Care in the time of Corona

Shirin Jacob, Ålesund, Norway

I was making a list of words that meant “good” and “bad,” in Norsk, with my hairdresser yesterday and we could only come up with four words for bad as opposed to fifteen for good. Clearly living in a country of committed optimists. 


Good (Bra)

I just had my heart ultrasound by a sweet Romanian heart specialist and his lovely Norwegian nurse. He reassured me and I will review with him in two years. Crossed fingers.


Bad (Dårlig) 

I had gone up to my GP’s office assuming the appointment was there, as he had vaguely swept his hand in the direction of a room when he had asked me to return for the appointment. I asked the blond receptionist where the heart specialist’s office was. She first ignored me. When I repeated the request, she scolded me for disturbing her and professed not to know where his office was. This is the 4th time she has been rude to me. And was perfectly nice to the Norwegian man in front of me. Unfortunately, we need to contend with some who think that all Asian women are in the same profession as Borat’s sister. It’s hard for my tall, white, blond, green eyed and impossibly handsome husband to understand the feeling I occasionally get in situations like this. 


Good (God)

I told her to re-read the poster behind her exhorting us to “Prate, Smile, Løfte.” Talk, Smile, Lift(?!?)

And swept out. 


Bad (Forfedelig)

I found out later that the poster was a campaign to raise awareness of stroke symptoms. It wasn’t an exhortation to be polite. 

Note to self- more norsk classes. 


Good (Kjempebra) 

I asked the heart specialist nurses to send a map to the receptionist in the GP office detailing WHERE the ONLY heart specialist to whom ALL the GP’s refer their cases (within 10 miles) was located. One floor down. 

Bad (Miserabelt)

I bought a long down skirt, which I don’t need, from my favourite sports shop in the next building. 


Fløtt (Great) 

I DIDN’T eat a whole cheesecake or a tub of real pistachio nut ice-cream, as I’m wont to do when upset. 


Elendig (Awful)

1000 new cases in quarantine in Trondheim, the nearest big city. More cases in Oslo. 

World leaders and icons not wearing masks at public occasions. Sending mixed signals to the impressionable plebes. 


Flink (Good)

“The hammer and the dance” proposed by Tomas Pueyo in March is making sense and gives me hope. This is going to continue for two or three years more. Lockdown, release, lockdown release... till we find an answer. So, I have decided to Accept it rather than fight it. Fighting, screaming, partying, pubbing, holidaying in countries with high infection rates is self-defeating. Might be better to get a grip on ourselves. Pull together in one direction.


Vidundelig (Wonderful)

I found a jug of flowers from an acquaintance who owns the ship chandler shop, outside my home this morning. She had left it there at 1130 pm last night whilst walking her dog. Cut from her father’s garden. The tide is turning. Perfectly splendid!!!



The gardener at Viddal gardening center wants to have coffee with me. That is Perfectly splendid!!!


Kjekt (Fun)

The Norwegian taxi driver helped me with all my big packages of dry cat food, wet cat food and two huge boxes of cat sand. Acts of Kindness. That was Perfectly Splendid!!!


Skikkelig bra (Excellent)

Flora Wingrave is my favourite character from the Haunting of Bly Manor. Amelie Bea Smith was perfectly splendid. 


Deilig (Delicious)

Karat, a Thai friend, I had met on the obligatory social studies course, made us a big container of Thai spring rolls. Det var såååå deilig! I’m helping her with her Norwegian exam. 



It’s getting noticeably colder. Winter is Coming. 


Helt fantastisk, Hyggelig og Koselig (Absolutely fantastic, nice and cosy)

I was opening a pile of mail in my usual unconscious fashion and out slipped a book and two paintings of Sofus and Julius. Prezzies from Barbara Warsop. Purrrrfectly Splendid😻😻😻

I’m going to settle down next week to The Lost Village of Parkwood Springs written by Barbara. We would never have met except for this journal. For that I am so grateful. Barbara is so generous with her time, suggestions and good spirit. We have a date with each other. To have Sunday lunch at Wortley Hall and order All their Puddings.


But first... Be gone you Bug!!!


God helg my friends.


Clean, sort, tidy 

Lily, Camberwell, London

Thursday 15 October

And just as we thought we had a routine again…

Eldest son starts to cough.

I got a call on Wednesday morning from school to firstly congratulate me on our Civil Partnership and also could I collect the boys since the Eldest won’t stop coughing. 


