From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight


It's been a funny old day and not what I was planning.  My original idea was to begin again with work on one of my cars that has a leaky fuel tank. I ended up pulling apart my dishwasher, which isn't washing properly. As I write I haven't gone out anywhere, but did some exercise using my old cross trainer.


Something I have been doing is researching the fabled government app and its origins. I remain very doubtful about it. Now I am definitely not a conspiracy theorist (I think I wrote this somewhere before), but my concern over the parties involved in the development of the app has been growing. Now, nobody may at this time have malicious intent - quite the contrary I'm sure - but there is clear potential for 'mission creep' as I see it. There is also the fact that the background of some the development participants seems a bit suspect, and I'm being careful over the words I write at this juncture. The dear reader may wish to look them up for themselves on the Internet or elsewhere.


On another topic, I looked out of my garden room window yesterday whilst I was talking to my best beloved on the phone. A large carrion crow suddenly landed in my 'meadow' - all 12 square metres of it. The crow then started behaving very oddly, seemingly bathing in the Wild Marjoram that grows there. Happily, my iPad was nearby and I was able to grab it and get a video of the crow's cavorting. It seemed to be almost in a trance, and I wondered whether it wasn't using the herb in much the same way cats use catnip. The mystery was finally solved when I had finished the video and simultaneous phone call (multitasking!). I went out into the garden and discovered a much disrupted ants' nest where the bird had been. This gave it away - the crow was 'anting', something I'd heard of in Jays, but didn't know about it in crows. I've since looked it up and it's definitely what this creature was doing. Wow! How wonderful nature is and what a delight it is discovering things new to me...


Vie de château

Marie-Christine, Blois, France


A hard reality to hug


Few days ago, one of the contributers talk about the clapping at 8pm and the lack of response around her. I read this morning in a Guardian UK: NHS doctor: Forget medals and flypasts – what we want is proper pay and PPE. I read the Daily Mail too, so to have a idea about what's going on in UK. 

It made me think about my own reaction, an unpleasant feeling, something sinister for me. Nobody claps at funerals, except for the bad boy in Manchester recently.

I would not have written about it without that paper, thinking I was too french and kill joy. I am a professional carer, radiologist in breast cancer unit. I am not working for the moment for most of the cancer care had been postponed which may induce by consequence as much death as Covid-19. Governments do not care, it will be invisible dripping along the years to come. 


Medical care is about life or death, "a hard reality to hug" Rimbaut. To give the ones who can recover the best care and humanise the last days of the ones who will die. Death is daily companion even when it is just her faint shadow. The number of death like ours ministers of health proclame every evening, is one person multiplied, not only for her loved ones but for us too, somebody we know closely with often more intimacy that their own family. If we are not too tired we "swallow it" if tired and overwhelmed we cry, if too much some commit suicide. Most of the carers had signs of burnout before Covid-19. I can't imagine what it will be next week when I will go back to work, the days will not be longer, we will not be more numerous, we will not see more patients every hour, for the medical care 2 months lost for good. 


For many of us, clapping make us feel like the bull in the arena, clapping transforms us in sacrificial victims. We want PPE (personal protective equipments), time to recover every day, patients not complaining we are late (we don't drink at work, not to go to the loo and save time, sometimes the day without eating, the morning finishing after the afternoon begin). It feel like the 18 years old soldiers embarking on the trains for WW1, every body clapping, their mothers crying, they were even not allowed to vote. It is not because care is a job, a vocation that it should be a sacrifice.


A lot of doctors are working out of their expertise and threaten by justice, they don't need clapping they need a law to protect them. It is such a long time that carers ask for proper consideration and ask not to be taken hostages by political issues. The carers need to be paid for the work they are doing, the money raised by Captain Tom is a help but they should also get a proper salary every month. And to be able to go back home without being afraid of contaminating their family, or threaten by their neighbors. Recognition is like love, there are only proofs of it. 


The psycho-sociologists notice that it is a town ritual, mainly when they are people around, part of the new "balcony social relationships" in the time of confinement. My nurse sister lives on a farm, when she comes back her husband doesn't clap and nobody lives around at less than 2 km. 

For the person clapping, there is obviously a feel good effect about it, even the Cambridge do it in front of their cottage without real neighbors but in front the cameras. May be I should accept it for that. Like all the French, I am royalist when it comes to the english royalties; I assure you our presidents cost much more.  


Without knowing why, there are 2 street demonstrations on video I love: "Viva la Nostra Sienna" in Sienna and "Dio Vi Salve Regina" in Corsica. It makes me cry, the feeling we are all in together. And also someone in our street (nobody claps, all the houses at windows at different angles) who plays "allons enfants de la patrie" on the trumpet at 8 PM rather approximatively but after 2 month he is getting better, we don't know who it is, but we like it, it makes us laugh and feel human togetherness:  not very good but we do our best and make progress.


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK


So, the chief overnight news from a news headline count would seem to be lovelorn Scientist Neil Ferguson, member of the SAGE committee and by default reckoned to be a top epidemiologist, has been ‘forced’ to resign after breaking lockdown rules he helped devise, by getting his lover into his home on a couple of occasions. Maybe these exceptional people (remember the top Scotch Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood, resigned after breaking lockdown to visit holiday home) should be cut some slack - their knowledge is what they’re needed for. Of course it’s embarrassing for their political masters. Of course it creates unrest among the Natives. But I’m more uneasy that their imput’s lost - unless, as I said at the time of Calderwood, they’re kept quietly out of sight and milked of their talent. 


