Burlingham blog

Mary Fisher, Norfolk UK

Most of the walkers have gone. During the early days of lockdown, the country lane outside my home provided the perfect place for people to take daily walks or cycle. Living on a pretty single track road in rural Norfolk is a delight. It seemed that lots of people from nearby villages thought so too. The road is only a car’s width wide which doesn’t leave much space for socially distancing. Some days the throngs resembled Mexican waves as walkers leapt up and down the verges to avoid other walkers or cyclists. The egg stall at the farm gate next door did a roaring trade. So much so that the enterprising farmers built a gorgeous bespoke farm shop where they are now selling a variety of their farm produce and other locally sourced foods. However, today the numbers of walkers here have dwindled. Cars have returneIndeed there are even more cars than before the pandemic started as more people visit the farm shop. What’s happened to all those people who took their daily constitutional? Are they no longer exercising? Radio report on Monday announces that people are “flocking to the countryside”. Not here.


Friend has bought a new shed-cum-greenhouse. She loves it. So much so that she invited several of her friends to a topping out party in her garden. Topping out ceremony? For a shed? Seems a fun idea. Forecast wasn’t good. Alas it was spot on. It rained and it rained and the rain turned into a deluge. My supposedly waterproof raincoat turned out not to be. Drinks were diluted before you had time to take a sip. We couldn’t retreat into friend’s house as there was insufficient space to distance ourselves. Nonetheless, we had a wonderful time. It was so pleasant to spend a relaxing time talking about anything other than COVID. I came home with a warm feeling inside and had a hot bath to warm the outside.


 Making the most of the last two weeks of school holidays, my three grandsons are staying with me without their parents. They say they want to do things they don’t do at home. I’m not sure if giving the thirteen year old a long-handled axe to chop logs was the wisest of ideas. I watch my grandson swing the implement around his head and smash it onto a log. How did he get to be this strong? I wonder how I might explain things to his parents if the axe bounces back. He has great fun. We have a pile of logs. I count his limbs. All is well. Jam making with his eight year old brother is only marginally less dangerous. At the end, he is chuffed with the pots of crab apple jelly that he will be taking home. Eldest prefers to walk and talk… Oh, this will be good. Can’t be much danger in walking can there? At only 16 he’s 6’3”.  I can barely keep up as he strides along. And I don’t have any breath for talking. By the time we finish, I feel like a shadow of my former self. We take a trip into Norwich where the lanes are filled with tables outside cafes and restaurants. I admire the entrepreneurship. It’s a sunny day and we decide to have lunch. We eat at a table without a sunshade and with high winds blowing down the lane cooling our food too quickly. Pedestrians walk by very closely. Just for good measure, wasps try to get in on the act. With autumn approaching, I am left thinking that we may all have to make some serious adaptions if we are to continue meeting in gardens and al fresco eating. 


I know my grandchildren have been out of school since March but, selfishly, I wish they could stay here for a bit longer.


On Twitter, the Reverend Richard Coles tells us that September 1st marks the feast of one of the fourteen holy helpers, St Giles. I look St Giles up. It seems that St Giles was the patron against plague, epilepsy, mental illness, and nightmares. Seems we could do with some of St Giles’ patronage today. 


Wishing you all well.


Restrictions for many

Hilde Schoening, Buchholz, Germany

The situation at school seems to be alright and  working life is quite fine, there are some students who belong to the riskgroup and stay at home, so we have to take laptops into the classrooms, open Microsoft teams and call them in order to integrate them via video in the lesson. Tomorrow we are going to have a teacher's conference about working at the moment and during the coming months.


Yesterday, my husband and I ate in a restaurant and were more or less shocked about the carefree attitude displayed there. Normally, you should use a disinfectant at a restaurant's entrance here, you are supposed to leave your address, waiters ought to wear masks, distances should be kept to other guests etc. There was nothing of the like, no disinfectant in the dispenser, no masks, no address taken, the waiters cuddled some guests, guests welcomed people, who definetely do not live in their household, with a handshake. To add to this, about twenty to thirty thousand people demonstrated against the politics of our government in Berlin. People should be glad about the status quo in my eyes and be grateful instead of being so carefree.


