Mary Fisher, Norfolk UK
It’s been a week of welcome events. Top of the list is my Covid-vaccination this morning. Feeling privileged. What a cheery way it was to start any day. In spite of a week of snow, I was determined that nothing was going to stop me. Not even the radio presenter telling listeners, just after I left home, that there was snow coming down in Hoveton (where the vaccination centre is). Perfect timing! From driving into the car park, everything was so brilliantly organised. My vaccinator turned out to be my GP, last seen when he visited our home nearly every day during the two weeks before R died. I’ve been lucky not to have needed any medical advice in the intervening two years and had not spoken to the GP after he had signed R’s death certificate. So much has happened since. However, this was a day of looking forward. Instead, we had a jolly chat about gardening, moving house and Gauguin.
Life has had to be juggled around the ongoing snow this week. The local authorities cannot stretch to providing grit to single-track rural roads like the one outside my home. The road is lower than the surrounding fields and if, as happened this week, there is snow and easterly winds, the snow blows off the fields and blocks the road. Our neighbours kindly stepped in to use their tractor to scoop out the snow drifts at the start of the week. But it kept snowing. And, for added inconvenience, temperatures remained extremely cold and ice covered the road all week. Side to side glass. Even the walkers chose alternative routes… or possibly stayed at home.
My grandson and I played truant yesterday afternoon. He has mastered all the IT necessary for home-schooling. I watched as he set up his online day using two devices. I can only stand back and admire his ability, at only nine, to manage multiple computer packages. O now gets through his work really fast and is mostly independent. We considered it was ok to bunk off for a walk. The snow piled up by the snow plough was about three metres high in places. We found one pile with a built in igloo-cum-tunnel. Further down the road, despite a caution from me, O decided to test out some frozen water in a dyke. Needless to say, the ice did not hold! We retreated home to find a change of clothes. He didn’t seem unduly phased that this meant wearing his grandmother’s socks and leggings! O felt it had been worth it just to experiment on the ice. He decided to bake something special to take home to his family and he opted for melting moments. Tasting one was a walk down memory lane. Apparently it is half-term next week. Hopefully, he will come back and bring his brothers. Another joyful day to look forward to.
Whilst O was doing his schoolwork, I managed to fit in a little more transcribing of my father’s memoirs. Regardless of all the hardships brought about by the Second World War, my father considered that positive social changes were happening. Before he was old enough to be called up to the armed services, my father worked as a bricklayer, building airfields in England. As a precursor to the setting up of the post-war welfare state, dad observed life shifting:-
“I heard one bricklayer saying that there had been more social reform since the war started than ever there had been, like tea-breaks, subsistence pay for wet weather clothing, being bussed to work, cod-liver oil tablets available at the time-keeper’s hut. With rationing, I suppose they were short of vitamins.”
After all the privations of the pandemic, wouldn’t it be good to think that some positive things might come about.
Restrictions for many
Hilde Schöning, Buchholz, Germany
We are having a proper winter now with a lot of snowfall at the last weekend and severe traffic disruptions afterwards. This caused a delay in the transport of vaccines in Lower Saxony, which is the state with the lowest proportion of the population that has been vaccinated so far (2,4%).
On Wednesday there was decided to prolong the current restrictions until March 7th at least, but the states can individually decide about opening schools. Nursery schools and primary schools shall soon be open again. I also hope to see especially my own class (which is friendly, eager to learn and very cooperative) inside school rather soon.
Hairdressers can take up work commencing on March 1st explained with a need for personal hygiene. The disappointment of all other businesses and shops which still have to remain closed was deep. But the reasons for this decision were also well explained. There is room for interpretation, though. Some states allow flower shops and garden centres to open from tomorrow on, others do not which might lead to shopping tourism and cause a rift between Hamburg, Schleswig Holstein and Lower Saxony (the two latter open, the first one does not).
Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire
I was just driving back from delivering a birthday bouquet of flowers to number two son’s wife when my phone rang. I pulled over and picked up a message from Jeremy telling me we had had our invitations! I’m sure I don’t need to say what we have been invited to! I sang all the way home. However, on trying to book our appointments online, we were informed that only over 70’s and key workers would be accepted. When Jeremy rang the suggested number to book by phone the lady he spoke to said this was a common issue today and even she couldn’t do it for us. She made some adjustments to the database and suggested trying again in 48 hours. Feeling rather deflated now.
We had a wonderful sunny, snowy walk on Wednesday with our eldest granddaughter. Her school had given the pupils an afternoon off from home schooling for ‘Well-being ‘ and told them all to go for a walk. We took her on a 10km walk across snowy fields where the only footprints we saw were those of hares. We found a wall of icicles, some as long as 2’ (I thought of Peter). Maya broke one off and used it as a lollipop for about an hour before her hand finally became too cold to carry it any further. I slipped on a mossy stone and fell into a stream. After her initial concern this caused her some amusement and apart from damp feet, wet gloves and a slightly sore arm I was fine. She offered me one of her gloves. We chatted and enjoyed the beauty all around us. We were high up and were able to pick out landmarks and work out the direction of familiar places. It was so good for the well-being of all of us.
Yesterday we attended the funeral of a friend’s husband. We weren’t expecting to go as we didn’t know him very well and numbers at funerals are limited. However the weather had put some people off and we were invited to attend. I hadn’t thought much of my friend’s husband as he had left her just after their daughter died of cancer, aged 30, and he returned about twenty years later with Parkinson’s. But she loved him and we helped out when we needed to. I was pleased to get a much fuller picture of who he was and amazed by all he achieved in his life:-
Youth worker, teacher, supporter of the church, artist, sculptor, book binder and owner of a prestigious second hand bookshop and bookbinding business in Buxton. Scriveners. Book binding became his love later in his life and we have a family copy of Mrs Beeton which he rebound for us about twenty years ago. One lady said how pleased she was to have been given a job in the shop as a Saturday girl while still at school. He joked, “At least I know you won’t be sneaking into the back room to read a book.” She is blind. The funeral was uplifting although I missed singing the hymns. We stood and listened to them being sung by a choir and I sang along in my head.
Does everyone else start their journal entry on Friday afternoon? I always intend to do it earlier!
The light at the end of the tunnel...
The light at the end of the tunnel has been harder for me to to see recently, it's definitely dimmed over the last couple of weeks.
I'm at a crossroads in my degree course, changing direction to where I thought I was aiming for. My gung ho enthusiasm for studying temporarily paused, I realise what an integral part of surviving lockdown this has been for me and look forward to resuming soon.
I am also truly missing just the odd day when the house was empty, apart from me and the cat.
But for now it is full and with puppy too. The children have been amazing at their home studies and the need to log on at 8.25am is a wonderful way to get teenagers out of bed before lunch!
I'm sure when the children return to school, I will lament over the emptiness of our home and wish them back in to my arms, but for the moment just a brief respite from the endless food and study help requests (including puppy with her feeding and training) would be welcome.
These strange times are draining. It is something I am glad to read in the news, to know that I am not alone in these thoughts and exhaustion. Dear friends far and wide often mention how tired they are during this unnatural pause. The inability to make plans, the concern over loved ones and the repetition of this 'groundhog day', especially tough in winter.
But I am also reminded how blessed we are. We live in a beautiful part of the world. We have a house with enough rooms for some individual space within its walls, we have a garden and we all get along well (mostly!) So we are very fortunate.
"Kindness costs nothing" is a phrase I often tell the children and it is one I think we do well to apply to ourselves. These times ARE hard, our human minds are constantly trying to work through and rationalise so many events and actions that don't make sense to us and it is exhausting.
So instead I will use this chance to find a nook and get myself together before the need for more home made waffles, fractions and projects and as I right this the sun has appeared again. Always a welcome respite and for now the light I can look towards.
Jane, just south of Norwich
Reading Mark Waller’s journal from last week made me feel as if I am living a very privileged life, far removed from the violence he is so aware of and indeed witnessing in South Africa. To have to live worrying about your children’s safety just walking to and from school must be truly stressful. And yes, poverty and loss of income will only increase crime rates and cause resentment against those who have.
