Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire
One year on and it is difficult to choose what to write about. Over the year there have been so many changes in what we have and haven’t been allowed to do. It has been strange to have our lives so controlled when we live in a country that has so much personal freedom compared to other parts of the world. People rebelled against the rules, saying ‘they infringe our human rights’. But most people quickly realised we needed to protect ourselves and each other from this frightening virus and the only way to do so was to ‘stick to the rules’. It was amazing to hear reports of how differently the people of countries across the world responded to their own government’s rules.
I have spent a few hours today looking back at the journal entries, mainly mine but some of the others as well. I really needed a few days to read all of them. I was interested to read the entries from Chris Gates for the first week of the first Lockdown. This was before everyone else joined in. I hadn’t read them before. The thinking then was that ‘it will be over in 12 weeks if we all follow the rules’. Slowly that goal moved further and further away.
On March 28th 2020 we had our first family Zoom call (10 adults and 5 children) to wish our eldest son a happy birthday. It was utterly chaotic with everybody trying to talk at once and the youngest granddaughter trying to look behind the screen to see where we all were. ‘We’ll have a proper family get together for your birthday next year’ we said. Sadly, not to be. Since that first Zoom even we oldies have become much more adept at using our devices. And how lucky we have been to be able to keep in touch and see each other, even if only on a screen.
We have played Articulate and Ticket to Ride with Mary and Simon.
We have done crosswords and played Codenames with our children.
I have had drama workshops and done Pilates.
I have done paper and fabric printing with Mary and craft activities with my granddaughter.
There have been quizzes, cookery competitions, musical instrument lessons and long chats.
In April I started sending parcels to our children to cheer them up – usually cheese straws and cake. I was worried that with everyone sending more parcels and buying more stuff online we were putting the delivery drivers at risk. I started making masks. I remember going into a supermarket for the first time after Lockdown and taking a mask but not wearing it as no-one else was. Also in April we were worried that children were missing out on education but had no idea just how much they would miss. The weather was glorious and it was too hot to be gardening during the day on 23rd April.
In May there was talk of a vaccine but we were told it would take three years of testing before it would be ready to administer. Thank goodness they were wrong about that.
As the summer continued the numbers of infections and deaths went down and it seemed like it was all going to be ok. Lockdown loosened and we took our camper van to the coast, relishing the freedom and being by the sea. In August we took the three oldest grandchildren camping for a few days which was wonderful. We were always Covid careful and had little interaction with other people. The camp sites were Covid safe and very well organised. Later we spent a week cat sitting in Hampshire and then took our van to Devon and Cornwall, catching up with friends outside, walking, swimming in the sea and paddle boarding. The sun just kept shining and it was easy to be safe while you could live your life outside. Presumably that is why Cornwall didn’t get a huge spike in infections even though they had masses of visitors over the summer.
These trips and the summer sunshine gave me a big boost. Although there was talk of a possible second wave I thought that if it did happen it would be short lived and more easily controlled as we would know what to do. Also news of a vaccine roll out beginning before Christmas was reassuring.
By October things weren’t looking good and I wrote that I wished I could hibernate until Spring. We had been told that the virus didn’t survive so well in hot weather and we were coming up to winter. I was worried. We all had to lockdown again and Christmas plans were shelved. Lockdown rules for the few days around Christmas were changed to allow families a chance to meet up. This was followed by numbers of infections soaring and in January deaths passed 100,000. Now we are over 125,000. In December we said we would have our family Christmas get together at Easter. Now we are planning it for Number two son’s birthday on midsummer’s day when we all hope to be free. But will it go ahead? I’m not taking anything for granted now.
Many things have helped me stay mostly positive over the last year: Zoom connections, Netflix, reading books recommended by friends, making and creating, drama, good neighbours, friends and family, long walks, where we live, visits to different places, gardening, sunshine and last but not least contributing to and reading the Journal . Sunday morning coffee and reading the Journal has become something to look forward to.
Thank you everyone.
A year of crafts with Margot, summer camping and cheese straws
Hello from Eastbourne
Decency by Shirley-Anne Macrae
My volunteer role at the COVID testing centre has come to an end. The pupils are now proficient in performing the tests and have been provided with kits to self test in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.
Most of us know by now that while not a painful procedure, it is an unpleasant one. It typically went like this:
Act One, scene one. Monday morning. Covid testing centre.
