“Survival” diary

Susan, Country Victoria, Australia

I’m always at a romp on Fridays which is why I often fail to deliver a journal entry. I also feel that my days are pretty much the same and the antipodean contribution might just be as boring as batshit (local expression)...


My husband has returned to interstate travel now the border has reopened to NSW. It is quite a different climatic zone to where we live, and I did smile when I saw him grabbing his down jacket when he left this week. It was almost frosty here and I gently reminded him that when he got out of his car in two hours it would be well on the way to the high 30s. My brother Philip headed a bird tour there last weekend and it was 47° and blowing a hot north wind. The Riverina is hot, but we never had such extreme heat until January/February. In the last few years before we left the farm we had some days spike to 51°. Friends who still farm on the Hay plains are having this occur every summer. Don’t get me started on the government who will be dragged kicking and screaming to address climate change. Fortunately Australian business and industry are doing the heavy lifting on our behalf.

COVID hovers in the background. We are in such a happy position here now. Melbourne friends have travelled (nervously) on crowded planes to visit family in Sydney. They have found a city that is entirely normal. The record keeping for contact tracing in shops and restaurants is seamless. In Melbourne it is apparently still clunky. Sydney-siders also have no concept of what lockdown meant in Victoria. Speaking to family in Queensland and the ACT it is clear they don’t either. So much for empathy. What must they feel for the rest of the world I ask? The next big challenge for Victoria will come with the hosting of the Australian Open Tennis which has be pushed back to February. Quarantining will be an interesting exercise. The personalities of some tennis Prima Donnas may be a challenge. My husband is hoping to attend at least one day of the Boxing Day test against India. Attendance is by ballot and capacity will be limited to 25,000. A big change from the 80-90,000 who usually attend. 


Well my sour dough needs some attention. Two loaves on the go today, and they will bake while we eat breakfast tomorrow. One will be delivered to a friend who has just lost his wife. A splendid Friday fish pie needs to go into the oven, as Neil walks through the door after a busy week. I delivered flowers to the baker of said pie and his lovely wife when I collected it at lunchtime. Last week when I bought eggs, Bryanna and I had spoken about flowers that take you to happy memories. On the strength of that conversation I included a small posy of cornflowers and lavender. A thriving business and five children leave them little time for gardening. 


Fabulous news on the vaccination front. It won’t be a substitute for care and caution in the medium term. Take care x



Bumpy landing on the south coast

Catherine, Sussex

Sometimes Journal entries linger in my mind. One was Nicky’s lament over the diverging of paths of friendship. As I am a nomad, my friendships come and go and very few last the course. My fault, and I regret it. But I saw early in life that individual paths rarely run straight and true, no matter how hard their travellers might try. If two paths do run parallel for a while, enjoy the hand-holding, because it’s likely that at some point one or both will fork off in a different direction: such is life. One of my favourite poems is Robert Frost's ‘The Road not Taken’.


‘Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller, long I stood….


‘I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood and I – 

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.’


Covid has proved the devil who prods and pokes at those as yet unseen cracks in relationships, forcing them ever wider, until the chasm becomes unbridgeable, and it’s time to declare two new continents – or sides of the street – where perhaps our task is to make it the best continent or streetside we can without going to war with the other. Still, when the other does something which imperils all the rest, it’s hard to sit on our hands. I don’t know what the answer is, other than deep hibernation. But I recognise Nicky’s rage and anguish.


Another was David’s rumination on love. As parents, it behoves us to not hurt our children, even if we don’t like them. Only recently did it dawn on me that the names my father had called me when I was little were not terms of endearment, not at all. Fortunately my mother, also a victim, saw this and doubled her own love for me. Unlike David, I can’t claim to love the man (or his memory); once childhood hopes of love from him had entirely died I severed all contact, but the effect of his scorn was permanent. I recognise David’s puzzlement, especially, I imagine, as a father himself.


