From the black shed
David E, East Norfolk
Walking the Weavers Way
Walking seems to be our only activity away from the house but there’s just a possibility that the “stay at home” message might be lifted after this weekend. What delights might await next week? Over several years I have walked various parts of the Weavers Way in Norfolk, a long distance path from Cromer to Great Yarmouth, 61 miles long and celebrating the cloth trade which was the mainstay of the local economy in the middle ages. The path passes through the village of Worstead and skirts Blickling Hall, home of the Boleyn family.
Today I’m off to the penultimate section of the walk, from Halvergate to Berney Arms. This area is mostly below sea level and completely flat. In Roman times it formed a wide estuary, guarded both north and south by large fortresses but later became silted then drained for grazing. Its surprising how attractive it can be, despite being so flat. The horizon is a straight line in every direction, interspersed at intervals by the towers of old drainage mills, long since abandoned in favour of electric pumps which keep the water at bay. To the south west is the chimney of Cantley sugar beet factory, silent until the harvest begins in October. The sky is as big as it can be and the air feels pure.
Berney Arms is a strange place and one of the most isolated in the land. There is no road access. It is only approachable on foot, by water on the river Waveney or by train. There is a pub, permanently closed, a drainage mill, the tallest in the county and the railway station. That’s it. If you wish to catch a train you have to hope that the driver sees you on the platform with your arm out, otherwise he won’t stop!
So what will I see today? Probably no people. Probably cranes, egrets, marsh harriers, some black cattle and lots of dragon flies.
So- off we go. Happy days.
A View from Crazy Town
Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.
Gentle Reader, your Intrepid Reporter has read with growing alarm reports that the world is losing faith in American leadership, ability to innovate, or to roll up its sleeves and solve problems that have long flummoxed the rest of humanity. I am here to reassure you, Gentle Reader (and to offer you proof from the Heart of Crazy) that reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.
As ever, the Land-That-Brought-You-Rock n' Roll turns to its Youth for inspiration and solutions. From the Spring Breaker partying in Florida ("If I get Corona, I get Corona" he famously said, while ordering another Bud Lite) to the gun totin' Heroes of Michigan, our young 'uns are standing strong and doing their bit to confront this menace. Better still, not content with merely reacting to a killer germ, America's Impetuous Youth are going on the offense! Coronavirus? Hah! I sneeze in the face of Death! 💀 And you. Yes, sir, they are going out on seek and destroy missions all across the country. Posses up to 50-strong are gathering to track down and confront this menace. COVID19 parties across this great land are working hard to build herd immunity by ensuring that everyone gets a chance to be sick, without regard to race, ethnic origin, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, or gender (assigned, chosen or other). So far, the evidence on herd immunity is scanty, but herd mentality has never been stronger.
Not one ever to take a back seat on Crazy, however, our Dear Leader has also been innovating. Barred from being a Best Young Person himself by reason of his Weighty Responsibilities and age, he has assigned his Chosen Youth, Dear Jared, to assume a Guiding Role in innovating our way out of this. Like a war horse rushing to the sound of the guns, this mere Stripling Youth, gathering around him a team of the Best Youths that Goldman Sachs has to offer, has worked tirelessly to replace the time-tested Federal emergency procurement systems to build solutions that ensure that only the Best (Politically Connected) Friends of Don get contracts. Money is flowing like never before! Millions are on the move! The Best have been saved, all thanks to Dear Jared!
Oh, Dear Jared, in this time of trouble our nation turns its lonely eyes to you (to borrow a riff). The economy is re-opening! What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson, you still can't get a test 62 days after Dear Leader promised you could? Clearly, you are too old to be a Chosen Youth. Just like those Golden Oldies on the radio, it's time you moved on, Boomer.
John Mole, St Albans
Speak on, old friend,
let me hear your voice
as we travel together
down the line.
This has become
an unexpected journey
but let the destination
not be silence.
When we arrive
may fellowship embrace us
as we step out
in its precious light
and once again
meet face to face
continuing the journey
through a brave new world.
Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire
Yesterday was my birthday. In our family that gives you licence to be demanding and pandered to all day and you need to make the most of it as it only happens once a year. Jeremy had already spent days in his workshop making my present and had to get up early to make my birthday cake and breakfast so I didn’t want to put him under too much pressure. I decided I really wanted to do a walk that included seeing some of the millennium Sites of Meaning so I asked him to plot a walk for us and make a picnic which should include an egg sandwich. The forecast was for perfect weather and it was an allowable lockdown activity.
