Florist in lockdown
Jane, Near Manchester, England
The flowers on Gardener’s World last night were spectacular. So much colour! I have visited David Austin’s rose gardens a couple of times and they really are paradise. I am finding this new stage of lockdown slightly stressful, so full of uncertainty. When we were told to stay home, it was somehow more reassuring despite restrictions. There are so many people on the move now, we were actually in a traffic jam yesterday due to roadworks on the way to the posh butchers. It’s bank holiday weekend, people seem restless and it’s making them reckless. I am not convinced that it is safe yet for children to go back to school, enforcing social distancing will be so difficult and completely against human instincts. Teenagers are gathering in larger groups now, they must be desperate to socialise, I feel for them, especially as the weather is so gorgeous.
One of the big supermarkets is selling Coral Charm peonies, for less than the price we pay for them wholesale at the flower shop! It makes me angry, but I want some! My daughter says “I will buy them for you , then you can just accept them as a gift”. Gift accepted, I spent the rest of the day faffing with flowers. Keep well everyone xxxxxxxx
Bumpy landing on the south coast
Catherine, Sussex, UK
RIP my gazebo, at least for the moment. In this wind, not only was it making an unholy roaring noise day and night (these houses are covered by covenants and there is probably one against roaring gazebos, amongst others), but it was in imminent danger of taking off, landing heaven knows where, wrapped around a rookery or entangled in a tennis court net on the far side of the park. All this was not helped by the gradual splitting and snapping of the metal rods holding it all together.
Yesterday (their shopping day having changed from Saturday to Friday) the Juniors were tasked with finding two broom handles, with which to splint the ailing limbs, but it seems Tesco only supplies them with heads attached, which was deemed unacceptable.
It was clear that plan B needed to be put in action, and in the evening I began to ask Junior 2 to help me to take the gazebo down, but at that moment he took off on some muttered errand. Ah well. I rolled off the flapping plastic sheeting (no easy task as I have over the weeks applied yards of sturdy string and gaffer tape to keep it all in place); now the bent and leaning skeleton remains, looking like Brighton’s west pier, only less sculptural.
I am so sad, as it made a lovely little room, mostly only used by me. If I were still in my former town, and things were open, I would know where to go to get aforesaid splints - but here I am stuck for the moment. Instead, I thought, I’ll make the most of things and tidy the garden – but with this hooley blowing nothing would stay where it was put, so nothing doing today.
Once I can find out about these covenants (definitely no conservatories) I hope to erect a little summerhouse for spring and autumn sun-catching sit-outs. If they’re not allowed either I’ll have to dig a little pit to put it in, so that no one can see it.
Gazebos aside, I had a rather pleasing afternoon: I fancied something a little more sedate than usual, still feeling a little tired, and set off on an explore of new ground. En route I met a charming dog and his owner; she told me of a nice back route to a tiny nearby (other) park which I would never otherwise have found. It was so sweet! It is built around the chalk spring which gives rise to the town’s name; the water is crystal clear and peopled by ducks, with house and small boggy island for them and a little statue of Neptune for us humans. A few yards away stands a renovated dovecote: quite a substantial affair as it once provided squabs for the table of the (now gone) manor. Closed at the moment, of course, unfortunately. And across the road from the park is a tiny (or so it seems from the outside) Victorian swimming bath, which is still (except for now) in operation. I could see a raised glass ridge along its roof so perhaps has lovely light over the pool; I can’t wait to use it. I bet Lucinda Lambton would have a field day with it.
James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
through the night rain
pounding on the roof
dry creek hishing
full to white rushing
in my sleeping startled
heart pounding power
cut eyes straining
invisible in the darkness
terror scything on top of me.
In the daylight, rain
drops shine on leaves
creek runs cleansing
anguish flushed with
Zouglou dance beat:
bare feet, red dust,
bangi, Tusker, woman,
releasing me from the
tyranny of the viral phantom.
From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
It has stricken me forcibly how deeply this artificial separation is affecting people. For me it is bringing pronounced mood swings - I dive, then I come back up again, often over quite a short period of time. Other journal contributors seem to be having difficult times of longer or shorter duration, with larger or smaller impact on their lives. If I prioritise the reasons for my feelings then first and foremost it comes from being basically alone without much comfort from direct human contact. Only secondarily comes the enormity of the whole human disaster. I have just done a catch up on the Radio 4 documentary about the 1918 pandemic and the parallels stand out starkly. Humanity has been where we are before and survived, but not without the most heart rending suffering. You might think that as a priest my Christian faith would offer answers. Being honest though, I have to admit it doesn't. There is so much going on to which the only right response seems to be the shedding of tears - no answers at all...
