Words from Wood Lane
Susan Neave, Beverley
It must be just a month since I was sitting at my desk on a Thursday afternoon wondering what to write for the journal. Since then we've had a longish spell of warm, even hot, sunny weather, followed by some cooler, cloudy days. Towards the beginning of the month we had a lovely outing to Pickering and Helmsley. We bought an old etching of the back of the Mermaid Inn in Rye in an antiques shop in Pickering. In my last Journal entry I mentioned how Malcolm Saville's children's books had made Rye a favourite place. On Tuesday we were at the RSPB reserve at Bempton, where there were thousands of nesting seabirds clinging to the steep chalk cliffs.
We bravely opened the garden to neighbours one glorious sunny June evening. I'm pleased we did it then, when the weather was settled and there was lots of colour. The May rain followed by June sun seems to have made everything grow taller than ever, and in a month or so it will probably be out of control.
We've been able to do some more catching up with family and friends, and next week we head south to the Cotswolds for a couple of nights, mainly so we can call on David's sisters, one in Leicestershire (close to the M1 so an excellent spot to stop of coffee on the way and supper on the way back!), the other in Oxford. Some places we would like to revisit are not open, and most that are require tickets to be booked in advance. It is still difficult to visualise a time when we don't need to plan ahead, or remember to put a mask on to go inside anywhere.
Thank you Margaret and Sheila for reviving the Journal!
Restrictions for many
Hilde Schöning, Buchholz, Germany
What a lovely idea to relaunch on a monthly basis! I had high hopes of writing for my own sake last month, but did not do it. This way I feel encouraged to reflect again.
Time flew by in June as there was a lot of work to be accomplished. Today is the first day of my summer holiday which we are going to spend at home cycling, hiking and swimming. On Sunday we are expecting family visitors and are looking forward to seeing them.
The conditions for a return to school are going to be continued after the holiday: Corona quick tests for all students twice a week before lessons at school and face masks are obligatory. The national academy of sciences Leopoldina came to the conclusion that homeschooling during lockdown had an effect on learning like summer holidays. I don't think it was as bad as that for my students but hope for open schools in autumn and winter.
My feelings on paper
Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire
A shared birthday celebration.
Marianne and I both had birthdays this week.
Yesterday I cooked us a Roast Lamb & mint sauce dinner for two.
With roast potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Cabbage, carrots, spinach, potatoes and Yorkshire pudding.
All very Christmassy with mulled wine.
Marianne came with Raspberry cheesecake and Roses
Followed by coffee and Baileys.
We shared birthday cards and chatted for hours.
Our lives having crossed many paths during the last 35years with years in-between. We met at socialist meetings in the 1980s then later at work and later still at a Burns Supper at Wortley Hall.
Lots of years to cover. We laughed and cried over many things and shared books and poetry.
What a lovely celebration we had after all the loneliness of the last year.
This week has been the best for ages as I have ventured out to visit the bank in Sheffield plus diving to see another friend who I have not seen since July 2019 and we ate a takeaway Indian meal together in her flat. She lives alone like me and she suffers from Parkinson’s disease.
We also laughed and cried as we both have lost our husbands.
Tomorrow my girls are doing me a cream tea birthday party on my lawn weather permitting.
What a week! things are really looking up.
I am still staying safe not venturing out too much.
Good to be back on the journal thanks to Sheila and Margaret.
A Wymondham Plaguery
George Szirtes, Wymondham, Norfolk
Now that it is over, or not over, or almost over, and now that summer comes at us in a series of short bursts, the isolation and the wariness begin to lose definition. The streets are almost normal, being in communal spaces is almost normal, even thinking about what is around us seems almost normal, so the thought of being thrown suddenly into reverse seems ever more like a terrible episode in a dream. What have we been through? How many of us have been directly touched by the plague? How many degrees of separation between us and those who have suffered from Covid? How many the degrees of separation between us and the reality of a Covid death? A number of our friends have had it in one form or another, mild or acute, short or long; a relatively low number I would say. The plague has been more ghost than body. At the worst moments it has been the ghost of the postman slipping death cards through our letterboxes. Listen! Is that him outside?