“Husband” and I had not got “married’ since neither of us saw the need and I disliked the requirement of paper-work or anyone else for that matter being needed in legitimising our commitment and love for each other. Also, marriage came with too many pre-defined meanings I did not want to associate with. But we thought it important to legalise us for practical reasons and now that opposite sex couples can have a civil partnership I could go with the neutrality of that convention. 


On Tuesday (the 15 year anniversary of our first date in the rain) we dressed up and walked around the corner to the registry office just as it started to rain. The rain is a thing for us. We met in the rain, first date in the rain, Eldest born in torrential rain, Youngest was born on a day that started sunny and ended with rain. 

My sister and his brother were witnesses, the children had a day off school and we had a handful of friends waiting outside the registry office. Inside the civil partners didn't need to wear masks but the witnesses and the registrar did and we spaced appropriately about the room, standing on green circles with the silhouette of 2 small footprints on them. With hands held he and I said the stuff, and giggled at the registrar who fluffed “are you free Lily to...” as “are you frilly Lily…”.

We all enjoyed the novelty of using a fountain pen to sign our names. 


We did the obligatory standing on the steps for a photo or two. A friend commented that my very civil partner looked like a newly elected conservative MP.

We walked home in the rain with the friends who we have been around over the last few months and one friend who we have not seen for too long but is the reason we met. We celebrated through the afternoon and into the evening with sushi and pink champagne, a metre apart, windows open and with regular hand washing. 


The next day I got up as usual, took the children to school, started work. 

When school phoned, they explained it might be hard to get an appointment for a test but I should not give up, “Just keep re loading the page.” But it was easy and at 3pm – after collecting the children, settling them with things to do, offering sympathy to Husband for his hangover, having 2 Zoom meetings (where I received heart felt congratulations for the Civil Partnership and sympathy for having children home and the need for a test…) - the Eldest and I drove to Brixton to get a drive through test. 

It’s not pleasant having a scratchy swab over your tonsils for 10 seconds and poked up your nose for another 10 seconds. I hoped I did it right so we wouldn’t have to do it again. I hoped it would be negative so I would not regret sharing the day with our small group of special friends. 


Poor Eldest, he is coughing a lot and he’s not feeling well but he often gets ill like this. So, I’m hoping, presuming we will get a negative result by tomorrow and they can go back to school on Monday at the latest. Youngest says he’s missing all the fun, and his friends will be missing him.


And today, as was inevitable, we have more restrictions in London on the way. 

Mum is getting more withdrawn, more trapped and more vulnerable with it. She is getting pick-pocketed regularly around her flat. And today she is too frightened to go out for the small walk she usually has to cafes, shops and the hotel bar she likes and where she gets some human contact. She is properly shaken. 

My sister and I are trying to work out what to do that will make her safe and happy. Or at least not feel that we are making her do anything she doesn't want to.


Friday 16 October

This morning was disorganised while I got me ready to lead a workshop first thing and got the children up, for another day at home. Then at 8:55 there was an email and text message to say the Eldest had a negative result on his Covid Test. “Who wants to go to school?”  

Eldest decides he is still not well enough – cough cough cough. And youngest goes in to a spin, all tears and conflict. Once he had shed enough tears and gone through the necessary emotional journey to arrive at what he wants to do, he brushed his teeth and got dressed faster than he has ever done before. “Where’s my packed lunch? Lets go.”

I then close my office door and leave the situation to Husband while I try and focus on the 6 people about to arrive on my computer screen.


Meanwhile my sister has spent the morning with Mum and gone for a walk with her in the park. And the local police have got in touch with me so maybe they will help too.


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

Katherine Mansfield was born on 14th October 1888. On that day, this week, an instagrammer marked her birth with this KM quotation:


‘Make it a rule of life never to regret and never to look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy. You can’t build on it and it’s only good for wallowing in.”


So, I bit the bullet and put in an offer to rent a tiny but perfect little shop in Holt!  


This morning my offer was turned down. I am disappointed, a tiny bit relieved but I AM free of regret!!! If I hadn’t done it I would be losing sleep for months ahead wishing I had. Instead I lost sleep for just two nights wondering what on Earth I would do if he said yes!


Martin is in Scotland. He caught a nice salmon on Monday. Meanwhile I have caught up with friends and neighbours. Every day I have invited someone to take tea or wine and to share it at the big table in the front hall with the front door wide open, the wood burner piled high and candles lit.  It has been quite magical - window ledges decorated with oak branches and bracken, collected quince and pears; chairs heaped with sheepskins, hot water bottles and blankets - the full Brambly Hedge!


