My feelings on paper

Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire

This Friday I am to get my second Astra Zeneca vaccination. After all the controversy with this vaccine It must be a good thing because if we don’t have it, we will be stuck in lock down forever. I am already stuck in this rut of not wanting to go out and mix. Something that I have never felt before, usually I am a very gregarious person.

As an only child I would go out alone and knock on a friend’s door to see if they wanted to play outside with me.

As I got older, I would always have a friend to meet or I would join a group for activities of some sort. May be art or keep fit, embroidery or a drama group. Usually being out with friends every night after work. My father's quote was that we both had a round bum and couldn’t sit still.


My back is very painful with gardening after a long stretch of sitting watching TV and I was going to make an appointment with my Osteopath, but I keep putting it off. First, it’s the snow then I am waiting a delivery or will I be able to drive. Just not like me at all? I have heard others are feeling like this. Will we ever feel normal again? Perhaps I will feel differently after this second jab.

I enjoy my garden and my family have nice gardens so we may be able to get together there for a start. I love the wild life in my garden. But this week we have gone back to freezing cold weather all weathers in one day. The newts are back in my pond and now its frozen solid. Being -2 degrees last night. Today it’s gone up to 2 degrees with sunshine.

My daughter Ellen who lives in Oldham who I have not seen for ten months was going to visit me this Easter but living at the other side of the Pennines means the snow and ice at the top of Saddleworth Moor or the Snake Pass in the snow is not a good idea driving wise. So, yet another wait to see her. Fortunately, we have face time and survive on that.


I am still binging on TV programmes. This week it’s been Keeping Faith. Not a drama to feel good about. But some fantastic acting from the lead characters especially, Eve Myles. The Welsh actress. I started trying to watch the new series of Line of duty but there is so much going on I abandoned it. Watching Jenny and Lee getting to grips with it later on gogglebox was a scream. I must try Jenny’s trick of writing all the names down.


I was disgusted watching the news of all the rubbish left in beautiful parks we are allowed to visit now its mind boggling. I really think volunteers picking it up is not the answer, we need to educate people to take their litter home.


Stay safe everyone people are still catching Covid.


Thin air

John Mole, St Albans



Residual relics

of canine eagerness


lie about in the park

where a game has ended

but which may start again

if freshly discovered


by a wagging tail

and beseeching eyes


or be left where they are

though sometimes a neighbour

will gather them up

for crackling firewood


and flames that leap

like excited puppies


discovering heat

for the very first time.


Restrictions for many

Hilde Schöning, Buchholz, Germany

Easter was quiet, and the vaccination of my mother on Good Friday in the local centre went very well, I am glad about that. My husband Ole and I went on long walks and enjoyed the sunshine.


Today the education ministers of the states are debating about the future of schools, it looks as if I will carry on teaching from home. I was in my school today in order to sort some material and borrow some books. It still feels strange that the building is fairly empty and hardly anyone around, but I had a good chat with my headmaster.


Apart from the vaccination centres, the GPs have taken up the process of inoculations this week and today was the day with the highest rate of jabs so far. Now that gives hope...


Walking in L.A.

Antoinette Samardzic, Los Angeles USA

Walking in Cambria


We’re driving to Cambria up PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) to meet our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter for Easter. I find myself wondering why this area is called Cambria, why it sounds so familiar, and then I realize that Cambria is the old name for Wales, and surmise that somebody must have seen a similarity with the topography of Wales. Mystery solved. We’ve booked three nights at a lodge, which boasts a hot tub and heated pool (a non-negotiable requirement for my daughter and granddaughter). We pass endless rows of black crucified vines marching across the rolling hillsides. No wonder people object to vineyards becoming a blight on the countryside. At least the organic vineyards are less of an eyesore since they do not spray the vines with pesticides thus allowing grass and other flora and fauna to abound. The vineyards give way to wooded hills and we arrive at the lodge aptly named Cambria Pine Lodge. For the next three days we explore the beaches and rock pools, braving a bitterly cold wind blowing off the Pacific, we sample the local cuisine, take walks, soak in the hot tub and even swim in the pool. The beaches are comprised of minuscule colorful pebbles that we collect. One of the beaches is called Moonstone Beach because of the proliferation of moonstones there which some of the locals make into jewelry.


