David Horovitch, Twickenham
On Tuesday I went over to see Francis in Forest Hill. It was a couple of days after the 14th anniversary of his brother Tom's death; Tom has a bench in the park near the gloriously eccentric Horniman Museum.On the bench is a plaque bearing his name and the inscription 'Green is Now.'
Tom wrote the following poem when he was about 7 and Francis read it at his funeral:
What Is Green?
Green is you
Green is me
Green is the trees high up, high up
in the sky.
what is green?
How do I know?
Appril . I think
No, wait Green
Francis and I sat on the bench halfheartedly playing a game called Bobit which tests the speed of your reflexes; Tom was very fond of playing it in a state of mild intoxication at his own parties. We were joined by a little 2 year old boy with blonde curly hair and an Asian name. He was accompanied by his nanny. She was black, from Kenya, via Jordan and explained the incongruity of the boy's curls and name by telling us his father was Irish and his mother Pakistani. The nanny herself was married to an Italian restaurateur who she'd met in Jordan. She loved England, London in particular, never wanted to live anywhere else, the people, she said were so friendly and warm, always smiling and saying hello, in Jordan, she said, they stared at you all the time. What with this conversation and the speed of the vaccine rollout, I felt pleased to be living in this country for the first time in years. That kid was hopeless at Bobit though., Bloody two year olds! And he kept falling over: the nanny said he liked falling over, that he did it in a spirit of experimentation.
I had my first costume fitting today for The House of Dragons, prequel to Game of Thrones.
A couple of days ago a nurse came to the flat and tested me for covid and later in the day I had an email saying I'd tested negative so the car picked me up at 8 this morning to take me to The Warner Brothers Studio in Leavesdon, near glamorous Watford, not exactly tinsel town but it'll do. I'd been up since 6 anyway watching England piling on the runs against India in Madras. As I was in the car on the way there I thought of my very first TV performance in something called The Expert, the first TV pathologist series starring Marius Goring, anyone remember that?. I was about 26, I suppose, and wet behind the ears, having done nothing but theatre up till then. In those days exteriors were shot out of sequence on film before anything else. These exteriors took no more than a day or two and then we went into rehearsal for a week or so, after which we went into the studio and shot the interiors in story order like a play. There was very little time for retakes and it was bloody nerve-racking as people just expected me to know what was going on and I hadn't a clue and was too proud and timid to ask. The exteriors, as I say, were shot on film and the studio stuff on tape so the quality didn't match. Like Oedipus, I murdered my father, an actor called Andre Morrell who was famous for playing Quatermass, by putting something in his scrambled egg.
Oh dear, I'm in my anecdotage. I meant to tell you about the costume fitting but I floated off to the BBC in 1971. On arrival at Warner Brothers Watford, I was given an excellent white covid resistant mask and an even more excellent cup of black coffee, the juxtaposition of these two excellences posing an obvious problem which I solved in the obvious way by taking off the mask and knocking back the coffee. I'm to be wearing a medievalish sort of robe with a tabard of slightly different hue and chains of office. There was much discussion of colour. The designer, a sophisticated Frenchwoman called Janine, had submitted a grey drawing to the director but he had favoured white which neither she nor I liked so, in the end I think, subject to the director's approval, I'm going to be beige. A beige Grand Master. I thought the material was hessian but' 'Ah no,' said Janine, 'it's raw silk.' Big bucks and, as with the vaccine rollout, money no object. Everything is being made from scratch. I will be working with Paddy Considine and Matt Smith, both actors I admire inordinately. In the car on the way back I realised there was a TV for the passengers in the back and I arrived home just as the England captain made his third century in a row.
Then I had some unpoisoned scrambled egg, enjoyed a a FaceTime call with an old friend, went for a long riverside walk, came home and made some cheesecake.
It was, you could say, a bloody good day.