Living in Norwich I have always felt secure and although all parents worry about their children, we have found Norwich a very safe place to raise a family and now it is only the fear of catching Covid that makes me anxious about venturing into the City these days.
The snow this week has been a welcome, spirit lifting gift although not such a gift if you have to get to work or attend a vaccine appointment. To be confined indoors for weather reasons is a much better feeling than the enforced confinement we have been used to. The view from the window has been beautiful and the sun on snow an added bonus.
One of the small benefits of lockdown has been access to our local golf course, closed to players but open to the public for walking – and this week sledging! It has been wonderful to see the children letting off steam, to be released from their screens and enjoying the exhilarating air and exercise. I feel a little sorry for the green keepers and groundsmen who will have a lot of work to do to bring the course back to its normal pristine condition. But it is has been a great opportunity to enjoy the slopes and new vistas that are normally closed to us. On one of our walks we were lucky enough to see gold crests feeding on an ancient old conifer at the end of the fairway. When I looked them up on our return, I discovered they are the UK’s smallest bird, smaller than a wren.
Then on our walk on Thursday we were greeted by the second largest living bird, an inquisitive emu that lives in a field in Keswick. I kept my distance from his beak!
My feelings on paper
Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire
During this lonely time of lock down, while I sit thinking, my mind goes back to working as a care assistant in a 40 bed old people’s home for 14 years during the 1980s-90s. A job I loved. With many stories some sad and some very funny. The residents we cared for were a very mixed clientele, with various illnesses, Dementia Alzheimer’s, amputees. Many of them were quite witty. I remember one old lady who had been an intelligent woman and was now suffering from Alzheimer’s. saying to someone who had upset her.
“Faults you see in others strive to avoid, seek your own heart and you’ll be well employed”.
I wanted her to say it again but it had gone in an instant.
Her son wrote me down the quotes she had. One day she saw her son through the window and gasped and said Oh it's Leonard, but when he came inside, she didn’t recognize him. The staff were in tears.
This tiny Lady caused chaos many times she always knew where the staff were and followed us around. If we were busy, she was also busy doing chores. With only 3 staff on duty after 6 pm the staff would be helping put people to bed. One night shift she started to set the dining room tables with table cloths knives and forks all very neat. The funny part of this at 8 pm was that another old chap had his body clock out of sync he ended up sleeping all day and got up at 8 pm. Walked down to the dinning room and sat at the table for his breakfast. Well, the tables were all set. We obliged and gave him tea and toast at 8 pm.
Another old lady broke her arm and had a pot on. Every time the staff turned their back, she soaked her arm in the sink with warm water pulling all the bandage out and the pot never lasted longer than two days. We must have taken her back to the hospital twice to no avail in the end we had to leave her without a pot. One day a week I worked in the day care center and at Xmas I got the clients to sing or do a piece of poetry.
Here is a poem one of them told. In Yorkshire dialect.
OUR SAL`S NEW BONNET
Our Sal’s new Bonnet,
It’s a stunner and no mistak
Its gora reath a roses rand it
an a feather hung reight dant back
She went to church in it last Sunday
An all folk stood up and laughed
Parson said young miss
It’s not a flower show you know
This is a place of worship
And a poor widow said what next.
Our Sal got reight ratty at that
and stood up and said,
parson thas gor a bald ead
nowt in it and nowt on it
does tha want a feather from my new bonnet
Thoughts from the Suffolk coast
Harris G, Suffolk
Friday morning and the view from the bedroom window is of a rather lovely snowy world. It started snowing here last Sunday and although we have had sunshine this week and a slight thaw, it has snowed several times since - quite heavily too. Our lane is now full of slush and ice and it looks dangerous to walk or drive! I’ve not been out in the car but I’ve walked the dogs, and walked to the local supermarket a few times. The cashier at the checkout made me smile (beneath my mask) - “and now bloody snow on top of everything else. What next? A plague of locusts”!
