Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
New Covid fears have led to mandatory mask-wearing in shops and on public transport, the over 75’s are declared sacrificial by NHE and can no longer assume access ad lib to their GP’s who are asked to join in a newly invigorated Jabfest instead - and at a reported ‘bonus’ of £15 a pop are quite likely to subscribe. There is much cancelling of Company Xmas Jollies and those that are to go ahead are asked to discourage - this by a Govt Minister no less - overt snogging by resisting the stimulus of Mistletoe displays. I get an early present in the form of a new testing kit requiring ‘only’ the insertion ‘until resistance is felt’ (by what, collision with my brain, or worse, the back of my skull) of the long swabs up my hooter. I choose to see this as wholly better than gagging over throat invasion.
In and around this merry festive tableau, life here goes on much as usual here and weather permitting, various projects are on the go.
This scaffold has been erected to get me access to the dilapidated dormer window at the back of the house - dilapidated due to lack of easy access, you can’t just bung a ladder up to it, so I’ve largely not bothered over the years.
It was provoked by a damp patch appearing on the bedroom ceiling nearby. So the idea is I replace it with a no maintenance ‘plastic’ window and clad the structure with no maintenance shiplap cladding, fettle the leadwork and tiling and I need a firm structure beneath me if I’m to be gambolling about up there. Anyway, rigging up the hoist to minimise one-handed ladder journeys with tools and materials, I recalled a recording from childhood - and with apologies to Hoffnung (and Pepys) this emerged:
Norwich, November 1668
Noticing a damp patch on the ceiling of my chamber, close by the window set within the sloping part, I did call to Rich below in the Kitchens to attend me and agree what might be done. Before I can caution him against such precipitate foolishness, he thrusts an exploratory finger into the dampness, thus loosening a goodly section of plaster which falls on my silk cushioned dressing stool and Turkie carpet and in his haste to make good the damage by replacing the portion - though Lord knows what he thought he might achieve thereby - only loosens more until, through a hole inn which one might thrust a plump hen, daylight could be seen.
Retreating downstairs, me boxing his ears the while, we look from the Yard below and, sure enough can see to the right of the window which is let into the roof, a tile cracked asunder and somewhat slipped as a consequence, letting rain in.
I called for workmen from the dock to erect scaffolding below and to the sides of said window, and being assured by them all was secure and safe was about to ascend but thought better of it and sent Rich up in my place, encouraging him to jump and caper to put the workmanship to the test. Once he had done this with no injury, I followed and from the vantage to my dismay found many tiles in disarray, evidently the consequence of much neglect.
Rich assured me he was well versed in repairs to all manner of rooves and if I would procure tiles enough he would arrange them securely. My Dear Wife advised against, (sensing parsimony) and would rather bring in masons or those better versed in roofing, but I feared delay and for quickness engaged Rich for the work.
Thus I bought several dozen tiles and by way of a barrel and a hoist formed by an Admiralty pulley and some good sisal rope slung from the topmost beam of the scaffold, work started.
Blessed by fine weather, soon Rich had indeed reset a goodly patch of tiles old and new and declared his work done and ready for inspection. This I did from the ground and All seeming as it should be was content - only to be hailed from above that I might get another to attend for a minute or two assist in the lowering of the barrel with unused tiles and broken pieces of tile. With no-one at home sturdy enough to take the rope at the lower end did volunteer myself.
Above I thought I saw a flicker of disdain pass and what I took for cheeky muttering, but resolved to intercede and casting aside my coat to my Staff, who seemed eager to watch, took a firm grip upon the rope, winding it around my forearm to better control the load and called up to Rich to cast off the barrel.
The barrel, being somewhat heavier than myself, did jerk me off my feet and before I could let go, I found myself propelled upwards at speed towards the pulley above.
Halfway up, I met the barrel coming down, receiving a grievous blow to my shoulder & quite ruining my shirt and waistcoat, but I dursen’t let go the rope.
And thus I proceeded to the top, jamming my fingers in the pulley, and banging my head upon the beam but hardly had time to register this new calamity when the barrel, hitting the ground, split and cast the better part of its load.
I was now heavier than the barrel, and, still holding the rope, I descended.
Halfway down, I met the remains of the barrel coming up and received grievous barking to my shins and knees before coming to rest, most uncomfortably, on the pile of broken tiles, receiving cuts to my hinder parts and ruining my breeches.
Somewhat dazed by this misadventure, at this moment I must have lost what remained of my senses, for I let go the rope.
