Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

We started the week with a surprise canal trip on Sunday. Our friends, who have two narrowboats on hire, had to go and retrieve a boat which had been abandoned when one of the hirers was taken ill – not Covid! They invited us to join them. This involved a relaxing six hour meander on the Chesterfield canal. Parts of this canal are very shallow so a slow speed is essential to avoid churning up the bottom and risking getting stuck. It was so quiet and peaceful. We only passed about four other narrowboats and a few canoeists on the whole trip. A few families were walking along the tow-path enjoying the sunshine so there were friendly waves and hellos. The swans obviously also like this peaceful stretch of water and we saw a few nests with sitting birds. The cobs were very protective of their vulnerable pens. One came hurtling across the water, heading straight for the prow of the boat, flapping his wings and paddling furiously. We looked on in horror waiting for the collision. At the last moment he used his feet as brakes and swerved to one side. He had obviously decided we were too large to take on. What a lovely way to spend a day outside with friends.


Monday was coffee and cake with four friends in the garden. We were all pleased to think things were getting back to some sort of normality and chatted about the trips we were hoping to take – nobody was planning to go abroad. Then a walk around the village putting Christian Aid envelopes through doors. I usually hate the job of collecting them as there are always one or two people who are rude and some who don’t answer the door although you know they are in. I do it mainly because a friend in her 80s organises it and I don’t like to say no. I just don’t like asking people for money! However, this year I am very happy as Covid means we don’t have to collect the envelopes. People are asked to hand them in at the post office instead. I’m really hoping people will be so generous that it becomes a regular way of collecting.


As the week continued the news of the spread of the India variant became more alarming. There is a huge surge in Bolton and local leaders there are requesting the vaccination of all over 16s. It seems that the vaccinations that are being used are effective against this variant but the constant mutations are very worrying. Will the scientists be able to keep up? So I have gone from feeling very positive about the summer to feeling much less so. The last of our four sons gets his first vaccination next Wednesday. We have to get the world vaccinated. 


My tulip planter is continuing to delight me. This week three stunning Rococco tulips have flowered. There are three purple Queen of the Night about to open and then the last three which I think are Fabio. I planted them in layers as suggested by Margaret, I think, and wasn’t convinced it would work. I am gradually moving my vegetable plants out of the cold frame and into the garden and I have planted my sweet pea plants around their wigwams. So much promise of good things to come. Just hoping there are no more hard frosts.  


Keep well everyone.



Mary’s projects mostly

Mary Hildyard, Devon

“And the rain it raineth everyday...”


We are now back in Devon. We had decided, before we left for Bristol, not to ask anyone to water the veg patch. We hoped that in our ten days away enough rain would fall. Enough rain? The plants nearly drowned! And the survivors have been nibbled - perhaps by the two young deer that Simon spied near the patch on our first evening back. When the rain clears for an hour we hope to construct a runner bean support and put in the seeds. I wonder if deer like runner beans?


Although we will soon be allowed to have visitors indoors, Simon and I are a bit hesitant. But, we need a dry day to erect the canopy to entertain outdoors. Ah, sunny Devon - rains six days out of seven!


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Oh Harry, What are you doing? Your children are going to blame you for the havoc and distress and lack of relations they have in 20 years time. Just shut up now. You’ve said more than enough. Who cares what you think about poor poor you. What about discretion and the feelings of Prince Charles and the Late Prince Philip and the Queen and William and Kate. People just do the best they can at the moment, you can’t blame them for ever. Shut up and get on with your privileged life. Now you are becoming a leach on your family memories. 

I think he needs to be debriefed like a spy that has come in from the cold. I wonder if and when he will ever realise what he has done?


The Indian variant is causing a lot of worry in various quarters. Maybe we won’t be released after all.


David from Houghton Hall (Lord Cholmondeley), Norfolk who is Lord Great Chamberlain carried the Crown, symbol of the Queens authority in front of The Queen accompanied by Prince Charles at The State opening of Parliament at the beginning of the week. She looked beautiful in a mauvey grey coat, embroidered with yellow flowers and yellow flowers in her matching hat.


On Sunday I had lunch in the garden with my friend who’s back from Switzerland and we went for a walk on the marsh with all the dogs. It was very nice to see her and then on Thursday, a coffee in my garden with Carolyn. On Monday I had a meeting with my client trying to persuade him of the joys of Manuel Canovas fabrics. I might even have succeeded. 


The bluebells are out here and everything that can bloom is blooming and scented. 

Ghislaine’s garden was covered in cowslips. Here, nearby woods are carpeted with bluebells and the trees are bowed with the weight of white flowers. The primroses are still flowering and the cow parsley is just bursting into life. The fields are zinging with acid yellow rape fields or pink with clover. There have been dramatic grey skies and the weather is still freezing apart from the odd hour of sun that lulls you into thinking summer is here until the next storm and icy blast make you grab for the wrist warmers and cashmere hat.


