Hilary Q, North Norfolk
Yesterday was another glorious day with another glorious surprise. This stunning clematis pops up from behind our wood pile every year but never before has it been so deeply purple or so generous.
This may have something to do with my car which, parked directly in front of it, hasn’t moved for some time! Greenhouse effect?
Balmy or barmy... who knows... it’s a mystery... a bit like everything else really...
Hello from Eastbourne
A bit fed up, by Franklin Lewis Macrae
We haven't been doing much lately. School has sent a lot of work and it takes so long so we've been doing that. We've been out for a few walks but not big ones. The weather is now extremely hot and it's tough. We are hoping to swim in the sea later today.
It is insanely hard now, not being able to see my friends. It's been nine weeks. There is talk of schools returning but no one knows if it's safe. I'd still like to try. We won't be going to Spain this year either, which means no pool or swimming in the cove and churros for breakfast. You can swim in the sea here but it is not the same. I won't be able to meet up with my Swedish friend in Spain either.
A nice dream, by Marli Rose
I had a nice dream last night. I was sliding down a bright, apricot coloured tunnel and when I flew out at the end, before me was a gigantic palace.
The palace was as gold as a buttercup, it glittered so magnificently that some people would have sworn it was a star that had fallen from the sky. The palace had three golden turrets, two were the same size, one on the right and one on the left. The largest one was in the middle and at its centre was a crystal clear diamond. Have you ever looked at the sea when the sun is shining on it? If you have, you will know that the sea sparkles and twinkles and the diamond was exactly like that, sparkling and twinkling.
I wandered up a candy floss pink path lined with saffron yellow primroses to the front door. It was opened by a shy fairy wearing an acqua marine blue dress made of the finest silk, spun by the most noble of spiders. It trailed all the way down to her dinky feet which were wearing blue satin ballet shoes. Around her shoulders she wore a moonstone white fur cloak (not real animal fur of course), trimmed with neatly sewn on diamantes. Her hair was braided and in a bun and her silvery wings glittered in the moonlight.
"Welcome to the dream palace", she said in a tinkerling voice. Her voice sounded like bells jingling on a sleigh.
I walked inside and magic folk were dancing to a merry tune played by a tiny orchestra. The shy fairy whispered "You must speak to the Queen" and she pointed to a grand fairy sitting on a throne. I curtseyed to her.
"Today is my birthday so if you've come for a tour then you will have to come another day" she said in a posh voice.
"Happy birthday your majesty", I replied.
"I am the Queen of Dreams. I grant all the sleepy time dreams for everyone. However, every so often my enemy, Goblin Sharp Ears manages to sneak in here to my dream palace and he gives a bad dream to someone. He uses his sharp ears to listen to fears and then he spies and uses his sharp ears when I perform my magic spells, he then makes horrid dreams".
She tossed her hair. "Dawn is almost breaking, you must go and wake up but next time I shall take you on a tour of my palace my child". I took one more look at her. She wore a blush pink dress that floated around her like a mist and then I woke up.
I hope I go to the dream palace again as I do want a tour.
It's mummy's birthday this weekend and I have knitted some bunting. For her birthday tea she wants Welsh rarebit, cake and raspberry jelly.
Bumpy landing on the south coast
Catherine, Sussex, UK
Yesterday I was really, really happy.
I walked to the beach, took off my shoes, hitched up my dress and waded into the low-tide pools and lagoon. I stood there for a long time, just absorbing everything, blissful. There was room enough for everyone, enough to not feel nervous, to be able to concentrate on concentrating on nothing.
A helicopter patrolled the coast, I guess making sure that people were behaving. Coming home was a slight reality check, as folk were on the move and navigating was tricky. But not enough to mar my contentment.
On the way to the beach I had passed an old schoolhouse and was taken by the apposite plaque under its eaves: ‘So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’.
I even had an unexpected bedtime hug from Junior 1.
Next time I go to the beach, I will check the tides and take my swimsuit. Happy days!
James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
A fond reply to Bumpy Landing
on the South Coast
Blighty here we come!
Hang on to something.
This crate is about land
on the chalk fields around
Seaford. Down low, scare
the sheep away. Woah.
Going round again.
“Did you see lots of this?”
the pilot asked, silk scarf askew.
“Not the sheep,” I replied.
“But airstrips in the Serengeti, yes.
There it was wildebeest meandering.
Lukla, absolutely, proximity alarms,
port and starboard, blaring, a grey
airstrip as wide as a pencil on a faraway
steep misty mountain side. Kissing
the tops of hills on the way into smoggy
KTM, sacred cows on the runway.”
“It was duty that took me to Malawi.
It was fear overcome countless times.
Nairobi: alone with the boys at night,
alarms blaring, guards shouting.
Kathmandu: the voice of hell booming,
earth sickening swaying, me cowering
beneath a desk pleading for my life,
the earth dismissing beliefs, love
and dreams into piles of dust.
Also: sunrise over the Rift Valley,
a zillion tons of Himalaya floating in the sky,
Mount Everest right there, tears freezing
on my skin. So, yes, privileged, but
I've done my bit. I contract, sheltering
with all of us before this ever present threat.”
We are down on the deck, experience
internalized in memory and imagination.