The Sites of Meaning was a millennium project of Middleton-by-Youlgrave and Smerrill in the Derbyshire Peak. It marks the seventeen entrances to its parish with boundary stones each inscribed with a text chosen by members of the parish. Started in 1999 and completed in 2006, it was run by a team of parishioners who raised funds, collected text for the inscriptions, commissioned stones from artists and masons and installed the finished boundary markers. An eighteenth stone was installed in the children’s playground in Middleton which has radiating lines of text from all of the other stones and acts as a compass roughly pointing the way to them.
The first seven stones are quite close to where we live so we see them on a regular basis when out walking. Some of the other stones we have rarely seen and some never, even though, as it turned out we had walked straight past them. So a route was plotted, a booklet printed with the grid references, a picnic made and off we set – later than expected as friends arrived with a present and we had a socially distanced coffee in the garden. We drove to the stones 17 to 13 as they are on the side of a road busy with local quarry traffic. Even at this time we saw lots of lorries, cars and a few bicycles… and masses of litter. Why do some people think it is ok to throw their empty food packaging out of their cars into our beautiful countryside. Visitors, locals or both? My favourite inscription from this group is from a local farmer, ‘Live as if you’ll die tomorrow. Farm as if you’ll live forever.’ Seems apt at this time. I also like ‘Time, you old gypsy man; Will you not stay; Put up your caravan; Just for one day?’
Then a lovely long walk down a green lane with masses of cowslips and butterflies and one cyclist. The stone here is inscribed ‘Hvivs viae cvram cvratores viavm non svscepervnt’ It draws attention to the long stretch of the parish boundary which formed the course of a Roman road. I will leave it to the classical scholars to interpret its cryptic meaning. Finally a short drive and then a walk along the beautiful Longdale to see three more stones. Lots of sheep with their lambs being sharply called to heel as we approached, then rewarded with some milk when they obeyed the call. Wild flowers all around but the most spectacular have to be the spotted orchids. My very favourite inscription is at the end of Long Dale although with fifteen to twenty years of aging the writing is difficult to decipher. ‘We meet to create memories and depart to cherish them.’ This was seen on a Tibetan teahouse menu by someone trekking in Nepal. He felt it summed up his time in the Himalaya. I have always felt what a lovely sentiment this is and all of the different ways we are meeting up at the moment, even if not physical, will leave us with memories to cherish.
Home and a Zoom call from number one son with a brief appearance from Margot. Then a visit from number two son and family. So lucky to be able to see them in the garden. Happy birthday played by Naomi on violin and then by Maya on guitar. Freddie aged 6 wants to learn cello so who knows next year… My neighbour played my favourite hymn - Morning has Broken - as well as Happy Birthday on her tenor horn. Delicious lamb curry made by Jeremy with dahl and chapattis made by the neighbours. Another Zoom call with number three son and wife, this time to do a crossword together and for him to apologise that I won’t get my present until next week. And finally a message from number four son to say he will call me today. I have to say this present situation is making my sons very attentive. A perfect Lockdown birthday.
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Worst downturn since the South Sea Bubble 300 years ago.
Coronavirus 2 to 3 times worse in BAME groups
The Stay at Home slogan is going to be changed to Get off your Backside but slowly.
A limited easing of the lockdown.
The PPE from Turkey was rubbish and unusable.
Robert Peston needs a haircut.
Very good programme on Channel 4 last night NHS Heroes Fighting to save our lives following various doctors and nurses in their daily work filmed on their phones. Very traumatic as they realise the dire consequences of a lack of PPE on them and their families and the creeping fear of losing their colleagues becomes realised as around 100 NHS workers have died. Terrible.
My hypochondriac tendencies come into play every time I sneeze, probably more to do with the fact the house is filthy. Something that has bothered me through all this is people who have been ill describe it as the worst they have ever felt yet they are really left to flounder around on their own and don't want to be a bother to the NHS etc and by the time they go to hospital they are half dead and in crises. Peoples oxygen levels drop and they are not aware that they are as ill as they are. There is a lot of capacity now so if people went in to hospital a bit earlier like Boris (as he didn't realise how ill he was) maybe there wouldn't be so many deaths. I have 4 friends who have been ill, none of whom have been near the doctor, one of whom at least should have gone to hospital. None of whom have been registered as having had CV19 so not on any records.
Interesting hearing a rheumatologist talk on Inside Health about the immune response and the cytokine storm that is the thing that can kill you. They have to find a level between suppressing the hyper inflamed immune system and controlling the infection. Very tricky. I have heard one sentence saying a healthy diet and life style exercise etc probably has some bearing on how well you do if you are ill.