Also on Monday I helped Louisa with hanging some things and Naughty Tim came over to drill some holes in the wall. Earnie got giddy with excitement and destroyed one of my wrist warmers that Marilyn had given me for Christmas. He was in deep trouble. It wasn’t the first word that came to mind.

I made the most delicious weirdo cake and the neighbours came for tea. The base was coconut oil mixed with honey and a dash of vanilla essence and beaten. Then beat in the egg or eggs and some almond butter. Add ground almonds and some bicarbonate of soda. Then a few dried apricots. Spread it out in a shallow tin. Cut up a couple of fresh apricots and place evenly on the top. Add some blobs of marmalade (I made mine with honey and coconut sugar) and dot about evenly on the top and then some blanched almonds and a few sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Absolutely gorgeous.


I was in the greenhouse tonight and I looked up to see a flight of the first swifts. They have just arrived and there are quite a few of them. Such a lovely sight. I miss them when they leave. 

Tomorrow I’m having my second jab.

Night night

Love Annabel xxx



Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

Everything is very busy in Vermont. People are buying seedlings here, even though we are still getting frost warnings. 

We’re anticipating a little cash from the sale of our house and have hired a friend to fence in some of the back of the house so the dog can go out without a leash, run around and, in my fantasy life, wear himself out. And I’m still sorting through books and plates and anything else I can think of to get rid of. Yesterday was the first trip to the re-use shop, where I drop off all the unwanted, except books which go to the library book sale. The problem with the library book sale is that they only take two boxes at a time and I have to climb steep steps with the boxes and my hips and legs and knees are still not working right. I tried to get an appointment with my physical therapist and, when she couldn’t see me, with the chiropractor she recommended. “We’re scheduling out to the middle of June” is what I found out so here I am hobbling and trying to avoid stairs or steps.  

In the meantime when I’m not furious with my close relative who is believing all the conspiracy theories about vaccinations and refusing to get vaccinated I’m just so sad at our rift, at the thought of not seeing her for the longest time, and, most of all, frantic at the thought of her getting seriously ill.  

Meanwhile the dog is in love with the man who is digging the fence posts so he whines or barks to go out. The man digging the fenceposts is not enthusiastic about the dog jumping up on him… I assume because he recently had a knee replacement.   

And it is my birthday tomorrow. I’ve always thought May 15 is lovely day to have a birthday, best day of the year, and I love birthdays but this year I’m finding myself uninterested. Sam and Michele will come for lunch and in the evening we’ll review any offers we have on the house and make decisions. But I did buy some turquoise wool socks for my birthday, with gradated legs so they won’t cut off my circulation. They are soft and beautiful and, to my surprise, came all the way from Turkey, three pairs, each in their individual large matchboxes. “You could use those boxes for something,” Barbara says, echoing my thoughts and then I think with despair about all the useful jars and boxes I hold on to, and how everything has to go. 

I started off with the sentence about how everybody is busy in Vermont because that makes sense of the decision to end the journal. Early or late spring, depending on where you live in this hemisphere, is busy. We have an untidy selection of robins’ nests in the eave of our front porch and they are busy too. But I’m sad to have the journal end. I will miss finding out about everyone’s lives and what happens next, and then and then….


View from the top of the hill

Linzy Lyne, Pateley Bridge

It's been another quiet week on the farm. The large grey tank has been placed in the big hole at the  bottom of the hill and there has been a cement mixer blocking the lane for a few days, pouring cement in around the tank. I'm guessing they'll fill the rest of the hole with soil. The hares have been dashing past the house early in the morning and I still haven't managed a photo. The hens are laying so well we have started giving the eggs away, it's always feast or famine! Today things are livening up as the cattle are being taken down the yard to have their feet washed. Richard just managed to duck behind a building as about fifty cattle galloped past him, all part of the joys of country living.


Another aspect of rural life which I have meant to write about is that the RAF use our valley for practising low level flying. Sometimes fighter jets come through so fast and so low that we barely get a look at them before they've gone past, but two weeks ago we had a visit from two huge aircraft. We could hear a heavy rumble for a while and I thought it might be thunder, then they appeared from behind the barn, two massive machines with four propellers, flying slowly and purposefully towards the house and then away above the buildings, missing the treetops by a few yards. I googled “low flying aircraft over Pateley Bridge” but the only mention was of one which flew over Leeds in March. The photo was of the same vehicle and it's an RAF Airbus. It was actually quite a frightening experience and it reminded me of an incident in North Yorkshire which happened some years ago. Two women (one a friend of mine) were out riding, when a helicopter suddenly appeared from behind some trees, flying very low. The horses bolted and one of the women was killed when her horse ran head first into a tree. I do wonder whether the people who plan these flights have any idea that people and animals are actually on the ground below them.


