Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

We have lived in Youlgrave for 28 years and I have always intended to visit Hathersage outdoor swimming pool. Today we finally went and it was fantastic. What a shame it has taken so long. 

Our neighbours have been a few times and were are enthusiastic which prompted me to book tickets. As we drove there on a dull, cool, rainy day I was regretting my decision and thinking a walk might have been a better way to get some exercise. 

Due to Covid there were extra rules but they were easy to negotiate and everyone was friendly. As we stepped into the pool the sun came out and the water sparkled. Everything was very clean and it all felt safe. It was much easier to enter the pool than normal as the pool was 28 degrees which felt considerably warmer than the land. I had thought I would only be able to stay in a short time but used the full hour we were allowed and came out feeling invigorated and well exercised. You don’t tend to stand around for long in the pool because you do then feel cold. You do feel very cold when you get out so a quick dry and into warm clothes is essential. The pool is now open all year but not sure I could cope with ice and snow. We’ll see how it goes.


Having read in Chris Dell’s journal entry about rats detecting tuberculosis I then watched a programme about African giant pouched rats being trained to sniff out landmines. Amazing. They are lighter than dogs so don’t set off the mines. They are literally paid peanuts. We seem to be finding out more and more that animals are more intelligent than we think. I wonder how many other species will help humans in the future.

The lifeguard holding his hot water bottle.


From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

Auditions ain't what they used to be. When I left drama school in the sixties an audition meant one of two things:

a) reading lines for a certain part, either in the theatre or television or film. Usually these lines would be sent to you in advance and they would probably be filmed if the audition was for the so-called mechanical media. (There's a story of Edith Evans attending an audition and, upon being asked by a brash young director what she had been doing, replying in her most imperious Lady Bracknell tones -"What, do you mean this morning?')


b) performing  a memorised piece or pieces in the hope of gaining admission to a repertory company season, the apex of such companies being considered The RSC and The National which was then based at The Old Vic under the directorship of Laurence Olivier (anyone remember him?) I couldn't tell you when it happened but gradually the 'audition' with its civilised connotation of listening and hearing was superseded by the 'interview' with its frigid overtones of suits and c.v.s. These lasted a decade or three (God, I'm old) and then everybody started speaking euphemistically of 'meetings' which had bland and entirely misleading implications of equality between employer and desperately hopeful prospective employee. Now 'meetings' too are very thin on the ground for human contact of any sort has become an abhorrence in the selection of talent in films and TV and is becoming increasingly so in the theatre with the seemingly irresistible rise of the autocratic director. 'Meetings' have now become 'self-tapes.


On Monday my agent called and asked me to do one of these. I was emailed a couple of pages of dialogue for a part in a new series for HBO. I'd say what it was but I've a feeling I'm not allowed to. They wanted me to learn this, film it on my mobile phone and send it to them BY THE NEXT DAY. This is called a self-tape and they always want it BY THE NEXT DAY. If you're wondering if it's a covid-convenient thing it's not - it's been around for about 8 years and it's here to stay, the pandemic being the final nail in the coffin of those chummy 'meetings'. I had one of those with none other than Francis Ford Coppola in 2006; he had seen me the night before in 'Mary Stuart' at The Donmar Warehouse. He told me his favourite playwright was Noel Coward and once he had directed 'Private Lives' on Broadway. He couldn't have been more charming but it's becoming increasingly common to step on to a film set and for the director not to know your name. Well, I guess it was ever so - it was, after all, Hitchcock who called us 'cattle'. However jaundiced I sound though, this was the first such request I'd had in about two years and I can't pretend that my first thought wasn't - 'Things are looking up, Dave.' I could feel the blood coursing through my veins again, my pulse racing just a tiny bit faster. The only problem was the 'off lines', i.e. the lines said by the other actor in the scene. In pre-covid days, I'd go into my agent's office in Soho where she had a special room set aside for self-tapes and one of her assistants would read these. I'd do two or three takes, the assistant would declare herself delighted, I'd disappear into the afternoon where I'd meet a friend for lunch or a movie and three weeks later my agent would call me and tell me they'd loved my tape and cast Charles Dance. Fortunately, by coincidence, I'd asked a dear actor friend that very day if, in the unlikely event of my ever being required again to record one of these egregious things, I could come round to his house and he could do the off lines for me. I called him now and he was only too happy to oblige. He had, moreover, a room at the top of his house with a proper, if somewhat rudimentary lighting rig and a radio mic. 'Things are looking up, Dave.' He'd had coronavirus in April, had to give plasma the next morning and would be back around two. 


