Restrictions for many

Hilde Schöning, Buchholz, Germany

This week has been very successful. I marked a lot and got an immediate offer for an appointment in order to be vaccinated, once all teachers were proclaimed to be eligible in Hamburg. As I work there but live in Lower Saxony, I thought I could not receive a chance outside my home town. But it was no problem, and I got a jab with Moderna´s vaccine on Tuesday. Very good.


We are going to celebrate Ole´s birthday on Sunday with our first Asparagus of the season, which has just started as it is still quite cold. And we are looking forward to reading the journal at the weekend. It is always interesting to see how the pandemic and everyday life is perceived around the globe. 


There should also be a possibility for a short outing at the weekend close by, this time without my brother´s dog that I fought with last week...



Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

Return to swimming by Franklin Lewis Macrae


We are now allowed to return to our swimming lessons. It was a bit shocking having to get up so early on Sunday to go. When I first got in the water it was exhilarating but after a while, it was freezing and I felt tired. I felt I had got back into it by the end of the lesson and I'm excited to be going back next week. Mum is enrolling us in the intensive summer swim school this summer to get us back to where we were.


When we got out of the pool, we weren't allowed to get changed in the changing rooms because of COVID.  We have to pull our clothes over our wet swimsuits. We're not even allowed to dry off with our towels. It was sticky, freezing and uncomfortable but we went straight to Favoloso and had chips and cake and warmed up by the patio heaters outside. I had a hot bath as soon as we returned home.


On Sunday, our grandparents are coming to visit. We'll see each other in the garden for safety so that's also something to look forward to on Sunday.

Swimming and school catch up by Marli Rose Macrae


Our swimming lessons restarted last Sunday. We have been swimming every Sunday for a long time but it's been stop-start for the last year because of COVID. It was quite hard at first for me; I soon got the hang of it though but I was extremely tired afterwards. What I find annoying is that when we get out of the pool, we have to put our dry clothes on top of our dripping wet costumes. We aren't allowed to change in the changing rooms because of COVID and we aren't allowed to change poolside because of child protection rules. It's horrible because we're wet, we're half frozen to death and sometimes it's bitterly cold outside with a harsh wind from the English Channel reddening our faces and we're wearing soaked, clinging clothes. The swimming teachers that are in the water must wear masks but this is silly because the virus cannot survive in chlorine! Anyway, afterwards mummy took us to a cafe named Favoloso. We sat outside and they lit patio heaters for us. We ran to the loos and took our wet costumes off. Our clothes were still wet but it was a bit better. We had hot tea with chips and Bakewell tarts and the patio heaters warmed us up.  


At school the class has been split up into three groups of ten. It's called the 'Recovery Curriculum'. It's because we have had so much time off school due to COVID and the head teacher says many children are behind so we are being taught in smaller groups. This is so the teachers can turn their attention to the children that really need help. My best friend isn't in my group and I only see her at playtime now.


This weekend, Daddy's parents are coming to see us. They are having Sunday lunch in the garden or in the garden room with the doors open if it's wet. They have had both vaccinations. Granny Aye and Pappa have only had one vaccination but hopefully we will see them soon. 


Gratefully sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia



Conceived into darkness

delivered into light

born into love

we burn our legacy

forests for burgers

oceans for plastics

rivers for chemicals

lawns for weedkillers

to conquer clover

spawning cancer


It will end in darkness

tipping over a cliff

into a warm sea raging

the voiceless drowning

bellies swollen with hunger

the last grain gone

tongues swollen with thirst

the final bird flown

diversity decimated

by profane consumption

the shimmering divinity

of natural beauty


shat upon


Listen my friend

ten years of todays

is the time span

for redemption


Care in the time of Corona

Shirin Jacob, Ålesund, Norway

It’s been a momentous week. Erna Solberg received her first vaccination and so did I.


