14/02/2021

Cotswold Perspective

Rosemary, Rodborough Common

Are you too suffering from ‘cabin fever’? With the very cold weather trips outside are brief. My mind keeps drifting off to sunnier climes but even that seems even more remote than ever.

I see the supermarket vans doing their online deliveries, and feel bemused. When I was a child my mother never went shopping for food. Women of her generation did not drive, it was just my father who had the use of the car. With four young children to look after, popping out to the shops was the last thing on her mind. Her groceries were delivered weekly, and she would then hand over her list for the following week. The coal man called round every few months, the rag and bone shouted out from his cart as he travelled along the road, the butcher, the baker, the milkman and perhaps even the candlestick maker all were readily available at the end of our drive. The only time she went to the shops was on a Saturday morning. She and I would catch the bus into the local town where we would meet her friends for coffee and cake. Lovely cakes all beautifully arranged on a three tiered cake stand - vanilla slices, creamy meringues, chocolate eclairs, and jam doughnuts - oh dear! which one to choose.

The load of snow that blew in from the east did not reach us here. It must have made things far more difficult to maintain the rolling vaccine programme in the areas where it fell. However, the numbers vaccinated do appear to have continued growing and seem to be on track to reach Bojo's proposed target. 

The UK were made to feel like the pariahs of Europe, but Ursula von der Leyen has now finally admitted that the EU Commission got their vaccine programme completely wrong.

14/02/2021

Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

My phone and computer were both getting fixed one day this week and I was shocked at how disorienting it was to be without them. Not to mention inconvenient.  

The March Arts Marathon fundraiser has raised enough to support an asylum seeker for a year, the president of CVRAN, (Central Vermont Refugee Assistance Network) e mailed me this week, and I’m amazed at the generosity and enthusiasm and money the artists have raised. That was a high point of the week.  

Meanwhile, it is very cold, around -20 centigrade, and doesn’t warm up much in the middle of the day. Good thing I haven’t cut the dog’s coat in a long time. We bundle up and walk down the road. Meanwhile there is more light which is a  blessing. 

I’m avoiding the impeachment hearings because I can’t stand it, but even the written news of it is horrifying. And the various implications, like the military welcoming the right wing militia people into their ranks.  

And now I’m off to shop early before anyone breathes the air in the supermarket. Seven am. Double masked. Trying to stay well.

14/02/2021

Strange times

Anna Stenborg, Uppsala, Sweden

I went to the summer house in Västergötland during the weekend and on Saturday I spent some day time outdoors for once. Eldest son Mattias and I took a walk around the largest island in the lake. It really was a wonderful day. Monday though was a terrible day. I recieved the sad news about a close colleague’s death from malign melanoma. I had texted him only a few days ago about a dream that I’d had about him he being back at work only with much darker hair, and he had answered that it was fun that I would have such a dream, but that he would definitley not come back to work and that he was extremely tired.

Working in Bollnäs this week was not so demanding. We have very few Covid-patients, so no third wave yet. I got my second vaccine dose on Tuesday at the primary care facility, in order to get the same vaccine (Phizer) as my first dose in January in Uppsala. I could not get it from the hospital here since in this region they have decided to give only the Astrazeneca-vaccine to health care workers. Yesterday they started vaccinating the hospital staff and physicians. Today we have a bit of chaos since 50% of them did not come to work today because high fever and other reactions to the vaccine. The same thing happened in all three hospitals in the region, so they’ve had to halt all vaccinations here for now until they find out what happened.

14/02/2021

Tropical thoughts Part 2

Paul Lowden, Malaysia

Sugar Cane

 

How apt its name joins

Sweetness and pain.

Not much to look at

The stuff that bankrolled 

An Empire of suffering.

 

Tall, shabby, dry leaves

Whisper the melody 

Nobody knows…; ghostly 

Echoes rattling its

Dry bones.

 

Slashed into segments

Its core is white. 

What did you expect?

Black? Brown?

Crimson?

 

The sap is deliciously sweet

But to get to that core

You need to crush 

The life out 

Of it

All. 

Cane. Sugar.

14/02/2021

Broadland type

Sheila, Norfolk UK

I have found this period of lockdown far more difficult emotionally than the first. The addition of freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall, whilst initially exciting and picturesque, seems to have depressed my mood for the first time since this whole experience began. Not being able to meet friends or family, socialise, enjoy culture, shopping or go out for a meal is harder for me than before.
I guess I have reached my level of lockdown tolerance. 

