Bumpy landing on the south coast

Catherine, Sussex

My socks were blown off by Nicky and Peter’s sublime journal entries last week. Such writing! Such sentiment! Language is a beautiful crafting tool, even when used to describe ugly matters. And here’s me, each week reading my entry online and wondering how I missed so many mistakes and inconsistencies when checking it before hitting the ‘submit’ button. Sigh. But it makes me happy that there are such fabulous writers in this world.


I have been working on my inner nonchalance, trying to loosen up my cautious Covid-self. But it’s hard. Aggression from others seems to be a pretty permanent norm right now. This week I was even moved to offer a most unladylike gesture (high five to Annabel) to the retreating back of an offensive jogger, once I’d recovered my senses (‘What’s the matter with YOU??!!’ he yelled over his shoulder, after frightening me). It is such a frequent occurrence that I no longer remark on it each time. I discussed the phenomenon with an intelligent and generous neighbour across the road: he said ‘people are tense’. But sometimes I’m tense, too, and I don’t go around being horrid. 


I certainly had a crash course in stoicism when I was summoned to Specsavers for my annual checkup. After an hour of Proximity Purgatory I finally lurched out, shell-shocked from holding it all together, and tottered thankfully home, peeling off clothes onto the doormat and standing under an extra-soapy and long shower. On the plus side, it seems I must now wear sunglasses outdoors. Hooray! At last I can be cool. Super clean, and cool. I can take that.


All this, though, was knocked into perspective one night when I was woken by a series of loud bangs. When these changed into the sound of a large vehicle I looked out of the window, to see an ambulance and fire engine outside. The elderly chap three doors up had had a heart attack. The firemen were needed to help the paramedics get him down the stairs. Accordingly, they had to deal with loads of ppe, donning it and then doing it all in reverse, peeling it off, putting it into bags suspended from the back of the fire engine (one bag per hazmat suit) and washing their helmets and hands in a large container (no shortage of water, at least). It all took ages. Poor R, apparently his wife died last year.


I continue to sort and hang pictures. It’s not so easy, because my wall space is much less than previously, and yet I feel tenderly towards them all. I came across my collection of aphorisms, collected over the years to help me and mine Be a Better Person, but I fear there won’t be room, and I will have to remain unimproved. You might notice the Desiderata words: ‘Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit.’  Indeed.


That said, I did succumb to a flyer, and set up a direct debit to Médecins sans Frontières. It was a no-brainer, in this day and age. I have been reluctant for a bit because after giving to the Red Cross I was harried for a couple of years thereafter, in my mind eating up the money I had given. But I can’t ignore what is happening, and worsening, in the not-so-lucky world.


I finally mastered recording - in isolation - and sending my section of his arranged pieces to my former maestro, who through technological wizardry incorporates all 30+ of our recordings into a semblance of an orchestral rendering, just for our own instruction and amusement. Not the same as the real thing – the chemistry just isn’t there – but at least keeps one’s toe in the water. Today I am late with this month’s recording, and must shortly hie me to my music stand and microphone (my knees already knock at the dauntingness of the technology involved).

Arthur the 60+-year-old battle-scarred tortoise has come to stay for some ten days while his owner goes on holiday. She is one of my best friends, and it was lovely to see her in person after some six months; we had our usual long, interesting chat (indoors, dispensing with masks while we ate cake and drank tea – see how brave I’m becoming?! but I know she is careful, and no risk), and I felt the better for it. I am delighted at Arthur’s arrival: I have got to know tortoises quite well, and am fond of them. He was installed in the garden (‘he’s used to it’) but as soon as I could I brought him in out of the cold wind; indoors, he has not only a warm house in which to roam but a heat lamp, borrowed from the Tortoise Towers inhabitants, which he loves. I gave him a feast of lettuce, chicory, banana and grape, which seemed to please him no end. Most tortoises will do anything for a slice of banana. If only all chaps were that easy to please.