My husband and sister drive back to LA after two nights but I stay so that I can return with Diana and family to Oakland to savor a few more days of their company. On the day that we depart for Oakland, we stop by The Elephant Seal Visitor Center in San Simeon, passing pastures that are home to zebras that were released many years past by Randolph Hearst from his private zoo at Hearst Castle perched on top of the overlooking hills. We spend some time gazing at the elephant seals as they loll in the sand, occasionally flicking sand on to their backs with their flippers to protect themselves from the sun. They are enormous mounds of blubber scattered up and down the beach. There must be at least a hundred females and pups. The males are nowhere to be seen. Occasionally a seal will emerge from the water looking like a giant slug as it slowly propels itself up the beach with numerous stops and starts. We reluctantly bid farewell to the seals and Cambria until next time.


Photos: Blue Jay; Starfish; Elephant Seals



Cotswold perspective

Rosemary, Rodborough Common

Next week, Government policy changes - a long awaited haircut is booked, a visit to a shop selling non-essentials is on the cards, we badly need a good reading light. We do intend to spread our wings and travel further afield. There are several National Trust gardens in the neighbouring counties that we are keen to visit. All of this can be carried out safely, the National Trust only allow entry to their gardens using online pre-booked timed slots.

Easter Sunday was surprisingly hot and sunny - a perfect day to pack a picnic and walk through one of our local valleys to observe just how prettily Mother Nature has been decorating the landscape. 

I have been enjoying the large clumps of Snakes Head Fritillaries gracing the garden for the past two to three weeks, but sadly they are almost finished now. However, within a short journey from here there is a very large medieval traditional hay meadow which grows around 80% of Britain’s wild fritillaries. Centuries ago there were many similar meadows, mainly situated along the upper Thames, but this is one of the few that remains today; most were destroyed due to modern agriculture methods and gravel extraction. The wild meadow fritillaries flower much later than the ones in our garden but they should be in full bloom within the next two weeks.

What a relief it has been to see the death rate from Covid-19 finally falling in the UK - week on week it has continued, but we must all remain cautious and vigilant, there is still a very long road ahead



Jane, just south of Norwich

Jane, Eaton

The beginning of this week brought a plunge in temperatures, April showers (some of snow) and bright spring sunshine in between. For me it has been a week of walks, with friends, with our daughter Philippa who has been enjoying a few days away from her computer screen and with my Nordic Walking Group which has been allowed to start up again with restrictions. So I’ve had my exercise this week.


Chris and I have a favourite local route which has been well worn this past year. It takes us beside the farm where the emu lives, through woods and along a parcel of land which has been recently sold by auction. On this land stands an empty brick building which the new owners are converting to a dwelling and living in a caravan while they do so. Each week they have progressed a little further with their plans and with their ‘pets’. Their livestock collection began with two little dogs that come to the fence barking as you pass by. Then they introduced a cockerel and hens happily free ranging, followed by two ponies in a fenced paddock. Then a very large, sturdy, metal caged run appeared complete with roof which I guessed was for more chickens, safe from any foxes around. But to our surprise, on our next walk we saw a lynx pacing up and down inside this wired cage. I do feel sorry for this lynx, it must be bored and stressed to be pacing as it does and I find it hard to understand why anyone would want to keep a caged wild animal cooped up like this. To add to its stress it can easily see the little dogs, chickens, ponies and just recently a fake deer which the owners have added as a feature. It’s certainly given extra interest to our regular route and we wonder what animal we will glimpse next as we pass by!


My Nordic walk this morning (Friday) was on the slopes around the old Roman town of Caistor St Edmund (Venta Icenorum), once the largest Roman town in East Anglia. Now the fields are full of cowslips and the sound of skylarks kept our ten socially distanced walkers company. It was a real treat and good to be back out walking in a group in the fresh air.


I for one will not be rushing back to the shops next week but will leave it a little longer before venturing into the City. Covid is with us for the long haul and until all countries get a grip on controlling it, I don’t think we can ever truly relax.


To finish on a positive note, my father had his second AZ jab yesterday at Epsom Downs Racecourse. He was anxious as he experienced a bad reaction after the first, fever and flu like symptoms, but reassuringly he has had no ill effects at all, not even a sore arm!


As I finish writing this, I have just heard on the news that Prince Philip has died. How very sad for our Queen and her family. 


Good wishes to all.


Greetings from the far south

Mark Waller, Pretoria, South Africa

SA has a strong trade union movement, grouped within a number of federations. Cosatu (the Congress of SA Trade Unions) is the biggest and it has enough political clout to pronounce influentially on matters of government policy. 


I mention this because it’s been heartening how Cosatu has taken on the government here over its hopeless mismanagement of getting and distributing Covid vaccines. 