Me: Good morning Xander, how are you doing today?
Xander: I'm decent Miss.
Me: Great to hear Xander. So, sanitise your hands and in your own time, open the swab, touching only the tip.
Xander: I can't open it Miss. My hands are shaking too much.
Me: They are tricky to open Xander but just take your time.
Xander: I can't Miss, I can't stop shaking. Can you open it for me Miss? I think you'll have to do it.
Me: I'm not allowed to touch it Xander. Just relax and take your time. Ah, there, see, you've done it. So, when you're ready, rub up and down on each tonsil for five seconds. Try not to touch your cheeks, tongue or teeth. And remember, gagging is good Xander! It shows you've got to your tonsils. We should all be gagging (said with jollity).
Xander scrubs both tonsils, up, down, gags, becomes tearful and repeats on the other side. I count down 5,4,3,2,1, to motivate him.
Me: well done Xander, good lad. It's not an easy thing to do. We're nearly finished now, you know the drill, ten seconds up a nostril of your choice. Remember, right up into the nose cavity and when you're in, twirl the swab around and I'll count down from ten.
Xander (teary eyed and shaking): Oh god Miss, I hate this next bit. I'm not decent at it.
Me: it's not a natural thing to do Xander, it's uncomfortable and I'm so sorry. But you are doing great and more to the point, you're contributing to the effort to control this virus. Give yourself a pat on the back. You're really helping in the journey to getting back to normal. Come on, you can do this. That's it, good lad. Here we go, 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, awesome Xander, stick it brush side down into the test tube. Take it easy mate, you're ok, deep breath now.
Xander: Thank you Miss. You're decent. I'm sorry I'm upset, I'm not usually like this, I don't know what is the matter with me.
Me: No need to be sorry Xander, you're doing great and should be proud of yourself. It's not an easy thing to do. And most people get upset, it's not just you.
Xander: Thank you Miss. Thank you. You're decent.
Me: No worries mate. You'll get the result in your phone in 25 minutes. See you on Thursday.
Xander: Thanks Miss, have a decent week.
It was at this stage that Xander and his peers would attempt a fist pump then remember that it was no longer allowed. A shy wave would follow.
This was the case for every young person I supervised with a few exceptions, twice a week. I didn't get any grief, just lots of humbleness, politeness and gratefulness. I really wanted to hug them and they me. Charles next door to me though, wow, he was on the receiving end of some verbal! If you ask me though, it was Charles's own fault. Charles you see, was curt and impatient. He thought that the students were spreading COVID and ought to be back tucked up at home. If they were at home, it would be safer for everyone and we needn't be in Lockdown. I can't write a typical scenario for Charles because whilst not angelic, there are certainly some words that don't pass my lips and Charles was called those words quite a few times. Personally, I think it would be an excellent life skill if the young could express their anger and frustration in more sophisticated terms but in honesty we've all been there and their filter is still in the developmental stage. The brain isn't fully developed until the age of 25. So Charles copped it a few times, deservedly so I think.
COVID testing has been an eye opener. The young are keen to play their part and on the whole, are desperate to remain in school. But they are young and they are nervous of the test. The teachers report a massive improvement in behaviour and work ethic. It would seem that school too, was something people took for granted. They have got it back and they want to keep it. It's the best place for them, whatever Charles thinks. I've enjoyed getting to know the young immensely. I wish them all well. In addition, my grocery run has become livlier as I frequently hear "Yo! Miss!" in Waitrose. It's decent...
Hello from Eastbourne
A year of COVID in a nutshell by Franklin Lewis Macrae
This week marks a whole year since COVID started being such a pain. In some cases though, it's had a positive effect.
For me, I'm looking forward to the restrictions being lifted because I really miss going to see friends and family in their houses. I have however learned some new skills, like touch typing and I can complete most Rubik's Cubes in under a minute. I'm much better with my yo-yo too and then we got Saskia the cat!
COVID 19 has killed so many people and that's a tragedy. But it has been good for the environment. With the population being inside, air pollution and litter have become less of a problem. Did you know that England went a whole two months without burning any coal? That's the longest since the Industrial Revolution!
A whole year! By Marli Rose Macrae
This week is the anniversaries of both COVID and the Plague Journals! We thought it would only last for 12 weeks but it's been a whole year!
