Dog Days

Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham




It was the great American photographer Walker Evans who said ‘The artist is an image collector. He/she collects things with his/her eye’. 


When I was painting cityscapes I was collecting whole buildings with the play of light and dark on them. When I introduced cars into the city I couldn’t stop collecting cars. They became so important they took over the city. I knew the makes of cars and became quite good at depicting them especially when moving. Clouds float around inside me. Now that I am looking at dogs they too are everywhere in my mind’s museum. It is strange to me how dogs have silently crept in. For many years I was not particularly fond of dogs. 


As a child living in Asia I was frightened of dogs; they were semi-wild and hunted in packs. I dreamt dogs for a long time, dogs running in the streets, out of control. No wonder, aged 3  I had been bitten on my eyelid by one whose tail I pulled while it was eating. My mother chased it around the compound brandishing a broom. Fortunately I did not lose my eye but the scars remain. 


I am old now, according to the Covid -19 rules, in the over 70’s group so I feel able to embrace dogs! Except today the radio had an item about pets being able to pass on the virus if stroked so the advice was to keep them in - a pet lockdown. 


I must say ‘Wiggins’ remains aloof on the matter of close comfort and is not likely to be moved either as he is fixed in his position on the paper. Yes I have used fixative on the dog ! Is a pastel painting ever finished?  It is for now and I will be leaving Wiggins alone for a few months and move on. 


Now we are into middle of week three I am finding a calmer routine and space in my head where I can substitute fear with more doggy images and some clouds.


Outside today, I have seen people and no dogs. Also two police officers walking down our street purposefully, keeping two metres apart. Are they looking for rowdy pensioners barbecues, loose dogs or wild teenager parties by the River Tiffey? 


I will never know as I am obeying by staying in... and Wiggins too.


A Wymondham Plaguery

George Szirtes, Wymondham, Norfolk


The days rush past, perhaps more so than before the virus took hold. My mind isn't in the best possible state but it functions well enough to write those short late night poems by which I hope to keep reasonably sane, and to pen opinions or reports on the day that are open to any reader. I keep them open because doing so is an editorial responsibility. I cannot bear to write badly so must try to write well. Whether I succeed or not I can't tell but that's not for lack of trying. Write for the reader over your shoulder, said Robert Graves. Hello shoulders.


I do spend some time corresponding with friends, particularly some dear friends who may be alone. Our conversations are better in these circumstances than they have ever been, or maybe it just seems that way.


We got in a walk today, across Toll's Meadow and the cemetery that looks down over the railway line. There seem to be a lot of flowers even on very old graves. Perhaps the keeper of the cemetery decided to brighten up an already rather lovely place, not with real flowers but with artificial ones. Elsewhere the real magnolia are fully out and resplendent. But walking is a little like treading on glass. It doesn't cut but it has a certain fragile quality that is both beautiful and melancholy.


In the early afternoon I wrote another quiz for the grandchildren. That was before the walk and I posted it to them. It turns out they also were walking round a cemetery, the one nearest to them, not because it is a cemetery but because it is the nearest open space to walk in. We must have been walking through our respective cemeteries at the same time.


Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk


Each evening I make a date with someone. I suggest coffee at eleven o’ clock in the morning. ‘Have your cup ready!’ I telephone (rarely have I been so punctual!) and we chat away. Digitalis (aka digital technology) has suddenly become as unreal as the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

I have become rather partial to listening... and coffee that hasn’t been frothed!


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk


Boris is in intensive care. I do hope he's ok. We are not in a disaster movie, they will save him. He's the Mat Damon hero of the piece but there's a very uncomfortable feeling in the air that something awful might happen.  


No shootings have occurred since my near non covid death the other day but I have spoken to the farmer who has given me the number of the specialist policeman who deals with rural crime. They get people who do illegal hare coursing and they have had trouble there in the past. If you google it, if it was a supersonic bullet from a rifle, I felt the shock wave which travels behind the bullet as does the sound which would explain the bang being after the weird missile sensation.  


Anyway back to the general day to day reality of running my life. All my duchess tendencies are coming out. If I was a well healed Edwardian or indeed a duchess, there would be staff and I would be painting in my lovely studio. I spend so much time just keeping things ticking over and never get to No 22 on the list, do some painting. 


I tried to update something on my website but the whole thing needs recoding and updating. Oh God! 


The "cutting garden" is definitely a major distraction and then later in the year there will be all the watering. The green house is heaving and full of jobs to be done. Maybe this year though I might sell a few bunches from the gate as all the dutch flowers maybe more limited. I did actually manage to plant some of my sweet peas.  


There's a lady in the village who walks around with her dog and a bell. Like the plague call to put out your dead. It is so people know she is walking by and if they want to come out and have a chat they can. She says lots of people are opening their doors, teenage boys, children. All sorts.  


Yesterday my list was to do my website so instead I cleaned out the cupboard with the plates in and the drawers with pots and pans and re organised the cake trays. This morning I have dusted and hoovered up down stairs and washed the floor.  Now I am racing to write this and then Earnie and I will go for our walk in our flack jackets! 

Love Annabel xxx


Thoughts from the Suffolk coast

Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold


Thoughts from the Suffolk coast - Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold

I am writing this - sitting in the shade in my garden with a glass of lemonade, my two dogs beside me and looking down to the meadow and trees in blossom. Daffodils, tulips, bluebells, and lots of shrubs burgeoning into life. It’s a paradise this world we live in but yes, there are snakes out there and thorns on the roses and brambles.  