This is the time of year for dark introspection and a downward trajectory. Astonishingly, I realise that right now I am so busy every second of every day that I have not a moment to feel bleak. Maybe I got it out of the way earlier this year. And this is despite wisdom toothache – again. Another long trip to pick up antibiotics. However, I, who can normally sleep for the entire UK, never mind England, am suddenly restless at night, instead. Wake up. Look at clock. Sigh. Pee? Hungry? Thirsty? Cold? Hot (hello Elle)? Pile up cushions. Read. Switch on radio. Fall asleep, head askew and ears full of droning politicians. Wake up with thick head, which clears by the next bedtime…


This busyness has altered other patterns, too. At this time of year I would normally be well into researching and writing my family history. Over the years I have fallen into a rhythm of working October-March, most days until midday, happily lost in the internet and piles of letters and photographs. I need the afternoons to switch my mind back to the present, which is not always easy. This year I did a bit in the spring when I was killing time, and now haven’t yet begun this winter’s stint. I miss it, and look forward to getting back into the swing.

On the day the non-essential shops reopened I spent two hours in my rocking chair with a sleeping HN, who had declined to sleep in his bassinette. I didn’t mind, and spent the time gazing out at various crowds passing by. After the schoolchildren came shoppers from the town centre, dragging bulging carrier bags and looking sated. I too had earlier ventured out, to the local community charity shop, for some books to read to HN (yes, including a nursery rhymes one). But this thrilling outing came at a cost: my proud new possession, my face visor, bent on receipt, I then lost entirely after just its second use. How can that be? Well, I put it in the tray under the pram (where a surprising amount of stuff ends up) and it vanished. I have to say, though, that while I had felt extra safe trolling round the supermarket with mask and added visor, when I went into this small overheated shop and started to glow (as proper ladies do) the latter quickly misted up, and I had to do a sort of welder’s flip to look at book titles. HN then started to yell, because he was hot, too, and I dropped the little pile of books I was balancing on one arm while trying to feed him his emergency bottle with the other, so had to scoot the books along the floor with one foot while shuffling and pushing the pram with the other. It rather went from bad to worse, but I eventually got out, flustered, feeling I had done everything wrongly, and as ever vowing to stay clear of small hot shops for the duration. For levity (for a change), I have appended a couple of pictures of granny imperfections.


I’ve ordered two more visors, though the initial cut-price lot have of course sold out, plus I have to wait for them.


We’re in Tier 2 here, so life continues much the same. I’m in a medium-numbered vaccination group, about which I’m not upset as although I’m 100% in favour I can’t help feeling an element of reverse ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ about vaccinating various levels of the elderly first. I suspect it will be a case, again, of 'on verra'.


Last night, when I went for a late stroll, was inky dark, still and crisp. Smells and sounds carried: coal and, surprisingly, paraffin took me back, and foxes barked for a mate. (https://www.facebook.com/foxguardiansuk/videos/704575837144714, if you're interested.)

Christmas decorations are going up in front rooms and gardens. Time to dig out the fairy lights. HN will be enchanted.



Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Suffolk

Good morning! I hope you’re well and staying safe.


I’m writing this from a cold and wet Suffolk. Sleet here today and I’ve been sitting by the fire watching a bleak garden getting a shower of the icy greyness brrrr! Think I’ll stay indoors for now! 


From my walks and travels this week, I notice lots of people are starting to decorate in preparation for Christmas. It seems earlier this year but I’m glad. It’s comforting seeing the lights going on in the evenings. A neighbour has wrapped a string of white lights around one of their fine evergreen trees and it looks super. Yet this isn’t my favourite time of year.


I guess this season can make some people very ‘reflective’ and perhaps it has this year more than any other I’ve known. I read the lovely reminiscences posted by Barbara W last week and thought about my own family and our Christmases together. I read the words by David H too and felt moved by the honesty and kindness. I know the feeling of wanting only my own company - time alone can be good and helpful time too.


So where did my reflections take me this week? Just to thoughts of childhood excitement, making paper chains and wrapping up presents, drinking “snow balls”, drawing Christmas trees and decorating them with coloured pencils. Oh but then to less happy memories - teenage grumpiness and getting up late on Christmas Day. Oh and walking to the pub and mum being upset because everyone was late back for lunch. And the time when a bottle of wine went over and spoiled the table mum had spent hours preparing...


