20/03/2022

From St Just

Jane G, St Just, Cornwall

It's been a stunningly beautiful week here, and it feels as if this is where we came in: looking out at the calm blue Atlantic, hearing bird song and listening in disbelief to the news. I half remember writing in one of the first issues that in 1666 they had the plague and an earthquake and then the Great Fire, and wondering what our third thing would be - which probably didn't seem funny at the time and is a great deal less so now. 

 

The things that stand out as positives in the last two years are the phenomenal resourcefulness of medical science and the way that people all over the country are trying to help Ukrainian refugees by whatever means possible. 

 

Otherwise... well, here I am in St Just again with a small grey cat (though not the small grey cat who was with me in 2020), and as I left Oxfordshire I heard the words 'new variant' and turned back to scoop up Chaucer and Shakespeare in case we go back into lockdown and I find I'm teaching from a cliff-top again. The only difference is that two years ago I laughed that I was turning into my mother by bringing them: her sense of imminent disaster is so well developed that if anyone goes to the corner shop she's liable to tell them to look very carefully three times in all directions when crossing the road, including at the sky. Now it seems that's probably quite sensible, and Chaucer and Shakespeare are just part of a general checklist on leaving the house for more than a couple of hours: key, purse, phone, cat, food and literary supplies sufficient for two months.

 

Several friends have mentioned how one of the many things about Ukraine that really stopped them in their tracks was seeing people going into exile with their pets: children with cats tucked into their coats, and a dog following on merrily as if on its morning walk.

 

Two years ago I was part of my college's emergency response team that met twice weekly over Zoom during the Easter vac, working out how we were going to teach remotely without quite believing that we really would. And it went surprisingly well: one of the many ways in which people of all sorts and in all manner of jobs managed to stay remarkably functional in grim circumstances. It seems to me that on the whole we have been quite impressively resilient - though, as with Ukraine now, almost everyone I know has been lucky enough to be relatively on the sidelines of the pandemic. There's something odd about that: two friends and several other people I know have died in the last two years, but because none of them died of Covid, it almost feels as if they aren't part of the story - and I think that says quite a lot about the danger of stories.

 

Perhaps for that reason I've not written a great deal in the last couple of years, but I have started painting, generally singing along very loudly to Jack Buchanan, Scritti Politti or Jill Sobule - particularly her 'A Good Life', which we should probably all have on repeat. It goes like this (merrily):

 

Tomorrow the ground may shake

Like they said it was bound to happen one day

And the Hollywood sign will fall

The final call

Well, don't you fret, and don't be blue

You had me and I had you

It was a good life, it was a good, good life

 

Tomorrow we could all be gone

When the Russian gangsters sell the bomb

And the waves come roaring from the sea

A hundred foot swells over Venice Beach

Well don't be scared, and take my hand

We'll swim into the Promised Land

It was a good life, it was a good, good life

It was a good life, it was a good, good life

 

Tomorrow a tiny cell might grow

In everyone and it's not the cold

Or the hole in the sky will open wide

The aliens land on the 105

If it comes to that, what can we do

You love me and I loved you

It was a good life, it was a good, good life

It was a good life, it was a good, good life

 

I said boom boom, crash crash underneath the overpass

Burning buildings, flying glass, a good life

On the day the earth stood still, we won't have to pay our bills

As the mud slides down the hill, a good life

And we won't have to make our beds, break out the booze and like I said

Let's have a ball before we're dead, a good life

Let the pious rise above, we'll go down in our sweet love

It was a good, good life

 

I'm not sure of the date, but probably it's 1990s or early 2000s. She may be a witch. I leave you with a link to her performance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oy0qkueEvV4 and with the sun setting beautifully in the far west.

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20/03/2022

Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

I’m very sad to lose the contact with all of you, sad not to know what will come next in the so many stories of people I’ve come to know and care about.