Gratefully Sheltering

James Oglethorpe, Blue Ridge Mountains, VA



Moored in Moonlight Bay. 

    Curtain of stars falls deep into the ocean.

    High above in the infinite depth pin pricks of light dissect the dome of night.

    How I wish one would change direction. I could witness an alien intelligence heading towards us. Brighter. Lower. Bigger came the light. I hold my breath. The ISS passes overhead. Six souls baby steps away from Mother Earth.

    In the morning, lathered with sunscreen, equipped with traveling easel, floppy hat, folding stool and backpack I wait for my guides, Jimano and Sally. When they arrive they are uncharacteristically absorbed, their greetings strained. They load up the dinghy with my kit plus cold boxes, a parasol and a modesty screen for preserving madam’s dignity. As we head for the shore I turn to look at the 50 passenger cruise ship. The railings of the lower deck are lined with crew, caps off. We hit a wave, jerking my attention away. When I looked back they had gone. The water is suddenly choppy and I focus on the thrill of crashing over the reef and surfing onto the beach.

    I walked barefoot with my guides, loaded up with gear, along the beach. Human silence, more potent than words, soothed by the waves. Intensity of isolation in a place without cars or buildings. Just us three and no civilization for a thousand miles.

    We reached the overlook I had identified for my day’s work. The shape of the bay had caught my eye as I studied the navigation charts on the bridge. It was symmetrical, saucer shape, two rectangular inlets impressed into the choral.

    “Madam has to look out for the sun,” said Sally, her face creased with years at sea, her green eyes looking out over the bay. I was soon ensconced at my easel under the parasol and a palm tree. My eye took a while to settle, so habituated had I become to the movement of the ship. As I started work my internal clock soon switched off and I was alone on my own high seas.

    Part way though the morning I spotted my guides out on the headland, their forms adding the presence of human scale. They appeared deep in discussion. Sally was gesturing, pointing out into the bay. I took advantage of their relative absence to squat behind the modesty screen, scaring out a large spider from the hole in the ground.

    I was struck when I returned to the canvas at just how mechanical the underlying structure of the bay looked in charcoal, free of color. Time and tide, choral bleaches, regrowth, all those elements had evolved, fleshing out a foundation. Reentering my work space I decided I would pursue my insight. After all, Nature, in all her chaotic glory, can sometimes appear quite organized.

    It was a shock when the ship’s horn sounded and my peaceful, productive day was brought to a close.

    “Madam. This is so beautiful.” Sally said looking at the canvas.

    “I’m glad you like it.”

    “No. I mean how you have painted such a sacred space with a delicate touch.”

    Grateful for her appreciation I stowed the painting in a canvas bag; and we began our return to the ship. Halfway back we stopped. Sally said: “Would madam mind waiting. We have something we need to take care of. It won’t take long.”

    “That’s fine.” After waiting ten minutes I grew restless and decided I would walk up through the gap in the trees in the hope of meeting them coming back to the beach. 

    Silence invaded by the tick tick tick of insects, but no human voices. The sweat was running down into my eyes. Pretty soon I gave up any hope of finding them. My legs were scratched from an encounter with a sharp plant. I turned to go back but as I did so something caught my eye.

    In a small clearing aligned north to south were a collection of headstones, graves tended, fresh cut undergrowth cast aside. I walked slowly between the rows, stopping at one grave, kneeling before it. The symbols carved into the headstone were incomprehensible, perhaps Polynesian. There must have been some disaster and crews from cruise ships must come and care for the departed, I speculated.

    Something compelled me to reach out and touch the headstone. Except it wasn’t stone. The material was warm, almost fleshy, flexing beneath may touch.

