East London Covid-19 diary
Tricia M, Bow, East London
Since lockdown, for me there have been many ups and downs. I have spent a lot of time 'talking to myself' – Why am I thinking this? Why that? Wondering if there is anyone else who feels like this.
Arriving back from Vietnam a day before 23 March was the strangest homecoming I had ever felt. I'd decided to stop at a Tesco near Heathrow after speaking with my husband during my trip telling me to be prepared as things were changing daily since I'd left 2 weeks before. Hearing that there was no food on the shelves locally was hard to comprehend but the reality was there from that moment of stepping into Tesco. The drive home through London with empty streets felt very strange, quite eerie.
All the way home in the cab my mind was going over with so many thoughts. Things felt surreal. I said to myself I'll be able 'handle this.'
Since the start of lockdown I have tried to stand back and see how Covid-19 has changed the face of daily life as I once knew it. Despite social distancing and self-isolation there have been times when I felt more connected to friends, and relatives that I'd lost contact with over time and although we were apart I felt connected. It's probably the first time in human history that I felt we were all connected, the whole world connected fighting this virus.
The past couple of months have been very challenging but not all bad. I have used this time to do some painting, relax in the garden on those lovely sunny days, tried zoom classes, meditations and so on but found that I have less enthusiasm for online classes. The 5pm glass of wine suddenly became 4pm and before I knew it the bottle had gone and the next day would be the same - well I haven't got work tomorrow, I'd say to myself. Tony working at home (and I am very thankful that he has a job) but some days have not been easy with my kitchen now being the office and being asked not to put a wash on as there's a zoom meeting soon have some days proved quite hard - should I say anymore!!
In between this time I would 'shop and drop' for my mum’s food, chatting at the gate from a distance; not giving a hug has been very difficult - I've realised how much I miss that closeness with friends and family.
It's incredibly sad the loss of life, those families who have not been there with their loved ones. Jobs being lost, the strain on the NHS and those people that are alone without friends and family is truly awful. I feel I don’t need to go on any further as we are all aware of the virus and what the future holds by listening to the news, media and the reality of daily life.
It's 54 days now and I've been in a reflective mood. I'm calm at this time (not sure for how long), despite the uncertainty of the future.
For me there have been some positives; the effect on nature, wildlife, hearing and seeing the birds, air quality has been truly lovely. The streets locally with less litter (no empty cans and chicken boxes, yay). I've discovered many new walks and places that I'd never visited locally after living here all my life. Not having to rush has been a blessing. I'm learning to remain calm and less frustrated. Before lockdown most trips to the supermarket would cause me to stress internally - whilst in a queue I'd be looking ahead thinking and saying to myself 'what the hell are they doing,' what's taking so long, really getting unnecessarily stressed - why is that - because I have, in my mind a thousand things to do. I have actually found it very interesting now when I am queueing outside the supermarket that I am not stressing and neither is anyone else - everyone is just standing, waiting and not complaining. These recent weeks have been a period of processing, trying to give myself time and space to understand myself a little rather than running away from thoughts and feelings.
I have felt scared to say this but there are times when I have enjoyed this time and have felt that I shouldn't really express this. I hope that whenever we start to live our lives in the new 'normal' that I’ll not go back to rushing, becoming impatient, shopping on the internet for all those pairs of shoes that I’ll never wear, become so busy that all those people that I have made contact with are now forgotten again. I guess I’m scared that immediately things change 'back'', I will change and go back to those old patterns of behaviour, some of which are of no benefit.
Yes I am so looking forward to hugs and having my mum stay and visiting friends and family. Visiting the pub (can't wait), restaurants. There has been a real community spirit, people are helping and sharing, being more mindful of each other.
Take care everyone...
A Poole-side View
Martin Green, Ashley Cross, Poole
It has been wonderful these last few weeks to hear the birds again. They lift the spirits in ways Mr O'Leary's flying machines never can.
Over a longish life I have formed attachments to many individual birds, residents of our garden. More than thirty years ago our garden was home, in summertime, to a pair of collared doves, the same each year, I assumed, always building incredibly untidy nests in the lone tree of our tiny patch, though they looked so well turned out themselves. And later a distinctive half-albino male blackbird, whose progeny inherited those defining white streaks. We called him Roy (i.e. "King" of the garden). After his demise, his descendants continued to keep us company. It always amused me how, after the travails of the female on the nest and during her recuperation, it was dad who took charge of the fledglings' education. I would see him hopping about the garden, seeing that his offspring had enough to eat and clearly explaining the whys and wherefores of bird life.