The divine Judith has not been this week because her roofer’s assistant had to have a covid test which meant that she and her husband had to have covid tests. They went to Carrow Road and said it was superbly organised but they haven’t yet had the results. 


Phew! It’s been quite a week!


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

Our four year old granddaughter started “big” school in September, having been out of nursery school since March. She had barely three weeks in school, just long enough to settle in and start enjoying herself, when someone in her class tested positive for Covid 19 and the whole class had to isolate for two weeks. During these two weeks more children in other classes tested positive and now the school is closed until after half term. Margot said, “This virus is spoiling everything mummy.” So sad for all of these little children just starting their education. 


So back to Zoom craft activities. Last week it ended in tears, mainly because she is so independent, doesn’t want any help and wants to do it her way. This isn’t always possible. This week was a success as I managed to send her a cutting and sticking activity she could do entirely alone – much to her parents’ relief! 


Mary and I are also enjoying our Zoom printing crafts and getting more adept at communicating with each other and sharing our work and ideas. It works surprisingly well. We had done some fabric printing and then this week tried printing wrapping paper. I was very pleased with the potato print results. I cut the designs using a lino cutting tool which was much easier and more accurate than using a knife. I have lino ready which will be more challenging. 


We have a holiday in Anglesey booked for half term. Number two son and family are also supposed to be going. Our oldest granddaughter persuaded us to book an Airb&b as she has got the kite flying bug and wanted to do some kite flying with grandad. Jeremy is a keen kite flier and has many, many kites suitable for all abilities. At the moment we can still go as we are not in the dreaded Tier 3 but who knows what will happen in the next week. I am feeling less and less keen to go anywhere so am not worried if we don’t go. 


I hope everyone is managing to stay positive. I wish I could hibernate and wake up in Spring. I don’t like winter at the best of times and this one is going to be tough.


A View from Crazy Town

Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.

It's Like Deja Vu All Over Again.


This week the words of the immortal Yogi Berra took on renewed currency. Your Intrepid Reporter awoke Wednesday to find himself living in 2016 again. Normally, he would welcome such age-defying, youth-enhancing ripples in the time/space continuum  with unfeigned pleasure. But alas, this disturbance in the force field brought with it only discomfort and a renewed tendency to pucker certain unmentionable regions of the nether anatomy. Rather than shock you further, Gentle Readers, permit me to explain the cause of this unwonted and unwanted phenomenon.


Our increasingly desperate, but Ever More Dear Leader, sensing looming defeat, had summoned up the Forces of Darkness which helped Him to His Historic Victory four years ago. I refer, of course, to Steve Bannon, Rudy Giuliani and Vlad Putin. Wednesday brought with it the news that said Forces had at last delivered the much anticipated October Surprise (which sadly follows on the heels of that other October surprise - the elimination of the Boys in Pinstripes from the annual world championship of baseball). In the repair shop of a legally blind computer repairman, living in no-doubt-well-deserved obscurity in Delaware, they had at last found PROOF, the veritable SMOKING GUN linking He Who Shall Not Be Named to certain dastardly deeds in Ukraine. Allegedly He Who Shall Not & etc.'s son had left the computer for repair. When, a mere eight months later, the legally blind repairman finally cast a knowing eye over the hard drive, he uncovered a trove of e-mails. Not from Lock Her Up Clinton herself - that would be too much to hope - but almost as good - a purported message from Young He Who Shall Not & etc. saying he would ask his dad to meet a certain Ukrainian oil executive. Yes, Gentle Readers, a mere 15 months after Dear Leader sought the help of the Ukrainians, suffered Impeachment, was crucified for it in the Greatest Hoax of All Time, He arose again from the dead to smite His foes. Rudy, Steve and Vlad had finally delivered the goods and across this fair land a sound arose to cast aside the demons. Unfortunately, it was the sound of laughter, or at best, a barely suppressed yawn. For it turns out, that 2016 is, well, just so 2016, and the Forces which had then done so much good for The People, were this time found wanting. The intervening time had taken its toll and their magic elixirs no longer galvanized the Faithful nor wounded the Foe.


Worry not, Gentle Readers, there are still three weeks to go, and we live in the hope that Dear Leader will yet come up with something so totally Crazy that it will take our collective minds off the 217,000 victims of his boundless incompetence.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk.

Friday evening.