We retreated to the island on the 27th of March, right after a Covid outbreak in Ålesund as my husband had to work from home. We’ve been here now almost a month and drove back ‪on Sunday night‬ to Ålesund as the office was open again. Only to turn and drive back ‪on Tuesday afternoon‬ after my first vaccination due to a second outbreak from a bunch of people partying at a restaurant. I bought kanelbolle (cinnamon buns) for the medical staff. Vaccinating the masses is hungry work.


On our drive to and fro from the island last October, I noticed an illuminated heart on the side of a barn. It was such a wonderful sight to behold, on a dark wintry night. I kept wanting to stop and take a photo, but it was never the right time. Finally, we stopped last month and took a photo. I took the telephone number of the farmer which was on a board next to the barn and rang the farmer. He answered with a smile in his voice. It was a warm and kind voice and I asked whether he could make us a heart for the side of the house. He asked for us to stop by the next week. To cut a long story short, not only did he say that his 18 yrs old son could make us the large heart, he volunteered his son to help us plant our hedge. We hadn’t been able to find any help for weeks and it was like the Universe stepped in with a gift. The ‘farmer’ was a full-time intensive care nurse from the south of Norway, who had migrated here when he married.


His son turned up early ‪Saturday morning‬ with his girlfriend who had just celebrated her 19th birthday. We worked almost non-stop for six hours like a tag team, filling in the trenches and planting the young hornbeam three plants a meter. We managed to plant four fruit trees and 260 hornbeam over the weekend. My husband and I had already planted 83 plants earlier. The young pair were so impressive and moved with care and speed. It was clear that both were perfectionists. She looks after the sick and elderly in her free time and will join the navy for her military service shortly. Girls born in 1997 or later are recruited if they pass a physical and psychological assessment. They get free education in addition to being paid and in return have to serve for five years. The military education is very highly regarded in Norway. Her long-term plan is to learn agrotherapy and treat veterans. The young man was equally wonderful. He was interested in architecture and seemed very grounded and focused. He did not drink alcohol and regularly brought a carton of milk, his favourite beverage, to parties. 

We had tea after planting and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her Fortunately they liked the first cake I’ve baked in ages, a green apple, red apple, pear and walnut cake. We spent a happy weekend in the company of these young people. Lots of food and masses of dessert later, we parted ‪on Sunday evening‬ and look forward to hosting them again. More planting afoot.


“Survival” diary

Susan, Country Victoria, Australia

I would like to tell you all that I am busy and upbeat, but truth is I have been very low, and in my case misery does not love company. I am struggling with the sale of my home and garden. I think it will be better when we find the block of land, we can then make some decisions about where we will live while we build. Starting on a house design might then take capture my attention  and rid me of the lethargy I am feeling. I gave myself a stern talking to this last week and forced myself to stop postponing appointments and cancelling plans. This week I began face to face Pilates classes and I was so happy to see friends I hadn’t seen since lockdown. I don’t know why I was so surprised that they were thrilled to see me. 


We have balls in the air... there is a rather lovely block of land in a small town 10 kms from here. It was advertised, but the vendor (who is working in London) didn’t complete his Section 32 (in Victoria a legal declaration must be made concerning a property regarding heritage overlays, whether you have had the correct permits to do renovation works etc). We are aren’t quite sure why this should take another 4 weeks, but the block won’t be officially listed until then. We then have to make sure there aren’t any unpleasant surprises. Locals tell us there are some very dodgy boundaries in the town, so we will have to engage a surveyor to make sure that is clearly defined. The vendor also owns the adjoining property and when we first came to the area there was a fabulous restaurant in the little church on that land. What appeals to us is the land opposite cannot be built on and is home to some glorious trees. The town has a very pretty botanic garden and like Kyneton has glorious old oaks, elms and horse chestnuts. The gardens have a smashing cork oak. Just have to wait and see. It is clear that a number of people are in the hunt for the same thing. I have approached people with land nearby by mail (repressing shock & embarrassment at my forwardness) only to be told by some I know quite well that they are being doorknocked by strangers who want their horse paddock or caravan parking spot. We were thinking of buying a townhouse around the corner to use later as a rental. The upstairs bedroom overlooked a fabulous block of land with the ugliest and largest wood heap I think I’ve ever seen, the look was completed with a couple of stock crates and a trailer.


