A Poole-side View
PALMS BEFORE MY FEET
Palm Sunday brings to mind G K Chesterton's poem " The Donkey": "There was a shout about my ears/And palms before my feet." No shouts this year, no palm strewing. In Brittany, where I used to live, the branches were actually sweet bay rather than palms - nearly everyone had a bay tree in the garden and those who hadn't begged a branch from a neighbour. There was a lot of branch waving in church; after all, the French call the day Dimanche des Rameaux - Branch Sunday! In fact, in the Gospels, only St John specifically mentions palms, the other evangelists talk of branches and greenery cut in the fields. Wherever we live, there will be many who missed the customary celebration and processions of the traditional Palm Sunday (with or without the donkey ). But even though we have to forego the branch waving this year, the messsage of hope remains real.
John Underwood, Norfolk UK
Today, when the Queen addresses the nation, we learn that the British PrimeMinister has been admitted to hospital as a precautionary step, as he has persistent symptoms of Coronavirus. One can only hope that the progress of his illness does not require him to be placed on a ventilator. On the same day the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland resigns, because she has been visiting her second home at the weekend, and presumably had her fingers crossed behind her back as she told the public to stay at home.
The many outbreaks of Black Death and Bubonic Plague in our history took place in times when medicines were herbal folk remedies. When we moved to our current house, which has been around since the C16th, we found Feverfew growing everywhere on the site, and wondered if it had been used as a cure in the past. Digging around for c17 th writing on plague and plague cures, I found the following in the British Library.
“Famous and Effectual Medicine To Cure The Plague
The red powder 1 sh.
If any one s infected and finds themselves ill then presently let them (without delay) take this powder, and then to bed and sweat carefully three hours; And if they are dry, make a Posset with Sage, or Sorrel, and Dandelion, and so drink freely in their sweat, or afterwards, and be sure after your sweat you keep yourself warm. And if any swelling appear, beware of drinking any Beer or Ale, hot or cold, but keep yourselves to the above-said Posset- drink, or Beer, or Ale boyled with a crust of brown Bread, with one blade of Mace and two Cloves. Put the Powder in a Spoon, with a little Bear or Posset- drink and so take it.”
On EBay, one can currently purchase a replica of a seventeenth century plague doctor’s beaked mask- in several different designs should one so wish. Nurses and doctors however, still cannot access life saving protective masks and gowns for love nor money. Vets are giving boxes of gloves to their local hospitals. What a very strange world we live in.
Thoughts from the Suffolk Coast
Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold
It is the evening of the day ... And what a glorious day it has been. What’s the expression? Wall to wall sunshine. I’ve been pottering about, thinking about summer and when this is all over and ....
No decorating today - gardening instead! Indeed, the garden is looking better than ever. I’m doing all the things I usually say I don’t have time for ... and it does make a difference. In particular, there is one border that I have neglected for a while so I’ve recently started to work there. It’s actually quite a large area with box hedging to one side, several peonies, four or five well established roses and a large viburnum. The soil in this part of the garden is heavy clay (although we’ve applied all kinds of improver over the years) and yet - even after the wet winter, it is already dry and difficult to dig. Add to this - there is a very heavy infestation with ground elder. We tried for years when we first moved here to rid the garden of it, but of course we have been unsuccessful. Anyhow, I spent half the morning trying again to weed out some of it and turn over the earth. The results aren’t fantastic but I’m pleased with what I’ve achieved.
My after lunch walk took me across the fields and along a little lane that eventually leads to a wood. I enjoyed the walk and saw just three people. The first was a chap who stood with his arms folded in hostile detachment - at least two metres away from the path and a little wooden bridge I needed to cross in order to pass him. I smiled and called out thank you without achieving any eye contact. Stony silence was the fierce but expected reply. Ten minutes or so later came a middle aged couple looking very jolly and laughing as I stood back. They called a cheery “nothing personal”! I find it interesting how people respond to the uncertainty of our situation, the loss of autonomy - and of course the anxiety. Or is it fear?