In my story, this story, here is the quick update: It is mud season here. Most people live on dirt roads and mud season happens when the roads thaw. The mud can be two or three feet deep and driving through requires nerve and a high wheel base, meaning the car is high off the road. Yesterday a tow truck got caught in the mud and had to be pulled out by another tow truck. The first tow truck was of course there to tow out a stuck car. You get the picture.

In a little while I have to drive our dog to doggie day care and I’m stealing my nerves.

  

While the road may be mud the field surrounding us is still snow, but it deflates slowly. 

The March Arts Marathon is a rip roaring success. Fifty artists and writers signed up, a broad swath of professional artists to aspiring newbies. I’m participating, and so is Linzy. There is a mid marathon gallery up if you want to check it out: cvran.org

And the artists have raised more than $60,000 dollars, which funds the small completely volunteer organization for a year. Meanwhile Afghan refugees have arrived in Central Vermont and are being helped. I believe it is at least five families and at least twenty children, one born since arriving here.

 

And I’m taking art classes and have signed up for a Labrador Retriever puppy who will be arriving around July 1. I must be out of my mind. B. is celebrating her birthday today, and the dog I already have badly needs a hair cut. Have to get out those clippers.

How to say goodbye?  Please be in touch if you’d like, or if you are ever coming to this neck of the woods. (Remember travel?) I don’t want to publish my email address but Margaret and Sheila know where to find me.  I am also on FB.

20/03/2022

Thoughts from the Top of the Hill

Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire

Well the sad moment has come to write our final entries and say our goodbyes. Isn't it hard to believe that we have made this journey together for two whole years? Cheltenham Festival is this week and I remember how incensed we were that it went ahead that first year, possibly a super-spreader event in the early history of the pandemic in this country. Last year it was held “behind closed doors”, like many other sporting events, and now it is “back to normal”.

 

So we've lived through lockdowns, Downing Street briefings, worries over getting vaccinated and relief when we got our jabs, anxiety for friends and families, staying safe and catching the virus anyway, then gratefully surviving. There have been masks, restrictions, new strains, a surfeit of epidemiologists, scandals involving PPE and rule-breaking, missing our friends and grandchildren, lost holidays and working from home. Remember Dominic Cummings!

 

Just when we were looking forward to regaining our freedoms and not having to watch the rolling news, Russia invaded Ukraine and showed us more horrors. This Journal is not about the war, it's about how we came through Covid together and survived. Life continues and will always throw up more problems. Climate change hasn't gone away. Despotic regimes will continue to abuse their own people. I started learning Russian just before the invasion, then felt terribly guilty. No need, I have discovered that Ukrainian shares many words with Russian, so I could switch my lessons quite easily. How ironic that in spite of what the two countries have in common, they are divided. 

 

However, these last two years have also highlighted the care and generosity of the majority of people, the sacrifices people are willing to make for others, the human warmth and companionship which endures forever. This Journal has been a meeting place for people wanting to share their experiences, a light at the end of the tunnel and a beacon of creativity in a world floundering in negativity. For me, it has not just been a forum, it has been far better than any social media, blog or chat room. It has been an opportunity to write my thoughts without fear of criticism in a safe environment of like minded people all around the world.

 

First of all I want to thank Margaret, Peter, Sheila and Chris, for the generous gift of their time, for opening their houses to us at the garden party, for organising this wonderful Journal, appreciated by so many. Then all the Journalists from Norfolk, Twickenham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, the Isle of Wight and elsewhere in the UK, from Washington, New York, South Africa, Melbourne, Norway, Sweden, France and Germany, for the huge variety in experiences shared. Many thanks to the lovely Macrae children for their unique perspective on events. Most of all, I would like to thank my old friend “Nicky from Vermont” for inviting me to take part, for getting me writing again and encouraging my efforts, which led me to the March Arts Marathon and contributing to Writers For Ukraine. I don't think I will stop writing now, after this modern “Journal of the Plague Year “got me started. And we're in the British Library! Well done everyone!

