Thoughts from the Suffolk coast
Harris G, Suffolk
It’s Friday already. Ah but we have had some rain! (Joyful exclamation). It’s 07.30 and I’m looking out at wet stones and a heavy, dark sky. It is full of fast moving cloud and promises of more rain. The breeze is quite strong and the temperature has dropped. Much cooler. The garden is sighing with relief.
Yesterday we went into the little town of Bungay. The market has reopened. Only a couple of stalls but good to see. People were queuing (social distanced markers on the ground) but the queues moved quickly. We bought almond croissants and take-away hot drinks from one of the cafes and lunched - sitting on a bench - watching the high street.
Saw our friend who retired from her shop about four years ago. She looks well. Wanted to give her a hug but a big smile had to suffice. We chatted at a distance and shared memories and swapped information on garden centres that are now opening. A few spits of rain so waved her goodbye as she went window shopping!
Some of the shops have signs saying they are reopening on the 15th of June. One has closed completely and I saw a few ‘For Sale’ and ‘To Let’ boards. On the wireless on the way home, some gloomy figures presented. A rise in unemployment. Redundancies to be made in various industries. Projected profit losses. Predictable concern for the economy.
Have had a letter from my aunt. Mixed emotions. Sharp and witty observations about the government but she is sad that she’ll not being seeing us this summer. Says she is too vulnerable for visitors anyway. Has chronic heart problems. Hasn’t been out of the house for a few years - no further than her gate. Hard to imagine.
The iPad news this morning? Well, we are to wear face coverings on public transport but Boris wants to scrap two metre distancing! Perhaps he wants to be more intimate with his people. President a Trump appears everywhere. Images of him raising a bible and looking proud. Someone called “the Rock” wants compassionate leadership.
Haircut today I think. We have the clippers ready!
A compassionate haircut, please x
From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
Mmmm - sitting in my kitchen this morning with delicious mug of tea from the land of the white rose. Quite delicious! I have just been catching up on the past couple of day's journal entries and must say I loved John Mole's little verse on the subject of fashion. At this moment I think I embody the spirit he conjured on matters sartorial. Thank you John. I am also sitting in my kitchen in front of my new and very excellent laptop - also made in the county of the white rose - is there a pattern emerging here I wonder! Yes, the delivery worked as it should - only 6 days late. Truth to tell, I forgive the couriers for being late, but find the lack of honest communication a problem. Anyway, all has ended well.
A squirrel turned up yesterday at about 11 o'clock. Be sure I shall report its presence, even if it doesn't want me to do that. Hard luck squirrel, upon you I have snooped - so there!
Last evening I broke some new ground following lock-down. A very excellent Mediterranean style restaurant has reopened for takeaways at last. A neighbour and I decided we both wanted some of their lovely food. Consequently I ended up sallying forth in Romy the camper-van, to collect said victuals. I was suitably begloved and bemasked (also bewhiskered!), because the trip involved almost going into the restaurant itself and I haven't crossed a threshold other than my own for some time. What a daring trip it seemed! Anyway a delicious meal was retrieved and enjoyed by us both in our separate homes. A milestone crossed I think! I find it good taking these small steps.
Time for another cuppa char...
Notes from a factory in the Midlands
Our company’s sales last month were only 17% down on the previous May, a great improvement on April’s performance when we were 38% down on the previous year. In one of our virtual meetings this week we commented on how odd it felt to be congratulating ourselves on a 17% fall in revenues, but we are feeling positive, and June has started brightly as well. We experienced a £1m cash outflow in April, but in May we recovered £1m, as the effects of our cost cutting began to bear fruit. And when we add in the £3m asset finance loan we obtained, it means that we are now financially secure for the foreseeable future. We have disbanded our “critical incident team”, and the daily meetings, which had been reduced to thrice weekly in May, are going to be held only weekly from next Monday. The factory and warehouse are busy; all remaining furloughed staff will be back at work by the end of June; and apart from office staff still largely working from home, we are almost back to normal.
Internally we are describing the company’s journey through the pandemic in three phases: “resilience”, which was very much focussed on day to day survival; “rebound”, which is about careful steps to rebuild the business and start to embed some of the cultural changes we are experiencing (like working from home); and “recovery” which is about charting a new multi-year strategic direction for the business and plotting its growth and expansion in years to come. We hope that we will move into the recovery phase in the early part of next year. But we are officially moving from resilience to rebound this weekend, and will celebrate with the senior leadership team in a virtual drinks party at 2pm this afternoon.
Our MD was coming over all Churchillian in his draft update to staff, talking about the company’s darkest hour, reaching the end of the beginning and such like. And though it does feel like we have been through the mill, I did manage to persuade him to tone down his rhetoric before he circulated the final version of the memo.
