Notes from a factory in the Midlands

MFS, Midlands


The board has been debating an interesting moral dilemma. Sales are dropping dramatically, and based on key leading indicators we can see that April sales could fall by at least 50%, and beyond that who knows what might happen. In anticipation of this we have already cancelled our spring advertising campaign, curtailed all non-essential expenditure, introduced a hiring ban and stopped all investment projects. But now we have to look at reducing our staffing levels and will therefore take advantage of the government’s furlough scheme – whereby it will refund to companies 80% of the salary of furloughed employees, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. The government has put this scheme in place in an attempt to stem what would otherwise be an uncontrollable surge in unemployment, as vast swathes of the economy are closing down, and millions of employees face being laid off. As a business we are fortunate in that we can afford to top up the pay of furloughed employees so that they would continue to receive 100% of their normal pay. And this is the dilemma. If we do pay 100%, is it right and fair to those still working that their colleagues “swanning around at home” are receiving full pay? Or alternatively, if we don’t top up, is it fair to those who have been selected for furlough that they suffer a financial loss when the company could afford to pay them their contracted salary? We have decided to pay the full 100%. Why? Because we can afford it; because those still working, who might complain about fairness, could themselves be furloughed in a few weeks’ time; and because it makes the selection process for furloughing much easier from an HR viewpoint. We are also contemplating introducing “rotating furloughs”, where half a department could be furloughed for three weeks (the minimum period per the legislation) and then they would swap over with the half that are still in work who themselves would then be furloughed. We are committing to top up to 100% at least until the end of May. Staff will be told tomorrow, and the furloughing will start from Monday.



John Underwood, Norfolk UK


A full calf binding, with gilt fleurons to the spine, and rather nicely done gilt lines. Not, I think contemporary, but perhaps early nineteenth century, and the marbled endpapers are certainly later. They have done a sound job of strengthening the gutter margin, and have kept the boards firm for the time being. It has what might be called craqueleur in porcelain, or crazing , to the surface, which might be due to the application of some sort of surface polish, varnish even in the past. The page edges are red, “ rubricated” if you were writing about red lettering in early printing. This is a cheaper version of gilding page edges, but more handsome in my eyes.


We know a lot more about transmission of viral epidemics some four hundred years later. It is scandalous that those nursing patients today still don’t have appropriate protective equipment, and testing kits available.


All Day Exercise

David AP Thomas, North Yorkshire


Life seems to be slowing down. I started this week determined to get as much work done as possible during these three months of Sundays but, despite getting up early, by the time I had done the washing up, sent a couple of emails, sorted out some images for a website, talked to friend (from a distance) for about half an hour, (plus wasting some time on social media) it was almost lunchtime, so I phoned up another friend. She is over 80, with cancer and struggling a bit. She's very special to me and it is a great shame I cannot get up to see her, but phone will have to do for now. We started in misery mode and ended having a laugh so that was good. Cycled to my studio and did very little but a useful couple of hours nevertheless. Cycling home I passed a woman (giving her a wide berth) but she turned to the wall and grimaced in what was I assume fear and loathing. It's the first time in the present crisis that I've met with such a visceral response. Most folk are very friendly (from a distance). equipment, and testing kits available.


Choose Something Like a Star

Kate, Hitchin


Like Billy Hearld (hi Billy!) I have the Complete Works of Oscar Wilde to begin today. Over the years I've read and reread some but not all. Now where should I read them ? I do live in an amazing flat, part of an old alms house, with a communal garden. But its not exactly conducive to quiet reads. However I live opposite an old church, and seeing as all churches are shut (though personally I think their doors should be OPEN all the time right now!


I'm not religious but come on, churches are a good place to sit around and escape, meditate or just BE, in right now, and they are hardly going to be more crowded than Waitrose!!) So anyway, round the back of this church is a tiny patch of garden with some holy tulips. My mission today, check this out and make a camp there so I can sit in the warm sun with my Oscar Wilde and maybe do some sketches of the church too.  Watch this space!