 

Today I hear there's a new strain of Omicron which is even more transmissible than the last and there may be a new surge. We are barely listening, we just want to enjoy the spring sunshine and look forward to better times and family outings, while praying for world peace. Our Amnesty group is celebrating this week the release of our Prisoner of Conscience, Raif Badawi, from jail in Saudi Arabia, and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori  from their unfair detention in Iran. At last we can feel all our letters and petitions were worthwhile, even if in the end we have to rely on events beyond our power. I firmly believe there is no force that can destroy the human spirit.

The TV commentator from Cheltenham has just said “What a day to be alive”! Let's drink to that.

 

If anyone would like to keep in touch, I am on Facebook, or I'm sure Margaret or Sheila would happily pass on any messages. Good luck and the joy of human kindness to you all.

 

Linzy

20/03/2022

Care in the time of Corona

Shirin Jacob, Ålesund, Norway

There are some dates seared in my brain: my daughter’s birth, my mother’s death, the day I met my husband, the 11th of March 2020 when WHO declared the Covid pandemic and the 24th of February 2022. 

 

The image on TV of Zelensky standing with his ministers in Kyiv on the first day of the invasion will stay with me for a very long time. We needed a Hero. Someone to inspire us. Our leaders have been so Blah! Not Erna Solberg though. I love her but she got voted out by bored voters in search of the next best thing.  

 

In my opinion, Zelensky is the perfect coaching model. “Think it, Feel it, Be it” fits him to a T.  

 

A comedian who practiced playing a President in a TV series. Practice and practice. Almost unbelievably, he was elected as President of Ukraine in 2019. More Practice and practice. And in this darkest of times, rose to be a Hero. Mastery.  

 

He brought Russian and Ukrainian speaking Ukrainians under one umbrella with his stirring rhetoric. It helped that he grew up in a tough neighbourhood and had practice in getting the boys in the hood to protect him by using his humour and charm. Zelensky and his wife’s decision to stay in Kyiv with his children and stand up to a bully, by being prepared to die for his country, electrified the people of Ukraine and millions around the world. After the stumbling and sometimes shambolic leadership during COVID, we were ready for a leader and a Hero. Zelensky and Ukraine have also discovered, like many of us who embark on our hero’s journey through the valley of darkness, who our Real Friends are. 

 

A candle burns in our home for the Ukrainians. 

 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe finally reached London last night after a six-year nightmare. This is the power of Resilience and Perseverance. I am so happy for her, her daughter and husband. I admire the significance of her yellow dress, bag and scarf that she chose to wear. 

 

Spring is slowly dawning on us. The crocuses and snowdrops have emerged and some brave narcissi are blooming. Its 12 degrees today! I learnt something new from an elderly gent buying eight pots of Narcissus 'Tête-à-tête'.  He was going to plant them at his wife’s gravesite because the deer left yellow narcissus alone. Great info for our garden which is frequently visited by deer. I’m constantly learning little titbits about the weather, appropriate clothing, seasonal flowers and food and cultural differences. The need to understand nuance in a foreign land is so important in order to integrate.   

 

We are still in search of a puppy. My daughter sent me a book by Dr Ian Dunbar on puppy rearing and warned me to read it with a pinch of salt. He is a believer in crating and chewtoys. I heard of a well-known Norwegian dog trainer, Turid Rugaas (author of “On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals” and very anti-crates) from a friend and started a dog training course with the Nordic Education Center for Dog Trainers (www.nordicdogtrainer.com) run by the wonderful Lisbeth Borg de Waard, based on positive dog training methods. If I am going to have a puppy in my early sixties, let’s do it right. I last attended puppy classes in my early 20’s with my Labrador. Times have radically changed in the understanding of dog psychology, reading their body language, nutrition, use of harnesses rather than leads and most importantly retraining dog owners. Best parents to a pup are calm parents.  

