Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Hello again.

I wrote an entry the week after we ended the journal probably out of habit but there was one thing that I had wished it had still been going for which was the baby name! 

That baby over in California.

Lillibet. How can you steal a pet name so specifically the Queen's when you are stabbing the whole Royal Family in the back. It’s a desperate sign of hanging on. Call her Elizabeth if you have to but Lillibet! Its theft. If I was the Queen I’d be furious. 

If some one named their baby or labrador Bel Bel after me I’d have something to say about it.


I think the Queen and Prince Charles will start refuting some of the Californian declarations. There is already more information coming from this side. The Royal Household’s accounts are made public once a year and they were opened this week showing Prince Charles’s personal accounts and that a considerable sum had gone to Harry, at least a couple of million. Rich people’s level of skint are down to the last couple of million, mine are down to the last twenty quid.


Anyway the really big news of the day, Friday 25th June. Matt Hancock was caught snogging on camera in his office with his aide and old friend, Gina Coladangelo and exposed in The Sun, alerted by a whistle blower. The press are having a field day. Hands Face Arse they are saying amongst other things. Boris has accepted his apology and said the matter is closed but everyone is calling for his resignation or sacking for breaking social distancing rules at best and breach of national security, employing your friends, being intimate with a work colleague etc etc. There are strict rules within the civil service about these things.

I think this is the chief whip’s dirty tricks campaign (aka instructions from Boris) to get rid of him without having to sack him. He has become a liability with Dom’s revelations of Hopeless Hancock.

My mother is here and has bought The Daily Mail so we are catching up on all the gossip of Meghan and Harry etc

The country is equally amused and furious. He will have to go.

5th June 2021

Another week has zoomed by.

The diary ended last weekend but I will carry on writing. (That thought lasted a week).


Have been in the shop today and there was a theft! I had a pile of new things on the table and was pricing them up. When I put the tiles in the window there were only 5 not 6. 

It has been pouring with rain today and I have been generally a bit tetchy and annoyed by everything.


Had a nice weekend with Mummy. Met my friend Ros for breakfast on Saturday at Bridport market which was lovely. The weather was gorgeous at the weekend and I actually sunbathed in Mummy’s garden in my pants. I had to buy a pair of shorts as it was so warm.

On Sunday we had lunch with my old friends H and C, (an old boyfriend from a long long time ago, but that is another story) which was lovely and delicious. On Monday I sunbathed and came back on Tuesday. Took 8 hours. 

On Wednesday I planted out the cutting garden in my bikini! It was a gorgeous day. Roger came in the morning and I was out there until it was dark.


Back to today, 26th June 2021

Not much to report other than going to the shop, trying to keep on top of the garden etc. Everything is planted now even the effing dahlias. 

I went to pick my mum up from my sister at Cobham Services on the M25 last Saturday. I went over the Dartford crossing and forgot to pay the charge so am waiting for the fine to arrive. It was like an airport and heaving with people, not all wearing masks. It took all day, 350 miles!

I had to have 2 new tyres before I went as my car shook so much on the way back from Dorset I took it to have the tracking done and they were bowed by all the pot holes. 3 new tyres and two punctures in the last few weeks.


The other major thing that has happened, was when I stopped to get a cup of tea last week coming back with my mum. I was in the queue at the coffee place at Bishops Stortford services and checked my messages. There was an awful text telling me of a family tragedy. So weird hearing bad news like this. 

It is not my story to tell but very very sad and I feel awful for all concerned. Everybody is in shock.


Anyway, we have been tootling around with the 2 whippets and Earnie. They have taken over the sofas and are constantly rearranging the cushions. The cat is just about putting up with them.

One of my grey chickens, Sylvie died a couple of weeks ago and Roger buried her in the garden.

I spend an inordinate amount of time relocating bees from the kitchen. Sometimes they just walk on to my hand and I take them outside. This morning there was a baby sparrow in here.


I hope you are all well, I was going to say enjoying the sunshine but the weather is pretty drizzly and the sun isn't shining.

Love to all

Annabel xxx



Tropical thoughts Part 3

Paul Lowden, Temporarily here

Many Happy Returns


Returning after many months away 

She wonders now how changed her view will be. 

