From the black shed
David E, East Norfolk
Bank holiday Monday and the start of a busy week for me. The plan is for me to get the boat ready to put back in the water on Saturday. It’s been standing since last October and the original idea was to have it back in use at Easter.
The boatyard was closed for six weeks but now with the slightly relaxed lockdown activity has started up again and things are on the move. Boat owners in all their various styles are taking the covers off and admiring their craft once again. The opportunity now exists to get out on the Norfolk Broads and rivers while the hire craft are still in isolation. What a difference that will make to those of us who prefer to sail rather than motor.
I now have to catch up with the work I would have done during lockdown. The hull needs antifouling, not a nice job at the best of times. Fortunately I had cleaned and sanded before the interruption so now the undercoat and top coat can be applied. Before that I need to finish cleaning and polishing the topside and applying teak oil to the rubbing strake and the hand rails. I’ve been having a debate with myself about varnish. Some of the woodwork has been varnished over the years but always flakes eventually. It’s quite difficult to rub down to a good surface without leaving dark spots so I think this time I will use oil rather than varnish. It’s certainly much easier to apply and we’ll see how long it lasts.
The major change for my boat this year is the change from a 2-stroke outboard to an electric motor - my latest contribution to the environment. It’s only needed for leaving the mooring and to get home when there’s no wind so I’m hoping that the batteries will last long enough and will recharge from the solar panel in between outings. We’ll see!
The weather is set fair for the week so let’s hope everything goes to plan.
James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
A shock of stars burning fiery deep
exposed after rain. Not one silver
chariot on a predetermined
course to pollute the purity of light
born before there were eyes to see.
No navigation lights
reminding us of the
fast forgotten wonder of flight:
shifting cloud landscapes,
sunbursts of dawn, compressed
time and space, throngs of
loved ones reuniting.
With ancient starlight
falling into my eyes
there is time to take a beat
and think of our unshod feet
walking the earth, when
flight was for the birds
and our desire to conquer
unguarded planets had
yet to be conceived.
Then, we would’ve looked up
and wondered which gods
were pulling fiery chariots
twinkling across the sky,
much like airliners six miles
high winking out in the last rays
of the sun, leaving behind, then
as now, the untouched immensity
of the star filled dome arcing
above the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Lily Wonham, Bristol
Perhaps I'm a hypocrite, because I'm extremely angry with Dom Cummings. If one of my friends had travelled under similar circumstances, I would have been completely accepting, because I tend to come down on the side of remembering that none of us are perfect, and none of us have done lockdown perfectly either - being 'holier than thou' about it helps no one and rubs people up the wrong way. We're all just muddling along as best we can.
However, it cannot be denied that Dom Cummings' actions leave a nasty taste in the mouth. The difference of course being that Dom had a large hand in making the rules for everyone else. Perhaps his actions are morally defensible on their own, but in the context of his position, they inescapably make it appear as though he designed rules that he considered himself above. If the government take this lenient a view over his actions, why hasn't it been equally lenient for everyone? I can't help but think of the people who have lost loved ones and been unable to visit them in hospital or even attend their funerals. It must be a kick in the teeth to hear Boris say that Dom's actions were justified as he was being a good family man, looking out for his wife and child. What about everyone else's families? The betrayal is huge. We're not collectively going mad - we all remember very clearly Boris's address, and later the letter sent to every UK address, categorically stating you must Stay At Home.
By a strange twist of fate, my partner works as a civil servant in Number 10 and has met Dom a few times. If Dom does go, it spells trouble for him - not because it was anything to do with him, but because the shift up of Number 10 staff that it would entail may leave him without a clear role, or possibly shunted into a different team.
Obviously, this is a worry and one that leaves me feeling torn. Ultimately however, a strong sense of fairness and morality wins out. Dom must go, and the chips will fall as they may.
Words from Wood Lane
Susan Neave, Beverley
Bank Holiday Monday. Perfect weather, but even without lockdown we wouldn’t be driving out anywhere. It will be interesting to hear how busy the tourist hot spots are. The fiasco over the PM’s puppetmaster and his trip to the north-east has done nothing to encourage people to abide by the rules. Here we carry on as before, with long walks and venturing out to the shops only if absolutely necessary. There is nowhere to buy interesting birthday cards, but I’m enjoying recycling old ones and passing them on for other people to enjoy. In the garden the sweet peas a friend gave us are beginning to flower, somewhat earlier than I would have liked, and the blue tits are still busy feeding their young in the bird box. We saw a ‘clattering’ of jackdaws on Westwood the other day.