Then and Now
Of course, in the land of then, summers were drowsed with sunlight and winters brilliant with snow, deep, crisp and even. But. We are now promised or threatened with snowfalls here in East Anglia, and I am reading Ransome’s ‘Winter Holiday’ to Margaret and myself in bed, the snowiest and iciest of children’s books. And Dick, Roger and John are always drawn with shorts and bare knees, trudging and laughing through the early 1930’s. My father strongly disliked the blank expanses of sea and snow; any green field with a weedy ditch was preferable, but I still tremble with a half-remembered thrill at the word snow, though often the reality was standing in a chill and scruffy back-garden patching up a collapsing snowman, my fingers numb in sodden grey woollen gloves, my feet cold lumps in loose Wellington boots. Then inside, to the pleasures of hot-ache and a cold house. Childhood was certainly cold, cold. Our semi in Harston, Cambridgeshire, was bitter in those wartime years. I can see my father hopelessly trying to light a fire of coal-dust brickets and twigs, holding up a sheet of newspaper to create a draught — and, as like as not, the paper disappearing in a flourish of flame over the smoking, recalcitrant ruins. And the pleasures of a one-bar electric fire leave something to be desired, though I remember skirring my fingertips over the bar for the interest of the smell of singing and the stripy effect of the radiant on the skin. Happy days. Three pleasures which were genuine enough but seem to have vanished from childhood experience were the delight of frost-flowers on window-panes, the daggerish array of icicles from gutters and the long black slides in playgrounds. But I still feel there are few simple pleasures which beat the sight of first snowflakes eddying down from a sky of uniform grey, and the question “Is it going to settle?” as anxiously made as the other childhood question “Are we nearly there yet ?”
At 87, cold makes me tremble, but not with the old anticipation, and despite the Police and Mr. Grouser coming down like a ton of bricks on sledging and snowballing, it has given me a real pleasure to think of the delight snow this winter is giving to children. Even though the sledge my father made for me when I was seven was too cumbersome to work well, I catch a sudden glimpse of my children bering towed on a sledge behind my battered car on rough icy ground, other children hanging on perched on the running board. And, since we all have a sheaf of postcard memories, a consoling one of mine is going to the frosted windows of my grandparents house, rubbing a patch clear and gazing at the transformation scene a a heavy night snowfall made to summerhouse, hedges garden paths...
Cold, cold. How heavy, heavy everything was in the land of then. I see myself a bit later, togged up in a heavy, heavy army greatcoat, rough heavy khaki, heavy boots on my feet and heavy coins in my pockets stomping up and down as a sentry myself or inspecting sentries as a guard commander in bitter cold at some godforsaken three
o’clock in the morning. It could be snowing. Somewhere there would be cold, clanking steam-trains and dirty smoke, cold white cups with traces of lipstick, cold words of command.
Perhaps it never got warm until the sixties ?
At the Window
And, if I ventured out,
where could I hope to go ?
Should I search the near and far
through miles of shivering snow
for a burning babe, a star,
or make my peace with my doubt
where waste and wildwood grow ?
Safe between these four walls,
the sill cold to my hand
I watch the garden dressed
by slow, cascading snow,
layer on layer pressed
on those half-remembered falls,
where, in the remembered land
I stood at the pane, a child
half-blind in a dazzle of white,
as roof, road, lawn and leaf
confirmed with their robe of snow
my unbelieving belief:
near, far and waste and wild
in the one transforming light.
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
The news etc still preoccupied - and why not - with various aspects of the various Covid vaccines, foremost will we continue to have enough, and the first mention I’ve seen that mixing vaccine ‘brands‘ between first and second dose may make for a more effective cocktail. Both took a piquant turn for Sheila and I as this week brought our appointed day; we were both ‘seen to’ on Wednesday and are pleased to be marginally less vulnerable.
Our designated JabCentre was at Hoveton (next to Wroxham of boating and Roy’s of Wroxham fame) and made a welcome little rural jaunt - though fields everywhere are damaged and sodden, and Wroxham itself must have been inundated. I believe I saw ‘high tide’ marks a foot up the brickwork of some of the waterside houses. The vaccine process (Pfizer, btw) went well with little in the way of after-effect.
Captain Tom slipped away, but boy! What a year he had.
I’ve had a bit of a medical week: Jabbed, had my monthly visit to Podiatrist and had a session with a Physio to get my rotary cuff injury soothed. Since there’s no hope of me getting back up onto my roofing project anytime soon and I’m tired of looking at it unfinished, I called in ‘The Professionals’, namely Martin and Paul, to get the tiles back. While they’re up there doing stuff I can’t, I start a new project that doesn’t involve hanging on for dear life or lifting my arms above shoulder height - a set of raised beds, safely below my feet. Anyway, all this needed a trip to the Reclaim Yard for timber, and look what I found, cast iron, soon to be a centrepiece in a garden near here...
On the back of the general vaccine noise, Dido the Unfortunate chose to break cover and state that “None of us were able to predict Covid19 would mutate or variants would emerge.” Well, none that is except for every child aged 7 with this book (above)...
or just about every epidemiologist and immunologist in the world. Honestly, what planet is she on? Sorry, forgot. That would be Planet Chums of Boris Gravy Train.
From ‘Epicure’s Corner’: my mention of ‘blom i madeira‘ last week triggered a truly scrumptious surprise delivery of a gift box from The Editor. Margaret, you’re a Star!