In the meantime, I have ordered five roses to plant in a big circle in the middle of the front garden. After much consideration of the temperature and high rainfall, I decided on David Austin’s Boscobel, Eustacia Vye, Queen of Sweden, Gentle Hermoine and Crown Princess Margareta. I found a lovely man Knut Auke of Hesleberg Gartneri in the south, who will send me the roses in early May. He also has many wonderful ramblers including the very thorny Kiftsgate climber which I’m considering growing on the Sitkas at the back.  

 

The last two years of writing for this journal has brought a sea change in myself. Getting used to isolation, gratitude for my life in Norway, focusing on the garden and finding friends online like Barbara Warsop, Dr Marie Christine Merleau and Margaret Steward. Amazing, resilient and inspiring women. Thank you, my darlings. Au revoir.  

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20/03/2022

Notes from a factory in the Midlands

MFS, Midlands

It is timely that as our journal draws to its close, the medical journal “The Lancet” published on 10th March a paper entitled “Estimating Excess Mortality due to the Covid-19 Pandemic”. This looks at mortality rates for calendar years 2020 and 2021 compared to average mortality rates 2015 to 2019. I have extracted from the research paper the following data:  

 

Country Excess Deaths per 100,000 population 2020-21

 

France              124.2

Germany         120.5

Italy                  227.4

Spain                186.7

Sweden              91.2

UK                    126.8

Australia          Minus 37.6

New Zealand   Minus 9.3

 

This reduces thousands of individual personal tragedies to cold statistics but provides an impartial assessment of how different countries fared. To read the data you have to imagine that for every 100,000 people in a country, there is an “expected” number of deaths each year (in the UK it is in the order of 1,100 per 100,000 in a normal year). The number of people who died in the two-year period was (in the case of the UK) 126.8 more than recent years. It shows that the UK was slightly worse hit than Germany or France, but much less badly affected than Spain or Italy. Within the UK, England fared slightly better than the devolved nations. Of course, not all these excess deaths will have been caused directly by Covid-19. Some will have been due to lockdown misery and the shutting down of large swathes of normal public health services. But overall the data suggests that the UK outcome was “middle of the pack” when compared with comparable nations. 

 

But it is fascinating to see the outcomes in Australia and New Zealand, where the number is negative, meaning that in the two-year period, there were fewer overall deaths than recent years. This shows the apparent successive of their extreme isolationist policies at keeping Covid-19 at bay (though naturally as they open up, Covid infection rates are now rising considerably) and perhaps because as well as experiencing very little Covid-19, there will have been fewer deaths from “normal” respiratory diseases, because of greatly reduced human interaction due to lockdown rules.

 

And what have we learned from the last two years? 

 

  • We should never again use legally enforced aggressive lockdown measures (banning people from sitting on park benches and the like) but should instead use voluntary guidance and lots of public information, as was the case in Sweden.

  • We should never again close schools in the way that we did. This has resulted in tens of thousands of children simply vanishing from school rolls and has opened up even further the attainment gap which so cruelly handicaps children with less supportive home environments. We really need some proper research on the effectiveness of face masks in different environments. Today the remaining face mask wearing just looks like virtue signalling. 

  • We need to find a way to keep the health service open for screening and treatment of other ailments during a pandemic illness.

  • We should never again trust the Chinese to be open and transparent about emerging diseases, and perhaps we should try and remove their stranglehold over the WHO.

 

Time to draw a line under Covid. It isn’t going away. It will probably continue to circulate for ever, people will continue to catch it, some unfortunately will die from it, and each autumn we will be getting a Covid booster jab alongside our annual flu vaccination.  

