Strange times

Anna Stenborg, Uppsala, Sweden

I had too little time to prepare before Christmas since I worked in Bollnäs and came home quite late the evening before Christmas Eve. But we had a Christmas tree and a lot of flowers, and we went as usual to my sister´s place, 100 km north from here on Christmas Eve. There was (almost) no worry about Covid at that time. First a walk in the woods with all the dogs. Then my father called from his car which was halfway between Uppsala and Ytterharnäs, and told it was not possible to fill up with electricity for some reason. I rescued them and we had the usual quite large and very wonderful family gathering. To this day I have never had to work on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and I hope I never will.

So I was free on Christmas day and also on Boxing day and we could spend time with Thomas and his fiancée Marit who arrived by train from Norway. On New Year’s Eve I worked until 6 pm and after that we had the usual celebration with family, listening to the radio and watching the fireworks and drinking sparkling wine.

This last week was interesting. On Monday at a meeting about Covid with ICU, the infection ward and my ward, which was also designated to take Covid patients, there was no Covid in the ICU, none in my ward and only 3 in the infection ward and those were only mild cases. Then the Covid patients started to come and we had to try and move other patients (or discharge them) to make room.  

I was looking forward to going to a classical concert at 4 pm on Wednesday with Georg and Elisabeth. Then E could not go since she had not yet received her Covid vaccination certificate. If, like us, she had had a “Bank-ID” she could have gotten one online in two minutes, but instead she had had to send an application by post. I asked my father if he wanted to go instead, which thankfully he did. Then Georg phoned me from home, not feeling very well. When I came to the concert hall he phoned again and said that had tested positive (we have a pharmacy next door so Mattias could buy tests). Having received that information I walked out again and went home instead. At home, having tested negative and feeling normal I decided to go to work on Thursday. But I soon learned that instead (obviously) I was supposed to stay home in quarantine. However, before receiving that information, I had checked out (only) one of my patients, which was a patient who had just died so I needed to write the death certificate. It used to be that we filled in the form in the electronic journal system and then we would sign it and print it and send by post. Recently though there is also a new death certificate which can be signed and sent online to the Swedish Tax Agency. For this patient though it was impossible to fill in the death certificate in the patient´s electronic journal. It said “This form is not for patients who are alive” Quite bizarre. But when I asked the nurse to discharge the patient as dead it worked. At the moment both Georg and Mattias are coughing but I feel perfectly alright and am having some free time at home which is really great.


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

Best wishes from Best Beloved and myself for a very happy new year to my fellow journalistas and all who may read this small testament from the Island of Wight.


For me, and also for Best Beloved, it's been a very quiet time. We managed to be happily together on Christmas Day, and also various other times. Prior to that we together decorated my bungalow (BB does her own thing in her own house!), and it turned out very colourful, providing a good background to our celebrations. I forgot to take any photographs, and sadly it's too late now to produce some for the journal, being past the Twelfth Night - mind you, I think Christmas goes on till the 2nd February, thus covering my birthday as well as that of Jesus!


A neighbour and good friend of mine has had a major organ transplant recently. Happily, she is doing really well, and should be home quite soon after spending a convalescent period living with her sister. There really is some good news around I note!


In the bigger world, things mostly seem to be going from bad to worse. Okay, the latest version of Covid may be more gentle than earlier incarnations (do viri incarnate I wonder?), but it is causing chaos nevertheless. Our friends across the pond seem to have enormous problems with their democratic system. That is very worrying for all of us who hope the world may retain some goodness into the foreseeable future. Crazy is alive and thriving it seems.


Music making remains strong in my life at the moment. I am still restricting my live performances to Zoom, but have fully regained my former confidence, and hope to do something with real live people around before too long. The foolhardy may like to try this YouTube link:


On the wildlife front, squirrels are still romping in my back garden. The other day one of them was joined by two species of woodpecker at the same time, a Greater Spotted and a Green. That was unusual to say the least.


It will be a relief when the cold, wet, and otherwise not so pleasant winter weather is past. I have confidence it will happen one day...


My feelings on paper

Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire

What a start to 2022.

Sheffield has the highest population with the new variant of Covid.