Winter sunshine creates a very harsh light. A sun low in the sky. It can show up the flaws in things around us. Now with the added dazzle from the snow, I can see cobwebs and dust and, in a usually dark corner, a drawing pin that I’d missed when clearing the Christmas decorations. Brush marks on the woodwork. Hmmm. Outside, of course, it’s a different matter. The snow covers the parts of the garden that weren’t looking their best. Mind, this big freeze will have killed off some of the tender plants. No worry. It will make space to plant new, different, better things when spring comes. When we are emancipated!
I have been trying to use the days to do jobs indoors that I generally do not like. Clearing out cupboards, shredding old bank statements and the like (I’ve done so much clearing since last March I would have thought I’d already got to the end of it). Lucy, the new pup, has been a constant companion. She makes mischief when she’s bored - a huge sack of shredded paper was torn open and scattered everywhere. Snow indoors too! Or confetti! She loved the snow in the garden - her first experience of it I assume. She ran round and round and jumped, biting at the air as the snow fell - totally unconcerned. Living in the joy of the moment!
I read that a French nun aged 116 has survived having Covid-19 - what a gem of a news item in the otherwise grim and chaotic presentations in the papers, on the internet or on the television newscasts. The reporters last night spoke about Valentine’s Day and people trying to find love and friendship in the new, socially distanced, stay-at-home time of lockdown. People meeting via zoom or dating apps. Cyber-dating. Blind-dates via a web-cam and electronic messaging. Apparently, one couple who met in this way during the first major lockdown are now engaged and living together in this one.
Lots of things have been unearthed in my tidying and cupboard clearing. I’m now re-reading one of my finds - a very battered copy of TS Eliot’s ‘Murder in the Cathedral’. I think it was something we read for O’level. Some good lines in that piece of work...
“... we have lived quietly,
Succeeded in avoiding notice,
Living and partly living.
There have been oppression and luxury,
There have been poverty and licence,
There has been minor injustice.
Yet we have gone on living,
Living and partly living ...”
T S Eliot (1964), Murder in the Cathedral
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Covid deaths around 116,000
R number going down.
13th February 2021
It’s been a cold snowy week here. Can’t say I’m a fan though it has been nice white powdery snow but to me it feels like just another layer of lockdown. You WILL NOT go out because now you can’t even get out if you wanted to!
Can’t potter down the road to Edgefield nursery and buy some mini daffs and a carrot and have a little banter with Gary whether we are looking at the setting sun or the rising moon. I won a fiver for this though unclaimed.
Don’t need anything really. There is a shop and post office in the village and I get a bag of veg from the local market garden every Thursday so they skated by.
Diana my neighbour dropped in with a piece of weirdo paleo apple cake which was very nice and Tom the dad from the animal feeds place came round with a bale of wood shavings, sack of chicken food, mealy worms and mini markies for Earnie. He’s very kind as he puts everything away in the shed in a man way and fills the bin up. Such service. Roger also dropped by to see if we were ok when he went to get his paper.
Earnie and I have tentatively tootled about the village for our walks for the last week. The roads around here are perilous and like an ice rink with compacted snow so you take your life in your hands every time you venture out with the image of broken wrists and smashed knees not far away. The children in the village have loved it though, sledging down every available bank.
Best quote of the week. I’m here live. I’m not a cat. A funny silly zoom filter cock up. Lovely.
Trumps second impeachment started on Tuesday with The House Managers laying out the case against him. There has been a lot more footage from the 6th January which looks absolutely terrifying. So violent and crazed. He should be chucked in the slammer.
On Wednesday I went to 2 funerals from my kitchen table. My lovely friend Keith’s at 1.00 on instagram live in a church where the camera was trained on the Priest and the Coffin both elaborately draped in matching cloth. You could see his children and his friend when they did their readings but not a wider view of the church or the little group of mourners. Lots of little hearts kept bubbling up the side of the screen and messages of sympathy appeared.
My second cousin Celia’s was at 2.30 with a live webcast from the crematorium where you could see the back of the congregation and the reading from her niece and brother. A hand of support being offered here and a tissue there.
