Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

Plans for a robot, by Franklin Macrae


This week, I have decided that I am going to start building a robot. I've been collecting bits of old junk from lamps, etc, that mum had thrown in the bin.  

We went to Cow Gap at the beginning of the week and I climbed a huge, steep hill and sat up there. My mum and my sister stayed on the beach and they saw dolphins but sadly I missed out.


We've been out on our rollerblades loads. Mum parked near the beach and we were allowed to skate along the seafront for the first time, to the basketball court. Mum said it was good practice for going slowly and control and minding out for people. We were allowed to go fast once we got to the basketball court.  


There has been lots of school work, the school is sending us assessments. We had to learn about chromatography, mum helped me with it. This weekend I have to do a science assessment and a geography assessment because we ran out of time in the week because my mum has been taking us out. Later today we are going back to Cow Gap and I am going to scavenge for sea junk for my robot. We are taking our rock shoes as well so that we can clamber over the rock pools and play in the sea. The seabed is extremely rocky and I worry about anemones and jellyfish stinging and crabs biting my feet.  

The garden and the tiny doll by Marli Macrae


We have done lots of things this week. We went to Cow Gap or what we now call Beastie Cove. This is because Franklin's toy, Edward, who is a beastie and is obsessed with Mars Bars, decided to name it after himself. There is also a hill near Alfriston which is now known in this family as Beastie Down. Anyway, at Beastie Cove, mummy and I saw some porpoises but Franklin was miles up a hill so sadly he didn't see them.


The first sunflower flowered this week. It is kind of sunset pink, plum, purple and cream. I helped mummy plant the seeds at the beginning of Lockdown and now they are massive, strong plants with huge buds ready to burst into action! I think our garden looks like a kaleidoscope whenever I look out my window. Millions of bright, cheerful colours flood into my eyes. The sweet peas are the colour of parma violets and they smell magical. Again mummy and I planted them and I remember they were tiny, flimsy plants. I really love the dahlias as well. There is one called Totally Tangerine which is of course, totally tangerine and another called Waltzing Matilda, which is a total show off! She is an apricot orange and blush pink and at nighttime, she daintily curls up her petals. There is a raspberry ripple coloured one called Creme de Cassis, which means blackberry cream. We have loads of flowers, all chosen for the bees.


We drove to the beach with our rollerblades and we skated along the beach to the basketball court. I've been working on fractions and French with mummy and I also made a tiny doll. She is wearing a powder blue, full skirt with matching hairband and she has blond hair which took forever to stitch on. I like making tiny things. 


Strange times 

Anna Stenborg, Uppsala, Sweden

This was the first of two weeks of vacation and I will have a third week in August. With the old house and large garden there is plenty to do. There are several old windows in need of restoration, bedroom walls to paint, lots of trees and bushes to cut down and process, immense lot of weeding to be done. 

But I needed to avoid focus from productivity to recreation. A few guests were helpful to achieve a change of focus: my brother Pierre with 6-year old Ada and 16-year old Valter. Yesterday we all went for a hike up on a small mountain nearby and it was great until we somehow lost the track and were in a very boggy part where my shoes got stuck in the mud. I was surprised to discover that my feet functioned perfectly without shoes just like in childhood, in summertime. 


A close friend who is an immunologist has been interviewed several times now in different newspapers and is writing a book about Covid-19 and the immune system. He claims that Covid-19 seem to have a way of activating all the different parts of the immune system. 


He is clever in explaining the immune system in ordinary language and with humour.


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

Feeling nostalgic and listening to 1969 number ones. This made me smile...


SOMETHING IN THE AIR (Thunderclap Newman)


Call out the instigators 

Because there’s something in the air


We’ve got to get together sooner or later

Because the revolutions here, and you know it’s right

And you know that it’s right

We have got to get it together

We have got to get it together, now


Lock up the streets and houses

Because there’s something in the air




Hand out the arms and ammo

We’re going to blast our way through here



It does feel as if there is something in the air, being out and about with people I don’t know feels a scary place. I am much more relaxed around friends and family although that could be just as risky. 


Derbyshire is on the list of 36 places which could be locked down again if our numbers don’t drop enough. Hopefully not, although it’s the big release tomorrow and people are booking holidays like crazy, so who knows what will happen. Perhaps they will avoid Derbyshire.