Friends did die but not of Covid. One of the local estate agents died of Covid. His image – several images of him – were on display in the window among the properties he would have sold. A middle-aged man popular among his colleagues, he succumbed rather quickly. His photograph was suddenly among us in the high street. The buses were empty but continued running. We took walks, wore masks and skirted each other gingerly. Our street conversations were rare and conducted at a discreet distance. We saw each other on screen. We travelled vast distances on screen. We amused ourselves on screen. We did our shopping on screen. Our food was delivered, as was our medication. We rejoiced with caution when the various minor orders of release were posted. We dared meet our family and friends in gardens. Later we might even have snuck indoors to use the toilet. Against our gloomier expectations vaccines appeared far earlier than was expected. An army of volunteers saw us into surgeries and out of them. That was the first time. Then, after minor symptoms, after twelve weeks, we were there again. This offered partial security. The days lengthened. There was more sunlight. Nothing was certain but there was more confidence and more daring. Never normal of course, not once, but within sight of normal, there, just over the brow of the hill (not that we have many hills in Norfolk). I travelled to Brighton by train, slept the night there, and returned by train. A few days ago we travelled to London by train, spent the night there, and returned by train. This looks likely to continue and expand. All masked of course. The mask is never far from us. All this in a blizzard of information that was never reliable, in a storm of rumour, warning and reassurance. Currently we are in reassurance territory. Perhaps we will stay there.
Hello from Eastbourne
Growing pains by Shirley-Anne Macrae
Golly, it's late. I'm hoping not too late. I've been working flat out at Charleston, you see. The world is slowly opening up and folk have been making plans for some time, planning when they can dip their toes back in the 'day out' water. The House is now fully booked for some months. However, let me explain: pre COVID, we would have ten people plus me in a group. Nowadays, we are not allowed to mix households, everything works in 'bubbles'. Thus, visitors are taken around the House in bubbles, maximum of five, plus me. So although we are fully booked, the 'bubbles' limit capacity. It is working though and it's an excellent start. In fact, our visitors are extremely pleased; they feel safe and they are revelling in being there. We clean, clean, clean, vigorously, between 'bubbles'. It's not quite normal as we knew it but just getting out and chatting about paintings and Bloomsbury and having a cappuccino somehow suspends our new reality, for me and for our visitors. We need to start somewhere and go from there.
As for the children, well I've been a coward. They don't know I'm writing this. In their world, they are desperate for business to resume as usual. They are too young really to grasp what has happened. And so, with restrictions easing, relatives visiting and life opening up, they believe we are on the right track out of this nightmare. They think they wrote their last Plague Journal entries a few weeks ago. They felt sentimental about it but also felt it was a step in the right direction for the World. You see, they are not entirely up to date on the Indian Variant and the Delta Variant. I want to keep it from them, for a little while. And that means I haven't the heart to ask them to write for the Plague Journals. They are under the illusion that it is all over and getting better. Of course, I expect it to change. I'd just like them to have a bit of 'down time' with it. It's spiralling though. Franklin was told last week that they must now resume mask wearing at school again. They only stopped wearing them a few weeks ago. He wanted to throw his masks in the bin but sadly, instinctively, I thought we might be needing them again.
I can report on their news though. Franklin has had his mobile phone confiscated by me after he annoyed his teacher by fiddling with it repeatedly in the classroom. He has passed his assessments with flying colours, despite the school hours missed due to the Lockdowns. This matters not to me, he's still not getting that phone back, no matter how clever he is. It's causing a bit of Argy Bargy but I'm hanging on in there because I believe I'm not helping him if I let him away with it.
Marli is having sex education lessons. I collect her from school to find her generally disgusted and borderline traumatised by the learning experience. I didn't receive these lessons until I was 13 and even then, I was absent with chicken pox for most of it and thus relied on my friends having paid attention, in order to fill me in. On the whole though, they did not pay attention. Quite the opposite in fact. They were distracted by a boy named 'Ian', who became known as 'Ian White'. Poor Ian fainted during the childbirth video and when he was brought round, he was as white as a sheet, thus his new moniker. After that lesson, everyone had eyes on Ian, willing him to faint again. Due to the chicken pox, I missed out on the excitement caused by Ian's delicate disposition but I also missed out on the facts of life. I grew up rather wet behind the ears. I don't really want that for her but I confess to wincing at her stories and yes, I feel her awkwardness. She wishes that they were home schooling again so that they could put it off. If they were home schooling, they wouldn't have 'carpet time' sessions, where they could raise their hands to ask embarrassing questions. One boy stupidly asked the teacher if she was having her period! Marli says the teacher 'went bonkers with temper'. And whereas I can understand this boy's naivety, I don't understand the teacher's reaction. They cannot have it both ways. And neither can Marli. "You can go back to school" I said. "But you have to get on with it. You can't pick and choose what you learn".
"Hmmm!" she replied. "I don't need to pay attention to any of it because I am never, ever, doing any of THAT HORRID STUFF".