Lots of things have changed since then but my favourite change to my life has been getting Saskia. The most memorable things from last year were going down to Beastie Cove at 6 o'clock in the morning. I can still vividly remember the sunrise orange and blush pink sky, the sun peeking up and gazing onto the land below. The sea glittered and gleamed and I felt so lucky.
The thing I hated the most was remote learning. It was torture not seeing friends.
I have never before had to consider what it would be like to not see my Granny Aye, not until the Lockdown. Before that, I suppose it was a thing that just happened, that she would visit or we would visit her. I didn't know I could miss her so much. So I supposed COVID has taught me not to take her, or anyone, for granted.
I miss looking around the shops. I don't like having to social distance and wash my hands all the time, I have never accepted that. I'm sad we can't go to Granny Aye's house in Spain and I don't think we will go this year. But we're still all here and that's what's important.
Choose something like a star
What a strange weekend! This time last year one of my grand daughters was turning fifteen. What a difference a year makes, in space and time. As another grand daughter is about to come downstairs after a journey back from Leeds university last night, I thought I'd just write down what I am very thankful for.
Everyone's still here! That's the biggest thing. Despite isolation, scary times, fear, worry, financial near disaster and more, watching my family and friends struggle with totally unpredictable feelings and unforeseen circumstances, we're all here and living and loving, mostly, our lives.
Nature will always win! My other feeling. Whatever happens, in the big huge scheme of things, one day nature will reclaim the earth. I have just loved walking in my local area so much, especially over the last few months as I set out on at least one all day walk, with a rucksack on my back and a flask of coffee. Trees are beautiful. Hills and forests and woods and paths and little villages and churches and forgotten houses are rich in feeling and quiet and special. I've been able to paint so much more. Ok, money is tight but I've got enough. Things are ok. Every so often I send a small financial present to one of my Indian or Nepali friends and what to us is a meal out, to them is 20 days work in the fields (if they can get it, as there are still no tourists) so thank goodness we are in a country with a support system AND the NHS.
I've been lucky enough not to fall ill but to know that the system is there, well what a cliche, but don't we just all take it for granted?
Books, so many to read but the one I've almost finished, Hamnet, has really brought home what it must have been like in the time of the plague with no medical knowledge (as we know it today) we really don't have to rely on strapping a dried toad to our stomachs to bring a fever down.
Two more things I'm so grateful for :
1. Loki who has brought calm, love, energy and routine to my daughters family. What a gorgeous dog. Half Springer spaniel and half Australian cattle dog, he's a lovely bouncy character.
2. Our new baby in the family, Sam and Laura's little Poppy. Born in the last lockdown, a real little bundle of beauty. It's been quite hard for them not to be able to see families much as yet, but I got a visit in and we are all so happy to see a new life, a joy.
I wish you well, everyone, and may the coming year be full of Louis Armstrongs words... it is, despite all difficulties, a wonderful world. X
My feelings on paper
Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire
Last year on the 21st March 2020 was my granddaughter’s 22nd birthday.
We were not allowed to all meet indoors so we decided as a family to take a birthday picnic on the moors where there is lots of space and not many people. My daughter Sarah made pizza, quiche, sandwiches and cake and loaded it in boxes to take with us. Taking our own flasks. Escaping the impending lock down of Covid 19. It was a freezing cold day with wind chill. We dressed in warm coats, boots, gloves and scarves, taking chairs and blankets to sit in a favorite spot near some rocks with a little shelter from the wind. But this was a day of change.
Everyone must have had the same idea. We were driving past the local beauty spot of Dam flask reservoir and I have never seen so many cars parked around there. Not a parking space available. We carried on driving up the hill to Bradfield Moor. We were shocked as we could hardly find a place to park. There were crowds. We were a family of Seven in three cars. We did finally find a place to park and enjoyed the picnic of sorts and couldn’t wait to get home to get warm. It was a memorable day I will never forget.
After that I was alone at home in isolation as I had just lost my husband in May 2019. Still grieving. With no hugs from my children. That has been so hard for me. My daughter Ellen who lives in Oldham who I have not seen for months suggested that I write for the plague 20 journal putting in a poem I wrote when my Leslie passed away.
So that has been my life line, saving me from madness. I have also made new friends on the journal who I am fortunate to be able to chat with on face time. To have a laugh and share experiences with these two wonderful people Shirin Jacob and Mary Fisher. One good thing to be thankful for.