The sweet shop man didn't win the election, I didn't think he would, as he was standing as an independent and I don't suppose he could give away enough sweets to beat the Tory (joke). Yet again, despite Boris being issued with a County Court Judgement for non-payment of a debt, and all the other reasons you might think the public would frown on him, he is still victorious. I watched the highlights of the Queen's speech and felt quite disturbed that the recently widowed  “Queenie” (as my parents always affectionately called her) had to sit there crowned in her glorious hat, with hands trembling in white gloves, speaking incongruously in the Prime Minister's voice about “Following the steps of the Road Map, levelling up opportunities and turbo-charging the economy”. 


I see that we may now need Voter ID and wonder how this will affect the three and a half million people in the UK who have no ID, will they be deprived of their vote? This is to combat electoral fraud. I think they have been watching too many Trump speeches. It seems that there are more investigations into the Prime Minister's affairs than convictions for voter fraud. Also, the government plans to call elections whenever they feel like it, rather than having the fixed term arrangement we have now. In effect, the government can wait for an opportune moment when they are enjoying popularity to be sure of being re-elected, quite possibly before the results of the Covid inquiry are published or even before it begins, as we now hear it won't start for at least a year.

There are more rumblings about the Indian variant. Yesterday Boris said he was “anxious” about it. So am I Boris! There have been twice as many cases of the variant in the UK this week as there were last week. Well I wonder how that happened! Was it because India wasn't placed on the red list until 23rd April? So all this “irreversible” releasing of restrictions may be a bit hasty, but there we are, we all want our freedoms back. My inbox is full of messages titled “Lunch!” and I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends and relations. I expect we'll talk about how difficult it's all been and how much we've missed going out. Now that we're seeing the grandchildren again I remember how much it hurt, in the beginning, to miss those hugs and the silly conversations about Fortnite and Minecraft. We must have become hardened to it over time, you can get used to anything. Richard even got used to watching all the Leeds matches on TV but he's quietly excited that he has been awarded a ticket to the last match of the season in a ballot and can return to his very own seat. I shall miss watching it with him, it's been a source of companionship and newly shared interest.


Someone recently got sick with Covid while climbing Everest (!) which reminded me that I would like to pay a visit to the Himalayan Garden, which is a glorious place set in a valley covered in trees and flowers, with a whole hillside of rhododendrons. We bought a plant there on one of our visits, which I loved the minute I saw it. We call it “the blousy one”. Here's a photo of it taken from our living room window and one of the gardens.


I am sad to hear that there will only be three more issues of the Journal. It's been so lovely to read it every week and hear how everyone is doing. I hope we can stay in touch and that I get to meet you all one day. Margaret, if you do start an email hub that would be lovely and I promise not to write a whole chapter every time!


However, as Sheila says, we are all hoping to get back to normal, or a new normal, and must move on. I am planning to start a blog about books, which I think I will call “Found in a book” or maybe “Lost in a book”. I'll let you know when it happens. My first item, found recently, is an Oxfam card with a painting of mountains, with this quotation from Jean Jacques Rousseau:


“Everyone will experience the feeling that on high mountains, where the air is pure and thin, one breathes more freely, and feels bodily lighter and in better spirits”.


Continue to stay safe and keep in good spirits, wherever you are.



Tropical thoughts Part 2

Paul Lowden, Malaysia

The Why and the How

“If a man knows the wherefore of his existence, then the manner of it can take care of itself.”



Knowing the why

As Hamlet discovered

Turned out not to be

Such an easy task.

Macbeth too dwelt

Awhile on the manner of 

Tomorrow. King Lear

Freshened by a storm

Considered the poor forked thing

Of life. Chastened Prospero

Wrestled with the darkness.

Feste’s rain brings down

The curtain. 

To endure seems not enough; 

To enjoy seems too simple. 

Yet the why of our existence

Must be driven, and deep,

Within all of us. How else

To explain the bud unfurling

Joy of now?


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

The furlough scheme, saviour of many a business (and job) and still in operation until September is attracting attention from HMRC who have opened over 10,000 cases for investigation from 27000 reported ‘breaches’, 240 here in Norfolk. Judging by the graphic shown here, Kings Lynn is our ‘hotspot’.

And a wildlife update following on from last week’s home list: Richard The Acting Postman reports seeing a couple of Roedeer crossing into the garden from the surrounding farmland, and to simultaneously hearing a Cuckoo.
My news is that I strapped my phone to a pole, switched on ‘video’ and got a shot of the Kestrel nest contents while the female was away. So, they get uninterrupted hours of incubation overnight, but much disturbance during the day - every delivery, every visitor, every trip we make out and back means a spell off the nest, she just won’t tolerate the ‘invasion’... have no idea what chilling they can take and still hatch.

