Words from Wood Lane
Susan Neave, Beverley
Do other countries have such confusing systems for Covid lockdowns? Can’t help feeling that this regional strategy just isn’t going to work. York, 30 miles west of us, has just been moved to Tier 2. At the moment we are in the lowest risk category, but that could change at any time.
There has, however, been some good news here this week. The special funding from the Arts Council for theatres was announced, and East Riding Theatre was awarded a grant of £72,500, the full amount applied for. That will make an enormous difference in terms of keeping things ticking over until physical reopening is possible.
More good news for me – Nationwide finally managed to transfer the small compensation payment to my account, adding on an extra £25 for failing to do so when promised. As if that wasn’t enough, a wonderful ‘bouquet’ of flowers arrived yesterday, sent as a thank you by the children of our former neighbour whose house clearance and sale I’ve been helping with. My cup runneth over!
Restrictions for many
Hilde Schöning, Buchholz, Germany
The numbers of infections are steadily increasing and some measurements have been decided upon last night. Our federal system has advantages and disadvantages, namely resulting in many different restrictions depending on the state, the most contentious one being the order not to let anyone stay overnight in hotels if they are from an area with more than 50 infections per 100,000 inhabitants. Most big cities are beyond that, alternatively one can show a negative Corona test. This causes a lot of people to take tests which take up the time of medical staff much needed elsewhere and lead to over demanded laboratories during the current autumn holidays.
Meanwhile I am trying to educate myself further about the possibilities of online teaching as we might have to practise that again - this time with some experience, although our Chancellor announced that keeping the economy going and leaving schools and kindergartens open is a top priority. I really prefer seeing my students in the classroom and therefore hope that my school will be kept open.
Notes from a factory in the Midlands
I am writing this on Thursday evening rather than Friday morning, as tomorrow morning I have an appointment with my dentist. I had originally booked today and tomorrow as annual leave, because, as I mentioned here a couple of weeks ago, we should now have been on a short holiday to Rome. So today instead of viewing Caravaggio paintings, I have washed the car, cut the grass and been to the barbers.
When it comes to dentistry, I am a complete wimp. We are fortunate in having a wonderful dentist, Jenny, who has cared for our teeth for over 25 years, but I don’t enjoy any form of dental treatment. On one occasion a few years ago Jenny paused whatever she was doing to ask, in a concerned voice, whether she was hurting me. “No”, I replied, “the expression you see on my face is terror, not pain”. Tomorrow, because there will be plenty of drilling and filling, Jenny will be dressed in full PPE with breathing apparatus, what she calls her Darth Vader outfit. I am not sure that will calm my nerves. However, in the week since my dental problem was diagnosed, the problem tooth has felt a lot more sensitive, so I am relieved that it is being sorted tomorrow.
And then at the weekend I am dashing up to the Lake District to meet a school friend, an architect, to see how he has been getting on with his project to renovate an old run-down farm house. We are not sure whether the Covid regulations actually allow me to sleep over, but in any event we have decided that as mature, responsible adults, we can make our own risk assessments, and will take sensible precautions. We won’t shake hands!
On my return journey back to Warwickshire on Sunday I hope to call at my mother’s near Manchester to say a brief hello, conducting a doorstep conversation, but not entering the house, a "sensible precaution". This will be only the second time I have seen her since March, unless you count spying on her via the internet, viewing live-streamed services from her local church. Perhaps I should ask her in future to turn and wave to the camera when attending Mass, in case any of her children are watching!
Susan, Country Victoria, Australia
On Sunday we visited one of our favourite cafes. One of the owners is a chef, the other a horticulturist. It is in a little clearing surrounded by eucalypt forest & they have cultivated beautiful ornamental and edible gardens and small nursery. We sat outside, enjoyed wonderful food and watched the birds they “borrow” courtesy of the surrounding native vegetation. We spent a little more than we usually do; a fixed priced four course menu has been introduced as a clever way to compensate for the reduced numbers allowed in their dining space.