Since Christmas 4 of my immediate family and a friend have had it or have still got it. Fortunately, they are not too poorly with it.

My neighbour’s child had it and a chap across from me, it's all too near to my home.


Fortunately, we all managed to see one another on Christmas Eve.  We had a lovely party and all my close family came, all seventeen of them tested negative and we had a lovely time. They were all triple or double jabbed. It's rife in Sheffield so many people off work, two of my family don’t get paid for time off work. So, it’s getting terrible.


Also, in late November I had a steroid injection for my pain in hospital under an Xray. This has not worked. I am gutted. The pain is worse now, when I thought I would be pain free?

So Happy New Year - today it's started to snow.



Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all managed to meet up with some of your friends and family over the holidays. We were a family group of nine on Christmas day and fourteen for our youngest son’s birthday on January 1st. Normally he would be celebrating new year with his friends but we’re all being careful and it was especially lovely to celebrate with him. Except for the three youngest children we all took tests and Jeremy drove to London to collect our youngest son and his partner so they wouldn’t have to use public transport. We feel very lucky to have been able to spend time with three out of four of our sons and their families. We plan to self-isolate for a week in February before going to visit our other son and daughter-in-law. So far only our eldest granddaughter has had Covid, in July, but I can’t believe that more of us won’t get Omicrom as it is so infectious. 


Our teacher daughter-in-law has a shoulder operation due to take place on 17th January. She has been in a lot of pain for months. She has to take strong pain killers, to cope with the pain, so she can continue her job. These upset her stomach and make her feel ill. If she gets Covid before the operation it will be delayed for seven weeks. But she has to go back to school next week! She will self-isolate from Friday for three days and take the Covid test sent to her through the post. The rest of the family will stay with us. 


Unfortunately all of the family celebrations over Christmas and New Year meant extra demand for lateral flow tests.  They quickly ran out. Also it is now more complicated to get the tests from a pharmacy – one 85 year old friend spent over an hour, sitting in a pharmacy, trying to log into the Covid app on her phone to get a code for a pack of lateral flow tests. Finally she was helped to do it on the pharmacy’s computer. This could put non-techie people off getting tests. 


Jeremy is at the village hall making stage furniture for the annual pantomime which is due to happen at the end of January. This is looking increasingly likely to be cancelled. If it does go ahead audience numbers are likely to be very low and there will probably be some cast members missing. There is a large chorus of children and they go back to school next week.... The decision will be made on 20th. The children are so enthusiastic and will be very disappointed if it has to be cancelled.


So we will see what impact schools reopening has on the numbers. Apparently New Year celebrations haven’t caused a huge upsurge so maybe people were being careful. Numbers have started to come down in London where one in fifteen people have the virus. It is one in twenty-five across the rest of the country. Obviously different areas have different statistics. We still have a large house in Belgium booked for August to celebrate our 70th birthdays and Golden Wedding anniversary. Will we get there? Who knows!


Wishing you all the very best for 2022.


Broadland type

Sheila, Norfolk UK

Happy New Year everyone - and thanks so much for continuing to contribute to this slightly bonkers exercise.


I cannot tell you how pleased I am to have made it into 2022.


2021 was a difficult year for us all, but particularly so for my very close friend who was hospitalised after a routine day procedure went horribly wrong. She spent the last months (yes months!) in intensive care and is only just now getting to the stage where she may be able to come home. Monday next is the appointed day, we hope, and even though she will return home with the extensive trappings of a disabled person we're all hoping that she will recover fast once she is in her own home. The prognosis is good but it may take another 6 months before she is back to her old self. Fingers crossed!


Consequently, we start the year in quite a positive mood, but I wonder how long that will last.


It was just the two of us at the table on Christmas Day this year (with UK made 'sprout' crackers and napkins) but the young couple came to us for Boxing Day. All very lovely.


In the week after Christmas we went up north (Norfolk) to Holkham for their Christmas Experience. And quite fabulous it was too - all the staff were incredibly organised, friendly and welcoming and it was managed with small groups escorted with their own guide, finishing with a glass of Prosecco and an exceedingly tasty mince pie. I'm sure there are loads of pics out there and there was a Channel 4 programme that aired just before we went, but I have included some pics here (including one of the 'iced' dining room) so you get a flavour. Truly wonderful, will definitely go again next year. The room themes are different each year so it's something of a surprise and a treat to look forward to.



