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Vie de château

Marie-Christine, Blois, France

Covid pandemic consequences


Medical news: 

People who have been ill have antibodies, but the question is for how long? 31 persons died in France of Covid on the 06/06. So, going down. 

The nasty question: 

How many life support beds and respirators will be available if there is a second wave? In France about 8000 (and that number is counting them all, meaning surgery then has to stop), and in Germany 25000 for the first wave, how many now will we need ? In the hospital where I work, the drugs for anesthesia are in short supply, some operations still postponed; last week, the women operated on for breast cancer were diagnosed in February. If you are looking for a house in France look for it in Lozère, only one death by Covid, 13 deaths/million. Lozère has also one of the lowest population densities in Europe, 15 hab/km2. 



Our son Benoît with his American wife Justine are expecting the birth of their first child at the end of July. It will be our first grandchild. We will not be able to see the 3 of them before next year. Now that long air flights are becoming a health hazard. They used to live in Oakland, Benoît lost his job like 36.5 million persons in USA. Justine being a literature teacher is still working on line with her pupils, preparing them for the equivalent degree of A-level. Luckily, they are now living with Justine's parents, on a vineyard in Mendocino County, north of Ukiah. 

They were hoping to come and visit us with the baby in October and stay for 3 months. This nice plan has also gone because of the pandemic. We are not going to see each other this year. A thorax-specialist radiologist friend in Paris, 32 years old, told me not to fly before next year and she applies that to herself even though she is young and usually flies somewhere every 2 months. 



We seem to be approaching the end of Covid first wave. During two months, everything was still, we were at home. Like the sea before the big waves, all activities have receded noticeably. Now, we can see a wall of unemployment and social unrest and natural disasters, heatwaves and lack of rain. Even if our personal way of life is not threatened directly for the moment by lack of money or housing, our children or loved ones may be. We are also affected by the situation of all the others: like during the pandemic, we are all in it together. Who will be the next designated heroes, after the no-more-needed carers, the ones who will be sacrificed for the good of the others without asking for it ? There is not such a thing as standing on one's own feet, one needs the others.

Politicians speak about these subjects with so much detachment that it chills my blood, and none of their rescue plans seems believable nor adequate, even when they are not further inflaming the situation. Rare the ones who have the appropriate concentration and capability needed. They seem to do business almost as was usual when nothing as serious was happening (not to mention terrorism, "gilets jaunes", Brexit negotiations...). The words they use are those of false reassurance and certainly not the ones needed for getting the best out of everybody.

People are queuing for MacDonald or Ikea with patience, trying to do things as before, may be thinking “if I don't move too much in the queue, everything will stay quiet and unchanged". It makes me frightened. Uncertainty is the new normal. Nobody really knows where the safe harbor is, or if there is one. May be Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and Bill Gates can think they are safe, but being the top richest people doesn't prevent them to have only one body for the moment, or ever. 


Personal pleasures:

I have now seen more than 70 different on-line operas, and I am going on, only 3 or 4 times a week, not time for more, and tired enough after work. A nice habit created, and such a vast universe to discover. 

The other discovery I made, is not doing much, for the first time of my life, even if I don't change much my wake-up time, because then it would be too difficult to get up at 6.20 the working days. Feeling like an odalisque (not all the time, we have to do basic house work) still it's pleasant. And getting up early, I have more time to do nothing.


Hello From the Hudson Valley

Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York

Early this morning



Thin air

John Mole, St Albans



Humming an old tune

under your breath


as you saunter

down an empty street.


This is the routine

of dailiness,


swinging each arm

to keep the other company.


A practised nonchalance,

the occasional deft


skip in your step

like Fred Astaire


or, hands behind your back,

you stop to take a bow


as if the sound of silence

were applause.


From the black shed

David E, East Norfolk

Yesterday a cock pheasant and I were eyeballing one another through the garden room window. He was slightly bedraggled after the rain but his plumage was magnificent. I'm not sure what he was thinking as he looked at me. Did he think I was coming out or was I inviting him in? Probably neither as most are of the opinion that pheasants aren't he brightest of birds. I wonder why?

In this time of mind-boggling statistics here's another one: 47 million pheasants were bred and released last year, purely for the purposes of game shooting. This fact came to my attention after hearing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall asking if the total biomass of pheasants exceeded the mass of native birds! Why he asked I don't know but it sounds like something out of a pub quiz to me.


The answer according to the RSPB is that this quantity of pheasants might be up to twice the biomass of native birds. I wonder who was given the task of calculating this fact and how long it took. Maybe it's an example of "lockdown academia".


