Thoughts from the Suffolk coast
Harris G, Suffolk
It’s dull and thankfully a bit cooler this morning.
Yesterday was a scorcher. I love the sunshine but find the heat exhausting. Never satisfied, eh?
Cleared back room in preparation for redecorating and then lunched on fish and chips from the local shop that has recently reopened. It seems to work. One person in at a time and then queue outside until called back to collect the order. Anyway, it was delicious.
A ride into Bungay in the afternoon.
Walked around the castle mound. A few people about but still feels like a Sunday.
Clapped at 8pm and then listened to the neighbours as they all shouted across the lane. Peculiar behaviour that makes me feel self conscious. Happy clappy over - watered in the greenhouse. Plants doing well. Had first strawberry yesterday (after the fish and chips). Just lovely. Full of sweetness and flavour unlike the huge, brightly coloured ones that we buy in the supermarket and complain about since they always disappoint.
We had a phone call from a friend who is a district nurse. She had visited an elderly woman who lives alone. Woman struggling but not wanting to accept help. Usually cared for by her elderly brother in law. Until lockdown he had called in daily to do any heavy lifting, checking to see all well. The woman cried and cried. Feels lonely and overwhelmed with sadness. Our friend was distressed too - couldn’t hug the woman, couldn’t stay and even have a drink with her. Tragic.
Watched television for an hour or so. Do they honestly expect us to watch cartoons and reruns forever? It is mostly drivel. And the news ? Just depressing. Whinging couples wearing insufficient clothing complaining about everything or smarmy over-excited presenters looking as though they’re about to burst into a verse of “Skippy, skippy, skippy the bush kangaroo”. Grumpy sod here.
Better today. Less heat.
Paul Lowden, Malaysia
“All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Welcomes you to another great day’s play.”
Keith Mansfield’s “Light and Tuneful” harmony
G, E, C, D, E flat, orchestrated
To slow motion heroes and heroines
Has us transfixed. That brass fanfare hook, catchy,
A reminder that summer’s truly here.
Linen, hats, picnics, Pimms, strawberries, tea,
Thunking shots, applause, occasional roars
Of delighted disbelief. Athletic
Newbies take on Goliaths centre stage
And sometimes win. A British underdog
Cheered to the rafters for just taking part
In one of the great festivals of art.
Absurd drama, surreal, not life at all
But more a grand suspension for a while
Of all our daily niggles, stresses, strains.
Windows summer-wide, grass unmown, borders
Rife with weeds, a chair, a drink, dulcet tones.
We’ve battled through the nervous opening
Rounds of mixed doubles on the outer courts,
Seeing off experienced opponents.
MacEnroe opines, “They just got lucky!”
But good work at the net, strong service game
And some deft baseline play finding the lines
Means they have time to build their campaign. “They’ll
Only get better” says Tracey. Balding
Smiles: “Some unorthodox things too, slicing
An ace, air shots, volleying that serve! Wow!
But here they are in the quarter finals.
Do you think they can go all the way now?”
“Sure, like I said. They got a dose of luck.
And I just love their hydration station:
‘Beafeaters’, boy, some kinda cordial!
And as for their kit; retro’s clearly back
With Empire length shorts for him. At least she’s
Gone for something more modern. So fingers
Crossed for the coming days. So sure, why not?”
Shadows lengthen but the tune lingers on
G, E, C, D, E flat…
So even if there is no play today
Wimbledon will be back.
Stiff upper lip.
John Underwood, Norfolk
Messing about in boats
On Wednesday last, we were able to go to our boat and take it out on the Norfolk Broads for the day. We felt strange, rather as if we were truanting from real life. The Broads Authority had been allowing boat owners to take boats out for a week, but our mooring had been closed until Wednesday and we had no access. Everything was fairly ship-shape when we arrived, the boat still fairly clean, and the awning had not blown away. I had been concerned that after eight weeks of standing idle the battery would be flat, but after putting some fresh petrol in the tank, the outboard started on the third turn of the key. Big relief. We made our way down the river Ant, which was unusually quiet, and into Barton Broad, where a few largish sailing boats were blatting along in the stiff breeze. I was looking out for Kingfishers - we usually see them at our mooring - but nothing had appeared. We saw a number of pairs of nesting Swans, three Buzzards together wheeling high overhead, a Marsh Harrier hunting over the reed beds, and finally a brief glimpse of a Kingfisher, low on the water.
We moored up at Irstead, where a lovely church sits a hundred yards back from the water, and had a picnic lunch. There was a bench there which bore a sign which said that you could sit on it, but not touch it. Hmmm. We lounged in the sun, enjoying the gentle movement of the boat, and watching the world float by. In the afternoon we headed back via a little staithe at Neatishead, and noted that the wind had picked up across the Broad, proving tricky for some sailors. We were getting concerned that it might be difficult to navigate into our mooring, which is quite tight. You need to be almost at a standstill to avoid hitting other boats, but at that speed you have very little control over steering, and the wind will turn you the way it wants to, rather than you turning where you want to go - losing “way” in sailing terms. In the end, we had to turn round and head down with the wind behind us and managed a reasonably elegant mooring - not too much yelling at each other, and mercifully no nearby witnesses. Great to get out on the water again. I find it a transformative experience, as you move in a different element. I never really understood the term “ like a ship out of water” until I owned a boat. Out of the water, our boat is a large, ungainly fibreglass hulk. In the water it comes alive. And then you see an other- worldly Kingfisher and realise how anchored you still are.
