Then and Now

Peter Scupham

The birthday of your editor !

Her husband wants to credit her

With all she is and all she does

To give our lives a bee-like buzz.

Here she is, a one ‘l’ marvel,

On a couch, and looking larval -

A butterfly she soon will be,

And that is me,

Behind the tree,

Avoiding sprinkles from Ber-tee.



Merrywood Dispatches

Lily Wonham, Bristol

This last week I have struggled with feeling low. I have been in furlough now for 7 weeks, and my online courses have come to an end. Having been informed it is likely to be extended to the end of June, another 6 weeks away, I have found my ability to motivate myself and set my own structure start to flag - spending long mornings in bed instead of getting up; feeling bored and trapped in something of a monotonous existence. I'm not convinced I really want to sign up for a whole new set of courses, but haven't been able to yet settle on any particular project I'm passionate about either. As a result, I've felt rudderless.


At the weekend, I ran my first 5k: a huge milestone for me as I only started running when I was furloughed. In the first week, running for a 5 minutes without stopping was beyond me and to experience my body feel fitter and stronger each week has been phenomenal. However, rather than feeling proud and happy upon completing the run, I instead found myself in tears, all the anxieties having been loosened and jostled inside. I have often based my self-worth on my productivity and achievements and lately this has been repeatedly challenged. While a few achievements, such as my running, shine through, generally speaking I haven't felt productive or as if I am moving forward (or indeed in any direction).


My current project then, is myself. To be ok with just being. To read things and write things and sit on warm grass without any particular goal in mind and to be ok with not producing or achieving, but enjoying the experience of just existing in my own healthy body and having the pleasure of experiencing the world.


Vie de château

Marie-Christine, Blois, France

Back to work


Started again on Friday, today is my second day, I still know my job. It is actually the first time since September 1972 that I had 2 full months without studying or practicing medicine, if it is possible to say so, I made some progress in Virology. Not very much so, for the Covid 19 is a new virus in contact with humans, the knowledge and understanding of it still comes and goes much slower than we would like. Everybody is experimenting the basic principals of science: observe, experiment, question, permanent evaluation, multidisciplinary collaboration, confrontations, and more specific of medicine ethicals questions. 


With my collegues, we think that is the real event of our life, an abrupt fall, the development we were used to was fairly slow with time to adapt, understand and see the evolution. The personnal experience was a plus. Even if since the power of computers happened, the medical knowledge (since the beginning of historical time) double every 2 years. 


I still remember my infectious diseases Professeur in 1975 saying that we should expect the "big one" (epidemic). I can't believe it is there. I feel a bit like Drogo, in the Tartar Steppe of Dino Buzatti. It comes at the end of my professional life and I have no competence to be really useful.


We can't work as much as we could before, the hygiene protocole makes things much slower, which make the waiting lists longer. We are not really at ease, some PPE still missing, the same for disinfectants, we have to adapt constantly, telephone multiple suppliers, driving in the evening to go to the providers who still have something we need. They all say "it's a world crisis".

Fortunately, a local entrepreneur with little work to do who have a 3D printer gave all the local carers transparent face protections which we all appreciate. It is heart warming, each morning, when I put it on (by the way, one must have a surgical mask under it, it mainly to protect the eyes and prevent touching one's face). 

The human beings are still the same: some people really comprehensive and respectful. People still various in their attitudes to put it kindly. The real difficulty being "physical distancing", may be it is special to France, not in most minds, after the gouvernement annonce the end of confinement, most people thought that the virus were almost gone. We noticed with the secretaries that people are more vague in their answers even for simple questions, 2 months being almost alone probably the reason for it. Relationships have to be learn again.


We can go out for lunch, we have to eat at our desk from our lunch box, not very comforting, not a real break. 


"Not business as usual" at all.


View on my journey to work


Nobody Walks in L.A.