It was no problem learning the lines, having just learnt 101 sonnets, so most of the next morning was spent rifling through my meagre wardrobe for something to wear. The chap was supposed to be an eccentric academic who worked in a museum, the year was 1916. Tweeds? Cord trousers? Crumpled linen jacket? Knitted tie? No, he's in mourning. just lost his son off Jutland. I tried on my only suit, the M & S one they gave me when I played the rabbi in Holby City, but I looked like an accountant. In the end I settled for the crumpled l.j. with brown cords and set off for Alex's house, in a state of childish anticipation. We spent two hours at it. Take after take we fiddled with the lighting, the sound, my position in the frame, my eyeline. For two whole hours I forgot the pandemic and my leaking flat roof, my dodgy back. for my hat was in the ring once more and hope after all is marginally more bearable than despair. It was, dare I say it, fun. In the end, with Alex's help, I think we came up with something half- decent. I sent it off to the agent, she declared it 'very moving'. I just have to hope Charles Dance isn't available. 


Thank you, thank you for appreciation of the sonnet readings. I think I'm getting better at them as I go along, more minimal, less obtrusive. I've just recorded a wintry one which ends - 'dreading winter's near'. It seemed to sum up the national mood as we anticipate the second spike. I'm rather locked down again here and the hardest part is not seeing Francis for a while as I think he's a little too much in and of the world and I'm too bloody old to risk it. And thank you for sleep suggestions. Sleeping much better at the moment for some reason. It goes in cycles. And thanks for telling me my nearest testing station is in Aberdeen. I really needed to know that. All the best to you all.

Keep well.


A View from Crazy Town

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

On The Fly


SMDH, as the Younger Gentle Readers might text each other with knowing, but unspoken irony.


Sometimes even Your Intrepid Reporter is simply overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choice in the news. It' feels, one imagines, rather like walking into the offspring of a Costco bred with Whole Foods to produce a Mega (please note carefully the spelling - no true believer in the Church of MAGA would ever be caught dead in a venue purveying such Libtard favorites as organic lychees and twelve varieties of kombucha) Emporium of bigly, endlessly gold-encrusted choice, armed with our Dear Leader's very own credit card.


This week was no exception. In the wake of the late breaking news which a mere week ago required a certain amount of scrambling after the Dear Editors had already graciously accepted Your Humble Scribe's offerings, the antics have intensified. Not five hours passed from our submission before none other than Dear Leader himself was seen hovering over Crazy Town on his way to that Mega Emporium of good health, the Walter Reed Medical Center. But He simply wouldn't be kept down. A mere 48 hours later Dear Leader was seen joyriding around the campus of aforementioned Emporium, hermetically sealed in an long black armored vehicle with two terrified body guards in order to practice the Windsor Wave before an audience of the Faithful, gathered to keep vigil. The following day He returned home to pose on the Truman Balcony to offer a grateful nation His version of Il Duce meets Evita meets refugee from a make-up experiment gone horribly wrong. But never fear Gentle Reader, as Dear Leader grew stronger by the day, and the steroid-induced euphoria swept a grateful Land, He reappeared to assure us that COVID19 was "a blessing from God." (I'm not making this up. Seriously.) For it was only by passing through the gates of Hell itself, that Dear Leader could understand what we face, and share in the sufferings of His People. Now rejuvenated in body, soul and spirit, Dear Leader is readying Himself to resume the burdens of office and campaigning. Those who say it is lonely at the top have no idea just how lonely it is readying to resume One's burdens in a White House silent and empty because the lesser mortals around Dear Leader, those with lesser genes, remain lowly laid by the inflictions which He, in His generosity, graciously shared with them. Sadly, we are forced to note that Dear Mrs. Leader and senior advisor Stephen "Little Joey Goebbels" Miller are among the weak and absent.