View from a town formerly known as crazy

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

I found myself unusually busy during the first week of the New Year (hard to believe it's the third calendar year in which The Plague Journal goes on) with work projects.In theory, I'm semi-retired, but it felt considerably less than semi- this week. One hopes that's a good portent for the year, but I'm left scrambling to put together a contribution well past the Dear Editors' deadline. Mea culpa. 


As the omicron wave rolled over America and the world, Crazy Town emerged as one of the leading hotspots, setting records for daily hospitalizations. Which only served to underscore the wisdom of our decision to retreat to the rural charms of Columbia County, NY for Christmas. We were rewarded with snowfall on Christmas Eve and plenty of scenes out of a Currier and Ives print to make it seem like a "real" Christmas. New Years was spent in The Big Apple, where we'd planned to stay for several additional days. But the forecast of a major snow storm on January 3 sent us scurrying back to Crazyville sooner than planned. And a good thing too, because for once the forecasts were correct, and the next day we were greeted with a deep snowfall. The previous days had seen temperatures in the 60's, so the first flakes turned to slush and then ice overnight. Just south of Crazy Town this caused an epic breakdown of civilization as we have known it. Interstate 95 turned into a sheet of ice, causing a fifty mile traffic jam, which trapped people (including a U.S. Senator) in their cars for as much as 29 hours.


Speaking of the breakdown of civilization, yesterday was the first anniversary of the Insurrection of the Big Lie of the Big Liar at the U.S. Capitol. He Who Shall Not Be Named laid into He, who in fact he never named, for the first time. It was a powerful message, but unfortunately failed to reach the vast majority of MAGAites, who were instead watching transfixed as Ted Cruz turned himself into the modern day equivalent of the Wicked Witch of the West following the latter's fateful encounter with a bucket of water. Fox News' Tucker Carlson played the role of said bucket, excoriating a groveling Ted for having had the temerity to say the Insurrectionists were terrorists. Watching Ted's contortions as he tried to explain that away was indeed memorable entertainment, and his twisting, sniveling performance provided proof positive that the man has long ago surrendered any semblance of a spine for political advantage. Throughout all the fun and games this week Dear Leader has been uncharacteristically missing from public view. But He Himself was recently given a taste of His own medicine, or at least a taste of the forces He's unleashed, when an adoring crowd of the Faithful booed Him for admitting He'd had a booster shot of His Own Medicine, a.k.a., a COVID vaccine. How the worm turns (or in Ted Cruz's case, twists and turns).


Best wishes to everyone for a healthy, happy 2022! We can never know what the future holds, but one feels fairly confident predicting it'll be Crazy as all hell here.


From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk


Where have the last two years gone? I’ll have to start at the beginning and read our journal through to remind myself. It’s just one big blur.

Jean from Australia is with us at present... what a delightful reunion. We realise it’s almost exactly 2 years since she was last with us in Norfolk... she returned to Melbourne just before first lockdown. But her last visit feels like yesterday; we’ve just picked up the conversation where we left off two years ago, yet in between lies COVID and pages and pages of our journal. 

How can her last visit feel like yesterday? 


In these still uncertain times, like most of you, it’s been a much better Christmas than last year. We had Jane (St Just) with us for Christmas, along with her new feline companion, Tirzah. And Jane made it possible to technically organise Zoom so that Sandy joined us from America on Christmas Eve to hear Peter read The Tailor of Gloucester. It was delightful to see her beaming out from her screen, listening alongside us. Magical.


Other welcome visitors appeared and disappeared, much stollen and many mince pies were eaten, and we stayed cosy with a lit wood burner and candles . 

Now we have passed Twelfth Night, but our tree is still up and decorated, and decorations and lights and cards remain. Inertia rules. Perhaps we’ll leave them up till Candlemas, as English Heritage suggests, to keep the dark days and nights of January at bay.


Keep warm, keep cosy, keep safe. A happier 2022 to all of you!🤞🤞🤞