04/04/2021

My feelings on paper

Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire

31st March 2021 journal 

Early this week I watched Nadiya Hussain on BBC2 “Remarkable places to Eat” in Yorkshire. My home County.

One of the places she recommended was the Seaview Fish and Chip Restaurant in Saltburn by the Sea. My favorite place for the best fish and chips I have ever eaten. Right on the Sea front with sea views but you always have to queue whether it’s for the Restaurant or for their takeaway Fish and Chips. I can’t wait to go back there. I had to cancel two holidays there last year re Covid. The other places Nadiya recommended were Wensleydale cheeses, and a place in Leeds for samosas. Also, Betty’s tea shop in Harrogate. I have decided I would like to visit these places with my family when we can for a treat

 

The weather the last seven days has been all seasons in a week. One day I got up to snow and now I am walking in the warm sunshine in a t shirt.

 

Monday my daughter Karen and I sat in the sunshine in my garden. We were treated by lots of birds all enjoying my wild garden. I have a spring with running water and lots of wild flowers, shrubs and bird feeders with the best sunflower hearts in cages. The first bird song was the just arrived summer visitor a Chiff Chaff and its mate, there were Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin, Blue and Gt Tit, Dunnock, Blackbird, Robin, Brambling, Woodpigeon, Magpie. And a new bird to my garden a Redpoll. It made our day perfect. Numerous Redpolls were enjoying the pussy willow tree. Some days there are no birds at all. What a wonderful day after all this terrible winter.

 

Next week is Easter and a favorite chocolate is from our very own Sheffield product Thornton’s Confectionery.   Wonderful Chocolate Easter Eggs or a box of their many flavored Chocolates, they also make wonderful toffee. That was my husband’s favorite. Covid 19 has had dramatic results for Thornton’s who have had to close many of their shops. Very sad. They are now selling their product on line.

 

The cake to eat at Easter is a Simnel cake and I may bake one but need some marzipan for this cake.   

Happy Easter everyone don’t mix with too many people we don’t want another lock down.

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04/04/2021

View from a Town Formerly Known as Crazy

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

It’s been a totally schizo week in this Town Formerly Known as Crazy.  On the one hand, the President is laying out plans for the largest investment in infrastructure since the New Deal. The commentariat has woken up to the fact that Joe Biden intends be a transformational figure, putting paid to the Reagan-era notion that government is the problem, not the solution. His credibility is sky high, as a third of the total population (over 100 million) have now received at least one vaccination shot and the President’s economic rescue plan promises to kick the economy into over-drive. Indeed, the professional worriers have decided that now the biggest worry we need to worry about is that Biden is being too successful and the economy could overheat. A far cry from the depths of collapse exactly one year ago.

 

On the other hand (and thank goodness that despite Harry Truman’s fondest wish for clarity, we still have two-handed economists), there’s the Republican Party. With approval ratings for Biden, his handling of the pandemic, and his economic initiatives drawing broad bipartisan support, the bedraggled band of Republicans still haunting Formerly Crazy Town are left to argue over the details and to criticize Biden for having the audacity to propose paying for it all with – Shock! Horror! – taxes. Worse still – taxes on the wealthy and corporations. By God, it reeks of (here it comes - the most powerful incantation in the entire Republican vocabulary) – Socialism!! Of course, the self-same bedraggled band is also vehemently opposed (now that the Democrats are back in power, anyway) to deficit spending, having just unsuccessfully invoked that old chestnut to oppose the popular economic rescue plan (see above). But, on the third hand, they’re quick to agree that infrastructure is a very good thing. Just as long as you don’t have to pay for it with taxes or borrowing. Frankly folks, it’s a dilemma.

