View from a town formerly known as crazy

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

Greetings from the sultry climes of an undisclosed U.S. government location in the Williamsburg, Virginia area. Or rather less mysteriously, the Joint Staff Suffolk Complex where I'm working on a military exercise (rather more desktop than slogging through mud and over barbed wire, fortunately).


It's been a busy, eventful, harrowing, productive, and trying two months since I last came up on this net. My mother passed away at the end of May and sorting out the end-of-life issues brings its own stress (not to mention the seemingly inevitable family ructions which erupt in the wake of death). Mom largely achieved her last wish of maintaining her quality of life as long as possible. She suddenly went in to a terminal decline on a Friday afternoon and was gone a week later. We scrambled to rush our children back from Europe and both made it in by Tuesday. The look on mom's face when she saw them was priceless, and she spent one last afternoon happy, laughing, telling stories, and engaged with life. It was almost as if she had been waiting for them before letting go, because by the next morning she'd turned inwards and was only ever briefly and barely conscious again. It's some measure of comfort to know that we were able to bring her that one last moment of joy. Spending time with the kids after not seeing them for almost two years was an added treat for us.


In early June I stepped onto an airplane for the first time in fifteen months to fly to Charleston, South Carolina. We decided to look for a small property there to keep as our base in the U.S. (our longish term retirement plans center on Bulgaria and Portugal, but we want to keep a foothold here) and after a week of feverish looking left empty-handed. But all was not lost. We took a closer look at a place we'd decided not to visit the first time, eventually making an offer on it. Charleston is famous for its "single houses," so called for the fact that they're only a single room wide but quite deep. Typically the narrow end faces the street and you enter a "front door" that in fact gives access to a porch (or "piazza" in local parlance) running the length of the house on all floors (the real front door is typically located in the center of the long side of the building). The unit we found is the upper floor of the dependency (a polite Charleston word for an outbuilding, in this case the former kitchen). We're now in the throes of negotiating with the sellers, inspections, mortgage applications, and so forth, but with any luck by the time the August edition of the journal is out we'll be the proud owners of small part of an 1840 home. We prefer to focus on the fact that it is one of the few historic Charleston properties named after a woman (Charity Wilson) and to overlook the traitorous proclivities of the slave-owning proprietors of the ante-bellum South (the citizenry of Charleston have the dubious distinction of having fired the first shots of the American Civil War). Although South Carolina is one of the states which recently gave overwhelming support to Dear Departed Leader's failed re-election bid, the Dear Readers will be relieved to learn that Charleston is nonetheless a bastion of  blue voters, and one friend described it as the southern most town of New Jersey (in view of the large number of Yankees who've settled there). 


As the above suggests, life in these regions has more or less resumed its previous course. Your Intrepid Reporter and Mrs. Intrepid even ventured into a night club this past Saturday (to answer one of Dear Editor's questions). Or, to be precise, the Crazy Town version of a Texas honky tonk. It was wonderful - a great country/blue grass/rock band called Kentucky Avenue, world class barbecue and plenty tequila. Incredibly good to hear live music again and enjoy the impressive musical skills the band brought to the scene. Testing the bounds further, I'm planning to go to Portugal in August before visiting the UK (for my stepson's wedding - too late, alas, to attend the garden party) and Bulgaria. With the ever changing COVID rules - especially BoJo's seemingly erratic tacking and jibbing - what could possibly go wrong?


But, of course, we're all looking over our shoulders at the Delta variant and wondering whether this renewed normal will last. As many have noted, there are now two America's - the vaccinated and the un-vaccinated, and the rates of infection, hospitalization, and death are rapidly climbing in the latter. How long until a variant arises which overwhelms our vaccine defenses? Time will tell, but as always in this fair land, a portion of the population is making it into a political choice rather than a public health decision, and their choices potentially put us all at risk. Selfishness masquerading as freedom. The American Way. But since selfishness seems to be the key motivation for so many, I suspect we'll eventually follow the Germans and French and allow those who are vaccinated greater freedom to travel, attend public gatherings and such. No formal vaccine mandate, but a huge array of incentives and disincentives, preserving the appearance of personal choice. There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth over it, but selfishness will eventually lead to increased vaccination rates.