The barrel returned to the ground with its remaining cargo of tiles, landing upon me and rending me unconscious.
When I came to, I was in my bed, surrounded by my curious household who recoiled at my awakening but seemed pleased enough at my survival.
Across the room, through a hole in the ceiling such that a plump hen could be thrust within, I could clearly see daylight.
I have asked my Dear Wife to arrange for good Tradesmen to remedy the tiling from my scaffolding and to consign Rich to the cellars where much night soil remains to be excavated. It should keep him out of my way for a few days while I recover.
Words from Wood Lane
Susan Neave, Beverley
November seems to have flown by, and at last the leaves have begun to fall. We are still short of birds - where have our lovely goldfinches gone? Christmas is beginning to seem quite close now, and the town shops are more crowded. Will people obey the masks rule?
Beverley Minster organizes a Christmas Tree festival - bigger than ever this year, with trees all around the inside walls sponsored by local business, organizations, charities etc. We decided to do a 'street' one, reflecting all the things we have done during Covid, but only 10 days' notice. Thanks to my very artistic neighbour and a group of us helping out we have a tree that is so full you can hardly see any of the greenery, with everything made from scratch. The trees are on stands with lights provided, and this morning five of us set off for an 8.30 start on a rather cold morning to do the decorating. The signficance of the decorations may not be immediately apparent to visitors (the sunflower on the top represents the sunflower growing competition, the parcels are wrapped in the Wood Lane newsletter etc etc.)
The Civic Society lecture earlier in the month seemed to be well received, with a large enough audience to fill plenty of pews in St Mary's, a large and very splendid medieval church with a good sound system! Much more satisfactory than having to give it via zoom. In the same church we shall be at a funeral tomorrow (Friday) of a neighbour who has lived in the street even longer than we have. Various small family get togethers next week, unless anything changes dramatically. Will Downing Street be having another big party this year?
Jean, Melbourne Australia
Melbourne iso and lockdown no more. Next week I’m booked to fly to the UK, and then to the US. It’s thrilling and scary at the same time. Even since I bought the ticket, emergence of the new variant has effected entry requirements to both countries, and the situation remains volatile. Things like border closures and lockdowns can happen so quickly, so I am both prepared to go and prepared to postpone if I have to. I want to see my kids badly. And see friends, even if we have to double mask and meet outdoors somewhere. Mary and Simon, Margaret and Peter – I’m hoping!
November was crazily filled with various doctors’ appointments, the dentist, the booster. Booked the PCR tests. As ever, just before a trip, things happened in the flat. A sink didn’t drain, the bathroom tiles popped off the wall. Various plumbers were called in. An electrician had to be called. Had a haircut. Bought a new suitcase. Stopped being a dinosaur and bought an iPhone.
As a backdrop just as Melbourne was starting to open up in earnest, large anti-vaccination, anti-Dan (our State Premier) demonstrations rolled out, occupying the steps of Parliament, in part protesting a controversial bill before Parliament that would give the State government a legal framework to manage health emergencies. The bill did pass after days of debate and a 21 hour sitting and many amendments. Unedifyingly, the Prime Minister failed to unequivocably call out the violent elements taking part in those demonstrations (shades of Trump) just as he’s dodged coming clean on climate commitments. There’s an election on the horizon.
And as ever just before leaving it, Melbourne pulls out the stops to reveal its particular beauty. On a wonderful walk with friends along the bay, the water was a deep blue and the sky perfect, and people joyous to be out in it. Add to that a massive lemon-scented gum tree and a glossy raven with his eye on our sandwiches!
From a very small Island
Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight
You wouldn’t believe it would you - or at least I wouldn’t have believed myself capable of such a thing! Last month I forgot to write for the journal, having remembered the task ahead of me up till almost the deadline. Then for some reason all recollection of the commitment flew away from my small mind. An e-apology winged it’s way towards Margaret, but that didn’t prevent a gentle chiding the following week from one half of my fan base, dear J, who lives near Southampton - you know who you are, and I find it really flattering that you are interested in my rambling words. A big smile for you, and another for everyone else involved with this wonderful journal, especially Sheila and Margaret.
Okay, so what has been going on around here? Covid infection peaked, then declined, and is now seemingly on the rise again. What a curse the pandemic is. All the wishful thinking isn’t forging much of a decline around the world. Infection reduces and then it comes back again. Seems to me like a pattern set to run on for a long time yet.
