Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

Myriad by Franklin Lewis Macrae


We have been doing a myriad of things this last week. It's been extremely hot and sunny. We went to Alfriston for a walk in the countryside. The village is small and Tudor and there are lots of tiny cottages named after the type of work that was done in them, weaver's cottage, candle maker's cottage, baker's cottage. Hollyhocks grow in abundance in Alfriston. We walked along the river and saw some swans and then a baby shrew! I think it was dead but mum wasn't sure. She picked it up and it was soft and warm, its fur was so smooth. We put it back on the grass and left it there. Hopefully it will live.


I got my rollerblades last week so my dad has been taking us to the basketball court to play with them. It took me a tiny bit of time to get used to it again as I hadn't done it for a year but I'm quite fast now.

As it's been so hot, we've been eating our meals al fresco (outside) and swimming in the sea in the evenings. We play a game called 'Wave bumping' whilst watching out for jellyfish (even though they are my favourite animals). The sea makes me feel invigorated with the evening breeze on my face. We have an ice cream then when we get out of the water we are frozen. I love my big bath when I get home. I don't think we've done as much school work this week as it's been so hot. I'm behind with the maths homework but my dad is helping me with it this weekend. My mum has been working on my English. She wants me to write with expression even though I don't want to be a writer, she said it's important. So when she teaches me a new word, she wants me to use it in my writing. Like myriad.  I think I'd like to be a Lego designer or an architect. Never a lawyer, it must be so boring.

Fun in the sun by Marli Rose Macrae


Franklin got his rollerblades. I was pleased because I got mine a few days before him as the shop didn't have his size. He kept on taking mine so that's why I'm pleased. I was a bit annoyed because I didn't really want to share. He even skated in the house in them and they were confiscated even though they are my boots. He's been to Skate World twice with school and had lessons and I am fed up with him bragging. Anyway, now he has his own, we don't need to share mine and I can get better.


It's super duper hot this week. We've been doing our school work in the garden because it's so hot and stuffy indoors. I've been working on fractions and vocabulary. We've had lots of BBQ and eating outside and then we go to the beach.

From the car window I can see the frothy white waves. I  jump out of the car, whip off my dress and run in! Mummy heads to Fusciardi's to buy cappuccinos and ice cream while daddy watches us. It's not that cold and hurray - the  waves are big! It's such fun when the waves are big because then you can wavebump! Wave bumping is when you try to stay afloat when waves hit you. The waves in Spain are massive, no-one can stay afloat when they bump you for they are gigantic! I really do hope we get to go to Spain this year. We have churros on the beach and mummy lets us have a pick and mix from a sweet shop, the lady is really kind, she always gives us loads. There is a pool and we have dinner in a cafe on the beach called La Caleta. We have a secret cove that we call Bond Cove and we swim with the fish. We call it Bond Cove because it looks like a scene from James Bond.


We went to Alfriston too for a walk by the river. I saw my favourite house in Alfriston and I'm going to buy it when I'm older. It is foggy grey with creamy standard roses and lavender bushes lining the path to the front door. On the walk we saw two beautiful swans, they were chalky white with long, graceful necks. We saw lots of grasshoppers and when we stopped on a bench for a drink, we found a baby shrew! It was acorn brown in colour with a pointy nose and was so soft and warm. We don't know if it was dead or sleeping. Mummy said a few years ago, some shrews ran into the Dining Room at Charleston and they had to try to get them out! What would Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant think of that?! 


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

Tuesday and I’ve finally gotten round to writing. The past few days have been pretty good. Best beloved and I spent a few hours together over the weekend, slowly moving forward towards more normality between us - I am hoping. As usual I feel a little impatient, but keep telling myself about the continuing seriousness of the plague. I am especially appalled by the situation in the USA, where the president and his people are setting no example of rational behaviour whatsoever. Other nations are sadly also in hot pursuit of that record.


