From the black shed
David E, East Norfolk
This is bonkers! Children can now go to the zoo but they can't go to school! They will learn about the dangers of lions but not the dangers of inadequate education!
Boris and co have got into a real muddle on this one and have allowed themselves to be manipulated by those claiming to be guided by safety. Safety for whom?
The people at risk from covid-19 are the elderly not the young. Applying social distancing to the whole population without using any discretion or common sense is ludicrous. What's wrong with reducing the two metre rule in schools, even removing it altogether? It would be better to provide weekly swab testing for the whole school and to quarantine as needed rather than commit a whole generation of children to the damaging effects of a whole year without formal education. Yes it will be a whole year as things are since there is little hope of normality before the new academic year and it is likely that we will have a second spike of some degree in the autumn and winter. New cases and deaths are falling but very slowly and if we wait until the numbers are low we will have done untold damage to our children's future.
There - I've got it off my chest!
In my view the strategy now should be:
Get test and trace properly up to speed with 24 hr results. Case finding is paramount.
Allow children and the young to get back to school, work and play with common sense rules.
Shield the elderly and vulnerable with access to regular tests.
Remember how the 1918 flu pandemic ended. It didn't end with a vaccine or with long term social distancing. It ended with herd immunity.
Message to Boris: there's nothing wrong with a U-turn, it's a sign that you're prepared to learn from experience. Message to Matt Hancock: OK you've protected the NHS, now protect our young.
We've already ruined the lives and opportunities of many of our young and saddled them with the long term cost of this pandemic. Let's look after them now.
Florist in lockdown
Jane, Near Manchester, England
I loved John’s pictures of the pretty 19th century watercolour ‘costume change’ cards. They brought to mind the paper cut out dolls I treasured as a child, usually found in comics. You had to cut out the doll and stick her onto some card so she would stand up. All different outfits could then be ‘worn’ by folding over the paper tabs at the shoulders and waist when placed on top of the doll. My favourite one was of Anne Boleyn, which my mum brought back from a visit to a castle or stately home. She came with several Tudor gowns, all exquisitely drawn in detail. That paper doll sparked my interest in historical costume.
I think London and Chester zoos may be able to open soon, which would be great because they are struggling financially now after being closed for so long. More job losses announced today as two more high street chains are closing, and school pupils in England are not going back until September.
As we are writing for history I wanted to include this amazing photograph of Manoel Akure on the plinth that previously elevated Bristol merchant Edward Colston. During the protests for Black Lives Matter at the weekend the statue of Colston was pulled down and thrown in the harbour. Although Edward Colston was a charitable man, he acquired his great wealth through the slave trade. The photograph is on Facebook and was taken by Cliona Ni Cheallaigh. After his picture was taken Mr Akure, who is a musician, remained on the plinth and said an all inclusive prayer. You can find it on his Facebook page. Keep well everyone xxxxx
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
Among the mob rule and rush to remove street statuary (wouldn’t it be better to have plaques installed cataloguing the horror they inflicted, thus cancelling any aggrandisement?) a quiet, dignified, powerful ‘slavery statement’, a memorial off Grenada. In the waters where many were thrown.
Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire
Like many of the contributors to this journal I have been enjoying the feeling of new connections. Some journalists are close friends, others are friends of friends who have become friends, others I have only met once or twice and others I have never met but through the journal have learnt something about their lives and personalities. People sometimes say things which prompt my entry.
I enjoy reading Jane’s entries because a long time ago we lived in Pendeen, close to St Just, for six years. I have met Jane and can picture her in the environment I know so well. Nearly forty years ago our two youngest sons attended the play school in St Just. It was held in a large, well laid out room in what was the Men’s Institute. This is now the wonderful Makers’ Emporium selling local art and craft. Next door is another place I always have to visit - the café bookshop - delicious vegetarian food and second hand books to browse. In August, every year since 1961, an Art and Craft exhibition has been held in the secondary school in aid of Cancer Research. Up to last year they had raised over one million pounds. Another charity which will lose much of its important funding this year. We visit the area at least once a year but sadly not this year, so far. So reading Jane’s entries takes me back there.