 

But as previously observed, fate has a way of throwing up just the man we need when the chips are down and life is dull. And, in this instance, the blindingly obvious choice for such a job is, in fact, a man. Fortunately, the good people of Florida had the foresight to provide us with just the ornament to the marble halls of Congress that the moment calls for, in the person of one Matt Gaetz. First elected in 2016, that Fateful Year, Rep. Gaetz quickly established a reputation for being the most single-mindedly sycophantic supporter of Dear Departed Leader and all His Works (as well as having the best pompadour this side of Elvis). This week Congressman Gaetz provided his beleaguered colleagues and the rest of us with a much needed distraction from the damage being inflicted by the Radical Socialist Democrats and the parlous state of the GOP. A little affair, quickly labelled “Watergaetz” or “Gaetzgate” (it’s impossible to choose between such delightful options), has arisen around the allegation that Matt has been disporting himself with a young lady of less than legal age and travelling with her between various states of the Union. While it might be “normal” (albeit unwise and illegal) to show excessive regard for young persons in the great state of Florida, crossing state lines to do so is another matter altogether, as such jaunts, in the baleful gaze of federal law, are regarded as sex trafficking. 

 

And, thus is came to pass that Rep. Gaetz has been under investigation since last year (yes, that’s right, during The Time of Dear Departed Leader) by the FBI. But, wait, it gets better. Rising to his own defense Matt went on Fox News as a guest of Tucker Carlson, himself no slouch in the Sycophant of Dear Departed Leader Department, to deny everything and wrap himself in the MAGA-inflaming colors of Victimhood! He’s done no wrong, no Sir. Rather, it’s the dirty denizens of the Deep State who done bad with this disgusting denigration of his good name. During an interview so convoluted that the NSA has been asked to bring in its top code breakers to decipher it (and if that fails there’s a contingency plan to bring in the entire English department from a leading university to apply modern lit crit theory to decode the layers of meaning), Gaetz alleged that the whole contretemps was no more than a crude attempt at extortion by certain individuals, who, alas, seem to have had knowledge of the FBI’s investigation of Gaetz himself. In a unique twist on the ole’ extortion racket that could only have sprung full-blown from the mind of Florida Man, these geniuses tried to persuade Matt’s father to part with $25 million to rescue a former FBI agent being held hostage in Iran and in return offered to give credit to the congressman and make him a hero, thereby driving his penchant for bobby socks from the headlines. Papa Gaetz has been wearing a wire at the behest of the FBI, but how any of this absolves Matt from the issues surrounding his poor judgment is still unclear. (We warned you it was complicated.)  As if that wasn’t already enough to set a new standard for Crazy (at least beyond the borders of Florida), Gaetz then tried to drag Carlson under the bus with him, saying that Tuck would surely remember meeting the young lady in question (or maybe a different young lady in question) a few years back when Carlson and his wife had dinner with Gaetz and her. A stunned Carlson had no choice but to fall back on a defense from the playbook of Dear Departed Himself, saying he “doesn’t even know her,” (Carlson is reportedly holding “besides, she’s not my type” in reserve, just in case) later adding that it was the strangest interview he’d ever conducted. Which is indeed saying something.

 

So, Gentle Reader, with this new divertissement unfolding on our screens, all is right in the world. We can forget all about boring old Joe, dreary debates over infrastructure, tedious analysis of tax policy, or even nagging worries that new COVID variants might sidestep our vaccines and return us all to not-so-splendid isolation. Of course, in a sane world you might assume that all of the above would get the good congressman into deep doo-doo with the adherents of QAnon (whose core belief is that a cabal of Deep State characters is guilty of… trafficking in under age children), but you would be wrong. In the Q telling of things, this is clearly a plot by the Deep State itself to discredit one of the brightest lights in the political firmament and proof that they will stop at nothing. Nothing, I tell you. Even the fact that Rep. Gaetz was the ONLY member of Congress - the sole vote out of 435 - to vote against a law imposing stronger penalties for sex trafficking, is not enough to distract the Q Warriors from their single-minded focus on batshit crazy.