I do miss my parents. We weren’t the closest family but as I matured I saw them more and more as friends. The American poet Laurie Anderson said that when her father died it was as if a library had burned down. The same here. My father was a knowledgeable and practical man. He did not display much affection - he gave little away (emotionally or financially) and certainly not to his children but I admire him and loved him. I never told him that. My mum was huge fun and always chatty. To the very end - she kept us entertained with her witty observations. She was very generous and gregarious. How would she have coped with social distancing? I’m sure she would have found ways to share her high spirits!


Lots has happened in relation to the new vaccines this week and much time has been spent trying to educate us all about restrictions linked to the tier system. I am struggling to muster much enthusiasm for the latest statements on what we can and can’t do. 


So to more happy things... we have been promised a dog... possibly next week. A pretty terrier type. Not a puppy - nearly fully grown. I’m hoping she’ll get on with my Jack Russell. I’m sure she will. I’m getting things ready for her. A new collar and lead. A new dog bowl. I’m trying to contain my excitement but I’m like a child again. I know I should “steady on” but hey ho... a little pre-Christmas joy... I’m keeping my fingers crossed!


Take care and stay well and safe x



Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

Since the zipper broke on my flame orange down jacket which is, admittedly, more than thirty years old, I bought a new jacket in the pre pre pre Christmas sales. It’s a bright blue, cheerful in the middle of winter, and has okay pockets, flannel lined, which makes them soft but they could be bigger and there could be more of them. If I were designing clothes… but I’m not. Shopping is hard this year. I love wandering around shops, finding presents and, I admit, presents for myself. But now I’m reduced to finding presents at the hardware store, where I bought my daughter a quite beautifully painted hammer that miraculously also contains five other tools. But the presents I can find in the hardware store are limited. And then at the food co-op I can buy candles and calendars and bars of chocolate. Those are the two stores I enter. The good news is that I have to think a lot more about the people I love and what presents would be fit them. Not a bad thing but more stressful, like waiting with hope for the right word or image to float to the forefront of my brain.


Things here are an ever growing tragic mess though more people are taking the virus seriously. Our Governor made passionate pleas for people not to travel on Thanksgiving and apparently travel was down fifty percent, which is heartening. I imagine government officials on the highway with clickers counting cars, in their orange down coats with working zippers of course, but actually there must be some magic digital something way of counting. Barbara, who vigils in the local city with a Black Lives Matter sign once a week reports that more and more people walking past her wear masks. And there are other wisps of hope out and about… the combination of a competent president on the horizon and several vaccines mean that we sight the beginning of the shift forward. I told my aunt I hoped to be in Western Australia for her ninety eighth birthday, end of next November. That seems like a eternity to her, but it is more optimistic than I’ve been since March.


And meanwhile someone suggested yesterday that I make a schedule which I did, and though I almost instantly rebelled against it I also let it guide the day and it was a good thing. Perhaps I’ll keep going.  


The weather hasn’t closed in yet, hovering around -2 or -3 centigrade, but I now fit into my snow pants and I plan to get the hang of snow shoeing this year. I’m determined to spend time outside and snow shoes, big flat firm webbed platforms that boots fit in and that balance on top of the snow or, if one is heavy, sink several inches down, make it possible to walk on snow. They are less dependent on the condition of the snow than skis are. And require considerably less skill. 

More on that if it ever snows, but I’m happy now with the ground clear and occasional warmer days when it is a pleasure to be outside. Although it is almost always a pleasure to be outside. I signed up for a course that will teach me about what is going on in the natural world in winter. The hidden often underground story. A friend and I will do the field work together.  

I so enjoy reading everyone’s journal entries… thank you everyone. And yes indeed to Peter’s reading of A Tale of Gloucester.


