Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

Cold classrooms by Franklin Lewis Macrae


As winter is now approaching there have been some slight changes to our school rules.


Even though it is extremely cold, we have to keep the windows and doors in the classroom open for ventilation, to allow the air to circulate. We are allowed to wear our coats on top of our blazers inside the building but no hoodies. Even with coats it's still freezing and uncomfortable. My hands get stiff and it's fairly difficult to write.


Normally every year, the school does a Christmas Variety Show. Pupils have to audition and if you are any good, you get to skip lessons and taken to care homes to perform for the old people. As you can imagine, we cannot do that this year so instead it will be live streamed to all of the care homes.


My friends and I thought it would be fun to audition, to cheer folk up. We have been rehearsing for the 'World's Most Awful Magic Show' however it's tricky to practice; we can't practice in our homes together and we have to stay outside at break and lunch time. The prize is a £50 voucher but I'm keen to do it more for the fun of it.

A Covid Christmas by Marli Rose Macrae


Christmas at school this year is strange. There is no post box to put Christmas cards in and instead of a carol concert, we have to lip sinc a song because we aren't allowed to sing! I think it's absurd! They haven't even told us what it's for yet, the teacher plays the music and we lip sinc the words. We're still sanitising mats after P.E and washing our hands countless times every day. A child in the reception class tested positive for COVID and now every single child in that year group, their siblings and parents, must isolate for 14 days. There are no reception age children in the school at all! On Monday, my friend Sienna was coughing a lot and she said she was finding it hard to breathe. She was sent home after break. She still isn't back at school. People are saying she has COVID but mummy and I don't think so because we would be told to go into isolation if she did.  


Next week we are putting the Christmas decorations up and mummy and I are decorating the mouse dolls' house for Christmas. We are still hoping that we're allowed to see Granny Aye and Pappa for Christmas. I have a new sleigh bed, it's actually old but daddy painted it to make it look nicer. Granny Aye and Pappa will sleep in here if they come and I will sleep on the tiny bed. I have a new poster too, I chose this one because it reminds me of my cat Saskia. 


Restrictions for many

Hilde Schöning, Buchholz, Germany

Doubtlessly, the restrictions so far have not been successful enough in lowering the numbers of infections and there are tighter measures to be taken from next week on. Nothing changes concerning schools though and I think it is very good for all students. For teachers it is and remains a challenge.


Mrs Merkel intended to start the Christmas school holiday on the 16th of December nationwide and this was published in papers and on the news, but the leaders of the 16 states vetoed that idea. All students and a lot of teachers were disappointed as they had already rejoiced at three days off on top. Well, now they are going to have to wait until the 19th of December...


Strange times

Anna Stenborg, Uppsala, Sweden

There was frost on the ground this morning when I went to work, but a hospital janitor I noticed, also on his way to work, was wearing shorts and short sleeves as usual anyway. At least he was not wearing sandals today. Corona cases are rising quickly again in Uppsala and in Sweden. This means that our usual problem with shortage of hospital beds is made worse. On Wednesday morning we had an all-time-high number of patients who are waiting for a hospital bed: 34 patients! So at the (Corona free) ward where I am working the last two weeks, we had to reconsider every patient and discharge some patients earlier than planned. It worked out well for us and hopefully also for the discharged patients. Today we just learned that one of the new patients on the ward shared a room for several days during her very recent hospital stay with a patient that now is diagnosed with Covid-19, so now we are worried obviously, and she is being tested. No one in my family has had Covid-19 so far, so at least that’s great. 


Georg and I watched several episodes of The Crown on Neflix and we liked it a lot. So very rare to get G to watch TV, and it is a nice thing to do together. We also played “quick scrabble” which is a favourite game. No scrabble board is required, only the letters. We put all the letters upside down on the table and take 7 pieces each and start building an individual crossword. The one who first completes the crossword says “klar” (ready) and then we take another letter and continue building, and so on until there are no more letters and both have large crosswords. The person who first managed to include all the letters in a crossword wins.


My feelings on paper

Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire

My family have been discussing arrangements for this 2020 Christmas, its obviously going to be different due to Covid 19. So we have decided to be sensible with all three family's  spending it in our own homes.

Usually it would start on 23rd December with my grandson Sam helping me bake mince pies and tarts.

Christmas eve was spent at my home with all my three daughters and family's celebrating with an all day buffet. I would spend the morning cooking buffet food for them to arrive at noon with their contribution of food and drinks. all 13 of us in my semi detached home. Quite overwhelming at times.

They would stay until they were ready to go home after lots of food and games to leave us in peace about 7 pm for us to enjoy TV and they can continue with their own festivities.


This 2020 we are going to have a zoom party & show lots of photos and films taken in the past which were funny and we can all laugh at ourselves being silly.