Keith’s was more high church with lashings of incense being waved around him.
They both had lovely music but no singing and well observed words from the highly ornate priest and Celia’s lovely lady vicar, both known to them and aware of the specialness of the people they were sending off on the next part of their journey.
Very strange but good to be there in some form. I wonder if Keith and Celia will meet up on their way to the pearly gates. They were both very very clever people, very sociable and generous and both knew everybody.
I put my black jeans on and my best black cashmere jumper for the occasion.
At the end of Celia’s funeral I could see my masked sister talking to my masked aunt and cousin Lucy. So odd.
My friend Ghislaine who lives half the time in Switzerland (as obviously “It is illegal to go on holiday” from here as we’ve been repeatedly told this week.) is visiting her family in Morocco and she just sent me some pictures of the heated outdoor pool in lovely gardens in Marrakech where they are staying for a week. Honestly, just showing off! She said she was missing the snow in Norfolk though I didn’t believe her.
My kitchen table is looking quite colourful and tropical as the amaryllis are having a joyful moment in the sun.
Better go, I’m still not doing my accounts but have moved the piles around a bit though they are now competing with fabric and wallpaper samples for my new project.
Take care and Happy Valentines Day.
Love Annabel xxx
From the Editor
Last Saturday’s wind and rain turned rapidly to wind and snow, and we’ve been living in a frozen landscape ever since, with extremely cold temperatures outside and in!
I returned home from my first jab to hear the news that step-granddaughter living with her parents in our Granary cottage had tested positive for COVID. She works in a children’s nursery and caught it from a colleague there. (Luckily, as the week progressed it proved to be mild and her parents seem to have escaped infection). On the evening after my jab I began to feel pretty awful (reaction or COVID?) but that only lasted till the next day.
Meanwhile COVID crept nearer on another front. A friend was moved from one hospice to another, but caught COVID in the process and has now been moved to a COVID ward in a hospital. His wife visited him before he was diagnosed, so now she has to be isolating and has had to postpone her daughter’s visit. And she can’t see her husband. It seems so cruel. End of life care and the place of care homes in our society are surely due a review if we ever climb out of this chaos. Our friend only wanted to die quietly at home , but that seems to be less and less possible, especially at the present.
It has been so cold this week we have even talked about moving (!?!!!)... we are only using three rooms in the house, and even the Aga is struggling to keep the kitchen warm. The cats have firmly decided that IN is better than OUT, and cat Bertie and husband Peter compete for the chair by the Aga (during the day) and the biggest chair by the wood burner (during the evening). Peter’s book room and study upstairs, and my study and studio are almost out of bounds. One needs a coat and gloves and hot water bottle to enter them. We love some snow but are now definitely looking forward to Spring and Summer! I have sown half of my sweet peas using the kitchen table rather than the Greenhouse.
We watched a truly awful film on Netflix! The latest version of Murder on the Orient Express, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh as Poirot. A starry cast (Judi Dench, Olivia Coleman and others) but they said or did hardly anything. Mr Branagh hogged the action and the script and had the most unbelievable two-tone moustaches. Why didn’t his cast push him into the snowdrift? (it was a virtual snowdrift) .
As we creep up to nearly a year of Covid can I urge any readers who have in the past contributed but haven’t lately, to write something for our First Anniversary issue in March... bring us up to date with what you’ve been doing, thinking, seeing. It would be good to have a really Bumper Issue... if it’s too big we’ll divide it over two weeks. How many of you thought when we started that this Journal would still be going a year later? You’ve all written enough for a book each! Brilliant. When you’ve time, do glance back at earlier entries, it’s fascinating. Sheila and I plan to keep it going till there’s more light at the end of the tunnel and we can see the way clear to a Journal Party. That is, if YOU can all keep going! Let us know what you think!
Meanwhile, don’t forget tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. What I would most like are some flowers, anemones or tulips. But where does one get them from when isolating? Jane, Florist in Lockdown, your photos of flowers bring me solace!!
I’ll go and scrabble in the snow for some snowdrops...