So, now we come to flies. Much ink and mirth has already been spilled by rival news outlets over the unscheduled landing of a winged insect on the snowy mane of Dear Vice Leader during this week's debate. Indeed, it has been said, with some justification, that the appearance of said dipteran visitor was the most memorable moment of the evening. Sadly, very sadly, this is true. For you see, Gentle Reader, in the interests of serving you and the Dear Editors, Yours t. was forced to choose between watching a debate enlivened by a fly, and a baseball game in which one had hoped to see many more flies, preferably launched by the Sultans of Swat (as baseball writers formerly loved to say) of One's favorite team. I refer, of course, to the fly ball and the prodigious production of same by the New York Yankees. Alas, the flies seem to have been concentrated in Salt Lake City that evening and by the time Your Intrepid Reporter could lay down burdens of his own to catch the last few innings, it was too late. No late appearing flies could save the day for the Boys in Pinstripes. Or, as they say in New York City, fuggedaboudit. But, hey, New York is one crazy town, and there's always next year. Unless, like Dear Leader, flies or no flies, you don't get do-overs.


Seriously isolating

Jean, Melbourne Australia

The last weeks have been a blur, a whirlwind. The death of RBG, the debates, Trump in hospital, Trump's call for AG Barr to indict Joe Biden, Pelosi announcing the introduction of a commission on Presidential Capacity, a plan by Michigan extremists, the Wolverine Militia, to kidnap the Governor Gretchen Whitmer, thankfully foiled by the FBI. All leading up to the election in a mere 23 days. Despite not having lived there for 50 years, what's happening there has got me in its grip 100%. I worry about my family there and what the future will look like and how the country will be able to repair the damage of the last 4 years. And I feel a kind of outrage that the Michigan I grew up in and for which I have an intense nostalgia has also given rise to far right extremism. How is it possible to hold all this together? To catch the Ann Arbor of 50 years ago I recommend a wonderful poem by the wonderful late Anne Stevenson called 'Going Back (Ann Arbor, October, 1993)'. Her house was only a few blocks from mine, and the Mr. Blake at the end of the poem was a friend and frequent visitor to my best friend Cynthia's house. Her dad and Mr. Blake, both professors of Greek, had real old fashioned manners. At the age of 10 or so I remember walking up the front porch steps to the house and all the gentlemen, including Mr. Pearl and Mr. Blake, stood up! 


By contrast, life in Melbourne is still very quiet and uneventful - or perhaps I'm not paying attention? Awaiting the gradual easing of restrictions. There are still outbreaks but the numbers are low. The number of contact tracing centres has been expanded. We're still having the inevitable political fallout over the fact we HAD a second wave - who's to blame? - but it's hard to argue against the strategy of containment which has worked. The budget has just been released - money will be poured into big infrastructure projects, road building, plus tax cuts - but reductions of the 'jobseeker' payment for those looking for work are going back to poverty level and there are complaints women have been left out. Those hoping for some vision (climate change, investing in government services, social housing, education) will have to wait.

Margaret, you suggested we contributors all submit a self portrait. So here goes!


