Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Friday night and I’ve been out cold on the sofa as usual.
The BBC are really in the shit today. An enquiry led by retired Judge Lord Dyson has found that Martin Bashir was deceitful and faked documents to get the Princess Diana interview for Panorama 25 years ago. He duped her into thinking that she couldn’t trust any one around her, faked bank statements to show payments from the security services to her staff and basically lied. This resulted in her not trusting anyone and going it alone.
There is an outcry as the BBC then covered it up and up until now and got rid of whistle blowers. Martin Bashir was reemployed by the BBC 5 or 6 years ago and then promoted. Silence money has been suggested in some quarters.
I think it is quite shocking as you don’t expect it from the BBC and you don’t know what effect it had on the rest of her decisions and ultimately her life. She died 2 years later. Her brother Earl Spencer said you can draw a straight line from that incident to her death.
Panorama did a Panorama on itself to get to the bottom of it which was on this week but I haven’t seen it yet.
I remember the interview well as it was jaw dropping! I had a hot date with a French boyfriend I was seeing at the time and he talked all the way through it which was really annoying! The words shut up may have come out of my mouth. It never progressed really but he did make the best Lemon Tart that ever was. The florist from up North will remember them.
Harry and William have issued statements.
Prince William said that it fuelled her paranoia and worsened his parents relationship. Harry has said that the "ripple effect of a culture of exploitation and unethical practices” ultimately took his mother's life. Poor Harry and William and Poor Princess Diana. It will never go away.
Harry has been talking to Oprah again about his mental health and binge drinking and drug use. I think he is being exploited in a way as he is so hurt and angry still. He has been groomed and isolated and I fear it will all end in tears. The Royal family are shocked and reeling again.
In other news there is a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after the awful bloodshed and devastation of the last couple of weeks.
The R number is slightly going up. Shoppers are shopping. (Not much in our shop).
Jeremy Paxman has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Last Saturday I had the day off from the shop to have my second jab in Norwich. As an after thought I grabbed my anorak. When I got there the queue went all the way around the car park and I stood in the cold and rain with the rest of the slightly grumbly but perfectly well humoured and polite Great British Public. Apologies from every one from the security guard to the doctors as the computer had double booked the appointments. Anyway it was fine, took a couple of hours but it’s done.
My friend Ghislaine had cooked a chicken and she brought it over when I got home and then we went for a walk in the bluebell woods with all our dogs.
On Tuesday at around 12.30 I spoke to my phone people about the box that makes the phone work in the house. It didn’t work and they were phasing it out and had turned it off. I rang them and they said the thing to do now was use Wifi calling. I had been checking my emails, then turned on wi fi calling and then went back to the emails.
As I looked at them they started deleting in front of my eyes. 2021, 2020, 2019 etc etc until the number of emails was 0. It was the most spine chilling shocking thing ever.
I spoke to the phone people, the email people and then Apple. I was on the phone for over 5 hours! It was like being in a worm hole of technical disaster. The whole inbox of years and years had deleted and that was that, they were gone. It actually turned out in the end that they were mostly still on my big computer so could have been worse. I have to copy them into the back up but they’ve gone from the lap top and phone. The big computer is not connected to the email at the moment and is staying that way until I copy them. The apple guy who was talking to me from Athens was very helpful and said he would try and work out what to do next and would ring the next day.
I was so cold and shocked by this time I just had to get in the bath and thaw out. It was a nightmare as I thought I was being hacked or something untoward was going on but wasn’t sure what. It was terrifying and is still not quite resolved.
Last night C Club, the monthly dinner usually here with my 2 friends was back on but at S’s house so I actually went out to dinner. The second meal in a week that someone else has cooked for me which is very exciting. It was lovely to go out and see my friends after all this time. R was telling us about her mum who is suffering from dementia. In the home where she is there is a dementia cat called Toby. He is a robot but looks like a fluffy ginger tom and he responds to the person petting him. The more you stroke him the more reaction you get from him. What a lovely thing. He was a gift from a husband who's wife had been there.
The Pursuit of Love has been on the telly for the last couple of weeks in the Sunday evening Line of Duty spot. Very well done, charming and funny and brilliantly acted. Lord Merlin played by Andrew Scott was a triumph.
Gorgeous clothes and houses.
Oh yes, talking of fabrics, the Man Can has been ordered! Of course it has!!!