Covid simmers away in the background. Unexplained virus has been found in wastewater in Melbourne. Quarantine continues as a hot topic. A Federal responsibility hand balled to the States before they realised it was a poisoned chalice. There is talk of a purpose build quarantine hub being built in Victoria. It cannot come fast enough in my opinion. 


My third sister and her husband have both had their first vaccination through their general practitioner; AstraZeneca. My sister was unwell for a couple of days, my brother-in-law had no symptoms. They are both relieved and feel more optimistic about returning to some kind of normal. No one in aged care in their small community has been offered any vaccine. 


The vaccination through doctors’ surgeries is a State responsibility, in aged care it is Federal...  My oldest sister living in a capitol city, where there is much higher risk of infection than sister 3 has not been offered any vaccine through her health provider. Sister 2 in Queensland is holding off, worried about the possible side effects. My brother runs an ornithological tour business and he an his wife have their vaccinations next week. Tours start again in May, so he and my sister-in-law will spend the “winter” winding their way through the north of Australia doing back to back tours. Winter up north is sunshine and warm days. Returning customers from overseas have optimistically booked in for next year. Many of them are older and Trish my sister-in-law, hopes they are still around to realise twice cancelled trips. I’m the last born and haven’t been offered any vaccine through my general practitioner.


We have finally had a run on perfect Autumn weather. It has been truly beautiful and walking has been my best friend over the last couple of weeks. 


Take care and stay well. Dinner is take home from our local Indian restaurant tonight. They have many family members in harm’s way and we feel helpless to help them except commercially and with lots of hugs as we hand over and collect our tiffin tins. 



PS I have no land or house but I have chosen my oven. I shall order it when the house deposit is released. Six months lead time on an Aga in Australia. What ho.


From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

Theres been a dissonance this week between what I've done and what I've felt.


If I said simply that on Sunday I drove out to The Chilterns, and in the chilly morning walked round the chalky  heathland above Watlington with its views towards Oxford, and was rewarded by the thrilling sight of low-flying red-kites banking and diving a few feet above my head; that on my way back I discovered a delightful little second-hand bookshop outside Osterley Park (itself also a revelation to me) where I picked up a first edition of an interesting looking book by Michael Frayn called The Human Touch: that the next day I went for a walk down to the river with a friend, Kate, and her baby Nicole; that on Tuesday I repaired the bottom of an antique sea chest that I remember my parents buying for a song in the 1950s and which my cleaner had bashed with her hoover, polished the brass on said sea chest till it gleamed as it hasn't done for years; planted some seeds that Francis had given me (the cress is already peeping through); on Wednesday a friend that I haven't seen for 4 years came round from North London and we had a take-away from Pizza Express and, illegally I suppose, ate it in my flat: that on an impulse yesterday I went to see another friend in her house on the river In Hammersmith - she's been ill and I brought sandwiches and fresh mango and we drank coffee and reminisced (we've known each other nearly 50 years, our kids were at school together) - recounting all these events a picture emerges of a busy, happy week but it's happier now, in recollection, than it was at the time when it was accompanied by a sad cello and an anxious drum roll. I'm more present there now than I was at the time, when my head was sunk in a gloom that I can't explain. As I write about it now I enjoy the picture it presents to me. What a good week I've had! But I haven't. When I started writing in this journal I wanted to be candid. I don't think I've always succeeded but a mere record of events was never going to be enough for me. If I failed to mention the shadows of unreason that fell across the page as I wrote I'd feel I was cheating. Always in the knowledge that this too shall pass. 


Is it this? 


"Things said or done long years ago 

Or things I did not do or say

But thought that I might say or do 

Weigh me down and not a day

But something is recalled, 

My conscience or my vanity appalled,.'