 

BREAKING NEWS:  as we go to press Gaetzgate is opening up vast new vistas of entertaining possibility. The New York Times reports it has seen receipts and other evidence that Congressman Gaetz has on multiple occasions provided cash and “other compensation” in exchange for companionship at a series of no-tell motels around Florida. Formerly Crazy Town is totally a-Twitter, as it hasn’t had such a delightfully inane and inept sex scandal to delectate since Fanne Foxe, the recently deceased “Argentine Firecracker,” was discovered frolicking in the Tidal Basin in the company of an inebriated senior congressman almost fifty years ago. In fact, given the long drought between these two Golden Ages of Scandal (if we put aside for a moment the pathetic Oval Office antics of a certain former POTUS), we’ll go with Watergaetz afterall.

04/04/2021

Thin air

John Mole, St Albans

ROAD MAP

 

Found and spread out

across my mother’s lap

 

it always introduced

an unfamiliar journey

 

as her finger traced

the necessary route

 

with keen anticipation

trust and patience

 

then folded away

as we reached our destination

 

all in one piece

and handed to my father

 

it reminded him

of what had kept us safe

 

and of the careful driving

uncertainty requires.

04/04/2021

Vie de château

Marie-Christine, Blois, France

Cool the jab 

I read this week in Le Point that Oxford University received from the EU 480 million €  between 2014 and 2020 for multidisciplinary scientific research. So my French taxes have been as useful to the program which developed the Astra-Zeneca vaccine as the taxes of the UK subjects of her Majesty. This has been a shared enterprise, and all the better for that. Furthermore, 21million out of the 31million doses injected in the UK have been produced in the EU. Some of you perhaps remember the appeal in the Daily Telegraph by 13 Nobel laureates in the sciences, on 10 June 2016, for the proper maintenance of EU scientific research funding. 

 

Geography

The EU means, of course, the European Union, a political and economic union.

Norway is in Europe, Switzerland is in Europe, Albania... even the UK is in Europe. While La Réunion, Guadeloupe, New Caledonia, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, Tahiti, Kergelen... even Adelia Land are in France and consequently in the EU, but outside the continent of Europe.

 

Culture

Being European means we share a common background, deriving from the Greeks (philosophy and poetry - my favorite poet of all being Hesiod) and Romans (organisation and laws), and then from Christianity. The archeological and architectural evidence of an essential community is everywhere. Should Norwich Cathedral be pulled down and the stones taken back to Caen through Pulls Ferry Watergate on little wooden boats? Should the Channel Tunnel be filled in? Should the paintings of Raphaël, Caravaggio, de Vinci, Rembrandt in the National Gallery be shipped back as illegal foreign imports, and as unfair competition to Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin? I sometimes feel that people from mainland Europe are vilified since the UK voted to separate from the EU. I should listen to Shirin's advice last week: when people are upset or distressed, just say "I understand". Come on, Darlings, we love you, but love don't always make one happy! Let's hope the time will come again. Shirin's advice is the best I have received for a long time.

 

When one's goes away from home

We drove to Amboise for Rob's first shot of Pfizer - that reminds me that the Pfizer Viagra for Europe in the early days used to be made in Amboise - not that he has any need of that yet. 

We wanted to go around the center of this pretty town, but, I could not find any loo open, so we went straight back home. This inconvenience is a real problem for ladies in all outings during Covid. 

Another problem is litter (we notice it when we walk along by the Loire in Blois). Because there is no café or restaurant open, people have their take-away lunch in beautiful places, without taking their "leftovers" with them. It makes very sad decoration and is highly polluting for the river. I have seen similar photos in the UK newspapers. The same people, or some of them at least, who leave the litter, probably vote for Green parties. As ever in politics, it is a matter of "Do what I say, don't do what I do". Not very encouraging for post-Covid times. On the radio this morning they were discussing: Are we going to have some new "Années Folles" or "Roaring Twenties"?

 

Medical ethics

When somebody is ill, the duty of a doctor is to treat the person before presenting the bill, and if the person can't pay, the care has to be free - I am speaking for France, it's the only country where I have ever practiced - and it's rather harshly imposed here by the official medical boards. I am actually happy with that, the professions in that position are so rare.