Linzy’s entry about the farmer shooting the pigeons made me remember another recent discussion. I had heard shooting for a number of days and wondered what was going on. Jeremy asked our local farmer friend who said he had been shooting crows. I felt sorry for the crows until Simon explained that the crows peck out the eyes of new born lambs and also of sheep that get stranded on their backs, rigwelters they are called. That seemed more cruel. I also then remembered my dad shooting the pigeons that were eating his cabbages. As a child I would get really cross and tell him he was horrible to kill the lovely birds. I remember mum preparing them for pigeon pie and showing me their crops stuffed with undigested cabbage. I refused to eat the pie then but looking back I am glad they weren’t wasted.
Life is very hectic and tiring here now. After 10 weeks of leisurely mornings eating a late breakfast and doing the crossword together Jeremy and I are up early and haven’t completed a crossword for nearly two weeks. We are now sharing the house with our eldest son Mark, his partner Emma, Margot aged 4 and Iris 16 months. They had moved in with Emma’s parents just before the lockdown while they were having an extension built on their house. It should have been finished by now but will be at least another five weeks because of all the hold ups. The plan was that Emma’s parents would go on holiday for a couple of weeks, Margot would be going to nursery and Emma would take Iris to toddler groups… Everyone needed a break so here they are. Mark and Emma were concerned for us but we are both fit and healthy and under 70 so we told them to come. It is lovely having them with us and Margot’s constant ‘What would you like to do with me now grandma?’ is delightful; most of the time. She is missing all her little friends and although her teacher is trying to do things with them on Zoom she can’t stay focused for long. The teacher has asked the children to make bug houses so that is a good grandad activity, giving me time to do the journal. Iris is asleep giving Emma a bit of time to continue her search on the internet for kitchen appliances and tiles. Mark is still working. Making loo roll is still essential!
Jeremy is managing to shut himself away in his workshop to make the small well dressing boards needed for people to collect on 17th June. They will be put on display on the following Saturday. He and another keen woodworker, who makes the most beautiful wooden Christmas trees, are doing it between them. Usually these small children’s boards are simple rectangles but they have decided to make some with arched tops to replicate the full sized boards. More of a challenge to make. There will be 36 new boards altogether, 8 with curved tops. I am so pleased that some well dressing will go ahead this year even if we have to miss the social aspect of working in a group.
Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham
The news yesterday that primary schools won’t open again this term for all children was a blow for parents who are trying to work from home as well as doing homeschooling. Single parents must be finding it particularly difficult. Our daughter was not going to send her two children back when the Government announced the opening of schools on June 1st because like many other parents, she felt it was not safe. I felt very depressed on behalf of my daughter and her husband as both are sharing the job of schooling our two grandchildren, aged 10 and 8 years old as well as continuing to do their freelance work, which is not easy. The structure they have made for the day is schoolwork in the morning, which is mostly English and Maths (there is a lot of it) and exercise plus creative activities in the afternoon. Some of the maths problems have puzzled our daughter and son-in-law who are confident in tackling maths at this level. After much pained frustration, it later emerged after contacting other parents they know through their children, that some of the questions on the online paper were incorrectly written down. This sounds like the common disease that is circulating at the moment; the inaccuracy of information. Or it is a case of bad editing?
Our two grandchildren are managing well as their parents are determined they should not fall behind in their learning. Just recently their piano teacher made lessons available online and this has come at the right time as the balancing act of work, homeschooling, exercise plus house jobs, like putting food on the table, meant something had to give, such as practising scales and the need to avoid over playing the latest pieces of music which were examined in March from becoming ‘stale’.
We are not able to help the family physically so George Skypes the two grandchildren on Friday afternoons to do a poetry workshop with each of them separately and this has been very successful .The younger one was ‘frightened’ of poetry but with gentle guidance from George he is enjoying it now and the elder child is loving the experience as well. It has been one of my isolation pleasures to hear and read what the grandchildren produce during these sessions.
We also set a weekly quiz on a subject which the children do in the day and in the evening we Skype to hear their answers. It isn’t just ‘facts’ in the quiz, there is a bit of creative writing and a drawing or illustration. There is also an element of fantasy in one of the questions. This has been fun and a great way to enjoy the grandchildren at a distance.
Boris is fronting the press briefing later today to do his usual ‘give the hard working British some good news’ stint. Zoos are being allowed to open next week. We have been hearing for a few weeks now that animals are going to suffer as funds are so low and some zoos may have to close down.