Where do all these birds come from and what happens to them? Most are bred in this country but up to a third come from France either as eggs or young birds. The French ones have to come by the tunnel as ferry companies refuse to carry them. (I don't suppose its because they get seasick.)

Of the 47 million only 15 million are casualties of the gun so that leaves 32 million, or potentially 16 million breeding pairs. Where are all these pheasants? Here in East Anglia we see plenty of pheasants year round but there doesn't appear to be a pheasant takeover of the bird world. Unfortunately they aren't good at looking after themselves. They seem not to be great parents and often abandon nests or ignore their offspring. Their ground nests are probably often raided by squirrels hereabouts and foxes are very keen on pheasant. My comment about their intellect is evident to those of us who frequent country lanes by car. Pheasants often tarry beside the road or on the tarmac enjoying the warmth. On approach of a vehicle they seem to lose all capacity for self-preservation. How often does one slow down to ensure safety for the bird and at the very last second see Kamikaze behaviour take over? I imagine this observation alone explains why pheasants don't get good copy in the world of literature.


He's out there again today, looking as though he owns the place.



From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

I'd like to say, for the sake of the drama, that my wrist watch stopped on the first day of lockdown but I think it was a day or two after. I thought then that I'd have to wait until jewellers reopened before I could get a new battery, but a couple of days ago I noticed that a little electrics shop near Richmond Bridge was advertising watch batteries in its window and the watch is now keeping perfect time again on my wrist. Last Wednesday I was surprised by my own elation when I saw that my local dry cleaners  had reopened - I had taken some sheets and pillowcases in there two days before lockdown and there they had remained, trapped, for all this time. These two seemingly insignificant events felt like minuscule cracks in a damn or cheerful little baby steps towards some kind of normality. A short- lived feeling I'm afraid as this partial thaw brought with it a recognition of my own frozen denial - something that Jane in St Just wrote about yesterday - for I realised that I had been kidding myself when I had said that I don't miss, in no particular order, the theatre, the cinema, the pubs, the galleries, the coffee shops, the restaurants, the urban conviviality that has been part of my life for so long. Sure I have learned that I can do without these things, that I don't 'need' them but as King Lear says -' O reason not the need.' 


I've become locked into the memorising of the sonnets. I now know 30 of the little buggers (didn't John the bookbinder say yesterday something about everybody hating a smartarse?). I'm filming them on my mobile phone , forgive me if I'm repeating myself - and decided, upon reviewing them, that about half of them weren't up to scratch and needed to be redone. After all I have the time. Going back over them, I was astonished and overjoyed to find that I really did know them and reshooting them was much easier than I would have expected. Depending on which way you care to look at it, Shakespeare has either saved my sanity during lockdown or driven me completely nuts. 


I'd like to write more but I'm a little tired. I shall miss you all so much when we have to wind up this lovely journal.


Words from Wood Lane

Susan Neave, Beverley

Walked past a pre-school nursery this morning, and saw a line of very excited children waiting to be let in. Their parents looked pretty pleased too. Had to go to M & S (we are celebrating a friend’s birthday in the garden tomorrow). No queue outside or at the tills. Very civilised. Now I’m getting ready to take the minutes at a ‘zoom’ meeting of the Board of the local theatre. Full attendance expected. The two professional actors on the Board who are often away filming will almost certainly be joining us from home, probably unshaven. Challenging times ahead for everyone in the Arts. Some theatres may never reopen.


I’m not too sure about providing photos - it might be like reading a novel then being disappointed when you see the film version because the actors playing the characters look nothing like the images you’ve created of them in your mind. On the other hand, I agree that it is interesting to put a face to a name. Current photos are off limits - no hair cut since mid February! I’ve chosen this one because it was taken (squinting into the sun) in the Sussex tea garden in the middle of nowhere that I wrote about recently.



Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

The Pink Fuzzy Wuzzy Gloves, by Marli Rose Macrae


I love writing stories and I'm getting to write a bit more at the moment because we are being home schooled.  I am going to share with you some of my latest story, The Pink Fuzzy Wuzzy Gloves.


Once upon a time there was a girl named Mary. Little Mary's mother and father were rather poor so they didn't have much. They lived in a small cottage on the edge of town and they looked after what they had. The cottage was shabby but charming with a wonderful garden blooming with birds, flowers and vegetables. They were poor but happy.


Next door to little Mary lived a girl named Elizabeth. She was the most spoiled, unkind, unpleasant, bratty child you could ever meet. She lived in an enormous, fancy mansion and she had every toy you could think of. However it was never enough.

That's as far as I have got as I have been busy illustrating the story.


Franklin has been writing about two imaginary creatures named 'beasties' that get up to all sorts of mischief. I will carry on with my story and mummy will send it when it is finished.

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