 

I have more or less exhausted the decent TV offerings and am finding that cooking has become less enjoyable as I'm trying, hopelessly, to diet. Difficult as "comfort food" is so comforting and red wine so transporting.

I simply cannot rouse myself creatively to make new glass. I have one piece in the studio that merely needs a last firing (since before Christmas), but completing it simply isn't important to me right now. I never was any good at using excess time wisely and am far more productive working under pressure. When I was at Art college I recall regularly working through the night to get assignments completed and while working in London as a Graphic Designer deadlines were always tight and we often had to work through the night to get things done. Exhilarating!

 

I’m certain that when I have the next exhibition deadline (May/June we’re hoping for) I will regret not spending sufficient time during lockdown, but I’m simply not ‘moved’ right now.

I have been reading though, and prompted by 'The Great' on TV, I ordered a biography of Catherine the Great which I can highly recommend: Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. It's a highly readable and most surprising story - real life more extraordinary than fiction in this instance I think.

 

I consider myself most fortunate to live where I do when so many are suffering in small homes with boisterous children constantly seeking attention and distraction. Our front garden has looked stunning at times and I’m thrilled with the cardigan I’ve knitted for my great niece from a new pattern - I enjoyed it so much I’ve just started to make her another from the same pattern. I've got sweet pea seedlings growing steadily in the greenhouse and my newly sown seeds in the indoor heated propogator have started to sprout. In all honesty I have little to complain about - in fact, just writing this has made me feel much more positive. Oh! and a spokesman on the radio this morning was talking about restaurants re-opening. The glad-rags are certainly ready for that outing.

14/02/2021

Seriously isolating

Jean, Melbourne Australia

Steps forward and backwards. All of Victoria is back in lockdown as of 11.59pm tonight - a 'snap' lockdown in the words of our Premier, for five days to act as a circuit-breaker, after an outbreak coming from hotel quarantine in Melbourne, We now have 19 active cases all with the UK variant. So we'll go back to staying at home excepting for the four reasons of shopping for necessities, caring duties, exercise and essential work. You can be away from home for 2 hours, within a 5km limit. Basically everything is closed. You have to wear a mask if you are not at home. No visitors. We'll see how the land lies next Wednesday.

 

The earlier good news that more overseas Australians would be allowed to come back has been shelved. Safely quarantining returning visitors is proving to be very tricky. This outbreak appears to have been sparked by the use of a nebuliser (for asthma) in one of the hotel rooms.

 

It is been very very hot, with a couple days of 30+ degree temperatures. Much too hot to be outdoors, in my opinion, resulting in lots of lying on the sofa and feeling very tired. I've loved seeing the pictures of snow in the UK and ice on the Great Lakes in Michigan. Very exotic and refreshing.

 

The last 3 days I've been glued to the impeachment trial. It's mesmerising. Even if T is acquitted, which is perfectly likely though horrible to contemplate, there is now on record a full account of all the events leading up to the storming of the Capitol, the attack itself, and its aftermath to date. Such an extraordinary event, How will the country recover from it?

 

Since we're going back in lockdown, I looked through the photos taken over this last year to remind myself what beautiful and mysterious things lie just outside the door.

 

Hoping all writers and readers stay well! 

14/02/2021

Words from Wood Lane

Susan Neave, Beverley

Some snow this week, but nothing like many parts of the country. Just enough on Westwood common for sledging, but it probably won’t last until next week when the schools will be on half-term. The new walking boots we bought during the first lockdown, when we were allowed to go out to exercise for an hour a day, have been among our best buys. We’ve missed our beach walks since this lockdown began but we are so lucky to have such a good place to walk within a few minutes of home.
 

This weekend’s treat will be a takeaway Sunday lunch from a local restaurant. We can hardly remember a time when you could just go out to eat or have supper with friends or even just meet up for a coffee. Looking back at my old diaries, I was astonished at how many different things I did in a ‘normal’ week! 

