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Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Hurrah! So lovely to check the Journal yesterday evening and find us all up to date!

A mammoth task! Goodness knows what painkillers you are on, Sheila!


The answers to yesterday’s riddles -


1. A statistic

2. A treat

3. A British Airways seat

4. A fisherman’s fly


This morning, a very strange occurrence... I drew back the curtains in the summer sitting room and lo, I thought it was pouring with rain!  No!  The whole pane of glass of one side of the french doors, from top to bottom, is crazed like a broken car windscreen! But only the outer glass of the double glazing! Outside there was no evidence of anything suspicious but there is a tiny hole from which the shattering spread more like the hole made by a pellet but because there was no debris, nor a dead bird, we are now keeping a look out for a bird with a bent beak!!!
Most odd!


Fabulously, Holt Glazing confirmed that a chap will be with us on Monday. 


Annabel, I think I know which Caroline you are referring to and I laughed heartily picturing you both! It was a pity that this happened on the coldest of recent days! Brrr!!!


For those living in Norfolk, check out Elsing Hall. It is opening it’s heavenly gardens until 16th June in aid of the Norfolk Churches Trust on a timed, socially distanced basis. We have booked. It will be our first formal outing since Lockdown began. So, what with the glazier, that’s two events marked on the otherwise snowy white pages of our diary!


Hello From the Hudson Valley

Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York

One day last week...



Thin air

John Mole, St Albans



How you wake

to yesterday’s dreaming,


how one day

dissolves in the next,


how companionship

keeps pace with caution,


how memory

waits for its chance,


how tomorrow

might be the question,


how silence

considers it best,


how you turn

to the absence behind you,


how the answer

is what lies ahead.



John Underwood, Norfolk

Who are you? Who who, are you?  

Ally and I are manuscript and book dealers. I taught Infants for thirty four years, and Ally worked in Social Services. I began my book selling career selling newspapers from the c17th to the mid 1800’s, and it was searching for newspapers that brought me to Peter, Margaret and Old Hall. Peter had some newspapers to sell me, but asked why I didn’t sell books. I said that I couldn’t afford them (still working as a teacher full time) and Peter suggested that I might be able to afford antiquarian books if I bound them, and pointed me towards Jane, at the time living in the Granary at Old Hall. This must have been in the late 1990’s. That was the beginning of the next twenty plus years of my life. Jane (a fellow journal contributor) taught me binding, Peter sold me wonderful books, and I started to sell at Book Fairs, eventually leaving teaching to become a full time bookseller and binder.

The reason for these brief biographical notes is to connect with fellow contributors before we all whirl away into our futures and lose touch - prompted slightly by Chris Gates’ picture on his fishing trip account yesterday. Sometimes the manuscripts that Ally and I find research and sell can be traced to an individual. There might be an ownership inscription, or a set of initials and a house name from which a name can be conjured. Very rarely there is a portrait in pen and ink or a sketch of the author on their travels on the Continent, maybe a photograph in later journals, or a name leading to an online photograph. It always makes the manuscript accounts come alive if there is an  image of the author. So, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours. This is me and Alison at Ludham bridge last week . I’d love to put a face to a name if you feel like posting an image. Quite understand if you don’t!



Vie de château

Marie-Christine, Blois, France

"Coqueterie": unexpected difficulties in Covid time. Women only. 


Difficult translation, surprisingly the Linguee says vanity, or affectation, it is not any of those. It is something extra you wear on your body, an indispensable pretty addition like an adjustment of tune for the way you want to look on that day adding prettiness, roughness, whatever... as an expression of the mood of the day and a self-defense. Couperin describes it beautifully in music in "les barricades mystérieuses".


Wearing a face mask makes lipstick, blush... even in nude style completely pointless - if any male reads this, nude style means looking bare face with make-up, not being naked as Rob thinks. My junior colleagues from Lebanon and Algeria told me to put an accent on hair-style and the eyes, they explain to me that is why loud eye make-up is so important for women in the Middle East. A newspaper article says it is also important to increase eye make-up to communicate more easily just with a more or less intensive look, if you are used to reassure people with your smile, now you have to do it with your eyes. I will have to learn the art of it, not being very talented for eyeliner up to now. For the hair, it will be more difficult for the older of us as it gets thinner, the need of a talented hair-dresser is more acute. 


When it comes to jewels, at work I am used not to wear bracelet, watch or rings, even if I found it very upsetting in the long run, something of dignity, femininity and pleasure gone, more acute with the horrible white coat and the blue surgical pyjamas which make carers look like Playmobile. I enjoyed wearing jewels on lazy days, I stopped because it's not easy to put gel or soap on 10 or + times a day for disinfection of hands without losing the jewels. When it comes to earrings, they get caught in the elastics of the masks. Luckily, washing hands all the time makes a natural french manucure very pretty. We are not allowed to paint our nails in hospital work.


About perfumes: wearing a mask reduces the acuteness of the sense of smell, nobody, not even oneself can really enjoy the perfume. If you put it on heavily you risk intoxicating everybody. The sales of perfumes must have gone down a lot, now Dior's factory in Orléans is producing hand disinfectant gel we use in Orléans's hospital. They give it for free. It is written Dior in small letters on the bottle but they forgot to put in it a drop of their wonderful Diorissimo, beautiful smell of lily of the valley, that I like so much to wear in May. Just the idea of it makes me smile when I use the gel.


Talking with dear Rob about my difficulties, he said he had his difficulties too. He has just been shopping and had his first coffee ice-cream of the year, and realised he was wearing a mask, he was very brave and took off his mask. 


A lot of little pleasures of life gone with the virus.


