Mary Fisher, Norfolk UK
March 23rd will mark the anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown. However, in early March 2020, GPs and other NHS departments contacted patients living with underlying medical conditions to advise them to stay indoors. As M points out, March 9th marked the anniversary of his lockdown. For M and many other people identified as vulnerable, this has meant a whole year with very limited or no contact with anyone outside their homes. There has been no easing of restrictions, no popping out to shops and no meeting with friends in a garden or park for over a year.
A red-letter week… of sorts. Along with school-children in England, my grandchildren returned to classes on Monday and are really excited to be back. Daughter in law is less than happy. Having worked to set up testing for her students over the Christmas vacation, she will again be working during the summer holidays to help students catch up with their studies. And, of course, without additional remuneration from an (un)grateful government. Care homes also opened to visitors this week; provided the visitor tested negative. It was really lovely to meet with Barbara in her room. However, the weekly test initially gave me an irrational sense of complacency. I had to get my head round the fact that a negative test simply shows I don’t have coronavirus on that day.
My mind was otherwise preoccupied last week and I managed not to check my oil tank. Until recently, I had a gadget that fitted on the oil tank and ‘talked’ to a plug-in device in the house. When it broke two months ago, I short-sightedly decided not to replace it and went back to the dip-stick method. The problem with a dip-stick is that somebody (me) needs to remember to do it. Running out of oil meant no cooking or heating. With exquisite timing, the night-time temperature outside was below freezing. I managed to get the oil replenished but then the boiler wouldn’t re-light so a heating engineer had to come. Suffice to say it would have been considerably cheaper and less stressful to have replaced the oil-tank monitor.
During the pandemic I’ve re-kindled my love of audiobooks. A perfect antidote to evenings with nowhere to go. R and I loved to while away an evening listening to a favourite book. There was the occasional hiccup. We had been listening to a cover-to-cover reading of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters by Prunella Scales for over twenty-five hours. Just as the author was bringing all the key plots together, another voice came on, “The novel ends here as Mrs Gaskell died before finishing the book”. Before it was published, the last section was completed by another author, Frederick Greenwood, but this was not included in our verbatim Gaskell audiobook. I can still recall the “Nooo!” moment some years later.
Fortunately, the pandemic hasn’t taken away my love of Spring. Bulbs are popping up everywhere. Tiny bursts of green shoots on trees and bushes. The bleats of baby lambs, born in a make-shift nursery set up over the garden fence. Birds with beaks full of nest-making materials; others fighting for territory. Seedlings on window sills all over the house. Philip the Pheasant has taken up residency in the garden, squawking, flapping and looking for a mate. Alas for Philip, there are no hen birds here.
Tropical thoughts Part 2
Paul Lowden, Malaysia
“Are you too deeply occupied
To say if my verse is alive?”
Challenged Emily Dickinson
From her rugged self-
Imposed Amherst isolation.
And you, too inwardly bound,
Too navel gazing, too cerebrally
Locked on all things around,
Too near yourself to distinctly see
The way that rain drop
Coalesces, pauses, before
Plunging to the ground; the tapping
Insistent leaf on windowpane that sets
Up a syncopated rhythm; the sunlight’s
Decoupage. The wealth outside
Only awaits your eyelid’s lift.
My feelings on paper
Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire
When I was a little girl my parents belonged to St Michael and all Angels church. My mother belonged to the Mother’s Union and they celebrated Mothering Sunday. Over the years Mothering Sunday has taken many forms. Starting in the 16th century it was celebrated on the 4th Sunday in lent after fasting. The church being our mother, the mother of Jesus, mother earth.
Around that time, 1948-50, my mother taught me that Mothering Sunday was a special day for honouring mothers, a time for children to help with housework to give mothers a rest and she gave me jobs to do. It started with religion and since then has very soon become a commercial venture for big business to cash in on sales of cards, flowers and cake, simnel cake being one etc.
Women have always been at the forefront, fighting for better working conditions for women, for peace, social care and equality. I can’t believe that not much has changed for many women in society today in the 21st century.
I was among many women fighting for equal pay during the late 1960s-70s and campaigning for the end of the Vietnam war, we’re still not much further forward.