It’s been a particularly busy time for me during the past weeks. On the 7th November I set off on a two week cruise to the Mediterranean, courtesy of Fred Olsen Cruise Lines. For the first time on such a venture, Best Beloved was not with me. After considering the possibility, she had decided she was not yet ready to face the possible increased risk from Covid infection whilst travelling. I was very unsure about going alone, but the words, “You go for it!” From BB sealed my fate. Government rules on overseas travel, plus extra precautions by ‘Fred’, eventually left me feeling pretty secure when I boarded the good ship Bolette in Southampton. We were all checked for double vaccination status, and supervised through a lateral flow test in the cruise terminal. Interestingly a whole coach party was refused passage because one person on the coach tested positive, so things were strict. Because of rule changes in various places we were only travelling to ports in Spain and one other, Valletta in Malta. Gibraltar had originally been on the itinerary, but I had to content myself with views of one of my childhood homes whilst passing through the straits. The cruise was a delight, other than missing BB’s company. Of the ports visited, I liked Valletta and Malaga the best. Valletta was fun, with a buzz I hadn’t really expected. Malaga was like revisiting an old friend, having been there in about 1950, when it was a much quieter place than today. Andalusia is one of my favourite parts of the world. The ship docked back in Southampton on the 20th November. I was very happy to get back, especially to my own small home and lovely lady. The weather was not nice though, being so very cold. Brrrggggh! Whilst a good experience, I don’t think I will venture on a cruise solo again. It’s so much better for me with the company of one I love.
Well, I think I have run out of words. Go well all who read this…
Care in the time of Corona
Shirin Jacob, Ålesund, Norway
In mid-November, my daughter and son-in-law visited from London. It was very emotional to see them after two years.
We spent a night at the Juvet hotel, far from the madding crowd. Wonderful food served on communal tables. The rooms are tiny pods hidden in a birch forest by the side of a gorge. No a-la-carte menu, room service, tv, mini bar, luxurious large bathrooms or big bedrooms. It was the vision of Knut Slinning, who owns the land. His daughter helps run it and the executive chef, Chris Schønefeld, serves seasonal meat and fish with local or pickled vegetables and foraged mushrooms. Watch the movie Ex Machina, which was filmed there, if you are curious.
We drove the next day to Loen and took the skylift 3300 ft up a mountain for lunch. We were entertained by a marvellous jazz saxophonist, who happened to be at an end-of-term party with a group of his fellow teachers.
After that adventure, the children had to work from our home office and spent their free time reading, playing with the cats or going for a run.
It was the first time my daughter has spent two weeks here and though she loved the nature, she thought it wise for me to visit her in London for a week every month. Since I clearly can’t and won’t do that due to problems with my private jet, she recommended a Bedlington terrier to keep me company, to love and to force me out of the house. I have kept dogs my entire life except in Norway. My daughter and son-in-law are parents to an extremely spoilt lurcher but she felt that running around with a lurcher in snow and ice, for possibly half the year, was beyond me.
Being a journalist, she found all the reputable breeders in Norway and Sweden on the drive to the airport! We settled on puppies bred in a home kennel. The breeder she rang spoke beautiful English and sounded warm. The latest litter of five puppies were all spoken for. So that was that and my children winged home via Amsterdam.
Five days later, my husband flew to Oslo to meet his first grandchild born on the 11th November. A new era. I drove him to the airport and went straight after to my favourite Italian pizza takeaway (very authentic pizza made by a Sicilian chef) and lo and behold, I received a phone call from the Bedlington breeder asking if I was still interested. One of her overseas buyers may possibly not be able to come personally to pick up their pup. A 'no-no' as it was one of her rules as she can’t bear to send puppies away in a crate.
So possibly a paradigm shift in my life. Stay tuned.
Notes from a factory in the Midlands
During the weekend of 13th November we held our annual sales conference after a 24 month gap, with about 800 sales consultants attending at the Farnborough Convention Centre and another 1200 joining online. The evening gala dinner, with live music, dancing, and generous food and wine felt like a return to the good old days, before Covid had been discovered/invented. Lateral flow tests were recommended in advance of attending, but apart from the liberal use of hand sanitiser, there was no real evidence of precautionary Covid measures, with handshakes, hugs and kisses being generously dispensed. (I focussed on the handshakes rather than the hugs and kisses).
