Care in the time of Corona
Shirin Jacob, Ålesund, Norway
We are loving home office and being on the island. I can walk for an hour and pass three people on the way at the most. And a few cars. I find Ålesund too crowded now, on my weekly visits to water the plants at home and shop for fresh meat and fish which is not available in the island store.
I caught the fast boat at 12:15 pm. It takes 45 minutes to Ålesund with several stops at scenic islands on the way.
It’s Friday and the fishmonger had such lovely fish and shellfish. I was so tempted to buy the fresh oysters but I resisted as they won’t keep till I get home to the island. I passed Rudolf, the elderly German tour operator and Covid disbeliever, who stands in the center of town in his loden coat holding a flag decrying Covid. He stopped talking to me several months ago after I told him that I liked Merkel. Whoopsie!
Tomorrow Norway celebrates Liberation Day from German occupation. It’s a flag day. We fly a vimple normally but we will change to a flag tomorrow. We have to raise the flag not earlier than 8 am and lower it not later than 9 pm. In winter, the flag must be lowered before sunset and never touch the ground. When Tante Karoline died and her hearse was on the way to the cemetery, the flags on the island that she lived on flew at half-mast. It was so respectful and touching.
I’m also celebrating baking the first cheesecake in decades. I resist making cake and biscuits because this little Piggy scoffs the lot before the guests arrive. So I rang for advice from the best baker I know, Barbara Warsop. She is my resource for recipes and tree and plant advice. We have fun chatting with each other. A fount of generosity, kindness and good cheer. A wonderful woman. I have found three friends I communicate with through our blog, Barbara, Marie-Christine and Margaret. Invaluable and precious women.
Sending you a Big hug. I know some of you are having big challenges and are feeling down. I hear you and am sending you my energy and good wishes through the air waves.
Hilary Q, North Norfolk
Bitterly cold all week. This time last year I was extolling the jolly brolly. This year I am grateful for the wood burner and my Uniglo Mr Michelin coat in which I feel I have been stitched all winter.
Great excitement as husband prepares for a trip to the Highlands. However, looking at photos of the A9 covered in snow does mean that the drive up to Scotland is going to feel a bit more of an adventure than usual.
Today I toddled off for a mammogram at the enormous blue trailer which looms over the Morrison’s car park for a couple of weeks every year. As always an incredibly efficient procedure. Back home to pick up a pencil to take to the Village Hall to complete my ballot! I had to smile that in a world where everyone is offered face masks and sanitiser at every turn we were advised to take our own writing implement to make our mark! Sad not to see the stubby pencil on a piece of string but lovely to greet like old friends the same two ballot officers who have been coming to the village for as long as we have lived here. The turnout by midday had been eleven but apparently postal voting has taken a big leap forward. I fear that within a decade polling stations too will be a thing of the past!
Thoroughly enjoyed the outrage last week of Fortnam & Mason Macrae in the Swimming Pool Chronicles. The only upside was that they didn’t have to endure wet sand inside their cozzies!
From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
It's a lovely sunny Friday morning here on the Island. Sadly, looking at the weather charts, such conditions don't seem likely to last long, with meteorological mayhem approaching from the Atlantic. Oh well, I suppose this isn't too unusual for us, because we don't have a climate really and we live always with instability. Such seems a good metaphor for the whole of so-called civilisation, talking of which I was utterly horrified by a Facebook thread that passed my way a couple of days ago.
It concerned the protest by French fishermen over the new rules issued from Jersey. Of course our illustrious leader had sent 'gunboats' in a display of 19th Century 'diplomacy'. From my point of view it wan't the fact that a couple of fishery protection vessels were there to monitor the situation - a quite reasonable action I suppose - but the way in which some of the media took up a jingoistic and anti-Gallic position so readily. The Facebook thread was, not surprisingly, taking everything much further, and many of the words seemed as if they emanated from the early 1800s, when, quite erroneously in my view, Napoleon was promoted by the powers in England as a terrible tyrant. I have to declare that I don't think Napoleon, despite his undoubted imperialist ambition, was a tyrant of that sort, but more significantly in many respects a social reformer who brought about a lot of good in his homeland and sometimes elsewhere. Anyway, the words in the Facebook page were execrable - so much so that I wouldn't repeat them here or anywhere else. I declare that I have worked and played in France and am a Francophile. When there I noticed that the French media were generally far less hostile to Britain than the other way round. This seems to be still true at the moment, with the action by Norman fishermen seen as nothing much more than a demonstration, and no cause for major hostility. What is it with this both crazy and beautiful country that enmity towards our fellows seems to come quite naturally! I am saddened and frustrated and glad to be mostly Irish - as if the letter lets me off! Rant over.