The first Easter card came today, and a couple of letters. Haven’t had a lot of post recently so it was good to get a hand written letter too. We also received our letter from Boris - with the booklet about the virus.  


Redecorating the sitting room is consuming our time. Sometimes we are accompanied by the radio or music but mostly we are in companionable silence with sunshine streaming in through the windows. Three coffees a morning now. What an indulgence!  


A short walk around the fields after lunch and then home. Two quick phone calls. One to a friend who is weary and depressed. The other much more light hearted. When this is over, we will have street parties, he says. Alas, victory is a way off yet.


The Runaway Diaries

Sophie Austin


The Owl

I’m writing this at 2am. 

ou and your dad are fast asleep, but the Owl, that horny beast, is wide awake and twit twooing endlessly. I hear it in my subconscious and I think it’s you crying out, so I snap awake, only to realise it’s the owl. Again. 


Sleep has been tricky for me these last few nights, I think the low level anxiety is seeping in and my body and mind are more alert and less able to switch off. Thanks to the brilliant psychologists in my family I know that it is better to acknowledge the fears and anxiety I have and understand that they are my way of responding to this crisis. My poor sleep, distracted thoughts and jumpiness are all rational responses to the Corona chaos. Better, I think, to have these natural responses, than ignore them and pretend that everything is fine.


I wonder if Mr Johnstone was allowed to acknowledge his symptoms, or if his ‘good spirits’ stopped him from acknowledging the seriousness of his illness. I find myself worrying for him and his pregnant girlfriend. And I never thought I’d say that. Since becoming pregnant with you my self-awareness has developed in such a surprising way. I was never really in tune with my physical self, but growing a new being gave me an extraordinary appreciation of what my body was capable of. Since you arrived I have been better at listening to what my body needs and feels. And now Corona has put me on high alert again; at first listening out for a cough or suspicious aches, but now I’m listening out for the effects such an unknown and potentially lethal situation will have on my mind too. 


I’m also watching for any ill effects on you. Blessedly you are young enough to be distracted easily and the fresh air and nature are proving to be excellent play mates. But I do notice than any time your dad and I have a robust conversation that might snap back and forth a bit quicker than usual, you are very quick to cry, outraged that we are ruining the peace of your safe haven. Of course this is an excellent distraction from our petty squabble (probably just another symptom of our Corona stress) and we do all we can to make you happy and immediately forget who was wrong or right. 

I do think you are missing other small people though; a friend sent through a video of their extremely rotund toddler squawking with joy as she sat in a paddling pool. This video has become your new obsession and you yell ‘appy bebe’ (happy baby) any time you need a joyfilled fix. Much like the rest of my family, you clearly love a funny meme to get you through this strange old time. 


I sit here listening to the owl and hope he gets what he needs to get him through.


Hello from Eastbourne

Macrae children


Problems with the digestive system by Franklin Lewis Macrae


Today I finished my biology assignment about the digestive system. I have found it difficult and I'm still not sure what an enzyme is, I know it's something that breaks down food. I find the science assignments harder to understand at home, we have been given worksheets and reading but the language is complicated, I don't understand it even with dictionary. I was frustrated today and fed up. Mum and dad are helping but it's still hard. It is much easier to understand in the classroom, being taught by a teacher.  I like digestive biscuits though!  When I had finished I went into the garden to top up the tadpole pond as it is hot and the water is evaporating. This is one of my jobs. 


We went for a walk to town and then we had a picnic in the park before returning home to have our lessons in the garden. My anemones are starting to bloom and when mum showed me I was so surprised. I planted them in November and they were tiny corms. We are allowed to choose a lot of the bulbs for the garden and I picked these because I liked the corms.  We had an ice lolly while we were doing our lessons in the garden. I had a break and played with my Rubix Cube before doing some maths. Now I'm writing the isolation journal. We  will then finish for the day and go back to building that path.



A swap by Marli Rose Macrae


I had a big sleep and I woke up feeling full of energy. I went to the toilet and as I walked past I saw that mummy was awake. I knew daddy was awake because I could hear him downstairs and the kettle boiling. I jumped into the bed for a cuddle. I drew a picture of a man named Lytton Strachey at the weekend and mummy told me that a lady from New York wants it. In return, she is going to send me an American stamp! This is wonderful! We have to wait until the virus has gone before we swap though. I collect stamps from different countries, I have some from Canada and one from Hungary because my best friend is half Hungarian and she goes there to see her granny. Lytton Strachey had extremely long fingers. I didn't know who he was, mummy asked me to copy the painting of him. She told me he wrote a book about the Victorians because everyone thought the Victorians were great but he disagreed, they were strict, homophobic and racist even though they were clever.

Mum doesn't want us in our pyjamas all day because she says it makes you sleepy. Some new clothes arrived for us yesterday and we put them on today. There were some baggy trousers for me but they make me look like a clown, they were sticking out at the sides and didn't even fit at the waist. We had to order them as you can't try things on or go shopping at the moment. 


We walked to town but I was surprised to see the car park so empty. We went into Marks and Spencer's and luckily we only had to queue for about a minute.

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