I read a headline this morning that the President of the Philippines has given his police force the authority to shoot those who break the rules of the lockdown. I didn’t read the article but was shocked. Shooting at people? Is it true? Is it taken out of context? Why such a stance? What on earth is happening to us all? As I went out into the garden, it was with renewed vigour to attack the weeds. Nettles - be gone! Bind weed - you’re history. Ground elder - don’t mess with me. One false move and my fork and trowel will be there! Weeds - be afraid, be very afraid.
The day-long sunshine is good for the spirits. I wrote a letter to my aunt and posted it. I felt that I had achieved a lot.
Just now I read that the singer Marianne Faithfull is in hospital with problems related to corona virus. I loved her singing ‘As Tears go by’. Now how did that song start?
A View from Crazy Town
Chris Dell, Washington, D.C.
The latest news is that we may reach peak infection in Washington next week. We're certainly careering towards peak crazy, as whether or not people are practicing social distancing, wearing face masks and other measures is increasingly determined by their political views. This evening the sensible, sturdy and sober address by your Queen only served as a stark reminder of how insane we have all become, as well as how real leaders behave in exceptional times. One doesn't have to be a monarchist to appreciate leadership wherever it's to be found these days.
In the U.S. that increasingly seems to be at the level of state governors and local leaders. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has emerged as something of a hero and media sensation, and increasingly governors are cooperating across state and party lines to support each other. We had the heartening news that Oregon is sending spare ventilators to New York because it has less need. This in sharp contrast to the national level where the First Son-in-Law put himself in charge, then announced states were not meant to have access to the national reserve and subsequently caused the reserve's website to be changed to reflect the his new truth. New Speak seems alive and well in the face of the pandemic.
And yet, and yet, on our daily stroll yesterday we explored the very exclusive, charming and peaceful Kalorama neighborhood of Washington. Javanka's lovely house and its Secret Service detail is literally around the corner from the Obama's and theirs. We could walk past the former, quietly keeping our thoughts to ourselves, but the Obama's street is permanently closed to hoi polloi. We can only hope that all the Secret Squirrel details are playing nicely together and avoiding the partisanship that defines their employers. We wouldn't want a re-enactment of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral right here in River City. That would not be good for property values. Jeff Besos's mansion is just a few blocks away after all (dwarfing in size the not insubstantial home of former President Woodrow Wilson next door) and one hates to think of him losing out after all the money he spent turning a former museum into his home. For God's sake, people, we have to maintain good order. As the Navy said in firing the captain of an aircraft carrier who pleaded for help for his five thousand sailors after an outbreak of CV on board the ship.
Crazy Town, indeed.
The heart of Cornwall
A couple of days ago, I saw a post online saying it was #slowartday. Slow looking is a big deal for me as I teach and make art.
I often describe the process of drawing as slow looking, but strictly speaking this isn’t true, as the looking is punctuated with the business of transcription.
To slowly look, to really engage with only seeing, is a neglected skill. How often I have seen people race around a gallery quickly taking photographs of the art they rush past. I am reminded of a passage about a retired Postman in the book on mass observation ‘Our Hidden Lives’. The retired postman spends an entire morning looking at a single painting in the national gallery. He would be a contemporary of my great grandparents, growing up without television, radio or film, he would have instinctively understood the need to really look to get more out of life.
In today’s hectic world, with the immediately gratifying and fast paced media we all engage with, it’s hard to make the time to slowly contemplate anything. But maybe with large swathes of the population limited in their daily activities they might get the opportunity to really, really engage with experiences? Really look at the blossom on the trees, without worrying about taking a photograph of it, or really look at a picture for a long time.
Proust is slow reading, I like that about him. But what I often like to do when I cannot sleep at night is read and re read favourite poems. Given time, they unfold, take on new dimensions or simply calm me with their familiarity. My Great Grandmother loved the poetry of Rupert Brooke and this is my favourite of his poems, I think it may relate to all I have been thinking about?..
When colour goes home into the eyes,
And lights that shine are shut again,
With dancing girls and sweet bird's cries
Behind the gateways of the brain;
And that no-place which gave them birth, shall close
The rainbow and the rose:-
Still may Time hold some golden space
Where I'll unpack that scented store
Of song and flower and sky and face,
And count, and touch, and turn them o'er,
Musing upon them: as a mother, who
Has watched her children all the rich day through,
Sits, quiet-handed, in the fading light,
When children sleep, ere night.