    In an instant I felt myself back on the overlook. It was night. From out of the heavens came a flaming light. A huge machine on fire plunged from the sky. Skimming the waves it flew straight toward the island before plunging headlong into the water, a massive bow wave swamping the island. 

    My grief was sudden, brief, yet all encompassing. It felt as though I was experiencing all the deaths in my life at once. I closed my eyes and tried to gain some control. Breathe, I told myself. Just breathe. Be rational. Breathe.

    I came round to find Sally kneeling beside me.

    “Come madam. We feared you had drowned.”

    Sally’s staunch arms helped me to my feet. As I did so I found a moment of peace in amongst the trees and my racing thoughts.

    As we reached the beach Jimano came up to us.

    “She knows,” said Sally.

    I looked at her. At him. They gathered round me. And all was gentle, dark and still.

    When we reached Sydney I was packing up my cabin and I found an odd landscape painting in a canvas bag. It was prosaic, formal, cliched and unrevealing.

    I had no recollection of painting it. So I left it behind on the ship.

    As I was disembarking Sally and Jimano met me at the bottom of the gangway.

    Jimano said: “You take with you the memory of the crew of our ship. They live on in all of us now.” I turned to Sally who smiled. Memory of the day at the bay returned in a brilliant shout of color, obliterating the present.

    I came back from far, far away, standing on the dock by a deserted ship.



Thin Air

John Mole, St Albans



Oh for a summer wind

to sweep us clean


yet do no damage

to this fragile world,


to gather up

our disappointments,


pocketing them

as unconsidered trifles.


Then let rain

become the winter’s tale,


its gently falling

blessed redemption,


every drop

a reassurance


promising sunlight

where it lands.


Care in the time of Corona

Shirin Jacob, Ålesund, Norway

We bought a derelict 1950’s house, built by my husband K’s uncle, five years ago on an island some distance from Ålesund and accessible only by ferry. It took five years to make it habitable again and we have just fitted a kitchen. Still a bit more work to be done. The interim owner who bought the house after the death of K’s aunt systematically chopped down the avenue of birches and ripped out all her roses, peonies and other precious plants and left the garden in a shambles. He spared the ugly currant bushes in the front garden.  


This garden poses a challenge for me because I have no experience on planting in a Northern European climate. I grew up in Kerala where my grandparents had brought back pomelos, guava, jackfruit, jambu (rose apples), custard apples and rambutan trees from Malaysia. We also had cashewnut trees, pepper vines, mango trees and many coconut palms. The front garden was filled with the scent of jasmine and roses. My mother was a member of the Gardening society in Singapore and unfortunately, I was too young to understand the very special and unusual plants she had collected. Her style was disordered, random, cram, cram, cram. More Charleston than Gertrude Jekyll. It was very charming. I started to take an interest only in my early thirties when I had my own garden. I adored Roberto Burle Marx and spent many hours poring over his book. I liked his use of architectural plants, river stones and tall sculptures. The only other garden designer that I briefly admired was the Australian, Michael White, who landscaped many properties in Bali and was slavishly copied by the nouveau rich in Singapore. It got boring after a while.  


What shall I do with our garden on the Western coast of Norway? I’m lost. Do you have any suggestions that might help? This is my garden email: SofusSecretgarden@gmail.com. Sofus is one of our beloved puddycats. The unprofessional first draft of our garden is attached below. Our house took five years to restore. This garden will take the rest of my life. But the structure and bare bones have to be put in soon.  


I thought a hedge of hornbeam will be useful as sometimes there is a cold wind from the North East and the ground in the north facing garden can be wet. It would serve as a wind-break and give us some privacy. I prefer the look of beech but worry it may not be as hardy as hornbeam.

I want to plant the backbone of the garden and the main trees in spring 2021 and think about doing flower beds later. Full disclosure - I’m not a gardener. I’m more the Person Who Points and a lovely, handsome gardener will dig. I appreciate earthworms but don’t want to get up close and personal. I’m so grateful that there is only one type of adder in this country and that it’s fairly antisocial. Such a relief after years of unfortunate brushes with garden snakes, cobras and pythons in my mother’s garden, which bordered the main reservoir in Singapore.