You can read the World Medical Association Declaration of Geneva from 1948: https://www.wma.net/policies-post/wma-declaration-of-geneva/ adopted in 1948. Just after the horrors of WW2. 

One important sentence is :"I WILL SHARE my medical knowledge for the benefit of the patient and the advancement of healthcare." 

Even if the Oxford scientists are not going to make any money out of their early discovery of an efficient vaccine, I am sure they are much more happy and proud of what they did for that reason. That was their deliberate choice, and all honor to them for it. Each time somebody in the world is injected with A-Z, the Oxford scientists must feel good. One more person who is not going to die from Covid. A source of pride and happiness, and encouragement to meet the next emergency. A beautiful story has no price. The most rewarding present to oneself is to give something to somebody who needs it. We all need their jab.

04/04/2021

Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

For the first time for months? years? I dunno, losing track: London reported zero Covid Deaths in 24hrs. Here in Norfolk, numbers are down from 590 in January to 34 deaths in March. Latest 24hr UK figure, new daily hospital cases: 3380 and declining. Our local Hospital, James Paget, Yarmouth, has just one Covid patient. Dare we hope? 

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M&P come over on sunny Tuesday pm for tea in the garden, where on the wall at our backs the thermometer was showing 45c a few hours earlier...  

This wall is prime growing territory and we have a few trees against it including a peach. Just this year, gardening guru Bob Flowerdew suggested putting a protective shield over that sort of precocious budding or flowering fruit, to ward off untimely wind/rain/frost damage in April - so I did, and it provoked a lot of blossom. The shelter’s ugly, but it could pay dividends... It’s well weighted down as it’ll take off like a kite otherwise.

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Ox/Astra get a bit hokey-cokey: no sooner does the world get back in line accepting the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks, than Germany and Canada step forward again and find reasons to stop using it. 

And Pfizer-use gets a bit weird: first the good news, those (including me) are told

that NHS England are standing by the second-dose ‘12 week schedule’ - there will be adequate supplies despite warnings of shortages. Then breaking research shows 91% efficacy exists to at least 6 months after dose #2 - hurrah! 

But only if the interval between doses is three weeks - boo! 

As far as I recall there’s never been a suggestion 3 weeks between should be the aim, and of course none of us can ever expect that now. What’s it all mean?

 

Wednesday and we mark ‘out of lockdown’ further with a trip to sunny Gorleston for fish and chips on the esplanade with neighbours David and Marjie. Technically, we broke the terms of our probation by travelling there together - it’s ok to meet up, but not in the car. Does anybody else follow the rule? Anyway, we’ve all been vaccinated, socialise all the time and felt comfortable with each other...

 

Just as well we chose Wednesday for the trip, Thursday was colder, with a freezing, sleety Easter weekend ahead. Once again, an uncomfortable Bank Holiday may depress mingling of the park and beach masses and consequent infections. We have the March figures as a benchmark.

 

And finally, the delightful Ian McKellen (81) challenged as being too old to play Hamlet: “when I played Gandalf (7000) no-one said I was too young...”

04/04/2021

From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

I have been reading Elizabeth Taylor's short stories with immense pleasure and admiration. 

In bed last night I read one called The Blush and, just before the end, realised I'd read it before. I turned off the light and, contemplating its subtle elegance with drowsy contentment, I soon fell asleep. I woke at 3.30, having slept soundly for about four hours. As I lay there, I started to think again about the story and its unexpected ending; turning it over in my mind, holding it up to sparkle in the light as one might a rare diamond, I realised with horrible abruptness that the gem was flawed. You see, the cleaning woman's children knew their mother was down The Rose and Crown with her fancy man because they'd seen her through the window when they were sent out for fish and chips, so they knew that she wasn't staying on late to look after the childless woman's alleged children, which was the lie she had told her husband, and no way the kids wouldn't have told their father and if he knew that's where she was, then the ending of the story, which is only 4 pages long, didn't work. I turned on the light and read the whole thing again to check that I hadn't missed something but I hadn't - The Blush, which I had so admired at 11.30 last night, is a rare bummer.