Mary’s Projects Mostly

Mary Hildyard, Totnes, Devon

Much time in the virtual world this week. Having tried and failed to master a sewing technique that I needed I resorted to overly cheerful but very helpful You Tube. Then in addition to Zoom Bookclub and Zoom Pilates, Simon and I joined two online lectures/ discussions. The first was a panel organised by the Guardian newspaper. The topic was the threat, both domestic and foreign, posed to the November election by social media such as Facebook. The revelations regarding “click bait” and “algorithms” and “Russian Bots” from two of the panelists who were ex employees of Facebook left me chilled.


But the jewel in the online crown was Wednesday’s National Gallery lecture on Giotto and early Italian art. This was the first of six “Stories of Art” lectures. It forms module one of an extended art history course. This module began with the date 1240 as that is the date of the earliest work in possession of the gallery. In two hours (with a ten minute break) we covered background history and context, influences, contemporary observations and techniques. We were not visible to the speaker or other participants but it was interactive. Individual questions could be sent in by text and were then answered. At several points we were asked by the speaker to consider questions and choose from several possible answers. The answers we gave were shown on the screen and discussed. It was hugely informative. But the real joy for me was the collection of slides of works in the gallery and from other sources, with several of these very closely observed. A series of engaging works, some of them new to me, some familiar. Such pleasure. I had not realised how much I missed museums, exhibitions, and galleries.


Notes from a factory in the Midlands

MFS, Midlands

We held a school governors meeting on Tuesday evening to review and approve the various plans and risk assessments prior to the primary school reopening on Thursday. A huge amount of detailed work had been undertaken by the Head and her staff during the summer holidays, and the governing body were reassured that all reasonable preparatory steps had been taken, and appropriate procedures for safely managing pupils and staff on site had been established. Initial feedback is that school attendance is almost 100% - with pupils delighted to be back. 


We received a phone call from the nurse at my mother-in-law’s dementia care home on Wednesday evening. She told Sarah that her mother’s condition is continuing to deteriorate: she is declining most food, apart from the odd scoop of ice cream, and is sleeping most of the day. They would not want to put her in a wheel chair to bring her to the visitor area. Consequently at her visit this Saturday Sarah will be permitted to see her mum in her own room, (wearing full PPE) for the first time since March. At the suggestion of the nurse Sarah will be accompanied by her brother. This sounds very like setting up a farewell meeting. Nora has surprised us several times in the last few years with her resilience and ability to battle through illnesses and accidents, but perhaps now her days are finally drawing to a close.


In other elderly news, my 88 year old mother and 91 year old step father, along with a couple of similarly aged friends (a pair of merry widows) are off for five days holiday to Scarborough. They have been getting increasingly fed up with lockdown restrictions and want to get out and have some fun. They will make the 130 mile journey from south Manchester to the seaside (to a hotel they have stayed in many times before) by taxi. As mum explained to me, it’s a lot more convenient than the train, particularly as my father in law is increasingly immobile. They don’t want to spend their remaining years on this earth permanently cooped up at home.


At work our August sales, both UK and Export, were higher than August last year, as our mini V-shaped recovery continues. We operate in the diet food sector and so were also very encouraged by NHS messaging this week about the weight-loss benefits of formula food diets, particularly their potential to reverse Type 2 Diabetes. This is an area where our business has invested significant amounts of money into medical research over the last decade and it is great to see the NHS finally starting to recognise how successful our products can be. Given the clear relationship between obesity and negative Covid19 outcomes, the future for weight-loss businesses looks bright.


Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

Irene and Saskia by Marli Rose Macrae


I have had a super exciting week. My daddy, Franklin and I went camping, quite far away, to the New Forest. There were other girls there but I was a bit shy at first. I haven't played with anyone but Franklin since lockdown. I've been to ballet but we can't play. The girls were Mia, Erin, Ella and Liv. There was a tree swing and Liv was the best at pushing, she made me go so high. We went for walks in the New Forest. The trees were as tall as Amsterdam canal houses, mostly pine and growing tightly together. There was birdsong all around us, they were singing their hearts out. We didn't see any ponies or deer in the forest though. There was a lovely river and after our sandwiches, we walked through it. It was delightfully cold and crystal clear. I led the way and won the race back to camp.


In the evenings we sat by the fire and had toasted marshmallows. We told ghost stories. Daddy's friend said mine was the best. I shall tell it to you now quickly.