Cosatu said yesterday (Thursday) that it was ‘damn worried’ about the government’s vaccine programme and the lack of clarity on its implementation. The plan to give jabs to 200 000 people a day has come unstuck. 


Of the country’s 1,2 million healthcare workers only 280 000 have been vaccinated. What about the plans to vaccinate people in other jobs where the risk of Covid infection is pronounced, including mineworkers, shop workers and teachers? asked Cosatu. The federation’s statement on all this was the top story in print, broadcast and online media .


We’ve been told by the health ministry that there will be “over a million” J&J vaccines delivered “in the coming weeks”. It’s all very vague. The uncertainty is worsened by pronouncements from various expert organisations that the vaccines that will be available will not be all that effective against the variants of Covid we get here. And then of course we don’t know how often we’ll have to get vaccinated as the virus mutates. 


It’s awful how the uncertainty feels all the more shitty precisely because there’s the apparent promise of hope and improvement, even if it largely emanates from other parts of the world.


In 2019, I visited a couple of old friends in the UK for a week, and together we drove to Dorset and did a walking tour of places linked to Thomas Hard’s life and works. It was March. Every day cold, rainy and windy, and completely lovely. I always prefer holidays as far off season as possible. 


I was in touch with my kids every day, and they constantly roasted me for going away without them and for leaving them with their aunt. When I got home I had a pile of Hardy literature with me, bought at Max Gate. Gracey, Leago and Masana poured over it all, and made me promise to take them on exactly the same trail the next year. Great, I said, definitely. It seemed so completely feasible to make such a plan. 


That’s all changed, and my kids’ feelings about travel, or any sort of going out and about, have been reduced to wondering whether it’s a good idea to visit a friend or two a few streets away. I hear how people are straining impatiently to “get back” to going out as much as possible and travelling, but that’s not so for my young ones. Like their peers at school, they seem to have lost a lot of the spark and curiosity they had before 2020. 


I think it will take quite a while for them to regain that, and I fault myself for often being tone deaf to such things, to not being more receptive to the different ways in which they are sort of but not really alright. The uncertainty, zigzagging hope and disappointment about vaccines, and news of people we know being ill or dying of Covid just prolongs the trauma.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

9th April 2021

We interrupt our schedules for the following announcement. 

Buckingham Palace has announced the death of HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

I knew they were going to say Prince Philip had died and it brought a tear to my eye. I feel so sorry for the Queen who was married to him for 73 years.

That was around midday today and there have been tributes from his friends, Naval Officers, religious leaders and politicians. On the telly there is old footage of him as a young man, family man, old man and lovely photographs of him and the queen chuckling away, looking lovingly at each other. In all the pictures he looks handsome and immaculately turned out what ever he is doing. Boris came out of Downing Street to pay his tribute to him and he looked so scruffy. Wearing a black suit and black tie but hair all over the shop and just a general mess despite the bespoke suit. 

There was a programme earlier on BBC1 with interviews with his children, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and Princess Anne talking quite openly and affectionately about him. 

The bells tolled 99 times.


Apparently Harry is trying to get back for the funeral. Meghan probably won’t come as she is quite pregnant apart from the fact she would probably be thrown into the tower.

Harry hasn’t seen any of his family since that interview. Awks as they say.


RIP HRH The Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh. 

My sincere condolences to the Queen and all her family.


In other news the body of the teenager Richard Okorogheye was found in a pond in Epsom Forrest. His death is unexplained so far but thought not to be suspicious. That is very sad news as well.

Slightly odd interview with his mother who must be beside herself.


I had to go back to the optician as am not getting on very well with my new glasses. On the way home I stopped at the big Lidl on the edge of the city. I bought a few things then went to the checkout. They are always so fast and I said to the lady, you’re so fast, Speedy Gonzales. Oh my God! Don’t call me Speedy Gonzales. That is not my name. I am doing my job. It is my job to be fast. If you have a problem, call the manager and so it went on. She was militant in her attitude towards me. When I said I was merely making friendly chit chat etc and was being complimentary to her and I was the inefficient one, If you have a problem, call the manager. She said it about 3 times. Honestly! I felt like Prince Philip and his unintentional gaffs.


Apart from that we have been trying to get the shop ready for next week. There is so much to do. Unpacking, moving around, rearranging, pricing up, getting rid of cardboard boxes. Pads to put in cushion covers, mugs to arrange in rows etc etc.


I’d better go, have managed to get my friend to help for an hour. We have felt owls and hares to price up.

Lots of love

Annabel xxx