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From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

I’m telling myself no politics today!


Actually, I am not feeling too well. Woke to a migraine aura and felt generally very out of sorts. Yesterday evening I had become unusually tired and sleepy for me, even following a long walk. I did, however, manage to watch the British Museum event concerning the Vikings, which I thoroughly enjoyed. What a fascinating people they were, and how brutal towards their enemies. Mind you, some of the enemies were just as brutal in turn!


Today the sun is shining and the birds are singing, but again not a squirrel be seen. Best beloved has an ongoing wildlife encounter that is most interesting - a mouse in her kitchen! A humane trap is called for. You know I really love the Island and my immediate neighbourhood. I think a good community spirit has developed in these hard times. Kindness mends all perhaps.


This evening I intend to clap, but probably for one final time. It seems sensible for this to be brought to a halt now, as the originator suggests. There remains much for which to clap, but it mustn’t become a ritual for which the meaning might be easily lost.


Be happy dear ‘journalists’ and have a lovely day...



Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA

The Ant and the Pink Mountain


Pink Mountain is rarely here first thing. Then I walk alone the winding streets of cables, crossing the cobblestones of keys, tip toeing on the vertiginous translucent screen, rushing over the cork board desert.


Then it, the Pink Mountain, arrives. The world shakes, thump thump. Fleshy sticks pound the cobbles. I don’t know what I think about this daily intrusion. It’s not as if it leaves me any food. I have to forage on my own, miles from my place. Meanwhile it sits on its ass being unproductive, staring at the screen. Why doesn’t it work the land? Grow food?


I am certain it doesn’t know that I know that it watches me from above. A spy satellite peering down as I move through my space on the daily commute to the ant farm — there we touch antennas and exchange food locations, catch up, all that good touchy-feely-scenty stuff.


News has reached us from cousins in faraway cities that there is a stillness, a lack of food in the parks, though gardens are productive. Out here in the country, a distinct lack of picnics. Where have the fleshy mountains gone? Perhaps, like us, they sometimes quarantine in socially distanced spaces? I wish Pink Mountain would move into one of those.


This morning in the desert I came on a scattering of crumbs. I marked a scent trail back to them on my way to the farm. Odd thing. As I was coming home I met a mate going the other way, seed in her mandibles. She transmitted that it struck her as odd that the seeds were neatly piled, almost as though they had been put there deliberately.


Not good news, I thought as I scurried back to my space. Maybe Pink Mountain is more aware of me than I thought? If so why would it want to put down food? To encourage me into the open so it can squash me into ant mush? Or it is just acting from the kindness of its monstrous heart? 


Maybe I’ll make an extra early start and leg it back to the farm, just to be sure, given that Pink Mountain has read this.


From Rural New York

Sandy Connors, USA

Yesterday there was a knock at the front door and when I went to answer it found a man I had spoken to last summer about possibly painting my house standing there, with no mask on and about to open the outside door.  I quickly told him not to open the door ~ he smiled and backed up away. We spoke through the screen telling him that I had already contracted with the man who delivers my firewood, repairs fences etc. ~ But it so struck me how many people are not being careful or following the guidelines for safe distancing and continued wearing of masks. As much as I would like life to resume a bit of ‘normalacy’ I am so worried about being exposed to the virus, perhaps more now than ever before.


The temperatures were in the high 80’s for a few days and not a drop of rain has fallen in well over a week. Watering the garden every day for all the potted plants, and even the perennials coming up in my rather spotty garden beds ~ I may have to hire someone to go to my favorite farm/nursery to buy some annuals for me! Such are the strange times this summer ~ two and a half months into quarantine. I must admit it has begun to get me down and feeling very tired. I assume it will change eventually, but how long till one can feel safe to leave one’s home and resume getting out, shopping, seeing friends and family.



Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

Thank you for telling us about the Print Block's Offcut Project Margaret. We couldn't resist. Buying artwork makes us happy. Thank you to all the artists, Richard Groom, Jeremy Keeling and Karen Boatwright in particular.