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

It has been snowing for about three hours but, sadly, too fine and wet to make an attractive white covering – just grey and dreary. I do have a charming advent calendar card to cheer me up -the first I have ever owned. It is a wood engraving of a woodland scene made by Molly Lemon and was sent to me by one of my daughters-in-law.  So much nicer than the tacky chocolate ones that appear everywhere at this time of year.


Number 4 son, his partner and her brother won’t be able to visit her family in Greece over Christmas. Her parents are worried because the police are stopping and fining people who are travelling. So they will spend Christmas in Winchester together. 


We will spend Christmas here with number 1 son and family although I was prepared for our first Christmas without family. Mark has had a Covid test which came back negative and is also taking part in a trial for a vaccine. He thinks he had the vaccine rather than the placebo as he felt a bit unwell afterwards. Who knows? I asked what would happen when his turn came around to have the vaccine. He said he would then be able to contact them and they would tell him whether he had already had it. As he has no health issues and is in his early 40’s it could be a while. His partner went for a test as she was suffering from loss of taste. She was fairly sure it was due to sinus problems but thought she had better make sure. She had the test within an hour of booking it and it came back negative within twenty-four hours. Things are looking up.


Number 3 son’s wife is still on track for her shoulder operation on 14th. At the moment she is supposed to be socially distancing for two weeks before having a test but she is allowed to continue working. It is tricky staying two metres away from the primary aged children you are teaching. After the test she has to self-isolate for three days before the operation which is also tricky when you have three young children. Where can she go? How are other people who are having operations managing to do this?

The turkey is ordered from a local farm. The farmer told me that the smallest ones will be about 13lbs and they are in great demand as there won’t so many large family gatherings. “I can’t stop them growing,” she said. I told her I was happy to have a larger one as we could freeze the leftovers. Just hoping it’s not too big. The Christmas puds are made. I just need to make the summer puds now. Number one son in particular likes to follow all of the traditions he grew up with when my mother was providing the Christmas dinner. That means starting with a breakfast of boiled bacon (although it’s usually ham now), local pork pie and toast. Present opening after breakfast and a traditional Christmas dinner which must include bread sauce.


I am enjoying the Christmas preparations and looking forward to celebrating but nervous of what the new year will bring. I hope people will be sensible.



Seriously isolating

Jean, Melbourne Australia

We've had more than 30 days with no new cases and are well and truly out of isolation now with state borders largely open, people returning to work, and I think a cautious sense of optimism afoot. Melbourne will start taking in and quarantining (fingers crossed that goes well) returning Australians again who are coming in on overseas flights. 

So what has been noticeable almost straight away is the surprising volume of traffic! God forbid you want to get somewhere quickly by car. And whatever happened to the chill attitudes Melbournians cultivated during the lockdown? People now seem very impatient as evidenced by tailgating, drivers not letting you cut in from a side street and rude gestures. Hrmph! 

The other thing I've noticed is a desire to go shopping and buy things that I lived without quite happily during the lockdown. It's true it would have been better if I'd been able to get my eyes tested and new glasses made back in March rather than 8 months later because the world is now so much brighter and clearer than it was! But perhaps what's delightful is not so much buying things as just having interactions with other human beings! Which of course is what's so great about being able to go to cafes, meet friends for lunch or have people over at long last.

Terrific news about the vaccines and that the UK will be first in line.

Thanks to David H. for the link to A Winter's Tale and a wonderful and moving performance. The play felt so pertinent to our times, when the powerful have got things SO wrong and wreaked such havoc on all those around them. At least in the play we get to see that powerful person face the truth and humbly make reparations. O that someone like T could see it!

My next door neighbour decorates the tree in front of his house each year at Christmas: the lights went up yesterday so we know we made it through to December. Roll on the rest of 2020.



A View from Crazy Town

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

His Truth Goes Marching On


Even in defeat our Dear Leader is no loser. His Crazy campaign to impugn the election of He Who Shall Not Be Named moves on from victory to victory, however much that might seem like an alternative fact to the Faithless.