Antoinette Samardzic, Los Angeles, CA

A famous song from 1982: Walkin' in L.A., but not so relevant today for now L.A.'s streets are no longer seething with cars but with people running, walking, cycling, and skate boarding with the occasional roller-blader thrown in for good measure. For the past eight (?) weeks it has been almost a pleasure to drive here, the traffic being much more akin to when I landed here from Belgrade in 1981 with my husband and two-year old daughter. Coming from Europe, I detested L.A. at first (culture shock, no children playing in the streets, etc.) and it took me about three years to grow to like and accept living here. Now we happily ensconced in a typical California bungalow complete with small garden, which is a haven not only to me but to our four game hens, and everyday visitors such as hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, mocking birds, and even the very occasional red tailed hawk.

Yesterday was the anniversary of our 45 years of marriage so my husband and I drove by way of the Pacific Coast Highway to take a stroll on the Westside up Temescal Canyon. Of course, half of West L.A. was there too but there was more than adequate room to steer clear of other walkers (we were not wearing masks and neither were quite a few others). The powers that be have declared the beaches open again for exercise only but not the car parks, thus severely limiting general public access. However, not to be outdone, beachgoers thronged adjacent streets to park and walk to the beaches.


We completed our celebration last night by ordering in sushi and drinking cold sake, and reflecting upon how fortunate we are to be able to do that at all.



From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

As time goes by, I find the eventual end of lockdown is tending towards being the major focus in my life. Whilst initially I was prepared to accept quite easily the restrictions on all of our movements and contacts, these feelings and thoughts are gradually moving towards resentment and a strong yearning for change. This really has little to do with considered thought and is more about raw emotion. Rationality says what is happening may be all for the good, but I am longing for close contact and hugs from those beloved of me.


Having got today’s brief whinge out of the way, I am determined to do things today that will give me and perhaps some others a little happiness. Phone calls with my best beloved are a highlight. We talk easily of many things and that is an ongoing pleasure. I shall aim also to do my usual amount of nature watching. I may get on with some old car work and perhaps finally get around to resealing the shower cabinet - the latter has been hanging around a while. I must also phone about my single trip travel insurance, now that the trip has been cancelled. So, there are reasons for being busy at times. Then there is walking and I may aim for the Benedictine monastery of Quarr Abbey today. It’s not a place I’ve been to visit recently, but I think their delightful pigs, Gloucester Old Spot and Tamworths, need a visit. No concern over COVID for them and pork chops may thankfully not be in their awareness.


So it goes on. We are all together in one boat and yet that is where we must not be it seems. I keep telling myself that, praying and hoping all out in the world can deal with stark reality. I know some do it better than others. Apologies for being so introspective and not very priestlike today...


Tropical thoughts

Paul Lowden, Malaysia

But two loaves of Sour Dough and Coca Cola 


The gardener came; resurrection lay 

In sight [despite my lack of faith and skill

In nurturing the sick, lame, exotic,

And potted] the neighbour’s plot might survive

My lockdown vandalism, erratic

Slashing, zealous over watering.

While Malik strimmed I scrabbled to retain

A professional air, trowel, clippers, hose.

The mercury rose beyond three figures.

“Waattuur boss?” A charade of drinking,

Sweat rivuleting his shirt, sandals, toes.

Condensation glistened: Coca Cola!

Miraculously I found two sour dough loaves

And left all in the miraging shade. Hours

Later I suppose, he appeared with pots

Of turmeric, ginger, lemon grass, herbs, 

Selected, planted, the perfect site for all.

“Remember waattuur boss, grow, inshallah.”


Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Suffolk

It is 07.00 hours. I am writing this in bed and sitting up, iPad on my lap and looking out of the window. I’m drinking my second cup of tea and enjoying a comfortable, easy start to the day. No rush to get up. 


