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Macrae children

Lockdown Two by Franklin Lewis Macrae


Second lockdown has officially started. However, I am grateful that schools have not shut. The first lockdown was awful and I actually missed school. It'll be great to go back.


I haven't done much this week. This half term has been quiet as we can't go out as much and we can't drive to see people. Before Lockdown Two started, I went on a long drive with my dad. We were collecting old tiles to make our patio. I helped dad load them into the car and the man who sold us the tiles let me drive his small tractor.


I've been helping mum with gardening jobs and some clearing out. I filled ten plastic sacks with leaves so that we can make leaf mulch for next year. Recently my cat Saskia has been braver and is going outside into the garden more often. Probably because mum and I have been out there with her. 


I've been watching the American election on TV. I find it hilarious that Donald Trump is having tantrums about potentially not winning the election for President of the USA. It will be funny when the results come in to see what he does! 

Lockdown Two by Marli Rose Macrae


Today is Bonfire Night. We are having some fireworks in the garden after dinner as there are no displays to watch this year because of COVID and the second lockdown. There is a huge display every year in the park which we can watch for free from our hall window but not this year. Our garden fireworks will be fountains and Catherine Wheels as the loud, noisy fireworks upset Saskia. She hides under my bed when she hears them.


We are learning about the Tudors at school at the moment and today we had to make up a newspaper report about a Tudor character. I chose Lady Mary Barrington. Lady Barrington disliked King Henry VIII because he'd had her brother hanged so she started poisoning people and was caught in the act trying to poison Prince Edward (King Henry's son). Later, we learned about Tudor sailor superstitions. I am so enjoying school and I'm so happy that we are allowed to attend school during this second lockdown. Even Franklin said that he missed school during the first lockdown, it was awful for us.I had such a fun time at playtime, my friend Allouana lifted me up and spun me round and round. She is the strongest girl in my class.


Tonight is parents'evening but my teacher is phoning mummy at home, they can't meet because of COVID. They have never spoken before, I am taken to the school gate and I go in alone, parents can't come in with us. Franklin returns to school next week and he said he will be glad as half term has dragged on. 


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

After a gloomy start to the week the last three days have been warm and sunny, perfect for tidying up in the garden and much better for my spirits, which were a bit low. 

Today technology has defeated me and dispelled my good mood. It started with a phone call to address the problem of my credit card not being accepted for online purchases. Twenty-five minutes in a queue waiting to speak to someone (Covid was the reason for the delay apparently), then ten minutes proving my identity before losing the connection. I had almost reached the stage where I was going to be given a temporary password which, as long as I used the card for a purchase in the next twenty four hours, would give me an option to set up a new password. Apparently they couldn’t do anything without me making a purchase. 

I thought writing my journal entry would make me feel better but the laptop refused to respond. So I am not sitting in the conservatory enjoying the sunshine but am in the dark, pokey study. 


Sunday was fun with a Halloween family quiz on Zoom. It was organised by number four son and we were all expected to dress up. Luckily Mary had sent me a couple of masks which made it much easier for us. Five family groups, each providing one round. Ours was all about the two of us with questions such as; 

What was the date of our marriage? 

Where did we buy our first house? 

Name the four towns where our four boys were born? 

We weren’t surprised by the poor scores that resulted. We could hear the four girls in the background saying, “You must know?... 

Maya, aged twelve, did a PowerPoint presentation of monsters, at which we failed miserably. 

Margot, aged four, devised her own questions and then chose who she thought gave the best answers; 

How was the first person made? 

How do you make a rainbow? 

How do I know that my daddy loves me? (Because he gives me his favourite part of the chicken – it’s bum, was the correct answer!) Her dad clarified that she meant the oysters. Crazy answers received the most approval and she mostly favoured her cousins. 

James had us running all over the house looking for – ten different shoes, something spooky, something that could have been used in a Harry Potter movie but wasn’t actually made for it. 

All in all lots of fun.

Monday I made the Christmas cakes – one huge one for Christmas (who will be able to share it with us though?) and one smaller one which I always keep to decorate for Jeremy’s birthday in March. I am looking forward hopefully to March and wondering what the state of the world will be then. 