My daughter would play the organ badly because she is out of practice, a bit like Les Dawson, with roar cast singing, god knows what our neighbour thought. One year we took him a plate of food to say sorry for all the noise. He lives alone. Another year Sarah made us all father Xmas outfits. I bought all 6 grand children Xmas jumpers and the grandchildren talked my husband into growing a beard. Such fun times.

As my grandchildren got older I thought we would be spending it alone but no they all still want to spend it with us.

Mulled wine on the go, port and lemon, beer and food. They would first decide who would stay sober to drive home. We entertained ourselves with singing or someone played the recorder, we had pass the parcel with forfeits. and our granddaughters did the game of weakest link.

We all conspired to make one of my sons in law the first weakest link and he said it was a conspiracy. My daughter would then film us in another room being interviewed in turn as we were out - all good fun.

We will enjoy the memories.

Memories I have of my three daughters when they were children.

I would wonder how to entertain them in the Xmas school holidays when it was wet and cold. They had some Pelham Puppets and my friend gave them some more and a frame with curtains after her boys had finished with them. So one year I told them to do a puppet show for the neighbours young children. It was magic. They spent hours on painting scenery and writing the story and sorting out my lamps laying them on the floor for lighting. They practiced voice changes for the characters. I bought sweets, biscuits and orange drinks and then we invited about 6 children. They all loved it and it became a yearly thing from then on.  

As they grew older they didn't want to do that any more so decided to stop.  

One day just before Xmas I got a knock on my door it was one of my neighbours wanting to know if we were doing a puppet show because her children wanted to come and if not her children would be devastated. So once again I had to talk them into doing another puppet show. 

All home made entertainment that cost nothing with wonderful memories.


One year after a long strike at my husbands factory we didn't have much money so my husband made our girls four poster beds for their Barbie dolls and I made the bedding out of old materiel and net curtains. I also made clothes for the dolls and dressed them. Instead of wrapping them we sat them on Xmas morning at the front of the TV so that when they came downstairs it would be like magic. They tell me now that was their best ever Xmas


Burlingham blog

Mary Fisher, Norfolk UK

As Lockdown the Sequel finishes and Times In Tier Two starts next week, I recalled a time when I dreamed of being able to shut myself away for weeks at a time. Many decades ago, the local cub-scout group began the bi-annual weekend of the father and son camp. A sexist action-packed break for men and boys only. Out of the twenty plus fathers and sons who went, one mother and I always relished these weekends. We were the only ones who had husband and cub-scout aged sons and no daughters. For two whole days we could choose what we wanted to do, when we wanted to do it. We ate and drank what we liked, arose and retired when we chose. There were no calls on our time. As a working mother, the peace was perfect. There was a downside: the return of the exhausted father and sons on the Sunday afternoon. Ravenous. Weighed down by kit bags of muddy gear that they, of course, were too tired to launder. Their depleted energy fit only for flopping on settees, eating and watching television. As I stuffed the laundry into the washing machine, I could only count the months until the next camp and thank the scout master for never introducing a mother and son camp.


The vaccine trials really do look promising. Spirits are beginning to lift. So, with impeccable timing, the government decided now was a good time to send out its ‘Be Prepared for Leaving the EU’ leaflet. Dib dib. Friend received one on behalf of the charity of which she is the Treasurer. Whilst most of us have been focused on manoeuvring our lives safely to avoid a deadly virus, the Brexit steamroller has been trundling full pelt down the hill ready to flatten what is left of British livelihoods come January 1. Friend made an executive decision and threw the leaflet in the bin.  


So now we know whether we can or cannot meet up over the festive season. Will it make a difference? Sisters and I briefly considered having lunch with our mum at one of our homes on Christmas day. However, before the government had issued its Christmas guidelines we had decided the risk was too great. Mum is 91. Whoever drives mum will be in close proximity to her. However we sit and eat lunch it is not covid-safe. We went through all the counter-arguments. Mum may not be with us next year. Mum has been isolated since March. Why shouldn’t she be able to join us is she chooses? In the meantime mum bought a selection of festive meals and packed them in her freezer.  

Talked to my aunt in North Norfolk this week about the outdoor visits to Barbara. Aunt was a member of the Worstead Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers for forty years. The group taught and shared the historic textile skills and did plenty of spinning and weaving. They met in Worstead church, a building not renowned for triple glazing and central heating. So, during cold weather meetings, my aunt took hot water bottle and thermos. And wore knitwear from her spinning. I am beginning to appreciate the wisdom that radiates from my aunts and mother as they gracefully age. Whatever crops up in life it seems that most of them already have the tee-shirts.


Thank you to David H for generously sharing his Shakespeare in Isolation sonnets. What a labour of love. Simply delightful. I am working my way through them all. A really special treat for a dark winter evening.  


Thank you also Chris G for pointing out that if retired folk want to sit down and do something, or indeed nothing, by themselves, they can! No explanation is required.


Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, VA, USA



Grey hush of rain

dark ragged crowns

echoing naked against the white

silhouette of mist whisping

up from the valley 

profile of the hills beyond

a worn ancient line of life

drawn on a canvas of clouds

contours of time receding into memory

here in the warmth of the bed

sleeping breath beside me

as the last of the color falls 

signal flags of a season’s surrender

fluttering from the filigree of twigs 

to the brown glutted ground.


From a very small Island

Michael Johnston, Isle of Wight

Oh no - we are to be at tier 1 here on the Island! I'm not sure I'm really happy about that, because I think (and my thoughts may be wrong of course) that so many of my fellow islanders will see this as an excuse to make merry, go to pubs and so on, and probably cause a renewed flare up of disease. Truthfully, I'd rather we remained locked down for the whole winter, with the rest of the nation following suit. Oh yes, I know the economic argument against that, but I find it interesting that countries such as South Korea have dealt best with Covid-19 when they didn't seem to consider a choice between economy and health. Rant over, but it is time for me to have one!

Best beloved and I are preparing now for our second virtual holiday - this time to Ireland. The house is suitably decorated as a haven of celtic culture this weekend. This suits us very well, best beloved being Scottish with some Irish connections, and me having been brought up in a broadly Irish home - I exclude the St Chris bit of course. I will report on the whole experience next week.


I have now given up reporting my squirrel sightings, because they have coalesced into one long sighting. The two regulars are almost always in my garden or thereabouts. Can't remember whether or not I mentioned an amusing squirrel incident last week. I was chatting from my kitchen door with my gardener. He was standing near the fence and all of a sudden a squirrel appeared sitting on said fence about 6 inches from his bobble hat. It remained there for some time and I was open mouthed, because red squirrels are supposed to be very shy. Not true for the ones around here obviously!


Waiting now for food deliveries, so must go. See you next week all being well...


Staying home

Nicky, Vermont, USA

I’m reading The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, a gossipy and compelling history of Churchill and many others early in the Second World War, a book deeply informed by people’s journals. I woke up thinking how important it is to keep a daily journal. Daily lives matter. As writers of this Plague Journal we all know this, but somehow it was driven home for me by Larson’s book. 


Yesterday. When B. woke up she was dizzy. I left the house with the dog to drive to Coburn Rd to go for the necessary morning walk, but I stopped and turned around. She was about to pour boiling water into a small metal measuring cup for her porridge and that seemed ill-advised given dizziness, so I poured it. And then Gillie and I left, and got a mile down Lower Rd when I noticed the car was blinking “no key detected” at me.  I drove on until it dawned on me that if I got out of the car and turned it off, as I planned to do at Coburn Rd, I wouldn’t be able to turn the car on again because, duh, the key was not in my pocket and therefore the car couldn’t detect it. There are many downfalls to having a car where you don’t actually have to turn a key, just have the gadget in your pocket. So I turned around in the pot farm driveway and headed back again to collect the key from the pocket of the jacket I’d worn to start the car and warm it up.

Finally we reached Coburn Rd, but on the way I heard a radio program about how many new deer hunters are out there in the fields and woods this year. Hunting is up by a third because people are out of work so they have the time. And need the meat. And enjoy hunting. I was grateful for my blaze orange coat even if the zipper doesn’t work, and wished I had tied the dog’s orange scarf around his neck. Perhaps I should walk along the road and keep him on the leash, I thought. But I was tired and it is much easier to wear him out and get him to poop if he’s off the leash. On the leash we walk a mile including a steep hill before he condescends to do his business. Off the leash he runs about ten yards, encounters a spot where another dog has gone and that’s that. Then he runs in circles and runs ahead then helter skelter back to me for a cookie, full of joy and enthusiasm. On the road he mostly trudges along beside me, dutiful, even though I have him on a fifteen foot leash so he could do some exploring.  On the road he’s only enlivened by a passing car. Then he has a choice: lunge and bark or turn to me for a cookie. Mostly but not always the cookie wins out. Sometimes I have a little bit of mozzarella cheese. Cheese always wins out. But running around the lake free of the leash is glorious. And for me too. Lots of joy in watching him, noticing how the tips of the grasses change colors, looking for ducks, observing color patterns of  the ripples on the lake and speculating without much success  about how precisely to paint the shivering water. Much pleasure for me and the dog all in about twenty minutes, instead of an hour marching along the road, up the hill and then back. 


However, in terms of journal keeping this is one hour of yesterday. Even though at four in the afternoon and feeling the kind of bone cold it’s hard to warm up from, I settled on the couch wearing a thick hat, fleece sweater, my flannel pajamas, my wool socks, and, well, you get the picture and effectively ended the day in the early winter gloom to read more about Churchill and whether his daughter will actually marry the man she met nine days before, there were still the seven hours between the dog walk and the couch to cover in a journal entry. It is all about choice.

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