Tropical thoughts

Paul Lowden, Malaysia



Powerful art in this “pass-the-parcel” called Life

Ponders that it is all about what is not there. 

Layers of meaning, unwrapping a painting 

Back and front exposes the poor bare forked

Business of existence and mankind’s resistance

To the inevitable. The stern gaze

Of the central figure challenges the viewer

To look beyond the superficial, 

The apparently inconsequential dog, 

That cornered child, a significant curve of cloth, 

The Madonna’s foot, chiaroscuro interplay.

In tragedies protagonists wrestle with the truth,

Unravelling in front of us their sins, indecisions,

Omissions, fated to discover what we’ve known all along,

The unwrapping siren song of betrayal and desire.


Time passes, bringing we hope its own little reward

For each layer unwrapped, but the closer we get 

To the central gift the more hesitant we become.

We all want the game to go on. So we keep adding layers

Until what we were and what we are 

Are smothered in ephemera. A few, it’s true

Take life as a casting off not a putting on

And shine complete. Mostly though as cowards

We cower hoping for just one more layer or maybe two

To see us through. In difficult times hard to imagine 

The ‘stuff your pension’ line will ring true

But perhaps less is more and a peeling of layers,

A shedding of stuff, a re-setting the clock,

A reassessment of what one needs 

May lead to less fear of what happens 

When the music stops.


Cotswold Perspective

Rosemary, Rodborough Common

It has now become increasing clear that all of us have been badly let down by our Government. If lockdown had been just two weeks earlier thousands of deaths could have been avoided. I don’t want to dwell on this as the damage has been done, but I do want and need to hear good news, so this is a piece of heartening news that can be enjoyed by all.


The white stork - Ciconia ciconia has been extinct in Britain for over 600 years, but what happened and why did they disappear? The reasons for their non-residence here are not clear. It is, however, likely that a combination of habitat loss, over-hunting and targeted persecution may all have contributed to their decline. The last record of a breeding pair was on St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh during 1416. 

Storks are a Christian symbol representing holiness, vigilance, and the Annunciation. According to European folklore, the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. Although this is an ancient legend, it became highly popularised during the 19th century by Hans Christian Andersen through his fairy tale 'The Storks’.

Four years ago around 40 young birds were introduced to the Knepp estate in West Sussex. The estate, a former farm, had been 'rewilded' and turned over to nature. 

This Spring, two pairs of Storks have mated and are now raising three chicks each in two lofty oak trees on the estate. The parents are all young birds - white storks usually mature a little later, so a close eye is being kept on both nests. The project aims to restore this lost population of leggy waders to southern England. 


On the continent white storks build their huge, shaggy nests on rooftops, they enjoy being in close proximity to people. The hope is that if in the future white storks nest on our rooftops again, it will help connect people living in towns and cities to the wider countryside. I would be very happy to welcome them here to nest on my Cotswold rooftop.     

The new chicks hatched at the beginning of May, and are growing rapidly. They will fledge when they are about two months old which will be a very special day for all nature lovers up and down the country.



Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

It’s an ill wind an’ all that... at some point I would be writing (emailing) the Transport Minister - and there he was, doing the Briefing, more or less inviting me to do so.


We have a major road re-alignment and widening proposed here in our neck of Norfolk - David E  mentioned it re Archeologists - and the Community was ‘consulted’ (has to go in parenthesis as consultation suggests meaningful dialogue. It’s been a bit one way) about how it might affect us and how that might be mitigated. We were modest in our suggestions, which included the building of about 250m of pathway, a link which would complete a 6km off-road access, safe for cyclists and walkers. We could get to shops etc at either end. We have none here.

Anyway, the outfit that controls the road network, Highways England, has consistently refused to agree, and it has been my rather desperate fallback position that sometime I should appeal to the Transport Minister of the day not to ‘sign off’ the project until they do. If only we had a Minister interested in cycling...


And there he was, Grant Shapps, talking to me down the lens at the Briefing, telling me that we should take the 50 quid, get our bikes fixed, cycle to work because we all must rethink our attitude to transport, to accept that permanent change is required so in the long term we lower our carbon emissions and make England ‘greener’. 

He got an email last night.


Mary’s Projects Mostly

Mary Hildyard, Bristol

Last Sunday I joined an online zoom book club. I have never been part of a book club but I think this one is unusual in so many ways. We met at 9pm which might seem quite late in the evening but was actually chosen to accommodate me; the group has a very wide geographical spread covering several time zones. 


Included in the group are two of my sisters: Janet lives in Michigan; Karen lives in Florida. Those states are five hours behind the UK. Also part of the group is the wife of one of my nephews, Melissa; she lives in Seattle which is eight hours behind the UK. I was invited to join the group by the partner of another nephew, Kaberi; she lives in Hawaii, which is eleven hours behind the UK. The other six participants, live in or around the area of Los Angeles, also eight hours behind the UK. So, on screen, there were coffee cups lifted, tea cups in evidence and I was sipping wine.

I have never met Melissa or Kaberi. I have heard a  great deal about them both but have only seen them in photographs, so to meet them for the first time on screen was unusual. Talking with both was a delight.


All the participants were asked when introducing themselves to say a few words about how quarantine was affecting them personally. There was an overwhelming feeling amongst us all that life as we knew it was going to be difficult to put back together. One who joined us was a front-line nurse who had just returned from hospital duty. What was further unusual and felt so immediate were the references that some of the Californians made to being in or near the protests/riots. For instance, one had recently needed to evacuate from a store, others had close-hand accounts of activity very near their homes.  


It was a strange but very compelling zoom hour and I look forward to meeting again next Sunday. Oh, and the book we are reading is “Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafak.

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