Squirrel watching continues and I have had quite a lot of sightings to report to the trust. They keep coming into my garden, the latest being a pair I know well, who seem to play in the trees. Their apparent happiness is catching and rubs off easily on me, so a cause for rejoicing!
Yesterday I was walking near my house when I got a bit of a shock. There, walking in the opposite direction to me was a certain political adviser - whom I shall refer to only as DC. Yes, you know, the one so much in the news today!. On reflection it cannot really have been the man in question, because this fellow was rather short, whereas I think DC is quite tall. The likeness was sufficient to make me pause though. I initially wondered whether he was here to check up on the app - about which we seem to be hearing less now. Is it working I wonder - who knows!
What is going to happen today I wonder...
Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham
Leaving the nest
Last night the fourth and last blackbird chick left the nest. It was the smallest one of the clutch who did not receive as much food as his stronger assertive siblings. When I looked into the increasingly crowded nest it was the one who was trying to get its head out from under the bodies of the other chicks. I have spent some time watching the activities in the nest which is situated a few feet away from our back door. It has been a treat to see the developments over time.
Time is drifting away like the sun passing over the flint and brick wall in the courtyard and over the bush which holds the nest in its thin branches, thin because the branches are growing upward towards the light at the top of the 15 feet wall. The bushes’ little star shaped flowers, recently out, have born the brunt of a strong gusting wind last night and now a thick layer of flower heads lie on the ground like a yellow tide against the wall. The stormy wind is unusual for this time of the year but it is glorious to see new leaves being tossed around in a spectacular light reflecting performance. The intensity of the light this May has been mentioned and besides the cleaner atmosphere or the height of the sun in the northern hemisphere, I have thought it must also be the effect of new foliage, which generally looks light in colour, catching the sun’s rays.
The fledglings are also feeling the winds blow on their soft round bodies, round because their tail feathers are hardly developed. They are not ready for flight yet but they are making brave, sometimes vain attempts at getting onto or into a place of safety. Sometimes a sharp shove from the wind helps the chicks lift off but more often it is a hefty leap upwards but sadly landing in the same place with a flutter of feeble wings.
Suddenly a huge air-ship of a pigeon flies down into the yard but is quickly chased off by brave Mrs Blackbird who appears from nowhere. It was a flurry of wings as wild as the wind and then silence apart from the leaves rattling. Meanwhile one of the chicks, probably the little one at the beginning of this story, has hurried as fast as its spindly legs can carry it to shelter under a large fern frond while the other braver one does not blink an eye as it perches on the upturned plant pot ready for receiving more food when it eventually arrives.
I can’t help wondering why the little blackbirds have such a precarious start to their life after launching out of the nest. Fluttering around on ground level or at best in the lower branches of bushes, I tend to think they are a ready meal for the curious cat or scavenging rat during the night. This is nature’s takeaway service. Or is it a selective process, the survival of the fittest? I feel sorry for the fourth blackbird hiding amongst the fern leaves, its days are surely numbered. The pandemic has made us realise more acutely the dangers facing the most vulnerable people in our society and hopefully there will be more empathy and help for them when we are through this crisis. However watching the Secretaries of State dealing with press briefings does not give me much hope as the majority of them appear hard nosed and blustery as the wind.
On our neighbour’s very high rooftop I observed a male blackbird feeding a fully fledged chick which was the same size as its parent. I still find it hard to think of going about living life normally and feeling safe. To help overcome this we have ordered face masks from our pharmacy. I think I may paint mine with bird features... or perhaps a dog face?
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Have been a bit preoccupied with the garden and thinking about painting tulips and my two little pupils who are doing quite well. My neighbour stood on a chair and hung her pictures over the fence while I sat on a chair in my garden like the tutor. It was surreal and funny.
The garden is really quite overwhelming. There is just such a lot to do.
My household is lacking a husband, a head gardener, under gardener, house keeper, maid of all works, etc etc.
Sometimes it is just exhausting living on your own and you think it would be so nice if someone brought you a cup of tea. If you are on your own you don't sit in the garden with a glass of champagne or have a barbeque as there is no point but you never get beyond C on the list of jobs. Each job opens up 10 more. There are always 100 more things waiting in the wings, least of all work. You cut the grass and in a flash it needs doing again not to mention the 100 pots of dahlias that need planting.