Our European friends looked on with grave concern when the UK “unlocked” in the summer, and were horrified by our apparent acceptance of continuing high daily case rates (or should I say “positive test results”) through the summer and into the autumn. But the acceleration in cases across Europe in recent weeks has led many governments to reintroduce lockdown measures, reinforced with worrying discrimination against the unvaccinated. On top of this some (I am looking at you, Austria) are now threatening to introduce compulsory vaccination. I’m not sure how they will they achieve this; perhaps by employing burly nurses to hold people down whilst they are injected? What is even more shocking is how the chatterati raise not a murmur of complaint at these flagrant breaches of fundamental human rights. The humble citizens of many of these countries have, however, been forthright in their outrage at these renewed and discriminatory lockdown measures, with violent protests erupting across the continent, particularly in The Netherlands. As winter approaches cases will inevitably rise in the UK, but hopefully the continuing roll out of vaccines and booster jabs, and the ongoing relatively high rate of covid positive tests will allow us to get through without any reimposition of lockdown. I have my booster booked for early December, six months and a day from my second vaccine.
As another next step in my preparation for retirement I purchased a new mobile phone, so that I can hand back my existing phone, which has been a joint work/personal device. I have decided not to port my phone number which I have had for maybe 20 years, so that I can make a clean break and not suffer continued pestering from insurance brokers, pensions advisors, property agents, banks, currency traders and the like. I started sending out messages from my new phone to friends, family and colleagues that I do want to stay in touch with. Unfortunately on the first few messages I failed to say who I was. Speaking to one of my sisters at the weekend, I happened to mention my new phone. She said that she had indeed received a text from an unknown sender, saying “hi Cath, this is my new phone”. She had assumed it was spam and so had deleted it! I am now being more attentive. And on my WhatsApp I have now got a photo of myself, so that people can see who it is. One more difficult challenge is that most financial institutions now use dual factor authentication (ie, they text a passcode to validate certain transactions). So I have had to log into my online accounts and update my phone number, which of course then requires more passcodes, PIN numbers and the like. This can be challenging if it is an account you have not visited for while a while, but is a useful opportunity to make sure you can indeed remember all your passwords!
In other news, there has been a lot of kerfuffle about MPs having second jobs. Personally, I think they should be encouraged to hold them (but not lobbying jobs), so as to be more in touch with the real world for which they are attempting to legislate. And whilst we are at it, maybe we shouldn’t let people stand as MPs until they have reached 30 or 35 years of age and demonstrated their ability to hold down a normal job before they move into the House of Commons. They should then be encouraged to remain in contact with their former employer in order to keep them rooted in reality. It is clearly nonsensical to say they should concentrate 100% on their constituencies: government ministers aren’t expected or able to do so, so why should backbench MPs. We have also had to endure two weeks of the BBC preaching at us from COP26 in Glasgow, whilst lots of celebrities flew in by private jet to tell the rest of the world that we must stop travelling and sit at home, colder and poorer. Far more important (and far more likely to save the planet), was the news of promising developments in hydrogen powered passenger aircraft, and also the green light given to Rolls Royce to develop small modular reactors. If we are going to power our cars and heat our homes exclusively with electricity, we will need an awful lot more of it than we generate at present, so we will need a lot more nuclear power generation.
With only a few weeks left to go at work, my diary is filled with lunches, dinners and parties, from now to New Year. I have written my little farewell speech to deliver at our staff conference on Friday 3rd. I am planning to clear my desk and hand back my phone, company credit card and office keys around 17th December. And we have just booked a holiday to Malta for the first week of January – time to relax, recover and re-set for whatever retirement brings. And then I guess I should probably go on a diet.
Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire
I do not like winter. It is now dark so early. It is cold and icy and the car needs defrosting if I need to go out early on a school run. We had snow last weekend. It had been forecast but I hadn’t quite believed it. I woke at 6am to an eerie light and, on opening the curtains, saw a deep layer of snow covering the garden. So beautiful and so quiet. Schools were closed and everything seemed to pause. But now that schools have online learning set up for Covid the pupils didn’t have a “snow day” to enjoy themselves. I felt sorry for them. I was busy and when the snow disappeared two days later in an overnight deluge, I regretted not having gone out for a walk. Walking in our beautiful surroundings is magical in the snow. Today the sun is shining, our conservatory is warming up nicely and in about three weeks the days will start getting longer again.
The graph of Covid numbers in the Derbyshire Dales is a roller coaster, hovering around a thousand. The new variant, omicron, is causing concern. More transmissible? Less serious? Are the current vaccines protecting us? People expect immediate answers. Should we be vaccinating 5 - 11 year olds? America is doing so. New Zealand are waiting to see if there are any problems in America but talking about starting vaccinating these ages in January. My daughter in law with girls aged 2 and 5 years is pleased we aren’t doing so as she would then have to make the decision whether or not to have them vaccinated. She feels we don’t know enough about the possible long term impact on these young children. I would feel the same although I think it is necessary .