Lots of love Annabel xxx
From rural New York
Sandy Connors, USA
One never knows what the future will bring so I had no idea that this week I would write about the imminent passing of one of my oldest friends, actually my oldest friend’s husband. We met 45 years ago, two divorced mothers with children in the same day care. Our children became friends then so did we, helping one another as we made our way working and raising our families as single women. When my friend fell in love again with a charming man who was 16 years older than she, I was her matron of honor in a very romantic weekend ceremony on Shelter Island. We have shared so many happy and sad times in both our lives over these many years and tonight when she called, I knew something was wrong. John, who is now approaching 95, is dying ~ peacefully at home, but it is still such sad news. I grieve for my friend who must say goodbye to her loving companion, and grieve that we are at this point in our lives. It does not seem possible that the joyful, carefree days are over ~ are we to be sustained by memories when time passes and our friends and loved ones are gone? I feel terribly sad tonight and so wish I could be with them right now.
My company is coming on Friday and I have been busy getting the guest rooms ready and planning menus ~ The weather has been beautiful and the garden is coming into it’s own ~ the alliums are just beginning to open which will be so pretty for my friends’ visit.
A very Happy Birthday, belatedly, to Margaret! And what a wonderful gift from Peter! Only one or two more issues of our journal left ~ You all have been such thoughtful interesting companions during this pandemic and I am going to miss knowing how you are all doing and would love to keep in touch.
Hilary Q, North Norfolk
This week I returned to the bookshop for one day and loved being back. Claire and I shared our shift and spent most of it in hysterics as we rediscovered stock and systems. Customers were charming and patient. Till receipts good although this was helped by Claire and myself. We selected books to refresh the shop’s fledgling Instagram site... and then promptly bought the ones we had advertised!!! Claire snapped up a trio of Beatrix Potter books in French and I homed in on a 1916 copy of Edward Thomas’s Icknield Way. I was hooked by the opening line - much has been written of travel, far less of the road - which resonated perfectly with my thoughts on The Journal where many many miles of road have indeed been written... incremental steps, daily and then weekly personal journeys; news of departures from the norm, ingenuity, adaptation and increasing familiarity with and mostly pleasure in what is local. Next week we will all start to travel further afield and will, in the rather clever slogan of Dartmoor National Park, ‘give nature space and leave no trace’!
View from the top of the hill
Linzy Lyne, Pateley Bridge
The mornings are eerily quiet now as the cattle have gone out to the pastures farthest from the house. The grass in the meadows around us is growing rapidly, nurtured by this spell of rainy weather, and I expect the farmers will soon be looking to take a good crop for winter feed. I still wake at 6.30am, listening out for the farmer in the JCB coming to feed the cattle near the house, but all is silent apart from the rain on the windows. On a sunny morning it's luxurious to lie in bed and watch the swallows gaily dashing about outside. We like to sleep with the curtains open so we can enjoy the view when we wake up but it's a bit grim when the skies are dark.
The “blousy” rhododendron (with the lovely real name of “Percy Wise”) has been moved out of the wind and plans for any outdoor ventures are on hold. We made a quick call to the garden centre on Monday to buy some garden gravel. It has become one-way, with endless no entry signs, and we ended up going all the way round twice in order to find what we wanted and pay for it, quite exhausting. Then the gravel was out in the car park anyway. Monday was also the day we were allowed to meet friends inside, so by way of a celebration we went to a friend's for afternoon tea, which was lovely, if somewhat fattening. We can now go for indoor pub lunches, which we are planning to do although very warily. I don't know what you do, whether you have your mask on until they bring the food or is it totally mask-free? Feeling our way in the new normal.
One of the huge Airbus machines has come back twice this week and both times I failed to get to my camera in time before it thundered over the yard. It's not quite so scary once you get used to it, although it's worrying that they feel this pilot still needs more low level flying practice.
The news today is all about the scandal of the BBC's cover up of the deception used to get the Martin Bashir interview with Princess Diana. I have been moved to get a couple of books about her out of storage. I'm never going to forget the day she died as it was my birthday and the family were taking me to Alton Towers as a birthday treat. (The joke is that theme parks are my family's greatest pleasure, not mine. I generally look after everyone's bags). It rained most of the day, with thunder and lightning which caused the rides to be closed and all I could think about was the terrible loss we had all felt at hearing the news. How dreadfully sad that the BBC may have played a part in the sequence of events which led to that day.
Meanwhile in the here and now, the Indian mutation may still be rampaging away and surge testing is being done in the worst affected areas but the good news, if we can believe it, is that the vaccines are still effective against it. Therefore the easing of restrictions is carrying on apace and we continue to be the subjects of a huge experiment. There was social unrest in Swansea last night and it's hard to say how it may be connected to the pandemic. The worrying thing is that the police felt it was too dangerous for them to go in and stop the violence, does this mean whole areas of our cities will become lawless wastelands? Perhaps they have already and living out in the country has masked the true situation for many of us.