Today International Women’s Day is held all over the world. The National Assembly of Women will celebrate this year with the TUC. Commemorating Sylvia Pankhurst with a Statue for Sylvia. The fight for a statue in Westminster for Sylvia has been going on for many years, she was known as the rebellious suffragette and wrote a definitive history of the suffragette movement and whist her name is associated with the fight for votes, less well known is her active involvement in other causes of both domestic and international. She was a trained artist who painted and documented working women in factories, mills and potteries. She wrote that women came to her with wasted little ones and saw starvation in their eyes and knew she would never return to her art. The House of Lords frowned on Sylvia's activity. Her sister Christabel expelled her from the Women’s Social and Political Union and it was endorsed by her mother Emmeline Pankhurst.
20 years ago April 1998 me and a group of friends were visiting the sights of Westminster and looking at a memorial adjacent to the house of Lords to Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst - women suffragettes who fought for the right of Votes for Women. They were imprisoned and were force-fed for their determination to win women’s vote? One person was absent from this memorial, Sylvia Pankhurst.
We hear much about Emmeline & Christabel Pankhurst who formed the Women’s Social and Political Union, but not much about Sylvia Pankhurst who was also imprisoned and force-fed. They were against Sylvia for her determination to improve conditions for the poor. Sylvia loved and worked in London’s East End working and campaigning with the East London Confederation of Suffragettes to improve the lives of those living in poverty. In 1915 they demanded that the principal of equal pay for work of equal value shall be established throughout the entire field of industry. She set up a food hall employment and health care for women and was vociferous against racism and fascism. All issues still very much alive today.
One of the first patrons for a statue of Sylvia was her son Richard Pankhurst. Many obstacles have had to be met on the side of the establishment against the statue. But many donations have been given from individuals and Trade Union branches. This statue is in the spirit of a people’s statue to a wonderful person who deserves nothing less.
Funds have been set aside to cast the statue in bronze and it is hoped that it will be achieved in the near future. With support of Islington Council and the Corporation of the City of London who are to raise the statue on Clerkenwell Green. The sculptor is the renowned artist Ian Walters famed for the head of Nelson Mandela on London`s South Bank, and later his sculpture of Mandela in Parliament Square.
Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire
As I have mentioned in previous entries, I have been enjoying reading my Great Aunt’s teaching magazines. This week schools have gone back, with children in secondary schools having to wear face masks in their lessons. I was reminded of a cartoon I saw in “Teachers World (sic - no apostrophe!) and Schoolmistress” magazine dated January 19 1938, which I am including with this journal entry.
I am intrigued by the heading ‘A STALE JOKE OF 1950? - WE HOPE NOT’ I’m not sure I understand it. Manufacture of gasmasks started in 1937 but in January 1938 no gas masks had been issued. War wasn’t declared until September 1939. By then 38 million had been given out house to house and children were given training at school on how to put them on. This recording from 1941 is very Joyce Grenfell! https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/school-radio/history-ks2-world-war-2-clips-gas-mask-drill-at-primary-school/zr38cqt
But in January 1938 we were still hoping to avoid war and certainly had no idea of what was ahead. So the mention of 1950 must have been arbitrary? Did people think at that time that wearing gas masks would become a reality or was it a joke because they didn’t believe it would happen? We have the advantage of knowing their future. The joke itself is funny and could be equally funny today with our simpler masks. I wonder how the reluctant mask wearers in school today would feel about wearing gas masks. They were made of black rubber and were hot and smelly. They must have been horrible to wear. And they contained asbestos! I hope our Covid masks won’t be a stale joke of 2033!
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
A quick tip to Gorleston seafront (for our Mental Health) but mainly a lockdown week of garden-pottering, including shifting the enormous quantities of compost needed for the raised bed project, but in a measured sort of way - lubricated by much tea. My Old Dad (115 this month, or would be if he hadn’t given up at 87) was a manual worker, a very skilled plasterer and though sometimes driven by the setting process of plaster, nevertheless adopted a measured way too, something to be emulated I feel.
That done, I made framed netting covers for two outside beds (three are inside a large fruit cage) mixed with an impromptu afternoon’s grass cutting (a constant joy and not a job I generally accept help with) and a bit of beekeeping. Then a chance ref to Gunnera Manicata set me off on a tangent: it’s a plant of reliably boggy ground, not necessarily pond edges. I’d just driven round the part of the garden cutting grass where one corner is wet. So wet, when I used a tractor-drawn mower during the ‘garden taming’ period early on, the tyres would leave distinct imprints. So, an experimental Gunnera clump it’s to be. Rather than start with small plants or seed, David (he of Black Shed) has kindly chopped six big rooted sections off his pondside plant for me, and a happy hour was spent potting those up and installing them in one end of the benchtop polytunnel-in-a-polytunnel as a sort of nursery.
