Bumpy landing on the south coast

Catherine, Sussex, UK

On Saturday another dear friend from my former life phoned. She, like the previous caller, knows about, and shares some features of, my life and circumstances and so I was again able to enjoy a long, deep and satisfying conversation. Once more, it was such a tonic! When I left my old town and friends I had it in mind to dive straight into the new one, gathering people and experiences. Nearly all my previous circle of friends originated in the local U3A, and I imagined I would be able to do the same here. During this lacuna, it’s too far to meet old friends for socially-distanced tea and cake, so the phone calls have been a terrific second best. I am very good at being on my own - in fact at times I crave it - but knowledge of solid friendships within reach is the best base for that solitude. For me, loneliness is not so much the absence of people as being with the wrong people, with whom I can’t be my real self, laugh freely, and in turn appreciate their real selves.


One of my previous activities was playing flute in an orchestra. Latterly, we had a stab at online playing, but the technology beat me and I gave up. I wonder at the marvel of Zoom when I see those little mosaics of faces and their artfully-arranged (or not) backdrops. Despite no longer playing with them, I try to keep up the practice, as it is a good discipline and fortifies me when I flag. In the beginning of our house-sharing, Junior 1 and I had a go at playing together (she on her trumpet) but the music is all wrong for that combination so we had to give up, which is a shame as it was quite bonding. Maybe not for the neighbours, though.


Playing an instrument is good for the brain, they say: well, I should play more, as I had a night-time moment of doubt about my flippant comment re. recognising Chris’s cartoon in The Oldie. I got up and leafed through it: the cartoon wasn’t there. So then I dug out the latest The Week: not there either. I blame the vertigo. Which is finally fading - I hope not in tandem with me.

Humour is surely good for us too, and a couple of yesterday’s journal entries made me lol, as they say.


Yesterday it was my turn to make our weekly communal meal; I made ‘meat’ balls with red pepper sauce, mashed potato and salad (Linda McCartney, if you’re interested). As I try a new recipe each time it unexpectedly took four (disorganised) hours (I’m generally of the bish bash bosh school), but I have to say it was very nice, and served as my lunch today, too - always a bonus! and has given me the strength to wrestle with the gazebo in the flailing wind. The struts are bit by bit splitting and need metres of gaffer tape and sturdy string to fix and hold down.


Baby is now kicking: a lounging Junior 1 first noticed it last week when her ID card, dangling from its lanyard, bounced on her belly. Junior 2 (barred from the latest scan) was yesterday chuffed to bits to have his hand guided to feel another kick. Granny's turn next, I hope.


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

Our Zoom drama meeting on Friday coincided with VE Day. At the moment we are doing improvisations in pairs with the rest of the group watching. We are given a topic but don’t speak to our partner beforehand so anything can develop. It’s working really well. We have at last all learnt how to use the mute button and find speaker view.


Before we begin the drama part of the meeting we have warm up exercises and read poems. Most of the poems chosen by the group relate to this scary time and are chosen to help us through the difficult situation we find ourselves in.

As it was VE Day I was looking for a poem written at the time of war and the one I came up with was this Great War one, penned by Siegfried Sassoon


Does It Matter

Does it matter? - losing your legs?...

For people will always be kind,

And you need not show that you mind

When the others come in after football

To gobble their muffins and eggs.


Does it matter? - losing your sight?...

There’s such splendid work for the blind;

And people will always be kind,

As you sit on the terrace remembering

And turning your face to the light.


Do they matter? - those dreams from the pit?...

You can drink and forget and be glad,

And people won’t say that you’re mad;

For they’ll know that you fought for your country,

And no one will worry a bit.


I have been trying to understand why I am not entirely comfortable with clapping for the NHS and carers on Thursday evenings. I feel guilty even saying this. It was this poem that helped me work it out. 

War was glorified and the soldiers celebrated in the same way we are celebrating the NHS. Many of those young men - boys really - were looking for excitement and the glory that would come with fighting for their country. The scenes of people clapping and cheering as they boarded trains at railway stations… When the reality of the situation hit them they just wanted to get home safely to continue their lives, preferably with all of their limbs intact. The relatives of those who died were expected to feel proud that their loved ones had sacrificed their lives for their country. Dulce et decorum… The poets told it as it was.


