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Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA

Good morning journaling addicts across our diverse internal universes.


We are currently renting a house close to the one we recently bought (just ahead of the state of emergency being declared) out here close to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We are waiting for the previous owner to move out. I start the day early, before wife, son, partner and dog, sheltering and working remotely in place, get up. My desk is on a glassmakers work bench in the utility room with a view directly out into the greenwoods. From below the open window a stream hushes away the heavy overnight rain.


First job is to check my work from the previous day, and then post it on the Contact page. Typically, poetry is a nuanced task that repays contemplation and much noodling. Writing one everyday is, in consequence, a rewarding, perhaps unwise, challenge.


Anyway, coffee made in a dark blue Yeti mug, sound reducing headphones on, Spotify engaged, I get underway and external issues disappear. I enter this place I call my own. Writing is a meditative place. Words are delivered without touching the sides onto a clean page, half conscious, half subconscious. Like race car drivers who say they perform best when they are operating outside their conscious selves. Race engineers report that deep in the Le Mans night their drivers are often unreachable over the radio. They are so far away in a place where their focus is full on, where the tyranny of time is temporarily suspended. That’s my daily destination, albeit stationary.


I have been corresponding with a photographer of late about beauty (her work is visually stunning, impressionistic) and I had a germ of an idea about beauty and love, and how it is possible to describe the two states in such a way that one cannot tell the two apart. It’s complex and I soon realized it’s a theme that doesn’t lend itself to immediate production. Anyway, when I sat down this morning I had nothing and started fresh from the top. The germ of an idea is impossible to predict. Once I have recognized it I let it simmer without conscious engagement. What is then produced is more subconscious in origin. Other times, like this morning, there is the opportunity of a fresh beginning and this was the result. One that surprised me. And that’s pretty much the mostly instinctual working method for these daily posts.


My subject of yesterday, the ant, has gone against its better judgement and made an appearance, ignoring the small collection of crumbs I left for it. There is the dissonance between life and imagination I guess.


At the end of the morning I check the journal and read your posts. Your varied lives and challenges have become a part of my daily life. The insights are fresh and telling. I am privileged to read them, entertained and wiser for the insights you generously and so articulately share.


Thin air

John Mole, St.Albans




So much around us

that we cannot name,


familiar presences

not truly seen before.


Birdsong astounding

with its clarity


then falling silent

on responsive air.


May this be a counterpoint

of give and take,


in compensation

for our greater loss.


Painting during lockdown

Fiona Green, Totnes, Devon

Corona Madonna



Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

A pleasant day by Franklin Lewis Macrae


Today we had our maths lesson in the garden. I had to top up the tadpole pond; they have more grown arms and legs! We have eight, we think and Marli has named two of them Dora and Ursula. I enjoy the mornings in the garden, I like watching the bees crawl inside the foxgloves and collect food. If you look closely enough at early morning and dusk, you can see more than one bee in there.  


We drove to Middle Farm for the afternoon. The chickens were wandering around the car park, I think because it is very quiet due to Lockdown as they aren't usually allowed to roam. We would love to have chickens. We bought a tomato plant, freshly pressed apple juice, beer for my dad, fresh sausage rolls, fresh scones and cold drinks. I had an orange juice and my sister had pink lemonade. We went back to the car which my mum had parked in a field an had a picnic. It was a pleasant day. 


Dog Days

Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham

More Goings than Cummings 


I didn’t realise this week was a school holiday such is my sense that days are running into weeks and everyday day being the same but still with the same idea: to stay alive! 


Since the fledglings left their nest our courtyard has been very still and quiet apart from the occasional whirring of the fat pigeon’s wings as he passes low over the fence in a leisurely dog day sort of chase after a fleeing female. The stillness is like experiencing the beginning of the lockdown all over again and I find myself longing for the birds busy activity. 

We have three blackbird nests dotted around the small confines of the yard. Only one nest was used (twice) so it looks likely there was a bit of speculative building going on here at least. Now all the nests are empty and possibly not to be occupied again this year. Not even as AirBNB for birds visiting ‘our great country’. How many times does one hear how great we are? 


Today I spotted through my studio window, which looks out onto the street, a neighbour I had not seen for ten weeks. She is in her nineties and very proud to be British. In the late 1940’s she was employed by the Queen’s press office in Buckingham. She has a very refined manner, delicate cheekbones and her diction is similar to BBC newsreaders in the 1950’s. Her job ended when she married a wealthy Norfolk farmer and she became as she put it a ‘turkey expert’ (No, not Bernard Matthews). I used to visit her occasionally when she became frail and needing live-in carers. Her memory was failing too. Even though she was experiencing difficulty in moving she made herself walk (with the carer following behind with the wheelchair) most days to the Co-op to buy an Eastern Daily Press newspaper. I sometimes caught sight of her slow determined walk which had all the dignity of a solemn funeral procession and I inwardly praised her fine spirit. Sadly today she is now in the wheelchair but still looking graceful. A lot can happen in ten weeks of isolation. 


When I turned on my computer this morning a warning came up that my device was at RISK!! Help! The virus is invading technology! Luckily I was able to enable my anti-virus security defender to run a quick check and no attack was found! Phew!


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Completely forgot to write yesterday as Daisy and her sister came over to get some more big sheets of brown paper for her painting project and she brought her first pictures to show me so we had a bit of a tutorial in the garden.

