Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK


    Up betimes to a hurried toilet and thence to my bee hyves, they being grown much with a curtain of nettles before, and the bees perhaps inconvenienced thereby. So, a- putting on my suit of finest white twill with hoode attached and gloves of goatkid I did stride out only to be stopped by Rich. the Gardener, he whistling the theme from Ghostbusters, saucy man, so I boxed his ears. Apon learning of my quest he thought bold enough to offer an opinion, viz: the bees might like the shade the nettels provide but I withstand such nonsense, it being known in Scientific Circles bees like to get up early, and the nettles being between them and the sun, they may be late in their labours. He say something to the tune of “oh well, on your head” or somesuch as I strode off. I think he is jealous of my fine white suit. At the hyves I set about cutting and trampling the nettles to great effect, only it did seeme to disturb my bees who roared out in a great clowed and settled upon me, one stinging me upon the nose where it touched the veil before. I abandoned the job and advanced upon Rich. who had come through to observe, and now seemed in some mirth. But fast as I advanced, entreating him to brush the bees from me with his besom, he did retreat as fast, a-talking much of job description. Thus we performed a socially-distanced dance around the garden before I plunged into the shrubbery and brushed the bees off myself among bushes. Emerging, Rich was still inclined to be saucy, so boxed his ears again.

     Later, and recovered, I did find and modify the short ladder I am set on leaning against a wall, thereby forming many shelves for pottes of Geraniums in the Sun. I, being Plagued here by fowle great and small, have to take such precaution of using great pottes, or small pottes on ladders to raise plants above their meddling, but nevertheless am encouraged in this enterprise by the Edict of Boris Johnson Esq who did come before the House and his People last eve and proclaim that Garden Shoppes are to open tomorrow and so I might find Geraniums a-plenty there, needing above a doz. or so and wanting of a jaunt in the Carriage with my Wife.


     Unfortunately, he also said (among many other diverse things) that for the next seven weekes no visits to others are to be made that involve overnight lodging. Most unfortunate, as in my experience that is the only visit worth making and more particularly, I am now unable to receive here Guests who were to visit in June and pay handsomely for the priviledge, Norfolk being something of a fashionable Tourist Trap.


     I have sent for a most ingenious invention that will, by way of a cord, draw up my hen-house door early in the morning to allow hens to roam and lower it again in the evening, shutting them in. Was unwise enough to mention this to Rich. who made great scorn of the enterprise, proclaiming it a waste of money and liable to leave the hens outside if closed too soon. Rather than explain further, made it his jobbe to close the hens up safely, so, should they be lost to fox or dog he must answer for it. In this way he must observe at dusk that all is well (for I am content that it shall be so) without I having to leave my Table to do likewise. Planted, with Rich. some Hazelnut trees, in a small copse of which I am mighty pleased though he do say gloomily there is little point as Squirrells will always find nuts before Man. Boxed his Ears.

Eighteen beehives. Woodcut,
ca. 1600. Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International
(CC BY 4.0)


From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

Yesterday I recorded a zoom interview about my memories of filming Miss Marple for the BBC in the eighties and nineties. It was a great pleasure to do particularly as it reunited me with my old sidekick in the series, Ian Brimble, who played DC Lake to my DI Slack. We both recalled that filming at The BBC was a very different matter in those days, more care and time being given to the actors. Nowadays one only meets the cast members with whom you share scenes but in those days the whole company rehearsed for a couple of weeks, just as you would if you were in a theatre company doing a play, before going out on location to film. These rehearsals took place in a multi-story purpose built block opposite North Acton tube station which became known as The Actor's Hilton. I think there were six stories of rehearsal rooms with three rehearsal rooms on each floor and a canteen on the top. At any given time, therefore, the building contained eighteen shows in rehearsal, from Top of the Pops to Cosi fan Tutte. In retrospect I see it was rather like a club. As a young actor, not long out of drama school, I remember going up in the lift with the entire cast of Dad's Army and John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson and thinking all my Christmases had come at once - and you never knew what old friends you'd bump into at lunchtime. When I was first asked to do Miss Marple I had no idea, having never read the books, that I would be in more than one story so, having been something that I thought would occupy me for a couple of months, I was delighted to appear in five stories, all Christmas specials, spread over about twelve years.  


I'm getting used to zoom - I did a zoom pub quiz last Tuesday and very much enjoyed it and hoping to do another tonight. 


My friend Rory Kinnear has an eloquent article in The Guardian today about the death of his sister from coronavirus. She had been in a care home for most of her life, though she actually died in hospital. 

‘She did not have it coming,' writes Rory,' she was no more disposable than anyone else. Her death was not inevitable, does not ease our burden, is not a blessing.' ... 'Grateful to live in a country that makes provisions of care free to all, no matter one's need, however stretched and fraying their constant underfunding increasingly makes them' ... (This disease) is making the lives of those most in need of our care and compassion even harder, even more fearful. And If there is anything that I hope might come from Karina's death, from the tens of thousands of other deaths caused by this disease and its insidious spread, it is that, as a country, from government both national and local, we might make our focus the easing of those lives in the future.'


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Deaths down in this weeks figures but still 38,000 Covid deaths

Excess deaths (Office National Statistics): 47,000 deaths in 5 weeks in England and Wales

20,000 excess deaths in the community not Covid.