Playing with glass

SFB, Norfolk UK


As so many other people, I am turning to creative activity to pass the time. 


I am struck by the use of the Coronavirus image in many of the broadcasts at the moment. Creative use of a very creative organism. I saw one graphic last evening that demonstrated how the virus is constructed and how it manages to invade our cells and multiply.


Now I am fascinated by this and am considering how to incorporate this infiltrating process into a piece of glass work. I have been working with glass enamels recently and am loving what I can do with the materials. A happy ‘accident’ happened a while ago when the first colour I had applied (white) was still damp so that when I applied a second colour on top it ‘bled’ into the underlying colour. The result was completely unintended to be honest, but I loved the way it looked and included it in a final piece of work (shown here).  Perhaps it's something I can work on...


Bristol Calling

Simon Davies, Bristol

Sleep is the great escape. I can be very glad "to steep my senses in forgetfulness". I do a lot of it and always have but now rather more. Mary and I turn off the lights around one o'clock. She gets up between seven and nine and I get up between nine and eleven. My night is full of dreams and apart from the increasingly rare one of dealing with a class of children I can't control, they are all warmly sociable.  


The last time I remember sleeping like this was more than half a century ago when we were coming up to finals. It was well before the summer and the nights were still quite long but we had no classes and had been told to revise . Each night we stayed up later and got up later so that eventually we were not getting up much before it got dark. I consider myself lucky in having over fifty years between periods of anxiety.   


I am also hoping that "nature's soft nurse" will bolster my immune system.


Day to Day

Mick and Brita, Northern England

Brita has been mending clothes using buttons we keep in an old tea-caddy. We rescued it from the Barras market in Glasgow 25 years ago and it is so reassuring in these troubled days that she felt inspired to paint it and the contents. Her still-life painting shows the buttons scattered across the table; unique and individual, some crowded together others alone...like people.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Have been mixing pale pinks for The Pigs that’s going to be painted next week. I went out in the car to look at the exterior and also through the window at Scandinorfia, the dog friendly dining room at one end of the pub that I did the interior of a few years ago. The walls are pale pink and all the colours in the room are based on pig colours. No one else would ever know this but I do. The white pompoms on the blind were based on the sheep pig. Anyway I peered through the window of the deserted pub, normally heaving with people, waiting for the police to turn up as I was looking quite suspicious but when close up they would have seen tell tale pink squares every where. 


Stocked up with veg from Edgefield Nursery who are doing a roaring trade. Gloria was furious with all the people ringing them up asking if they were going to chuck out all of their plants could they chuck them their way. AS IF she said. Ridiculous. They are just doing a lot more deliveries and observing social distancing. Business almost as usual.  


Stopped on the way home for a walk with Earnie. Thought the car might be surrounded when I got back and covered in penalty notices. I saw no one apart from two farmers in their tractors preparing the incredible deep furrows for planting potatoes. These fields are a real work of art. There were 2 pairs of buzzards following the tractors. The day before when I walked from my house, I passed 14 people. I owed my neighbour up the road some money for mending my gates, so I got the £114.00 pounds out in cash, put it in an envelope writing Danger on the back where once you would have written SWALK and put it in a freezer bag. We walked past his house and I could see him across the lawn through the window sitting in his chair so I waved the bag at him and he came to the side gate. 


I threw the bag into the garden and Earnie the kleptomaniac golden retriever jumped over the low wall across the grass, retrieved it and brought it back to me. 

Clever Earnie. 

He said if I wanted to keep walking by, throwing money at him he would be delighted. 

Just had egg mayonnaise on a new batch of seeded crackers and raw carrots for lunch.


Thoughts from the Suffolk Coast

Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold

Phone call from my sister. She was tearful. 


One of her friends has died. A virus related death. He was only in his 60s. Usually very fit and healthy. His wife was away. He was self-isolating because he’d had a raised temperature and sore throat. Apparently he hadn’t contacted anyone in several days so a member of his family visited and found him. He had died in bed.  


What can anyone say? He died in his own home at least. His family must be devastated. Thoughts with them.

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