5live Science (radio) had an interesting item where it claims research is being done the possibility of Covid vaccine being presented in the form of a small ‘puffer’ or linctus to get it into the throat - enormous cost saving implication if this is to be a new permanent feature of our health care. Simultaneously, there’s a renewed call for better and standardised masks for front-line workers plus better ventilation as the transmission in minute air-borne particles is an undeniable hazard.
Dido Harding on the Test and Trace: “it’s met all its targets”.
Maybe we should have been more ambitious, Dido...
anyway, the enterprise, now in receipt of £37bn of our smackers is evidently not so much ‘NHS’ more ‘Serco’... and not much of it the product of competitive tendering: see screenshot diag of those concerned
On a lighter note, a bit of Pepys from this week in 1666.
Having spent most of the day eating cake, he ends with this:
“The truth is, I do indulge myself a little the more in pleasure, knowing that this is the proper age of my life to do it; and out of my observation that most men that do thrive in the world do forget to take pleasure during the time that they are getting their estate, but reserve that until they have got one, and then it is too late to enjoy it with any pleasure”
That’s good enough for me, I’m off to the Farm Shop. They have Grate Lumpes of Battenberg there... it’ll do for a start.
Stay well - and embrace gentle Hedonism, Sam says it’s ok.
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Out cold on the sofa for hours after watching Grayson on the telly.
My head has been full of document Georgian wallpapers and bed posts this week. Tasteful little prints on linen or my favourite MAN CAN gorgeous clashing bold colourful embroidery fabrics that will slaughter the budget. I have to juggle this against that and see what I can do with the available spend. This is where I got my name. Someone in Norfolk with stately eye brows said, “I think Annabel was a Duchess in a former life” as I have very expensive tastes.
I wonder if that other duchess has Manuel Canovas fabrics everywhere. It’s a shame THE INTERVIEW wasn’t in their house now they have a normal ordinary life in their beautiful £11 million Santa Barbara mansion. I would have liked to have seen the curtains. We did see the chickens though.
My world is full of various shades of pink. Budget pink velvet or naughty brighter non tasteful, whacking up the colour scheme pink, pink and green or really proper pink and arsenic green paper from the early 18th century. Pink and yellow, pink and yellow and orange and so we go on. Terribly difficult making decisions as so many choices come up.
I’ve had a few meetings, measuring this, going through that.
Picked up my new glasses which I don’t think are quite right, there’s a bit of double vision and they are not strong enough. Bought a lovely bunch of anemones and narcissi from M&S from the food bit in Norwich, the one where they make you walk through the knicker department. Clever. So yes, I got some new pants! Normally I buy flowers from Edgefield nursery down the road but since Brexit they haven’t had any Dutch flowers at all.
The big news of the week, possibly year started off being that interview with Ginge and Whinge.
But all week the pretty face of missing 33 year old Sarah Everard has been on the telly and an image of her walking home on the South Circular last week taken from somebody’s doorbell cam.
Then there was footage of a massive police presence in woods near Ashford Kent and the shocking news that the met police had arrested a met police man. Then human remains were found and by yesterday they were identified as Sarah’s and just now I see they have charged 48 year old Met PC Wayne Couzens with her murder.
Terribly sad and awful for her friends and family. There has been an outcry that woman are not safe on the streets and male violence on women has been the other big discussion apart from Racism this week. Yesterday for International Women’s Day, Jess Phillips labour MP read the names of all the women killed in the UK where a man had been convicted or charged with her murder. It took her 4 minutes to read all the names of 118 women ending with the chilling addition of Sarah Everard who’s body had just been identified. Tragic really.
Anyway, that interview with Meghan and Harry. It was really very sad. Two very sad people.
I don’t doubt that she had a hard time coming to England and marrying into the Royal family and attacks from the press but is that any surprise? Apart from the colour issue, there is also a class issue. Kate got an equally hard time for being middle class and not aristocratic so of course it was going to be difficult. Marrying into any family is going to be tricky let alone that family.
She was probably isolated and friendless but I think they have got themselves so worked up and are on a toxic spiral of descent into fear, depression and paranoia.