The hard lockdown in Melbourne is working on the COVID numbers but is taking a terrible toll on people. I heard a series of short interviews with Melbournians on radio this morning. Patience is running low, everybody wanted fixed dates and timelines. We don’t have a community that knows anymore how to respond to any degree of uncertainty, or able to accept that some situations have by their very nature require nuanced or changing responses. The easier conditions under which regional Victorians are living have resulted in a continuing fall in cases (I will leave aside the freight driver who legally left Melbourne and then behaved illegally while away, and has spread it to every town he visited along the highway), so I have considerable sympathy for those losing their will to continue. I think the Government and the Health department know their contact tracing is not up to scratch and they think (or know) they will lose control if they open up too quickly. Years of both political parties underfunding public health has finally come unstuck.
I made a quick post op trip into the dentist and had some stitches removed and a change in the wound management. I was wished a happy Christmas, the next visit tests the strength of the implant; January 7, 2021 Fingers crossed. I am pleased I don’t need to go back into town. My husband normally spends a lot of his working life in southern NSW, but hasn’t been able to travel over the border for 6 months. He must travel to attend meetings in the next few weeks, he and his organisation have to make all kinds of undertakings to be granted a permit to travel. Another interesting exercise.
The dahlias are just peeping through the soil, the first sweet pea flowers declared themselves and I did a first light trim on the box hedges. It has been a fabulous spring here and rain has come in again this afternoon to give us another top up. My husband had an 8 hour Zoom meeting yesterday, so he started work a little later this morning and we walked Meg together while it was still sunny and warm. We try to focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t.
My football team lives to fight another day. They play in another COVID free state tonight, South Australia. I doubt we will make it to the final but hope springs eternal.
Take care and stay well
From Rural New York
Sandy Connors, USA
One week rolls by much like the week before and the one before that. Thankfully, I remain healthy in relative isolation here in my pretty little country hamlet. I have come to the conclusion, as I struggle to think of something different to write about when my days really are so much the same, that it is time for me to stop contributing to the journal.
I have so loved reading about everyone’s lives since this all began, how you have all coped, fretted, and celebrated your lives nonetheless, and I will continue to look forward to Sunday mornings when I shall be able to enjoy hearing how everyone is doing. It has been such a pleasure and honor to participate, and of course, if anything out of the ordinary happens I might just pop back and share it with all of you. Until then, I hope you all remain well, and that for all of us, life will someday get back to ‘normal’ again.
My very best to everyone!
From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
It’s been a different sort of week from those it follows – at least for me and some people I know and love. The plague has come closer in some ways, even though the Island has a fairly low infection rate - depending on which set of figures you may read. I suppose this situation is no different from that into which the whole world seems to be plunged, with increasing figures daily in every category. This winter seems as if it may be a real trial for many. Because of that I am forced to forget the idea of being a Nero from now on and just try to live through it whilst protecting and helping others as much as I can. In the meantime some real effects of plague are hitting close to home.
Firstly, a really strange injury to my own body. For years now, a good friend of mine from County Kerry, whom I shall call Seamus, has been meeting up with almost every month for lunch and some great craic. He and I usually consume good wine with our food and eventually part ways feeling a cathartic venting of steam on many subjects has occurred. We share a sense of humour, which I suspect stems from our shared origins in Irish culture – my mother Molly was half Irish and my father Jack wholly so. As a child I very briefly lived near Dublin. Anyway, we decided that, because of the Covid situation we had better socialize in the open air. The place we met is a hotel by the seaside, and despite the weather being generally good on Wednesday, there was a very cold wind blowing from seawards. Despite this we enjoyed eating, drinking and chatting together, much nonsense as always passing happily between us Come the time to return home I discovered my legs were very cold indeed, so I set off walking at a spanking pace to get warm – big mistake! Those who know me well also know that I walk very fast despite my years – even my 43 year old daughter Emma has a hard time keeping up at times. Anyway I had covered only a short distance when I started to feel a pin in the middle of my left calf. By the time I had negotiated my climb up Union Street I was in agony, and doubted if I would make it home. Very slowly and lamely I completed the journey and I sank down in a chair to try and find out what had happened. Self-diagnosis online seemed to yield a clear answer in a calf muscle strain, which seemed likely to resolve reasonably quickly after rest. Writing on Thursday evening it is much better, although I think further walking round the Island might be precluded for a time. That is a pity for best beloved and myself. So I have a physical injury, the cause of which traces straight back to the plague and our decision to eat in the cold wind. Next month my thermal long johns will be worn, but I doubt the dear readers wanted to know about them! I will also start walking slowly from cold as a warm up.