Animal shelters are also feeling the strain as more animals, mainly dogs, are being dumped because people can’t afford to feed them. However, it was a ‘yappy’ ending for eight ‘high value’ Bulldogs stolen from a breeder as reported in the Staffordshire news. Within a mere 45 minutes of the theft the police had stopped a car on the M1 to arrest several young men who had the dogs in the back of the car. There is a lovely photo of one of the dogs (American) sitting in the driver’s seat, looking very much like a doggy version of Churchill!
John Mole, St Albans
Asked too many questions
at the dinner table
like what was next
or could we have cake for afters,
my mother’s answers
always came out the same -
pudding was Wait and See
or Finish What’s on your Plate.
I thought of her today
when someone asked me
just how long I thought
this isolation would go on
as if it were a meal
that seemed to last forever
and we were restless children
asking to get down.
Bumpy landing on the south coast
Last night, already tired after being ‘on duty’ all day, I disinfected every surface which could possibly have been affected by the wide-ranging plumber; the kitchen, bathroom and loo obvously had to be done but I also did my bedroom from top to bottom. This, I thought, would give me three days before I could move back in, the virus apparently adhering to hard surfaces for that time. Finally pushed my bedding anyoldhow down between chest of drawers and desk in my study and slept (despite rather hard floor - sofa cushions too tonight), thinking it was only for another two nights.
Hey ho, today said plumber came back, with his dad (both really sweet) and invaded everywhere including my bedroom again. Groan. Still, the presence of Dad was good as I was able to casually mention that son’s mask, of which I had been so approving, tended to become a chin-guard at best once he got going. Thenceforth, both masks stayed firmly in place. Parents do have their uses.
My own ears are really sore now from my own mask. A tiny taste of working 12 hours in full ICU kit: unbelievable.
I had to venture out to B&Q and Wickes to get a couple of replacement tiles for the bathroom; all my ppe on so I didn’t mind. I'm getting better at remembering in which order to take off gloves etc so as not to undo their good. I also managed to remember the way there - there’s a first! I have been here three months but have had no opportunity to make a mental map at all, which feels weird. Thank goodness for satnav, when the chips are down.
Today I finally located Springwatch’s ‘Chris and Meg Out to Lunch’ on Facebook: thoroughly enjoyable. Of course I welled up, as usual.
I’m almost glad of plumbers and grey weather, as I can do nothing but write, hour after hour. Still, once they’ve gone (if we have a shower and hot water - last night I washed my head and feet in icy cold) I shall get my running gear on and pound up to the woods.
Oh, a couple of days ago I was tasked with watching the snake, popped in a shopping bag while its mum tweaked its cage - and the b****y thing escaped, giving me a terrible fright - as much by its mum’s yell as my shock at seeing it - when it was spotted slithering across the dining room floor. I was not popular, as this follows on from a wildly traumatic time last autumn when I lost one of the tortoises for the entire winter... A (ghastly) story for another time.
It’s adrenaline central here.
Can’t believe we have only two more days of quotidian contact.
Hello from Eastbourne
Football in the park by Franklin Lewis Macrae
This week I have had to get my science homework out of the way, there was lots of it. It was so about pH levels, acids and alkalis and it was actually quite fun. I was a bit worried that I won't pass my GCSEs because we have been away from school for so long. My mum told the science teacher and she sent me an email to say she will go over everything when we go back to school. I felt better after that. Afterwards, there was maths lessons on the area of triangles which turned out to be easy.
Then something awesome happened! My mum and my best friend's mum had arranged to meet with us in the park. I have not seen him since March 19th! We were so pleased to see each other. We decided to kick a ball around while social distancing but this was extremely difficult. At first I was nervous, especially on the way to the park and then when I arrived and I think he felt nervous too. At first we just chatted about cars but then we played football and relaxed. My mum and his mum said we can do this every week. His mum told my mum that he is lonely too. When I got home my mum told me to shower and wash my hair then I had an enormous bowl of Swedish green soup and a strawberry tart. I was very tired and asleep at 9pm.
The Pink Fuzzy Wuzzy Gloves, continued, by Marli Rose Macrae
One day, there was a knock at the door.