Speaking of Dear Departed Leader, as almost no one does any longer, He continues to make noise about resuming His career in politics. Meanwhile, His merry band of third-rate lawyers are slowly being stripped of their licenses to practice before the bar, the first of His insurrectionists are being convicted and jailed over their part in the Great Rebellion of January 6th, and the once worthy party of Lincoln is falling all over itself in a race to see which of them can commit more abject public humiliation in the name of satiating Dear Departed's insatiable craving for boot-licking. A sorry spectacle, which seems to have the unblinking support of 40 percent of the electorate. An almost exact identity with 40% that refuses to vaccinate. Some might think there's a connection between these twin aspects of the two Americas, but I couldn't possibly comment.


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

I am writing this from an Airbnb in Brixham, Devon. It feels fairly safe. Hand sanitiser outside the front door, lateral flow tests completed by us, the owner of the house and his long term house guest. We have our own bathroom and a fridge in our room so don't need to use the kitchen. Our host is being super careful thank goodness. We are spending most of our time outside with Mary and Simon. Exhilarating sea swimming and picnicking in the quietest coves we can find. This involves longish drives down single track roads with passing places. Luckily Jeremy is very efficient at backing our van. It's very difficult to find a restaurant with outside seating that isn't fully booked but freshly cooked takeaway fish and chips overlooking the harbour and listening to the silver band was wonderful. We are not staying with Mary and Simon as we would usually do but it is so good to be enjoying ourselves with them. We didn't stay with them last year either but didn't imagine this year would be the same.


This has been a good month for us. All of the adults in our immediate family are double vaccinated. We had a few days on a narrowboat travelling from the Chesterfield canal via the Trent and the Ouse up to York. It is quite exciting making the transition from canal to river. You need to enter the lock at the right time to make sure you can safely float out onto the river, which is tidal,without getting stuck on a sandbank. If you get stuck you have to inform the lifeguard and wait for the next high tide to float you off - hoping you remain upright! Entering the lock has to be prearranged with the lock keeper. We were able to moor up right in the middle of York with only one other boat nearby.

Our granddaughter's last sports day was able to go ahead. It was on a beautiful sunny day with plenty of space for everyone. The children weren't able to be in their usual teams but competed in their school bubbles. It is a small primary school of only three classes and luckily they have managed to stay open all term. The much larger senior school has always had large groups of children self isolating. I wonder if they will change the rules in September. Boris and Sajid were pinged and decided they would be part of the trial that would carry on with their normal activities and take a test every day instead of self isolating. That did not go down well, particularly with people whose businesses had to close while staff self isolated. Another Barnard Castle moment for Boris.

Our youngest son and his Greek partner travelled to Greece yesterday. She hasn't seen her family since before the first lockdown. They managed to get 'all their ducks in a row' and everything went smoothly. They are very lucky in that they can both work from home so will stay for a month.

Freedom day on 19th July. Shops are still asking people to wear masks and use hand sanitiser. Almost everyone seems happy to do so which I'm very pleased about. Most people have become used to Covid rules and don't seem ready to give them up. I think we are all expecting a surge in infections. We are also hearing about double jabbed people being infected although mostly getting a mild infection. But new variants are very worrying.


I hope everyone is enjoying this glorious sunny weather and look forward to meeting some of you in August.


Gratefully sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Virginia

News from the Blue Ridge


Today marks the first day in Virginia when citizens can legally grow up to four Cannabis plants and when possession of small amounts for personal use is no longer illegal. 


A recent Washington Post story said that 49% of people in a survey did not want things to go back to normal. The humidity has been building, small yellow, red, white pulses of thunder cells line up on Dark Sky, flowing up from the southwest. Most of them are missing us altogether. We need water. Over lunch the sky darkened rain began to fall, branches dancing, birds and leaves swirling in the air. I sat watching, the thought of projects smoldering on my desk tugging at my conscience. Then I thought: if this year has taught us anything it is that we can and should take time to watch the weather, to live life at a less demanding pace. We only have one go at this, so let’s experience it for what it is and take the time. I have joined the 49%.