I was listening to the news as I made the cakes, which was spoiling my baking mindfulness so I switched on Bargain Hunt instead which was much more relaxing. We’ve always enjoyed car boot sales and charity shop bargain hunting. Reusing and recycling rather than buying new is what we are always aiming for. (Jeremy’s edit: This started as parsimony, if we are honest, but now it’s nice to be able to point out how environmentally virtuous we’ve always been!)


Tuesday and into Wednesday morning was spent listening, on and off, to the American election news and reading articles explaining the Election College votes. It all seems crazy and unbelievable. I still can’t understand why so many people voted for Trump. The rest of the day was spent clearing the garden in the sunshine. Jeremy mowed the long grass in our wild area and kept running over small balls which turned out to be beetroots. I thought we’d had a poor showing. We can only surmise that squirrels buried them in the long grass. I didn’t know squirrels liked beetroots. In the evening we watched the neighbours letting off fireworks with their grandchildren. They were obviously doing it early before Lockdown 2 started. 


Yesterday we decided to have a bonfire as there were lots of materials which had been collected for a family bonfire and needed to be burnt. So the two of us sat with mugs of soup watching the flames and talking about Bonfire Nights in our youth. None of these modern day flashy displays but one firework at a time in your back garden with a few neighbours. Lots of time spent attaching the Catherine wheel so that it would spin – although they always seemed to get stuck. Rockets in milk bottles carefully aimed away from anything they could ignite and then the excitement of jumping jacks leaping around randomly. Naughty boys with bangers. Writing your name with a sparkler and learning the hard way not to pick it up by the wrong end after it had finished.


This afternoon we are having afternoon tea in the garden with our neighbours. We will each sit in our own garden well apart with the low wall between us. I think that doesn’t break any rules.



John Underwood, Norfolk

Tiptoe away


In the week that has seen the country plunged into another lockdown, Donald Trump’s son has been complaining to anyone who is listening, that the Republican Party is not doing enough to support the President with his claims of electoral fraud. 

It rather reminds me of when our two sons were infants. Shopping was always a trial with them, but sometimes you just had to bite the bullet, and there was no alternative to taking the children to Marks and Spencer’s to buy new underwear. Other well known brands are available. After a while the children would grow restless and unless heavily distracted would kick off, perhaps with a dose of the screaming habdabs among the clothes rails. We had a tactic for this, and whilst a child was engaged in screaming, lying down and flailing all limbs, we would tiptoe away and leave them to it whilst observing from a safe distance, and eventually the little ankle biting treasure would realise that nobody was taking any notice and would cease and desist. I suspect that leading Republicans who have any honour, or sense of the gravity of the office of the Presidency, are beginning to tiptoe quietly away. Their embarrassment must be intense. I’m afraid that a huge number of deluded folk who have been taken in by the lies will take a long time to believe that the election has not been systematically rigged. Some of them will never believe it.

The Presidential election continues as I write to be a whirligig of accusation and confusion, with postal votes being tallied amidst the cries of “ Stop the Count”. It is a truism, but it is not the long drawn out process, the whining, the brain numbing idiocy, or even the farcical aspects of it all that is so desperate; it is the hope.

In this country, John Lydon ( Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols) was having a good old rant in support of Trump this week. He was echoing what a great many American working class poor Republican voters had been saying, and I was initially sad that another hero had gone to the bad. Lydon had interrupted an interviewer and wanted to say that privileged middle class people could never understand the appeal of Trump, and that for working class people , Trump was a hero. I have always thought that Lydon had a lot of sense, and didn’t want to immediately dismiss him. On reflection, I began to see his point. There is too close a line between “working class hero” and “popularist demagogue ” for me to swallow Trump’s excesses or Lydon’s support, but I do take the point that democracy just doesn’t work for a great many people. The poor, the unemployed, disregarded people, and in this country too. Why would we be surprised if voters want to tear down the established structures and democratic principles if they see them propping up the status quo? The Democrats have not seen the landslide that they were expecting, and if Biden is eventually declared President, he is going to have a great deal of rebuilding to do.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

There’s a Clingon in The White House.

Make it stop!


It has been a mad week of lies, misinformation, manipulation and just sheer craziness.