Mary opened it and there standing on the doorstep was a mysterious and glamorous rabbit. She wore a blush pink head scarf, a matching velvet dress, an emerald green cloak and a gold bell around her neck.
"Hello there young lady. My name is Fortunata. I have some things in my basket that you might like to buy... velvet ribbons, socks, buttons, beads and gloves"
"Oh I would love a pretty thing but we don't have any money' replied Mary.
"Oh never mind", replied the mysterious Fortunata. "Perhaps you could spare me some water and perhaps a few carrots?"
So kind Mary took Fortunata inside and gave her some water and carrots.
When she had finished, Fortunata said
"Thank you for your kindness. I would like to give you a present, a pair of pink fuzzy wuzzy gloves. These are magic gloves and they will protect you from Jack Frost's bite. They also grant wishes but only kind wishes, never greedy wishes. So they can make someone recover from illness but they cannot make endless money. However, I must warn you, if they are separated they can turn mischievous and spiteful. Goodbye my child and thank you".
And with that she left. When Mary looked outside the door for her, there was no sign.
Mary carried on with her chores. She had some seeds to plant in the garden. She removed her pink fuzzy wuzzy gloves so they wouldn't get dirty.
Alas who should come along but beastly Elizabeth! She saw the gloves on the path and wanted them.
"Those are pretty gloves", she said to herself, smiling. I'll just take them".
However she only had time to snatch one glove.
When Mary discovered one of the gloves was gone she felt ill with sorrow, she had never had gloves before. She developed a high temperature and her worried parents put her to bed.
That night however, Mary's remaining glove became restless. It stole out of the house and into the dark road. It ran to beastly Elizabeth's house, seeking its twin. It crept up through the letter box and into the house.
"Elizabeth, Elizabeth", it called out.
"I'm here. I want my twin. I'm in your hall and I'm coming for my twin".
Elizabeth woke up with a start. Surely she must be dreaming. But no, again she heard the voice.
"Elizabeth, Elizabeth, I'm on your staircase now. I'm coming for my twin. I'm at the top of the stairs now Elizabeth. I'm getting closer".
Elizabeth pulled her blankets over her head. Her bedroom door creaked open.
"Elizabeth, Elizabeth, I'm here, in your room. I want my twin. I'm on your bed now Elizabeth. I'm going to pull your hair and I'll keep on pulling until you give me back my twin".
At that, Elizabeth jumped up, just as the glove tugged hard at her hair.
"I don't have your twin!" she screamed.
"Oh what fibs you tell!" laughed the glove. "I'm going to pull your hair all night until you are bald if I have to you wicked girl"
Weeping, Elizabeth opened her bedside drawer and pulled out the glove she stole. It too tugged her hair hard and then the gloves fled. Her mummy and daddy had heard the screaming but as she was always having tantrums, they didn't come right away.
The next morning, Mary put on her coat for school. When she put her hand inside her pocket, she felt not one pink fuzzy wuzzy glove, but two!
From the Editor
Thanks to everyone who has responded so warmly to the idea of a weekly journal. If anyone hasn’t responded (either aye or nay) do let us know your views today if possible, so we can have an idea as to whether there would be enough contributors to a weekly journal. It certainly looks that way at the moment!
I haven’t much to say at the moment, as, after being not that busy most of the time, everything seems to have happened at once: the large order I’d made in March (lazily) of vegetable plug plants has arrived a month late, and the plants need getting into the ground, but we are in the middle of preparing and painting the hall, landing and stairs and discovering (we think) more traces of Tudor decoration on one wall, and it’s raining on and off, and the greenhouse is still full of zinnias and other flowers to find room for. And I seem to have twisted my good left ankle (my right one has never been the same sine I severed my Achilles’ tendon last September, and the doctor failed to diagnose it.) So imagine me hobbling from greenhouse to garden to the first floor and back covered alternately in soil and paint. Help!
But we have managed to find time to indulge in a Zoom play reading of The Importance of Being Earnest organised by our friends in Sussex, Stephen and Stephanie. A great success and very enjoyable, I recommend it. Perhaps this is the future for theatre! Act Three still to be read on Friday at teatime!
As Lady Bracknell says, “The whole theory of modern education is unsound. Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever. If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.”
Perhaps our schools will be kept closed forever by Boris?!