Oh its all getting very depressing. There’s a hell of a spat going on between Andy Burnham and Boris who is also having a Brexit spat with the EU. Something to do with fish. I can’t listen, I just blackout out when they start talking about it. It’s to do with trade talks. No Canadian terms and the deal is off. No point talking anymore and the UK has flounced out but I hear there’s a back door slightly ajar.

Andy Burnham is apoplectic at being moved from Tier 2 to Tier 3 without a suitable financial package for his community and is refusing. He is fighting for his area like a mother goose.  Boris is threatening to intervene and enforce it. The epidemiologists are fearful of this split country, split in many ways. North, South, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, county to county and the infection rate is increasing everyday and hospital admissions up. Its a disaster. It feels like we’re on a kamikaze mission to mass destruction, unemployment, bankruptcy, poverty and death without the added extra No Deal trinket tacked on.

London is going into Tier 2 from midnight tonight, now! So many people in hospitality around the country are losing their jobs and livelihoods.

The sale of alcohol is to be banned in all the restaurants and bars in the house of commons from tomorrow to be in line with other Tier 2 and 3 covid regulations.


I went to London on Monday. I just drove there for a meeting in Battersea (covid safe no tea, no wee) and then had a quick socially distanced cup of tea standing in a park with my old friend Andy and then drove back again. By the time I got back to Bishops Stortford services on the way home I was so desperate for a wee I was in agony. Got home about 10.00pm starving.

Anyway it cost £27.50 to drive into London with the congestion and low emission charge! The roads are a mess, there are red and white posts everywhere where they have put in covid safe pedestrian paths and cycle routes. There are so many new buildings from Vauxhall to Battersea which used to be pretty empty because of the huge site where my old stomping ground of the flower market was. The American Embassy is there now, surrounded by swishy shiny buildings.

The new head of MI5 looks like superman in his day job. He was on the radio talking about his dyslexia and how they actively look for dyslexic and neurodiverse people for spies because of their analytical abilities to spot patterns and things that other people miss.

I was in the shop today putting out all our pretty scarves and some new pictures that the artist delivered today. Last weekend I had a run in with a few people as they were pulling their masks down to sniff the candles. No No No, you can’t do that! I must say people are very huffy. If they can’t come in immediately, they just walk off. I practically kicked someone out today who was just waiting for her friend and wasnt going to buy anything so that two men in plus fours could come in to buy some long socks. One of them was disappointed we didn’t have his size in the pink rabbits. Last year we had several requests by men for pink flamingo long socks. 

On the way home I went to get some diesel and since Budgens burnt down the garage has spread out it’s food shop bit into the car showroom next door. There was a queue of about 12 people outside waiting to pay for their fuel as 4 people were at the other end inside the shop buying crisps so the fuel people couldn’t go in until they came out. Limited to 4 people. We were all moaning as we were there for at least 20 minutes and a big man in front of me in the queue dressed in high vis water proofs said while groaning and smiling I’m going to kick the bin and he gently gave it a kick! It was funny. 


Breaking News:

On the local news just now they have said that Covid 19 has increased in Norwich from 36 last week to 92 this week. I think alot of it is at the university.

In Paris a teacher has been beheaded. He apparently showed controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his pupils.

Micheal Kiwanuka is on Graham Norton show singing. He has got such a beautiful voice. 

Next weekend is my birthday. I am going to have a party for a 100. You are all invited, Jane’s going to do the flowers. See you there.

Love Annabel xxx.


Then and Now

Peter Scupham

Well, we are reading a fair deal about the withdrawal symptoms and loss of comfort blankets suffered by students in their first away-from-homes forays into University life. The reason my tears are fairly dry when reading these tales of desolation follows. As Hartley should have said: “The 1950s are another country. They do things differently there”.


I had a place at Cambridge with a State Scholarship, but, like most reading an Arts subject, National Service came first. I had been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis before that, and my trigger finger, the right index finger was a misshapen creature as I has put it in the cog wheels of a cast-iron mangle when I was two and my mother had turned the handle. Instead of amputation the Doctor had sewn up the skin round the bits and hoped. At the Medical, the spondylitis was discounted and I was told I’d better pull the trigger with another finger. I was happy enough with that. On my way to Aldershot and the sandy wastes of Hampshire I travelled to town with my father. His parting words were “Beware of strange women. See you sometime”. My parents sent no letters, never asked what I did, never enquired as to what Regiment or Unit I joined. Why should I have expected more? They were good parents, but solicitude for adolescent boys was not in their genes. Arriving at Blackdown, R.A.,O.C. (Look it up) I was set the task of “helping” the Sergeant Cook peel an enormous vat of potatoes. When I savaged my finger, he simply said: “You can cut your effing head off for all I care”. So I peeled more potatoes and we all had blood and potatoes for dinner. Basic Training was so intense and verbally violent, I had no time for spondylitis. I have never been as fit as that again: bayonet practice, drill, obstacle-courses. Could do. Did. 

