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Home thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

A romantic Indian summer!


Our niece’s wedding was a triumph not least when she and her groom on leaving the church to accomplished peals of bells mounted their rose bedecked horses and galloped off in their pomp - the bride revealing white rhinestone encrusted cowboy boots beneath the froth of her frock!!! The last we saw of them (until the very elegant wedding breakfast which began with oysters and champagne) they were crouched low over the horses’ manes as they ducked beneath the church lychgate heading in the direction of their beloved Dartmoor! 


Glorious glorious youth!!!


We spent a delightful week in Devon. The 45 minute flights twixt Norwich and Exeter were well organised and the Covid protocols exceptionally reassuring. Our only disappointment was that the Seahorse in Dartmouth (a favourite) which we had booked for our own wedding anniversary lunch was closed when we arrived… due to last minute staffing issues caused by the pandemic. As every other restaurant was fully booked we resorted to plan B… gorgeous crab sandwiches from a tiny shop with an open sash window which we enjoyed with ice cold Guinness in takeaway plastic glasses from a seafront pub! We nabbed the end of a bench overlooking the Dart and followed this deliciousness with a shared tub of freshly made Devon ice cream! Our day was made complete by a riot of adventure! We started out for Dartmouth from Totnes taking the steamer down the beautiful Dart Estuary. At the end of the afternoon we joined the Dart Valley Steam Railway which took us to Paignton where an open topped bus raced through low hanging tree branches covering us with a confetti of leaves and brought us back to our car in Totnes!  


Glorious glorious middle age!

My sister’s hat at the wedding
and my husband’s hat which I made for him in Dartmouth...

...and THE BOOTS!!


Hello from Eastbourne

Shirley-Anne Macrae

Everyone has an opinion by Shirley-Anne Macrae

School is going well so far. No dramas or detentions although they will happen. We heard from the secondary school this afternoon because the vaccination programme for children and teenagers is about to be rolled out. Nick and I spoke about this together and then with our son. Surprisingly/appallingly, for such an important decision, it was decided in less than 30 seconds. I suppose we can gloat that we are not a family that procrastinates.


Everyone has an opinion, from grandparents to the taxi driver. Passionate and polarised decisions at that! Ultimately though, the decision lies with us. We can't be bothered debating it and justifying our decision with family/neighbours/taxi drivers when it concerns our son. So we are planning on acting confident and measured (whilst panicking and thinking 'Bother! She's going to be so mad at me for not telling') and saying calmly 'we don't want to comment, it's a private family decision and we know you will understand'.  


Wish us luck!


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

I’ve started writing early this month. On Friday I should, all being well, be driving best beloved’s grandchild (not a child of course!) back to university, so writing is likely to be impossible. Anyway, here goes for another entry in this delightful journal. The question is - what shall I write about this month, because little of note seems to have happened around me? Words are fun though, so here are a few.


Thankfully on this small island, the weather has mostly been kind to us. Best beloved and myself have enjoyed the beach hut and hope to continue that into the autumn. Camper van Romy has been less used than last month, with zero camping going on. My walking has been curtailed by an apparently failing left hip joint. Physiotherapy is helping with that though, and I am getting around. I think I must count my blessings in that my life - 77 years long so far - hasn’t hitherto been blighted by any significant aches and pains. Ageing is a new adventure - starting late I guess.


This past weekend has seen the Isle of Wight Festival happening very near to where best beloved lives. Many people here, myself included, have been concerned about the Covid consequences of this event. I think about 50,000 have visited, so we shall see. I’m surprised to find there were so many here, because it has seemed much quieter than earlier incarnations.


Encouraged by best beloved, who is sadly unlikely to join me, I have booked a Mediterranean cruise for November. My feelings about this are delight on the one hand, and some trepidation on the other. Later in the year I shall no doubt write about this, assuming it goes ahead as planned. It will be interesting to visit Gibraltar for the first time since I lived there in 1951.