Social experimentation notwithstanding, Richard is going to Elland Road on Sunday for the final match of the season and I will stay home and watch it on Sky's red button. He won't be in his very own seat though, his little group are going to be in specially socially distanced seats in a different part of the stand. He plans to wear two masks. No-one has said whether people have to have been tested first, maybe proof of vaccination will be required, we don't know. More of the new normal, amid the usual confusion. You can go on holiday, but don't unless you have to and if you go to an amber destination you have to queue up to get back in alongside visitors from red destinations.
Well now, next week is the last issue of the journal and I will make an effort to be cheerful and positive! I'm happy to go along with whatever everyone wants to do to keep in touch, although I have to say I am not great at coping with Facebook. This journal entry nearly ended up being replaced in my upload by a review of a book about Claude Lorrain! Stay safe everyone.
Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire
There is some positive news about the pandemic. The rates of infection are starting to come down in India. The Indian variant is not significantly more transmissible than the other variants. The very small number of people who get Covid after being vaccinated (usually people who are frail or have a weaker immune system) are very unlikely to end up in hospital. I don’t understand people who are still refusing the vaccine. Young people, who think they don’t need it as they are healthy and won’t suffer if they do become infected, need to think about the effects of Long Covid. The initial data shows that Long Covid is very unlikely or much less severe even after one vaccination.
Rain, rain, rain and now wind as well for most of the week. And it’s cold. Our teacher daughter in law and son number two have taken her class of 9-11 year olds, which includes one of their daughters, for three days of adventurous outdoor activities. Today is the last day and it’s a water activities day! Claire was determined her children would have this experience in their last year of primary school. Last year they weren’t able to do the trip and the children were very disappointed. I wish the sun had shone for them but I expect they will have had a great time.
We went to a Tapas bar last night as it was our granddaughter’s 13th birthday. It was the first time we have eaten in a restaurant for... I can’t remember! It was also the first night of opening for them so all a bit strange and everyone being really careful. There were seven of us from two households so following the rules. It was wonderful, relaxing and friendly with delicious food. I made a birthday cake filled with sweets (as requested by my granddaughter). I'm including a photo of one of the layers which came out somewhat surreal. She also requested that we didn’t sing happy birthday which was probably just as well. Then we took her and her brother back home with us while the others went back to their camp fire fun.
This morning I went to my first in person Pilates session. Hand sanitiser, track and trace, socially distanced mats, masks except when doing the exercises, sanitising all of the equipment after use. Everything is more complicated now. But it was good to get back as I had given up long ago on the Zoom classes and I know it is really useful exercise for me.
We also went to our lovely local cinema for the first time this week. This is a comfy armchair and settee kind of establishment with a cosy bar serving tasty snacks and drinks. Now there are screens between each set of chairs and limited patrons to allow for social distancing. You can order your drinks on an app on your phone and they will bring them to you in your seat so you don’t have to move around. Masks have to be worn except when eating or drinking. This is tricky. Should people be putting their masks on between each sip of wine? We used to be told we shouldn’t be touching our masks.
So we are gradually getting back to a more normal life and hopefully we will all be able to continue to do so. It looks like we may get booster vaccinations later in the year but the priority should be to get vaccines out to the countries that are lagging behind. Only one more week of journal writing. I hope you all get to enjoy a reasonably sociable summer with your close friends and relations.
Tropical thoughts Part 2
Paul Lowden, Malaysia
The pages are gathered,
Tapped, I imagine, into
Place. Leathered hands
Assess the paper’s weight,
Texture, finish. Finger and thumb.
The hushed room
Dust motes stirring
Sees him begin
The creative process.
Birdsong, distant, filters in.
A floorboard creaks,
Tools chink, Mozart perhaps
From swivelled based radio
Accompanies a hummed melody.
Old leather, musty rich
And a line of coloured threads,
Marbled sheets aswirl with colour,
Arrays of presses, papers, racks,
Buckram. Through the pane
A field, horses grazing,
Honeysuckle, wild grasses
Shift in shadowed England.
It takes shape. Days pass.
The narratives shift a little,
Settle into place
Bound together at last.
Doreur, the leaf is pressed,
Rolled, embossed. A bird
Wide eyed is gilded,
Entitled, PLAGUE20 jOURNAL.