I bought a little John Piper lithograph from the Pallant House Gallery bookshop, just before lockdown, ‘Talland Church’. An old Art College friend bought one too, they were momentous of our lovely day out, it’s on my studio wall and as I burnish my prints, I gaze up at it. The little Church is hugged by the landscape and as I gaze and gaze at this little print I notice more and more within its composition. I also remember that day out and Julia and my dearest of friends who live near Talland. When this is all over, I’ll frame that print, visit that Church in Talland bay and see those dear friends again.
“Survival “ diary
Susan, Country Victoria, Australia
I read yesterday Arundhati Roy’s no holds barred account of covid 19. Her words ebb and flow in my mind through the night and while I walk this morning in the bright fresh light that comes after two days of heavy rain. Politicians here hold little political capital, decades of short term policies have run down all kinds of essential services that we now need. Underfunding in areas which support the most vulnerable have left them facing the full face of this dreadful virus. I wonder where homeless people can find sanctuary. Our homes give us that, no matter how much we grumble about being confined. There is no knowing what is happening to the hundreds who sleep rough in Melbourne every night. Horse boxes rumble pass me as I near home, anxious horses stamping on the floor. I am reminded that horse racing continues; are we to believe that jockeys are maintaining safe distance as they thunder down the home straight? Politics again, and Australians love affair with gambling getting them deeper into debt in the the privacy of home isolation. When I come home I do my first formal zoom Pilates class. I am unprepared for the emotion of seeing familiar faces on my iPad. I suddenly see the community of people who help me stay physically well, do so much more than that. Afterwards, I catch my breath with a cup of tea and read a poem which echo Roy’s sentiments, but more gently. They remind me again that the origin of this crisis began with the great cruelty that humans wreak upon the natural world through the trafficking and exploitation of wild animals.
Kitty O’Meara’s last stanza reads:
“And when the danger passed,
And the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses, and made
new choices, and dreamed new
images, and created new ways to live
and heal the earth fully,
as they had been healed.”
Rhymes and reflections
SCT , Hertfordshire
I don't know who wrote this, but it's beautiful.. ♥️
We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another.
Suddenly Disney is out of magic,
Paris is no longer romantic,
New York doesn't stand up anymore,
the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, and Mecca is empty.
Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting parents & friends becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realise that power, beauty & money are worthless, and can't get you the oxygen you're fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful. It only puts humans in cages. I think it's sending us a message:
"You are not necessary. The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests. Not my masters."
This is a great poem...
I'm normally a social girl
I love to meet my mates
But lately with the virus here
We can't go out the gates.
You see, we are the 'oldies' now
We need to stay inside
If they haven't seen us for a while
They'll think we've upped and died.
They'll never know the things we did
Before we got this old
There wasn't any Facebook
So not everything was told.
We may seem sweet old ladies
Who would never be uncouth
But we grew up in the 60s -
If you only knew the truth!
There was sex and drugs and rock 'n roll
The pill and miniskirts
We smoked, we drank, we partied
And were quite outrageous flirts.
Then we settled down, got married
And turned into someone's mum,
Somebody's wife, then nana,
Who on earth did we become?
We didn't mind the change of pace
Because our lives were full
But to bury us before we're dead
Is like a red rag to a bull!
So here you find me stuck inside
For 4 weeks, maybe more
I finally found myself again
Then I had to close the door!
It didnt really bother me
I'd while away the hour
I'd bake for all the family
But I've got no bloody flour!
Now Netflix is just wonderful
I like a gutsy thriller
I'm swooning over Idris
Or some random sexy killer.
At least I've got a stash of booze
For when I'm being idle
There's wine and whiskey, even gin
If I'm feeling suicidal!
So let's all drink to lockdown
To recovery and health
And hope this bloody virus
Doesn't decimate our wealth.