Last Saturday we went to our first outside social event in over a year, during which we have lived in splendid isolation. On Saturday we met for the first time the people who live around us. A wealth of new faces. A sense of human thirst slaked. A tumble of discussion. Small social groups meeting, dissolving. Then we all disappeared back amongst the trees.


Cotswold perspective

Rosemary, Rodborough Common

We immediately decided that we would not be part of BoJo's so called "Freedom Day" dubbed "The English Experiment" around much of the world, as others watch to see what is going to happen here. We shall continue to wear our masks, as others too appear to be doing, remain cautious, and carry on as we have for the last 16months. It is not a hardship for us, we have been enjoying visiting some wonderful gardens within a 70 mile radius of home, and feel perfectly safe walking around in them.

The current spell of hot weather across much of the UK has prompted the Met Office to issue two Extreme Heat Warnings, and we are sitting right in the centre of the one shown in the SW of the country. We had planned a day out today by crossing the Severn Estuary Bridge into Wales. We had intended to visit a small historic church with a wonderful medieval "Doom Wall", but that will now have to wait for a far cooler day than the one we are currently experiencing.

Our biggest concern at present is that the severe lack of vaccine in the developing countries means that the virus will remain active amongst millions of people and new variants will continue to evolve.

As the months have gone on, it has become clear that Covid-19 is something that we have all got to live with not just for the moment but for years to come.

We are not safe until immunity exists in everyone.

I hope that those of you who are attending the Journal Garden Party have a really lovely day, and enjoy meeting up with one another.


The runaway diaries

Sophie Austin, London

You are passed out on the sofa having fought off your afternoon nap for as long as you could, but this baking afternoon has gotten the better of you and you’re out and dreaming. 


Which gives me a bit of time to recount the last couple of months; a rollercoaster of highs and lows, and please forgive me, today has fallen lower than most. The government, blaming covid, are making profoundly damaging, short sighted, idiotic cuts to arts subjects in schools. This makes me so angry and, combined with the extreme heat and another rejected funding application, I’m not in the best mood.


Instead of dwelling on today, I’ll take you back to June, the sun was shining, but not unpleasantly, the sky was blue, I said I loved your dad and he said he loved me too. And the crowd of fourteen family and friends gathered in our back-garden raised their glasses and cheered. It was a magical day which felt entirely miraculous. 

Not this foolish government, the pandemic, not the trip to A&E four days before, when your temperature raged for a fifth day or the thieves who robbed your dad’s van two days before could stop us from celebrating. 

We laughed, cried a bit, drank and ate, the hose came out and you danced under the water for everyone to enjoy.

It felt entirely right to share the joy with our small group. 

As times get stranger and more confusing, sharing the joyful moments will become even more important. 


The following Monday morning with the car packed for Wales, we headed to Southwark Registry office with your God(Less) parents for the official signing. The registrar asked us what we had planned for the ceremony – nothing thanks, just show us where to sign. He did, we did, and that was it. We were hitched. 

After a celebratory coffee we burned out of London and headed for the Black Mountains. Where the stresses caught up with us and we all got sick for the ten days we had off. 

But it was glorious nevertheless. You were reunited with your beloved Quadbike, which proved to be a better nanny than Mary Poppins and we were able to read books, drink champagne and blow our noses without disturbing you.


Looking back on a month of marriage, it does feel different, surprisingly. 

It’s forever. 

And we’ve definitely been noting each other’s habits a bit more than we used to. 

‘Are you really going to do that forever?’


But, as Freedom day passes and the numbers rise, parts of the planet are burning, flooded or melting, there is no one I’d rather be with – on this sinking ship, or escaping on Jeff Bezos’s phallic rocket!


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

Phew - just hurried home from a walk - having remembered I need to write today. There are only 40 minutes until the deadline, so my description of the past month might just have slightly rushed look!  Never mind - here goes!


Well, a lot has changed hasn't it - and I imagine that affects all of us. The complete nonsense of 'Freedom Day' has come and gone - from my point of view pushing our politicians further down the scale of acceptability than wherever they were to begin with. Thankfully, a lot of people here on the Island seem to be keeping to masks and distancing, etc. So that's a relief!