From North Oxfordshire

Jane G, Banbury

Up against the deadline again, after an overly interesting week that marked the beginning of term. I delivered my academic expectations talk three times to three groups of widely-spaced freshers, with wide eyes above their masks. The welfare officers, welfare dean and I decided it would be OK to remove our masks to speak, so the whole thing was curiously choreographed, as each of in turn took to the podium, doffed our mask, spoke eloquently for 15 minutes or so & then returned, re-muzzled, to the front row. It was slightly like Facade in a sanatorium. And I wondered what Craig Raine's Martians would have made of it. 


Colleagues reactions have varied from 'how lovely to see (even half) real faces again' to 'this is unbearable'. I think both things are the case. College feels maimed, with students confined to their 'households' and banned even from entering other staircases. No guests from outside college are allowed. Kitchens and bathrooms have large numbers pinned to them to identify which household can use them. This incidentally means that tutors can't use the loos on their staircases, but have to dash across college and back to the SCR loos; the only good thing about the compulsory 15-minute gap between tutorials (so that undergraduates don't encounter one another outside our rooms) is that it allows time to do that; normally the time between tutorials is precisely 30 seconds, and even using the loo across the landing involves an apology for the delay. The grimmest thing so far is having to wear masks on our own staircases: this means, on arrival, juggling an armful of post and the key to the staircase while simultaneously trying to fit a mask that will be removed again 20 seconds later, assuming you don't share a room and aren't teaching immediately. The first time I had to do this it was raining hard.


I had a dream the other night in which people in masks were going round a shopping centre. Nothing bad happened - in fact it was remarkably dull - but on waking I realised that this time last year it would have been a nightmare, and now it's just life. 


Arranging to meet a friend on Sunday I said 'I'll text Sally too' - then wondered whether I'd just suggested something illegal. And then thought how beyond ludicrous that three women in middle age planning to have coffee in a bookshop might be against the law. It turns out that the bookshop can't do coffee at the moment anyhow - but Sue thinks we can meet in her kitchen if she piles books on the table, dresses up as Polly (the bookseller), and opens all the windows. Two of those three things may have nothing to do with Covid, or they may be significant rituals.


Ah, and two of my second years are now self-isolating, which means at least four tutorials next week will be remote - in the first full week of teaching. It IS good to see people again, but it also looks as if the one thing that really might have kept the R number down would have been to get students to stay at home. Interesting though to hear not one but several scientists on Radio 4 last week saying we should stop worrying about R, protect the genuinely vulnerable, and let everybody else get on with it. I suspect they have been saying so for the duration, but that it's only now they are allowed to be heard.


On the upside, the plasterers who were booked for March arrived on Monday, and I no longer have any woodchipped ceilings - so at least the house can breathe.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Friday 9th October 2020

Coronavirus has doubled in the last week.

Last week: 116,000 cases.

This week: 224,000 cases.

Over 16000 cases recorded today (ONS)


Not much news.

Friday night and back from the shop which was quite busy in the end today.

Feeling sick because I ate my Booja Booja ice cream and honey for pudding and then “tidied up” the last bit in the tub… obviously by then there was no point in putting it back in the freezer.


There was a news flash earlier that Boris is going to make an announcement on Monday. God help us. This week has been all about Boris and Trump. Trump has made a miraculous recovery and said it was a gift from God that he caught Covid. I can’t listen and I don’t believe it. He has been vague about when he first got Covid and has been filled up with experimental drugs at his military hospital. He returned to the White House in a steroid frenzy. 

Half The White House has come down with Covid after the super spreading republican fund raiser the other day. No masks and lots of hugs and handshakes. Are they mad?

Boris did his Tory party conference speech by Zoom. Couldn’t listen to much of that either.

In America, there was a fly on Mike Pence’s head during the political debate last night. No reaction and the fly just sat there on his old white haired head.


I woke up to Prince William and David Attenborough on the Today programme the other day which was lovely. Positive news about their new environmental Earthshot prize worth 50 million over a decade. They just sounded so sweet, nice, and sensible amongst all the buffoonery we are subjected to at the moment.