I have spent the summer months walking alone for an hour once a day up the lane near my home where in spring I saw little owls nesting in the walls between the fields all the bird song was wonderful and seeing hares scampering around the fields, taking lots of photos of all the seasons. Someone at the beginning of lock down hung little notices along the way written on small pieces of wood in pyrography. Every day I looked for them, a kind person communicating with others. I never knew who did this and never found out.
I spent the rest of this year waiting for my girls to deliver my food to the door step and stepping back. They have been very protective of me being old and not wanting to lose me after just losing their dad. I loved the summer months when I could meet my girls in my garden. But this winter has been the worst I have ever lived through.
I have spent time doing jigsaw, reading, done X Stitch, and watched far too much rubbish on TV and I comfort eat so have gained 9 pounds in weight. Not good for me at all. Sat too long not wanting to do anything creating pains in my body for sitting too long in one place.
Yesterday I finally met a friend for a socially distance walk that really did me good. We always met on Wednesdays and I have not seen her since August. Before Covid my daughter Sarah bought tickets for my birthday to see Andre Rieu this has been cancelled twice and I may get to see the show in 2022. Three holidays have been cancelled.
I am usually a gregarious person but now feel like I don’t want to see people anymore as I am in such a rut. I really look forward to just going in my garden and at the moment the first bulbs are showing signs of spring. Roll on summer. The lighter nights will surely cheer me up.
Still keeping safe. Love to all you journalists.
Happy Anniversary Everyone
Formerly from St Just
Jane G, North Oxfordshire
Yesterday in our weekly college crisis meeting someone pointed out that it was the anniversary of working from home. I do remember that, vaguely, but because Paul had died 10 days earlier, I was entirely focused on the need to get clear of term and get to Cornwall for his funeral. And so lockdown struck when I wasn’t paying attention – and that seems to have been the way of the year. Work has been ferocious, because as Tutor for Undergraduates I’m on almost all of the college’s (rather many) normal committees, and now on a couple of its crisis ones as well – and one of my main jobs is trying to sort out troubled undergraduates, of whom there are roughly four times as many as usual. This is on top of standard teaching, research, and admin, not instead of … but in many ways it’s probably better not to have had time to think.
One thing I did realise recently was that since last March I’ve been in physical contact with another human being precisely three times: once in July, when my fingers brushed those of a woman on the till at Waitrose and we both squeaked and snatched back our hands; once in December, when a kind friend gave me an illegal hug after Smokey died; and once on Monday, when the doctor took hold of my arm to inject the vaccine – and I think she might have been wearing gloves.
It’s probably not surprising people are going a bit strange in the head. My neighbours’ children, who even as late as last autumn were wonderfully bubbly, yelling at me over two walls to watch them on the swing and had I seen their new paddling pool and what was I doing on the roof, now skulk by looking nervous. And when we discussed in one of the many meetings whether we might plan some celebratory dinners for finalists after 21 June, several people instantly said ‘only if we can have them outside’, as if they couldn’t conceive of a gathering not being dangerous. And while I don’t share that fear, I was suddenly alarmed at the idea of being in a room with other people, simply because I can’t remember how to do it. How does conversation work? Will I fall over their feet? Will they eat my food?
What I do fear is that the government has got so used to locking us down that they will keep on doing it on the slightest provocation - for example because it's winter. Or because the science says it might one day be winter. Or because someone lit a candle.
Mary’s projects mostly
Mary Hildyard, Totnes, Devon
Although I am looking forward to reading what others may write for this “anniversary” edition of the Journal, for some reason I am just not ready yet, myself, to look back over this past year. I am not yet able to summarise or evaluate this strange period of my life. I have not made it to the final stage of grief which is “Acceptance”.
I can however, look back as far as a week ago when Simon and I marked a unique anniversary. As of Thursday, 11th March, we had spent a full 365 days living together. Never in our thirty two years have we managed a Full Year living together. When our Waitrose order arrived on the Wednesday I chatted, as usual, to the affable delivery driver as I unpacked our order from the crates to our bags. I mentioned that we were planning a celebration dinner for Thursday with either the duck or the lamb we had ordered. He asked, “Why the celebration?” When I explained, he asked if our togetherness was because of COVID. I affirmed. “Well” he said, “I am going to deduct the lamb from your order. Celebrate on Waitrose.”