 

But in this final journal entry, I feel the need to make some comment about the new horror transfixing the world (or at least the Western world), namely Russia’s imperialistic invasion of Ukraine. How self-indulgent we were, thinking that the important things we needed to worry about were post-Brexit fishing quotas, pronoun choices, lockdown parties and face masks! For the last 30 years Germany and its allies have been happily handing over billions of dollars to Russia in return for easy supplies of gas and other natural resources (and they are continuing to fund the Russian war effort, with no realistic prospect of them stopping anytime soon, because of the pain it would cause to the German economy to switch off the Russian gas supply). And the financiers and lawyers in London have happily managed the resulting oligarch wealth. Now the folly of Germany’s cosying up to Russia has been brutally exposed, and the UK’s role in looking after ill-gained Russian wealth is a shameful embarrassment. 

 

For now, I guess we must continue to give Ukraine as much military support as we can, without directly engaging with Russia's armed forces. As well as being the first country to deliver substantial quantities of arms as a response to the Russian threat in early 2022, the UK had been actively training Ukraine troops for the last five years, but I can’t see any prospect of the UK or other NATO countries officially putting troops on the ground. I suppose we must hope that a ceasefire can be agreed to slow the mounting death toll. What a long-term resolution might be, I have no idea. I can’t see Putin agreeing to withdraw. And equally I can’t see Ukraine accepting a permanent occupation or annexation of part of their country. 

 

On a more mundane note, each day now starts with competitive WORDL, as we compete to solve that day’s puzzle in the fewest number of attempts. I've had only one fail out of 53 games played so far. Our social and cultural life is more or less back to normal. We thoroughly enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s film “Belfast” at the cinema in Leamington Spa recently, and we also went to the RSC’s current performance of Much Ado About Nothing at Stratford. We have re-booked a trip to Naples next month, that was originally planned for April 2020. And my little house in Corby near the factory, where I have been staying during the week for the last seven years, is now on the market and attracting offers. Hopefully we will soon convert that chunk of bricks and mortar into cash to take advantage of long-awaited rising interest rates. 

 

And that’s it! Over 36,000 words of the disjointed ramblings of a now retired company finance director, through two years of the most unimaginably strange and difficult times. Whether anyone ever reads this record of the last two years, I have no idea, but if you do, I hope you enjoyed it. And finally, a thank you to our editor for the original idea and the encouragement to us all to keep at it.

 

Cheerio!

20/03/2022

Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Suffolk

Lately I seem to have had a lot of time to think about life. Several hospital and GP surgery appointments have meant sitting in waiting rooms, watching and listening and just thinking. Funny how twenty minutes of waiting can feel like hours and hours…

 

In the hospital Out Patients Department, everyone is still wearing face masks and the early Pandemic rules seem to have hardly changed. Clinical staff keep contact to a minimum and the admin staff are separated by clear screens. There are fewer people around. Chairs set at a distance mean we all sit well apart. There’s less chatter, less waiting room ‘bonhomie’ (none of the “I was booked for 10.30, how about you?”). In fact, there’s much less noise generally… the occasional click as the hand gel dispenser gets pushed or as a door opens but the hustle and bustle of hospital life I recall from just a few years ago seems to have been much subdued. Somehow - being jolly is less of a virtue now. There is a hush of seriousness. The cheerful, chirpy ringtone of a fellow patient’s phone elicits stony glances from the others waiting. Eyebrows rise and fall. Frowns form above blue paper masks. We look down at our appointment letters and read the words over again…

 

Once the appointment is over - I’m out through the double doors and back into the spring sunshine - and it is easier to forget that Covid has dominated, curtailed and refocused our lives for the past two years. Now - of course - we all have some major new concerns - mostly and quite rightly - the utter atrocities occurring elsewhere in the world, but there’s also worry at the rising cost of living, the price of petrol, heating oil, electricity, gas and food. I get back home and just as I’m closing the gates to my driveway, a dog walker catches me and wants to chat. “I predicted all of this you know”, he tells me as he leans on the gate, “I said to my wife right at the start - we’ll be paying for this for years”. I nod and he continues “And all this trouble with Russia. I knew it was coming. Knew it”. I’m tempted to ask him this week’s winning lottery numbers but think better of it. Instead I say “What a lovely dog! Is he friendly?”. A wagging tail gives me the answer and after a little banter, ‘Mystic Mick’ (or whatever his name is) and his delightful dog depart to share their pearls of wisdom at other gates, with other people.