Best beloved and myself resumed our round the island walk by trudging up hill and down dale between Shanklin and Ventnor. It turned out to be a lovely day and a great experience for us both. We finished with lunch at Blueberrys cafe in Shanklin. Right by the sea, it's always delightful, and was especially so for us that day. Since then, and rather sadly, the walk has stalled somewhat. With much of the rest of the country it has been far too hot here!


We did a trial camp in Romy the Romahome for a couple of nights. This is in preparation for a journey over to the North Island and thence to Norfolk for a certain gathering. Having not used Romy properly for a long time we decided we needed some practice, partly to make sure that the correct equipment is aboard. I had partially unloaded Romy during the past year when she's been used by me exclusively as a family car. Anyway, all went well, and we enjoyed ourselves at the Adgestone site of the Camping & Caravan Club. Best beloved particularly enjoyed the pool. I forgot to take along my bathers!


The beach hut has been visited by us a few times. Mostly we have tended to work on finishing everything done by way of repairs during the past months. We are at the seemingly never ending 99% complete point now. I'm in the same place with my little cars. Neither is actually on the road at this moment in time.


This evening we are being sociable at the beach hut, hopefully having some nice food and drink with one of BB's friends, who is visiting from London for the weekend.


Yesterday evening I went for a stroll to Binstead Beach, near here on the north coast of the Island. It's a lovely walk across a golf course and then by a small brook to the sea. Anyway, for some reason a relic of the Second World War was particularly visible, probably because in the dryness of the past week or so, mud that usually party covers it has gone away. On the last part of the walk to the beach is concrete that has been pitted by tank tracks. I took some photographs of them, because they always make me think of the generation who went just across the channel just four months after I was born. How many returned I wonder!


Hopefully looking forward to meeting Margaret, Sheila, and some other journalistas in person soon...


From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

It's about six weeks now since I started work on The Game of Thrones prequel. Because the car picks me up sometime between 5 and 6 am, I'm in the habit of getting up early. Though I have two weeks off from filming now, I still get up round about 6, have a cold shower and sit in my courtyard while it's still cool and study King Lear  in preparation for the zoom reading in which I'm to play the king himself on Sunday. I've painted the walls of the courtyard a lightish terracotta and it's not too difficult with coffee and apricot jam to imagine I'm in the South of France. The live-stream link for Lear, for anyone interested is https://youtu.be/zIhzixF88nA, it's being transmitted live on Sunday 25th at 7pm and will be on Youtube indefinitely thereafter. We rehearse most days for two or three hours, usually in the evening to accommodate Rory Kinnear who is playing Edmund and is filming in Los Angeles where they are 8 hours behind. I'm more and more aware of the limitations of zoom and find that I'm longing to play Lear in the theatre where I could interact with the other actors and our performances could grow together like branches on the same tree. I've done four of these now and I think this will probably be my last, not least because audiences are now returning to the live theatre and the days of zoom are therefore numbered. And anyway, there's nowhere to go after Lear, unless, like a crab (or Ian McKellen) I were to go backward into Hamlet which opened last night to very mixed notices. Daft idea I think.  


Are audiences really about to return to the theatre though? Are we really returning to normal? In the latest bizarre twist to the story, Freedom Day came just after our new Health Secretary, himself almost a covid denier, tested positive forcing The PM and Chancellor  into isolation hours after saying they wouldn't. We are being instructed that we no longer have to wear masks against a background of rising hospital admissions and deaths. On 1st June no deaths were reported - yesterday, almost unremarked, there were 73. In my local Tesco on Monday most customers were still wearing masks, proving that I am not alone in thinking the situation as volatile and destabilising as ever. 