In our old house, there used to live a lady named Irene. She was born in the house and she died in the house. She was due to marry but the man was killed in the war so she never had children.  


Mummy lost some things. She lost her Gucci watch for months. One day, it turned up in the bathroom, sitting on a towel. There was no explanation. A few things went missing and turned up in strange places. Then when Franklin was born, mum said lots of people were interfering and it was making her cry. She was very unhappy. My gorgeous granny Aye came to see her for the weekend and she slept in a bed Franklin's nursery. One morning, extremely early, baby Franklin woke up in his cot, crying. My granny Aye sat up to get out of bed to go to him when a voice snapped "HE'S NOT YOUR BABY!" at her. But there was noone to be seen. 


Her name was Irene and she loved dogs. Toddler Franklin used to smile at the lady with the 'doggies' but noone else could see her or the dogs. He can't remember it now though. It's a bit unfair that Irene did tell granny Aye off as she wasn't the one poking her nose in.


We collected our little cat this week. Her name is Saskia and I could play with her all day. Franklin cried when she arrived. She was frightened at first but we think she's happier now. She is a black and white tabby with the biggest emerald eyes you have ever seen. She sits in a chair in mummy's room.  


I have been working hard on the Nutcracker. I go back to school next week and won't have the same time for making things. I've made the castle from the World of Sweets and the Sugar Plum fairy.

Plague Journals - Franklin Macrae


Franklin is away this week because he won't be parted from the cat for a second. When he is removed from the cat, he sulks and has refused to write his Plague Journal.


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

We’re a week into our visit to Hampshire and I’ve just discovered that Tigger, the elderly but very sprightly Bengali cat, likes to sit on or by you even when you are using a computer so he is sitting on the table between me and the keyboard. The cats seem pleased to have us around. James sent me a video of their feeding routine which was useful. 

Each day we do a walk from a ‘Pub Walks for the Family’ book printed in 1994. I bought it in a charity shop about 10 years ago hoping to encourage number 3 son and partner to a less sedentary lifestyle. I don’t think they ever used it. There are a few changes but the paths are all still there and well walked and maintained. The Trout Inn at Itchen Abbas has reverted to its original name, The Plough. It was where Charles Kingsley stayed to write part of ‘The Water Babies’. We take our own picnic as we’re still not keen to be in pubs and they were busy over the Bank holiday weekend. It was the last chance to ‘Eat out to help out’ and get £10 off your meal. 

We hadn’t realised how beautiful the landscape is in Hampshire. There are well maintained footpaths everywhere, wide open spaces, wooded areas and pretty villages. The houses built of old brick and flint with tiled, hipped rooves or thatch is very attractive. There are clear, fast flowing streams running through them with wildlife all around. Most of the watercress sold in this country is grown in Alresford where it grows all year round, in huge beds, fed by these streams. The walks are mainly on level ground and usually include somewhere to visit. We had lunch in the grounds of The Grange, a well-known opera venue, one day and in the beautiful gardens of Hinton Ampner another. We picked lovely apples, blackberries and mushrooms. We passed lots of other walkers who greeted us, smiled and stepped aside to let us pass safely. We did the same and it all felt very friendly and warm. I realized I only greeted people verbally if I was far enough away not to contaminate their air space with my breath. Not a conscious decision.

We had an interesting encounter with a lady who was picking and eating blackberries in a park. “Lunch on the go?” said Jeremy by way of a greeting. “I’m on my own but it’s nice to talk to someone. They think I’m with them (indicating some walkers talking on the other side of the high hedge) but I’m not. I’m not interested, I’m heterosexual, I’m looking for a man.”  “Oh! Uh!… Well enjoy the rest of your lunch.”

Shops feel safer now nearly everyone is wearing a mask. In one shop a lady tried to come in without a mask. The man on the door explained that they only allowed two people without masks in the shop at any one time so she would have to wait until someone came out. She attempted to go in again as someone wearing a mask came out, The man patiently explained that she would have to wait until someone not wearing a mask came out. “Oh well I’ll wear it then” she said, taking a mask out of her bag.