I have actually been making a mess with oil paint pastels as well that I must have bought donkey's years ago. They are lovely and messy and direct. Anyway I showed them my first brown paper sketch and then a painting of the tulips in the wheelbarrow. Cannot do perspective at all and don't really want to either. Anyway, they liked it, at least were polite. Need to make a mess for a bit to get my hand in.


Boris was on last night as they are unlocking us. Everyone thinks they have bounced us into a slightly premature unlock to change the subject from you know who.

They don't seem to have a grip at all. They seem to be working top down, top being Circo who you only ever hear about whenever there's a major cock up. The NHS and local council have done tracking and tracing for years for various things but they don't seem to be being used.


Next week you can meet 6 people in your garden but if they use the loo they have to clean the bathroom. I have an outside khazi/man loo. It's brilliant. Love having an outside loo.

I think it's a bit soon myself and I think being able to go anywhere at all was a major mistake and the infection rate will go up. Think they should have kept people in their locality.


I went to the shops in Holt this morning and took a couple of bunches of flowers for Susan in the veg shop and Cathy in very useful household items shop. Basically she sells everything. Anything you can think of, she has it. Last week they both seemed tired and stressed so I thought they needed cheering up.

Saw my builder friends at The Pigs and had a crab for lunch with my crackers. So far since I started writing this 15 minutes ago I have been to the ice cube tray 3 times where my home made chocolates are.


Went to a different Post office to post a cushion. One of the things that irritates me more than anything is being asked what is in a parcel rather than being asked if it contains any of the following dodgy items. The post mistress put her hand on the parcel that looked like a cushion, has my name on the label with fabric in the title and as she sunk into the duck down softness of what was obviously a cushion, she said what is in the parcel? 


Oops, its 3.09pm



Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Sad news just announced from The Holt Bookshop is that after 15 years, it will not be reopening on 15th June. The last remaining bookshop in Holt and the venue of some terrific events most notably for me, interviews with Ronald Blythe, Peter Tolhurst, Julia Blackburn and Sarah Knights. The second hand bookshops of Holt have long gone -Simon Gough, Jackdaw Books, Baron Arts - the odd shelf in antique centres and charity shops just don’t cut the mustard. 


Meanwhile I continue to cull my own books. I am surprised at those I no longer feel compelled to keep but grateful for the opportunity to reread or at least seriously scan them one last time before they head out on a new journey. Gone are my complete collections of Peter Ackroyd, Anita Brookner, Simon Gray and John Berger. 


Coincidentally, reflecting on the book signing events above, my copy of Hotel du Lac is the first hardback I ever bought. I thought that alone entitled it to a place on my shelf but when I reread it, I felt as grim as one of her long cardigan-clad characters. 


I find the themes and links revealed on my bookshelves exciting. The titles read like a journal. I only hope that by cutting out whole sections I am not censoring parts of my life but refining and making better sense of it.


From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

The production of Hamlet at The Young Vic in which I was due to play Polonius should have started rehearsals on May 25th. Just before lockdown, the director, an old friend, called me to say he was pretty certain we would start rehearsals instead in July. About 6 weeks ago I had an email from The Young Vic, via my agent, to say they were hoping to start rehearsals in October and I had another, 3 weeks later, of such impenetrable ambiguity that I couldn't make head or tail of it. On Tuesday, the initially appointed start day, the director, an old friend, calls to say his hunch is that we'll start mid-February, 2021, to open in April - something about grants and the financial year which I can almost but not quite grasp - but he stresses it's only a hunch. I've not been grieving about it, to be honest; indeed, I can think of nothing I'd like less on these balmy days than to be stuck indoors rehearsing a Shakespeare play. I have, moreover, a bit of recent history with Polonius, as I walked out mid-rehearsal of a production in the castle at Elsinore nearly three years ago. Having never even come near to walking out of a production before, it was a trauma for me and so, when the opportunity arose for me to play the part again I felt I must grasp it with both hands. Now that this production is proving so problematic, I'm wondering if it's not meant to be, if Polonius is not cursed for me in some way... I'd always told myself it was a part I must play but of course I wouldn't be at all impoverished if I didn't. 


Much that is alarming has been written and broadcast about the British theatre in the last week or two. The directors of The National Theatre, The RSC and The Globe have all said that they don't know how they'll survive and, as for the unsubsidised and enormously costly West End theatre, they will only crank back into motion slowly and with the utmost difficulty, if at all. It's all right for me as I'm coming to the end of my career but I know several younger actors who, having had a barren year or two, were due to start work on very promising projects when the world stopped nearly ten weeks ago and I feel for them as they have children and mortgages. At any given time, the Equity membership is something like 90% unemployed and, when actors do work in the theatre they are, for the most part, barely paid a living wage, even at the most fashionable venues like the Royal Court or The Donmar. The virus has dealt a body blow to a business that is always struggling to make ends meet.


Thank you so much Susan for your feedback after my fearful nocturnal howlings last weekend. 

I never know whether it does other people any good to read such stuff. It certainly does me good to send it out into the world, to expel my demons for a while.


Broadland type

Sheila, Norfolk

Just a few flowers from our garden, to cheer. Diverse, colourful, inspiring, awesome...

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