Susan, Country Victoria, Australia
It is a long weekend in most parts of Australia courtesy of your splendid Queen. Although I’m a republican I have thought more than once in the past weeks of watching your elected individual that you might have been better served by the Queen being in charge. I think she might have valued the lives of those “past a certain age” more highly. I love that she is still riding, and of course she wouldn’t go sneaking off to a castle to check out her optics. Her husband of course is quite another story. I digress. All local accomodation is booked out and all our little towns in the region are teeming with visitors. Behaviour is clearly that COVID-19 problem over. The walk home on both days has been off the footpath and on the road verges to maintain some space. Where was Chloe’s clear diction when I needed it. Tomorrow I am determined to enunciate so the back row can hear. “Please Six feet apart or Six feet under”. Your story made my day Stephanie.
The problem is of course that we have done so well. “Only” 103 deaths, so people think it is sorted. There is a certain smugness here, and a lack of awareness and empathy with the rest of the world. Well meaning people have headed to demonstrations supporting the black lives matter cause. What those large gatherings mean will be clear in three weeks or so. The First Nations people have done a stunning job of keeping their communities safe and I do hope it won’t by undone by righteous anger spilling onto the streets. Ironically our catastrophic bushfires gave us assistance. Thousands of overseas tourists stayed away and urban Australians were kept out of popular holiday areas when the virus would have first been entering the country.
I was reminded today by my sister of our annual QB weekend bonfire on the farm. Every year we would have collected a rather impressive stack of flammable material to “put up”. It was a big family gathering that was accompanied by the lighting of illicit fireworks that we purchased interstate (where they weren’t illegal). Each year I marvelled at a short lived transformation of the male members of my family; eight to eighty became indistinguishable. All boys together. Then it was back to the house for slow cooked lamb shanks and oxtail stew with mountains of buttery mash.
I was hoping that someone would reference the good news about the White Storks. Thank you Rosemary. What a wonderful story.
I don’t feel I have very much of interest to say, but reading these journal entries has been really marvellous over these past weeks. Thank you Michael and John for putting faces to the names. I am afraid I’m way to shy to do the same. I have named by two sour dough starters I’ve developed over the past few months Florence and Marjory, so maybe I’ll post a picture of those feisty madams before we bid farewell. Speaking of which, Marjory is waiting. She’s been slow to rouse today and is finally showing signs of wanting to party. Chin,chin.
Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham
The weather report cheerfully told us that temperatures last Friday week had peaked at 28 degrees celsius and that there would be a drop of 10 degrees this week. If the Government are taking us for ‘a ride’ then so is the jet stream. From shorts and ice cream to woolies and the central heating back on, we are having to acclimatise to sudden shifts and changes. If only our lives could be experiencing a change as well. Speaking as a person in the vulnerable category I can’t see much change coming my way, and hearing that the ‘R’ rate is creeping up in large areas like the North West and the South West, the outlook is continuing to look gloomy. The Eastern Daily Press has also noted the rise of ‘R’ in East Anglia. Is it because all these areas have popular beaches that were inundated with Bank Holiday visitors a week ago? Besides possibly leaving the virus behind the visitors also left large amounts of rubbish which the locals had to clean up. Seeing so many newspaper images of plastic litter lying on beaches across the country made me feel very angry.
It seems that social distancing has changed people’s social manners, especially once the lid was lifted off the ‘jack in the box’. The frustrated longing for freedom found a release. Another instance has been the rise in numbers of road racers breaking the speed limit. This morning on the radio I heard that the driver of a Mercedes had been fined for clocking up 138 mph, not on a motorway, but on an A road! Speed merchants have returned to roar down our own one-way street. I have often thought there should be more speed bumps here. I hear the screeching brakes as they approach the only bump halfway down. When our daughter was still living at home she was so mad at the motorbike racers she felt tempted to put a trip wire across the the road. Now I sometimes wonder whether I prefer the eerily quiet days of early lockdown or the noise of normal life.
Most people have been enjoying a very long Bank Holiday! The last advice I heard from the Government on Friday was that, owing to a change in the weather, our permitted meetings outside with a maximum of six persons should not take place inside houses. We had planned a garden visit to our family of four in Norwich and were looking forward to it but now we will have to wait.
Waiting is the new ‘norm’. I feel as if I am being trained for waiting. Like a dog. Sit. Wait. Good Girl.
An acquaintance said his dog is so fed-up of going on walks everyday it has rebelled. Bad Dog.