We had a trip to Hawes a couple of weeks ago. The Yorkshire Dales has breath-taking scenery. It was cold but bright and sunny. We did a circular walk which started at the Dales Countryside Museum and included Hardraw (shepherd’s dwelling in Old English) which has the highest single fall waterfall in England. The main reason for the visit was an exhibition, in the museum, of a collection of over 400 knitting sticks from the UK and other parts of Europe. I had never heard of knitting sticks and, as a keen knitter, was intrigued. They were used when people, mostly women, wanted to knit while on the move. One of your four double ended needles, used to knit socks and gloves mainly, was placed in the hole at the end of the stick and the other end of the stick was tucked into your belt. This meant you could leave your knitting hanging if you needed your hands for another purpose. I also found out that some miners would knit on their walk to the mine. Some of the sticks were beautifully carved and given as love tokens. On our way home we stopped at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to look at Mark Hearld’s “Raucous Invention” exhibition. Uplifting and vibrant. Unfortunately the pictures were pretty much sold out or we might have had to stump up for a joint Christmas present as we did once before. An original would be an 'as we were unable to go on holiday this year' purchase.
We are going ahead with our regular pre-Christmas extended family get together this weekend. We didn’t do it last year. I have booked a holiday cottage in the village to take the overflow. My brother has just phoned to say they won’t be coming as my sister-in-law’s hairdresser has just tested positive. The rest of us will do our lateral flows and hopefully no one else will have to cancel. We have cleaned and tidied, put up some decorations and filled the freezer. On Saturday evening we will all go down to the church and stand outside, listening to the band and watching the traditional switching on of the Christmas tree lights.
Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you and your families keep well and that 2022 will bring more positive news to the world.
Thoughts from the Top of the Hill
Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
Well, it's been another interesting month. Our PCR tests were both positive after all, despite my negative lateral flow test and being convinced I had a cold, so we self-isolated for the required time. Track & Trace helpfully advised us when we could leave the house and we returned to society using all our old careful socially distanced methods. Richard was more poorly than me, it was a bit like a very bad cold. The following week, the farmer's daughter in law told us she'd had a negative test, despite having been at a dinner for 72 guests four days earlier, from which 12 people had tested positive. She also thought she had a cold. Another friend reported her daughter tested negative but had identical cold symptoms. A book-selling friend had a positive test result but his only symptom was that he couldn't taste his tea! It's still a minefield, knowing what's wrong with you and is it any wonder there are so many cases, when the daily infections in the UK have reached over 50,000!
Added to which, we now have the Omicron variant running riot. What happened to all the other letters after Delta, Epsilon and so on? (I'm a bit vague about how many, my Greek stopped at Alpha & Omega). Were they variants of no concern whatsoever or did they go straight to Omicron because it sounds a bit sinister? Whatever the case, despite the alarm bells being sounded about the number of mutations in Omicron, which may or may not make it impervious to the vaccines, the important thing is that so far there is no evidence that it produces more serious illness, so we are not to panic and should get on with our plans for Christmas, according to the Culture Secretary, who is now a health expert, like the rest of us.
Ironically, I received my booster invitation when I still thought I had a cold, but decided to wait until I was symptom free, then had the positive test and was informed I would have to wait 28 days for my booster. But 28 days from when? No-one seemed sure, even the very helpful person on the vaccine booking line, who had to go away several times to check his information. It turned out you could only phone up to book when 28 days had passed since you were symptom free. Or was it since symptoms started? I'm still confused. We eventually booked our boosters online for 3 weeks' time at a pharmacy 15 miles away, but three days later we checked with our local pharmacy (2 miles away) and they had just put some appointments online for next Tuesday and we went online and rebooked. There was an anxious moment when we had to cancel the appointments we already had, but all was well.
However, I feel very sorry that in this country we are so well served with multiple vaccinations when so many in the world can't even get their first jab, which is what makes it inevitable that new variants will continue to appear ad nauseam. Looking around today at everyone in the shop dutifully back in their masks, I sighed with weariness. Are we really responsible citizens? Some would say we behave like sheep, but I'm sure we are mostly doing what seems best. A friend who has just returned from Italy told me they have it all well organised there and the chorus in an opera performed wearing masks, that must have been a sight.
