Cotswold Perspective

Rosemary, Rodborough Common


‘Love in a time of Plague’  

1665 - Eyam, Derbyshire 


Childhood sweethearts Emmott Sydall, and Rowland Torre were newly betrothed when the plague broke out in Eyam.  


Emmott lived in Eyam, and Rowland, the son of a flour miller, came from the neighbouring village of Stoney Middleton.  


In what was an historical act of self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of Eyam quarantined themselves in order to protect others, but Emmott and Rowland continued to meet in secret. They would each walk across the 'High Peak’ grasslands from their villages and down to a rocky gorge called Cucklet Delph where a small river separated them. There they would call to one another, and discuss their hopes and dreams for the future.  


As the months wore on, Emmott lost her father followed closely by her five siblings, which left just her mother and herself.  


Rowland attempted to comfort Emmott in her loss, but in fear she begged and pleaded with him to stay away from their meeting place to minimise his risk.  


Rowland did, however, continued to visit the gorge in the vain hope that one day she might appear.  


On 29 April 1665, almost 8 months after the Plague had arrived in Eyam, Emmott sadly perished.  


The Plague lasted in Eyam for 14 months but It was a further 2 months until the village was finally pronounced as safe to enter.  Rowland was one the first people to visit, only to be told by his sweethearts mother, who survived, that his beloved Emmott had died.  


Heartbroken, Rowland lived to a great age, but never married.


Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children

Marli Rose Macrae, age 9

Today I woke up to the sound of my brother running into my room. I didn’t want to wake up but in the end, I did.   We start every day with mummy’s PE class in the garden then we wash and have breakfast. I had a toasted bagel with butter but on weekends I am allowed Nutella on my bagel. Mummy still makes us follow these rules but sometimes the days feel the same, it doesn’t feel like week days and weekends anymore. On weekend days though, we don’t do any school work, just reading. We do our maths work in the morning and I am learning how to tell the time better. Franklin has more work than me and he has to email it to his school. Mummy has given us a project each and after maths we do our work on these. I have been learning about birds and butterflies and Franklin has been studying mantarays. We are reading Goodnight Mr. Tom together and have to do writing on that too. It is a sad book about an evacuee from London who has been abused and is traumatised but his life is getting better with Mr. Tom. Afterwards, I remembered I had to make some presents for my toy rabbits because it is their birthdays this Friday. We will be having a tea party with them with salads and Victoria Sponge. I made Cotton Tail a bottle green, sparkly ball and for Matilda, a pink scarf with fringing. I took my knitting into Franklin’s room while he played with his Lego.


We decided to put the Easter decorations up. We have all sorts of things, huge yellow honeycomb eggs and honeycomb carrots and an Easter wreath we made when we were tiny. We cut some cherry blossom branches to hang things from, we call it an Easter tree. I’m not sure what my favourite decoration is but I like the cockerels and I love the bluebird in the nest. I call her Skye.


Daddy is working from home now and it’s good because we can eat with him more and he is cooking more too.  It was a bit different to a cheese sandwich today because he made Spanish omelette, minty peas, spicy tomato sauce, chorizo sausages and patatas bravas. I thought it was the best tapas dad has ever made. We had our lunch in the garden to make it more wonderful and there were lots of robins flying around and eating worms.


Mummy took us out for a walk. We’re not allowed to go to the park anymore but mum took us to the golf course. No-one is allowed to play golf at the moment so it is empty. I don’t really feel anything about Lockdown but I do miss being outside. 


Franklin Lewis Macrae, age 11

Today after our work we went to the golf course. There is a footpath and you must stay on it but because it is now empty, we could explore. Usually there are very angry and grumpy golfers who are furious at us for being on the footpath but today I jumped on the mounds and sand pits and climbed the trees. I did lots of stunts, leaping off the mounds and my mum filmed it all for me. We have been in the garden lots and I have been helping out there more. Later, I am laying a path in our garden with some old red bricks we found. You have to dig out the soil and then lay the bricks. This is so we don’t walk on the strawberries or the rhubarb. I’m starting to find quarantine infuriating because I can’t go to the Downs or the beach or see my friends.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk

Just spent at least 5 minutes looking for my notebook. Picked a lovely selection of scented narcissus and viburnum from the garden which are on my kitchen table smelling lovely.  


There was an interesting programme on Radio 4 this morning discussing women's immune response as they have two X chromosomes, compared to men who have only one X and their immune response is more sluggish because of this where as women tend to have a more ferocious response which explains why women have more auto immune conditions.  