Hilary Q, North Norfolk
Gotcha! The nation’s favourite headline. I fear that Boris Johnson recognised I am sure, by the numerous children he has fathered, for his concerned outreach in recent years of faultless parenting, is about to be hoisted by his own petard and all for the sake of a rude and headstrong aide he apparently can’t manage without. But when will the media stop distracting us with the shortcomings, albeit disgraceful, of those who must focus on getting us out of the myriad difficulties we face. Three more days have just been wasted.
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Oh Boris, you have lost your people again.
One rule for you and one rule for us you say. Yes that is what we think.
Follow the science they say.
Your advisors in Sage tell you to be honest and direct with the GBP,
This is a quote from Stephen Reicher from Twitter:
Be open and honest, we said. Trashed.
Respect the public, we said. Trashed
Ensure equity, so everyone is treated the same, we said. Trashed.
Be consistent we said. Trashed.
Make clear 'we are all in it together'. Trashed.
Boris said DC acted "responsibly, legally and with integrity". That it was perfectly reasonable to drive 260 miles to Durham for childcare reasons as he was about to be incapacitated with Covid 19. Like he miraculously knew what was going to happen. He knew because he was already ill.
I can't believe they don't have a nanny anyway. Both parents work.
It is painful and disappointing watching someone side with the wrong side and clearly stretching the truth and rewriting the guidelines. Boris is obviously so reliant on the relationship with DC he has put him before his nation.
All the sacrifices made by people who have not been with their families or dying relatives. Nearly 40,000 families and nearer 60,000 including excess deaths. All that pain and all those people who have not been able to say goodbye or hold their hands or go to their funerals.
We the GBP have backed Boris generally and done what he asked apart from the odd illegal cup of coffee in the garden but he lets himself down time after time with his spluttering and puffing about. You need us to trust you Boris and when you behave like this we think you are arrogant and are not in it all together.
After Boris's talk even his civil servants said on twitter, “Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?”
That week you couldn't even drive a mile up the road to walk the dog. I actually hid my car behind a hedge one day.
The day I nearly got shot was 5th April when they had just said we could drive a mile or two up the road to walk the dog and I was standing in the middle of nowhere thinking about Self Isolation.
Anyway there we are. DC is going to make a public statement later.
There is a programme on the radio every day this week about the scandal at the Post Office and their faulty Horizon system. It was so shocking so I shall listen to it. All the poor honest Post Masters and Mistresses who were treated so badly by the Post Office, a terrible scandal leaving a wake of suicide, death, criminal charges and bankruptcy.
The grass needs cutting again.
The tulips still need painting before they go over.
The dahlias still need planting.
Earnie needs to go for a walk.
I haven't had any lunch.
Life goes on.
Love Annabel xxx
John Mole, St.Albans
A hair’s breadth
is there for the splitting
and its length
is a measure of time.
So many beards
already surprise us,
such lank profusion
falls over each ear.
Is that really you?
Are you going to keep it?
The face in the mirror
has yet to decide.
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
When you inhabit something of a goldfish bowl most everybody feels qualified to offer advice on how you should be living your life. When you are (generally, irrationally) the reviled, highly paid, mysterious and unconventional close aide to a Prime Minister of similar repute it’ll be amplified through unlimited Press and Airtime. But when the ‘question’ revolves around the welfare of your wife and child, perhaps your mother too, you’re going to get defensive and take decisions beyond the constraints of your job and how others think you should conduct yourself. I get that. What I don’t get is why we should be expected to cut him and his boss slack on demand with no full explanation, no contrition. By all means take the grown-up decision to self-isolate to what you see as best advantage, but don’t then modify Policy to suit the story. Offer an apology, offer a resignation. Don’t take the rest of us for mugs.
He’s effectively driven a horse and cart through the public’s respect for Regulation. We now have it from the Head of Government that ‘instinctive behaviour’ trumps Regulation. What a gift of a defence to be given.
These two are supposed to be clever. At the top of their Political Savviness. Instead of provoking this furore, why on earth didn’t they get together and agree that Dom offers to resign, Boris declines, Dom apologises, Boris says “There, that’s an end of it”.
As it is, we’re left thinking there’s more - widely expected to be a positive ID of the family car at a touristy place 30 miles from lockdown...
I wrote the above at 8 this morning. At 9.30 I saw a tweet that says, quietly, “Dom’s son is autistic. They have particular concerns for his welfare and who looks after him”.
If true, that wasn’t the ‘more’ expected.
It’ll be interesting to see how the ripples from that pebble spread and are dealt with...
12.45. Laura Kuenssberg, BBC politico, tweets “Cummings will appear and make a statement later today”. There was a Cabinet meeting at Downing Street going on at the time. Durham police are said to be investigating further - though it’s pointed out that if the journey was a breach of Regulations it’s a standard £60 fine issue.
4pm. Blimey, it’s from No.10 - an indication of his status?
But it’ll have to wait until tomorrow, it’s deadline time for the Journal!