Yesterday I rang the GP surgery to check ongoing arrangements for repeat prescriptions and routine blood tests. When lockdown began, at my practice anyway, two months of medications were dispensed - (to reduce visits) and non emergency blood tests were stopped. Now, however, they ask that (wherever possible) patients submit online requests for medications. For blood tests, the “walk in” system has ceased. Appointments are given instead.


All seemed very calm over the phone - unusually relaxed. The receptionist was even playful, giggling about how to spell my name! On the wireless the news reader has said that not only are attendances at A&E departments reduced, but GP surgeries too. I’ve even heard accounts of doctors and nurses “twiddling their thumbs” - bored and “waiting for something to happen”. 


Last year - when our local community development plans were put in place, I attended meetings and wrote frequently to our Planning Departments. I vehemently opposed the proposed building of so many new houses in the little towns and villages of Suffolk and Norfolk. One of my arguments was that there is no supporting infrastructure and that schools, roads, health and welfare services are already unable to cope. 


What will lockdown have taught us about community services and infrastructure? Is there really spare capacity or will the true toll of the Covid19 crisis slowly emerge as restrictions ease off? 


A dull, cloudy start to the day - but the sky is a good pale blue and the clouds look light and benign. I have been worrying for months about my ageing Labrador but today she looks young and energetic and keeps bringing the ball or offering a paw to shake as a request to go out! “Get up, get up” those big brown eyes are saying!


From the black shed

David E, East Norfolk

I’m sure we have all been spending more time observing our surroundings than we would ordinarily do. I’ve certainly become more aware of all the jobs that need doing, both indoors and out. Some of them I have tackled, others seem not to reach the top of the pile. It seems to be a contradiction to me that despite having more time available there’s this constant feeling that because there is time available tomorrow it doesn’t need doing today. Procrastination pricks the conscience!


At least in my daily (or more frequently than daily) observation of progress in the garden I can now see what’s doing well and what is not. This year I feel I have kept up with the “gardening diary” of appropriate times for pruning, sowing, planting etc. such as only trimming evergreen hedges when the month begins with “A” and getting my first sowing of broad beans in before Christmas. 

This week jasmine and Mexican orange blossom are a mass of colour, more than usual I think and the first flush of roses have appeared together with the first foxgloves and the Californian poppies. The fading marsh marigolds are being replaced by yellow flag iris around the pond.

On the “not so good” list are the delphiniums which are barely a foot high, some of the hydrangeas which I fear may be too dry and the rugosa roses which I may have allowed to get too leggy.

In the veg garden the broad beans look great and have set seed, the globe artichokes have gone crazy (over two metres) and the new potatoes growing in an old sink are romping away. I have just planted out the courgettes which are a climbing variety for a change; I’m hoping they will be more controllable. On the down side my row of sweet peas are slowly recovering from slug or pigeon damage and the runner beans seem a bit lackadaisical. I need to give my potentially prize winning pumpkin some more tlc I think.


I had better get on with dividing and repotting some old gazanias and planting out some French beans. Happy days.



Choose Something Like a Star

Kate, Hitchin

Another beautiful morning. The countryside is calling me! I'm off for a two metre apart walk with a freind soon. Will any of us hug and kiss our friends again? I'll be one of the first volunteers if it comes to that, I'm prepared to take my chances, as the risk of not having human contact in the form of touch, is starting to get to me ! and just as real as viral risks.


No hugs from friends, loving warm kisses, (!) cuddles and hand holding with grandchildren... I am really not loving this part of our present state. I do always think myself lucky, and we can always, always in life think of worse situations... I just had a call from a very close friend and he has to attend a 'virtual funeral' today, absolutely horrendous. Not Covid related.


Well I was really going to write about smallpox today, as I was reading its history. I'm afraid to say, I had no idea that it was really mostly if not nearly all, in Europe, until the Spanish, Portuguese and English started colonizing countries and bringing their pestilence along with their weapons...

Also news from my good friend Iza who travels to India a lot, so tomorrow, ill write some Indian news.