I’ve been working on improving my mask design to make them more comfortable to wear. I find the loops around the ears just don’t work for me. Jeremy (wearing a mask) was chastised by a woman in the supermarket for crossing her path and not being two metres away. She wasn't wearing a mask and had a small child with her. We had made the mistake of going mid-afternoon instead of our usual time of 9pm. It was busy and they didn’t seem to be controlling the numbers at all. Two metres was impossible.

The garden is producing well. We’ve had loads of mange tout and sugar snap peas, chantenay carrots, beetroot and chard. The round courgettes Jeremy stuffed were delicious. The runner beans don’t look as luxuriant as I would like but hopefully they will pick up. The tomatoes are disappointing, they look healthy enough but the flowers don’t seem to be setting.

Very excited as my mini well dressing was on the front page of the local free paper. Fame at last; although as all the boards were anonymous maybe not!


Mary and Simon introduced us to Articulate over Zoom, which was hilarious and a much needed boost.


Mary’s Projects Mostly

Mary Hildyard, Bristol

My Book Club Meeting on zoom last Sunday night was fascinating. We are reading “Forty Rules of Love” by Elif Shafek. In the book many of the characters take journeys - actual physical journeys, but more significantly, emotional and spiritual ones. Our moderator asked if we identified with any of the characters? Had we taken such a journey? Could we describe it, explain its significance, elaborate? What followed were such a variety of stories; it is such an interesting group. 


I described my journey to England and how it led eventually to settling here for over fifty years. One participant, when younger, had lived in an ashram, learning yoga and bathing in the Ganges. Another described working on a very busy film set with a number of well known actors including Robert de Niro and the many up and down journeys that entailed. One member of the group had “dropped acid” with the spiritual leader Baba Ram Das in the 70s; she described how it had led to a lifelong interest in meditation. 


A younger member just finishing her BA in California talked about taking a class one semester in Oxford as an international student. The class validated her interest in fantasy literature and provided a network of other students interested in the same genre. Another member of the group explained that she saw her life as one continual journey. 


The most moving account came from someone who had recently worked as a medical professional in the refugee camps in Greece. She was so sympathetic to their plight that she had extended her time there and helped set up and organise further medical stations. Eventually she had become very close to a group of Yazidi women with whom she remains in contact even now.


A View from Crazy Town

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

"Where, oh where is our Dear Leader?,"  inquiring minds all over Crazy Town have been asking. After his Huge! Bigly successful! ¡Greatness! rallies in Tulsa and Phoenix, He has been little seen nor heard from.


In fact, the crazy topic of the week occupying the minds and tongues of the chattering classes is whether Dear Leader has decided to cut his losses and leave office early. In fairness, it must be said that His woes do mount - over 50,000 new cases of the coronavirus per day, reports that Dear Leader's buddy, Pal Vlad, has been paying bounties to kill U.S. soldiers, court decisions gone awry (from the Supreme Court on abortion rights to a NY state court allowing Dear Leader's nasty niece to publish a mean, unfair [hugely!] family memoir), it's been a steady stream of Fake News! Why even those ungrateful wretches in the Republican caucus of the U.S. Senate have decided to promote the wearing of face masks, demeaning the Dear Leader's Big Manly decision to stare down that pesky virus without protection.  


In the most bigly unfair move of all, the Mayor of New York (a Democrat snake if ever there were) is allowing "Black Lives Matter" to be painted in bright yellow letters on the street outside Dear Leader's golden tower on 5th Avenue. Who can doubt that this is a deliberate slap at His ¡Greatness!? This, our Gentle Readers will recall, is the very spot on which Dear Leader once prophesied that he could commit homicide by firearm and still not lose votes. And now this Sacred Place in the Annals of ¡Greatness! is to be profaned with big distracting letters. Why, He might even have to - gulp - not read them. And as our Gentle Readers know, not reading is something our Dear Leader does. Every. Single. Day. That, for example, is why He didn't know that Pal Vlad was being a bad boy and killing our troops. Who could reasonably expect Him to have picked out that one tiny detail from the piles of Deep State Fake News doodoo He constantly doesn't pour over? But we digress...l et's get back to Fifth Ave.  Did we mention that this is mean? And unfair? And don't even get Him started on what it's gonna do to property values.... (Sorry, Dear Editors, but Your Intrepid Reporter was taught an ellipsis is three dots, but four at the termination of a sentence - three dots + a full stop, or period as we say in the colonies. Insert smiley face here.)