You need evidence, you say, Gentle Reader, echoing the horrible precedent set by the supposed judges and others on courts both state and Federal. Well, here you have it. Bigly: Dear Leader himself spoke for 46 minutes on Wednesday, calling it "the most important speech I've ever given." He exposed the entire scheme involving election officials, judges, poll workers, governors, Hugo Chavez and assorted other denizens of the Deep State all across the nation. (The more keen-eyed among you will have noted the significance of the length of Dear Leader's remarks and the message that sent to the Faithful.) What more proof do you need than Dear Leader's own word for it?


But, He is not alone in His fight for Truth, Justice, and The American Way, no siree Bob. (A small digression: is the Oxford comma really appropriate in this instance, or are Justice and the American Way one and the same thing, never to be separated by some damned elitist British comma? And anyway, doesn't "comma" rhyme with the first name of Vice She Who Shall Not Be Named, proving that they must all be banned lest we risk four years of punctuational heterodoxy? We must appeal to the Dear Editors for a ruling.)  Sadly, Dear Leader had to fire one of His Defenders, Sydney Powell, after her rant at the RNC was too Crazy even for him. But like the noble Spartans at Thermopylae, where one falls two more rise in her stead. With Sydney sidelined, the burden was taken up by the nicely rhyming duo of Lin and Flynn. The latter, of course, is a former general, national security advisor, confessed criminal, and beneficiary of one of three presidential pardons in honor of Thanksgiving (for the record, the other two turkeys were named Corn and Cob). L. Lin Wood, a previously unknown lawyer, stepped up to issue a clarion call to arms:  this will not stand! Impose martial law! Given that Lin has credibly asserted - while engaged in disputes with his former law partners - that he spoke directly to God Herself, this was not guidance  to be ignored lightly. Flynn joined the chorus shortly thereafter, and soon other members of Team Crazy were falling all over themselves to advance His Noble Cause. One, Joe DiGenova, a former denizen of the Deep State himself, called for the summary execution of the former head of election security at the Department of Homeland Security, after the latter defended the integrity of the elections process (he later clarified that he was just kidding). As Dear Leader Himself stated with remarkable clarity, it is statistically impossible that He Who Shall Not Be Named could have won.So take that, Oh Nameless One.


However, as droll as this all may be, the title of Crazy of the Week must go to one Melissa Carone. In an appearance before the Michigan state assembly committee looking for plot ideas for its fictional account of how Dear Leader's rightful victory was stolen, the self-described IT consultant proffered testimony so bizarre that even Sydney Powell was overheard whispering in admiration "I wish I'd said that." Trust me when I say, Gentle Reader, that Your Humble Scribe's words alone cannot capture this level of Crazy. You really must watch Missy on YouToobinToo if you wish to tipple full strength, unfiltered Crazy in its purest essence. Of course, do I even need to say it? Do I even need to say his name? Yes, you guessed it. Right there at Missy's side was none other than the irreplaceable Rudy himself! Much like a latter day Zelig, Rudy can be counted on to appear at every outbreak of Crazy. Indeed, Lin and Flynn are totally justified in claiming that this was unfair, the fix was in, and it was further Proof of Fraud. Fraud or no, who can possible compete with Rudy when it comes to Crazy?

Despite all this success, one detects the first tremors of concern and the occasional jaundiced eye cast at the calendar. Billy "Bad Ass" Barr claimed he couldn't find evidence of Fraud (like Lord Nelson, it is suspected he deliberately cast a blind eye towards the task, and Billy may not be long for this Administration). However, the most public evidence of trouble in paradise took the form of rumors that the Dear Children and even Rudy himself seek to join the ranks of Corn, Cob and Flynn in benefiting from His Mercy. But how can this be? One has to be guilty in the first instance in order to be pardoned, and given that the Dear Children were born without the stain of original sin, this is an impossibility. Rudy, well, he can look after himself, and an insanity plea would have more than passing credibility, but The Kids? Dark days, indeed, Gentle Reader. As winter closes in and time runs its inevitable course through the hour glass, Dear Leader must grapple with Serious Issues such as this. All that noise about rising cases of COVID, collapsing hospitals and healthcare, cancelling holiday travel, and setting records for deaths per day are simply unwelcome distractions as Dear Leader focuses laser-like on the Big Issues, and keeping the country safe for Crazy. And that's the truth. Glory, glory, Hallelujah!