And so I suggest a bath or a chore or an activity, to change the subject 😩
From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
Wow - it's good to be back writing on a Friday again! My thanks to Margaret and Sheila for that surprise development! Whilst it's great that the journalists now have a dedicated WhatsApp group, enabling some of us to get to know one another better, this task is really the reason I signed up last year. I don't think it's too hard to guess that others feel the same. After all, we most probably wouldn't have joined if we didn't want to express ourselves in some sort of diary form. So, what's been happening in this neck o' the woods whilst the journal has been on pause?
Truth to tell it's been a quiet time in the main - at least for your scribe. I have already covered the 'helicopter weekend', and that really is the last major event in the life that best beloved and I enjoy so much. The beach hut has been visited, and thanks to best beloved, has got a freshly re-coated front apron. The two of us managed a delightful walk to Quarr Abbey yesterday, the living Benedictine monastery here on the Island. It's a beautiful place, which we greatly enjoy visiting from time to time. Alongside the main abbey the Tamworth/Gloucester Old Spot piglets were putting on a show. I think they lead a good life there before pork chops beckon - apologies to vegans and vegetarians present. Incidentally, despite my mother's best efforts, I never have been a vegetarian, even at St. Chris where I used to regularly bring pork pies into the dormitory, especially when living in a hut at Arunwood.
As regards the dreaded plague, well I am feeling more confident now that so many more people have received their jab. Today I am heading out for lunch in my very most favourite cafe in Ryde, No. 64 it's called. I shall be joining two best friends for chatter and good food, all conducted very properly and in accordance with the guidelines. As to the future, I can't really imagine where the world is going. Looking forward to Norfolk in August...
Hilary Q, North Norfolk
The longest day and midsummer day have passed in a glorious haze of leafiness.
I agreed to return to the bookshop for two days each week where the routine protocols have become second nature. Regular customers have returned and it is a joy to catch up with them.
Pilates is fab! I have never enjoyed exercise so much and after just one month feel enormous benefit. I practice every morning before breakfast and most evenings before supper.
This has become the summer of Virginia Woolf. I have been reading my old university paperbacks in bibliographic order and relishing every single one.
We have been spending some lovely relaxed evenings reconnecting with friends... always just one or two at a time... we have pushed the kitchen table right up to french windows which, on parliament hinges, open outwards... swallows swoop and screech and later pipistrelles... candles gutter... wine bottles empty... conversation is still animated at midnight...
The olive tree has not died. After major surgery It is now in therapy and even the lemon tree has a tiny sprout!
Jane, just south of Norwich
The kitchen calendar shows that life has become a little busier over this month of June. Chris is back working with the Norwich Fringe Project two days a week, helping to maintain the green spaces around the City. Over the past few weeks he has been constructing wooden benches, mending fences, mowing paths through long grass and enjoying the company of his fellow volunteers.
It has been good to meet up with friends again and on a very warm evening in Eaton Park I met face to face with my W.I. friends, sitting in a circle, enjoying a drink and a proper conversation. The following week we met again to craft green hearts for the imminent visit of Dippy the Dinosaur who will be coming to Norwich Cathedral on 13th July until 30th October. The W.I. will be handing out green hearts to visitors to encourage individual pledges to protect the planet. This time we were wrapped up in our layers and kept an eye on the gathering grey clouds. How good it will be when we can meet indoors again!
I suppose we are beginning to relax into this new normality, getting used to side stepping on the pavement and shopping as a necessity rather than a pleasure. But everything done outside the home seems tinged with anxiety, the mask in my pocket a constant reminder that the world is different. We have a family wedding to attend next month and the organisation of it has been so stressful for the “happy” couple that it may still be cancelled. They can’t bear the thought of their guests in masks and the live band playing to a seated audience and are trying to arrange a marquee to allow freer movement. We shall see...
The garden has flourished this month, the rain and warmth has meant that the foxgloves, Canterbury bells and the roses have been beautiful. We have had some success with our attempt at re-wilding the garden and have noticed far more bees, moths and dragon flies in the long grass. But sadly I am fighting a losing battle against the slugs and snails on my three dahlias, despite regular patrols and the mollusc’s relocation to the compost bin!
With encouragement from my foraging friend and the masses of local elderflowers, I have just bottled up some elderflower cordial, some of which I will freeze to have as a summer reminder during the winter.
It is such a good idea of Margaret and Sheila to bring us back together at the end of every month and generous of them to make time to do so. I look forward to reading the Journal entries this Sunday and hearing all your news.
Good wishes to all.