Back in the garden, there was a frost last night and the night before. Some of the tips of the dahlia seedlings got scorched. All the little babies have had to come in for the last couple of nights and then all go out again in the morning. On slug watch last night I found Mousey 2 sitting among the annual phlox seedlings. Wasn't bothered by my presence at all.
The blackbirds continue digging everything up.
There was a tragedy yesterday afternoon as I stepped on the washing line prop and it snapped in half.
Went into the big shed with the hoover but it was so cold I came out again.
That's about it from my world.
Love Annabel xxx
James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
It begins here, soft as a songbird’s
nest lined with feathers discarded by
a fledgling viral raptor, talons dug in
like glycoproteins into a dream
of being pursued between trees,
wriggling free, ruffled racing heart
descending from the rhythm of release,
quarantined secure in silence.
I accept that I am just this:
a frail, light-boned scrap
of pursued life, perched unsteady
on a limb, distant from the trunk.
Head cocking side to side
I am distracted by your song,
it’s diminuendo and crescendo
stirring my wings. I rise silent
into the air, flitting and flirting
to a bough not so far from you.
Without care or prudence
I open my throat and in defiance
of my own reticence
sing the other part of your duet
flying out notes I trust will be sublime enough
to turn your head towards me.
No sound returns.
I hop across to the branch that
supported your transformational
beauty and find only rough bark
and a memory of you imprinted,
fair and feral, on the enigma
of the lyrical space privileged
to have contained you.
Florist in lockdown
Jane, Near Manchester, England
Depressingly the UK now has over 30,000 deaths attributed to Coronavirus. The highest in Europe. Already there is talk of “easing the lockdown”, and “getting back to normal”. Surely we need to get the death rate down significantly first? And improve how we test people? There is talk of primary school children going back to school, but social distancing measures are still necessary. Not quite sure how that is going to work. Then there is the big problem of how to “save the economy”. Boris has got a lot on his plate! A lot of decisions to make before Sunday, when he is going to make a statement on how the country moves forward. I hope the guidelines will be clear and concise, not blurry, vague and murky grey.
Yesterday I was craving my old life, before lockdown, I miss doing wedding flowers, and all that entails. So many celebrations cancelled/postponed. I miss get togethers with friends, eating out, getting a bit dressed up and going to a theatre show or concert. It’s only been a few weeks but it’s hard to imagine being in a crowded room. When will it be safe to link arms with friends, pick up small children, hold hands and kiss the forehead of your dying relative?? I spoke to my friend in London, via FaceTime, it was lovely to have a giggle and a gossip albeit in 2D!
We have just done our shopping again this morning, and there were so many more people out and about, and so much more traffic on the roads. The lovely lady in the greengrocers remembered us, and we had a convivial chat about not being able to get our hair cut and coloured.
We had to pop into the supermarket for essentials like wine and chocolate! Then I found myself getting anxious and desperate to get home. I am now sat in the backyard with the tulips and butterflies for company, grateful that the sun is shining.
Hopefully we will have some clarity on how the future might look on Sunday. Tomorrow is a bank holiday in honour of 75 years since VE Day. I might string up some bunting and put on some red lipstick.
Keep well everyone xxxxx
From the Editor
I wonder if any of you have noticed a slight change to this journal?
Sunday’s edition marked six weeks of lockdown, six weeks of the journal. Yesterday we filled up our domain allowance, one hundred pages. So Sheila spent most of yesterday restructuring, creating a new domain page for the next six weeks, and archiving the first six weeks. That archive can be accessed from the present journal page; it’s all very clear and straightforward. Take a look. So, a big thank you to Sheila, and on we go for another six weeks.
And as there is so much talk of slowly easing lockdown from Monday, I suggest that recording the next six weeks are vitally important for the journal. How do we, in our different places and age groups emerge from this period? How do we feel about it? How do we respond to a ‘Greater freedom’? What happens next in society at large? What will have changed? So, thank you all for your writing so far, but please keep on writing, recording, observing! The most dull (to you) domestic details are important to capture, however repetitive. I have been drawn into so many different worlds by your entries, and many of you and many readers have commented on how they feel you have created a small online community to follow. Of course, it’s always good to welcome new voices , so please encourage friends and family to contribute.
I am sitting in the garden in warm May sunshine, a cat has just strolled by. Small blues and orange tip butterflies on the flowers, the growl of farm machinery a few fields away.
A louder buzz of insect life. Coffee and cake. Sort of idyllic.
“And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”
William Shakespeare: As You Like It