As I said, I'm not contracted to film during these two weeks but, in the middle of last week, they phoned my agent to ask if I might, after all, film this week for a day or two. I told them I wouldn't mind - I would after all be paid extra - but the next day I was told  that the schedule was so up the spout that they were having to cancel most of the weeks filming. I think if one person tests positive on the unit they have to shut down. I'm used to film schedules being constantly revised and, it's best, if you're under any kind of long-term contact, not to make any plans at all during that period but the hold-ups are usually due to adverse weather or a director's perfectionism - covid is a new and utterly wild card. I myself was 'pinged' - I've now deleted the NHS app - five minutes after having tested negative for the fourth time that week and being double-jabbed. I had to stay at home for a week, adding to their scheduling headaches. 


The filming itself has been enjoyable but exhausting - early starts, late finishes, heavy costumes, nowhere to rest properly between takes, only half an hour for lunch - they don't say the collective noun for actors is a whinge for nothing. The sets are astonishing - massive and massively detailed and I had a tour of the Art Department with the chief set designer where, unlike the engine-room pressure on set, all was order and serenity. He has a budget of £18,000,000 for ten episodes and seemed to purr with contentment as he told me this. 'As always though,' he added. 'it all begins with drawings, 'and I felt hugely privileged as he flicked through his exquisite sketch books for my benefit. 


The actors are tested every other day on set for covid. If you haven't filmed for a few days a medic is sent to your home two days before you're due on set. It's hardly ever the same person but a couple of weeks ago I recognised my tester in spite of her being masked 


'You've been before,' I said


No, 'she said, 'That was my sister.' 


'You're kidding,' I said. 


'I'm not. It was my twin sister.' 


"Now I know you're kidding.' 


'No. We're in the same job. I'm called Theresa Brown and sister is Victoria Green. We're identical twins and we both married colours. And my sister's husband whose name is Green is black so their children are brown and, because my name is Brown people often assume they're my children but my children are white.' 


"Or pink to be precise?' 


'Or pink to be precise.' 


As soon as she left, I wrote it all down. In blue. 


The next week her sister , Vicki Brown, turned up. Or did she ?


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

This was supposed to be the Month of Release, a joyous return to our various ‘normals’.


It’s not quite working out like that. Apparently kids in the North West (and no doubt elsewhere given the source) are using hacks learned from TikTok (a popular online entertainment channel for young people, m’lud) that will force a positive result from a Covid test. ‘Why?’ you may well ask, ‘what possible use is that?’ Well, it gets you and your immediate associates off school, in supposed isolation. Sigh.

At Gov’t level there seems to be a broad premise that if there’s to be a ‘wave’ (not sure where we’ve got to in wave numbering) far better to experience it in summer than in winter when it might collide with flu. Brave or foolhardy?

Then, 8th July, The Lancet publishes an open letter from a hundred or so international medical professionals clamouring for the release date to be put back until the infection trend is clearer. Obvs not feeling brave then.

Monday 12th and, as has become the norm, a No.10 briefing gives us the news before the real news in order to prepare us for the real news which is that next week (when we were always due to get the news) Monday 19th July, we will be unlocked. Pretty well fully unlocked. A return to personal accountability except on buses and tubes in London where masking should continue. This brings immediate concern that if it’s still so necessary on public transport, how come it’s not elsewhere? They have a week to come up with an answer.

The weekend before The Big Release and the cackle of alarm is rising to the point where ‘our’ policy of toying with a Herd Immunity experiment now attracts international concern: we are, apparently, a foolhardy global hotspot of rising infection... and the Netherland stats suggest caution.

So, we’re out! Doesn’t feel much different to me, maybe I’m like a pigeon or hedgehog you rescue, recuperate, then have trouble releasing - so you end up shaking the cardboard box to force them out... Of course it’s different if you’re a clubber, or want a big wedding (or funeral) or run a pub. Me, I just wandered into the Co-op, masked as has become usual, among the other masked shoppers.

However, our local hospital records it’s first Covid death in a month, and the local stats show worrying upticks.

Then, just as we go to press, 600,000 ‘ping’ alerts to self-isolate start to impact, forcing a pragmatic response from No.10... keyworkers, particularly anyone in food handling or production shouldn’t isolate, they should submit to daily testing and keep the supermarket shelves stocked as long as they prove uninfected. The final list of just who is ‘key’ isn’t clear and quite what happens if they’d rather have some time at home instead of having a swab rammed up their nose on a daily basis doesn’t seem to have been addressed. Forced testing is an odd concept, Is the threat of having your wages witheld forced testing?