On Sunday we’ll leave our very comfortable accommodation, and the cats, to spend three days in Devon in our van. I hope the weather is kind to us.

Tigger, Carlos and Moscow


View from the Wrong Side of the Pennines

Elle Warsop, Oldham, Greater Manchester

So I have made a deal with myself this week - no more moaning. I am boring myself with my whinging. Time to be as positive as a Coronavirus test or three. At risk of contradicting myself, here is a brief update of what is happening this wrong side of the Pennines: Husband still testing positive, 4 tests and 16 days later. He is not ill but taste/smell not back yet and still a slight tickle of a cough.  His company, though, will not let him return until he is negative. Don’t dwell.


Youngest son still at home and returned, this morning, to do a very very rare shift at the cafe where he worked ad hoc before this pandemic broke.  No sign of Uni starting back.  Don’t dwell.


Oldest son been told by the cafe owner where he works that he cannot go back until Husband is negative.  Really…don’t dwell.


As for me, I did some script writing and reading.  My mate, Tim and I, who both attend OTW’s Adult Drama Group, have been really missing our weekly sessions which stopped for the summer.  It is my therapy and so very desperately needed at the minute.  Therefore we decided to write some two-handed pieces for ourselves and do a script reading and record them.  Well it keeps us entertained for an hour or so on a Sunday evening.  We met online (God forbid we should meet in person living in Oldham, although some still think you can meet in the pub - rolls eyes) on Zoom and howled with laughter at our efforts.  It was just the tonic.  Should the world be extremely unlucky, I may set up my own Youtube channel and share them. 


I almost made a visit to Eyam today, the original plague village in Derbyshire, but that ended up not happening.  My first foray into acting was in Oldham Theatre Workshop’s summer production of Eyam back in 2015.  That’s not counting my first real taste of acting at Junior school in the 70s, when I, with the help of some friends, wrote and starred in a piece in Year 5 (Junior 3).  Those were the days!  The teacher gave us carte blanche to do what we wanted and time off from lessons to develop it on our own - no supervision.  I vividly remember it started off life as something we were playing in the playground.  I was so confident in those days.  Sigh!  Sadly that would rarely be allowed to happen today.  I learnt so much from it too.  Not least of which, that you should never try and squeeze yourself into a tutu that is quite clearly too small and try and perform in it.  Where was I?  My first foray into acting on a stage - with a Proscenium Arch and everything.  Eyam on the 350th anniversary of the plague reaching the village.  Daughter was the reason I got involved with OTW.  Way back when, she wanted to do the workshops and attended from being about 8.  I loved going to the studio and watching her little Showbacks at the end of each term.  Then, she auditioned for the big summer shows performed every year at Oldham’s Coliseum Theatre.  She didn’t get in the first year but the following year she ended up being Alice in Alice in Wonderland.  No one was more surprised than the two of us.  She was in most of the summer shows after that and I was usually back stage with the cast when they moved to the theatre the week of the performances.  That’s how I got involved with the organisation. 


I love being backstage.  It is just magical.  The young cast members of Oldham Theatre Workshop shows have been a constant delight to work with over the years and the camaraderie and fun backstage infectious.  The professionalism of every one of them, right down to some who might be only 8 never ceases to amaze me.  As a Chaperone I have rarely had to have words with any of them and even if I did it was usually only because they were so enthusiastic and therefore a bit too noisy! 

So I kept badgering James Atherton, Artistic Director of OTW, to do an adult group and let us oldies into the shows!  I was only half joking, but eventually he relented and started what we affectionately call the Purples Group (after we read the poem A Warning by Jenny Joseph).  The same year he also decided he wanted an adult cast to play the older folk of the village of Eyam in the summer show.  So I got to audition and then act and sing on stage.  It was wonderful!  I have been totally bitten by the acting bug.  The summer shows are invariably musicals, with music by James and lyrics by Sarah Nelson.  James writes the most beautiful, melancholy music and Sarah some wonderful haunting lyrics.  It was such a great privilege to get to be part of singing in the chorus.  Such a joy to sing as part of a group like that - the harmonies are always intricate and I find it another great therapy.  I miss the vocal warm-ups alone so much.  Sadly Daughter gave up acting that year and we never got to tread the boards together.  Sniff.