Hello from Eastbourne
A difficult day by Marli Rose
Today mummy and I are going to Middle Farm without Franklin because mummy needs some peace. I need some peace too. We need to buy some plants for the garden. I love the shop there, it always smells so lovely with enormous bundles of fruit and vegetables, eggs, pots and pots of jam and all sorts of lovely things. The chickens are in the car park at the moment too. Franklin is doing his science homework. He misses school and his friends and is being a beastly boy. Mummy and daddy have been very kind to him but he is horrid, not all of the time but some of it. Last night he said he wasn't going to bed because his friends are allowed to stay up until midnight! I think he wants to brag to his friends because he is nearly 12. Poor mummy has a sore arm and she was upset because of Madeline McCann so she was extra upset that Franklin was rude. Daddy was cross too. Mummy told him she was upset because of Madeline and he said he was sorry and went to bed. We were taught about Madeline at school but I know her face from the newspapers. Mummy always thought that they would find her, that perhaps someone who wanted a little girl might have stole her to be their child but now the police think a nasty man took her. I think Franklin is being bratty and I'm glad he isn't coming to the farm with us.
Bumpy landing on the south coast
Further to my musings on dislocation, there is a tailpiece. My grandparents were ’relocated’ by the occupying Soviets from one town to another: my grandfather’s workload doubled and his heart gave out. Shortly after his burial there, the retreating Germans blew up the graveyard and his body with it. At the same time, one of his brothers was being deported to Russia via this same border town. For my grandmother, eventually arrived in England, the culture shock was too much, and after a few years she retreated back behind the Iron Curtain. Again, mother and daughter never saw one another again. It broke my mother’s heart. In turn, Babushka died without family, begging the helpless nurses for her faraway daughter. Plus ça change…
Back to the present: I have lately been asking myself why it is that there seems to be everywhere a growing sort of acceptance of what has happened to us, Covid-wise. On reflection, I think the reasons are twofold: on the one hand, we have got used to the situation, and new ways of doing things have become the norm. On the other hand is, I feel, the situation’s universality: in a way, everyone around the world is, almost uniquely, speaking more or less the same language at the same time. Together we are travelling through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, even if the stages’ arrival might vary in form and order. (Many of us chroniclers perhaps joined this journal at the bargaining stage, when we were trying to understand, when reaching out to others and telling our stories was what we needed.)
It is this notion of a common language which brings my mind back to my grandfather. He was an enlightened man, and tried to bring up his two children to take an interest in the world, including learning a universal language. Thus, his nephew (the one who survived the pow camp) in old age wrote of his ten-year-old’s memories: ‘Before the war I often visited our relatives in ******* and so I got to know my uncle H*** and his family. This was very interesting for me. Uncle H*** had many hobbies: languages and radio technology. Also photography. All his family learned Esperanto and later Spanish. J**** [my mother] learned English going to the cinema, and it was very useful to her later. Uncle H***’s technical hobbies gave me the impetus for my further interest in technology. I remember that he had bought a valve radio from the flea market and was rebuilding it. I also became very interested, and busied myself with a much cheaper and simpler crystal set.’ [Once war set in, my grandfather’s radio proved a lifeline to the outside world.]
I myself sent my daughter to live and attend local schools in two countries in mainland Europe, with the vague ideal that if young people grew up familiar with others’ cultures and languages there just might be less war in years to come. But of course the current enemy knows no language, and so can’t be reasoned with.
Thoughts from the Top of the Hill
Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
Reading through yesterday's entries, I have a few brief comments. Firstly, I feel I should retract any impression I may have given in my post about poor Alok Sharma, taken ill at the dispatch box. I may have sounded somewhat gleeful at the thought of the government being found lacking, but I just want everyone to know I wish him no ill and am very pleased to hear his test result was in fact negative (Annabel please note) and it did actually come back in twenty-four hours. The government aren't off the hook about bringing MPs back, however.
Hilary, thank you for the lovely riddles but I am completely hopeless, I didn't get any of them. I'm looking forward to seeing the answers later.
Jane G, I clicked on the Church Lane Gallery link and really enjoyed the virtual tour, thanks.
John, I love your ladies' hats and I am so jealous of your bookbinding skills. I could really use a course in the restoration of old and damaged volumes, if I live long enough. I have so many poor little leather books with their boards detached, longing for a kind and skilful hand.
Reading about John's Dad put me in mind of my own Dad, who sang anywhere, any time and with little prompting. When he broke into song Mum would say "oh here we go", forgetting how she had been so attracted to this handsome tenor towards the end of the war, when he was in ENSA and she worked on the Lancasters. He was a great catch and whisked her off from Yorkshire to London. I have many printed event programmes, featuring his appearances in concerts and light opera and I know how important singing was to him. He kept a little hand written book with the lyrics of all his songs and could sing comfortably in several languages.
