courier for delivery last Friday.  On the nominated day I went on the courier’s website and everything seemed to be going swimmingly.  A message told me the package was at their depot about 5 miles from here.  Later that day they would allocate a delivery slot.  Anyway about 1 o’clock the message changed to say that ‘as requested’ my delivery had been changed to Tuesday the 2nd of June.  I was somewhat flabbergasted because I certainly hadn’t made any such request.  I tried phoning and, guess what, that was impossible.  I then found a live chat facility on the website, so I had a go at that and eventually ended up with a ‘person’ on the other end.  I voiced my annoyance to him over the change in delivery and he cited ‘operational difficulties’ at the depot, offering a reschedule to Monday the 1st.  Well, there wasn’t much I could do other than accept this arrangement.  So come Monday a message appeared for me promising delivery that day.  That message remained until 5 o’clock when, surprise surprise, it changed to ‘as requested’ , etc., changing the delivery once more to the Tuesday.  Now Tuesday was no good for me, so this time I did request a change to today.  Sure enough this morning the promising message has appeared and I await further developments with interest!  I really think that companies like this courier would benefit in every way if they would just come clean about the fact they are having problems, but no, they promise and fail.  What good is that to anyone I wonder!


No squirrels today.  I think they now know I am an official observer and are keeping out of sight!


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

HOME THOUGHTS today are all with Sheila and Margaret! You are both such stabilising forces in our lives. Please recover soon and be kind to your husbands!


Yesterday, we moved our centre of habitation from my study known as the winter sitting room (because it is on the north side of the house and has a wood burner),to my husband’s study known as the summer sitting room (because it is on the south side of the house and has a french window). Funnily though, the move has been a bit Alice in Wonderland. In my room there were red roses and in my husband’s there are white roses - gifts left in the porch by lovely neighbours.


Back in my room I have been... you guessed it... putting things away!  In one drawer I came across this article from the FT in 2013 about statistician Edward Tufte and was about to file it with my copy of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1977) which was written by him, when my eye caught the statement highlighted below his portrait... how very apt for our times... maybe I should have sent it to Number 10!



Thin air

John Mole, St Albans



If your cap still fits

then why not wear it -


Now is the time

to dress in private


so make a beginning.

Surprise yourself.


Let this be a journey

of exploration


back through your life

from top to bottom


with no one to judge you

on your taste.


Not going out

is good for the wardrobe


and gives it an airing

behind closed doors.

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