And Rick Stein’s mention of The Cornish Gouda Co. in his tv programme brought this, and jolly tasty too, quite unlike normal
Jean, Melbourne Australia
After 28 days with no new cases of community transmission, Victoria this week had one case - a young man working in the hotel quarantine sector. Fortunately, he was able to recall in great detail where he had been, practically hour by hour, during the days when he was thought to have been infectious and out in the community. A massive tracking and tracing effort went into action and to date no further cases have been discovered. It isn't yet known how he contracted the virus as he was apparently following all the safety protocols to the letter, but they are now looking at the hotel's ventilation system where he worked. One idea is that there was inadequate air flow in contained areas such as hallways. The appearance of a new case meant the reappearance of our premier, Daniel Andrews, and his health team on the news to keep everyone up to date with developments. He is terrific at getting the public health message across in a way that makes you glad he is telling you these things you have now heard thousands of times. Despite what seem to be the almost inevitable problems associated with the quarantine system, the government has just announced it's increasing the numbers of overseas Australians allowed to return, all of whom must go into quarantine. This is great news in the event my daughters need to come back from abroad. When we will be able to be together again is the big mystery. A year ago, my older daughter and I had just returned to Cambridge from a week in Vienna and exactly a year ago tomorrow I flew to Atlanta to visit my younger daughter.
Way too long to be separated.
The last weeks have been an exhausted blur, after the intense emotion around the US election. There is relief but the drama isn't over - we still have the impeachment trial to get through. Perhaps it's like a convalescence and a full recovery takes longer than you think. Anyway, what continues to be the best thing to do at the moment is continue with the translation, which is so absorbing and eats up the hours. Tomorrow I'll be able to report on its progress: my Russian teacher, Nadia, my fellow classmate, Jill, and I are meeting for coffee. We actually haven't seen each other for over a year. Jill and I first met a number of years ago in a Russian language evening class and then cleverly managed to snag Nadia for our very own. Nadia has the patience of a saint and is one of those remarkable people who seem to be able to do anything they set their mind to. Jill and I used to joke that we were a great combo in class because she was terrific at constructing sentences in Russian which actually sounded like Russian and my strength was listening and understanding what Nadia was saying. I did think my speaking ability would only improve if I could get myself to Moscow and have an immersive experience, and Jill and I used to talk about this as a real possibility. To which, Nadia would say, "Dear ladies, don't think of it! You are both too nice and they will eat you alive." Nadia was convinced we were babes in the woods and would never survive the Russian jungle. Anyway, seeing what's happening to Navalny - and the pandemic - have put the Moscow trip on ice.
Otherwise, we are having a classic Melbourne summer: a couple of oven-hot days, some torrential rain, then a perfect day or two, followed by another storm. This evening, some gorgeous grey clouds are rolling across the sky.
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
UK Covid Deaths around 111,000
Trying to think what I have done since last Friday. The week seems to have whipped by so fast with not very much achieved at all though I never stop.
Captain Sir Tom died a few days ago and was given an incredible send off on the news. So much love for the pragmatic grounded charming 100 year old who the world fell in love with last year. He cheered up the nation during the first big lock down and raised so much money for the NHS.
Today handsome Christopher Plummer died aged 91, most famous for playing Captain von Trapp in The Sound Of Music or as he called it The Sound of Mucous.
Edelweiss is one of my imaginary Desert Island Discs and I think it is really my favourite film of all time. I love the folk dance in the garden with Maria and Captain Von Trapp when they realise they are falling in love.
There was a programme on the radio the other day talking about the woman who scored a lot of the music and converted the lonely goat song into that folk waltz but I can’t find her name. Maybe I’ll be carried out to the lonely goat song played by The Salvation Army band one day!
Anyway in other news the vaccines are going very well. Boris must be proud of that. Matt Hancock said today they want all over 50’s vaccinated by May. He said in an interview that some of the government’s approach was modelled on the film Contagion, particularly the allocation of vaccines.
They are finally going to quarantine travellers coming into the country in hotels for 11 days at ones own expense but the hotel have agreed to wash ones smalls in the contract!
Alexei Navalny is having a bad week. He is very brave as he didn’t need to go back to Russia at all. He’s been jailed on trumped up charges and thousands of his supporters and a few journalists have been arrested and chucked in make shift jails as Moscow prisons are full of protesters now. There is a huge row between the EU and Russia over Navalny’s treatment and Russia have expelled 3 EU diplomats.
Saturday 6th Feb 21
Other news, still havn’t done my accounts or sent in the oil cloth order.
Have cut back and cleared a bit of mess in the garden with my friendly blackbirds and Roger cut the hedge behind the border in the cutting garden which is a huge improvement.