The Northern cities and the Northwest are very bad at the moment, with another full lockdown in certain areas imminent, the traffic light system which is about to be announced on Monday is going to target areas where the disease is rife. Andy Burnham is practically apoplectic with Downing Street for the lack of contact and involvement with the local mayors and councils who know much more about their areas.

This may be dealt with by Boris on Monday as well.

The hospitality trade is practically on its knees and is dreading any further closures. Today Rishi promised some financial help to affected businesses.

Test track and trace is still in turmoil. Students still locked up in their flats and halls of residences.

In my world I have been posting old works on Instagram. A lot of navel gazing and time wasting activities digging up old photos and working drawings. I am going to stop this weekend as it is too distracting. Have had piles of ancient bits of fabric out from under the print table which are all like diary records of old jobs. 

There are waves of subjects. Classical arches and balloons. Birds come and go all through the decades. Architecture, butterflies, circles and fish.

I think I was much more productive in the old days but didn’t have much of a garden or the other biggest time waster of all, a lovely golden retriever.


The Runaway Diaries

Sophie Austin, London

It’s been a very busy couple of weeks.

It feels like our little family unit is currently thriving in the new normal so I am grateful for the opportunity to write this journal and to take the time to stop and look around and acknowledge the good things.


But also, when I stop, there’s a dread drumbeat that starts to get louder and a slightly sick feeling that rises in my stomach. So, this entry will be focused on the good things. 


We have been exploiting our London privileges and have embraced all sorts of cultural experiences over the last couple of weeks; 


Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern – you took me round at lightening speed, stopping briefly to enjoy a film of Andy putting on his make-up. You were more interested in the Kara Walker fountain Fons Americanus in the Turbine Hall. Its brutal and fantastical display caught your attention and we stood for a long time discussing what we could see. At two years old, you already see so much. I have just bough Uju Asika’s book, Bringing Up Race to make sure I’m able to articulate the important and necessary responses to your questions when they come. The gallery was deserted, the empty hall echoing with your running footsteps. Our own private view. Wonderful for us, but not sustainable I fear. 


Zippo’s Circus – On a soaking wet Sunday, we walked to Peckham Rye and marvelled at the huge white tent that had popped up over night surrounded by all sorts of lorries, trucks, tractors and trailers. Brightly dressed ushers in Zippo face masks, welcomed us in and we took our seats inside. Rows of seats had been removed and seats either side of ours were blocked off ensuring we could keep distant from other audience members. But there was still a very jolly atmosphere and you were thrilled with your bucket of popcorn. Suddenly the lights went down, there was a drum roll, the lights snapped up and Elton John’s I’m Still Standing blasted out of the speakers as all of the circus artists took to the stage, leaping, flying, dancing and waving. I cried. The memory still makes me well up. The performers didn’t disappoint with extraordinary skills and delightful showmanship. You squealed and clapped and gasped and have since tried to recreate the daring feats of the motorbike riders on your scooter. It felt safe to be there and was such a welcome shot of energy and talent.


The London Transport Museum – The sun was shining, and we took the train up to town. I think you would have been happy to just ride the trains all day, but we’d booked a slot to go to the museum and I didn’t want to miss it. Again, we arrived, and it was deserted, I’m guessing museum and gallery attendees don’t choose to visit at the 10am slot. A clear one-way system guided us around the displays and exhibits. The models of passengers and horses freaked you out a bit, especially as they appeared to talk, so I thought this might be another very short visit. But then we found the bus which you could actually drive (turn the steering wheel, and press lots of buttons) and you would happily have spent the whole day there. 

We left the museum and walked through Covent Garden. A lone opera singer was busking in the basement of the market and her beautiful voice echoed around the empty stalls and quiet streets. We stopped and listened and tapped her card reader. 


I am so grateful for these live moments, for these physical interactions with art and artists. I am so grateful to everyone who has taken a listen to my recent podcast. All this reminds me that it is still possible to thrive and find joy in our present, but I am too, painfully aware, that these opportunities might not be available for much longer. 