Changing the subject completely, it has been a lovely and gentle week on a personal level. Best beloved and I have spent significant time together, and that has been most enjoyable. It is very good to love and be loved isn't it! We have been moving towards repairs and improvements to the beach hut - a place of joy for both of us. I have now passed the three week point after my second vaccination and hope that there are antibodies rushing around - in me and everyone else in a similar position. Best beloved will soon be at the same place I'm happy to say.
Voting yesterday was interesting. The polling station was well organised, but they gave me a completely blank voting slip for the county council. When I discovered this I considered putting a very big 'X' over the whole thing, but instead went and told the officials. That caused some consternation, but eventually they were able to give me a replacement. I've never had that happen before!
My daughter and I went for a short walk on Bembridge Marshes yesterday and we encountered some delightfully friendly cattle. One of the animals was being robbed of its fur by a Jackdaw that must have been nest building. The bird was pulling big junks of hair out of its neck, but the bullock seemed completely unperturbed by the experience. Maybe we can learn from its attitude...
John Mole, St Albans
REACHING FOR LIGHT
This was not a sleep
to be willingly continued
as your waking from it
in the early hours
offered a hesitant
into a strangeness
Reaching for light
if what had seemed a dream
was mere bewilderment,
a haunted narrative
or just residual darkness
welcoming you back.
View from the top of the hill
Linzy Lyne, Pateley Bridge
It's been another quiet week here on the farm, although the caravan sites filled up last weekend for the Bank Holiday. The British weather did its usual worst on Monday, with torrential downpours, forcing the poor caravanners to abandon their outdoor terraces and huddle inside. We were very fortunate that we had chosen to take the grandchildren out on Sunday afternoon, when the sun very obligingly came out for a couple of hours. We took them up to the Cow and Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor, where they had a great time climbing the rocks (see photo) and we had a semi-successful go at flying their kite, then enjoyed ice creams from the cafe. It was so wonderful to be doing such “normal” things again!
We have been enjoying such tranquillity up here because the farmers' focus has been on digging an enormous pit at the bottom of the hill. I think it's for some sort of water treatment for the caravan site, but whatever it is it's huge. By Tuesday it had started to fill up with water, so they have had to barricade it off with machinery, gates and ladders, presumably to ensure the campers' children don't fall in and drown. In the last couple of days a massive grey tank has appeared next to it, so things are moving along. There's always something being done, concrete being laid, fences replaced and so on. Soon the cattle will be going out into the fields and enjoying the new growth of lush grass.
I got up early this morning to see what had happened in the elections. We have always voted in the past and look forward to our outing to our designated polling station, which is a round trip of about 16 miles, along the side of the reservoir to Ramsgill. If we lived on the other side of the beck (see photo) we could vote in Pateley Bridge, two miles away. We are usually the only people there voting and have a good chat with the electoral staff. However, this election only involved voting for the police and fire commissioner so we really couldn't raise the enthusiasm to make the trip. Our only interest is that the man from “the oldest sweet shop” is standing, we await the result. The main news is that the Tories have won Hartlepool, which has always been a Labour seat, so Keir Starmer is going to be under pressure to make some changes. Apparently Boris has succeeded in winning over the love of the people, despite all the reasons why he probably shouldn't. “Interior resign” is all forgotten, as a week is a long time in politics and he has been busy sending the navy to defend Jersey from French fishermen. This week he denied that it may have been a mistake to have the G7 meeting “face to face” in the UK, with the specially invited delegation from India in attendance.
The new Indian variant of the virus has today been declared by the scientists as a “variant of concern” as it now has community spread in England. Two of the Indian delegation have tested positive. I would like to know how they were able to attend the conference if quarantine restrictions apply to all travel from India to the UK. Yet another thing that stretches our credulity. The situation in India has deteriorated in the last week to nearly 4,000 deaths a day, it's heart-breaking. Yet another government claiming that they were not unprepared, that there is plenty of oxygen and the doctors should use it more sparingly. Last night we saw that doctors have fled from ICUs in fear for their lives, when they had no oxygen for their patients and the angry mob was at the door. I'm glad that our government has at least sent ventilators, they must do more.