The trees electric green in a late Spring 

Early Summer scene, the pillow plumped Downs

Still roll away and country churches hide 

Up flint walled lanes. Pub, post-lockdown painted,

Flag-stoned floored now offers vegan lunches 

[alongside sausages]; the Cuckmere still 

Meanders into knots, little egrets, 

Last decade’s rarity, now stalk amongst 

Swans, cattle, sheep, walkers, salt marsh and mud. 

Broad bellied types poke flags from cars, drink beer

In support of ‘the lads’ who battle hard

On some pitch; chattering groups compete on

Who’s been ‘double jabbed’, which variety 

They’ve had; tabloids whine over ‘our right’ to

Package tours abroad while politicians 

Cherry-pick statistics and shift their views.

Traffic lights confuse. The book group still meets

On Wednesdays, beach chalet snug and safe,

And two friends, cancer now confirmed, look gaunt.

Her daughter, undergraduate back then,

Was 22 and now is 24.

“Many happy returns” she says, walking

In the faded blue familiar door.


View from the top of the hill

Linzy Lyne, Pateley Bridge

Lovely to be back! Not a lot has changed since I last wrote a piece for the Journal. We are still wearing masks to go inside shops. The big hole still gapes at the bottom of the hill with a bulldozer standing guard. Visitors are coming and going, walking their dogs and playing badminton on the grass verges. We have started to sell a few eggs to the caravanners at the weekends. 


We have again lived through the slurrying, the emptying of the waste from the tanks under the cow barns and the muck spreading on the fields surrounding the house, now brown and noxious. We shut the windows to keep the smell out. The cows went out with their cute calves, eating off the verges of the fields. The big bull appeared in the back field, just yards from the back window of the house, surveying his harem. He's a very big brown fellow, indeed. The cattle are being moved around. Soon we will have bereft cows in the barn in front of the house, when their calves are weaned. We dread the bellowing cries which will keep us awake through the night. Somehow we stay put, plugging our ears and tenaciously clinging to the pleasure of the view from our hill.


We enjoyed the bright red clay of the French Open. Now we celebrate the dark and light green stripes of the grass courts at Birmingham, Eastbourne, with screeching seagulls swooping over the courts, then Wimbledon. The huge numbers in the Wimbledon qualifying draw give slight hope for home interests but they dwindle rapidly from round to round. Two young English players bravely fight five-set matches in the final round of qualifying but lose, cheerfully congratulating their opponents, leaving Katie Swan to carry the flag, the first British woman to get through qualifying for twenty years. We have just heard that the British youngster, Jack Draper, will play Djokovic on Centre Court in the first round of the main draw. A day for him to remember.


Naturally we have watched every match of the Euros, celebrating England and Wales going through to the next round and commiserating with Scotland's defeat. In football, men in the crowd and in the streets outside strip off their shirts to celebrate. The players get penalised when they do the same. This does not happen in the tennis (apart from Djokovic, for whom we make allowances as he is World No.1). All this sport makes me wonder about nationalism. Tennis is like watching gladiators with racquets for weapons and football like the charging of opposing armies, ferociously fighting for a trophy rather than the spoils of war. Stadiums are starting to fill up and they are going to have a capacity crowd for the Wimbledon final. I worry about this, while purring with anticipation.


We are enjoying our freedoms, such as they are, with our double vaccinations. We have had lunches, teas in gardens, time with the grandchildren and even hugs, and we are so grateful for these mercies, after all that has been denied. “Freedom Day” has been postponed and people are twitchy.


We continue to live in hope for all our other freedoms, while still worrying about what the future holds. My son is in Sydney, where they have a new outbreak. They call 37 cases a serious outbreak there, but here we are currently getting thousands every day. The difference is, of course, the vaccine. Hardly anyone has been vaccinated yet in Sydney. My son has appointments for two Pfizer doses but has to wait a while. He has just started a new job but is already having to work from home. My daughter-in-law works in a shop and has little hope of getting the vaccine for some time.


Our garden is vibrant with glorious colour, which is all down to Richard's efforts. The one time I attempted to help him by clearing some weeds I pulled out some huge thistles from a flower bed. He gently informed me they were not thistles, but wild poppies he had allowed to self seed for their lovely flowers. Luckily they are very prolific and we have a wonderful display, despite my arbitrary surgery. (See photo).