I wonder how women with auto immune diseases who are not immuno compromised would cope with Covid 19. I have an auto immune thing which I control with diet so if I had Covid 19 and needed a stronger immune response would it work if you gave me a Victoria sponge cake full of jam and cream?  


Yesterday, I spent most of the day in the garden and in the afternoon Earnie and I went for a walk down our normal track in the middle of nowhere, me in my shorts! I was just looking around at my social isolation landscape and then a bloody car came steaming up the track with dogs running behind. I grabbed Earnie but they stopped still quite along way from me and reversed to the corner where the track goes off at a right angle.  


I walked on over the stream and through the little woody path with celandines and up the hill. Later when I was walking back, what I can only describe as a missile flew just over my left shoulder with a whoosh and then a second or two later there was a loud bang in the next field behind me. I was trying to work out the trajectory of the bullet which came over at an angle from the far right hand corner of the big potato field and ended up in the next potato field. 


I called Earnie who was behind the hedge and put him on the lead and looked around for someone with a gun. No one! Then I saw the dust stream from the car from that far right hand corner and then the white car appeared steaming up the track.  


The lovely Queen came into our sitting rooms last night. So calm, so measured and perfectly coiffed. She bumped Boris off the headlines on the BBC although ITV bumped the Queen as they announced that Boris had gone into hospital.  


I must do some work. Love Annabel xxx


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK

Woke to something of a panic - there was a hen loose in the garden. Sudden dreadful realisation that a late ‘Live from No 10’ plus eagerness to see what the Queen had to say yesterday evening had thrown my routine out and I’d forgotten to go out and lock the hens into their relative overnight security. Relative because it’s a polytunnel for god’s sake. I mean, what could be designed to be less fox proof than a sheet of polythene. Anyway, I went out and sure enough only three came pumping up to be fed, and no sign of the fourth. With a heavy heart I looked around for signs of a struggle, a sad clump of black feathers, a plump and happy fox curled in a sunny corner - but nothing. It was waiting for me at the back door. The hen that is, not the fox.

We got nothing much yesterday from No 10 except the unwelcome news Boris has, after 10 days of symptoms, been taken off to hospital. Oh, and that otherwise capable but arrogant CMO Scotland, Calderwood was allowed to resign rather than be sacked. 24 hours is a long time in Politics. Broadly, the rest of us must have been relatively well behaved because despite the best weekend weather for weeks there’s no indication of our exercise privileges being withdrawn by Matt Hancock just yet.

I thought the Queen looked very strong and fit, very ... human. She thanked all ‘front liners’ and those who stay at home and then this: “Those who come after us will think we were as strong as any.” That’s the stuff.

Corbyn, McDonald and Abbott are among those who stood down as Opposition Shadows in the wake of Keir Starmer’s election to Labour Leader. He will be announcing their replacements as the week goes on, but an early winner is Lisa Nandy as Shadow Foreign Secretary. She was much my choice for Leader, so, good choice Keir! I wonder how long before the promised collaboration across the divide becomes the normal backbiting. As an associated political ‘aside’, news reaches me from two senior southern NHS management bods that ‘nothing you hear should be believed’ as everything is managed for public consumption, so it’s all a bit sanitised. A case then of “The truth? You can’t handle the truth!!” made real. But it’s always been best to handle Politicians with care.

As isolated life can most easily proceed if you don’t fight it, potter as usual and here gardening is very much ‘the normal’. Among other projects, have finally decided how and where to plant out the fig tree which is ‘going nowhere’ in its pot after a couple of years. As you probably know, you have to constrain the root system somehow. Bob Flowerdew (radio gardening pundit) had the answer: use a scrap stainless steel tumbledrier/washing machine tub and plant it out in that. By sheer luck we have a) a machine repairer nearby - he must have access to scrap machines - and b) a go-between that avoids me actually leaving my sanctuary to get it myself. 

I’ll take the chance on whether I’m tempting Fate planting trees at my time of life and in the current circs. Sheila baked a fabulous chocolate cake, half size so’s not to tempt us too much, but we lashed into it anyway and it won’t last long... in fact the coffee time right now will see it reduced to half, and then there’s the afternoon to get through.


Une vie banale, la France profonde

MJK, Magrie, France


(Reflections of a confined collie/greyhound lurcher, dictated to her humans) 


Not sure what’s happened recently but I walk with my man alone just once a day, much as I did before the woman we share our house with turned up thirteen years ago and took my place on the sofa. We used to walk for hours and miles, across the moors, through meadows where rabbits roamed, along fast-flowing streams and through bracken-dense pheasant-lurking valleys. But I turned fifteen last month and a steady half hour is about all I need these days.   