The cattle are back in the barns, clanking away all night against the metal gates and mooing to their friends in the next barn. Their place in the field in front of the house has been taken by some sheep. Apparently the cattle have to have their backs shaved in the winter as otherwise they get too warm and sweaty indoors, I never knew that.
Our woodpeckers have returned, now that we have a large supply of peanuts. Our younger grandson calls out “Mrs Woody's here” every time he sees one on the feeder. My favourite visitor at the moment is a little grey wagtail who keeps landing on the car's wing mirror and pecking at the other bird he sees in there. He perches on the door and the top and bottom of the mirror, quite mystified, then hops around to the other mirror to see if the bird is there too. This of course means that the wing mirrors are constantly covered in bird poo, but this is nothing to keepers of chickens, who are very messy creatures. We lost “Speckle” this month and the egg supply has dwindled to a trickle, so we're planning to buy a few more layers in the spring.
Today I am writing my piece on my new laptop, which is a complete joy! I spend so much time on the computer and the old one was gradually grinding to a halt, making a nervous breakdown a distinct possibility, but here I am, happily tapping away and looking forward to working.
I have also started my long awaited physio, at Ripon hospital, which is a lovely place and has free parking! Believe it or not my fabulous physios are called Phoebe and Fiona. They have given me some excellent exercises involving a tea towel, a tin of soup, and an elastic strap. My shoulder is improving, as long as I sleep on my good side. Unfortunately I am still coughing.
For anyone following the sorry saga of our broken toilet, suffice it to say that after the new one had been purchased for a ridiculous amount of money, the identical toilet appeared on Freecycle. C'est la vie.
Oh yes, and we were snowed in with the grandchildren for three days, wonderful!
Stay as well as possible everyone and keep planning your Christmas celebrations with the government's blessing!
Sheila, Norfolk UK
I am working hard to get a body of glass work together for our exhibition at Norwich Cathedral from 7th - 19th December - the first exhibition for the Norfolk Contemporary Craft Society since 2019. How many people will turn up is of course in the lap of the Gods... but we’re hopeful and couldn't be in a better venue!
Aware that I am dreading having to wear a mask all day while stewarding, Chris has ordered me a couple of clear visors on clear glasses. How wonderfully considerate.
Should be interesting...
Here’s one of my pieces made during lockdown last year - an Autumnal platter, enamels drawn on glass and then fired, inspired by a walk in the woods. My son says it looks a bit like a Christmas pudding with cream on top!
Other work is perhaps subliminally inspired by all the images we’ve been bombarded with of the coronavirus - and cell structure in general.
Anyway, Happy Christmas everyone.
I’m sincerely hoping that a very dear friend of mine who is currently in intensive care at Addenbrookes might be home for Christmas. Not a Covid related admission but a simple procedure that sadly went very wrong - perhaps as a result of the stresses that medical staff are under during these awful times?
Then and Now
One Christmas morning
I heard myself sing
to a steaming kitchen
‘I’m as happy as a king
things going to pot
and everyone doing
the turkey trot.
As happy as Henry
and his court of beeves,
basting his fat
for My Lady Greensleeves,
as the snow-starred baby
in his candled stall,
they say is King
and Lord of all,
as George the Sixth
and his cigarette,
coughing over Margaret
whose words will struggle
to be great and good
while twists of tissue
go stammering down
that bear the crown.
From the Editor
How did it get to be December?
Well, it’s here, and Christmas beckons.
We are, however small scale, embracing Christmas this year: we are making Christmas cards, printing wrapping paper, decorating a small tree next week (early for us) and bringing in holly and other greenery, and throwing solar lights over the shrubs at the front. Later, the nativity set will come out, and the Pollocks toy theatre lit up in the hall. I have a good stock of candles, and incense to burn. Logs have been ordered. We hope to get to the village carol service, and hope to see friends and family over the twelve days. Mince pies, stollen, panettone sit waiting in the pantry, mulled wine and chestnuts too. Whatever happens with Omicron, we hope some of our plans will be realised. We need to feel affirmative and hopeful after a year punctuated by illness and deaths of friends. We will light candles for them, and for the living, and determine to look forward to 2022!
We look forward particularly to Jean’s visit from Australia, a scattering of snow, and next Spring.
The next edition of the Journal will go online on 2nd January, and I look forward to hearing about how you all celebrated Christmas and the New Year!
Happy Christmas to you all, and our good wishes for the New Year from me, Peter and the cats.