By extension, there’s talk also of testing kids rather than relying on self-testing, which is sort of where we came in.

The voice of the Turtle

A small thing, but welcome: Spain has imposed a 12 month ban on shooting Turtledoves - they migrate back and forth from cooler Europe to warmer Africa over the Mediterranean countries where they’re intercepted mercilessly - and are thought to be reduced to just 2% of their potential here in the UK. It’s not just shooting, of course - their diet of weed seeds and field-edge foraging has been compromised by Agri-business in past years but the new fad of rewilding will help. Anyway, all in all a good thing, we can probably agree...


Then and Now

Peter Scupham

‘Let slip the dogs of war’!


Like most snake-belted, aertex-shirted, khaki-shorted boys of my generation I seem to have spent an awful lot of time in mimic mayhem, pulling triggers, stretching elastic, hunting for egg-shaped sones… I suppose pop-guns with corks were my earliest weaponry, not quite to be lost sight of till I and Muir Snow, in our first-year digs at Cambridge, were tolerantly observed by a corpulent clergyman visiting his old landlady shooting matchboxes off sofas. Water pistols, of course, but much more to my taste were spud guns, where you simply screwed the nozzle into a potato and let fly. My grandfather and his gardener made me an elegant rifle with a handsome stock  and a length of copper tubing, which I improved by cutting up bits of  clockwork spring which could satisfactorily send small stones a delightful distance - delightful that is, to an eight-year old.


A pleasure which seemed real enough at the time, but which has lost its charm, was hurling lumps of mud at my friend’s head, safely encased in a blueish Air Raid Warden’s tin helmet. Stone-throwing had its bloody charms. I remember a vivid kitchen scene. I am propped on a kitchen chair with my mother mopping my bleeding temple, when our neighbour comes rat-tat-tatting furiously at the door. “Your Peter has thrown a stone and hit my John on the back!” “Well, your John has thrown a stone and hit my Peter on the head.” Happy Days. I made endless Meccano firearms with clockwork springs, but, alas, no paratroopers appeared for me to demolish. Perhaps we should move on to catapults ?  Now, I never, cross my heart, aimed at any living creature, unlike my father who, as a boy killed a blue-tit with an airgun and never forgot the shame of it. My friend John Roddis and I  had catapults which were the real McCoy. Four-square elastic, leather slings, seasoned wood. I remember the vivid pleasure I took in breaking the china-insulators on a telegraph pole... And I remember John and I stalking each other with bows and arrows - and how we  had filed down nails to point the arrows, and the cut under my eye which ensued. But then, of course, the detritus of war lay all round us. I still have a tobacco tin stuffed with flattened Tommy and Sten Gun bullets dug out of the quarry where the Home Guard assaulted petrol tins on posts. And I think I have told you how our mad neighbour presented me with a Webley revolver, which my parents promptly confiscated.


Unlike Richmal Crompton’s William Brown, we never, never went ratting or threw stones at cats. And even though John’s Dachshund was called Trudi, her Aryan descent never worried us. The mock violence surrounding the real violence came to an end when the toys turned into Lee Infields and Bren Guns and we jabbered as we stuck short stubby bayonets into hay-sacks on string. National Service.


Perhaps I should using the remains of my Meccano set to create a weapon to kill Covid?


Mary’s projects mostly

Mary Hildyard, Totnes, Devon

Although there have been many frustrations and difficulties this month - mostly due to health issues - we have ended on a high note. Visitors! Visitors to stay the night. Visitors for meals. Visitors inside the house. After 17 months without, this has been exhausting and exhilarating - and, for me, so very satisfying.


Much of this activity was generated by an event in the 17th to celebrate the life of Simon’s brother in law, David Gribble. David was a fierce champion of democratic education - schooling which allows children to have a say in their education. David wrote a number of books about children and teaching. He travelled internationally, researching  and writing about schools run on democratic principles. The memorial, twice postponed because of COVID, was held at Sands School in Ashburton - a school that David started when Darlington Hall School closed.