I’ve been a country dog, then a town dog straining at the leash in the park as pigeons scattered and squirrels sauntered by, now a country dog again, running free in the place I call Happy Valley. There are no rabbits here but lots of smells worth following. I found a boar’s head recently by the stream, left to rot by some untidy hunter. It was interestingly dark, bristly and odorous, but my human pulled me off it. Every time we pass that spot I look for it again but it has gone; the swollen brook must have washed it away. The smell however lingers.  


We’re somewhere far from where I grew up. Three long days in the back of the car, a rolling ride in a huge banging box of lorries and cars, then standing under bright lights while strange people in uniform check my chip and the little blue book that goes with me on my journeys. I’m controlled, checked, chipped, no longer the wind-running free spirit of my younger days.  

My eyes aren’t what they used to be though I can still spot a cat at 50 metres. They’re often my undoing… A neighbour’s cat goes on walks with him – his garde du corps, he says. She’s an honorary dog and I envy her ability to sit on our car roof or imperiously survey her territory from the roof of our porch. Respect to her…  

I find social distancing difficult. Left alone, I’ll wander round to chat to the locals – this village is ‘Chien Central’ and I’ve mates of all sorts from the silly little Cavalier King Charles to the lively young husky cross who visits to ask me out, the neighbour’s tottering Labrador, a medley of rescue mutts and Nestor, who’s a sweet lad but so-o-o slow. I think he failed his brevet as a chien de chasse. We swap fleas – that really winds my humans up and they comb me and apply drops to my fur – but I’m really not all that bothered. You can't beat a good scratch to pass the time.  

Humans who walk with us pass each other at a distance, still stopping to chat with a couple of lead’s lengths between them but no longer stroking us or doing their own hugging/kissing thing. Left loose, I’ll go off a little way to be petted by Lydia, the old Provencal/Corsican lady who sits on her doorstep opposite us. We have a special understanding; she used to have a German Shepherd; I might have liked him.   


We’re spending lot of time inside now. I don’t mind – it’s getting warm by day and stretching out on the cool tiles suits my old bones fine. Food and love help pass the days, even though I no longer hear the rattle of the feed bowl and need a shout to call me to dinner. It would be good to get in the car again and go out to meet friends, but for now I’m content enough with life.


To study a long silence

Nigel Forde, Pocklington

There is a pernicious and widespread myth about writers (and poets in particular): that they happily inhabit an ivory tower far from the busy haunts of men. Mine is base and brickish – even wattle and daub ('Wattle I daub today?') and I'm not sure that I inhabit it altogether happily. I've always been one more interested in exploring what is inside my head than what is beyond the garden and am therefore accustomed to solitude and fairly minimal contact with society in general. But that is not to say I am a recluse, it's just that I like to choose when to be gregarious and when not. As soon as someone says that I absolutely MUST stay in my study and isolate myself, I immediately want to rush off into our little market town, embrace people, skip merrily from shop to shop, join a friend or two for a pint (or two) and be part of the wider world. We need other people because we are human and others help to define us. The injunction 'thou shalt not' holds the seeds of its own destruction. 

Remember this when you try to think, for instance, of the book of Genesis as a trite little fairy tale that holds no truths for us great thinkers in the twenty-first century. It is there at the gates of a huge book and it would be a mistake to consider it as without worth. As soon as there is a rule it is human nature to want to break it.


The world here is full of silence, but it is still there, and the garden is full of sweet scents and birdsong hitherto almost unnoticeable. Suddenly we have become aware. What this will lead to I am incapable of imagining. It gives with one hand and takes with the other. Well, let's just say it's interesting.


There is an impulse to do something, anything. But there is also an impulse to do nothing. I have succumbed to both impulses. Here is a little something cobbled together simply because something needed to be done, otherwise Oh, the guilt, the guilt...


It might have been snow, but it was fulmars,

Herring gulls and oystercatchers with light in their wings.


It might have been a star climbing out of darkness,

But it was a rose, bathing in morning light.


It might have been a consort of viols, but it was the wind

Picking up an argument among the trees.


It might have been an ordinary sunrise, but it was

The first, the very first, in a banquet of tomorrows.


There may be more to write because there always is, but it won't be easy in this half life when I can't go and sing Byrd and Palestrina, when we can't meet in The Tap for a pint of Pocklington Pale, when the library is closed, and the Arts Centre, and when you have to queue for an hour at a supermarket. Meals are a welcome punctuation, we are unedified by too much television; we carry on breathing, we reread old favourites such as Hardy and Michael Innes. We wait for something to happen. Nothing does.