An amusing aspect of the past week is that the Isle of Wight Austin car club ran a ‘walking treasure hunt’ centred on the village of Bembridge. Best beloved and I had a go at it on Saturday, walking round the village. Bembridge has a recent history of internecine conflict based on one or two decisions made by the parish council. Consequently it seems, a certain paranoia has gripped the community and the sight of people wandering about with pens and clipboards was a trigger. We two were challenged by locals over our activity and I think almost everyone else who took part in the competition had a similar experience. We must have worried the poor residents of a community that claims to be the largest village in Britain.


Wednesday and the day has been hot, thankfully with some sea breeze filling in during the afternoon. I’ve busied myself with housekeeping, ‘Herr Bosch’ helping me with washing bedclothes and other items, some hanging out on the line as I write. Otherwise it has been largely a day for sorting out minor issues with my new laptop, particularly those that affect my audio and video recording capability. I’m trying to set myself up for recording my banjo playing. All good fun.


Yesterday, Thursday, was steamingly hot, again moderated thank God by a pleasant sea breeze. There is much concern at beach crowds in various south coast resorts, thankfully not here on the Island. We mustn’t become smug over that though, because the multitude could come here if the ferries return to normal. They probably will if the weather holds.


My activity yesterday would in some peoples’ eyes be seen as a total waste of time, however, it was good for me. To explain, I was a software and systems engineer for 33 years, and in the ‘old days’ that involved me in some pretty complex and mind-stretching activities as part of the job. One of those was manually configuring operating systems such as might be, for instance, Unix or Linux based. Modern distributions (distros) of Linux are easy to configure, in fact they do it themselves, much as Windows does. Anyway, I decided yesterday to see if I could still do it the old way, something I have not done for at least 20 years. It proved difficult - I have forgotten a lot - but in the end I succeeded. It’s surprising how satisfying this has been for a nerdy priest cum engineer who is ancient of days!


Today brings promise. Best beloved and I plan to meet and dine on fish and chips if possible!


From Rural New York

Sandy Connors, USA

It was lovely to be able to read everyone’s extensive reports last Sunday ~ a great catch-up with you all.  I must confess there is nothing very interesting to report from me this week except that I had my first online doctor’s visit which was very easy and helpful. Despite spraying the poison ivy in an old patch along the fence with killer, I managed to get a nice patch of it on my eyelid and face. So very allergic to poison ivy, I needed a prescription of prednisone as soon as possible ~ Easy as Pie! I called the local Urgent Care and set up an online appointment where the Doctor could see my swollen face on the screen, called in the script, and a couple of hours later I went to the drive-through window at a local pharmacy to pick it up. Now, about three days later, I am feeling much better.


My gardens have been so delightful and we have been blessed with a few good downpours to keep everything watered. My kind son has done the shopping for me and I am enjoying my engraving, and a relaxing sewing project ~ What more could I ask for?


Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

A lovely, busy week where life has, at times, seemed almost back to normal. It started on Saturday with a much reduced celebration of well dressing. Over the day 36 small boards arrived at the fountain and were displayed on the steps and on a specially constructed shelf. I was expecting a raft of rainbows and was relieved to see only three which were included as part of larger designs.

There were two Black Lives Matter designs. Overnight, one was removed and the other was defaced. The next morning a laminated photo was put up to replace the missing one and the other was repaired. Nothing further happened. A polite request was made on the well dressing website for the perpetrator to return the board by today as it is the property of the well dressers and needs storing for next year. We shall see.


The well dressings were blessed as usual without the normal parade led by the Youlgrave Band. But the musicians did stand, informally dressed instead of in band uniform, socially distanced around the fountain and played hymns. It was very moving and everyone felt it to be an important and appropriate way to celebrate the occasion this year. There had been no advertising so only people from the village and a few visitors who happened to be walking through were there.
There is a short video showing all the well dressings. https://youtu.be/RpHVDjhJ-60


Another exciting happening this week – Jeremy has finally mastered making holes in sea glass! I have been playing around with sea glass and wire for a few years with some success and many failures. Using a large knitting nancy worked quite well but the pieces had to be small enough to go through the hole and large enough not to fall out of the mesh. Tricky. Now I can have another go at making jewellery.