On a more personal note, Y.I.R. completed a long-running personal project this week. Between covering outbreaks of Crazy, and much more in keeping with the gentle spirit of the Plague Journal, he has been pursuing his own eccentric vision, over the last two years rehabilitating (or rather, funding the rehabilitation by a succession of unreliable local builders) an old windmill in Portugal for use as a vacation home. On the very day Y.I.R. declared the completion of major building operations, two things happened, one good, one very mean indeed. First, The Mill Archives Trust's Bulletin (yes, there is such a thing) published an article on 19th c. milling magazines. Lo, and behold, said article reprinted one typical advert of that period, flogging the products of a firm of London millwrights trading as Wm. R. Dell & Son. Y.I.R.'s very own late father also went by the moniker of Wm. R. Dell, but, alas, there ends the connection, except that "& Son" now finds himself in possession of a former mill of his own. Efforts are afoot to obtain a copy/reprint suitable for framing and display at the Moinho do Cabeço do Moiro (Windmill of the Moor's Knoll). Secondly, the Big Meanies in Brussels declared that Americans were not welcome to visit the EU. Allegedly, we have not done enough, well enough to contain the coronavirus. As anyone who pays attention knows, that's just nuts and unfair to Dear Leader, who has done more than anyone to create the biggest, bestest (albeit deliberately slowed) testing program anywhere. Why, even Boris says we've done a crazy good job of it, and we'd all be better off without those Losers in Brussels telling us what to do.


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

This week I’m later getting started with my entry. Things have been good for me so far, and I think mostly for best beloved and those whom we love. A visit to the local skin clinic has finally confirmed there is little about which I should be worrying. Earlier this year the good doctors there excised something from my nose, which turned out to be an atypical BCC (basal cell carcinoma). Despite the imposing name, that is something it seems I may happily live with for the foreseeable future. My nose has healed nicely, leaving nothing worse than what I call my duelling scar. Time to put that away from my mind now.


The plague is getting along nicely I would think - from its perspective of course. The situation across the pond seems absolutely catastrophic for so many people, and we now have some strange local developments in places like Leicester. I am finding it very difficult to follow the statistics, because the picture given by various agencies shows little consistency. What is the truth - in the pudding I suppose!


In the past few days I have seen best beloved a couple of time - very lovely! I have collected shopping from Sainsbury's, heard news of a good friend in hospital with an infection (CV negative), gone walking a bit, played music with 2 others in a garage (distanced), played music on a Zoom open mike evening, and continued the weird system building activity on my PC. Oh, I also had my small camper serviced, and received a refund of a holiday deposit. Life is so varied!


Last evening I was somewhat relieved to speak to my son in Scotland. He had gone very quiet lately and I was concerned, partly because he and his wife live in a fairly remote place. All seems well there thank God.


The incompetence of humanity continues apace - should that be reassuring I wonder! Sometimes I find it so...


Words from Wood Lane

Susan Neave, Beverley

Now past the 100 day mark. Easing of lockdown in Leicester has already been postponed, a blow for struggling businesses there. The big change elsewhere will be the reopening of pubs, cafes etc. A weekend doesn’t seem the most sensible time for this. Our market square will no doubt be heaving with people drinking too much on Saturday night. No rain forecast. In the street we are having consultations about whether we carry on with our green card scheme, newsletter etc. Most people seem keen to keep going with community activities.


A lockdown treat this week, when we’ve both been writing (or rather chained to computers), has been the arrival of a bargain book from Postscript on the work of Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, interwar textile designers. It immediately made me want to blockprint some fabric. I’ve only ever done basic lino cuts for cards. I got out Robin Tanner’s book on blockprinting for children, and decided that perhaps potato printing on paper might be a good way to start dabbling again! Unfortunately we don’t have any large potatoes until I visit the greengrocer. Another project on hold. It was Tanner who helped Phyllis Barron compile a wonderful sample book of every textile design she and Dorothy had produced, with exquisite lettering giving design name, type of fabric etc. I’ve lent of couple of books on calligraphy to a friend who decided to embark on that as her lockdown hobby. She hasn’t mentioned the project recently... I now realise that we have a book or two on practically everything, but I’m better at reading things than getting around to trying them. Must do better. Now should be the ideal time.


From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham

I've not had time this week to read the other entries in the journal so got up early this morning and gulped them all down in one go. Other people's real lives. So rich and moving and funny. 