The NHS workers also want to get back safely to their lives and families when all this is over. They must be feeling like the soldiers. At the beginning perhaps it did seem a bit exciting - something new to overcome - and it was only dangerous for old people wasn’t it? But then came the deaths of colleagues and the realisation that they were in a very dangerous situation. How have we got it so wrong that there still isn’t enough PPE equipment to protect everyone who needs it? Why have we become so dependent on supplies from abroad instead of accepting offers, made early on by factories to manufacture PPE in this country?

I am full of admiration for all of the carers but would feel much happier clapping them if we had also given them everything they needed to protect themselves.


Bristol Calling

Simon Davies, Bristol

Listening to Boris Johnson’s plans for a return to normality last night, set me thinking about how differently people view the pandemic and how easy it is not to recognise that there are different views. 

We tend to choose friends with views and aspirations similar to our own. Therefore families are created and children brought up within a group that largely has a similar way of thinking. The newspapers or blogs we read will also tend to reinforce our views. The permeability of this bubble can be measured by the astonishment that we show when someone suggests something not accepted within our group; someone who as Margaret Thatcher said is not “one of us”.

For example consider the people who believe that we belong in Europe. We went confidently into the referendum in the knowledge that most of our friends and acquaintances supported that view and we were later most surprised to discover how many people didn’t.

Mary and I believe that Donald Trump, in contravention of his own judgement, is not the most sound and balanced leader. Everything we read and see supports this view so it came a shock to Mary to read an internet exchange between two of her relatives, one of whom took a very different position.

Similarly we were in touch with a friend recently who held strong views about the pandemic. “People die all the time”, she said and asserted that there was no virus where she lived. She was as surprised as we were that we didn’t  agree. People protesting in America for the freedom to go back to work seem to me to have as valid a case as people who might protest for the freedom for children to play on the motorway. However as these pictures show perhaps some people have taken lockdown too seriously or have been in it too long.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Oh Boris, what have you done?

You have lost your English people. All 27.5 million who watched you on the telly last night.

I didn’t watch you. I was breaking and entering in a well known blue bell wood up the road.

Confusion reigns now. “Stay Alert”. 

No body knows what you mean. 

We could understand “Stay at Home”.

You have brain washed us with 3 word slogans. We cannot cope with two.


Go to work tomorrow he said but advice to employers to be released later today. Dominic Raab said you can meet 2 parents in the park at 2 metres but a statement later said you can’t, only one parent at a time allowed.


A survey says: Low skilled workers 4 x more likely to die of Covid 19.

Security guards are top of the list along with chefs, bus and taxi drivers.

Doctor and nurses are not in this high risk group.


Back in the bubble, I made some chocolates last night which was surprisingly easy. At the beginning of all this I knew I would run out of my special chocolate so I bought some cocoa butter drops. I already had raw cacao etc. They are surprisingly good.

Every night I fall asleep on the sofa and then am awake in the early hours. Last night I discovered Rufus Wainright is on Instagram doing Robe Recitals called Quarantunes. He is so talented and just sits at his piano singing his lovely songs. He is on day 54 now and is looking progressively more shaggy.


Just donned full PPE as my huge vicious rose had blown down. I wish Roger would come back. Someone asked me yesterday what I miss. Roger I said.


Funny video of Mat Lucas being Boris has gone viral.


An announcement to say Nigel has died. This is very sad news. I love Nigel, always have. For those who don’t know who Nigel is, he is Monty Dons golden retriever who always stole the show on Gardeners World.


Bye for now.

Love Annabel xxx


Thoughts from the Top of the Hill

Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire

Monday. Spent the morning watching out for the postman as I had some parcels to put in his sack. If you don't keep a lookout you hear him slam the door of his van as he drives away. Then watched Nicola Sturgeon diplomatically telling the Scots not to be distracted by Boris Johnson. She always looks so immaculate, I wonder how she has time to do her clothes shopping, not to mention how she keeps her hair so neat. Now spending the afternoon waiting to watch the PM telling Parliament about the new measures he announced last night. We always seem to be waiting for something. We are in the category of people who watch all the news bulletins.


I'm regretting my (almost) positive comparison between our government and that of Belarus, I was being a little hasty. Now we know that not only did Boris fail to tell the heads of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish parliaments about his clever new slogan, he also didn't get agreement from the cabinet about that or anything else he announced. I imagine he wrote it with Dominic Cummings in a back room at No. 10. We have been following the saga of mixed messages and lack of clarity with a mixture of dismay and hilarity. You couldn't make it up. When historians come to write about this period far in the future, they will have to underline whole paragraphs linked to footnotes saying 'this really happened'.