We're looking forward, somewhat cautiously, to the easing of restrictions on 17th May. A friend has invited us for afternoon tea on that day, so it will be something of a celebration. I bumped into a friend outside the Post Office yesterday and he asked if we were going away. We're not planning anything. He and his wife are off to the Scilly Isles. I think it will be some time before we want to go very far from home, but we are planning to meet up with my cousin for lunch in a few weeks, assuming we can find somewhere that's open and not too busy. Our local pub has been serving outside but the sight of a huge crowd of drinkers seated at tables in the car park fills me with something close to terror. I think this may be one of the long-term effects of the pandemic, that half the population rush out to enjoy themselves and the other half huddle away and avoid crowds.
I know which half I'm in. Stay safe everyone.
Photos: The Lion King/Big hole!/Bridge over the beck
Words from Wood Lane
Susan Neave, Beverley
On Tuesday we saw my eldest sister and her husband for the first time for well over a year. They were on their way from Sheffield to Scarborough, so made a diversion to Beverley to have coffee with us. It was good to see them. We've also had a couple of friends here for coffee in the garden, and a good walk with others to the bluebell wood on the edge of the common.
I've finally managed to arrange a face-to-face visit at her care home with my aunt, who will be 99 later this year. She is very deaf, and trying to communicate through a screen wasn't an option. The process all seems unbelievably complicated. Before our first visit we have to have a Covid test (not just the lateral flow test). I've now found that because I'm having my second vaccination next Tuesday, I won't be able to do that test next week. We are planning to visit her the following week so I'm now having to arrange to get both our tests done today. I've provisionally booked the visit for Tuesday 18th, on the assumption the results will be negative. We will still be required to do lateral flow tests on the day, and wait half an hour for the results. I usually walk to the home, but apparently there is no provision to sit indoors for the 30 minutes it takes for the results to come back. The weather is unpredictable at the moment (this morning I was caught in a heavy hail shower as I walked down the garden) so it looks as if we'll have to drive there so we have somewhere to sit undercover.
Good news from my Silver Swans ballet teacher. Classes resume at the end of May. Small groups, so we can only meet once a fortnight, but better than nothing. Must start practising my pliés!
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
It’s been a funny old week, mainly of frustration on the gardening front as with maddening inconsistency we get occasional frosty mornings or lashing rain and gales, so that planting-out, even in the polytunnel, is frought with danger - temps down to zero, even in there. A plug tray of lettuce, eager to bursting, can’t be set outside in the new raised beds and may have to be potted on again, I’ve got a few sacrificial tomato plants in position, covered with a fleece tent, but loads more awaiting their final places, a peach tree covered with a big ugly frost shield, grass is too wet for cutting most of the time...
So, it’s been something of a welcome distraction to have been chosen by a pair of Kestrels as hosts. Other than a convenient cup shape, quite why they see the redundant rainwater hopper-head on the front of the house by the side of the door as acceptable is a mystery, but they add to the rich tapestry of ‘wildlife from my window’ which now reads: muntjac, water deer, hares, rabbits, squirls, stoats, buzzards, pheasants, partridges. I’ve tried setting a camera ‘trap’ for the Kestrels but the results are disappointingly fuzzy and distant, so I’ve enlisted the enthusiasm of local Wildlife Photographer, Peter Mallett. If convinced they are set on nesting there, he’ll put a hide in the shrubbery only 20 feet away and wait for a good shot of “perching on the edge”, or maybe even “feeding young“... In the meantime, here’s one (below) he took earlier, and elsewhere:
This week there’s been no Covid deaths reported in the general Broadland area and less than ten daily hospitalisations. With ‘Staycation’ being all the rage, millions will flock here from all over - will unguarded mingling set things on an upward curve again? 48 million day trippers and 12.5 million overnighters must leave something other than holiday money behind - but then we’re part of the problem, if problem it be: we decided to offer our yurt (night time pic below) for just July and August this year and it is, as they say, ‘rammed’ already. We’ll be suitably guarded and sanitary.