Hilary Q, North Norfolk
Yesterday I read that there is a new syndrome... Lockhome Syndrome... where the afflicted starts to fall in love with his or her captor... the home itself!
My husband though is not in love this morning... not only do we have the shattered window but he has been unable to catch the mole and the boiler has gone off and won’t restart! A cold shower did not improve his mood! But he has collected his newspapers and is preparing a plump chicken for lunch. I may not have mentioned that he does all the cooking... so I am perversely happy that his fishing trips during Lockdown have been curtailed!
Meanwhile I have become a couch potato with instagram and like Rousseau in his Confessions I am looking at and seeing things of great beauty... unable to respond with any utterance other than ‘O’... over and over... and over again! I’m quite breathless at the wonder of it all.
James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
Note from a visitor to our garden
I am a rustle in the woods
a shadow in the trees
a moment passing through the green.
Photo: David Oglethorpe
Words from Wood Lane
Susan Neave, Beverley
The Saturday market was held yesterday, the first time since lockdown, but far fewer stalls than usual. After a hot, dry May it looks as if much of June could be cool and wet, which might make reopening the ‘non-essential’ shops on 15 June more of a challenge. People won’t want to queue for any length of time in the rain. Our main shopping area is wide and pedestrianised, and managing the social distancing queues outside the chemists, bread shops, banks etc has been fairly simple. Once the surrounding shops are competing for space this will be much more difficult. How, then, do shops in high streets with narrow pavements and through traffic propose to manage? On the positive side many of the shops have received a makeover during lockdown, with painters busy throughout the town. Unfortunately at least one, part of a national chain, won’t be reopening.
Yesterday we had coffee in the garden with visitors both morning and afternoon. The weather was a bit mixed, but we abided by the rules and sat outside. I have just ordered masks, as it seems these will be required should we need to visit hospital or use public transport. I wasn’t happy with the sample one I made, and other ones we have been promised by family members have not yet arrived! The one for myself is the more expensive of the two, having decided that if it is going to become an essential piece of kit then it was worth paying a couple of pounds more for a Liberty print!
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Wet wet wet
Went out for a walk earlier than usual yesterday afternoon between showers and got completely caught in a huge storm with thunder, lightening and then massive hail stones. I was scared Earnie was going to be struck by lightening so took his "I am not a deer, don't shoot me" harness off as there is a metal hook on the back. Earnie freaks out with big hail stones so I just had to crouch down trying to cover his head under my anorak. Subsequently we got thoroughly soaked so came back early. The drain outside the kitchen was blocked so tried to unsuccessfully clear it. Had to have a bath after all this.
Made some more scones. I am now addicted to the fake cream tea.
Did a bit of scribbling in the shed but then Earnie was like a coiled spring so we went out and got wet again.
The whole world seems to be protesting. Multi layers of crises now. In the States, Australia, here, massive protests every where. Huge outside The White House. With the permission of the democratic lady mayor in Washington "Black lives Matter" has been painted in enormous letters in bright yellow paint along the whole width of the road renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Tens of thousands of people at the peaceful protest for Black Lives Matter in London yesterday but it turned nasty in the evening as protestors turned on Downing Street with flares and missiles. The riot police charged in on horses and they were attacked with missiles and later Boris bikes were thrown at the poor horses. A WPC got thrown from her horse into traffic lights and her horse bolted down Whitehall. She has a broken collarbone, ribs and a collapsed lung. Her horse went home to his stables later. Poor horses. Madonna was there at the demonstration. She did used to live behind Oxford Street. Maybe she still does and was locked down there.
Seems to be a battle between the science and the government. The government want to relax measures but test track and trace is still not ready so we don’t know what is going on or where and the scientists are more circumspect.
Another scientist said on the news this morning that the lock down was too late and many lives were lost because of this. Mat Hancock disagrees. I think we should have shut down much earlier, I started collecting almonds like a squirrel in January, February and early March. I have enough dog food and loo paper to last the rest of the year
Started tying things up in the garden this morning as a lot of things have been blown over. Got soaked again. My back is still damp. Going to the shed now.
From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
I'm sitting in my study, which looks out over the sea towards Southampton. It's a great outlook for cloudscapes. As always over the coastline of large land mass, in this case England (also known locally as The North Island) the clouds are almost always changing - some in formation whilst others are in process of dissipation. There is so much beauty in this, wonderful light and wonderful clouds - what more could I wish for! So often we on the Island can feel smug, because bad weather seems mainly to happen elsewhere and we can see it building and tracking, usually towards London - although other places get it as well. I must say though, that when the wind blows our smugness is often destroyed, because it blows very hard around here.