After the war, he gave up any aspirations he may have had to fame and fortune and settled down to provide for Mum and I, making a steady living in his pre-war occupation as a travelling salesman and later director of a small firm. However, he never stopped singing. He was proud of his ability to come up with a song for every occasion and would stand up, control his breath and give a great rendition to audiences large or small. He led the singing at every funeral. When my Mum was dying in hospital, he quietly sang a favourite ballad. When he was ninety-eight, with failing hearing and in a convalescent home for a short time, I took him a video of Paul Potts singing Nessun Dorma, cleared the lounge, turned the video to full volume and played it to him. Afterwards, with tears in his eyes, he said "he's the best tenor since me". We really missed him at his funeral.
James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
Light years apart we wait.
arms resting on counters.
Barista Bouda, here and there,
hands us our drinks.
‘Namaste,’ we say, words and
smiles leaving our respective galaxies.
Entangled, fused into
identical orbits around
a pair of nonlocal suns
our indivisible hearts travel.
Spooky action we defeat
the tyranny of distance
nourishing one another
across solar systems, planets,
mouths, minds and mitochondria,
fingertips on keys, voices hushing
into the solar wind, songs lyrical
untouched by time and space,
sung and heard by us,
conjoined here in the present.
Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham
We have the first heavy downfall of rain for more than two months this morning, and it is also the first day that our outdoor market is allowed to operate. The rain might put off a few Wymondham folks from going out to experience a little more of a return to normality. I don’t feel inclined to go but not because of the rain, more a feeling of lockdown inertia. I must shake it off!
Since its steady decline in the last few years I have been supporting the Friday outdoor market. Apparently the rise in online shopping is to blame for the lack of customers, even the elderly living in sheltered accommodation nearby and capable of doing their own shopping are staying away.
I enjoy the atmosphere of a market and the fishmonger happens to be a Norwich City supporter so we share thoughts on how the team is performing. He sells excellent wood smoked salmon. All through winter we would buy a weeks’ supply of cheap vegetables and fruits and I noticed an extra thankful response for our custom. The conference pears in particular were huge and mis-shaped so not suitable for supermarkets but they were perfectly delicious. To give you an idea of the size of a pear, on average one pear would weigh just under 500 gms. I certainly missed the market and the sweet juicy pears when it temporarily closed down on 23rd March. Perhaps I will venture out to the market after all as strawberries are coming into season.
I had to give my hair a trim this morning, the second one since early March when I had my last hair appointment. It is over 20 years since I had long hair and if this lockdown continues or we get another spike in infections making it even longer before I visit the hair salon, my locks will be shoulder length again! Not the hair at the front, I can manage that, it is the sides and back that is difficult so I might be working towards a style similar to the ‘mullet’ of the 1980’s! Oh dear! Maybe this another reason for staying out of sight. On second thoughts I can always wear a hat.
Talking of cuts, I sometimes wonder what eventually happened to the puppy we were given when I was 6 years old. I only remember seeing the poor thing’s tail being docked (’It will only be a quick snip’, promised Mum). It was over very quickly but I can’t remember anything else about the puppy after that event. The Labrador Retriever pup was given to us to guard against rats and intruders so the docking operation was important to prevent possible injury to its tail if it was in a fight with a ferocious predator . ‘Docking’ is still carried out in many countries today.
Meanwhile, ‘for the rain it raineth’, possibly cats and dogs !
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Gosh the days go by so quickly.
I have to just say the finance minister actually tested negative for Covid 19. I said he was positive which was wrong if the test was correct.
It is finally raining today, proper rain though it has just stopped and the sun has come out. The garden will be truly delighted and it will save me hours watering. The roses are having a moment and are fantastic.
Just had lunch, tuna, mangetout, broad beans, salad etc and a couple of chocolates and I'm about to run out of time for my diary entry again.
Last night I made some paleo herby savoury scones. They were so good and half got eaten before I went to bed.
Zipped to Holt this morning for my shopping from the fish shop, the veg shop and Nigel the butcher. It is slowly coming back to life and the shops will open on Monday. Most are still empty with nothing in them or dust sheets covering things or have staff inside cleaning them. It still looks post apocalyptic. The honey suckle outside Verandah is almost covering the front door. Will have to do some pruning.
I think they may make masks mandatory in shops which they are doing on public transport from next week. I may have to get contact lenses as my glasses steam up. I think I'd feel happier working in the shop if every one is wearing a mask.
Just had a conference call to a client which we later made a whats app group call. They could see all the mess in my house and all my wrinkles and double chins. I think its going to be difficult working properly again and getting the brain ticking over.
Went for a walk last night as the sun was setting as my assistant was pesting me so much and repeatedly stealing all the flower pots and my cashmere hat as I was planting dahlias that I gave in and we went for another walk. We saw Mr Hare and Owly which is always lovely.
Desert Island Discs this morning was lockdown songs from The People. It was good, brought a tear to to the eye. It is running all day.
Love Annabel x