Thin air

John Mole, St.Albans



Here in this wood

small children race ahead,


their eagerness unleashed

from strict restraint.


Beneath an overhanging



they search out

pools of dappled light.


While keeping to the path

with all its possibilities


and improvising

like a line of verse


they surprise themselves

no less than us


who walk behind them

at a steadier pace.


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

It fell to Matt Hancock both at yesterday’s Briefing and this morning on R4’s ‘Today’ programme to give details of the NHS Test and Trace project. This is the safeguard ‘Alternative Sage’ was asking for before schools reopen - though they’ve gone further today and said the process should be tested and found sound for 3 weeks before any reliance. Anyway, if fully embraced by The Public, it would be a good thing, a very good thing, the essence being that if feeling unwell we should get into isolation, call for a test and if positive stay in isolation for 14 days. Civic Duty and all that.


However, the second part, the ‘Trace’ part, may be less enthusiastically embraced: a positive result will bring an hour long interview with an NHS Clinician trained to take you through your recent contacts to find who might have infected you with the virus or who you may have infected in turn. I wonder if that will find the full cooperation it should. To name either potential ‘donors’ or ‘recipients’ is quite a responsibility, you may feel guilty: they will be unceremoniously hauled off the street or out of work and into isolation while waiting for test results. Their kids will be taken out of school - though oddly, not tested.

Of course, if anyone’s positive it’s right they should isolate for 14 days - but the weak link is  the testing. How long to wait for that? At the moment it’s five days. A full working week. If it was 24 hours or less, that would be more socially manageable. 5 days isolation, only to find you’ve a summer cold and you’re negative is tricky - particularly if you only just started work again after a long lay-off.

And if you are positive and the tracing procedure starts, here’s an unwelcome scenario:

Off work for 5 days because a mate you met in the Park told someone from the NHS... and you’re negative. How are you going to get it out of folks’ minds they’ve been dobbed in unnecessarily?

As ever, questions, questions. In the rush to put this out before June 1st, it’s maybe emerged less than fully-formed.


Thoughts from the Top of the Hill

Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire

The meeting of the Select Committee was a bit of a damp squib, apart from Yvette Cooper, who gave a good impression of a sabre-toothed tiger and refused to accept the Prime Minister's failures to answer direct questions. He looked pretty fed up with her but at the end of the day he's determined to shove the whole affair under the carpet, thinking we will all forget about it. Cummings has obviously advised him to say that all criticism of him is party political propaganda. Disgraceful.


Today at 9am the "world beating" track and tracing system was launched. It was supposed to happen next week but when Kay Burley asked Matt Hancock if they'd released it early to bury the Cummings headlines he howled with laughter. She very quickly said she didn't think 37,000 deaths were a laughing matter, good for her. His excuse for releasing the personal tracing before the app was that it would work best that way. Naturally it can't be that the app isn't working, surely. At 9.15am it was reported that the track and tracing website had crashed. There's a surprise.


There is some conjecture about whether people will actually agree to isolate when contacted with the news that they have been in contact with someone who's tested positive. The government think people will happily cooperate but in case they don't they are all set to bring in some legal measures to make sure they do. Will people trust that the phone calls demanding the details of people they've seen lately are genuine? How will they survive if they are continually ordered into isolation every time they go to work on the tube?


It has occurred to me that the elderly, who we all agree are the people most at risk, are the least likely to have a smart phone or to be capable of using an app. I have a very old and silly phone and have no idea what an app is, so they don't need to bother with it on my account.


I am of a mind to sabotage the telly (and my computer) so that I no longer have to trouble myself with these matters and can just settle down in the garden with the new Hilary Mantel, which is, by the way, brilliant and worth the investment of several weeks to get through it.


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Hoping that like the bookshop in Burnham Market, the shop in Holt will reopen next month, I spent the morning preparing some new stock. The only problem is that I want it all myself!

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