A lifetime of sixty weeks
Stitched together, a part,
Bookbinding of the heart.
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
By mid week Matt Hancock is in full flow promoting vaccination as interest appears to be waning while the variant(s) wax. News emerges of some Pfizer having to be thrown away unwanted despite the handy discovery it has a better life in an ordinary fridge than thought - unthinkable in the early days. We have the EU to thank for that - they’ve discovered it has a shelf (or fridge) life of a month, we’re still working on 5 days but urgently reviewing policy. In places the jabdoors are thrown open to anyone over 20 now, such is the relatively low uptake of authorised mid thirty year olds, down to 40% from 65%.
Dido’s ‘Test & Trace’ gets a mention as it emerges that the Indian Variant’s rise up North was masked in the early days of April and May by a failure to contact hundreds of those associated with positive tests. Like hundreds from the 734 positive tests recorded. Call that thousands then...
A moment of levity from the coalface of a vaccination centre. A group of cheerful nurses: “We’re the Pfizer Chiefs!”
We have an outing: a trip into Norwich to see the travelling Grayson Perry tapestry show “The Vanity of Small Differences”. I’m a touch underwhelmed, if the whelming index is desirability, covetousness: I wouldn’t want one.
Our modest adventure is put in the shade by gobby Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary saying “hundreds of thousands” are booking holidays later in the year regardless they can’t really go there at the moment due to the ‘traffic light’ listing, which puts pretty well anywhere other than Portugal off limits. It led me to sample Home Office advice on France.
Of all places I’d consider going to, France is top of the list, but blimey, the list of hazards awaiting the unwary is offputting. Among them: hijacking by illegal immigrants on the roads around Calais, huge public demonstrations with enthusiastic police engagement, a 9 to 6 curfew, proliferation of pickpockets and a high rating of probable terrorist attack. Add to that the need to:
take a Covid test out there just before you travel back, two more (paid for, official ones, not diy ones) when you re-enter UK, and quarrantine at home for ten days, subject to proof of compliance and a ten grand fine if you don’t because it’s in amber and you may well think it’s not worth taking the chance it moves from amber to green.
Then comes the news that Spain, desperate to join in the UK holiday exodus removes all barriers to entry - though as with France, whether you’ll get back without quarantining is debatable. What isn’t debatable is Germany featuring in our holiday plans. So fearful are they of the Indian Variant, the shutters have come down completely. We are simply prohibited. Banned. Eintritt Verboten.
Time to move the lemon trees from their overwintering lair in the polytunnel. Not much chance of a creasing frost now, and they’ll be back against the high, south-facing wall in their summer positions. Easy enough to chuck some fleece over them if the forecast calls for it and it frees up 20ft of bench space I need for cucumbers and courgettes.
On a larger gardening scale, the last of the pheasant cover crop gets turned in ready for resowing - a bit late, but it’s done and within days the furrows will be ‘worked down’ and resown. You need a big old plough to bury the rough ‘rubbish’ maize leaves behind. This is the last time this one will be used until Autumn.
So the wheel turns, perhaps a bit creakily this year.
David Horovitch, Twickenham
On Wednesday I took part in a rehearsed reading of The Dybukk to re-open The Almeida Theatre in Islington. It's a major London fringe venue and I felt proud and privileged to be part of such a historic event.
The play itself is a curious, intense and ultimately gripping piece.Written in the 1920s and set in the mid nineteenth century in a Jewish shtetl in Eastern Europe it concerns a young woman who, on the eve of her wedding is possessed by the dybukk - the malevolent, wandering spirit - of her recently deceased young lover. She - or rather the dybukk or both of them, for they have become indistinguishable - refuses to marry the bridegroom, a stranger selected for her by her father and is taken to a zaddik, a righteous spiritual leader, to have the dybukk exorcised. Acts three and four are concerned with the exorcism itself.
I played the zaddik, a Prospero figure, ancient and weary of the arcane arts he has practised for so long and begging for a little peace and quiet. At the last hurdle, the exorcism fails and the dybukk refuses to leave the young girl's body. We had a wonderful all Jewish cast (except for me who am only Jewish on my father's side), a splendid young director and some simple but spellbinding music and, though it was only a reading, no set or costumes, almost as soon as we started I was aware that the socially distanced and masked audience of about 100 were mesmerised. People I spoke to afterwards said how wonderful it was to be back in a theatre and be told such a compelling story by people who were not celluloid or virtual but actually there in the same room with them. Over the years I think I've tended to become a little cynical about the power of the theatre but I realised on Wednesday evening that I still have the faith.