 

So I guess this really is goodbye this time. The final entry I will send. And once again, it is a huge thank you to Margaret and Sheila and the writers and readers. We made it! When I received Margaret’s message to say the journal will be archived - a pang of doubt made me want to go through what I’d written in the past, to check and correct my grammar, cut out the unnecessary words, show the more upbeat side of me, the better side, the clever, witty, knowledgeable side of me. But hey ho - on reflection, too late for that. It’s “warts and all”.  The Covid period has been difficult for me on lots of levels - I may sound resentful when I say I feel I have lost important years, but then again, I really do feel that. I know too that we all have suffered losses. I have been lucky in being spared the loss of any loved ones due to Covid, but I have lost friends through the isolation and separation, lost important time with people important to me.

I am going out today. Lunch in Dunwich and a walk on the beach are definitely in order! The sun is shining. It is a beautiful spring morning. I’ve got a James Taylor song playing. The dogs are starting to get restless. They need their walk. Life is good. 

 

Take care, stay safe and enjoy x

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20/03/2022

The runaway diaries

Sophie Austin, London

Two years ago, (is it really only two??) we packed up the car and escaped from London to the Welsh Mountains, we were running from an invisible airborne enemy and had the good fortune to have a safe house in the middle of nowhere surrounded by fresh air and isolation. We thought we’d be there for three weeks and stayed for three months. 

 

Last week I packed some of your warm clothes that would have kept you cosy over those months and delivered them to a local restaurant taking donations for Ukrainian people escaping from their cities, seeking safety in Poland. Those children, born during a pandemic are now running from a war. What did their mothers manage to pack? How long will they be away from their homes?

 

Writing in this journal, I have often commented on how time does not seem to go in a straight line, it seems to shrink, stretch, and today, it certainly feels like we have been pulled back 100 years.

 

83 years ago your dad’s Grandma fled Vienna for London leaving a husband and a Nazi occupation behind her. Busi was born in Czernovitz, which is currently in Ukraine. When the town became occupied, she left for Vienna in 1930. She never mentioned the man she married in Vienna and went on to marry again when she came to London. She worked as a domestic servant before training to become a midwife whilst also becoming a single mother to your Granny. The trauma of her war time experience stayed with her throughout her life and there was a lot she didn’t talk about. After Busi’s death, your dad found her Austrian marriage certificate, and now, 15 years later, that certificate has enabled you, your dad, your aunty, cousins and your Granny to become Austrian Citizens. As Austria attempts to take some responsibility for those families driven away by fascism during the Second World War, in another part of Europe, families are being forced to flee. Again. 

 

In our own small corner of South East London, we are finding a new rhythm, as we ‘live’ with Coronavirus. Our community has opened up and weekends fill up with classes and playdates. You start school in September and you’re ready, eager to read, to know stuff. These last two years don’t seem to have affected your social skills and your love of nature has extended to the worms strewn across the path in the rain. You diligently put each one back on the grass before they get squashed by buggies and busy feet. 

 

Your dad is busier than ever; the tv and film industries are booming and there’s never enough crew to go round. And me? Well, I’m dragging my feet a little. The theatre industry feels like a closed shop right now so I’m exploring a new way of working with communities to tell stories about their co-existence with the land, with the aim of capturing a new story about what it means to live in the UK today. I’ve also started my modelling career at 39, yep you read that right! Mummy has become a model, proudly advertising Sainsbury’s Sustainable brands. It happened one Thursday when a casting director approached me in the street. I laughed at first, but then, why not? Life is short after all, and if I can be an ambassador for beauty in all its forms, then I’m in. The kind comments from friends who have been lifted after seeing my big pink face grinning at them through the Winter gloom have made it worthwhile. 