Today has been lovely so far. Firstly, there was the weekly Austin car club gathering on Zoom. It might seem boring to some, because there isn't much going on that has to do with our cars. Like many similar virtual gatherings it seems to be largely a mutual support platform for a group of people facing similar issues over the plague. Certain trends have become apparent, notably that most of the men are now growing beards. Mine is very long established, but others who have been at it for the lock down are getting growths greater than mine by some margin.
Following the Austins, best beloved came round to my house and we very correctly and chastely sat in the garden, chatting whilst she was knitting. What a delight that was for my heart. In some ways we are like a couple of teenagers together. Age is not an issue at all when love grows, as it has for us over the past couple of years. Our only real problem at the moment is called Covid-19. At least it's something shared.
Time to post this off towards Margaret, or I'll miss the deadline...
Thoughts from the Top of the Hill
Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
We are now wondering what sort of a world we are going to find, if and when we emerge from this strange bubble in time. Everything is changing and the old order is taking shelter behind barriers in the White House, Downing Street and elsewhere, sitting tight and wondering what to do, employing police in riot gear to keep them safe, even though the protests are largely peaceful.
The irony of the current situation, mass protests in a time of pandemic, is not lost on us. Anger has overtaken self preservation. Social distancing has become almost pointless. Sending Matt Hancock out to plead quietly with people not to join the protests sounds feeble but he had to say something. I wonder if he really believes that Britain doesn't have racial prejudice. Look at Windrush and the ratio of black men stopped by police and imprisoned. When asked how many black people there are in cabinet, he came up with Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel. Of course, they are not strictly speaking black but Asian and yes, there is a difference. The government has lost any moral high ground it ever had and a quiet plea is all they can muster, tip-toeing around and trying not to make things worse. It doesn't look like leadership to me.
Yesterday I was really upset about the police horses being used for crowd control. Horses are so trusting, they would never mow down anyone by choice, their nature is to run away from trouble. I was relieved to hear the horse who fled down the street away from the flares found his own way back to his stable, clever lad! I hope his rider is safe, it was a nasty fall.
Meanwhile, the virus is gleefully skipping about, no doubt still killing a higher proportion of black citizens, because they are still in the front line in the NHS, care homes and public transport, the lower paid jobs that the privileged white workers would rather not take. The victims of the virus will also die with the words "I can't breathe" on their lips.
I've been to many protests over the years and have done my share of shouting and waving of signs. I have written many letters protesting about unfairness around the world. Peaceful protest is our right and some would say our duty. This is an unfortunate time for the population to take on the deepest inequality in the world and decide to stay out on the streets until it ends. The protests will not, in themselves, change people's deepest prejudices, but laws can be changed, inequalities can be tackled and society can become more equal, I would take up one rallying cry above all others. Go out and vote. Vote for people who will make things better. People who don't hide behind lies and political slogans but will roll up their sleeves and make a just world or die trying.
I hope it's not too late for that. I am afraid but hopeful at the same time. I dreamed of a better world in 1967 but it didn't come. Did we need a pandemic and one more brutal act in a long line of brutal acts to be the catalyst of change?
Florist in lockdown
Jane, Near Manchester, England
“People of colour are being failed by the system, the white system” Street artist Banksy posted a picture of his new artwork on Instagram, together with a brilliantly written message in support of the Black Lives Matter protests. Grace joined the protesters in Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester yesterday, along with her friends. She said she felt compelled to go because she wanted her children to grow up in a fairer world. Under strict instructions to social distance as much as possible, wear a mask and leave immediately at the first sign of any conflict with the police, I waved them off with my blessing. The protest was peaceful and well attended. I find it deeply moving to see thousands and thousands of people across the globe kneeling in silence.
Alarmingly the north west has the highest rate of infections for the coronavirus, and the UK now has over 40,000 deaths. 40,000!!!
But there are so many people moving around now. I am still waiting to hear if we will be opening the flower shop any time soon. We sell gifts, cards, ceramics and vintage items as well as plants and flowers, all the type of stuff that you don’t buy without picking up and touching first! Meanwhile we’ve discovered our local pub is doing takeaway meals, it does the best cheese and onion pie ever! I might have to buy a wig, the state of my hair is starting to depress me! Keep well everyone xxxxx