I’ve made two batches of elderflower cordial. The second batch included some pink elderflowers which gives a beautiful colour. Jeremy used to make champagne but hasn’t done so since a batch exploded while we were away and the whole of the dining room – walls, wooden floor, ceiling and windows - were splattered with sticky champagne. It took him ages to restore the floor. We noticed the champagne that was left lost its fizz after a while. His sister told us to keep it until elderflower season the following year and it would regain its fizz. And it did!


I'm trying not to think about the masses of people on beaches and in our local beauty spots such as Dovedale and Chatsworth. Do they think that as long as they are outside it is ok?


Seriously isolating

Jean, Melbourne Australia

Here in Victoria we've had a spike in new cases after re-opening. Not so smug now about how well we are doing tho numbers are still low (about 20-30 new cases per day so far) compared to elsewhere in the world. Amazingly the news is that people are stockpiling loo paper again. There are around 10 suburbs in Melbourne considered to be hotspots: Teams are going door to door to offer testing and to get the message out about social distancing etc. Masks are still not being promoted here. You can go to cafes and restaurants but the numbers allowed in are limited. On Wednesday my younger daughter had her first day as an intern in an Alabama hospital with a rotation in geriatric psych: I'm waiting impatiently to get the lowdown.


After recent distractions I've returned to my translating project and it's a relief to inhabit another world. I have so much admiration for translators because the task seems SO perplexing and difficult. My approach is to read about half a page to see if I can get the gist, then look up all the words I'm not sure of, and then go through it again writing down what I think is a fairly literal/precise meaning. This is the easy part! But translating that into fluent English is tricky. Perhaps the answer is to think of the translation as another incarnation of the original?


At this point in the book, the main character Gleb is replaying a powerful memory from his childhood which involves the casual pocketing of a small plastic spoon taken from the cafe where he regularly goes for an ice cream with his grandmother. When they reach home, Babushka finds out, says nothing at first "but the answer was already imprinted on her face." The next day they would return the spoon. Babushka says, "you see, we stole it together." Then follows a terrible night of broken sleep and the terror of what awaits him at the cafe. He imagines in graphic but surreal detail being taken away by the police. For the grown up Gleb, travelling regularly by plane, this memory is regularly triggered as he slowly stirs the tea the stewardess brings to him. 


Thoughts from the Top of the Hill

Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire

Friday again, already or at last? This week has been dragging and rushing in turns. I decided that I had been venturing out a little too often, maybe taking too many little risks with "necessary" trips for work and shopping, so I thought I would try and stay put for a while.


The main reason for caution is that we have seen too many reports of crowded beaches, street parties and failures to observe social distancing in shops. Last week, for the first time, I experienced standing in line with two metre distancing, only to hear that the regulation is being cut to one metre. I felt more or less safe at two metres and wearing a mask, but this new measure seems to have been taken purely for economic reasons without much backup from scientific advice. Also, other countries who have lifted restrictions are getting more new cases.


 I think, well, we have survived this far, why waste all that effort by catching the virus now?


On the other hand, I am having my reality challenged constantly by others' assertions, probably acquired online from pseudo-scientific sources, which leave me confused and, I have to admit, tearful. I can sum these up as follows and please note I don't believe any of them:


  1. The whole concept of the virus is a hoax to control the population and deny them their human rights. (Include in this theory the subject of mandatory vaccination, which will make Bill Gates and pharmaceutical companies even richer, and also the theory that the vaccine will contain a tracking device). I've campaigned all my life for human rights, so I really don't want this to be true! This theory was repeated by my landlord.

  2. Covid is no worse than regular flu, which kills more people every year than Coronavirus. (But over 50,000 dead in the UK in 3 months? The difference is that there is a vaccine for flu).

  3. You would have to meet with 1,700 people per day to catch the virus. (I think, well it only takes one, actually, per the laws of statistics).

  4. Masks don't work in stopping transmission. (Scientific opinion varies but masks are now being recommended to avoid many thousands of infections. Earlier they were not widely recommended as they were in short supply for health workers).

  5. Wearing a mask actually kills people as they breathe in their own bacteria, CO2 etc. (Proven incorrect, I believe. Gas particles move through the fabric and the masks are not airtight).