Corona Diary

Corona Diary

Textile designer on Monday, Interior designer and shopkeeper on Tuesday, graffiti artist on Wednesday and Thursday, (tag Duchess), shop assistant on Friday.

Quite fun being back on site with the boys, including Naughty Tim, spray cans and the brief “go for it”. I didn’t get home until half past midnight on Wednesday night having run out of paint. As I drove past the wall of the Sandringham estate a large deer was peering over the estate wall. Later an owl flew by. Earnie had to stay the night with Auntie Bridget.

Came up with plan B at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning. The restaurant was opening at 6 that evening so I went to B &Q and bought 5 pots of paints and some rollers. 

Very nice man there who mixed up the paint and helped me to the car.

I finished the outside tables in the morning and did the quickest mural, 6 x nearly 4 foot circles in the afternoon which the builders hung in about 2 minutes and then everyone cleared up and the people arrived…

Nothing like a deadline to get you going. Fun! 


In the news - mainly vaccines and a bit of Brexit. A bit of positivity in the air because of the vaccine news.

Worried about several of my friends, younger friends who are getting non covid illnesses. One had a heart attack and one is in hospital now and pretty poorly.

Just watched Grayson Perry’s Art Club, The exhibition, the culmination of the lockdown TV series. Very moving really. I love Grayson.

Watched The Queens Gambit which I also loved.

Still love Fortunately, Jane Garvey and Fi Glovers pod cast. They are very funny. It’s like having friends around being silly.

Anyway, all for now. Take care everyone.

Love Annabel xxx



From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

First, administration. A note on how to submit photos. They should be submitted through the email link to Sheila on the contact page on the journal, then Sheila gets them, if not me. Some of you send them to me and Sheila by email, and they don’t always get through, or something goes wrong when I forward them to Sheila. Probably my technical ineptitude. What we would like you all to do please is to state clearly when submitting your texts if there are photos to follow and how many. Then we can at least be aware of anything not getting through. 

So, sorry if some have gone astray... do try to use the contact page to submit where possible please. 


Well, vaccines are on the way, packed in dry ice in unmarked lorries to protect them from attack. Will such lorries be able to get through without delay once Brexit blocks all the ports and roads? Let’s hope so. Since no one yet knows how long a period the vaccines offer protection for (Three months? Six months?) my question is: will this massive roll out operation of vaccines for most (all?) of the population have to be repeated every three or six months? Will the NHS have time for anything else? Perhaps this is an opportunity for boosting job employment: a new army of vaccine operatives. We will all be walking pincushions.


For the first time, I felt really down and depressed earlier this week. Just too much lockdown. And the news that all these shops are closing made me feel not only sad about all those jobs lost but quite selfishly nostalgic. Really I’m a small independent shop person. But a wonderful article I read in the LRB in 2018 by Rosemary Hill (you can find it online), entitled ‘What does she think she looks like?’, which ranges from Virginia Woolf’s ‘frock consciousness’,  to how the pullover and other clothes liberated women’s dressing in the 1920s, puts in a strong defence for the department store as a safe and comfortable social environment for unaccompanied women in the 1920s. And now Debenhams is closing. I mainly use the Norwich Debenhams for cutting through on my way somewhere else, but I have enjoyed buying things there in the past. And I suddenly thought ’Oh, it would be so ordinary and normal to wander round Debenhams. Damn this New Normal. I don’t want to buy anything, just be there with other people, and look.’  Will Debenhams be standing boarded up and empty when we emerge, vaccinated, from hibernation?

But it’s Saturday today and the sun is shining. Blue skies. Difficult to imagine that yesterday morning I was walking in a blizzard with a friend. And walking around the garden just now, I discovered buds and one flower on my white chaenomeles (flowering quince), not usually in flower till February. A good omen? 


I’m torn at the moment between designing a Christmas card (Peter has already written the poem) and planting out my tulips. The sun beckons, so tulips it is.