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
In his Journal Pepys was known for a sort of annual stock-take of his life. Thought I’d do the same as we hit the Plague Journal Anniversary - a UK snapshot of just where we are:
7200 currently in hospital.
Daily Death Rate 121, declining.
Total vaccinations to date 25,000,000+ and this week we move on to those aged 50.
Expected completion of vaccination programme: end July.
A blip: 11 countries (mainly EU) paused their use of the Oxford/Astrazenica vaccine, citing blood clots and now an unexplained but thought associated death in Italy. A vigorous counter offensive hoping to restore confidence is launched and within the week there’s a U turn but much reputational damage done, here and abroad.
Nearly 9,000,000 have been tested in the past week.
We are still in a pretty complete state of lockdown, though schools and colleges are now fully open as the first sign of easing. More easings are to come at the end of the month - if we behave and keep ‘the Curve’ on a downward path.
But... there is much disquiet in the land, manifested in mass gatherings in defiance of the Police and regardless of Covid restrictions. There’s reports of increasing coastal day-tripping, only suppressed by horrible weather. Collectively we’re becoming anxious, restless, while anticipating the restoration of liberties. And the Police are increasingly seen as The Enemy.
For contrast, I offer this heartwarming, Covid-free uplift:
It concerns a most remarkable young man, Daniel. He’s Mercurial, and consequently a bit of a mystery - though hard work, boundless enthusiasm and imagination all play a part.
I mentioned in these pages last year how I’d been asked to capture a swarm of bees for him, how we’d set up a hive and housed them. It was something he’d been keen on since he broke his back a year before, and in a period of enforced and resented bedrest he’d read about beekeeping.
Daniel presides over an Antiques and Reclamation business of considerable scale and prestige, with enough expensive balls in the air for anyone normal, and even at his end of the workaholic spectrum designing a new beehive might not seem the obvious thing to do. And not only an improved beehive (working innards in the form of Polyhive components will fit) - the beehive of all beehives. He took the cottage garden ‘statement piece‘ of a traditional WBC beehive and reimagined it, bigger (a hefty 1.4m) and better.
His Trademark is an image of a cupola from the old Norwich Prison. It sits centrally in his Yard, not now for sale (we all had our chance) and there’s a resemblance:
Welcome the Britannia Beehive:
It’s the beehive for those that keep bees - or maybe for those who will never tire of it as garden sculpture. Keeping bees is not compulsory. It’ll just be a lovely thing to own, a surprising thing. It’s the Ha-Ha of beehives.
From bedridden isolation to watching bees march up into their new home, to looking at a beehive in component form and understanding and daring to reinvent it... while the dreadfulness of the Covid year was running its course, Daniel was on a mission.
Honestly I have to say this is one of the most disturbing years of my life the only highlights were that our children Ciara & Finn escaped from Wales only hours before the country locked down and made it to France to spend Christmas with us and that Trump didn’t get re elected!
I know we have had it so much easier than many people but even living in our rural heaven has felt like a prison sometimes still we are lucky no doubt!
Here is a list of some of the things I’ve done during the year:
Grown a lot of veg
Looked after and created new areas in the garden
Walked with the neighbours every Sunday morning
Studied French every day
Knitted 5 Christmas jumpers for family and friends
Made numerous jars of jams, preserves and chutneys
Did some Tai Chi & yoga, but not enough
Talked with my family & friends on Zoom, WhatsApp and Signal
Yesterday I got a letter from the french health authority saying I should contact my Dr about a vaccine appointment, hurray I can’t wait but feel bad that Jim didn't get his yet. We’re envious of the UK at last something is going better there. It’s such a sadness all this Brexit nonsense I’ve applied for my Carte Sejour to enable me to live in France and am waiting on that. Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough to marry Jim, who’s Irish, 4 years ago, it didn’t get me an Irish passport; if we’d got married 35 years ago when we started living together it would have been fine, but the laws changed damn & blast, still the kids have dual nationality which is great.
So now I’m rambling on so I think it's enough.
Tropical thoughts Part 2
Paul Lowden, Malaysia
The SUV growls slowly past
The pile of leaves which
Briefly rise and then re-settle.