Tropical thoughts Part 2

Paul Lowden, Malaysia

While at the Musée d’Orsay


Sounds so sophisticated that momentarily the other

Guests look my way including the blonde girl

I really like who coyly tucks a strand behind her ear

Lowers her eyes a fraction and allows her freckled

Nose to wrinkle while her mono-slab boyfriend

Gulps his beer. Plunging on I murmur a phrase 

About the use of space, how the light falls

In such a very Gallic way, the ingenious levels

And such and so… Others nod, add observations

About their favourite there and whether Van Gogh

Rhymes with cough or dough; Manet or Monet,

What’s your impression? She seems to smirk

As if she knows already that this recipient 

Of a free pass, driven by desperation pour la toilette

Had just dashed inside for what turned out to be 

The most expensive cup of coffee yet.


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

This is my second attempt at writing a journal entry this week. The first has been consigned to the bin, because I began a discourse (some might call it a sermon) on the subject of words and their meanings, particularly as used in speech. Just to say the word 'quite' always fascinates me in a speech context. I'll leave you, dear reader, to cogitate on that should you find it worthwhile.


Moving away from words, it has I think, been a good week for myself and best beloved. She had her second AZ jab last Monday morning, and so far has felt only mild side effects. That is encouraging. Full repair of the beach hut after the break-ins has been much on our minds. I think that, weather permitting, we will be working on it next week.


Plans are beginning to come together for meetings with friends and family, whom we have not seen for a very long time. Two friends be will visiting the Island soon. I think that outdoor lunch get-togethers will be arranged. I should be meeting my daughter, who is travelling to Portsmouth from Bristol on the 15th. One of best beloved's daughters and her family should be staying on the Island quite soon too. Those developments all feel good to me, which is a bit of a surprise following the past year. I'm looking forward to meeting up with real people again.


Best beloved and I are in practice for the next stage of the round-island walk.We both trundled down to the beach hut and back on Tuesday as part of our warm-up. Next will come something slightly more rugged. I think. Then I think we'll be on our way!


I am completely flummoxed by the way in which the opinion polls continue showing high support for the self-serving buffoons in No. 10, a place that seems to be developing into some kind of brothel boudoir look-alike. The crazy land of last year meanwhile seems to be finding some level of sanity - so hooray for that. I suppose bad always leaves open the possibility of improvement!


Best beloved and I had a major squirrel encounter just outside the back of my house. It was very close to us, but of course there was no camera handy!


Time to stop I think - I need a coffee, and things to say have evaporated for now...


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

On Sunday we drove up to Easington Colliery and spent two nights in a caravan on a very small site outside the town. I suddenly had a longing to be by the sea and this site was perfect as it was only a fifteen minute walk across fields and through a wood to the Durham heritage coast path. The site has two caravans (each in their own spacious surroundings), two pods and space for a few camper vans. There were no camper vans although camper vans are allowed now as long as they have their own facilities. The pods were also empty. Our six berth caravan was spotlessly clean and decorated with quirky artworks. The site is also run as an educational centre. We saw a group of children from a nursery school having a session in the woods. Ellie and Nicola were friendly and welcoming. It was wonderful to be somewhere different.

We did two long coastal walks and spent a few hours looking for sea glass on the beaches. Although it is 100 years since the bottle factory (built in 1855 near Seaham) closed and stopped tipping it’s waste products over the cliffs there is still plenty to find on the beaches in that area. The higher the tides the more prolific the glass that is churned up and regurgitated onto the beach, and there had been some particularly high tides.


Easington Colliery is an interesting town where some scenes from Billy Elliot were filmed. Parts of it are sadly run down now and Covid hasn’t helped, but it must have been a completely different place when the mines were open. The village was built at the beginning of the 20th century to house the 3000 men who worked in the coal mine. When the mine closed in 1991 it must have been devastating for the community. Some of the many long streets of back to backs have been knocked down since and replaced with areas of grass so there are some safe spaces for children to play. There are two huge, two storey schools that closed in the 1990’s- one with doors for infants and girls and one with doors for infants and boys. They stand empty with boarded up windows and rubbish strewn playgrounds. Permission has just been given to knock them down. What a shame there hasn’t been another use found for them but the locals are justifiably fed up with the eyesore of their current dilapidation in the centre of their town. When I was at teacher training college in Darlington some of the students did their teaching practice in the school. I remember being confused by the idea of a school in a colliery!