  6. The virus can't be caught from surfaces (not what we've been told, the virus lives on surfaces for various lengths of time). 

  7. Doctors put people on ventilators, knowing this will kill them, because it is better to do something than nothing. (It is worrying that half the people on ventilators die, that's why I don't want to go there but I do think doctors are trying to save lives, obviously).

  8. Mass testing produces more cases of the virus. (No, the more you test the more you reduce eventual cases).

  9. It must be terrible to be so frightened. (Yes, we are and why not? We're old!)


I understand that the idiotic US president can sign up to these ideas. I can even understand people wanting to believe them. What I cannot get to grips with is the fact that any intelligent person, especially anyone close to me, can assert these opinions. On the one hand, I have some criticism for the way the pandemic has been handled by our government and I think a lot of bungling and malpractice is being covered up. I do wonder why the daily briefings have ceased and the government scientists are no longer front of stage. Perhaps it served the government's purpose to keep us frightened by the statistics to control our behaviour and now they would like us to feel confident to go out and fuel the economy. On the other hand, you would have to be suffering from the most extreme form of paranoia to think it is all a plot to subjugate the population.


On a positive note, Nicola Sturgeon just announced there were no deaths from the virus in Scotland (land of my birth) today, hooray! Will have to search Google and the BBC to find the UK figures but maybe it means everything's getting better. I am an optimist at heart and think all will be well eventually. What does everyone else think? 


We are going to see our grandchildren this week for the first time in three months, cautiously in the garden. The female woodpecker has brought two chicks to the bird feeder, I hope the children get to see them.


John, thanks for the hilarious account of opening the elderflower champagne and Nicky thanks as always for still being there. If only we were still seventeen!


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Week beginning 22 June 2020


The big news around here is last Saturday evening Budgens in Holt burnt down. It went straight up incredible quickly, burnt down in minutes apparently due to the massive void between the shop floor ceiling and the roof which acted like a wind tunnel.

Also as it was built 30 odd years ago it didn’t have to have fire extinguishers. That sounds so odd and I’m not sure if that is correct or true. I saw the shell on Sunday and the metal frame didn’t look buckled probably because it was all so quick. The side walls were in tact but there were piles of shattered roof tiles on the ground as well as all the detritus of a supermarket. 

Terrible mess but the fire brigade did well to stop anything else setting fire. I could hear sirens on the main road from my kitchen and wondered what had happened, an hour or so later people started sending me awful pictures of Budgens engulfed in flames.

Very sad for all the staff and all the locals as it is the only supermarket in the area and home to the Post Office and the centre of the community really. The remains are a dreadful sight.

It was my brother's birthday this week and he had lunch at Ringstead Bay in Dorset where all our holidays as children were spent. He sent me pictures of half the Cunard fleet sitting out the Covid storm in the Bay. An incredible sight. 

Terrible stabbing in Reading. 3 men stabbed to death in Forbury gardens. Police treating it as a terrorist incident. Very sad listening to the friends of the victims.


Mina Smallman, C of E’s first female BAME archdeacon was on PM yesterday talking about the police officers who took selfies with the dead bodies of her two black daughters. It was a heart breaking interview.

“Murder inquiry launched after bodies of Nicole Smallman and Biba Henry discovered in Wembley 

Two Met police officers arrested for taking selfies with the bodies of the dead sisters who were found stabbed.” 

Have you ever heard anything so disgusting. 

From the start the police were careless at best and their bodies were found by the husband of one of the sisters the following afternoon though there was loads of evidence at the scene to suggest that something awful had happened to them. When asked what had happened since the Laurence enquiry 30 years ago, she said “Nothing”.


General bad behaviour this week. People having illegal parties and raves in Brixton and Notting Hill amongst other places and attacking the police. Drink, drugs, anti social behaviour and violence. Everyone’s gone mad. 140 officers injured in the last 3 weeks in London, probably more now.


Liverpool win Premier League: ‘Reds' 30-year wait for top-flight title ends”. Lovely hearing all the excited Liverpudlian voice. Made up. Crowds and drunken illegal gatherings over the following days disintegrated into more bad behaviour though.