Your dad and I haven’t managed to find a night to go to the local cinema, and I’ve just heard that it’s closing its door until the next Bond film emerges in the spring. Will it open again? 


At 2 years old, you can’t miss what you haven’t experienced and I am open to new creative and cultural possibilities that might emerge out of the rubble of 2020, but I will do all I can to support and celebrate creativity wherever I find it now, whilst I still can.


Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Suffolk

Days and days of rain. Much needed I know but did it all have to come at once?! No incentive to get out in the garden when the weather is so bad - but there have been some sunny and dry spells too - so we’ve been weeding between showers, raking leaves and even managed to mow the lawn! Yesterday we set some tulip bulbs, cleared out the greenhouse and planted a few recent purchases. We use local garden centres but I particularly like the stalls at the roadside. In the lanes locally, several houses sell homegrown plants, and I recently bought some ferns and other greenery. 


To one side of the garden here - there’s a problem area - two huge conifers - 1960s vintage - and although they do give height and lovely shade, not a lot grows under them. I keep thinking of taking them down - replacing them with beech and birch or oak - but something stops me. They’re a great blue-grey colour. Is that a good enough reason? Money too - it's fearfully expensive getting the tree surgeons in. Perhaps I will have to bite the bullet next year. Anyhow, I have managed to get some hollyhocks growing there and we are always looking for shrubs that might grow well in the dry shade under them - any suggestions gratefully received.


Indoors, as part of our general de-clutter and reorganisation, we have been looking through old photographs and getting rid of those we should never have kept in the first place. I’m sure you know the sort of photo - an unrecognisable creature in the distance (is that a bird or plane or corona virus?). There are also some out of focus shots of landscapes and people we don't even recall. Several photos of me have surfaced that are really ugly. No, I mean it - really bad. Surely I did not ever look that awful? My memory has painted me as a man of style and distinction but there is the evidence that I have been deluding myself. Vanity, eh? Ah but those photos have to go! The shredder is a marvellous invention. With just the flick of a switch, unwanted memories can be reduced to very fine slivers that hopefully can never again reveal the hideous truth! Just teasing. But I wonder if old photos can be recycled? Would shredded photos ever be compostable?


The news of the pandemic continues to depress. The number of new cases is rising - rapidly. More talk of redundancies, unemployment, pubs and cafes closing, shops going out of business. It is relentless. Someone posted one of those statement boards on Instagram recently that reads “Dear Children of the world, it is not meant to be like this”. Indeed. Alas, many of the memories being made right now will be impossible to shred or erase. The store of problems for the future gets bigger.


The wireless phone-in programs tell of people’s anguish and despair - heart-breaking stories. One program I heard mentioned an 85 year old man who has made daily visits to the care home where his wife of over 50 years now lives. Since March - he has only been able to wave at her through the window - no chance to sit by her bed, hold her hand, talk with her, reassure her. Regulations do not permit his admittance. He visits - even in the pouring rain. On another program two students spoke of their time since starting at university. One said she felt very frightened. Her first time away from home. Alone. Confined to a tiny room. Very little in the way of communication from the university - her only interaction - just phone calls with her friends and family. Oh my! The list goes on and on.  


Some days I think we are living through some dystopian nightmare - a badly scripted sci-fi film that no one would ever want to watch. A box-office fail - if the box offices ever reopen - that is. I struggle to see any end to it all. Other times I’m more hopeful. Get real, I say to myself. Things will get resolved. People will get stronger - we will build resilience. We will develop better programs of health, care and support. We will provide for others. We will show respect and support human dignity. History shows us that, doesn’t it?