R number

There is a school of thought that the lockdown has maybe flattened the curve a bit but hasn't made that much difference as the virus was out there and will continue to be so really we just need to get on with it now and find a way to live with it. 


Seem to be breaking the law regularly at the moment as my friend came into the garden to pick up her purchases from Verandah. Gloves - me and instructions to her, don't touch anything, 2m distancing observed. Earnie not allowed out. It is weird where in ones old life you would give a big hug to a friend and now you are saying, stay there, you can't come in, don't touch. Its almost rude. It's odd.


Some people are going back to work tomorrow. 

No compulsory mask wearing. 

I think the government are quietly going back to the herd immunity thing. There is room in intensive care for a few more ill people. The older and vulnerable are still locked down or shielded.

The working man, builders, factory and other low paid workers etc are the first to go back. 

Canon Fodder?

Office type jobs can be done on line.

Rishi has just announced that the furlough will continue like it is until July and then extended until October but with more responsibility to employers.

I meant to tell you yesterday that I did manage to drag the big carpet up the spiral staircase. Have got to hoover the room and then get the easel upstairs as well. The trolly is one you have to assemble your self. That may be a step too far for my brain that is not wired like that.


The post man left my mail shoved in the gate with a note on the back of an envelope. See picture.

I need staff.


Captain Tom is on the radio.
He has been granted The Freedom of the City of London.

Trump getting in a right strop at a press conference.



Bumpy landing on the south coast

Catherine, Sussex, UK

Well, Boris’s tv slot on Sunday formed the focus of some post-dinner chat for me and the Juniors. It was a bit out of the latters’ comfort zone but they homed in on it. We have been thinking that not much will change, that Boris was simply legitimising what had already become the status quo, ie too much out-and-abouting and too little social distancing.


But today already there is a change in the air. The first I noticed was a council chap whizzing along on his little tractory thing spraying (weedkiller, I presume) the verge outside my house. My heart bled, because that surely means the lovely burgeoning meadow in the park - and most other places too - will, before long, be scalped as well as, I imagine, sprayed. Plus ca change.


I hear more traffic on the road, including lorries, and more voices in the street below.


Because I moved here on the first full day of shutdown I have known nothing but peace, clean air and birdsong. In my heart of hearts I knew it couldn’t last, but nonetheless my heart is beginning to break.


I suppose my heavenly walk/run route will now be full of flying golfballs, and not the people’s park it had become.


A bumpy landing onto reality, never mind the south coast.


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Weekly Angel telephoned this morning to say that although she is being encouraged by the government to return to work she does not feel safe to do so and has proposed a review at the beginning of July. I did not show my distress but I do miss her scrupulous attention to detail and her sunny news.


Similar announcement from her daughter who performs the most superb luxury pedicures in the comfort of one’s own home and paints my toenails in celebrity-coloured shellac which dries instantly and lasts for up to six weeks! So Birkenstocks shelved for a while!


Other news. Self raising flour available at the coop and just 20 minutes ago the whacky new sunshade I ordered from India arrived. It is orange and unexpectedly has mirrors stitched all over and is lined in daffodil yellow... both the mirrors and the yellow lining unexpected! Weather not conducive to trying it out! Am not at all sure about it and have hidden it in a cupboard hoping that next time I see it I will be properly charmed. Better put on some Lata Mangeshkar and get on with the housework!



From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

I am confused.

The recent windy weather that signalled the end of the tulips for this year, and the windy rhetoric around the recent and contradictory ‘latest advice’ and easing of lockdown have left me feeling slumped and puzzled.


On Sunday evening I couldn’t understand why people were being encouraged to return to work in twelve hours... surely at least a week’s planning would be necessary?


As other details emerge, I’m left wondering why I’m allowed to meet someone from another household two metres away in a park (what park?) but only one person? I’m trying to work out why Peter and I who’ve been in complete self isolation for 8 weeks couldn’t meet another married couple who have been similarly isolated, in our garden at two metres distance. Aren’t some parks going to get overwhelmed with mini reunions? Alternatively, as I’m allowed to drive as far as I like as I long as I don’t cross the border into Scotland or Wales, I could drive to Bristol and meet my friend Mary in a park there. We’d have to bring our own refreshments and umbrellas, I’d have to visit petrol stations, and If I broke down, I’d be a burden to rescue services, but I think it’s allowed. Would it be worth 160 miles each way? Perhaps we’ll stick to FaceTime, Mary.


And why are visitors from abroad to be quarantined for fourteen days only now? Surely that should have been happening all this time? And why are visitors from France exempt from this measure?


I am tempted by the reopening of garden centres and nurseries. Apart from plants, I do need rather a lot of alpine grit or pea shingle to keep slugs at bay when I plant out my dahlias etc. And my co-editor Sheila is making me a mask. But I do have to be extra cautious as Peter is in his eighties... so perhaps not quite yet. Of course, seventy percent of customers to garden centres are pensioners. I hope opening up garden centres doesn’t lead to a flaring up of coronavirus clusters.


We’ll just carry on self isolating, being careful. Feeling privileged and reasonably safe. It seems to me that it’s the lower paid employees who are again being put at risk by all these mixed messages and half measures. Construction workers, manufacturing workers, off you go, join the transport workers, the security guards, shop workers, delivery men, cleaners, care workers, nurses. The rest of us can work at home, protected, and served by those who ‘do’ for us. 


All to save the economy. I hope it’s going to be a different sort of economy after this.