14/02/2021

Bookbinding

John Underwood, Norfolk

D.I.Why

We have been very busy over the last few weeks decorating our house, and undertaking small building works. Because of high ceilings we have had to use our scaffold tower several times. We take it from the shed and carry it up stairs in pieces to be constructed, use it, take it down, and put it back in the shed. And repeat. I view it as displacement activity, filling time when our options are limited to staying at home. A patch of blown plaster needed removing, and revealed damp coming from old foundations – basically rubble laid on earth with a few courses of bricks on top. I spent a couple of days removing the plaster, and cleaning and repairing the brickwork, selecting and ageing the bricks to match. The plaster was a modern bit of titivation, and should not have been used in damp conditions; removing it allows the brick to dry out. It was a surprisingly creative activity, but rather hard on the body. The sand and grit from using mortar took the shine off the pamment floor, and so that needed cleaning and re- sealing. Now it glows with a nice sheen- and makes the adjoining kitchen floor look dirty. You can see where this is heading….

 

We have been trying to keep the weekends building work free so that the days have variety, and now that we have completed most of the works, (apart from the kitchen floor) I am looking forward to working on a few book related projects. I have been making book boxes galore, and have a rather interesting project to work on which involves a lot of research.

We recently bought another picture to add to our small gathering of watercolours of early c19th street sellers. It shows a seller of sewing accoutrements, ribbons, pins etc, and is set in a very fanciful background - although probably English, and dating from around 1800-1820. I tend to be more interested in the lives of the ordinary people, probably dating from when I was about ten, when my mother bought me a modern edition of Mayhew’s London. I still have a copy today and regret selling the fine condition copies of the four volume set of the original works that I found - and sold, about ten years ago. 

Today I will put on clean clothes, not dusty building togs. There is research to be done and  there are catalogue descriptions to write. I might even shave.

14/02/2021

Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

"Snappy and chappy" by Franklin Lewis Macrae

 

Over the past few days it has been snowing! It has not happened for several years and it's really heavy. On the first day we went for a walk and my sister and I had a snowball fight. The day after we attempted building a snowman, he was quite small but the snow wasn't thick enough to make a large one. On that day I also took the sledge for a ride at the top of my street but I went straight through a pile of dog... I'd rather not say. The day after it started melting but overnight it snowed again but I think it's gone for good now.

My granny has commissioned a portrait of me in the Pitt Rivers museum next to a crocodile. She calls it "Snappy And Chappy". It looks amazing!!

 

Over the past few days at school we have been having lots of tests... but on the bright side half term is coming up on Saturday. The work is quite hard, most of our tests are out of the way now so there isn't much to do in lessons. Overall this has been an exciting few weeks and I really hope it snows next year!

Snow and sadness by Marli Rose Macrae

 

I can't believe it has finally snowed!  On Sunday, I woke up and there were tiny, beautiful snowflakes drifting down from the sky, a moment of beauty before melting away. By the afternoon, there was a pearlescent white blanket covering everything. It was bitterly cold and the wind howled menacingly until my hands and face were red. My daddy, Franklin and I went out for a walk to Gildrege Park and Franklin and I pelted reach other with snowballs. Following this, we went for a walk through the graveyard. The oldest grave we could find was dated 1856.

 

On Monday, when we had finished school, Franklin and I made a snowman in the garden. He isn't very tall so we decided that he would be a snow baby.

On Tuesday, mummy and I went to Waitrose. In my opinion, it was the coldest day. The tempestuous wind howled through the gnarled branches of the trees. The snow fell steadily from then on through the night. It is like powder and when I pick it up, it sifts through my fingers like sugar. In the morning, the world was coated in white, as if someone had dribbled white icing over everything. 

I have been working hard at my school work and feel so tired. I fell asleep early on Wednesday evening and I had a dream that my cat Saskia could talk! She was begging 'stroke me' and 'please give me a piece of cheese, it won't hurt me', her eyes pleading with me. I'd love to know what she is thinking. I don't know if cats worry about things or if they just think about dinner. I do think she loves me though, mummy says she definitely does.

 

Today though, I feel extremely tearful. I am just fed up with nothing happening. I am reading so much because it's like escaping from this world for a bit. Mummy came to me and we had a cuddle. She says COVID won't last forever and things will get better in the spring. As soon as we are allowed, we are going to Oxford to see granny aye and pappa. Mummy says daddy will have to stay here to look after Saskia, she will be lonely otherwise. She loves being with us and is so friendly and sociable, she'd be sad and frightened on her own. I'd love to go anywhere, Spain or Paris, or Amsterdam to see Anne Frank's house. I'd like my friends to come to my house for tea, I'd like to go to a fair and eat candy floss. I'd like to see the circus, go to the junk shops in Brighton or Lewes. I'd like to go to the cinema to see Peter Rabbit Two and Anne of Green Gables. I'd like to go back to school. 

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