The election has not been resolved since the vote closed on Tuesday. There has been a lot of counting, counting counting and the margins are extremely narrow. Biden is on “the brink of power” the expected winner but not in Trump world. He doesn’t want to go and is spreading hate and distrust and is proclaiming the election has been stolen from him. It is like watching a film in an altered state of reality starring an evil Bond villain with too much make up on and a bad blonde wig.


I thought his breathing seemed a bit laboured the other day. I wonder how he really is? Will he collapse in a heap when he’s no longer president. Apparently he’s worried about criminal charges which his presidency is protecting him from. What a weird world we are living in.

Anyway we shall see what happens. I feel very sorry for all the stoic volunteer counters who have had a huge job to do in complete transparency having accusations hurled at them.

“If you count the legal votes I’ve won. If you count the illegal votes…This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election.” 

One of the officials involved in the count said Trump had to put his big boy pants on and acknowledge that he has lost. Another said there are monitors watching the count at all times, transparent tables and filmed round the clock. He is chucking lawyers at it in the hope that the heavily republican Supreme Court will protect him.


Here in England we have been locked down again as of Thursday morning. Stay at home and no visitors in the garden. My day started with Roger the gardener coming round at 9.00 and then I went out and was out all day. When I got back he had cut the hedge with the new community hedge trimmer. The neighbours, Roger and I are sharing a super duper new toy which he obviously had fun with as the hedge looked brilliant. Only 3 more to go.


I had to go the barn with various bits and the chapel to meet others and then to the shop to put it to bed. Constantly seem to behind the couriers by 5 minutes so had to deal with huge boxes that you could move into.

The shop is shut again but we will be open on Instagram and whats app video so you can all do your Christmas shopping with us. Hooray. It’s weird not being there on Fridays and Saturdays. Naughty Tim is here sorting out the beech tree that got damaged the other day in the big storm. It is a beautiful day and no chickens got squashed by the falling branches of multi coloured leaves.


I’ve had quite a busy week preparing for a secret mission next week. I will have to redact my own diary entry.

My car went into the garage today for a new radiator so I don’t have another Rothehithe tunnel moment. Yes Rotherhithe tunnel in Norkolk, just down the road.


On Sunday my friend Lisa and I went out on our birthday cultural tour to Houghton Hall to see the Anish Kapoor exhibition. There was one particularly beautiful piece, The Sky Mirror.

My favourite show there though was the Richard Long exhibition some of which is permanent. Its sits in the grounds with integrity.


There have been some lovely sunsets this week. Beautiful pink skies. On the way back from our walk last night we passed my old neighbour’s new house. Come in and have a cup of tea she said! It’s illegal now I can’t, I told her. Her two sons have grown so much since I last saw them in the summer, her oldest is about a foot taller than her now. They are very sweet and gentle together.


Coronavirus seems to have come down slightly but there are a lot of new infections, just over 23,000 a day.

There was a very sad piece on the news a couple of days ago of a family in Wales, ten of whom had caught Covid 19 and the mother and the 2 sons in their early 40’s had died within a few days of each other. Can you imagine?


Rishi announced that the furlough scheme and help for the self employed was going to continue until March. I think they’re going to let us out for Christmas and then lock us down again. The national debt is going to be gazillions and then there’s all the chaos of Brexit to look forward to.

Well at least it’s a nice sunny day today. 

Wish me luck on my mission. 

Annabel signing off. XXX


Restrictions for many

Hilde Schöning, Buchholz, Germany

On Thursday morning I listened to a hope causing podcast about the development of a vaccine from the Guardian. According to that there will soon be some light at the end of the tunnel. We are experiencing sunny and cold autumn days and there is quite some tranquility even in the big cities. Teaching is challenging at the moment and the students need a lot of reassurance and to be listened to as they are often very frustrated.


Last Saturday we followed the annual reformation day service online and were quite disappointed as there was hardly any reference to the reformation itself in it. But it is very good in general to be able to participate in a church service even at home.


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

It’s been a week of fun, beginning with the virtual cruise that best beloved and I had planned.


