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Bumpy landing on the south coast

Catherine, Sussex

Sheila’s unfortunate news got me thinking.  About the sudden shock of dislocation, be it disc - or entire person.  The incapacitating sword-thrust of physical injury, or the bang on the door in the middle of the night, impatient shouts and the revving of truck engines outside, a scuffle and then silence, after the sound of the engines have faded into the distance.


Entire swathes of people have been throughout history, and continue to be, swept aside, expelled from their homes, to become prisoners, stateless displaced persons or simply rootless and damaged.  It will probably never stop.  I first became acutely aware of the reality of this when I researched my own maternal family: my mother had not been able to speak of it.  My godmother, my mother’s best friend, wrote in 1951 of WWII:  ‘During the night of 13 June [1941] I looked out of the window and saw people being driven past in lorries.  It was devastating.’


Several members of my family were taken away to forced labour camps, in the far back of beyond, in unimaginable conditions.  Some died, some survived, forever changed.


Men of fighting age were more useful to the invaders, and kept.  The Soviets and Nazis between them carved them up: depending on the men’s date of birth, they were taken by one side and put to fighting the other as military fronts advanced and retreated.  Obey or be shot. My mother’s brother was taken by the Soviets to ‘training’ in the Soviet Union, and died fighting his ‘Nazi’ countrymen back on his own soil.  A cousin found himself in a Soviet pow camp, where he just managed to survive.  Others had to fight on, some farther afield, in other countries, with luck returning home once the war ended.  Some did, some did not.  .


Some also formed the resistance and lived and fought for years, hiding in the countryside.


Despite honeyed promises by both invading forces of ‘liberation’ from occupation by the other, many citizens saw what was coming and escaped while they could, mostly by sea, before the beaches were mined.  In 1944, my godmother ended up, via Finland, in Sweden.  She wrote later: ‘I’ve heard nothing of H*****.  There have been a few escapes from ******* by boat, and one mysterious escape, but nothing more.’  But even physical escape did not mean an end to psychological trauma.  She spoke of regrets surrounding her departure.  ‘I think I ought to have gone into the countryside and taken Mother with me, even if it had been against her will.  I feel I’m a selfish coward!  I left ******* before certain things were clear.  I wasn’t sure of my political views, which half a year later had matured.  But by then it was too late, and now I have nightmares.’  


Anyone could find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, be it within one’s own country or from another.  In the safety of Sweden, she expressed doubts as to the safety of contacting anyone back home.   ’It might prove unfavourable to them.  I have a feeling that they knocked on my mother’s door already, as E**** [her brother-in-law] was punished already in the first year of occupation; he was driven into the countryside as a worker’s exploiter, and during the Germans’ time  he found two Russian armed prisoners who had escaped from ******: he had to turn them in.  I was an interpreter once when the Germans were in our village helping harvest the wheat.  That alone is enough to get one imprisoned.  All sorts of memories come to mind.’


Earlier, after WWI, my infant mother and still-young mother, father and brother had been trapped in a ravaged Russia by the war and Revolution.  They finally got out, but the price was that my grandmother never saw her Russian mother again.  History almost repeated itself when WWII marooned my mother in England.  It took decades of heartbreaking appeals, impotent on one side and unheeded on the other, to get my grandmother, now old and useless to the State, out to join her.

My mother, meanwhile, as well as pushing for the release of her own mother, was sent from England to post-war Germany to work as an interpreter in the Displaced Persons camps, and later on ships taking some to a new life in Canada.  Already on her third country, she was tempted to join them, but didn’t.


Dislocation. Things being, agonisingly, where they shouldn’t.



Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA

step by step


i started with this:

young as geldings running, 

high as kites flying,

bodies perfect as day born,

senses sharp beyond boundaries,

shelters built of ferns

in forests with no trees


i then added this:

the rotting end of a gate post

porting from your potting shed

into the green of the garden

quite evidently a figure —

carved arms stiff to the side,

feet cloven, face of grace



even after a day i miss

the journal entries,

imagination lit by 

the words of strangers 

locked down, locked in, 

interior worlds escaping

onto electronic pages,

invisible beings resisting

the virus with characters

huge by comparison


so I returned to:

journeys in the minivan

the excitement of tunnels,

bridges, distant houses,

wiltshire sketch books,

public reveals, exhibitions,

the mounting evidence 

that meaning is reveled

in rough hewed marble


finally reaching:

yessongs, a dean album cover,

a compulsive awakening of narrative,

“write it down,” you said.