I've not had time because so much of it has been taken up with trying to upload or download or something a video of me reading a story I wrote about five years ago, to the chap who's going to edit it and put it online. It's about a psychotherapist and his cleaner and it has the misleading title of  "Murder in Bogota', misleading because there is no murder and the story takes place in North London. So I've had these long conversations with Richard, the incredibly helpful techy/editor, trying these different ways to send it through the air from my laptop to his during which I've been absolutely losing a) faith in the story - the fact that it was too long to send seemed to be a judgement of the story itself because I think it is too long - who was it who said - 'if I'd had time, I'd have made it shorter?' - and b) the will to live. 


In these  hour long conversations the endlessly patient Richard says things like 'In  the top right hand of the screen you should see a bell. Next to that there should be a little box with an arrow in it. Press that.' and, by the time I've identified the bell and the box and the arrow my mouth is dry, my eyes are watering and I feel as though I'm shrinking. On Wednesday I came off the phone with this  dizzy feeling but I was determined to record sonnet 47 which I'd been learning all the day before. It was about midday and I thought I'd have a little lunch and I'd have it done by 3.30 when I was due to watch my friend Alan's zoom reading of one of his plays. I couldn't concentrate. It wasn't a sonnet I'd particularly warmed to and now it seemed all conjunctions, prepositions and pronouns. I kept saying 'through' instead of 'by' and 'on' instead of 'with' and 'me' instead of 'thee'. 3.30 came and I still hadn't got it. Watching Alan's consummate and relaxed brilliance calmed me down so I thought I'd have another go but it just seemed like so much Elizabethan iambic gibberish. Still I wouldn't do the sensible thing 'sleep on it Dave, do it tomorrow.’ 'NO!' At about 5.30 I had a bath, and then set to it again. Storm clouds were gathering outside and I knew that if it started to thunder I was fucked: I had to put on a reading lamp which cast a sinister but not unpleasing glow over half my face. And then I don't know what happened exactly but ten minutes later it was in the can. It was 7.30 - I'd been at it since 1. Looking at it the next day I can't believe how calm I look. It's a minute long - I must have done it a hundred times. 


The sonnets are now on line. The website is www.sonnetsinisolation.com and the story was successfully uploaded this morning. I'm having a day off today. Just the journal, coffee and cakes round at a friend's, and my weekly phone call with Alan. No pentameter madness. 


On Sunday Francis came round. We tried to go to Richmond Park with a picnic but couldn't find anywhere to park and it came on to rain. We ended up, between showers, sitting on some steps going down to the river near Kew Bridge, eating our sandwiches and drinking tea that somehow tasted of coffee because the flask was a bit crap. Then we came home and he stretched out and went to sleep on my sofa. He's taller than me, 46, but when he's asleep like that he's my kid like he always was and makes me feel very peaceful and settled. I don't know what I'd have done without him these last three months. I left him there and went to a birthday party in a friend's garden round the corner. When I came home he'd gone. Though I knew he would be I felt a bit melancholy but then I remembered Antiques Roadshow was on in half an hour.


Thoughts from the Top of the Hill

Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire

The weather has turned wet and windy. We're cocooned in our bubble on the hill awaiting the surge of humanity which may or may not arrive to the camping and caravan sites down below when the restrictions are eased tomorrow. The sites are getting ready to open, with lawns and verges being mowed and new caravans put in position. We feel lucky that it all happens down below, out of sight and earshot, with minor inconveniences such as having to back up the single track lane when cars and caravans arrive. Mostly the caravanners don't come walking up here, we only see the occasional serious rambler, willing to climb the hill. However, when the town gets busy there will be people spilling out of the pubs and buying up the bread, beer and strawberries in the local shop. The lady in the post office will complain about people bringing the virus to the town and using up supplies meant for local people and there may be some uneasiness on the subject of social distancing, which so far has been amiable and pleasant but with a distinct lack of face masks.


The PM says we mustn't go mad, we mustn't blow it. He treads a tricky path between restrictions and freedoms, sensing that many people have had enough of lock down and need to get out and socialise, although many would rather not. He wants to trust people to do the sensible thing, but in Leicester where they have had to extend the lock down, extra police are being brought in for the weekend. I wonder if they will put up road blocks around the town to stop people escaping to pubs opening elsewhere. Suddenly "the science" says that a 1 metre distance is safe for pubs and restaurants, as they couldn't open with the 2 metre rule. The government has done a U-turn on quarantine restrictions as the travel sector is collapsing and the Welsh First Minister says it's a compete shambles. The PM wants to get on with Getting Brexit Done and Doubling Down on Levelling Up, whatever that is.