In a later garden we had a pond (ruled over by a prize carp named Boris). I was surprised one day to find that a pair of mallards had decided to take a holiday there from the nearby park; it was a brief stay. It was the starlings who had pride of place. There was one in particular; he (he must have been male!) managed to gouge a hole in the soffit board where he would install himself and whistle triumphantly at me, sometimes imitating other sounds too, the kitchen timer or the telephone. I loved the way the starlings looked after their young, organising crêches, with a couple of adults supervising innumerable kids while the rest of the grown-ups went off to murmurate or participate in some other starling activity. I spent happy moments watching the youngsters at their picnics on the feeding station.
In our garden in France there was constant chatter, not of garrulous Frenchwomen but of sparrows. Neighbours would comment on the noise. These sparrows were often joined at the "mangeoir" by tits and finches of various hues, dunnocks by the score, occasionally a nuthatch or a tree creeper, even a warbler or chiffchaff. And once -perish the memory! - a sparrowhawk: he was gone in a flash but not before he had snatched lunch.
There were other birds a-plenty. The Summer skies were always full of screeching swifts; once one fell onto the garden path, unable to take flight until I had flung him back to his natural habitat, the air. There were swallows too, collecting mud for nest construction and house martins in the eaves building multiple nests to show prospective partners. A flock of goldfinch might pause on their way to their favourite feeding ground behind the village hall.
One unusual visitor to the bird feeder was a female blackbird. Normally a ground feeder, she had learnt, by observing the sparrows, how to get at the hanging seeds. We always had a pair of blackbirds nesting, the male in particularly good voice at dawn and dusk; as it grew dark, he would start "chinking", a signal to his mate: "time to turn in". We would see them then fly across the garden to their nest. And so to bed.
Yes, it's good to hear the birds again.
Paul Lowden, Malaysia
“What country friends is this?” Crowd, Sunday-silenced
Gripped. Shipwrecked, uncharted waters, half-drowned,
Dragged ashore unceremoniously,
The sea no respecter of age, pomp, rank
Levels all to a horizontal blank.
Future prospects bleak, capitulate, weep,
Or face fortune’s blows? Disguise provides space.
The crowd wills her on, their representative
To grow from watery depths precious pearls
Of hope in blighted lives, to let unfurl
The flag of love and wave it battlement
High to echo round reverberate hills.
Make life what you will: from dark confusion
Can come rebirth, renewal, reunion.
Thoughts from the Suffolk coast
Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold
We have had a succession of very nice, easy days. It seems to be getting warmer and sunny again so hopefully no more frosts. We planted out the runner beans and beetroot yesterday and prepared the ground for the sweet peas. In the sunken butler sink, we planted marrows and in the cold frames we have squash and courgettes. The garlics are doing well and so too the strawberries, cucumbers and tomatoes. The mesembryanthemums our neighbour gave us are planted out in pots too. I am planning a repaint of some of the garden furniture. I moved the big garden table the day before yesterday and that leaves a space for some different chairs.
Our pattern of life includes two or even three mugs of coffee in the morning... around 09.30, 10.30 and 11.45 (decaf for me as advised by the hospital) and, if the weather keeps improving and I get the table properly cleaned, we will lunch in the garden too.
Every now and then - if the mood takes us - we leave the French doors open and have half an hour or so of music... nothing too intrusive but the occasional “You Can’t Hurry Love” by Phil Collins or ABBA singing “Waterloo” or the Sinead O’Connor version of “By the Rivers of Babylon” helps me to tackle the ground elder and bind weed! I’ve also been playing the Jessye Norman versions of the Last Four Songs of Strauss and really recommend this. Uplifting. Soul food! Do roses like music? I think I once read an article about nature responding to soothing melodies so perhaps they do. Mine might like head banging heavy metal or rap music but they’ll have to go without!
We are finishing up homemade cake. Orange and almond loaf (uses semolina, no flour) has lasted well - the amaretto sponge not so. Trying out new recipes has become a feature of lockdown life for us and I think it is popular if the supermarket shelves are anything to go by!
Amid all this domestic bliss, the phone rang yesterday. Friends from Beccles. They are planning a party in July or August. Will we attend if lockdown has eased off? Bring a bottle. How nice!
And then the mood of the conversation changes. Disquiet. Our friends feel betrayed by the government. Let down. All these dreadful unnecessary deaths. Apparently everything is depressingly unclear and flawed. What if we have been fooled? Have we been fed a pack of lies? Did we even need to go into lockdown? Would it have made any difference if we had just modified our behaviours? I listen. I make appropriate noises. I change the subject. Have you seen the rhododendrons on the stretch of road from Blythburgh to Brampton?
Headline news on the iPad this morning - (1) Piers Corbyn - Jeremy’s brother - arrested at an anti-lockdown rally and (2) Boris Johnson accused of social murder.