All this interest in Ferguson’s lovelife displaces the other most likely headline: the UK now has the wholly unwelcome distinction of Europe’s highest death rate, now 32,000. Raab, at the Briefing made much of the need for transparency to keep faith with the public. This sits uneasily with his part in the decision to heavily redact large parts of the Sage reports finally released to us. This publication was supposed answer the call for public scrutiny of the same Scientific Evidence we’re constantly being told the Cabinet follow, and in particular advice concerning possible problems in the relaxation of lockdown. It doesn’t seem too unreasonable to know ‘why’, does it? Sorry, I forgot. We can’t handle the Truth.


And talking of the Truth (economy with): Cue Hancock the Unfortunate - who reminds me of Hubert Gruber, the ‘my little tank’ driver from “Allo Allo”. He was caught on camera in The Commons (and so relayed mercilessly through all Social Media) responding to a perfectly composed, politely delivered question from an opposite number and an A&E Doctor to boot, Rosena Allin Khan, about the lack of PPE and deaths of NHS staff with a waspish demand she show him more respect: “you should modify your tone” and no real attempt to answer the question.


Someone’s asked what the circle of decorated posts are about - the ones in my earlier Naked Gardening Day contribution. They’re a Community effort, part of a tradition of artwork installations within the various plantations making up up the Burlingham Woodland Walks that surround us here. This one came about because a much earlier one - of school painted totem poles - is finally returning to woodland debris, and it was thought time for a new ‘statement piece’. Lacking any social focal point, no shop, school or pub, our focus is our gardening group, Burlingham Cottage Gardeners and we take a keen interest in the Walks that snake through our neck of the woods. So, collectively we got a free issue of 30 heavy fence posts from Norfolk County Farms (who own the Woods), free issue paint from Valspar and invited schools, Brownies and Cubs, our own village youngsters and some not-so-youngsters to decorate a post or two. Each has a colour theme according to a progressive ‘colour wheel’ devised by the Journal’s very own Designer Sheila, and they were installed around a venerable Oak in a picnic clearing by a team of Cottage Gardeners one Sunday.


We like to think they make a notable pause on the 10km walk and are cunningly sited close enough to the main parking area to be an accessible target destination for young family groups. We have something of a tradition of timber Henges here in Norfolk. The others are thought to be 2000+ years old. This one is just coming up to it’s first anniversary. The Burlingham Henge:

Photograph by Simon Finlay


Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold


A frost early this morning but sunny now. In the greenhouse, our geraniums and pelargoniums are blooming beautifully but - as yet, it’s too risky to put them in the garden. We’re growing more vegetables this year and hoping that our fruit bushes will do well too. The gooseberries are a favourite so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a good yield. Nature, it seems, is thriving. 


In our neck of the woods, the neighbours have set up an email group to keep us up to date. Well, that’s the idea. It is not a neighbourhood watch scheme - just local news or whatever. It allows for sensible ordering or deliveries too - if, for example, the farm shop is delivering to one, they may be able to deliver to others at the same time. 


I realise how privileged we are. The garden is full of the scent of spring flowers. The lilacs have been magnificent. I worry about the weather and walkers trampling on wild flowers. Apparently, there have been more walkers about lately. One of the neighbours emailed that. Be vigilant. Watch out for unsavoury characters. Big boots. Stomping. Dropping litter.


On the wireless, a Bishop was arguing yesterday that the church must be given a greater role in caring for the millions who are currently struggling. He said local communities are rallying around and delivering food packages but society must reinvent itself in light of social distancing. He didn’t say how - only that the church is financially bankrupt too.  


Poverty and loneliness and no one can share a meal or hug or squeeze a hand?


Let us break bread together on Skype or WhatsApp?


Hello From the Hudson Valley

Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York


Its 4.30am and I can’t sleep. So I am here on the kitchen sofa with Wheezing Jay, my dog (who is currently combating a respiratory infection) and a fresh cup of coffee. In about an hour it will be light enough outside for me to go for a hike. I will have to find a way to sneak out of the house because Jay cannot go with me… he is supposed to be resting for two weeks while he works his way through a course of antibiotics. I hate going without him because it is our favorite time of the day together.  I did let him play in the stream yesterday and now I am afraid it has caused a minor setback… he seems a bit less better than he was before I let him splash around in the water. I am feeling badly about that. But he had such a good time. Now I will have to try harder to follow the vet’s orders. I wish there was a way to explain Jay’s virus lockdown to him.


Tropical thoughts

Paul Lowden, Malaysia


Swimming in cathedrals

Light floods the great East window’s

Roseate and cascades in torrents across the

Marbled fathomed floor until it’s brimful with colour.

Congregations swim in the glow of coalescing

Royal hues, hold hands up from pews that ripple with light. 

This is the miracle the architects knew,

How transubstantiation of matter, liquid air

Will filter through, swirl and recreate 

A trinity of transformation. In this Sunday’s pool

The sunlight splinters to the Hockney-esque

Mosaic. Frangipani blossom censers the air

And rises, baptised. Immersed I surface,

Float and witness light filter through the canopy.

Sublime architecture for all to see.

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