 

It's now 7am and I haven't slept since this shocking discovery. I want to complain to someone, Elizabeth Taylor's agent, her mother, the short story ombudsman, anyone. I want my money back.  

 

We did the zoom reading of Twelfth Night on Sunday. I loved it and I think it's the best we've done so far. We pushed the boundaries of this very limited medium a little further, experimenting with passing props, a coin here, a piece of paper there from one zoom box to another. Zoom magic I played Sir Andrew with Dougal from Father Ted as my model, nothing at all going on between his ears. It seemed to work but it's difficult to play comedy alone in one's sitting room with no feedback. 

 

I've had my second jab. 

 

My  neighbour was telling me that his grandmother in Poland, who's nearly 100, has covid very badly. She lives with his mother who is also stricken with it, though not so severely. I thought how hard it must be for him that they're so far away but then realised that he wouldn't be able to go and see them anyway. Not for the first time I felt glad that my parents weren't alive during these hard times. 

 

Ian Mackellen's going to play Hamlet, aged 81. What next?

 

I'm going back to bed now. I'll read for a bit and hope to drift off. I'd better lay off Elizabeth Taylor for a day to two though. On such slender threads do my mood swings hang, I should, as they say, get out more. 

 

But there's nowhere to go...

04/04/2021

Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Covid deaths around 127,000

3rd April 2021

 

The hour change has made me feel a bit discombobulated this week. It was lovely waking up to high summer for a couple of days but now it’s freezing again and is going to snow on Monday.

The chickens are released from lockdown which is a relief as they would have been ready cooked in their polly tunnel. Roger has been a couple of times this week to try and get some of the weeds up before too much grows. There’s so much to do. I like having a full time gardener. I havn’t planted a single seed though he has propogated some for me.

 

Can’t even think what the main news has been this week, have zoned out. 

In short, vaccine roll out continues well here. Poor AstraZeneca are still being slammed and associated with a rare brain blood clot. Many countries are blocking it. That’ll teach them for making a magnaminous and costly gesture of rolling it out at cost. I did wonder whether to send Pascal Soriot a thankyou card but thought it was a bit silly.

There may be a link but the numbers are low and still less than actually getting covid. Long Covid has been in the news as well. People are suffering terrible post viral affects. They haven’t got a grip on this yet.

 

The sun shone so the GBP went mad and went out. The roads are much busier already. Norfolk is going to be rammed this summer.

A young boy has gone missing in London. Last seen going to Epsom Forrest. I hope he’s OK. Epsom Forest was also in the news this week as dozens of people were fined for picking mushrooms which are protected.

 

A police office died in America last night as a car rammed into a security barrier. The main story in the news has been the trial of the police officer Derek Chauvin who knelt on the neck of George Floyd. Various traumatised witnesses and his girl friend have been telling their story. A very high up homicide officer from the Minneapolis police force testified that Derek Chauvin used totally unnecesary force in arresting George Floyd. He said he was hand cuffed so no threat.

 

The massive container ship The Ever Given ship was released from the Suez canal by a flotilla of tugs and diggers. It is heading to Felixstowe port with its mass of stuff.

 

The Met Police have had a bad few weeks. The latest thing is a serving police officer was acused of rape by two colleagues and not suspended. A report looking into the policing of the Sarah Everard vigil said they had acted appropriately. Another report into racism said  “UK was not deliberately rigged against ethnic minorites.” There has been a lot of discussion about racism and sexism and men's behaviour generally and the affect of porn on society.

 

On Monday my friend Annabelle known as The Imposter came over for a cup of tea and a walk. She laughed at me as I still had two jumpers on. I was boiling!

On Thursday I went to the dentist for major torture. I went out in one jumper which was a mistake as it was freezing. It was so cold. Both of my hands went totally dead. So painful.