Secondly, and much more seriously, I have become aware of psychological and emotional strain affecting myself and others. It seems – perhaps unsurprisingly – that most people are finding their behaviour affected by plague. It is definitely taking a toll on me at the moment, which is worrying. I am most naturally a happy go lucky sort of person with an easy temperament. Whilst I am trying to maintain an air of good cheer, this is dropping away quite a lot – especially when alone. Remedial steps I am taking include strictly limiting my exposure to news from all media and the use of escapist activity as much as possible, ironically in view of the aforementioned injury, walking being a favourite. I think that’s about all I will write for now. I hope others are keeping despondency at bay.
Mary Fisher, Norfolk UK
Not much to write about this week. Indeed the week can be best summed up in one word: redecorating. I delighted in the opportunity to listen to some Agatha Christie and John Le Carré audiobooks. A real treat. But why oh why did I choose the one occupation that meant I needed to wear a face mask and plastic gloves in my own home?
Friday evening I received a call from Barbara’s care home manager to inform me that future visits will be “supervised at all times” in accordance with the government’s winter plan. Unbelievable. It appears that the government has amended the Adult Social Care Act. Privacy was my aunt’s dearest wish when she chose to live in a residential care. I am certain that care home staff will carry out these supervisions with the utmost sensitivity but this is not the point: my aunt has a right to a private life within the confines of a care setting. My aunt will be taken to the dining room and a member of staff will have to sit in throughout my weekly half hour visit to ‘ensure the visitor maintains social distancing’. I’ve written to my MP to ask how the government’s new ruling does not violate my aunt’s and, indeed, my human rights. Article 8 of the Human Rights Act protects a person’s right to respect for a private life; a person has the right to live their life privately without government interference. The only response I’ve received is to ask for my address to make sure he is not troubled in replying to non-constituency matters. Uncharitably, I wonder if my MP was too busy voting to overturn a House of Lords amendment to the Agricultural Bill which had sought to protect food standards in future trade deals.
On Thursday, I had a video appointment with a local hospital. It went like clockwork! Patients are asked to log on ten minutes prior to the appointment to check that the video link is working and to carry out preliminary checks. The receptionist answered immediately and, after the pre-checks, passed me through to a ‘waiting area’. Spot on time the consultant comes on-line. Ten minutes later all is done and I’m free to get back to the rest of my day. And no travelling. Impressive.
I haven’t had a television for well over thirty years. I do watch DVDs. And a few online programmes via a smart tablet. But, when it comes to Who’s Who in the world of entertainment, I am lost. Last week I caught a headline “Tory shooting” and the name of a person who had been shot. I assumed it was referring to a Conservative MP or councillor only to find that the Tory mentioned is an American rapper. Oh well done Mary!
Sheila, Norfolk UK
I finished a commission recently - something that stressed me out no end to be honest. Commissions are such lovely and horrid things at the same time. So nice to have someone ask you to make something because it rather suggests they like your work. But having deadlines is difficult, glass is such an unpredictable material and the design of this particular piece is additionally problematic. You don't know how it will turn out until you lift the lid on the kiln and quite often it is a complete failure.
In this particular case the commissioner didn't actually ‘like’ my work in fact - he didn't say he didn't but the circs were somewhat unusual. Some friends had commissioned (4 years ago) a piece of glass from me (a large bowl) to give to the recipient as a birthday present. Husband broke it accidentally - well, I hope it was an accident and not because he didn't like it. Anyway, he tracked me down and turned up some months ago to ask if I would make another. I am just far too accommodating I think, ‘of course’ I said - I just can't do it right now. ‘No rush’ he said.
Well I've been putting it off, and putting it off, it's really not easy to get back into the swing of things I find, after so long not making stuff. Anyway, after two attempts it's finally done and in all honesty I think it's better than the original. My client agreed too, which is a bit worrying. Maybe he really didn't like the original!!! Maybe he dropped it on purpose!!!
He collected it recently and departed with the broken original and the new piece, leaving a nice sum behind that kind of makes it worthwhile.
But please world, no more commissions!