Back-seated kids intent on
Film and phone wifi wired
To the 21st century update
Their popularity poll.
Mother flicks her bob, yawns
And wonders if her infidelity shows
Like the hang nail that snags her
Beyond the tinted glass the company villa
5 bedroomed-all ensuite-spa pool-airconditioned
Throughout-including maid’s room
Clad in orange team-logoed T
The estate workers barely pause
Before they re-sweep the pile,
Squat as they pick single strands of grass
From between brick cobbled street,
Brush dust from road markings, pull elbow-length
Debris from storm drains, clip rampant
Vegetation back into shape, scrape soil around
Shrubs, without looking up. The dawn’s
Monsoonal downpour now replaced by
Late afternoon equatorial glare quivers,
What must they think? Driven from home,
Given a bike from twenty years ago,
A broom. The promised land for
Refugees a gated estate of double glazing,
Golf-clubbed lawns, all Chinese lanterns and
Limousines. And yet it must be better
Than being shot at, burnt out, being ethnically cleansed;
Rather a brush than a bullet.
Hello From the Hudson Valley
Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York
It has been awhile since I last contributed to the Plague Journal. I have no other excuse than winter complacency. Margaret encouraged me to submit a piece for the anniversary issue. I am glad she did.
Today, as I am writing this, I am celebrating a personal milestone of reaching peak COVID immunity having had my second COVID vaccine (the Moderna version) two weeks ago. Michael (my husband) and I went to a local independent chemist to receive both of our doses (one month apart). Both times I was quite emotional from behind my mask, thinking about how fortunate we were to be receiving our COVID protection, while so many people had died before they were able to receive theirs. I also thought about all the people who have worked so hard in such an intense and short period of time to develop, test and distribute the vaccine.
Our first dose was easy. The injection itself was painless. We both experienced a minor sore arm later that evening and a slight blah-ness for a day. The second dose was different. When the vaccinator came into the room and as he prepared our arms I noticed his hands were very shaky. VERY SHAKY. When he gave me my injection it hurt like hell. When the vaccinator left the room we looked at each other and at the same time said “DID YOU SEE HIS HANDS SHAKING???” A couple of minutes later a woman came along to see how we were feeling. Michael mentioned to her that the vaccinator had had very shaky hands. She rolled her eyes and said “Oh I’m not surprised. He is new at this. You were his first patients.” WOA! I went home and googled “how to properly administer a COVID vaccine.” It seemed that he had done it correctly. For two days afterwards I was quite ill but I am not complaining. It was exciting to think we had made it to this point.
Last year at this time we were grieving the very recent loss of one of our two beloved dogs, Bo. What we did not know at that time one year ago, was that we were about to lose the second, Jay… to a lurking tumour which suddenly took over his little body. In between the two devastating losses, I fell in love with a photo of a rescued girl dog who was awaiting transport from North Carolina to a local rescue group here in New York. Unfortunately last March, the virus shut down all rescue transports and she got stuck at the southern facility. We ended up waiting for three months before she was able to make it north. But when she finally arrived, two weeks after Jay had been put to sleep, it was love at first sight for us. We named her Wren. She has been pure joy for us ever since. She is loving, playful, has a good sense of humour and is very protective of us. We hike for hours every day and she has a french bulldog boyfriend who lives next door with whom she is madly in love. As I write this she is sleeping by my side and it feels as if she has always been a part of us.
Congratulations to everyone for making it this far. And thank you Margaret and Sheila for all you do to keep this remarkable Journal going.
In a Canary plantation
Amanda White, Canary Islands
Postcard from Tenerife
As a non-driver working from home and living in what I have been known on a bad day with less than a third of megabits to call "the middle of the bloody sticks" (a Tenerife banana plantation), I have to say Lockdown here hasn't affected me all that much.
In fact at risk of being called a saddo, it seems to have been my normal way of life for a few years now. After I gave up first the motor bike then the 2 mile walk to the bus stop and gave in to the inevitibality of pleading with my long-suffering daughters for a lift to town, to the market, to the printer, to the post office...
But now we are in what is being called "the fourth wave" of the virus I really do realise it's time to thank my lucky stars. Thanks to my online shop I have had an income while the museums and bookshops in the UK that usually stock my wares have had to close. Here on this island most people are involved one way or another in the tourism industry. An industry that has gone down the pan since the arrival of Covid-19.