In my effort to find help and suggestions, I approached many neighbours and acquaintances. I wrote to a complete stranger online who owns a fruit garden near Bergen in the south. After a week, I received a detailed list of his recommendations for apples, plums, pears and cherry trees. I haven’t seen pears or cherries thrive here at 62 degrees north, but may decide to be mad and just plant them irregardless. A climbing frame, if nothing else, for children and roses. We have the warm Gulf Stream that hugs our coast so we don’t have the extremes in climate like the rest of Norway.  


Dear Barbara Warsop sent me some lovely ideas for plants from her garden and our editor, Margaret, has been helpful about lilacs, one of my favorite plants. An Instagram friend contacted a Norwegian she knew in England with suggestions for Plum trees. All so kind and helpful.  


I would like the front garden to be white and green. Restful, calm with some Curb Appeal to enliven the slightly ugly house. Lots of ramblers and climbers in all available trees.  

The back garden will be our Secret Scented Haven. It will be phase two and have pink, lilac, grey and green as a theme. An occasional touch of red will be allowed in holly berries, apples and a Rosa Souvenir du Dr Jamain. Thyme underfoot. I would love to have a swing for us and space for a future sunken trampoline for our future (??) grandchild(ren), curvy paths and hidden spaces. Vegetables and a greenhouse in five years, once I get into stride and am more confident of myself.  


So dear reader, if you have the inclination, will you send me some ideas? Please, please be brave and send me suggestions of your favourite plants or garden landscaping gems. Every thought counts. I don’t have Lutyens or Harold to advise me on the garden architecture and I am clearly not Vita or Gertrude.
But... you might be!  


Huuuuugggggsssss from a very safe distance in Ålesund,


My feelings on paper

Barbara Warsop, Sheffield, Yorkshire

Monday 31st August

My heating came on this week, I cant remember needing heating on in August.

Its going to be a long winter I think.


Being in lock down for so long I have not had the experience until now of wearing a mask.

I found out as did David Horovitch that they are not compatible with hearing aids. When I removed my mask my hearing aid flew off. It could have been quite expensive if I lost it or it broke. This reminds me of another mask I wore in my lifetime.


Comparison I Reminisce.


Having been born before the war of 1939 to 1945.

I had a different mask to take to school, a gas mask. I was 5 years old in 1943 when I stated  school.

Because I was small I had a mask that covered my whole head.

At that time exercises were performed in the school yard to make sure all the children knew how to put their masks on. Our headteacher arranged for all the school children to gather in the school yard. He said when I blow this whistle you must all put your gas masks on in case of a gas escape. We lived near two large gas tanks that were also near the school.

I couldn't get my gas mask on and I thought it was real so terrified I started to scream. Then I heard the headmaster say someone help that child and an older girl helped me put my gas mask on. We also had exercises to get into the air raid shelter, a half buried building in the school yard.

When the sirens went off it gave you butterflies in your stomach.  

My mother was terrified that a bomb would drop on one of these gas tanks.

We lived alone, dad had been called up to serve his country in the Army Catering Core and was miles away in Belgium. 

So my maternal grandma and my mothers spinster sister (my aunt) came to live with us for moral support.

During the blitz of 1941 all Sheffield was ablaze. One bomb dropped at the bottom of our road blowing out our windows. Thousands of lives lost and homes gone for good.

Six years it lasted and a stranger came home (my dad). Lives had changed. My grandma died during that time and my aunt never went back home and she died living with us in 1960.

Food was rationed and everything was wrapped in paper.and everything was recycled.

People got on with their lives

We children played games across the road, skipping ropes that spread from one side to the other and we all joined in. NO CARS an occasional coal lorry or horse and cart with fruit and veg. Or the rag man shouting donkey stone for rags... Donkey stone is not even in the dictionary now.

Donkey stone is a whitener for putting on the edge of steps after scrubbing them clean.