 

I guess what I have learnt over these last two years, to keep my spirits from sinking, is to look beyond the headlines and focus on the individual stories. Stories which tell of kindness, generosity and humour, the most important human traits that have shone in abundance during the pandemic and will surface again during this stupid war. There have been so many heartening stories shared in this journal and I will continue to seek them out and share them widely. 

 

You, my wonderful boy, have these traits in abundance and keep my spirit soaring even on the darkest days, so thanks to you, if you ever read these entries and thanks to all the writers, readers and editors of this journal for keeping my love for humanity alive!

20/03/2022

Then and Now

Peter Scupham

Margaret’s radio play ‘The View from the Hill’ has an elderly poet stuck with a writer’s block.  
This poem broke that block !

 

THE VIEW FROM THE HILL

 

At the kite’s tail we tethered in the sky,

A landscape hung, and wind, oracular,

Thrummed in the cord, keeping a weather eye

On what was far but near, and near but far:

 

A sibyl’s voice, whose dark enchantments ran

Loose in the chequered birdsong of the shire,

Singing of youth and age, of boy and man,

Breaking the clay to green, the ash to fire.

 

I felt new powers, old principalities

Renew the contours of the land, and then,

The spit not dry upon my purblind eyes

I saw men as trees walking, men as men.

The Hill

20/03/2022

From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

Where do I start? How do I finish? Here I am, two years on from the birth of our Journal, lost for words…

I said in the introduction to the journal in 2020 that Mass Observation had given me the idea for keeping a record of the Pandemic..

‘And I thought, why not now, for the next twelve weeks, perhaps longer?’  

 

Well, it turned into Perhaps Longer. And Longer. Reading earlier entries, it strikes me how our feelings and attitudes have evolved hugely over those two years. I’m sure in the future,  2020-2022  will be looked on as a watershed, a hinge in history, a period outside time. I feel changed. Much more than two years older for a start. I think that’s to do with the isolation, the repetition, the difficulty in telling one day from the next. And I think this second year has been harder because, perhaps, of normality seeming closer but never close enough. Frustrating. Exhausting.

But here we are, surviving after a fashion. 

Not so further east: first Plague, then War. 

 

Peter celebrated his 89th birthday on February 24th. As we sat down to a late celebratory candlelit breakfast, with the company of Jane from St Just, we realised that this date would be remembered henceforth as the day Russia invaded Ukraine. 

Three weeks on, and Ukraine is still resisting, women and children are fleeing, Putin is becoming more desperate and isolated, and we are all holding our breath. What happens next? COVID suddenly seems a mild irritation compared to what is happening on the eastern fringes of Europe.

I continue to plant seeds, pot dahlias, turn to the garden, talk to the cats, hopeful but never sure that life must go on. 

 

Thank you all of you, writers and readers of the last two years. Thank you Sheila, for making it all possible and doing all the hard work while I danced about on the sidelines making encouraging noises. Thanks to everyone for your friendship, loyalty, observations; for making me laugh, making me cry, making me think. For keeping me company. I’ll miss you all so please keep in touch when you’ve time (contact details below) and if you’re ever in Norfolk, Peter and I keep open house and would love to see you. Remember there’s a WhatsApp group, and know that I’m very happy to act as a clearing house to others for news and messages.

Margaretsteward2 (Instagram);
tudormermaid@gmail.com

I’ll let you all know when the British Library has archived the Journal, and if we are not blown up first, perhaps we’ll gather together for another Summer Garden party!

Love and good wishes to you all! 

I’ll get back to planting seeds .

‘If we could get the hang of it entirely

  It would take too long;

All we know is the splash of words in passing

  And falling twigs of song..’.            

 

Louis Macneice

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