One thing though... at the beginning of rehearsals we were asked to state our name, our role in the play and our preferred pronoun. I felt like a troglodyte emerging after 15 months from the darkness of his cave and blinking in the glare of an unrecognisable world. A few years ago, I can guarantee you that a lot of actors wouldn't have known what a pronoun was. We all said either 'he' or 'she' and everyone seemed to wish to be referred to something approximating to what they looked like. I'm told that some non- binary people prefer to be called 'they'. That seems greedy unless of course you're possessed by a dybukk. Next time I shall say I'd like to be called darling.
Nicky, Vermont, USA
Well, I had a lovely birthday. My daughter sent me a box full of small wrapped presents to open. It included a 100 water balloons, three books I’m looking forward to reading, and a kind of fake candle that has a light bulb in it that melts scented wax which I like even though it sounds odd. B. organized Thai food for lunch and what a pleasure it was to eat different flavors. We drank mimosas, and ate samosas too, because I couldn’t resist the word play. My friend Michele knitted me a periwinkle blue scarf that is soft and beautiful… and with the mimosas Michele, Sam, Barbara and I toasted our friendship, the scientists who developed the vaccine, and life in general. All on the porch while the crabtree blossoms thought about opening.
In the late afternoon B. and I zoom talked to our real estate agent and our house has sold. At that point I realized I’d been worried it wouldn’t sell because real estate agents who were showing it had raised questions about water in the basement (all houses in the area get water in the basement) and a big hole (woodpeckers?) in the siding. But it is selling, and the new owners plan to live in the house instead of renting out the two apartments, which pleases us.
The next day I had a long chat with my brother who pointed out that it is our relative’s decision whether to get vaccinated or not, and somehow, hearing it from him, I was able to begin to let go of trying to persuade her. It doesn’t change the effects of her decision but I’m finding myself easier to live with, and that’s pretty basic.
And I continue to sort books and move books and discard books. We have to make room for the bookcases and boxes of books arriving from Ithaca. A friend is coming over to help me move furniture and lift heavy boxes. Meanwhile the fence out back is coming along, the dog is still hysterical, and the house is in chaos. All of that is predictable. Familiar. All that is fine.
From the Editor
I didn’t need to send you all a reminder email this week. Your entries arrived without the usual gentle nudge. And next week, no doubt, will be the same...
Sheila and I are talking about the best way of keeping us all in touch after that; we’ll let you know next week.
This week has certainly felt busier on the social front. On Sunday, Chris and Sheila came round for pre-birthday champagne and croissants, and it stayed sunny long enough to sit outside. On Monday, the first day restrictions were eased, two friends phoned us to say they were ten minutes away. ‘I’m still in my pyjamas,’ I said. I was still wearing them when they arrived for coffee. In the afternoon postman Richard arrived with plants and birthday goodies... again, we had Tea outside. Then the sun disappeared for the rest of the week.
It stayed dry on my birthday (Tuesday) long enough for us to visit a favourite plant nursery. Peter bought me some roses to add to the two Sheila and Chris and my brother had given me. I was delighted to find one specimen of The Alchemist rose, recommended by Sandy of this journal. We arrived home in a hailstorm and I couldn’t find the house key. Peter sat shivering in the porch while I broke the downstairs bathroom window and climbed in. I found an old artists canvas to hammer over the window till my stepson replaced the glass today. And today I found the missing key on the floor of the porch. I must have knocked it out of my bag when searching for it.
Since Wednesday we have been having our five yearly electrical inspection for thatch insurance. Tony the electrician is an old friend, and has acted in all our Shakespeare productions in the garden. Over tea and cake,I tried to convince him of the delights of Instagram. I don’t think I succeeded. But the inspection is over. He just has to return next week to fit new smoke alarms... and get another induction to Instagram.
The wind has howled today and the rain has rained and the tulips are dying most dramatically in such conditions . They are wuthering in weather fit for ‘Wuthering Heights’. I love the way tulips die, almost as much as the way they flower and live.
The cool weather and late spring have extended their flowering period this year but they are on their way out now.
I was very anxious when I received Shirley Anne’s piece this morning. I knew she was unwell, but didn’t realise quite what she had been through. I have sent her flowers and good wishes for a speedy recovery on behalf of us all. I hope they arrive safely.
The party date is still uncertain, more news on that next week. Meanwhile, the new social round continues. Jane (St Just and Banbury) is coming to stay for the weekend and we are all going to friends for lunch on Sunday. ‘Come in your scruff,’ they said. What else have we been wearing for fifteen months?