Quick - get out the Feliciano CD... I’m feeling in need! Let’s dance along to Guantanamera!
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
A lovely morning, and as soon as the sun hit that part of the garden, we hit ‘the beach‘ - the patch of newly installed ‘lockdown project’ gravel - for a breakfast of tomatoes and bacon on toast. While there - and, frankly, to delay leaving the scene - we took the radical decision to carefully strip every one of the curled leaves from the peach tree which leaves(!) it looking a whole lot better. We have a nagging feeling it’s the wrong thing to do at this time of year... Though I hacked it back severely last winter, it’s showing little resentment and positive signs of goodwill by having a couple of dozen tiny peaches on the go.
The News seems to be largely concerned with the risks of unwholesome mingling of children when they return to school (which I must confess I’d have a problem with if I still had school-age kids) and with the ‘exodus’ of urban man (and woman, some children) to places where they’re unwelcome - which is pretty well everywhere, not just Norfolk. Typical was a spokesman for Lake District’s Keswick (closed) who in a spirited defence of the exclusion cried “surely they’ve got their own places to visit within, say, a 20 mile radius? “ Well, quite - but what about those that live within a 20 mile radius of Keswick?
As for the wisdom of sending kids back, was it wise to wheel out Michael Gove in defence when he distanced himself from responsibility for the policy, or rather, the safety of pioneer staff and kids by declaring “well, nowhere’s 100% safe...”
Yesterday we made the hour’s round trip to my chosen fishing beach - partly for an recreational evening ‘ride out’, partly to prepare myself for whatever restrictions might apply when I arrive tomorrow. Walcott (I don’t mind sharing, I’m not one of those disinclined to reveal a favourite spot - besides, I’ve never caught much there, it’s all about the going) is a 1 km stretch of unremarkable sea wall and beach alongside a minor road with a tiny population. There are 3 access points through the sea wall.
I’d guess if all the locals went to the beach at the same time, there would still be room for 10,000 socially distanced visitors. It’s a big old stretch of sand.
There is normally a ‘layby’ parking spot for 4 or 6 cars at one end, where there’s easy beach access, then a yellow line ‘no parking’ gap of about 100m and then the rest of the road is available for parking.
Someone, some jobsworth Council, went to the trouble and expense of sending at least two workers in a truck loaded with crowd control barriers to cordon off the 6 spaces at the ‘easy’ end, the end most accessible to the elderly or less able... To make a thorough job of it, they’d even roped in the nearby bench with barrier tape in an attempt to amplify the discouragement. Someone, possibly the local family I found sitting there and who sportingly moved to let me take the pic, had removed it.
It won’t stop me fishing. The exact place I’d already selected for myself, was, I was gratified to note, selected by a brother Angler while I sat and watched. Though local, he may be as clueless as me of course - but it is a place where a ‘freshet’ of water crosses the sand to the sea, and in an otherwise featureless stretch, any feature will do as a talisman. It’s right by the access steps, with roadway parking alongside. Couldn’t be easier. I’ll let you know.
From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
I find that despite really lovely walks and so on, my feelings lately have been tending towards increased angst. Small issues appear magnified and in the bigger setting of the virus, I am worrying that all of our difficulties may never end. If these feelings seem self-indulgent, then that is because they are. The quality and manner of expression of feelings doesn’t in my opinion count for much. They are feelings and thus undeniable and real. This I realise applies to everyone, not least my fellow ‘journalists’ whose writings I find really inspiring and enjoyable to read.
I watched Diana Quick the other night in Midnight Your Time - a one woman play by Adam Brace and directed by Michael Longhurst of the Donmar Warehouse. To me this short play Seems totally apposite for the situation many of us find ourselves in. In dealing with rejection and separation it brings home our helplessness and inadequacy, however much we may sometimes believe ourselves in control. We are patently not in control, so no wonder many are anxious and afraid...
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Last night I did do a sketch of the tulips so that is a start and Daisy started her painting as well.
I woke in the night with a really painful and slightly odd headache so I immediately thought, Oh no! I've got Covid 19. Feel fine this morning.
I listened to Boston Calling on The World Service at 5.30 ish and they came out with a very interesting thing.
These countries have had a very low Covid death rate and are led by women.
New Zealand 30
Death toll in:
Sweden around 3,700
Anyway Sunday jobs, stripped bed and done the washing, moved everything out of the greenhouse, cut the grass, made a banana cake and had lunch.
Got masses of jobs still to do.
Love Annabel x
John Mole, St.Albans
A black cat starts out
to cross the road
then stops midway
the scarcity of luck,
deciding not to waste it
on an empty street.
There will be other times
and happier ones
so for now at least
he turns back to the pavement.