During the four weeks summer holiday my mum had me doing this job and washing our outside toilet. We had no electricity everything was done with gas or coal. The street light gas lamps stayed in place until the 1970s when we were told our houses were coming down for slum clearances which destroyed a wonderful community for progress.

Everyone got on with their lives.

The Labour government picked us up from all that and we got our NHS in 1948 when I was ten years old plus my mum and dad paid for electricity to be installed.


I remember all the illnesses before then. Rickets, Tuberculosis, Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria, Whooping cough, Also a bout of smallpox in the late 1950s when I had a vaccination that turned septic and in Sheffield Bronchitis from all the industrial pollution of our city.

I remember our windows coated regular with a blue film of sulphur.  


During the 1980`s  I remember an old wise friend saying that the clean air we breath now is more dangerous as today's pollution is invisible. 


Which brings me to the present situation.


Whats scary now is that covid 19 is invisible, and whats even more scary is that its here to stay.  

This government is hell bent on keeping their wealth growing greed. Not knowing how to combat it.

I can understand some peoples attitude of carrying on as if it did not exist. Its invisible.

No one knows when or if we will catch it or when it will go away.

We all have to step back and take stock of things. Were all guilty of wanting more.

We need to think of the future of the world for our children and the generations to come.

I think I have lived through the best time of the 1960,70,80`s the war ended and we all prospered with more enjoyment of life and holidays opening the world of adventure. 


I worry for the future of our children and how long it will take us to recover from this virus.


Friday 4th September

After my rambling on. 

After thoughts.

Younger readers will not understand what I mean about past pollution particularly in the steel city of Sheffield before the clean air act.

George Orwell mentions how polluted Sheffield was when he came to where I lived on Parkwood Springs to research his book The Road To Wigan Pier. He said it was the most dirtiest place he had ever seen. Standing on the hill above town with hundreds of chimneys with smoke and flames billowing out from all the factory's of industry. He left after four days to live with his sister as he couldn't stand it any more.

I remember as a child going to the sea side for a day and on the way back when getting near to Sheffield you could smell when you were near to home and see the clouds of smoke at a distance.


Now we have lost all of that to progress, unemployment and covid 19.

Lets hope today's scientists can come up with a solution fast.


Walking in L.A.

Antoinette Samardzic, Los Angeles USA

Cycling in L.A. My newfound past time, or rather re-found since I used to enjoy cycling but had not done so since our last bike was stolen. My chiropractor recommended that I try bike riding or swimming for the bursitis afflicting my right hip so I tried it, and my hip liked it. I opted out of swimming since I am adverse to chlorine, and I will not brave the chill and waves of the Pacific. I got lucky in my search for a bike: somebody was advertising a women's Giant Suede (great name) cruiser, unused (it was too small for his wife) for $400. We called right away, offered $350, and dashed off to Koreatown to try it out. I immediately fell in love with it, it was as if it was bespoke for me; light, comfortable, even the color was great, a deep red, and they threw in a water bottle holder to boot. We put it in the back of the truck and drove off to celebrate by having lunch at a nearby Korean restaurant. Many restaurants are now using parking lots and parking lanes to host their customers since eating inside is still not permitted. The restaurant we went to had erected canopies to keep off the sun, and instead of paper menus patrons use their smart phone to scan the menus. It was such a treat to lunch out with my husband, this was only the second time we had done so since outside dining was allowed. Furthermore, the bonus of eating at a Korean restaurant is that you get all the little free side dishes (banchan) right away. My favorites are the seasoned soybean sprouts, seasoned spinach, and spicy cucumber salad. 


Last Friday we even went to a social event - our first since the restrictions started.  A friend of ours was playing his guitar and singing seventies songs outside his friend's cafe in Santa Monica so we sat and had a drink and chatted with friends. It felt like being in Europe, especially since all the people we knew there were Serbs like my husband. We're hoping that after Covid more restaurants will carry on having outside seating.