Photos of Easington Colliery school,
Billy Elliot’s street and my sea glass collection.

Good news this week. Jeremy has had his second jab and two more of the next generation have their appointments booked.



Jane, just south of Norwich

Jane, Eaton

It has been another week of bright, sunny days with a chill wind and until now (Friday) no sign of rain. But the sky has darkened as I type my journal entry and a few drops have fallen. The spring garden would really benefit from a good shower or two. I have been taking a can of water with me each time I go up the garden to refresh a few thirsty plants, may be at last they are in for a treat.


In Banff, Canada, it is still winter according to our son William who rang at the weekend. Low temperatures, snow showers and lockdown continue. Their summers are very short and we have visited in June as the weather begins to warm and in September before the snows return. The slopes close to snow sports over the next two weeks and William hopes to be back on his road bike again. At the moment, if the snow melts and then freezes on roads, biking can be treacherous.


The Banff region has one of the two highest Covid infection rates in the province of Alberta. The tourist industry in the National Park – hotels, restaurants and ski resorts – are mainly staffed by young workers who live in staff housing or shared accommodation. The latest news is that the vaccination programme is going to be intensified in the Banff region and be eligible to anyone 30 and older which will include our son and daughter-in-law.

William and Robyn have recently acquired a lovely ginger cat called Kevin. He is kept indoors for his own safety (bears and cougar as well as inquisitive deer roam the area). William sent me the attached photo this week of Kevin becoming acquainted with the local wildlife from the comfort of his window sill.


I had another trip to the dentist this week and as I waited outside in the cold wind that was blowing up Prince of Wales road from the river into the City, I thought of how previously, if I was early, I would distract myself from imminent treatment by leafing through the various magazines in the waiting room. Waiting room magazines will probably be a thing of the past! Chris goes to see a chiropractor every three weeks and the waiting room there always used to have all the latest glossy magazines for its clients and now he too can only go into the building at his appointed time. As restrictions slowly lift, some things we took for granted may never return.


Good wishes to all.



Home thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

This week I celebrated my Clicketty Click (66) birthday! Despite my ongoing resistance, my husband presented me with a gorgeous new iPhone and I have spent the week figuring out the basics. Best moment was going to Stiffkey Stores to try it out buying a coffee... oat milk flat white for the record... superb... and being met with the enthusiasm of youthful expertise! I know where to hover for tutorials! 


Speaking of the Wand of Youth, the lovely Davina came to transform my toenails but it is much too cold to sport ‘Hot or Not’ in my beloved Birkenstock sandals... I am still in socks and bootees.


Additional logs have arrived to create my Nigel Dunnett webs of life. Lilac tide is about to burst forth. Books are piled high. Birdsong is beautiful.


Friday morning. Holt. Richard Scott open and full of treasures. Best of all was a fern in an old bottle. The fern still had its root attached which was magnified and glorious in the distorted green-blue glass! Also in an ink bottle was a dead twig covered in lichen. The only problem? I had forgotten to take in my iPhone so couldn’t take a picture!



Mary’s projects mostly

Mary Hildyard, Totnes, Devon

I am feeling optimistic. Tentatively optimistic. It is a scary feeling and the pessimist in me is giving warning. Nevertheless, some part of me is looking forward. 


Possibly such optimism is due to the COVID case numbers in the UK steadying. Possibly it is because I have had my second vaccination dose. Possibly it is because the sun has been shining and my tulips have appeared. Whatever the cause, for me, the Summer is suddenly looking promising. I might, this Summer, see my sons and grandchildren.