Huge Covid spikes in America. Big rise in 29 states. 

A record surge has resulted in an all time high of 40,000 confirmed cases in Florida. Up 60% in 24 hours.

In Texas 35% of younger people who think they are invincible were testing positive going up to 65% now but only 7% of that group getting hospitalised but they are transmitting it to the other groups who do get very ill. The hospital beds are full. The politicians playing it down. Trump carrying on with its only because more testing is being done and Pence saying its not like the spike before, we’re in a much better place but it is transmitting at an exponential rate. Public Health officials screaming. Public Health people really are the people of the moment but are not being listened to enough


Dozens of campaign staff and secret service personnel in self isolation after the rally in Tulsa last weekend.

Trump banging on about statues. What is it about men and statues?

Caught snatches of a very good interview on Woman’s Hour with Brian Eno about macho politics compared to women leaders who are more honest, direct and logical and really listen to their advisors. They have had much lower rates of death than the men and are just more direct and honest, less blustery and political. I could develop a crush on Brian Eno. A thoughtful talented man.


Heart breaking scenes of starving children in Sudan stuck between the coronavirus outbreak and war.


Half a million people go to Bournemouth beach. Vicki Spade, the leader of the council said they were "absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches”. Drunkeness, camping, pooing, fighting, peeing in peoples gardens, gridlock, parking on double yellow lines etc etc. She’s so normal and sensible. She was out telling people to go home a few weeks ago and was picking up their rubbish and telling them to keep to the 2m distance. This week she declared a major incident.


Boris reduces 2 metre rule to 1m+ and declares that we are getting back to normal as he announces all the places that will open on July 4th. “The beginning of the end of Britains “National Hibernation” Professor Whitty rattled. Government not following the science now. By the end of the week the police are complaining that the politicians have not coordinated with them and next Saturday is going to be a blood bath when the pubs open. 

Now Boris says people are taking too many liberties and have to behave. (Like his friend Dom)


Trials started on a radical new vaccine from Imperial College, “a self-amplifying RNA vaccine”.


I’ve had various conversations this week with parents of grown up children who all went home for the lockdown. The parents are all spending hundreds of pounds on food every week and I think some of them are probably quite looking forward to having their houses and their peace and quiet back.


I’ve been quite busy with work, interiors stuff and finding fabrics and furniture etc. Roger came on Wednesday.

Shop OK but people find it very hard not to touch things. I haven’t smacked any one yet but it is slightly difficult when the minute they walk through the door you sanitise them and start bossing them around. Bumper sweet pea crop in the garden. Lots of frogs and toads and swifts screeching around and hours spent watering as it has been so hot. Bridget, Earnie’s Auntie Doggie Day Care came for a drink. Have decided that boiled quails eggs are the perfect Covid 19 food if you put them on the table in their shells, your guests can shell them themselves without fear of you breathing all over them.

Love Annabel x



John Underwood, Norfolk

Life in the slow lane.

Not that I ever thought that I lived in the fast lane, or wanted to. I am not fond of driving fast on country roads, and have no wish to fling myself out of an aeroplane attached to a parachute or rather too closely to another person wearing a parachute. Bungee jumping leaves me cold. I would rather lower myself gently into a swimming pool rather than dive off the top board. I prefer tea to champagne with my breakfast, abhor gambling, and would be bored witless lying on a beach amongst the smart set wherever they think is fashionable at this moment. I have no interest in fashion except perhaps to make rude comments about the more witless excesses that I see in the weekend supplements. And so I am not at a loss during these weeks of shut down. I don’t hanker after shopping or missed experiences.


The scenes at the beaches recently, where half a million people apparently thought it was a good idea to descend upon Dorset fill me with horror, but my reaction would have been the same at any time. Give me a quiet beach, a book, some cricket on the radio, family, and I would be content. Ally and I talked about the beach Lemmings and concluded that it was out of order for us to criticise others, because we have had the benefit of a garden surrounding us. We have not been confined to a few rooms, and had to take our exercise in local parks. We have not had to worry too much over family members, or our business folding, or our children missing school. It has been a quiet hell for millions of our fellow citizens, and we all suspect that it is not going to get any better for a long time to come. When people hold  street raves, or flock to beaches in their many thousands ignoring social distancing and tossing their rubbish, it is understandable. I really wish they didn’t, because if there is a large spike in Covid infection it could impact on all of us if the country is put into lockdown again.