Have done a bit of work and ordered things and had meetings.
I went to Holt yesterday and it is different. There are more people and it feels slightly less apocalyptic. The few shop keepers who remained open are tired and very stressed. Outsiders have appeared and they are sometimes rude and demanding. There is talk of the shops opening in June which will open up a whole can of worms with us opening the shop as it is so small and I won't be able to tolerate time wasters touching everything if there is a queue on the doorstep. There have been influxes of people to the beach yet there are no facilities so people have been shitting and peeing in peoples gateways leaving their waste and water bottles filled with wee.
The NHS staff are concerned about peoples stupidity and the council ask them to behave properly and not come here. Same problem everywhere with people rushing to beaches though car parks and loos are shut. I worry about my mum in Dorset. It is as though the virus has gone now and we can go back to normal but it hasn't and we can't.
In the big wide world:
Dominic Cummings is all over the news because it has come out that at the end of March he went back to his parents house 250 miles away breaking all lock down laws so his sister could look after his child while he and his wife were sick with Covid 19. Sack him say Labour and Piers Morgan. Prof Neil Ferguson got sacked for having a couple of nights of passion with his lover and the Scottish medical advisor had to resign for visiting her second home only 40 miles away. He must have stopped to get petrol at least once on the way breathing over people and touching things.
Boris is not going to be charged for his possible preferential treatment to squeeze Jennifer Arcuri and he also had to U turn for wanting to increase fees for the use of the NHS for non British or European workers at the NHS like porters, nurses ,cleaners and doctors etc. Oh Boris, have you learnt nothing? His sums were way out as well by about 870 million. (I might be out by a million or 2). He said it would cost the tax payer 900 million whereas reports said it would cost about 32 million but it just shows a total lack of understanding. There was going to be a revolt so he caved the next day.
Trump is taking his Covid 19 drug of choice Hydroxychloroquine which has now been trialed and when asked if it helps the answer was NO and when asked if it is actually bad for you the answer was YES and that it causes deaths and and heart problems.
I have more to say about 2 weeks quarantine etc but it is 15.15 and my deadline is 15.00 so I have got to file my piece pronto!!! Love Annabel xxx
Thoughts from the Suffolk coast
Harris G, Suffolk
Listened to a very good phone-in on the wireless yesterday. People make some interesting points, don’t they? Lots of social commentary.
One chap phoned to say he is sick of hearing that “We are all in the same boat”. “We are all in the same storm, not the same boat”, he said. Some are in luxury liners with a band playing. Others are just clinging to the wreckage, up to their necks in murky water.
One caller argued furiously for compulsory face masks. Another replied - if we need to wear masks we shouldn’t be going out at all. Then a woman rang to say sending children to school now would just mean spreading the virus and ultimately, more deaths. This, she said, would be particularly noticeable in deprived and ethnic minority groups where grandparents often live with their families in overcrowded conditions. Then a man rang in to talk about football and sport - quickly followed by a caller who said the country has got all the priorities wrong - we should be testing everyone for the virus.
Must have my priorities wrong. Drove to Diss and met friends in the park for a socially distanced picnic. Well, we had coffee in disposable cups and ate our shop bought snacks from disposable plates. It was really rather nice. Sunshine. Overlooking the mere. Proper chatting - face to face - albeit about seven feet apart! No champagne and strawberries, no band playing but just so good to be with nice people and see real smiles and hear genuine laughter. No sync issues. No time lags. No egg timer. No legend running across a screen “trying to reconnect...”!
There were some sad moments too. They are very worried about their grandchildren. One of their grandsons has become withdrawn. He is almost too frightened to leave the house. His siblings are similarly scared but their concerns are being exacerbated by the brother’s obvious terror. I imagine that there are many other families going through this. And what of the future? Lots of pieces to pick up when this is all over. Will it ever be over?
Drove home through the beautiful undulating East Anglian countryside. Along the gently winding lanes. By cottages and farmhouses. That gorgeous diffused sunlight under overarching trees. People’s gardens look super. Hollyhocks, delphiniums, foxgloves. Poppies too. Lots of wild flowers this year in the verges. Blue sky. Sunshine. Got to keep ‘the blue sky thinking’.
John Mole, St.Albans
A solitary elder
winds the hallway clock,
the two of them
marking time together.
You and me both
he murmurs darkly
to its shining face.
Another day tomorrow.
So life plays out
to a metronomic beat
as the music of what happens
is a daily measure
until night comes round
with its rallentando
and not only clocks
require a key.