The only blot in our lives is that we do not know when we will next see our daughter and granddaughter in Oakland since they are in a pod of three families (each with a daughter attending the same school) and one of the mothers suffers from extreme anxiety so in deference to her we will not visit until given the all clear.


In the meantime, I am riding my bike in the neighbourhood and enjoying the sense of freedom it gives me. I am fortunate in that there is a bike path nearby that goes all the way down to the ocean at Marina del Rey, following Ballona Creek, a manmade (Army Corps of Engineers) concrete waterway. There is usually very little water flowing (except after a winter rainstorm) but enough in that there are often ducks, seagulls and little plovers to be seen.


View From the Top of the Hill

Linzy Lyne, Pateley Bridge

Despite appearances to the contrary, I really am an optimist. For example, I sat down to start my entry five minutes before the Sainsbury's delivery was due, rather than leave it till later and the van has not yet appeared.


Not a lot to report on current events. There were acrimonious exchanges in the House as MPs returned. Sir Lindsay Hogg told the PM off twice for not answering questions but he still didn't answer them. Multiple people tested positive after a return flight from Greece, there was more confusion around holidaymakers having to quarantine and today the government has suggested they might cut the quarantine period in half. Does that mean you only spread half the virus, I wonder? I'm being whimsical - figures seem to be constantly plucked from thin air and sadly lacking in any scientific credibility.


Thanks to Peter for another wonderful new word - 'lovesome'. What a cosy and descriptive expression, I am going to try to use it, if not in a poem, at least in the odd conversation. Your description of your childhood garden reminded me of my own, at the back of a bungalow in Corstorphine, Edinburgh, where we lived until I was nearly eight. You could hear the lions at Edinburgh Zoo roaring in the night. The garden was criss-crossed by narrow flagged paths, so I could run round in all directions, and through a rose arch half way down was a second garden with some trees at the far end which were just climbable. The best thing was that it backed onto the playing field of my primary school and my Dad bent the railing so I could squeeze through to save walking all the way round by the road. It seemed such an exciting place to an only child with an active imagination. Years later I was in Edinburgh for a choir performance and took time out to go and visit the house. I was delighted to find the new occupants remembered my parents and they kindly showed me around. The house seemed tiny and the garden even more so. I couldn't imagine how I had thought it was so huge.


Franklin, I loved your fire starters and have resolved to make some myself for our autumn log fire! Marli Rose, your Nutcracker scenes are wonderful, the dancers really seem to pirouette, thanks for sharing them. I hope you saw some ponies in the New Forest. I went there with my family once but we weren't camping. We stayed in a pub and one night there was a noise outside and when I looked out of the window there was a whole herd of ponies in the car park, it was really exciting!

I enjoyed my birthday on Bank Holiday Monday, although we didn't plan anything as Richard was waiting for his test result (it was negative, thank goodness). I had acquired a new picnic basket just before lock down and it was a sunny day, so we packed up a lunch and drove out into the Dales to find somewhere nice to sit and eat. It turned out half of Yorkshire had the same idea and every lay-by and beauty spot was either occupied or charging a small fortune to park. We kept going all the way to Hawes and eventually turned down a single track road towards somewhere called Semer Water, which was unfamiliar territory. Half way down we met a huge blue tractor whose driver came through the tiny gap in a very cavalier fashion. A little further on we came across a poor woman whose car had just been scraped all the way down the side by the same tractor and he had just driven off! We commiserated and continued on our way while feeling thankful for a lucky escape.


Semer Water is a small lake in the middle of nowhere but needless to say it was busy with canoes and water skiers and there were no parking spaces. However, we found a lovely spot up on the hill, with a view of the lake and some nice benches. The picnic basket was a great success and was much admired by a couple on the next bench, except that the lovely new matching Thermos flask leaked stone cold coffee all over the place. Anyway, I enjoyed my day although we had our usual moment when we arrived home, we had just gone all that way and braved the Bank Holiday crowds to sit and eat our lunch while enjoying a lovely view when we have our own lovely peaceful view here. Never mind, it made a change. 'Old friends, sat on a park bench like book ends. How terribly strange to be seventy...'