Like beauty, danger never leaves us, it’s
as constant as the security of home
growing green and serene,
As I write, feet on the ground, largely
guilt free, wrinkling slowly into grey.
Judith Ellis, Aylsham, Norfolk
Pancreas, plague and pivot points - how malfunctioning pancreas became a pivot point for the birth of The Red Herring Book of Food Facts and a money raiser for the Food Banks.
Eighteen months ago I was diagnosed with a malfunctioning pancreas. With my medical knowledge (I am a veterinary surgeon) I wanted to do all I could to help my body recover from the ensuing weight loss; I had also found along the way that I had developed an intolerance to gluten.
It soon became apparent that most of my friends had only a very hazy idea of what gluten was and what the pancreas actually did. It occurred to me then that there was a need for a brief guide to digestive health especially in view of all the relatively recent research going on about the importance of the gut microbiome to our general health.
I had realised by now that most of the baked gluten-free goods available in the shops were largely empty calories, made up of white rice flour and starches, and if I wanted to continue to avoid processed food I would have to learn how to bake more nutritious breads and cakes than that. For a few weeks my kitchen was to become a laboratory where I began to experiment with trials of existing recipes, adapting them to be gluten-free and also lower in fat. It was fascinating for me to begin to understand some of the principles and the trade-offs between nutritious content and good flavours.
I had started to write a few things down, when I became interested in the confusing array of goods in the dairy aisle of the supermarkets. Whatever were they all? High fat, low fat, did they contain sugar, and how much protein did they have? It took me a long time to get them all sorted out and I learnt a great deal in the process, before turning my insatiable curiosity to cooking oils.
I had a vague memory of watching a TV programme where Michael Moseley was demonstrating how certain cooking oils become toxic when heated and thought it was time to be a bit clearer about this too. After tracking down the original research I was then able to present the rather complex information in a clear way, so a decision of which oil to use could be an informed one, not just blindly following someone else’s recommendation.
Having got this far in the learning process it seemed a pity not to share it more generally, so the idea was born to produce a short book for home-printing a few copies to give to family and friends.
But the project escalated as we all became more aware of the increasing extent of food poverty during the Corona crisis and it was this that decided me to produce it commercially giving all of the proceeds to the Trussell Trust. THE RED HERRING BOOK OF FOOD FACTS was born and the first £500 raised.
Available from www.thebookstudio.co.uk
Why red herrings? Well that’s another story…
From St Just
Jane G, St Just, Cornwall
One surprise discovery of lockdown is that my cherry tree is not an ornamental cherry. This is the sixth summer I've known it, and it's never before shown any sign of fruiting - or not while I'm here. I do sometimes manage a weekend in May, but am normally confined to Oxford by Shakespeare, finalists, and examining, not necessarily in that order. Seeing really rather a lot of small green incipient cherries this morning will go down as an unexpected and happy side-effect of these strange times, like encountering astonishing spreads of bluebells all the way down Cot.
That said, it seems odd that I've never spotted even discarded stones and shredded stalks - can the tree really be capable of producing an entire crop and concealing every trace of it in a matter of 3 or 4 weeks? Or has it been sulking since 2014 and suddenly rediscovered its better nature?
Remote teaching has become routine - odd only when you stop to think about it, which I'm trying not to do. In fact, stopping to think generally seems to be a bad idea. Having been perturbed by not going back to Oxford for the beginning of term, I'm now perturbed by the idea that I may have to go back when it ends - and equally perturbed by the idea that I may not be able to. But somehow both fears have been allayed by ordering a large quantity of masonry paint for the back of the house, garage and garden walls: measuring out life in Farrow & Ball feels reassuringly timeless.
From our feline in St Just
Smokey, St Just
I have once again been prevented from going up the garden path.
Jane has been asking me to join her when she talks to her machine - but although this reassures me that she doesn't intend to replace me with it, I don't find meetings adequate compensation for confinement. Also, they go on for a long time. After a while I prefer to retire to the sofa.
From the black shed
David E, East Norfolk
Yesterday was a different day. Wallace has arrived to stay for a week. He went to his usual hairdresser with appropriate social distancing at drop-off and collection. It’s as well he managed to get booked in just in time for the hot weather of the last few days. He’s very happy now.
We met up with friends for a walk on Gorleston cliffs with correct distancing. Despite cars parked everywhere (not in the car park which is still closed) there was ample space on the promenade and the beach. The benches along the cliff top are of “coronavirus standard”. Each one is so long that one can sit comfortably with a flask of coffee and still be two metres from one’s friends!
It’s more than a month since we cleared out the excess vegetation from the pond. The water has remained clear, the blanket weed hasn’t recurred and the wildlife is flourishing. Yesterday was the first day of the blue and red damselflies, flying back and forth across the water, the male often hanging on to the back of the female. Not so many larger dragonflies yet. In the water the newts are too numerous to count and are showing courtship behaviour, the male wiggling his tail in front of the female. It’s just as well there are plenty because I have seen a young grass snake, only about a foot long, in the water the last two days. Grass snakes, which should perhaps be known as water snakes, find newts very tasty!
For several days I have noticed a new activity which I have never seen before, a blackbird seizing live food from the pond. I think it must be beetles or pond skaters but possibly young newts coming up to the surface to take a breath as they do. There’s always something interesting going on!