We'll all get through the crisis
And be back to join our mates
Just hoping I'm not far too wide
To fit through
A Week in the life of Edward & Molly (w/c 30th March)
Carla, South Norfolk
Dear Edward (5) and Molly (3)
School, nursery and all our groups are now closed and cancelled, due to the corona virus so I thought I'd write to you so you know why we are not formally home schooling and so one day you can read what a normal day in the life of us consists of:
Dear Edward & Molly
This morning we did lots of cooking, we made Hefty Hugh's hats (from what the ladybird heard cookbook from the library) and a carrot cake. Both were a success and delicious. You span herbs in the spinner, snipped them up, mixed flour and yeast, weighed all the ingredients, poured water and Molly you got your hands all messy in the dough but Edward you didn't want to today. You didn't want to use the food mixer today but you always love putting bun cases in the Yorkshire pudding tin. Molly you kept counting to 17 when there were only 12 muffin cases :) I decorated the cake with a rainbow of mini fake smarties which you loved.
We took your bikes round the block which is our lovely loop that goes through the woods. This was the first time you pedalled on something that wasn't smooth or grass Edward and you did brilliantly. You even went on the bike track round the woods which was very tricky but you persevered. Molly and I watched the trees swaying and looked for big birds nests in the tops of the trees while you went round the track Edward. Molly then decided to join you on the track for the jump and you both went over it!
It was a nice mild afternoon so while I did some gardening you both played in the sandpit and on the swing, swinging chair, climbing frame and slide.
Edward, you finally got to use Education City which has English and Maths tasks on, you have been wanting to do it for ages but Mummy has always said 'not while it's a nice day outside, let's save that for a really rainy miserable day'. While Molly had a long bath, you used Daddy's work computer.
The secret craft is coming along brilliantly, more about this in a few days time.
I think Siri is starting to get used to my hand in the evenings, tonight she nipped but didn't bite. Phew.
Molly said she wants to go swimming when the corona virus is over, I would like to see Meema, Edward also wants to go swimming and Daddy wants to go for a day out and a day with his biking friends.
Love from Mummy.x
Dear Edward and Molly
I have well and truly lost track of the days! Oh well, we don't have much if anything planned!
You have both played so wonderfully together today, mostly with empty huge cardboard boxes. I awarded you both a kind dojo each which you were excited about. For this I wrote your initial on the board (kitchen cupboard) and you were so excited to see your E and M up there! You have built dens with the play tent and a million pillows, cushions, blankets and duvets, you've built schools and completed jigsaws, we have discovered the best place for doing jigsaws is the kitchen floor as it is firm and flat whereas the living room carpet and rug make doing jigsaws tricky.
This morning I made a lentil quiche for our tea, I'm so glad you both eat well, we've been having some scrummy foods recently - lentil loaf, nut roast, macaroni peas, thick soup and dumplings, butternut squash baked risotto, stuffed mushrooms, home made pesto and home made pizzas. Yum, you love it all. You love bean sprouts too so we have loads sprouting on the kitchen window cill, they are so good for you.
We collected some flowers when we were out yesterday and put them in the flower press so we will be tightening it every few days.
At breakfast you watched the birds, there are lots of birds chasing each other as it is nesting season so you call the blue tits the 'it birds' as you think they are playing it.
You started writing some letters to post and Edward you practised joined up writing without any help and Molly you wrote several words when I wrote the dots for you to write over.
You watched Maddy's Do You Know on TV while Daddy worked and I went out to the shop and to deliver some surprises to Meema, it was great to see her. It felt strange to be out, there were lots of people in scarves, face masks and plastic gloves and only a certain number of people allowed in each shop at a time, with grids on the floor so 2 people aren't near each other at any one time. While I was out I saw our friend called Rodney, you know him as Father Christmas Rodney. I saw him running and pulled over so I could chat to him as we've been wanting to visit him and Margretta for ages and haven't been round. He said it made his day to see me. It was hard not to hug him to say hi, but I didn't. I didn't bother with Sainsburys as the queue to get in was so long, so I went to Hethersett farm shop instead. I also called in at Mulbarton farm shop and picked up some more fresh things and quails eggs for you as you both love them. I was shocked at how expensive everything was - bananas, broccoli and cauliflower were each something like £6/kilo! and strawberries were £4.95 a punnet!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm not sure how much they are normally but they are no where near that much!!!!!!!
I have always said I would not want to home school you but because I'm loving having you both at home with me, I think it will be a hard decision when you are due to go back to school, you say you do want to go back so I think you probably will. Although we are not formally doing any schooling, there is so much for you to learn from what we do every day.
Love from Mummy.x