Those of us who choose to live in the slow lane, obey lockdown rules to the letter, and stay patient, now find ourselves almost criticised for holding back the economy, for stopping schools reopening, for spoiling other people’s fun. But if you don’t believe a word that this tawdry government says about safe distancing, and if you believe that the Prime Minister and his chorus of Yes men and women will say and do anything that makes them look good rather than benefit us all, then what do you do? Head to the beach at the weekend with everyone else, or grit your teeth and wait it out? We know that we are isolated in our own little bubble and have no real idea of how others are managing. We have become used to doing what we are told, and it feels unsafe when we see other people doing what they like. Acting upon a whim has gone. Spontaneity was the old normal. How do we learn to become actors in our own lives again?


Mary’s Projects Mostly

Mary Hildyard, Bristol

A taste of freedom! On Monday instead of a walk around the city we packed a picnic and drove to Clevedon Pier. There is no real beach and the pier itself is still closed but we found a perch on a rock and enjoyed looking across the Bristol Channel to Wales while we ate our sandwiches. Afterwards we found the Poets’ Walk and hiked five km around the seafront where Coleridge and Later, Tennyson were known to stroll. It was magical in its normality. Before the pandemic we often came to the pier, sometimes with visitors or grandchildren, but we have not had such an adventure since March, three and half months. What a change to have such freedom.


I have the word freedom on my mind a great deal since reading an article about the US response to the pandemic. The article highlighted the need for balance when thinking about freedom: the need to look at the differences between “freedom TO DO something” and “freedom FROM something”. For instance, the freedom to own slaves and the freedom from slavery. 


The writer was pointing out that the demand to be released from lockdown and the individual freedom to go about without wearing a mask needs to be weighed against the freedom of the general public FROM infection. Personal liberty is regarded as an American ideal but is that despite the consequences? My neighbour (an expat American like me) fears that the US response to the pandemic is similar to the US response to gun control - the deaths that result are a cost the country seems willing to pay for personal liberty.


From the black shed

David E, East Norfolk

Whew! What a week! The temperature here in Norfolk has been almost 30 degrees C every day and it feels like there's nowhere to hide. Important activities have to take place early in the morning and for me at least it's almost impossible to do much in the heat of mid-afternoon.

Despite that things need to be done. The boat now has a fully installed solar charger for the new electric motor battery and there surely can't be any shortage of power flowing down the wires.

Our friendly local glazier came to measure up several failed double glazing units which have gradually misted up over a year or two. I had put off inviting him to come as there was always bound to be another one going "phut" and I wanted to make it worth his while coming. He now has nine windows to replace. In the course of examination I discovered a rotten window sill so after raking out all the old wood I now await a replacement made by our friendly local joiner.

So at the end of the week I found time to go for a walk with two friends who have previously trekked with me in the Himalayas. I needed to select a walk with a fair amount of shade, something interesting to see and with not too many people. I chose a walk along the bank of the river Bure above Coltishall, past Hautbois Hall (locally pronounced Hobbis), a Tudor manor house then back alongside the Bure Valley narrow gauge railway (no trains running). It was a delight. The gently flowing water provided a little breeze, the damselflies and dragonflies were in abundance, the reed warblers were singing and the stonechats making their tapping call. The river is narrow with over-hanging trees so one is expectant for what is around the next bend. At one point, where the vegetation was shoulder high, the cow parsley with fading flowers was home to numerous snails of various sizes and colours so perhaps not all the same family. Snails seem to love cow parsley.

There were a few people about and they were all on the water. There is a small slipway further upstream where it's possible to launch a canoe so we passed several couples and some families plying gently downstream, almost silently, hardly disturbing the wildlife. Maybe next time I'll go by kayak too.

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