At last I catch a hare with my camera (see photo) but still don't hold out any hopes for winning Wildlife Photographer of the Year. I need to learn how to focus the camera! I found a lovely quote on the back cover of “Landscape Photographer of the Year”: 


"The photographs we remember are the ones that awaken something deep within us".
Charlie Waite, whose landscape photos are stunning.


Breaking news from Westminster, the Health Secretary has been caught out having an affair with an Aide. No-one's bothered about his morals, the outrage is all about him breaking social distancing rules. The PM still has full confidence in him...


Many thanks to Margaret and Sheila for extending the life of the Journal. I hope to be at the garden party if all goes to plan and look forward to meeting some of you there.



Imminently from St Just

Jane G, Banbury

There's been so much to do in the run-up to the end of the academic year that I’ve been fairly oblivious to the general situation – but one thing that did strike me with horror when I was in Oxford last week was just how badly the centre has been affected by lockdown. It was looking a bit gappy even early last year, because of the misguided decision to open the Westgate Centre just beyond Carfax, which drew a lot of businesses away from the High Street. But it now looks like something post-apocalyptic: Debenhams and Boswells have both gone, all of the west end of Broad Street is boarded up, and the Little Clarendon Centre (a small modern L-shaped arcade that links two of the main shopping streets) hasn’t a single shop left in the long arm of the L, and only T.K. Maxx and a café in the short arm. Lots more gaps on the High Street, Cornmarket and the little streets leading off them, as well. The only other towns I’ve seen pre- and post-lockdown are Banbury and Penzance, and because both of those were struggling a bit beforehand, they don’t look so very much worse – though in the little co-operative gallery in Banbury that I’m a member of, we have noticed very much reduced footfall compared to pre-lockdown. But Oxford seemed to be thriving. I had a flashback to how it was when I first knew it, about 30 years ago, and realised that if I’d had a glimpse of its current state then, I’d have assumed it was a nightmare.

In more cheerful news, we were able to have a near-normal Schools Dinner for our finalists – separated into groups of six, but within hailing distance of one another – and once we’d got over the shock of realising that other people have legs, it felt rather as if life had healed up over the breach of the last 15 months. 

And Covid has achieved what years of customer complaint couldn’t: the Banbury to Oxford franchise is held by CrossCountry, and they’ve always insisted on running stunted apologies of trains with only four or five carriages, even though at rush hour conditions were verging on dangerous: sometimes with as many as 18 people crammed into the tiny unventilated and un-airconditioned vestibule between the front carriage and the engine because there was no way of squeezing more people down the aisles. Last week I took an Oxford train for the first time since last March, and when it swept into the station with a full nine carriages occupying the length of the platform and looking as if it had somewhere to get to, I found I was grinning broadly (if invisibly) behind my mask.


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

Hello everyone – it’s good to be back. What has changed in the last month? Unfortunately not very much. The new variant scuppered Boris’s plans for opening up the country on 21st June so apart from the rules for weddings changing we are still stuck in the same groove and waiting to see what will happen on July 19th. What with red, amber and green listed countries changing erratically, no one can be sure how their proposed holiday abroad will work out. We have no plans to leave the country, so not so much a worry for us, but I have sympathy for people who were hoping to see their families living in different parts of the world. The quarantine rules are complicated. 


I looked at the calendar to see what we have done over the last month. We went to the dentist and optician for the first time in over 18 months. We arranged both on the same day to have all of the stress at once. I really didn’t like the idea of someone breathing that close to my face. We tested ourselves before we went and trusted that everyone we were having contact with was doing the same. Everything was very Covid safe. We had our temperatures taken at the dentist and only two people very allowed in the waiting room. Anyone else has to wait outside – we were advised to bring umbrellas! I will eventually need some work doing on my teeth but it can wait which was good to hear. My eyesight has changed very little so no new glasses needed. It was reassuring to be checked out and I was relieved to get it over with.


We had a holiday in Bexhill with some of the family. Our two little granddaughters, aged 5 and 2, were delightful – most of the time! We were lucky to stay in a large house on the prom. We walked out of the garden across the prom and onto the beach. The children spent hours collecting pebbles and looking for fossils, the five year old being more discerning than the two year old. At the end of the holiday they were happy to choose their favourites and return the rest to the beach. We spent a day at the Herstmonceux Science Park nearby which is full of interactive activities which we all found fascinating. There was a talk from a very lively and engaging scientist about the history of astronomy, the Greenwich observatories and the telescopes and instruments installed there.