I do like the full works at a Barbers. I like the care of a good podiatrist - having someone cutting toenails and massaging the feet is a regular treat - and of course my visits to Acle Hair and Beauty for tanning. It seems a natural extension of Hedonism in the wake of my shoulder injury to take myself off to nearby Wymondham to the mildly exotic-sounding Orange Grove (oh how I want to insert ‘Massage Parlour’, but that would be gratuitous, it’s a very earnest, serious sort of place) and throw myself under the hands of one Kelly and her Geranium Oil. An hour later and I’m mildly giddy with relaxed glee and wondering how often I could possibly justify the expense. Not monthly, that’s for sure.


Anyway, in the High Street I spotted this ridiculously impressive portico, come down in the world somewhat. No stone carving could survive with that elaborate tracery - I think it’s an extraordinary example of Coade Stone, a moulded and fired ‘artificial’ product used for architectural detail, used a lot in Georgian London. Fantastically successful in its day, it was produced for about 60 years under the stewardship of the lady owner, Mrs Coade, then more or less died with her. Bring it back, I say.
If only I was starting out instead of finishing...

The latest concerns from ‘Alternative Sage’ appear on Twitter - they think the upcoming relaxations in our lives coupled with the Indian Variant and the vulnerability of the unvaccinated young spells trouble...

Then Sturgeon slams the brakes on in Scotland, decreeing Glasgow and Moray pubs will not be opening on Monday after all, and teatime Friday BJ appears for a briefing: “I have to level with you...” and proceeds to say while the brakes will be kept off in England, the ultimate object of total freedom come June 21st is now in doubt - echoing the concerns of Alternative Sage and for all I know the Real Sage too. A nuance he adds is that second doses are to be offered to everyone over 50 within 8 weeks now to boost protection. Given we were told best immunity is achieved at 12 weeks (or was that to boost availability for more 1st jabs?) to rush out ‘seconds’ suggests summat’s up. 

As I watch, and a bit selfishly, my immediate concern is for my son (39) who may fall between two jabbing stools, he not having had one yet and is now in competition with millions getting their second (and sucking up supplies) while the Indian Variant stalks us.

So, you can imagine our relief to get a text just as the briefing ends to say he’s been done. Keep out of trouble for another couple of weeks Son, while the Pfizerfuice gets to work...



From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

Despite the rain, despite the ever returning chill, it seems, from all this weeks entries, that we are all, or nearly all, beginning to stir, move, take steps outside - and relish it. It is warming to hear of all your different plans, reunions, adventures as lockdown eases. Here in Norfolk, we’ve been to the Farmshop, various garden nurseries, and been visited by friends, electricians, and the Aga service man, David Poynter. It was so lovely to see him after sixteen months. He lives in Norfolk, and the first thing he wanted to talk about was the recent newspaper article about the journal and how could he access it online! So another reader for the last three weeks.

Most of you have replied to my queries about publishing/ party/ keeping contact, and I can see deciding the party date is going to be tricksy. But not impossible. Watch this space. If you haven’t yet let me have your preferences, do contact me this coming week.

Michael J made some interesting suggestions about how we could all keep in touch. I quote...

- ‘It would be good if we journalists have a means of keeping in contact easily. A now old fashioned mail list would do the job, but that will require someone to maintain the server. I could, with my old software engineering hat on, manage such a thing, but am not sure I would wish to maintain a 24-hour service as would be required. The other thought, and perhaps the most easily implemented, would be to establish a private Facebook group. That could work well, but requires participants to have Facebook access. Not sure that I can  think of better at the moment, unless all of us has a full list of participants' emails that we could use for a kind of 'manual' circulation. I think it would be unfair to expect you or Sheila to act as a clearing house after all you have done for the journal. Those are my few ideas. Let me know if I can help - I can offer computing expertise, if sometimes a little out of date.’

- Let me know what you think!


I know the Indian variant could blow things sky high, but at the moment I feel optimistic and ready to meet people again. It’s good to hear of Shirley-Anne retraining for her work (do descend on Charleston this summer and see her in action) Sandy having friends to stay, Rosemary about to holiday in Devon, Hilary’s husband salmon fishing, Barbara staying with her daughter, Shirin finding help with her garden. Etc etc. 


Tomorrow morning, come rain or shine Sheila and Chris are coming over for Buck’s Fizz and croissants in our damp May garden. It’s an early celebration of my birthday next week, and, unlike last year, it won’t be a lockdown birthday. We’ll toast all of you lovely friends and journallers. Keep writing! 



Thank you all for your messages, direct and embedded in your reactions this week.
I've just discovered something I would like to share with you all:

U.Me The Musical - it has a strange resonance with me and the journey we've all been on together. I hope you like it as much as I do.  X