Why would you discuss this with the world for 2 hours with Oprah? Just in the UK, ITV viewing figures peaked at 11.1 million. 17.1 on CBS in the States.
I think Harry is so estranged from his family now and every new thing just adds to the closing of doors for him. I do so hope it doesn’t end in tears. It’s a terrible waste of their talents and energy and the different perspective they could have brought to things. Boris will have to build the mother of all bridges for this lacuna.
I think she thought she was going to have a really glamorous life as a princess but the reality of a working royal is probably bloody hard work, much of which is monotonous, boring and repetitive interspersed with a few lovely dresses, beautiful but freezing cold palaces and dodgy plumbing. Not a glamorous LA lifestyle at all.
She was much lower down the pecking order than she wanted to be. I think she thought she was the star and here she didn’t have the leading roll or the wealth. Maybe she thought life would be more glamorous with more money, better tiaras and less duty, who knows.
But worst of all as a Royal, you can’t answer back. That’s the first rule, you’re not meant to have personal opinions and she has lots of opinions. I think in the end she would have carved out a wonderful roll for herself but they seem to have done a petulant strop off and instead of being cajoled back have been waved goodbye.
The Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William and Kate and Princess Anne etc all have exhaustive schedules. It is an unconditional love sort of thing. I am in awe of what they do. If I had to be that presentable once a month let alone every day, it would put me in a tail spin for a week and being so nice and polite to so many people, not picking your nose in public etc etc. Can you imagine?
Even through lockdown, there is The Queen beautifully dressed and fully coiffed on her zoom calls, chatting away kindly. Prince Philip is very near the end of his life in hospital but they are all out there at work, doing their thing.
Prince William broke royal protocol the other day when he answered a journalist back. He was asked “Is the Royal Family a racist family?’ He said “We're very much not a racist family.” It must be so hard for them not having their reply.
I think there was so much love for Meghan at the beginning that had she just got on with it for a few years the press would have backed off in the end. I’m sure she had a very hard time but I think if she’d worn a few tweeds, showed off the baby and kept her her head down she would have been fine in the end. Look at the slating Camilla has had from time to time. They all get it in the neck at some point.
Where do they go now? Buckingham Palace must have been reeling and the racist accusations have started another major national debate.
The chief of The Society of Editors resigned after he said the press was not racist but there was a huge backlash from within the press who said they were.
A day or so after the interview Buckingham Palace issued a very short statement. “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. While some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much-loved family members.”
Piers Morgan did a petulant stropp out of his TV set and job on Good Morning Britain the other day as he had a fight about his nemesis Meghan with the weather presenter.
There were 41,000 complaints against him.
Saturday morning. Got up and fed the cat and then Earnie then made a pot of coffee and went out to feed the chickens. Betty was dead and she looked like she just fell of her perch. I googled symptoms of bird flu but she looked fine just dead. I don’t know why she died.
I must go but have not got time to discuss the 40% less exports since Brexit. Boris’s idea of a tunnel between Northern Ireland and Scotland and Biden’s trillions in America.
Sorry Sheila for being even later than usual.
Lots of love every one. It's been a very sad week I think.
Love Annabel xxx
From the Editor
Our first edition went online on Monday March 23rd 2020. The very beginning of first lockdown. So we have been witnessing and recording it from the first moment. Our first anniversary issue will be on Sunday March 21st.
I do hope all of you, dear writers and dear readers, will contribute to it. Your thoughts on how your lives have changed (or not), your most memorable moments in the past year, the positives, the negatives. What happens next? What have we learnt (or not); what do you miss most, look forward to most. Highs, lows. The personal experience, the National or international experience.
I looked back at some of the early editions last week... fascinating. Some wonderful pieces. And so much I’d forgotten. I suggest you do the same, dip into different months... see what we were saying, doing, feeling then.
Recollections may vary!
...to quote the Queen, who is having another Annus Horribilis. I can’t believe how the whingeing of two multi millionaires in California can grab the headlines and create a media circus when the rest of the world is still struggling with COVID and poverty and Brexit etc. I suppose it’s a welcome distraction...
Tomorrow I’ll pot up the rest of my new dahlia tubers (Don’t worry too much about earwigs, Jane. I don’t hang flowerpots upside down on canes etc, and I only suffer a few nibbled petals). And Marie Christine, I see from your entry last week that you and Rob are turning into gardeners!! Welcome to the club. You’ll be adopting a cat next!
Il faut cultiver notre jardin.