Jeremy and I had a day off and revisited Charleston. We had first visited with Mary and Simon a few years ago. On that occasion we toured the house en-masse with many curious people and enjoyed it immensely, from the history of the place to the lively conversation it inspired. This time, with restricted access due to Covid precautions, and our party being a mere two, it was an altogether more intimate experience. We were able to view each room in detail with our own personal guide before being shown to the next room where another knowledgeable guide awaited us. Sometimes we encountered a previous guide who had changed rooms. We caught glimpses of other groups as we moved from room to room. Impressive organisation. We wandered around the gardens, looked at exhibitions and had a delicious lunch outside. It was a lovely visit. Unfortunately Shirley-Anne wasn’t working that day so we were unable to say hello. 


On the same day we also visited the nearby Farley’s House and Gallery – home of the Surrealists. We were unable to get tickets for the house so that will be another trip. The beautiful gardens with their sculptures and the fascinating exhibition of Lee Miller’s photographs were well worth the visit. The weather was glorious for the whole week and we all benefitted from spending time together soaking up the sun and sea air. 


So we continue to do our lateral flow tests and meet up with selected people. Our drama group and Pilates group are meeting in person again. Youlgrave Well Dressing week has just finished. It was similar to last year with people dressing their own mini boards at home. This year a framework was constructed to display them on. Youlgrave Band played rousing and moving music. And we talked about next year...



Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

A few years ago I won a violin, a really good one, a concert violin, in a raffle. It is a long story, but one of the many things I learned, and you’d think I would have learned it before but I hadn’t, is the importance of practice. Now I’m taking Sumi-e classes, I’m re-visiting those insights about practice. Bamboo. Apparently some artists spend their whole lives painting bamboo. I’m discovering I get a little better at painting bamboo if I do it every day. Trunks, the twiddly bits between the sections of trunk, and the leaves. It is satisfying to do something and be able to see improvement, though like anything I mostly see the mistakes, the false moves. But still, unlike practicing the violin (I’m extraordinarily untalented at music and almost tone deaf) I get great pleasure painting bamboo. And today I’m going to also practice orchids.


The house sale is still going on, the lawyers are doing their work, but we got a summons because some leaves from a bush are hanging over the sidewalk. I was almost asleep when B. got the summons. In an e mail. In court for a an overhanging branch? I suppose I should be grateful they didn’t send a policeman to come and arrest us, and start extradition proceedings from Vermont to Ithaca. B. texted the man who cuts the grass there, and he promptly went and cut the bush back, hopefully far enough. Apparently you get a new summons and a new fine each twenty four hours that the bush hangs over the sidewalk. This could get very expensive. I can’t wait until the house is sold. Living far away from it is like living with the Sword of Damocles hanging over us. Will the thermostat work or will the house freeze up? Will the gutters fall down? Will the roof develop a leak? Will the neighbor’s tree fall on our garage? Will our bush grow over the sidewalk? Now we’ve decided to sell I can’t wait for the anxiety to be over.

My hips are finally improving from carrying all those boxes of books, much helped by my genius of a physical therapist who told me I need to learn how to walk and how to breathe. Silly me. I thought I’d be doing those things for sixty plus years. But she pointed out that when I breathe my ribs don’t move, and, surprise surprise, the ribs are connected by muscles to the hips, so those constricted muscles that control the ribs are a big part of the hip problem. In the course of torturing me by sticking her thumbs into painful muscles and twisting bits of me around, she told me that people hold tension and anxiety in their muscles. But, she said, she herself doesn’t get anxious. Doesn’t get anxious? No, she said, because she doesn’t have an imagination. She detailed all the things she doesn’t imagine. I was quite flabbergasted trying to imagine not being able to imagine. And now I practice breathing and walking as well as bamboo. And feel grateful for being able to imagine even if most of the time I imagine awful things.


Broadland type

Sheila, Norfolk UK

After a short break of the Journal we’re back!


Chris just didn’t know what to do with himself…


I’ve had an eventful time having venous surgery but am now firmly back in the driving seat, along with Margaret, and using my gorgeous new purple iMac.