so I did. and I am still doing

across a lifetime’s friendship, 

as pages arrive once more

from across the ocean,

and memories as poignant

as tomorrow’s unseen

are released through my fingertips


Florist in lockdown

Jane, Near Manchester, England

I’m surprised my head’s not banging. I drank a full bottle of Shiraz last night. I watched too many news reports yesterday, I had to numb my senses. Coronavirus has been eclipsed by Black Lives Matter. The world is protesting. Huge crowds gather in cities across the globe to march in solidarity. The army are outside the White House. There is to be a march in Manchester later this week, Grace says some of her friends are going, but she won’t go if I don’t want her to. I am apprehensive, all social distancing advice seems to get abandoned in these situations. The global pandemic forgotten. One of her friends, who house shares with three others, has been told by his house mates that he has to self isolate somewhere else if he decides to go.


My landline rang yesterday, I knew who it was before I picked up. Only her and people chasing payments for household bills use it! Maureen, long time family friend, she’s 84 and isolating at home with her grandson. She’s extremely glamorous, never underdressed. If she was in the public eye she would be a national treasure! Usually always busy with a packed social calendar, she’s coping well with lockdown restrictions. She speaks to me in monologues peppered with the catch phrase “You’d have laughed at me!”. She’s been dancing all her life and still teaches tap dancing. She tells me she’s got ‘that spotyfier’ now and has been in the garden sashaying to Glen Miller. “You’d have laughed at me”. She made me smile with her infectious optimism.


We’ve decided to treat our selves to a takeaway curry tonight. All good wishes to Sheila, I hope she feels much better soon. Keep well everyone xxxxx


Thoughts from the Top of the Hill

Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire

I'm so glad to see the journal again, its temporary absence made me realise how much I enjoy reading and contributing to it. Thank you so much to Margaret and especially to Sheila, I hope you are making a full recovery. It would be lovely if you could continue for a while!


Well, with the change in weather has come a change in news. We are as preoccupied with events across the Atlantic as with events at home and I am quite exhausted from staying up half the night watching CNN. Trump's latest howler is to claim that he has done more for black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln. Very glad to see that military chiefs past and present are speaking out about the lack of "mature leadership" - that's something. However, we're outraged to realise that the UK has been supplying the tear gas and rubber bullets being turned on protesters. 


Yet another reason for us to take a long hard look at our country's role in the world. I was reminded yesterday, while creating a home education project about China for our grandchildren, that the reason the UK is involved in current events in Hong Kong is because our forbears sold illegal drugs into China, causing the Opium Wars, which ended with six Chinese ports being handed over to the British, including Hong Kong.


The pantomine in the House of Commons continues apace, as the government ordered all MPs back to Westminster to vote through a measure to prevent distance voting. The images of lines of MPs standing in Disney-style queues reaching out of the building and crowding onto escalators were bizarre and provoked much protest. Now we have a situation of a cabinet minister being taken ill at the dispatch box, having been in a meeting with the PM and Chancellor for forty-five minutes the day before. He was tested for the virus and sent home to self-isolate. Government sources are hoping it was just a severe attack of hay fever.


On a positive note, this is a heaven sent opportunity for the Health Minister to prove that test results do come back within twenty-four hours, that the test and trace measures really are working and that all contacts of the Minister (if his test is positive) will indeed self-isolate for fourteen days, however difficult this may be for them. Also, as the Prime Minister has definitely already had the virus, we will all be able to see whether having had it gives you any immunity. Hooray!


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Yesterday’s online poetry task was to write a riddle ... a task at which I rather turned up my nose but, it being a cloudy and breezy day (both features appropriate, I thought, to the style of such ditties) I settled down and once started rather enjoyed it. I submitted the following four and will supply the answers tomorrow!



I am a number

Though sometimes not


I am a story

And count for a lot


Often I’m twisted

And used to plot


Some people say 

I don’t  matter a jot


What am I?



Sweet and nice am I

As good as apple pie


Not bound to one day

Often given away


Not always deserved

But usually preserved


I don’t last for ever

But am usually quite clever


You can’t always hold me

Or see me or hear me


But I am a treasure

Designed to give pleasure


What am I?



They say 

Ready when you are!