Well, I think I have used all my words for now. More to come another time…


Seriously isolating

Jean, Melbourne Australia

What a week. Violent protests in the city, supposedly by construction workers protesting against a vaccine mandate, but credible reports suggest members of extreme right wing groups instigated and added to the protests. In the words of the Victorian Chief Health Officer, these were “wacky people living in a fantasy world.” Roaming through the city, protesters smashed the windows of the offices of one of the largest unions, the CFMEU, and at one point rallied at the Shrine, the memorial to fallen soldiers and considered a sacred site. The State government shut down all construction sites for two weeks to allow workers to get vaccinated and make sure sites were compliant with health orders, the police have been out in force, and spokespersons from the construction industry, the union movement and politicians condemned the protests as thuggery.


On Wednesday morning at a quarter past 9, I was having a cup of tea and my apartment building started to shake. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Unnerving. I later found out I should have got under a table or left the building, but the sensation was so odd I just held on to my cup. It turned out to be a 5.9 magnitude earthquake. The epicentre was 190 kms from Melbourne and the tremors extended all the way north to Newcastle in New South Wales and south to Tasmania. My apartment building shook and rattled for some seconds. The quake gave everyone something else to talk about other than how we’re going with our ongoing lockdown or the super slowness of our opening up or the Prime Minister's latest debacle.


Apparently Melbournians have been in strict lockdown longer than anybody else, more than 200 days – it’s either a badge of pride – think of all the lives that have been saved – or cause for despair – how much longer can we keep going? At least the push to get people vaccinated is continuing, in some places more successfully than others. We have to get to the magic number of 80% of the population over 16 before there will be significant changes – for example, the opening of borders.


In the midst of much uncertainty around travel I’ve decided to take my chances and buy a ticket anyway in hopes of visiting my daughters in January. I still have to get the exemption to leave, it may be touch and go trying to get back, but enough already!

I went walking today with a friend in the neighbourhood who captured two views of Melbourne.


Our local park in Hawthorn with kids, dogs, parents out on a beautiful spring afternoon.


And a gritty wall with a distressed poster in the next-door suburb of Richmond which sums up the Melbourne mood – we are definitely gritting our teeth!


Mary’s projects mostly

Mary Hildyard, Totnes, Devon

A month of two halves. As we entered September - a trip to London... at last! As we leave September - a project cancelled... again!


I have checked the calendar; we were last in London on February 23rd 2020. Pre COVID we were likely to be in London every six weeks or so and we have missed those visits. This ten day visit was terrific but preliminary - only a toe in the water. We were not yet ready to risk going to the theatre; we walked everywhere - some trains but no taxi, no bus, no underground; we visited the National Gallery but stayed only about 40 minutes; we were invited to a glorious birthday picnic and had three restaurant meals out. Outside that is. Several Soho streets are blocked off to cars and a number of restaurants have moved tables out into the pavement and into the road.


 We sought out and found two secret gardens in the centre of London - one, not far from Leicester Square, was created on the remains of a bomb site. We managed to see the grandchildren both going and coming and shared a late night bottle of wine at a bistro under the stars with my son when we first got to London. Magic.


We expected to finish the month on a high as well but plans went awry. Back in April 2020 Dianne and I were planning a dyeing session. We had done a course in Shibori stitching and indigo dyeing and were keen to put what we had learned into practice. But COVID struck and lockdown prevented us from going ahead. This summer we began planning again but health issues curtailed the project. 


Then, we set a late September date and once again gathered up the paraphernalia required. We ordered more indigo powder and some silk painting inks. We scoured fabric. We rolled it, hemmed it and stitched it. Simon worked in the garden to make a space for the tent and electric ring. Dianne and Jeremy packed their van. And... COVID struck again. Dianne and Jeremy’s granddaughter, with whom they had been in contact, tested positive. She, luckily, is not suffering badly from the infection. But we, unluckily, have had to postpone once again. 


We have set a new date for October. Watch this space.


Restrictions for many

Hilde Schöning, Buchholz, Germany

Life at school is fairly normal with some limitations (constant wearing of masks, every now and then students being at home due to a cold, who need to be included in lessons via Teams, technical problems and a general fatigue of the whole situation to be noticed in staff).