My surgery was a Covid miracle really. 

Although I had to wait all day: in at 7.15am, Op at 4pm, I am thrilled to have been offered the cancellation slot at just a few days notice. Had my first Covid test at a hospital drive-in (brilliantly efficient and painless) and then isolated with Chris for 3 days prior to the Op.

Everyone at the hospital were kind, efficient and thorough and I was out the same day. It all worked out quite well really even though Chris had booked a day out sea fishing with my nephew. He dropped me off at the hospital at 7.15am and due to the massive delay at ‘getting done’, he was able to pick me up from the hospital on his way back from fishing at around 8.15pm. He was happy after his day’s fishing and I was pleased to get those pesky veins gone. Happiness all round.


Then the hard part - recovery!

Ghastly Heparin stomach injections and very tight thigh-high compression stockings that keep rolling down and cutting off the blood to my upper thigh. But I’m hoping that eventually my leg will finally match the other one, just as it used to. Not the time for shorts just yet but I may get there before the end of the summer.

And then there’s the knee surgery!

I’ve been waiting ‘only’ 81 weeks compared to my Surgeon’s top of the list who have waited well over 100 weeks! But finally he is getting back to his usual schedule and is expecting to ‘do’ my first knee in 2-3 months. That’s quite encouraging really as I’d written it off for this year. I have resolved to lose some weight before then to make everything easier post Op. Now that will require a great deal of resolve, something that has been missing of late.


Anyway, enough of that…


Thrilled that so many contributors have responded to the proposition of a ‘revival’. So here we go on the next phase of our journey together - a monthly date to remember.

Here's a pic of my first full vase of flowers from the garden.

Aren't plants the most wonderful things.



From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

Welcome back everyone, both readers and writers. The rebirth of this journal happened because of Hilary suggesting we resurrected it for a one-off Christmas edition. When I mentioned this to Sheila, she said why not do a monthly journal! So here we are again.

And it’s good to hear all your news, your experiences, adventures , excursions. And I know that a few of our writers intend to contribute to further issues; they just didn’t get enough warning this time. 

Peter and I haven’t been as adventurous as we intended. We did get over to North Norfolk to visit friends, but we haven’t been anywhere else yet, apart from our friendly farm shop and garden centre. Oh yes, I actually went into a bank in Norwich! Exciting stuff. We’ve had visitors though, lunch in the garden, lunch in the kitchen. Lovely, but strange to see other faces round the table.

And the garden! Help! A week ago, after a short heatwave then days of rain, I felt in despair: a green jungle up to the back door. Seven foot high swathes of dying cow parsley festooned across the paths in the copse. Brambles and bindweed grabbing at me from every angle. Grass areas we’d allowed to rewild lying flattened and horizontal. Deer prancing near the house. (I removed 2 ticks from my face, one from Peter’s). I felt we were going under, drowning in green stuff. As Mr Auden says in a poem 


‘When the green field comes off like a lid

Revealing what was much better hid,


And look behind you , without a sound, 

The woods have come up and are standing round

In deadly crescent.’


Well it felt like that. But all is not lost, at least horticulturally. Chris Gates found a friendly farmer who is going to flail our back track and a huge patch of brambles next week, gardener Jack put in several hours strimming and mowing once it was just about dry, and today our new ride on mower arrived (the old one, 18 years old, has finally collapsed). And soon I’ll have planted out the last of the dahlias and the zinnias, and we’ll be able to sit in the greenhouse again.


Meanwhile, one pays but halfhearted attention to the news: COVID cases spiking in Cornwall after the G7 conference (what’s with this matey, blokeish bumping of elbows?), Matt Hancock still swaying on his tightrope, Brexit strain beginning to show, sausage wars, milling crowds on the beach and others watching football (some tournament or other). And what’s happened to Wimbledon? Surely that starts in June and June is nearly over. And that’s just the U.K.


Ah, I think this Summer is borrowed time. Make the most of it. Beware. Suddenly it will be Autumn, Winter. For how many months do the jabs protect us? Will everything be in place and ready to do it all again with booster shots? Or will we all be disappearing into our burrows once more?


There’s suppose to be a heatwave in July. Enjoy yourselves.