At the very beginning everyone was assiduous with keeping to Lockdown rules. Nowadays empty sanitiser dispensers at the supernmarket and unsanitised tables and chairs at cafes are par for the course. People have got tired and lax. And so we have the arrival of the fourth wave and a return to Level 1.
Curfews are in force from 10 pm to 6 am and the hoteliers have kissed goodbye to the usual Easter holiday bonanza.
Instead of tourists and Holy Week processions islanders can look forward to even stricter regulations until April 9th. Not even permitted to travel between the rest of the islands for the duration.
With 155,000 unemployed in this island alone, local charities are working flat out to deliver the necessities of life to hard-pressed local families.
Businesses are closing down and hotels are empty.
Meanwhile, down here in the plantation, we are truly lucky.
The sticks? Nah, a verdant peaceful oasis!
Snippets from Somerset
Daisy and Caroline, Somerset
This time last year not a lot had changed for us as we were in the midst of lambing so we were busy in the sheep shed and hadn’t left the house for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t until we went grocery shopping at the end of March that the outside world filtered through and we realised quite how strange things in the real world had become. Who knew that 12 months later we would still be on this strange journey!
In October 2020 we made the decision to not put the ewes back to the ram for lambs in 2021 for several reasons: I hoped that lockdown was going to be over by the spring and the B&B would be busier than ever and I wouldn’t be able to spend weeks helping mum in the sheep shed plus the mothership had an incident while repainting the house the year before and seriously damaged both feet when a rather large piece of furniture came down on both feet and damaged her ligaments, the thought of having to take her boots on and off constantly is enough to make her cry!!
We take food supplies and bird seed to my grandmother every Friday in a village 10 minutes away there are fields and fields of ewes with little lambs bouncing about and now the idea of not having little lambies is really quite sad.
However I am using my time wisely, getting the B&B and gardens ready for visitors later in the year. I’ve just had 6 tonnes of loose compost delivered and now have the daunting task of moving it by hand to my veggie patch to start a “no dig” method of growing. Wish me luck!
The garden has kept me sane through the last 12 months, I bumble my way through and am constantly learning and making mistakes but I absolutely love it and can’t wait for this growing season to begin.
Love from Somerset! ♥️
We got this! This could be cool!
t, Rural Norfolk
My last entry was in April 2020. I had enjoyed the weekly anchor of writing here. I spoke of muddling along, and hoping I would not fall flat on my face. I think it’s safe to say that I did just that. We don’t got this, it turned out to be quite devastating.
In her email about this anniversary edition, Margaret asked for “your most memorable moments in the past year, the positives, the negatives. What happens next?”
I had time for my art and was offered some wonderful opportunities. The garden has never looked better. I took my son away to university and saw him thrive. And I enjoyed the quiet of days in my studio just ‘allowed’ to paint, free from other demands. That was such a huge privilege.
My savings which kept us afloat, were finite, so I was grateful to find a new role as a Community Carer. I spend time with people who have been completely isolated for over a year, often with no comprehension of why family and friends do not come to see them. The role is fulfilling and draining in equal parts. I work long shifts to make ends meet, and have struggled to find the energy needed for my art when I am home, which was my intention. I have also watched my son get stuck back here since Christmas, his fledgling new life ripped away from him. The continuing uncertainties are difficult for a person with Autism, where routine and clarity are so important in navigating the world. I am in awe of his efforts to cope and stay positive. Meanwhile, our home of eleven years is going to be sold, and the stable base I have worked so hard to give him will be lost.
And hardest of all, I am learning to accept that I will never be with my closest friends. The ones with whom I had such exciting plans. There will be no final hug, no kiss goodbye, no hopes for a fun reunion.
So in answer to Margaret’s question, I try not to wonder what on earth next in this scary new world. I seem to be combining mid-life crisis, empty nest, and bereavement all in one perfect storm. Whilst living in the moment, and finding gratitude in small things is a noble aspiration, I also need to allow myself space to grieve for lost hopes and dreams, and the people I had hoped would share those dreams with me on the other side of this thing.
I am sharing, because I am sure there are others who are struggling to celebrate an end to restrictions. I understand we must reach that point to begin moving forward again. But just now, it looks like a door to somewhere I don’t want to be. So what happens next is that I’m going to make another mug of tea. And sometimes, that’s enough.