Our Purples Group have done several shows now since we first started.   The last one went out online, rather more of a film which was weirdly different.  Differently weird?  For me though, you can’t beat performing live.  I would love to do it professionally but it feels a bit late now… Don’t dwell.  

So…back to the cleaning… or not.  I decided I am going on strike.  We’ll see what happens.  No one else is bothering and I don’t see why I should.  Why is it my responsibility?  I have done it all, week in, week out since lockdown began in March.  There are three other people in this house and no one else lifts a finger.  Or notices.  No one is sick or infirm.   So I’m withdrawing my labour and ignoring it like they do.  I’ll keep you posted on how long I hold out for.  Sadly it’s not normally long but… Don’t dwell.


Regards and love to everybody.  Courage mes amis!


Greetings from the far south

Mark Waller, Pretoria, South Africa

The trees are coming into spring bloom and in a couple of weeks Pretoria’s streets will be overarched with their distinctive seasonal purple flowering jacarandas. Things seem to be on the mend after the harsh, dry season. Seem.


If you go by the official stats, you feel that there might be some improvement in the course of the pandemic. You can really only get a fix on this when you look at the death rate from the virus. In the two weeks between 9 and 23 August 2 651 new deaths were officially attributed to Covid-19. The number has fallen in the last fortnight to 1 504 new deaths, with a total of corona 14 563 fatalities in this country of getting on for 60 million souls. 


This has been so amidst relaxed lockdown controls and a heavy campaign of compulsory use of face masks everywhere in public, the use of sanitisers and hand washing and social distancing to try to keep people safe. The messaging from government on all this has been consistent and unrelenting, fortunately, even if it doesn’t always seem to work out in practice.


But there are clearly big gaps in the official stats and the likely true measure of the pandemic here. It’s been discovered that hospitals are under reporting corona cases, and in the more remote rural areas of Limpopo and Mpumalanga some hospitals have provided no information at all on numbers of cases or deaths. I hear plenty of anecdotal accounts of older people in Limpopo, who were not tested for the virus, succumbing to pneumonia-like symptoms. Fearful of the virus, many people avoid the clinics and hospitals. More people in SA anyway die at home than in hospital, unlike in richer countries.


A true picture of the state of the pandemic in SA is elusive at best. There have been tens of thousands of ‘excess deaths’ recorded in the last few months. Are these unrecorded corona cases, or a result of people dying from illnesses left untreated because hospitals have concentrated more on people sick with the virus?


So uncertainty continues to pervade the situation here even though on the surface of official reporting things look sunnier. 


I’m still shielding, and, as a result, my kids (Gracey, 12, and Masana, 7), both of whom are anyway prone to chest infections, are in ‘lockdown learning’ at home, on the advice of our GP. So much time has gone by in these months, largely spent indoors. Apart from the kids, my lifeline has been contact, after several decades, with my soul mate a continent away, Elle, who also writes for this Journal.


Gracey had to go to school today for an assessment of her work. She has just started her period and feels vulnerable, on the cusp of a big change in life, unsure about a lot of things. And she is one of just four ‘lockdown learners’ in her Grade of 150 kids. 


She and the three others were able to enter the school today some time after the other learners had gone to class, and, following their assessment, she left an hour after everyone else had gone home. 


I went to the school to fetch her in the car. She sat there on the back seat in her now too-small school uniform that she last wore in March. She said she didn’t know how she got on. She just wanted to go home and sleep. I looked at her in the rearview mirror unsure what to say. Then she leaned forward and put her hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s ok, you know. I’m being very brave.”


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Nothing to report really. My life is quite dull!

As I am trying to write this there is a cat practically sitting on the lap top and now Earnie has joined in and is on my knee as he is jealous I’m talking to the cat..

On Sunday my friend and her unbelievably academic husband came for a socially distanced tea in the garden as it was her birthday the day before. I made a weirdo chocolate cake and got the tablecloth out and the highlight was the lovely husband dropped the word fenestration into a sentence without batting an eye lid. Marvellous. They also liked the word obfuscate which the government still seem to be doing quite alot of.