While schools were busy working out how to get classrooms safe for pupils returning in small groups, "the science" declared that children can all return safely in September if they are in bubbles of thirty or more because children don't appear to suffer greatly from catching the virus, or maybe they don't catch it, maybe they don't spread it, maybe, maybe, and in any case the classrooms are too small to accommodate all the children full time in smaller groups. Would love to see "the science". The main measure taken is a stipulation that parents will be fined if they don't send their children to school, however worried they may be. "It's as safe as it can be". This announcement came the day before an eleven-year old boy in Miami died from the virus. The numbers are only insignificant when it's someone else's child.


I am trying not to dwell on it all. Nature has continued on its own carefree path. We have been watching the female woodpecker feeding her chicks from the bird feeder every day and two huge hares have been galloping madly in the long grass on the hill  behind the house. A stray homing pigeon arrived, with twine trailing from its leg-ring. Richard managed to pick it up and untangle it and it is now established in the barn next to the house, coming to the kitchen door regularly for food and water. We have a new bird bath, awaiting the return of the hot weather to give pleasure to us as well as the birds. The hens are laying well, we have plenty of eggs, perhaps we'll sell some to the campers from our honesty box.


Life goes on and on Sunday at last we will see the grandchildren.


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Dreary news. Dreary weather. Feeling rather glum... a bit like I might if it was the end of the summer holidays and I had to return to school to do a year of resits. Yes, the uphill struggle is the feeling du jour and I am frustrated at my frustration.


The following is added for the benefit of any future researcher interested in the link between fact and fiction.


  1. I think part of my ennui has been brought on by the fictional Jackson Lamb! Four novels down with two to go. Every time I listen to the news I translate what I am hearing as though heard by the misfits at Slough House; my sunny optimistic resourceful self feeling squashed by vicious circumstances beyond my control.  I relate in part to all of the characters but at the moment am probably closest to Shirley Dander attending her AFM sessions (anger management with an expletive in the middle!) And, by the way, I have been having very vivid dreams associated with the books. A lot of chasing. Quite exhausting!

  2. Weekly Angel has announced that she will return next week. I am currently blitzing the house so she doesn’t have a panic attack! I am hating it. I am also miffed because the new windows have not yet been fitted. Having been boarded up for three weeks the glaziers have told us that it may be several more weeks before the new windows are ready... due to problems with their supplier.

  3. Husband is due to drive to Liverpool the week after next to collect my Mum and bring her to Norfolk for six weeks or so. We love her dearly but we are anxious. She is anxious. Usually when she is here, she will come with me into work and beetle about in the two towns. Time passes quickly. Before supper we do the crossword together and after supper play nine spot dominoes. Without the two shops the days may feel a little longer!

  4. The tides are all wrong!

  5. Chilled rosé can only go so far!


“Survival” diary

Susan, Country Victoria, Australia

It has been a cold, rainy and misty day here. Top temperature of 6 degrees Celsius. I went on a run to a nearby hamlet to buy my bread flour where it was a balmy 4 degrees. It doesn’t seem to have deterred visitors, and dancing around people who refuse to budge, with a 12.5 kg bag of flour in my arms & the rain teeming down made me grumpy. My favourite green grocer’s is here and Reg tells me that visitors are refusing to sanitise their hands before coming in to handle all his stock and leave without buying anything. The recent spike in c19 cases in Melbourne and the shutdown of ten suburbs has people jumpy and despondent. Victoria generally and Melbourne particularly are the class kept in at lunchtime because of the foolishness of the few. The rest of the country is in the playground having fun and crowing through the window.

The fifteen hours driving spread over three days to send off my brother in law really tired us. Sadness is exhausting and watching those you love grapple with loss of someone irreplaceable in their lives, distressing. Our trip home was punctuated by being first responders to a car accident that left us both feeling fragile. 

A run of cold weather has made it too cold to spend long in the garden. I have managed to prune most of the roses, cut back most of the perennials and shift a few bits and pieces that had been incorrectly positioned. I have ordered a golden gleditsia for the daughter of good friends who has just had a baby (Owney Fionn). She and her partner are just putting the finishing touches on their first home. A lovely old Victorian moved from Melbourne before it was due for demolition. First tree, first house and first baby. Lovely.

Florence’s sour dough has been rising slowly in the refrigerator overnight and is now baking for tonight’s easy supper. Pork sausages, a splooge of summer chutney and warm bread and butter. Oh, and a glass of Shiraz. 

I did laugh out loud at an instagram post I saw this morning:



Written by Stephen King

Directed by Quentin Tarantino 

Narrated by Samuel L.Jackson


Take care friends.

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