There is also a wish for a "freedom day" which was articulated by the federal head of GP's, and strictly denied by leading physicians of intensive care units. Obviously, the rate of vaccinations is still not high enough (63,6% have got a full protection) for such a step.


The election of the new chancellor is of course a very important topic, and it seems to be truly difficult to take a decision and to imagine working coalitions.


The heath was very picturesque to look at in August and early September and a haven for regeneration at the weekend. I attach a photo in order to give a glimpse.


Broadland type

Sheila, Norfolk UK

Well loads has happened hereabouts.


We’ve had our Produce Show - one of my Dahlias won 1st prize (so thrilled), our son has moved into his new build house near us with his lovely girlfriend, we visited the wonderful ‘Rocky Bottoms’ on the North Norfolk coast and had the most indulgent Lobster lunch ever and we’ve sold our Yurt to a lovely couple from Wales who are collecting the whole shebang today (Sunday).


The garden’s looking OK still, the sun is shining and although I have reached the dizzying heights of 93 weeks on the NHS waiting list for knee surgery I am NOT downhearted!!

No really I’m not.

Well not much anyway…


Oh and the very clever Jeremy (Dianne Hewitt's lovely husband) has sent me a special gift of a pen he has crafted himself using a piece of our Giant Redwood pruning that we gave to him when they visited here for the Plague 20 Journal gathering not so long ago.


I'm thrilled!

I thought it was a gift for us - me and 'im - but I've been assured by Jeremy himself that it's all mine. FABULOUS - no arguing there then, I do not have to share!


I've taken a picture so it is now public knowledge - steal it if you dare Gatesy!


Thin air

John Mole, St Albans



When I took my line

for its daily walk


it kept me company

then wandered off


no longer patient

with the homeliness


and lack of adventure 

in our steady pace 


but leaving my side

in search of freedom


it gathered what elsewhere

could be found  


and then came back

to where I was waiting


and showed me the way

as we journeyed home.


Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

Reporting on the good news front. We had a three day anniversary holiday at a motel that is right on the shore of Lake Champlain. Three days because they did a special, three days for the price of two. The rooms open directly onto the grass in front of the lake, so we spent a great deal of time sitting in big wooden Adirondack chairs watching the water and the sky change shapes and colors. I did quite a lot of painting, learning how to create greys and painting alla fresca, which is when you put the pure color on the page then add another color, vs. mixing colors on the palette. I didn’t take my new easel, I was shy about standing there making a statement about me and painting, or that’s what it felt like anyway, but right outside our door there was a little table and two chairs so I painted there quite happily, and drew impossibly shaped Adirondack chairs. I will never ever get the hang of perspective but perhaps that doesn’t matter. It certainly doesn’t painting lake and mountains and sky.


And a good thing about the motel was that it was a motel, so there wasn’t a lot of crowding in with other people. Vermont is in the middle of covid surge, yesterday we had the second most number of cases since the pandemic began, so we are masked and cautious and were happy to meet people outside.


And, again on the good news front, my insurance approved me getting the $6000 shot instead of the $2000 shot, and I got the shot right at the end of August, and it has actually improved my eye sight. What a relief. I know it is temporary, but I will keep popping the xanaxes and getting the shots. I still can’t read easily, but I can read with kindle or large print books, and it certainly makes easier our choices about winnowing down our remaining thousands of books. And painting sky and water is no problem at all.


Our other adventure was having another Tibetan Terrier come and stay with us while one of her people had an operation. She and Gillie have known each other since they were puppies, and she was sweet, quiet, a completely different personality. She made us appreciate Gillie’s more forceful opinionated loud self. She followed us around, and slept on the bed, wanted to be wherever we were. I thought it was because she was adjusting and anxious but it turns out she is like that at home too. We got into problems when we had to be away for several hours, because she’s used to going outside through a dog door, and doesn’t, it emerged, know how to “hold it” until we return. She peed twice and pooped once, and we returned her to her people. But she’ll come visit again and next time I’ll crate her when we leave for any length of time. I really love having more than one dog underfoot, and we both got fond of her. A good trial run for when we find our lab puppy.