All U turns and hesitations this week. Lock or unlock the Northern cities, whether to quarantine Portugal or not. Wales and Scotland did, we didn’t. People really pissed off as they bought new expensive tickets to get back from The Algarve in time and cut their holidays short and then it wasn’t quarantined after all. Apparerently no one in government is making any decisions as Dominic Cummings has had an operation so has been away.


There is proof that Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. Putin’s calling card one journalist said. He had been taken to Germany from Russia to be treated and the Germans have identified the poison. He remains in a coma and will probably never completely recover.


Harry and Megan have been signed up to do a series for Netflix, reputedly for $150 million dollars. Crikey. I think one day Harry is going to wake up and think, I need mud and wellies and I want to go shooting in Norfolk and eat a bit of old pheasant stew and he will just get on a plane and come home.


Testing is still a car crash but the positive tests are creeping up and have been since the beginning of July but the death rate hasn’t increased.

Brexit is back. Oh God!


The kids went back to school after months of being away. It is going to be interesting to see how they get on as the teachers will have to be so much stricter now. It will be much more Victorian and probably more like how school was when I was a child. I pity all the headmistresses and headmasters. The responsibility is huge.

Monday was nice just pottering about and not having to rush anywhere. Deadheading and cutting back in the garden so a few more things can come through. The dahlias havn’t really kicked off yet.

A pretty uneventful week all told. The shop is still busy. Last Saturday, various groups of old friends came in to say hello and it was particularly odd not hugging and kissing them and also seeing everyone masked up. It is really all very weird.

I was even waved at by a fellow diarist through the window. We had a very good week last week as the Londoners (who we love again after the March xenophobia) were still here and still not bad this week though a bit quieter.

Still havn’t got my watercolours out but am getting nearer the paint box. Doing a few more bits for the barn.


I am trying to go home to see my mum but have coronavirus paranoia about taking something awful with me. I havn’t seen her for ages and ages, the longest time without seeing her in my whole life. Should I take a tent?


I just heard Jane Garvey is leaving Woman’s Hour. Has she been passed over by the BBC? Did they try and put someone above her when Dame Jenni Murray leaves? Anyway she is to get her own programme next year, Fortunately, which is an amusing podcast with Fi Glover is to go mainstream as well. It will be interesting to see who replaces her on WH.


That’s all for now. Hope you are all well. I will try and be more exciting next week but uneventful may be good in this world.

Love Annabel xxx


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

Ms Sturgeon appears on our screens on Monday after a bit of an absence with a triple whammy: 1) she reignites the independence debate, 2) announces restrictions in some parts of Glasgow following an upturn in corona cases - no meetings of different households indoors for the time being, plus 3) those flying in from holidays in Greece will have to go into quarantine.

This latter coincides with the real prospect of travel to Portugal being shut down again by the imposition of quarantining upon return because of an upturn there. Our Gov’t is currently reviewing the situation - but UK holidaymakers already over there and those about to depart are understandably anxious and the aviation industry miffed.

Then, four days, thousands of early returns, thousands of cancelled departures later, England doesn’t add Portugal to the list after all - but Scotland and Wales do. Northern Ireland jumps England’s way. This lack of cohesion leads to the real and head-scratching possibility of returning tourists, mingling with each other at airports and indeed on planes, before separating back here - some to 14 days quarantine, some not.


We witnessed a bit of unbridled mingling: wanting an outing, we went up to Blakeney (north Norfolk coast, about an hour from here) to have a recce: we’ve booked a cottage for a few days R&R later this month and thought we’d remind ourselves what the north coast has to offer. Anyway, we mooched around Blakeney, drove on the couple of miles to the wonderful Desmond MacCarthy’s Wiveton Hall Cafe, (seen in the wildly eccentric “Normal for Norfolk” series  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b077ntzg) for a coffee and sausage roll snack, then on through Cley to Sheringham and Cromer. Cromer was, to use the current vernacular, rammed. You can’t drive directly through Cromer anymore, you’re forced to turn right off the coast road, but you could see the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd ahead jostling for chips, coffee, ear trumpets, anything really, and as you follow the route around, it didn’t let up - queues outside every fast food outlet and non-distanced crowding everywhere. Definitely somewhere to drive through with the windows up.