I’ve got a new job to do 3 bedrooms in Norwich and need to nip in now to case the joint while it is free of builders and before the snow comes tonight.
Have had another egg, three in total. The cost of each egg is roughly £500. The chickens are getting fed up with imprisonment in the poly tunnel and keep escaping and who can blame them.
Was woken up to barking this morning and hooray, it was Roger to sort the green house out. What joy.
Lots of love
Jane, just south of Norwich
We did enjoy Hindle Wakes on Sunday. Thank you to Margaret and David for the links.It was absorbing and fascinating to be transported back to 1910 for the evening. David was brilliant and although he made no impact on Fanny, he would have had me quaking in my shoes (or button up boots)!
Another feel good screen event was the launch of Grayson Perry’s second Art Club on BBC 4. During the last lockdown he invited viewers to submit their own artwork from which he and his wife Philippa (the lady with the stripy hair) selected their favourites. In the programmes he met the contributors and heard their own individual stories of life during Lockdown. The first series culminated in an exhibition of the chosen artworks at Manchester Art Gallery which is still waiting to welcome its first visitors. The exhibition will be on until November this year so hopefully there is time. At the end of February another Art Club series begins with the first subject being Family. Grayson is a very inspiring artist and I think has done a lot to encourage people to “have a go”.
I for one have dusted off my watercolours over the past few months. Every week I and two friends (one in Sheffield and one in Suffolk) produce a drawing or painting to a particular theme chosen by one of us.
We then photograph our artwork and send it via WhatsApp to each other by 5pm on a Wednesday. This has certainly encouraged all of us to have a go for fun and I have found it a very relaxing hobby to rekindle and a chance to switch off from all the bad news.
Having said that, the news becomes more positive as the weeks pass and infection rates gradually decrease. My husband Chris has his vaccine appointment on Saturday and this morning our Dentist rang and booked us in for a check up. It will be quite an event to go into Norwich and although it is only for a dental check up, I will dust off some clothes at the back of the wardrobe that I haven’t worn for months and polish my boots!
From the Editor
It’s Saturday morning, February 6th, and I’m queuing in the rain outside Hoveton Village Hall. It’s 8.20 a.m. Normally at this time I’d be sitting by the Aga in my dressing gown with a herb tea, catching up on emails and the news. I’m tapping these words on to my iPhone through fogged up glasses...
An army of volunteers (twice as many as needed!) in yellow high viz jackets have parked us and guided us.. and I’m about to enter the hall. In the foyer, sanitiser and my vaccination card and information. Then into the village hall, the sort of hall that is the setting for countless W.I. Events, community quizzes, the annual pantomime. A rectangle with the curtained, raised stage at the far end. Now it has been swept clear of all village hall detritus. Down the centre of the room, a row of chairs where one sits waiting. Not for long, though. Down each long side of the the room are six or seven separate tables and chairs manned (or womanned) by the vaccinators. Mine is a young nurse in a blue uniform. It takes only a few minutes. She tells me to relax my arm. I do. A dull, deep ache as the needle goes in. ‘You’ll have a sore arm tomorrow, you tensed.’ Oh dear.
Then another row of spaced out chairs in front of the stage, a recovery area. After ten minutes I leave by the side door, and return to Peter waiting in the car. All done!
So efficient, so quick. So cheerful. So many eager volunteers. Perhaps it is the blitz spirit all over again. And looking round that bare, clean village hall it could have been Time Travel back to the forties. Bare floorboards, notice boards, high windows, the old stage. Only our masks tell of a different time.
So we drive home to a late breakfast, down half-flooded lanes. True February Filldyke weather. Deep mist and heavy rain. But this evening the temperature is supposed to drop, and high winds and snow will blow in from the east. Norfolk’s turn for wintry weather. I’m rather glad we won’t have to be navigating these roads tomorrow in the snow and ice. We look forward to being cosy inside, and looking out on a white world.
In personal terms, a good week. I woke to blue skies and sunshine on Thursday and felt rejuvenated. This mood has lasted, no doubt helped by getting my first jab. January has been shaken off, and things do seem more hopeful in all ways. Snowdrops and hellebores in the garden, some lovely conversations with friends. We were FaceTiming David on Monday when my phone pinged: a text telling me to book my jab. Reading various entries this week, I was pleased to see that so many of you, like us, had enjoyed the rehearsed reading of Hindle Wakes that David was part of last Sunday. Next month it’s Twelfth Night to look forward to!
Today’s weather certainly lives up to Feste’s refrain from that play...
‘ With a heigh-ho, the wind and the rain’.....