Hilary Q, North Norfolk
The bright sunlight has started to tell inside the house that the dust of ages is beginning to settle. Petals have fallen from the last of the tulips and the first of the roses and need to be swept away. Books and newspapers have to be pushed aside to make space for the tea tray and gardening tools are strewn near every door.
Bumpy landing on the south coast
Bumpy landing on the south coast - Catherine, Sussex, UK
Yesterday I felt unaccountably tired (even though it wasn’t that hot), and after lunch I unusually fell asleep under the gazebo (which last night did its best to fly away) while catching up with magazine-reading. I had just reached a rather contentious article in The Oldie which castigated those who avoid oncoming folk by hurling themselves into the undergrowth/leaping over walls. Sound familiar? At least now I know I’m not the only one. And I do defend my right to do so without adverse judgement. So there.
After I woke up again I cut some of the lovely roses which are beginning to bloom, and brought them into the house. I mention them because this new garden is slowly revealing itself to me, which is a delight. I never know what will appear next, but it seems to have been well planted.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the change over the last two months in my thought-speed and patterns, I have found myself ruminating in a more pleasingly free-flowing way. One topic, inter alia, is the sartorial impact of shutdown. For myself, I find myself dressing and making up more carefully every day (except - sod’s law - the day I was cleaning the house and caught out by the photographer). This is in contrast with my previous life, when days at home (as opposed to going out, I must stress, in case you think I am a complete slut) were spent in comfortable sloppiness. But there are two clear reasons for this change in attitude: first, to keep from frightening myself (or the horses) when I catch sight of myself in the mirror, and, secondly, in an attempt to retain some sort of moral authority over the Juniors. I don’t know if the second works; as to the former, well, I am what I am.
I am now curious to know what effect our changed times have had on other journalers’ sartorial habits. (As I write this, I am regaled with a magnificent sun-reddened builder’s bum across the road - some things never change!). Any thoughts?
James: I loved your poem. I had to look up Lukla, ‘the most dangerous landing strip in the world’, and feel the wiser for it. Staying home has its advantages, after all.
Thoughts from the Top of the Hill
Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
Friday. Book buyers still thin on the ground. Today, just an old guide to butterflies flying away to Australia. Meanwhile the mopping up operation continues from the mass of parcels sent out in April with a socially distanced kiss and a fervent promise. An obscure first edition by a Polish writer failed to reach its anxious reader; having made it as far as Bradford, it disappeared from the radar, perhaps falling behind a table in the busy Hermes sorting office. Pleas for a thorough search having fallen on deaf ears, but refund readily given, I have finally sourced another copy in Sweden for my customer and pray daily for its safe arrival. An American customer is eagerly awaiting "Sailing Alone Around the World", which has also failed to reach its destination and he is worried because he is going away on 1st June. I wonder if he is going off on a solo sailing trip, perhaps he needs the book for reference. I can only express regret that I cannot personally deliver the package and that deliveries are necessarily delayed in the current circumstances.
I have abandoned my plans for learning to play the keyboard or to paint in watercolours during lockdown. It might be over soon and I would be thrust back into my normal life half-formed. Therefore a couple of days ago I revived an old urge to get at least a smattering of knowledge of quantum physics and started to read "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat" .
There is a back story to this. At the age of about eleven, I decided I wanted to be a vet, so I concentrated my efforts at school on Biology and regularly gained A+ marks in this subject. When the time came to choose subjects for O-Levels, if you wanted to study sciences at A-Level, you had to be in the science set for O-Level and therefore choose Physics and Chemistry. Biology, my best subject, was not an option for the science set. I dutifully picked Physics and Chemistry for O-Level, postponing my beloved Biology till A-Level. Our new Chemistry teacher, the only male teacher in the school, had a strong accent - Russian (it could have been German but we called him Kruschev) and I found it hard to follow his lessons. The periodic table was a complete mystery to me from the first day of term and I never recovered from this confusion, making mad stabs at chemical equations for two years. Dr (?) said I was not competent enough to sit the O-Level exam, although I attained a good pass in Physics with a different teacher. I never sat A-Levels and that was the end of my foray into the world of science. (The 'A' in O-Level Eng.Lit. came in handy though).
Now, with no desire to fulfil a vocation, I am free to explore knowledge and have made a start on "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat". It is very interesting and the first night I made it to page 10 before falling asleep, which I count as an achievement. The second night I reached page 16. I am now learning about light waves and there have been (thankfully) brief references to the periodic table.
I live in hope of finishing the book but maybe not before the end of lockdown and, as I have just ordered the new Hilary Mantel, maybe not this year.
From the South Downs
Earlier in the lockdown, my hairdressers sent a couple of emails saying that if customers dye their hair themselves, it could take £200 to sort out the damage when we return to the shop. It's three months since I visited the hairdresser, and I have just fairly successfully used a box dye costing £4.49. I suppose this price is the secret they didn't want divulged. I hate dying my own hair. I am clumsy and get dye everywhere, in my eyes, all over the bath, shower controls, on my skin and today, my alarm clock and mobile phone, because of two attempts to time the proceedings while wearing stained, wet plastic gloves whose slipperiness made me access an emergency phone line rather than the timer. I trimmed my hair too and it's all looking reasonable and certainly better than yesterday. No chit-chat was required. Only swearing and swerving round (in my old glasses in order not to stain the new ones) between three awkward mirrors to attempt a view of what I was doing. No tip. No parking fee. No petrol costs. And yet... when it feels safe, I probably will return to the professionals, though I don't think they should open in a hurry as in Georgia, USA. It's an odd priority in the current circumstances.