Unbridled but more genteel mingling here on Thursday - Margaret and Peter came for afternoon tea...


And so to Friday - 40th Anniversary for her and me, and a long-wanted foray into Norwich for a) a visit to Plantation Garden - a 3acre city refuge in the form of a Victorian ‘folly’ garden and b) some mussels from the fab market fish stall for our supper. Both top-notch in their ways, the latter being the plumpest, cleanest mussels, washed down with a nice bottle of Chablis.


And finally - you thought it had all gone away but it really hasn’t - Brexit. The transport industry starts the engines of discontent over lack of clarity regarding post-Brexit regulation and the fear of border delays. They say there’s little understanding just how disrupting the loss of 50 years frictionless trade could be if a deal isn’t reached, and it’s fuelled by the news that under emergency powers lorry parks can be built wherever needed (ie the approaches to ports) to cope with stacking lorries - without planning consent. I guess we should be reassured by a bit of forward-thinking, but if there’s going to be smooth cross-bordering, why the need for lorry parks? Cue more confusion...


From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

Autumn has arrived. A last warm and sunny weekend two weeks ago for Sheila’s party, then the curtain came down on summer. Rain, gales, floods in some places. And a certain chill in the air.

Last weekend, Bank Holiday weekend, was cold and rainy. Cosy up to the Aga, bring on the comfort food. We looked out of the window and thanked heavens that we had cancelled our annual Poetry Picnic, always held on Bank Holiday Sunday. Last year the day of the Picnic was so hot and sunny that the reading had to move out of the Marquee, and into the tree sheltered area near the Shepherd’s Hut. It was really rather lovely, with everyone grouped round on deckchairs or the grass. Perhaps it will be like that next year.

But two or three glorious sunny days here in Norfolk this week, perfect for gardening. I happily hacked and weeded and tidied and planted, warm, but aware of a crisp feeling in the air. A different light, different scents. Even though I know it means Winter is on the horizon, I love this time of year.


I’ve been very adventurous this week. Filling the car up with petrol for the first time since the beginning of March. A tank lasted us six months! And petrol seems to be a lot cheaper. Is it? And I visited the surgery dispensary and the post office. The post office is in our local Spar. I was so overwhelmed by seeing shelves of stuff for sale that I came out clutching milk, chocolate biscuits and some cats treats in a sort of retail euphoria!

Yesterday we were treated to a lovely retro tea with Chris and Sheila. Peter’s piece in the Journal about his childhood garden last week inspired Chris to buy some Shippams paste to make sandwiches. Peter really appreciated them; Sheila and I not so much. But cucumber sandwiches, too, and delicious cakes. We sat and watched their amusing army of guinea fowl grazing their walled garden. It felt idyllic.


And the chimney of the wood burner has been swept by a man in a mask. Our log store is full.

And next week I visit the dentist.

All good so far.


BUT... Winter is on the horizon. Will we be moving back into more of a lockdown? Garden visitors eating outside under our canopy won’t be so possible as the wind and the rain and chill arrives. What about queuing outside shops in heavy rain?! What about all the outside eating in pubs and restaurants? What about Christmas ? (Peter asks this quite often.)

I’m starting to feel I’ve missed the window of opportunity offered these last three months since Lockdown eased. I should have got out more while it was possible. Not on to the crowded beaches, but just... around. So Peter and I are intending to go on some day jaunts round Norfolk and Suffolk next week; hopefully there will be fewer holidaymakers around and the weather looks good. Perhaps we’ll use a whole tankful of petrol in one week!


As we move into winter, Australia moves into spring and summer which might help life there. I hope so, Jean and Susan in lockdown Victoria. I love reading on Instagram and in the journal of Susan planting out her dahlias, as I mulch mine over for another year. And I look forward to seeing her exuberant garden photos as the garden here is put to bed. Some comfort.


Jane, thank you for your vision of a Journal party, with its fire pit, Annabel’s fig tart, David’s sonnets, and us all dancing, dancing ,dancing. It cheered me up and I danced round the kitchen with the cat. Perhaps next year...

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