Notes from a factory in the Midlands
I conducted a couple of night time meetings in the factory this last week, sitting down with the nightshift cleaning crew, explaining the implications of our decision to change company pension provider. An employee from the new pension company attended virtually, on a big screen in the meeting room, to explain the benefits and improvements that the new scheme will bring. It was very encouraging to see a good degree of interest and engagement from the workforce, and not just from those in their 50s and 60s.
We run two production shifts in the factory, 6:30 to 2:30 and 2:30 to 10:30, with the cleaners working 10:30 till 6:30 the next morning. Consequently, the cleaners very rarely get to see those of us in senior positions and when we had finished the pension presentations I was able to chat with them about wider business performance, and of course take the opportunity to recognise them for their contribution particularly during the challenging last 14 months. Their job is more skilled and responsible than one might imagine: it is not simply mopping dusty floors! They clean down all the production equipment, often having to dismantle elements of the machinery, and they then have to swab test and analyse critical food contact surfaces for traces of allergen or bacterial contamination, before the machines can be authorised for production the next morning.
Working nights, though well paid, must be a very peculiar existence, disruptive to family life and through the winter months only seeing daylight at the weekend. But large areas of our economy could not function without people willing to fulfil these roles, be they in the NHS, food manufacturing, haulage & distribution or wherever.
This Friday morning the news is full of politics, where the result of the Hartlepool byelection (a resounding conservative win, in a traditional labour seat) indicates that our Prime Minister’s popularity shows no signs of waning, despite the rumours that his girlfriend has expensive taste in wallpaper. A large part of the population seems for the time being to be quite content to have No 10 occupied by a “loveable rogue” / “dishonest chancer” (delete as you see fit). Of far more long term significance will be the results of the Scottish elections, which won’t be known in full until Saturday.
View from a town formerly known as crazy
Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.
Whole Lotta Crazy Goin’ On (with apologies to Jerry Lee Lewis)
After a boring lull in which Sleepy Joe Biden soothed us with the dull workings of competent governance, Your Intrepid Reporter is pleased to be able to confirm that Crazy and the Crazies are making a strong comeback.
Dear Departed Leader continues to fulminate against the Unfairest Loss in the history of losses, and recently launched an attempt at re-branding. Deprived and de-platformed, DDL’s new personal social media outlet tried to label Sleepy Joe’s solid electoral win as “The Big Lie,” the very moniker His foes have applied to His own efforts to subvert the electoral process, including the failed insurrection on 6 January. Unfortunately, the Faithless from Within cast shade on this brilliant PR strategy from the moment of its launch. Congresswoman Liz Cheney immediately called out DDL’s lie, and the re-branding faded from view faster than the ill-fated launch of New Coke. But the outraged Faithful have rallied to DDL’s flag and are about to remove Rep. Cheney from her leadership position in the Trumplican caucus of the House of Representatives for her unprincipled insistence on truth and dedication to the Constitution. It’s a sad day indeed, when a Departed Leader can’t count on His own party to lie, cheat and steal for Him.
Meanwhile, GQP efforts to further the Big Lie continue unabated out in the provinces. In the name of electoral “transparency” and “security,” the state legislatures of Florida, Texas, Georgia and a half dozen others, are passing laws that will make it harder for folks to vote and easier for state legislatures to alter the results to suit their liking. (Translator’s note: “Folks” as used in this context should be understood to mean all those unfortunates who are not born white, Christian and Trumplican.) But no state has done more to endear itself to DDL than Arizona, where the state legislature has authorized an “independent audit” of the votes in Maricopa county, the home of many folks. The “independent audit” is being conducted by a private company whose CEO has openly supported the Big Lie and proudly declared his undying Faithfulness to DDL. His highly untrained staff are applying random processes to the audit, including using UV light to search for shreds of bamboo (seemingly to prove that the ballot paper has Asian origins, although the significance of this is obscure), ensuring that ballot papers are left unguarded and carelessly lying about, just to see if any random folks sneak in and try to change them. You have to give them credit for creativity, if nothing else.
DDL himself is said to be transfixed by these goings on, would no doubt have welcomed them with paroxysms of public pleasure, were it not for the sad fact that His de-platforming was extended. The so-called Supreme Court of Facebook this week bravely refused to take a position on DDL’s “indefinite” ban from the site, sending the ball back to Facebook for further review. But in the interim the silence is deafening.