We got this! This could be cool!

t, Rural Norfolk

Another lovely day in the garden yesterday. We each do our own thing, the teen and I. In different areas, quietly engrossed, but not alone, and I enjoy that. The bug motel is completed and looking fabulous, and I hope we may get toads, or a hedgehog moving in at some point. Heck, I may end up moving in once the economic fallout of this shutdown hits us! At least it's been well built, as was explained to me; 'The way you build it would have fallen down in a month". He's not wrong. 


It has been much quieter out in the world today, less traffic on the road across the field, fewer people walking by, so it seems people really are managing to separate their weekend from the working week. 


I spoke with a friend who has always worked a lot from home, and he is frustrated by his colleagues’ newly discovered appetite for video conferencing getting in the way of actually doing any work. It amused me to think, as with a great deal of technology, that just because we can, it does not mean that we should. 

That being said, my day and my energy has been sucked away in tech troubleshooting, and now I am going to go for a long walk to throw my laptop into a faraway ditch.  (I could, but I shouldn’t).


Florist in lockdown

Jane, Near Manchester, England

“I mean, who doesn’t love a good old knees up and a bit of Aggado?” Said Dawn Ward on The Real Housewives of Cheshire. We laughed from our bellies! The tv programme is what my dad would have called ‘utter dross’. Designer dressed, tanned, injected ladies drinking champagne and bickering over various inconsequential scenarios. We love it! Especially now. It’s perfect escapism. I wonder what all these Cheshire housewives are doing lately? Now they won’t have their ‘glam squad’ do they bother with their hair extensions and false eyelashes? Or are they just like the rest of us? Spending long days in their pyjamas on one of their many sofas binge watching ‘The Crown’. 


We got dressed up and stayed in dancing, belated Mother’s Day celebrations, like it says in that quote ‘Dance like no one is watching’ We did because no one was. The queen addressed the nation last night, and Boris is in hospital with a high temperature. I made a flower crown from the left over funeral flowers, I am missing faffing with flowers. We did our big shop at the supermarket today and I bought a hoolahoop.


Only connect

Margaret, Norfolk

‘Only connect!....only connect the prose and the passion.. live in fragments no longer.’

E.M. Forster


I realise that you, the contributors, don’t get to see the appreciative emails or hear the generous remarks that come my way , as I correspond with writers and readers of the journal each and every day . And I just wanted you all to know how important your reporting is to a growing number out there. Also, a lot of you contributors tell me how you really enjoy writing your pieces, as well as reading the others. David Horovitch, for instance, tells me how he looks forward to sitting down to write his piece; he doesn’t know what he’s going to say till he starts typing. Good advice to any who feel nervous about not being sure what to write about. We collect new voices all the time, lose a few for awhile. In fact, as a very laid-back editor, I get a little worried if I don’t hear from anyone for some time. It’s not (just) that I miss that person’s contributions, I begin to worry about their health and well-being, and so I fire off a gentle email.


The week here has been a chapter of accidents: a flooded scullery - my husband, Peter, managed to fix the under-sink plumbing; a fridge seeming to stop working (till I realised I’d turned the temperature knob the wrong way) . Life would be difficult just now if the fridge collapsed. And then, on Saturday, a crown became detached from one of my teeth, followed by the drowning my iPhone. One suddenly realises how self sufficient one can be.. up to a point. What happens in self isolation if one needs a plumber, an electrician, a dentist? With regard to the latter, the Journal provided an answer. Sophie, a dentist in Suffolk, had written a piece on dentistry for us a week earlier. I didn’t know her otherwise, but when I messaged and then phoned her, she was so warm, clear and helpful; she reassured me and advised me to just keep my mouth clean and brushed... I’ve put the said crown in an eggcup for safe keeping for ‘afterwards’. Thank you Sophie. Such kindness. The iPhone problem is not solved . It’s got another day’s isolation in a bowl of rice before I know whether it’s dead or alive. So please all those who text me, I can’t get your texts at the moment. Email me. My iPad is still on dry land.


I’ve had many appreciative comments about the piece by Sandy Connors on April 3rd. Go and read it again in full...

“ I realise that now I look forward to each day’s journal entries. ...

You have begun to feel a bit like neighbours, folks I am learning a little about and each day I want to see how you are faring and hope you stay safe and well, my fellow ‘journalists.’ ”

Thank you Sandy. You speak for many of us. So when one of you emailed me to say you wouldn’t be contributing any more for the moment as both your parents are in hospital with Covid 19 and you don’t want to upset and worry others, I felt deep sadness. Join with me in sending all good wishes for their recovery.

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