Let me summarise. We are to stay alert, not stay at home. Or are we to stay alert at home? Or stay alert while we are having a party with friends in the park? If we cannot work at home we should go to work, but we should not use public transport to get there and there will be no child care in place, no health and safety measures in our workplace and no guidelines available for our employers to make a safe working environment. We should do this today, or possibly on Wednesday. We may meet with one parent in the park (not in our garden) but there should only be one of us and one of them and we must stay two metres (I prefer six feet) apart. We may exercise as often as we like and we may travel to exercise, but we must not travel to Wales or Scotland to exercise. The police won't stop us doing that however as there is too much traffic on the roads to stop every car. The tube trains were packed this morning with people who thought they had been told to go to work today.


There are now some interesting statistics about the occupations of people who have died from the virus. Someone interviewed on Sky this morning pointed out that the people with the highest death rate are from the lowest paid occupations such as taxi and bus drivers, factory and construction workers, care workers and security guards, ie people who cannot work from home and are therefore the exact people either already working or being told to return to work. The least likely to die are professionals, which I expect includes politicians.


We still can't go to the hairdresser. I can't help but point out that this obviously does not apply to the Queen, who had understandably had her hair done for her speech on VE Day.


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

Sunday, and ahead of the actual Address, all media was in a frenzy, anticipating as ever, desperate to be the ones whose guess becomes reality and thereby able to claim some insider info, some insight.

One shred that had the chilling ring of likelihood was a BBC financial guy who, in relation to furloughing and emergence into a post-furlough world said “ there’s up to three million people out there who are unemployed. They just don’t know it yet.” As if they don’t have enough to worry about.


I’m not - I hope you’ll have gathered by now - massively ‘political’. In fact I consider myself apolitical, happy to call out injustice or plain wrong-doing anywhere I find it. Of course that’s as I see it, you’ll have to make allowance for my failings and prejudices.

That said, a couple of links follow, one to David Spiegelhalter rounding on the reporting by Government at Briefings on Twitter


and one of Nicola Sturgeon, briefing (Sunday pm) after a Cobra meeting and ahead of last night’s No10 Statement, via the Grauniad



I could quote at length from them, but urge you to take a few minutes to view and hear yourself. They do seem to me to talk much sense/significantly less bollocks than most - and I’ve never really previously warmed to Sturgeon. If it wasn’t for the long winters and my nice life here, it could make me think Scotland's no bad place to be. 

I do hope Keir Starmer has been waiting for ammunition since last week’s PMQ’s and is poised now to hold the Government to some form of account. Here’s something for him: Conservative MP Owen Paterson is the paid Consultant to Randox, the company that ‘won’ the £130,000,000 contact for covid testing. Of course, they may be best in the field, but no-one else got a look in.


Well, the PM was in fine form... but the message was half formed. We’re to wait for the 50 page Parliamentary Statement after all for the full picture, though the bones were:


  • go back to work if conditions there allow for safe working

  • the youngest back to school in June

  • phased opening of more shops in June

  • hospitality sector closed at least until July

  • from this coming Wednesday our liberty restored to the extent that travelling to exercise or just to sit in the sun is ok as long as any company on the trip is household company. Once there, you can sit with whoever you like as long as you’re 2m apart. It’s the ‘sit’ that’s new. Some sports allowable where distancing possible: sunbathing (one of my favourites), golf, running, tennis, outdoor watersports, fishing, FISHING!


So, the wait for Monday’s 2pm Briefing...


Chris Mason got a copy early, but stuck to the embargo and waited til 2 before unloading on the News. All as above, plus the detail that when going out you can rendezvous with one other (not from your household) - so not both your parents as Raab said this morning in interview.

Now it’s a wait for the 5pm Briefing and evening presentations for more detail, including the expected Garden Centre relaxation.


Catherine, Sussex: commiserations regarding your Vertigo’s appearance. If it helps, my experience of the miserable thing (the sensation of seasickness with none of the adventure) was  a) it may well go sooner than later, without explanation b) avoid ‘whirling round’ in the kitchen or elsewhere as in “where’s the salt” “what’s that noise” etc c) if you go boating it won’t get worse, but taking seasick pills on land won’t make it better.

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