Take care x


“Survival” diary

Susan, Country Victoria, Australia

Friday’s seem to come around quickly and today I have reached late afternoon having failed to deliver on the promise I made to write and submit my entry early. Perhaps I become a ditherer. I can certainly find endless small ways to occupy and engage myself. This week it was using some special fabric remnants to make some Christmas decorations & starting to use my stash of Liberty remnants to start a quilt (2 inch squares; required number- 864). I blame the weather. We have had three days of constant rain and gale force winds. Picking vegetables for this evening’s meal, the wind had dropped and some weak sun warmed my back. 


We have matters to do with football finals this evening. It is our local game of Australian Rules. My husband’s team was eliminated last week but the Richmond Tigers live to fight another day. We usually go to the finals series at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with 50-80 thousand others. I love the walk to the grounds in a loose camaraderie with fellow fans. We haven’t been to one game this year and the home of football has moved from Victoria to Queensland (the home of rugby). Extraordinary lengths were taken with teams and their families in little quarantine hubs, dramas ensued when immature young men “broke out”, then fined huge sums of money, stood down from playing and sent back to their home states in disgrace. The side stories were as entertaining as the highly unusual season. 


I survived my dental implant. Not the most enjoyable way I’ve ever spent 2 and a half hours. It was a good exercise in removing focus from the process to another place. My lovely periodontist assisted the challenge by describing what he was doing. Thanks Stephen. I was given a top up tablet to the dexamethazone I was given at the surgery, with apologies they no longer sent patients home with enough for two days. The swelling was under control but there were too many people presenting with euphoria or psychotic episodes. Of course it was given to the Donald. The right drug given at the wrong time in the cycle of the illness to the patient from hell.

The situation in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States is distressing. I give thanks for the very conservative approach each of the State and Territory Governments have taken here. It is slow in Victoria and the easing of restrictions is going to be longer than any of us thought. New clusters occur every time people do stupid or careless things.

Take care.  


PS I’m sorry Franklin that you had to find out in your extreme youth that there are indeed some very stupid rules out there.


From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

Two weeks of almost non stop rain. 

The week started well with an online course on block printing on fabric, conducted by Zoom. 

I set everything up on the kitchen table, slightly nervous of the cat, Bertie’s, presence (would he get covered in ink?) but for the first two hours he remained asleep. I cut some very random shapes on a piece of lino, interested to discover, how, even with random marks, one can create a pattern simply by the way one places the block on the fabric. We only had black ink to use, but I enjoyed building up different patterns with the same block placed differently, and seeing the results on the screen of other people’s work. It wasn’t till Bertie woke up, and came and sat on the table (so well behaved) to watch me that I realised that the marks and patterns on the fabric were like the marks and patterns on him!! See photo.

The heavy grey skies and dripping rain only emphasise the impending feeling of national doom and gloom. But we have been lighting candles for breakfast and supper to cheer ourselves up, and our meals have become increasingly autumnal and comforting. Candlelight transforms the untidiest room into a romantic stage set, and we know that our old house didn’t have electricity till 1955. Candles till then or oil lamps. I’ve ordered a lot more candles, but they haven’t been delivered yet, and our last candles are burning low. I hope they last till the next consignment arrives. But we are choosing candlelight; Sandy, in America, isn’t contributing this week because of a power cut and no internet connection. I’m sure she will be looking forward to re-connection and being able to read all the other contributions.


Richard, our ex postman, and two other friends tell me that Radio Four Extra is broadcasting this week a classic serial I dramatised twenty five years ago: The House in Paris, by Elizabeth Bowen. I don’t think I can bear to listen to it again... they’ve re-broadcast it twice in the last two years, and I did listen to it again, but found it a touch melodramatic. My fault. Overwritten. But I do remember that recording it was great fun. Four or five days in the Archers’ studio at the old Pebble Mill in Birmingham. In fact there was a large white Aga in the studio used solely as a sound effect for when Jill Archer was baking in her kitchen! Is the Archers worth listening to again, or is it still monologues? I’d quite like to get back to Ambridge for the winter...

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