What a success that was!  My bungalow was converted into the M/S Balmorale of Freya Dolsen Cruisea (Apologies to Fred Olsen!).  Suitable dressing involved renaming rooms to suit and putting various notices in place, for example the bathroom was the ‘Emergency Assembly Point’.  I greeted best beloved when she arrived, dressed in black tie and armed with a hand cleanser dispenser - any who cruise will understand.  Each day represented ports of call, and we partook of appropriate food, listened to local music and watched suitable videos.  We even went ashore for a trip to Osborne House gardens and also launched a lifeboat - my campervan - in aid of youngest daughter, who was in the midst of a house move.  This might all seem completely crazy, but it was brilliant and gave the two of us great enjoyment!  We will do something similar again soon I’m sure.  We will need to think of new destinations, Bremen, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Funchal, the Canaries, Seville, Cadiz, Lisbon, Porto, and La Coruna having been visited already in our four day marathon.


Other items this week - oh yes there has been an election across the pond, which has been endlessly fascinating.  I really do pray for everyone over there.


On Wednesday best beloved and myself went on a train ride with the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.  That was lovely and we also watched a bird of prey demo.  Then Thursday and into the abyss.  I went for a walk down the pier, which gave me a strong sense of deja vu.  It was really quiet and rather lovely, although the poor pier has become noticeably more rusty since the last lock down.


Must remark on one of the photos.  Please note that best beloved is testing masks for the government and she developed a considerable head of steam in so doing!  (Really a fortuitous picture taken during our railway visit!)


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Last night there were a few fireworks popping and squeaking in the village but not many. Nobody came to the door at Halloween. Traffic outside has diminished and each evening, post supper, we have huddled round the stove listening to the news and ruminating on death and America.  


At the weekend we tried to persuade Mum in Liverpool to decamp but she wasn’t having any of it and nor is she sitting quiet waiting for the army to knock on her door with a test. I packed up a care parcel for her consisting of Country Life magazines, tins of her favourite Ortiz tuna, a tin of chocolate and orange florentines, a packet of plastic food bag clips shaped like Marie biscuits which I have been saving for her Christmas stocking and a toilet roll... the latter because there was a space which needed filling and because it would make her laugh. Added a postcard picturing a medieval band of minstrels singing and wrote the words of ‘The Moon has raised her lamp above to shine her way to thee my Love’ on the back (this being one of our favourite party pieces which we like to sing in harmony but both deliberately and outrageously off key!) 


On Monday drove to London for a three hour dental appointment to have my back teeth recontoured... brilliant result... I dislocated my jaw a few years ago and since then my back teeth have not met which has made chewing a tad difficult. Using some amazing play dough my dentist has built them up and I am absolutely thrilled. Huge difference! 


On Wednesday Judith came but said she would not come again until after 2nd December. Openreach came and dug the hole but now we have to wait for another engineer to drill the hole through the wall and then a third man to fit the box. 


On Thursday I was due back at the bookshop but that was cancelled. Instead, prepared extensive and impossible Lockdown To Do Lists with Martin and now both of us keep drifting off to ‘do’ them... until supper time that is when we revisit death and America!


A View from Crazy Town

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

Gentle Readers, Dear Editors, 

Your Intrepid Reporter confesses to his exhaustion. This is not merely from the weight of covering our Dear Leader's endless progression from Victory to Victory. No, your humble scribe admits that he has been keeping odd hours, pursuing the gain of filthy lucre while working at an undisclosed location in the area of Williamsburg, Virginia. (If we told you where, we'd have to... well, you know the line). But freed from the bonds of labor, Y.I.R. can once again turn his admiring gaze in the direction of Crazy Town.


The nation, the Faithful and Faithless alike have been riveted to the news, awaiting confirmation of Dear Leader's Final Victory and Ultimate Apotheosis. Alas and alack, it has not come. It seems that He Who Shall Not Be Named may have done the Unthinkable. At this writing we still don't have a final result and Dear Leader is working overtime, as always sacrificing all for the good of the nation. The tweets are Crazy. The public appearances are full max Crazy, but hope must be maintained at any cost. Already He is mustering serried ranks of lawyers to go forth and do battle in the courts. A thousand petitions are filed, arguments mustered, bluster blustered. In Pennsylvania He thunders that the vote counting must stop! In Arizona he demands with righteous rage that it must go on! The Faithful gather, chanting His name and praising His Glory. Backed by semi-automatic firepower, just to be sure.


Ask yourself, Gentle Reader, can it be a mere coincidence that the day after these Dire Developments over 100,000 new cases of COVID were reported amongst the faithless electors of this land in a single day? We think not. 