I was right to be optimistic, the Sainsbury's van has just arrived.


Seriously isolating

Jean, Melbourne Australia

Running out of steam in Melbourne. We are weeks into Stage 4 lockdown which means a curfew and severe restrictions on when we are allowed to leave the house, how far we can go (5km from your home) and how long (1 hour). Stage 4 was intended to end on September 13th but word is out it may continue til the end of the month as daily new infections aren't low enough yet (64 new cases and 6 deaths in the last 24 hours) to change course. Tomorrow, September 6th, the State Premier will announce the 'roadmap' for opening up the State (businesses, schools, state borders?) but he has already warned it will be controlled and dependent on 'the numbers'. The Premier, Daniel Andrews, continues to front up daily to report on the numbers, and explain the decisions he and his team have made, while remaining fresh faced and unflustered. I do not know how he does it. The inevitable frustration and discontent in the community erupted today with a anti-lockdown protest in the city. Hundreds apparently not wearing masks so we will probably see a rise in numbers as a result. Crazy stuff. Some Liberal politicians are making hay meanwhile over what they see as the Victorian government's draconian measures, along the lines of the awful former PM Tony Abbott's comment about 'Covid health dictatorships.' 


On a personal level, it's a bit of a struggle to find the light in the dark. However, one good thing was the arrival of my first Australian passport which means I CAN travel overseas when we get the green light whenever that may be. I sent off my back-up ballot for the US November election. Yes! And further to the uplifting effect of animals, I got up close to an elephant last evening at a friend's Zoom birthday party; one of the guests lives in Thailand and looks after elephants needing rehabilitation. Truly wonderful! Add to this the occasional cheering and amusing visit from Big Bruiser who lives in one of the downstairs apartments. I'm not feeding/encouraging him but I do let him in when he miaows outside the door!


Florist in lockdown

Jane, Near Manchester, England

Meandering back from the allotment I realised I’d forgotten my face mask. I pass the local shop on my way home, just needing a couple of items, I thought I could just stand on the pavement and  shout my order through the open door if no one else is in. From the doorstep I call out “Sorry I’ve forgotten my mask, do I need one?” “De ya frig” Janet’s cheery dulcet tones shout back. “We don’t cover beauty in this shop” adds Paul, her husband. They are both from the North East and speak with strong Newcastle accents. They make me laugh. They have kept the local community supplied with everything from tinned spam to postage stamps, from frozen smiley faces to custard creams throughout lockdown and were a total life line in the early scary days of the pandemic. The past few months have been busy and profitable for them, consequently they’ve just returned from three weeks in Kos and Janet is the colour of milkless tea.


It’s September already! Okay, that’s enough now! Let’s have a party. The old fashioned kind, with music and singing and hearty laughter. It’s in an imaginary venue lavishly decorated with colourful garlands depicting ballet scenes designed and made by Marli Rose, helped by Franklin. It’s an informal setting, with rustic furniture and fairy lights. Outside is a fire pit which can be lit later if it gets chilly. On the various miss matched tables are generous bunches of locally grown flowers in vintage jugs. The food is unpretentious and delicious. Annabel’s brought a fig tart or two! There’s an old Joanna which people take turns to bang out a tune on. Guests arrive from all over the world, some have never met before, but already feel like kindred spirits, they greet each other with beaming smiles and big hugs. Some will recite poems or Shakespeare’s sonnets. There will be a bit of a sing a long, some will bring instruments to play. Later when the sun begins to set we will light candles and play cheesy dance tracks loudly. We will dance like loons, the children will be embarrassed, until they realise everyone is dancing, even if they are just dancing from their armchairs, then they will join in! We might even do the conga! We will linger long into the night, the children will fall asleep, lulled by the crackling fire and soft piano music. We will leave the washing up until the next day, or the diehards may just keep the party going! 

Keep well everyone xxxxx

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