Dominic Cummings on arts funding said: “Ballet dancers go to the back of the queue”. Drill is a kind of ballet. I don’t think I’m lying when I say I enjoyed it — eventually. There is a pleasure in getting things right, and the wintry smile of a Drill Sergeant saying: “You’re not the most hopeless lot of f…… I’ve ever had” shone like a real compliment. So the ballet dancers need not go to the back of a queue in my estimation. And, believe it or not, not all my fellow recruits were going to Uni. I had the pleasure of being called ‘Prof” by the hard cases, as I wore glasses. And I helped with their struggles with literacy, when I became an N.C.O. “What’s this word, Prof: “He undid her...”.  “Brassiere — that’s bra, to you”, I would reply, doing my bit to put Hank Janson in the canon. Of course there were odd mauvais moments, such as having to sing “I’d like to get you, on a slow boat to China”, while standing on a rickety table. That was for failing to strip a Bren Gun fast enough to please. And I collected a Severe Reprimand for “failing to stop when challenged by a sentry and treating the Guard Commander with contempt”. But that’s another story.

Do you know, my schools never told me I was bright, or gave me any kind of resposibility. An army Major told me I was bright and competent. I refused a War Officer’s Selection Board, and settled for being an Instructor in a Training Battalion. There was a lot of laughter, and some bright sparks, including a fellow Corporal, David Winnick, later to be an awkward squad MP, with whom I patrolled Southsea and Portsmouth, talking politics... You can tell the army gave me a fine education, as in this photograph I am carrying Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal — and showing off the smart new stripes on my sleeve. So cheer up, students all. Only three years and you’ll be demobbed from Uni. I was let out of the army after two years. I may tell you later how I was called up for Suez but never go there.


P.S. Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal was, of course, issued to all soldiers after their basic training in the standard army issue on khaki paper. This was in preparation for the next war in which France would be the enemy.

My discharge testimonial said “His smart bearing and efficient manner have made him an asset to his unit”. I can only hope your sons and daughters get equivalent recommendations from their Vice-Chancellors.

Enter.  Addenda.


From the Editor

Margaret, Norfolk

It’s always been fascinating to see how journal entries for any week often share a communal feeling of despair , anxiety, euphoria, even though written from so many diverse locations. I suppose we are all fed the same news and information and that is reflected. Pandemic fatigue is what’s happening at present, according to my friend, Mary. And I think the journal reflects that.


This week has been a week, both personally and nationally and internationally, of confusion, division, argument and angst. The U.K. seems to be a jigsaw being wrenched apart, region from region, and country from country. Different tiers of regulations in local lockdowns, different approaches in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland. And on top of that, Brexit. How will it all be put back together again? 


On a personal level, three weeks of rain and being kept largely inside has induced a sort of cabin fever, made worse by the fact that we have an invasion of hornets - they have taken over our sitting room. They are doing what hornets do in Autumn, abandoning their nest (way up at the top of our chimney stack we think) and flying towards the light (down the chimney and towards our windowsill) and crawling around there till they die. They are about an inch and a half long and very sleepy. The floor is covered in their corpses. We have decided to sit them out rather than get in pest control, but we can’t light our wood burner and occasionally one escapes under the door into our downstairs corridor, and we have to watch where we are treading. So we spend the evenings sitting by the Aga in the kitchen rather than by the wood burner. Well, it will make the logs last for longer.

But I did get out this week, to the dentist. And what a strange, surreal experience that was. Like walking on to the set of Star Wars or some sci-fi drama, everyone masked and helmeted, everything shining, metallic and spaced out. Very clinical, very organised. Very odd having a great face looming above me, the closest I’ve been to anyone bar the cats and Peter for all these months. A tooth is to be extracted in November. If we are still allowed out then.


I’m conscious that there are many past contributors to this journal who it would be interesting to hear from again occasionally. So if any of you, dear readers, have contributed in the past but not lately, please send in something over the next two weeks. It would be so good to catch up with you and hear your news. We miss you.


And if any of you in Norfolk would like some apples or quinces, get in touch. I’m drowning in them.

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