As you, Gentle Reader, have by now no doubt divined, Y.I.R. is a fan of that great American imitation of Rounders. So, with the troubling news afflicting the land this night, he seeks solace in the poetry of baseball. In particular, the first and final verses of that classic, "Casey at the Bat," updated for the occasion: 

"The outlook wasn't brilliant for Crazy Town that day:

The score stood 227-213, with but six states more in play,

And then when 'Consin died at last, and Mich'gan did the same,

A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.


Oh, somewhere in this favoured [yes, the author spelled it like this] land the sun is shining bright,

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, 

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,

But there is no joy in Crazy Town, - for Dear Leader has struck out."

LATE BREAKING NEWS - Saturday evening

From Y.I.R.,


Crazy Town going wild. Pots a banging. Fireworks a firing. Crowds gathering outside The Bunker. Champagne stocks climbing as supplies shrink. 

This must have been what VE Day felt like. With face masks. 


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

Well, following on from my entry last week - that was poor timing Boris, scuppering our Aldeburgh stay like that. 

Lockdown #2 it is then - though opinion is divided on just how necessary. The clincher would seem to be The Science warning that the NHS could be overwhelmed, prejudicing their ‘normal’ work for us and placing them in the position of rationing care, or “having to decide who lives and who dies”. A touch ‘project fear’... 

All rushed out over the weekend after much detail leaked to Robert Peston with follow-up stories in the Sunday papers.


Mid week and the Covid-19 study publish their figures suggesting a peak has been reached and passed. There will be a four week lag in outcomes, and of course there may be a third peak, but encouraging nevertheless and a refreshing break from doom.

Among the fine tunings debated is the reversal of the suggested ban on pubs offering take-away beer. MPs agreed beer ordered by phone or internet can be collected at the door. 

We shoot off to Aldeburgh on a sunny, last-chance-to-socialise-Wednesday with our bubblers of choice, Marjie and ‘Black Shed’ David who in future we can only see one at a time. Paid homage to Hambling’s Scallop, the fisherman’s sheds and the Martello Tower, finding time for a lovely lunch at the Fish Market and a fine ice cream cone. It all seems very odd that these experiences, freely available to us one day and enjoyed without the slightest feeling of threat, will be denied us the next - that the pubs and restaurants will be dark, businesses put in peril as we retreat into our isolations, whatever form they take.


As the week has gone on, and in anticipation of the lockdown start at 00.01 Thursday, I got the distinct impression the Police are going to feature more, enforcing restrictions and generally getting heavy. Every time I put the News on there seems to be a Police spokesperson warning us of the dire consequences of non-compliance. “Tough action” is the phrase most used.

Thursday, and as I start a new re-roofing lockdown project, two mildly unnerving things happen. The Chancellor says the furlough scheme announced earlier will now be extended through to the New Year and Boris says he wants to talk to us at teatime. What on earth can it all mean? Nothing new from Boris, the same old squit.


Sainsbury’s announces the closure of its fresh meat, fish and delicatessen counters, citing lack of business and creating 2400 redundancies. So, having participated in the death of the High Street, they want to consign us to the vacuum pack. It’s enough to get me resolving never to darken their doors, I didn’t enjoy my more recent visits there anyway. I’ll take my chances among the good ol’ boys and tattooed wimmin in Acle Co-op from now on. Acle Hair and Beauty has of course been forced to close - a three-room two chair sort of place, easily able to regulate attendance by appointment and preserve safe distancing by virtue of the fact the chairs are in separate rooms, with nails and tanning in the third. It’s as much a social hub for the elderly as anything else, what can be possibly wrong with that? On the upside, Fabulous Wilkerson’s, the hardware store, is, rightly considered ‘essential’ and will stay open, and Rhino, the builder’s merchants will revert to their previously successful ‘click and collect‘ operation, so roofing supplies are possible.


Friday, and the end of a rather volatile week. I thought Mark Drayford, Wales’ First Minister summed it all up rather neatly: “it’s up to you; keep yourself to yourself and don’t go looking for loopholes“.

Sheila's photograph of Maggi Hambling's gloriously apt shell sculpture and Marli Macrae's fabulous knitted poppies that she kindly made for Margaret and Sheila.
Thank you Marli, we love them and will wear them with pride.

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