I am one of many

I have been used and abused

Cancelled and swapped


Eons ago I travelled to many places

But I never saw faces

I used always be warm

But now I am cold

I was often a mess

But now I confess

I am neat and 

smell like

A hospital.


What am I?



Sometimes I will go far

Sometimes stay quite still

Sometimes I am very dull

Sometimes tho

Quite colourful

Sometimes I shine -

I’m always on line


What am I?



John Underwood, Norfolk

Much binding (not in the Marsh)


My father had several songs that he used to sing, or rather, first lines of songs that he used to bring out at opportune moments. He might be tying bean poles and out would come “ There’s much binding in the Marsh dum- de- dum..” or in a quavery “ ancient” voice “ There’s an Old Mill by the Stream, Nelly Dean”. We had a rather smart phonogram, probably worth a mint today, which , as a child I was not allowed to engage with in any way. There was a Flanders and Swann LP which was a favourite with my sister and I , ( this, you will have to understand was very much pre- Beatles. Read Larkin for a date reference) and on it was a song with the refrain “ Have some Madeira m’dear”. Unfortunately, probably due to enthusiastic movement near the phonograph (it was an exciting record) the LP became scratched , so that “ Have some Madeira m’dear” became “ Have some Madeira m’dear Madeira m’dear Madeira m’dear Madeira m’dearMadeira m’dear “ etc  which was of course side-achingly funny, and as it was a song that my father might warble whilst pouring wine, it became part of my own store of ear worms.


To cut to the chase, I have been rather lax in writing entries for the journal because of much binding. I have completed the five volume Blomefield’s Norfolk and have found someone to make the labels for me. I have started work on Evelyn’s “Silva” (bearing an Old Hall Library label) , and have saved the title label, boards and endpapers, and have secured the spine and am about to reattach the boards. Today I started on a 1701 two volumes of Dryden’s collected works ( whilst the Evelyn is drying) and in between that I made a box for a delightful little set of watercolour “ Costume change”  cards, circa 1840 ish . This consists of a pretty portrait miniature of an unknown woman, with twenty five hats, painted one to a card, which can be overlaid to give madam … twenty five different hats. My father might have launched into “ Where did you get that hat, where did you get that hat?” or some such. Hope they cheer you up!



Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Got very confused about what day it was as Desert Island Discs was on the radio this morning.


The very big news is there is a 43 year old suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine Megan though they do not have enough evidence and only circumstantial but they are treating it as murder. He is in a German prison for another crime. 

It was an awful thing when she was taken and the parents were under suspicion and have continued to be so in certain circles which was just mad. They must have been through hell and back. She would have been 17 now.


Massive mainly peaceful protests in USA, a bit of disruption in the evening. Incredible footage as it has just erupted there, so many people of all different colours and classes peacefully protesting. The other three policemen have now been charged and the policeman who killed George Floyd has had his charges adjusted to 2nd degree murder. A bit of backlash to Trump from the military.

General Mattis, ex defence secretary said he was angry and appalled by Trumps actions. Trump has said Mattis is an overrated general.

There have been several interviews on the radio and telly with highly articulate intelligent women.

 The Bishop from the church near The White House was one of them.


Boris is taking back control!


There was a ridiculous farce the other day when the MP's had to go back to the House of Commons to vote on stopping remote voting and voting in personand there was a 1 km queue for the MP's to vote. Business secretary Alok Sharma fell ill and has tested positive for CV19. Boris may have to go back into self isolation as he had a meeting with him..


Its very cold today, still no rain. Spending hours watering.

My friend Caroline brought the table around yesterday tea time. While I was talking to her I attached the hose to the leaky hose while the tap was running. The water spurted out and got Caroline right down the cleavage. Havn't laughed so much for ages.

Had a stream of visitors yesterday, three for coffee though they didn't have coffee but two of them had a fake cream tea (which I have refined a bit and they are really good) and then two for a bring your own lunch. The one good thing about being friendless is no washing up but it was really nice to see everybody though slightly odd as there is an air that if they eat your food you may kill them. Its quite difficult being friendly and unguarded when you think you might kill them or they might kill you.


I think The Archers has lost the plot as well. They've got it really wrong and out of step with the rest of us.


I got buzzed by a big helicopter on my walk the other day. I ducked!


Welcome back Sheila. You poor poor thing. xxx

Sorry I'm late again.

Love Annabel xxx

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