An old school friend of Simon’s stayed with us in order to attend the celebration and Dianne and Jeremy travelled down from Derbyshire for the event. They stayed nearby for the rest of the week and we have revelled in good company and good weather: trips to the sea for swimming, drinks on the lawn overlooking the River Dart, fish and chips by the water in Brixham, and hopefully at least one good walk to come.


What we took for  granted before the pandemic has, this week, felt magical.


Broadland type

Sheila, Norfolk UK

I am bereft...

I had thought that at 85 weeks on the waiting list for my first (of two) knee replacements was perhaps only 2-3 months away (a previous discussion with my surgeon insinuated such), I have now been informed that no timescale can be predicted as my Surgeon doesn't have a regular and predictable number of Operating Theatre slots to be able to reliably establish a timetable.

Infuriating, upsetting, disappointing - all of the above...

I am totally and utterly pi***d off!!!

I can't do the things I want to do without experiencing massive post activity pain and I am gaining weight because of it too. I hurt, I'm boring, I can't walk - and I'm fed up!!! There - nice to have that off my chest...

My last 2 NHS dental appointments have been cancelled and they can't offer me a new date as they don't have any slots until the NHS dentist I go to releases her September timetable. What's happening? Where is our normal? Will it ever return?

What of this new Health and Care bill - anyone know? Old college friends of mine on our WhatsApp group are encouraging me to campaign against it. I don't feel very well informed but I know that we're in a terrible crisis...

On the other hand...

The new corner border we made this year using seeds we germinated ourselves has finally begun to look totally and utterly gorgeous. What a revelation. Nature is the most wonderful thing, isn't it?

I just wish that there was a fantastic new plant-based remedy for my arthritic body! NOW!

But I'm having my hair done soon so I'm hopeful I'll feel better after that.


From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

What a strange month. For all sorts of reasons (not COVID related) it’s been stressful and exhausting. The garden is turning into a jungle, the house into Nightmare Abbey, and one realises that the pandemic and the isolation have taken a huge toll on one’s energy and appetite for life. I often feel I can’t be bothered to water the containers/cook supper/get properly dressed. Have we really been living like this for sixteen months? 

One needs a great jolt to spring into action again. 

And further afield, the chaos and confusion and muddle persist and grow. Infections increasing, hospitalisation increasing, pinging increasing, food chains broken, staffing shortages. Many of you have written about this already so I won’t go on... As I’ve said before, ‘things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;’  Thank you, Mr Yeats.


We tried to visit the coast, but the small village we aimed for had turned into Blackpool. We turned inland and ate our picnic on a track surrounded by meadows and no one. Just a distant church through the trees. Apart from our car and us, it could have been 1900. 


Yes, a difficult month, as we wrestle with ideas of equity/moving/downsizing. BUT friends have been wonderful, from Sheila redesigning part of my kitchen (a project for late August) to her husband Chris finding us a computer expert and a flailing farmer, to Stephanie trying to find me domestic help and giving me advice on all sorts, and Mary listening, to George and Clarissa offering to come and move/sort furniture and books, to Jane house hunting. Don’t worry - we aren’t moving. Not yet! Such support has moved me to tears at times. Thank you all. 

Which brings me to this morning. An email out of the blue from someone I don’t know at all.


‘I am not sure if this small note is even being sent to the same Margaret who wrote ‘Running out of Sky’.
If not... my apologies.

If so... thank you for a perfect play. All work stopped and after running out of tears I thought I must write.

Thank you...’


It is the same Margaret. (Or is it? I wrote that radio play thirty years ago).

Postman Richard told me it was being re- broadcast yesterday on radio 4 extra. I’m so glad it connected with someone after all this time. 


Finally, we are looking forward to seeing any of you who can get to the Journal garden party on the 7th.

PLEASE let me know in the next couple of days if you hope to be there and I’ll forward details later this week (it will be held at both Sheila’s and mine). There will be an opportunity for people NOT there to zoom/FaceTime us between 2 and 3. Let me know if you want to do this... 


Carry on being careful... carry on writing.