Not content to harvest the fruit from existing orchards of Crazy, the GQP has taken its show on the road. Former-Atlanta-lawyer-turned-Flakker-for-the-Big-Lie, Lin Wood, last seen embarrassing himself by talking to God in public in the name of the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Son-in-Law, has decamped for the redder pastures of South Carolina, where he is running for chairman of the state Trumplican party. His opponent, a firm member of the Faithful, is not firm enough according to Mr. Wood, who in announcing himself as the Chaos Candidate took swipes at his opponent for not trying to stop pedophiles and/or “Chinese pornography.” All those talks with the Big Guy must be paying off, because Lin is favored to win. Meanwhile, the Georgia Bar is continuing its ongoing investigation of Mr. Wood and is seeking to subject him to a psychiatric evaluation. (It should be noted that merely being Crazy has never previously prevented a carpetbagger from holding office in South Carolina.)
As entertaining as all this may be, Your Intrepid Reports knows only too well that the Gentle Reader tires quickly of these provincial doings. Which is why it is incumbent upon him to bring you up to speed on two of the main stars of this humble column. Florida Man par excellence Rep. Matt Gaetz’s legal woes only grew when his alleged accomplice’s hand-written confession was leaked to the Press. The back story is even more intriguing than the salacious details of Gaetz’s roistering through the ranks of underage Florida women. It seems that the accomplice wrote the confession for one Roger Stone, the now-pardoned DDL dirty trickster, in an attempt to get said accomplice his very own presidential pardon, a feat Gaetz himself also attempted without success.
And, speaking of presidential pardon’s unobtained, this week Federal agents paid an early morning visit to the home and offices of Mr. Rudy Guiliani. Aficionados of the U.S. legal system and Dept. of Justice standards have pointed out that it is rare indeed for such a visit to be authorized where a member of the bar is concerned. That DoJ would seek, and a federal judge grant, such a warrant is taken to be a bad sign for Rudy. As with all things Dear Departed Leader-ish, this too seems to involve shenanigans in Ukraine. It may perhaps be taken as evidence of that a Supreme Deity guides the affairs of men that Merrick Garland is today the Attorney General, and thus in charge of all these cases. The Gentle Reader will recall that as Judge Garland, his nomination to the Supreme Court (of the U.S., not Facebook) by Barack Obama was blocked by Senator Moscow Mitch McConnell. The wheels of cosmic justice may grind slowly, but it seems they grind very finely indeed. Crazy how that works.
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
This is going to be quick as its very late and I must go to bed.
Went out with my friends Carolyn and Annabelle aka Imposter to see the tulip field near Sandringham in aid of The Tapping Hospice. We tiptoed amongst the most gorgeous tulips and then sat in the sun and had a cup of tea and a chat like in the olden days.
A couple of hours later just as I was about to take Earnie for a walk there was a hailstorm and the roads and fields were completely white. I’m fed up with the weather, I am permanently freezing. Covid precautions in the shop mean the window and door are open and my fingers go from white to yellow to purple.
Elections on Thursday, had no idea what I was voting for as a lack of door knocking and leaflets this year. Turns out Smellie (mentioned the other day) was to do with the police thing. Still don’t know! Earnie came with me and behaved quite badly as he thought he was going to the playing field for a run not the village hall to vote even though he had not long been for a walk and it was about 9.00 in the evening. Anyway he made an impression.
It was quite nice in the shop today. Had a laugh with some customers about our felt mermaid’s boob job which I have to say I hadn’t noticed before but once pointed out…
Jane just south of Norwich swung by and said hello.
We had a delivery of beautiful ceramics from Irena Sibrijns a maker from Southwold. Have wanted to have her work for years so we were pleased when she said she would make us some things.
Still can’t paint. They’re pissed off with me as well now as havn’t come up with the goods! Still trying. Its difficult to get your hand eye co-ordination in when you’re not practiced. Am on the brink of being a genius again soon! Snort!
Cold Play have beamed up their new signal to the space station, thinking they’d start at the top if they can’t play to an audience down here.
Got home this evening and noticed that my tyre was flat. Second puncture in a couple of weeks.
Matthew from the garage came and changed my tyre in the pouring rain. Bless him. Still haven’t paid the bill from the last one.
I’m in the shop and my hands are numb, the weather is atrocious.
My old friend has just come in and gave me a big hug!
More friends have come in. Its a party! They said its the most fun they’ve had all year.
Better go now. Sorry Sheila.
Lots of love Annabel