Picked up three big shiny books from the local bookshop. I hate Amazon and try and not use it where possible. One had a chapter on Voewood that I had worked on. The other was by my old friend and had a detail of my old dresser. The other was just a temptation.

Bought some seeds and was a bit sarky in the nursery down the road the other day so worried they might ban me! Must behave myself. Haven’t dared go back yet. 

 

I finally sent off part 1 of my oil cloth order and am nearly ready to send off part 2.

Trying to get ready to do some paintings for the exhibition that I'm now regretting volunteering for. Set up the table downstairs moving stuff down from the room upstairs that I had previously set up to paint in and that is now my interior design studio. Basically its full of fabric samples. I cant paint where there is carpet. Brought the paint in from my outside shed. Dont’ think that is going to work so clean up the shed and then move the oil paints back to the shed. God help any one that wants to buy some oil cloth. Have left the watercolours downstairs.

Try and paint. Cant paint!! Why am I trying to paint. If it’s a wall I can paint so try and stop my negative spiral and pretend its a wall. A load of old... Oh God help us!

 

I’ve got so many seeds to plant but am trying to paint and not distract my self with gardening which is strongly calling me. And so it goes on!

Happy Easter every one.

Hope you get lots of chocolates.

Love Annabel xxx

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04/04/2021

Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

Easter plans by Marli Rose Macrae

 

It's Easter time and I'm excited. I felt relieved that school has finished for a few weeks even though we've only just returned. I feel extremely tired and grumpy. I'm looking forward to going to a gymnastics camp that mummy had enrolled me on. Franklin won't be there and I'm pleased about that. I hope I meet some other girls. Mummy has bought me lots of good books to read too. I've just finished 'The Deathless Girls'.  It was a fantastic book, the main character becomes a vampire at the end. I'm now reading 'Tom's Midnight Garden'. It's an enchanting book and Tom reminds me slightly of Franklin, he doesn't do what he's told! He himself is reading 'The Woman in Black'. He begged mummy to let him watch the film and she told him if he reads the novel then he can watch the film. He said he won't be frightened but mummy and daddy said it's terrifying and I've not to watch it.

We're going to the Long Man tomorrow to roll our boiled eggs down the hill. I love doing this. Hopefully next week we might meet Granny Aye outside in Oxford, at the Botanical Garden. We're not allowed indoors but it's better than nothing.

We've bought a vintage flower press which I'm looking forward to using. And yesterday we spent all day cleaning out our pond as the builders poured cement water into it. It looks much better and we ordered a water lilly for it.

04/04/2021

From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

I have just read the entries for the 4th April last year. 

Shopping seemed to dominate our lives, how to and where, and all the problems thereof; Annabel’s chickens breaking lockdown, Sophie proposing to her partner, Shirin extolling the King of Norway, Harris visiting a well organised surgery, and Susan Neave’s recipe for her delicious lemon drizzle cake! This is a recipe I’ve used many times now and I recommend it to everyone. So easy, so delicious. Try it!

 

This week has been odd. First steps out of lockdown on Monday coincided with a mini heatwave lasting three days. Peter and I basked in the sun, tulips started to flower, wallflowers buds opened: bliss. We had a lovely tea with Chris and Sheila in their walled garden, enjoying their peach tree in blossom and the company of their peckish hens (they peck your legs to beg for a few crumbs). It felt wonderfully NORMAL. The next day we had friends in the garden for coffee, and visited another friend in her garden. What a social round! Exhausting. And then the Arctic chill returned. Back to thick jumpers and turning the heat back on.

 

And throughout I couldn’t talk as much as I’d like because of last Friday’s dental visit, and the awful antibiotics that gave me terrible headaches. But that’s over now, my mouth is healing and I had my first glass of wine last night. And we’ve been sent the most wonderful Colombo Easter cake which we are saving for Easter Sunday. 

 

That taste of Summer was addictive though. Come back soon sunshine. And warmth. I hope you are all having a pleasant Easter weekend wherever you are, whatever the weather.

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