From Rural New York
Sandy Connors, USA
It is the evening before Easter and I find myself searching for my mother’s recipe for Lamb Cake which both she and I have always made for Easter dinner. It will just be me tomorrow and I wonder if I should go ahead and make it anyway ~ just because ~ it will make my three brothers and my son and daughter-in-law happy to see it when we facetime tomorrow, I think. Keeping up spirits and treasuring family traditions, I suppose, is a lovely thing to do ~ but who will eat it all? I think I will sleep on it ~
Meanwhile, I have just loved reading the posts from the Macrae children, and marvel at their wonderful writing abilities, encouraged by their parents, and aren’t they lovely to read! David H, I was so disappointed to not find the Once Upon a Coronavirus which you mentioned, on-line here in the US, for I would dearly love to hear you and others reading to us; and Billy H, I think you are very clever and imaginative with your love of reading, keen observations and a sister and mother all game to have a little fun with you all dyeing your hair! I wonder how it all turned out!
Wishing everyone a happy Easter and Passover ~
Hello From the Hudson Valley
Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York
I just had to telephone the police. When Michael, my husband, drove out a short time ago, he saw a woman kneeling and praying in the middle of the road about 300 feet down from our drive. She wasn’t moving and he had to drive around her. After he passed her, he pulled to the side of the road and phoned me to tell me about her. Seemed dangerous to me so I reported it. So eerie.
My niece, Hannah, lives near Central Park in New York City. The other day while she was walking through the park, she tripped and fell. She told me that as she was going down, a number of people instinctively came running to her aid, but because of required six feet of social distancing, she, in a panic, had to wave them away, as they, in a panic realized they could not help her up. She managed to limp home with a sprained ankle and scraped knee.
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Not a great deal to report. Still can't understand every one talking about all the time they have to spare as I am so busy and never get enough done. On the to do list today are, cut the grass, clean out the chickens, prick out the tithonia seedlings, sow zinnia and pumpkin seeds, rake raised beds, walk the dog, cut a piece of oil cloth and I have some crackers in the oven and florentines in progress.
I am loving all the stories of the ever practical British when given a reason to be so. On the news the other day there was a family in a suburban North London house who crowd funded a couple of 3D printers and have turned their sitting room into a factory. He works for Nissan as an engineer so they have been roped in as well as has his brothers and they are producing 56,000 visors a week! All the crafters are sewing scrubs and masks and art school tech staff are producing visors.
My nearly 90 year old mother (if she reads this this she'll say that I always add on a year, she's nearly 89) is making headbands to go under the masks for the NHS after she has done her 10,000 steps walk around the Dorset coastal path and beach where she lives with her whippet .
Last night I smacked my self on the bridge of my nose with the hose connector. It flicked back and smashed into my glasses that flew away and I couldn't see to find them so I scraped about patting the ground! I really hate hoses and I have about seven to get furious with!
I am pleased to report that Boris has been discharged from hospital and now he has to recuperate for a few weeks. Yesterday he said the NHS saved his life. I hope they get a pay rise.
Must get the florentines out of the oven.
PS My mum sent me a lovely meerkat.
Counting my blessings
Remember the Flanders & Swann song 'The gasman came to call...….
This is my little saga.
In appreciation of my lovely neighbours who are doing my shopping, posting letters, collecting my newspaper, chatting over the fence, I am enjoying making cakes, scones and today mushroom soup for them. Blender and Kenwood Chef (wedding present in 1964) packed up last week so bought new food processor from Argos which took me hours to assemble and when the task was done, I switched it on with soup ready to blend...….nothing happened. I took the soup next door with a note saying 'Sorry you will have to blend it yourself!' My sweet neighbour offered to have a go at assembling the wretched processor for me and got it going but in the meantime I had cut my finger quite badly on one of the sharp blades. Spots of blood all over patio and kitchen floor as blood poured forth. Then I had to bandage finger up and scrub blood off the patio and floor. I shall never alter the processor. Today's blessing is a young neighbour who knows about gadgets and her husband who is tall enough to lop branches off my holly trees, brings my paper and posts my letters.
Playing with glass
SFB, Norfolk, UK
My progress so far. A technique I have been developing to reflect the nature of the Covid19 virus. The blue and white colourway on these coasters seems pertinent somehow.
A dear college friend (we graduated from Hornsey Art College (Graphics) in 1971) has 3 wonderful sons. They are all brilliant in their individual ways but one of them is now working as a Graphic Designer in London.
He has used his talents to create a logo in support of the NHS and is now having it printed on T-Shirts with 100% of the profits going to NHS Charities Urgent Covid-19 appeal.
I have just placed my order and I thought I'd share the link with you. The front is discreet - the back is bold.
We got this! This could be cool!
t, Rural Norfolk
So after taking our time working out what day it was, yesterday evening it was apparent we really have lost track.
Teen “Was it a two or three week lockdown?”
Me “Three, I think we’ve done two”
Teen “Nah, it’s been a week”
Me, “Do you think? Maybe. I don’t know...”
In our defence, a facet of my sons dyslexia is that he muddles days of the week, and months of the year. So measuring any event by day or date does not create an anchor in time, and perhaps that helps. We eventually established that it will be three weeks tomorrow, and the teen concluded it hadn’t been so difficult really.
Of course it was never going to be only three weeks. If I look in my diary all I see are scribbled marks where before there had been appointments and meetings, deadlines and exams, friends and concerts. All gone. And time drifts.
My little fundraiser went better than I dared hope, and yesterday evening, with my boy for company and a fabulous sci fi audiobook, I returned to a previous painting project with an easier heart.
I continue to avoid the news, and where it creeps up on me in unexpected places I skim read. I am so cross about the abuse of statistics, to the extent that I might as well report that “today, twelve apples, pears ascendant, throw in a banana.” So much speculative nonsense, I suppose because science will take time, and that doesn’t keep a live feed updated every 5 minutes with sound bites and click bait. I can’t help but hope the ‘news’ industry might vanish in a vortex of its own self indulgence.
Today, of course, is undeniably a date in the calendar. I’m posting earlier than usual so I can focus on The Roast, then board games. We have a few that are two player games, but of a kind that can warp time like a lockdown.
And next week, since all days seem equal, I’m thinking, maybe we could do Shrove Tuesday again. Because who’s counting, and pancakes always seem to taste best on Pancake Day. But first I’ll need to hunt down some eggs that aren’t chocolate.
John Underwood, Norfolk
Is learning simply a matter of our brain and body prioritising pieces of information in different ways? If this is so, I wish that my fingers would catch on a little more energetically as I struggle to learn to play the piano after a gap of some fifty years. A fellow journal writer is attempting to learn some of Shakespeare’s sonnets each week, which seems a wonderful thing to do. To have such rich language in one’s brain, and voiced constantly as one learns the rhythms and pattern of each sonnet must be a challenge and a joy. The individual words themselves will be “ known” however, within our vocabulary if not always in regular parlance today. The learning process must be a matter of assimilating these known words in their unfamiliar order, into our memory, like assembling a series of Lego bricks into a new model. I realise that this reduces Shakespeare’s genius down to the level of absurdity, like saying that the game of Football is a “bunch of men kicking the inflated skin of a cow around”.
I am struggling with trying to play some favourite Beatles tunes. Not because the Beatles are an all time favourite, but because I happen to have the sheet music for their songs. I hadn’t realised how complex the tunes were. You find yourself playing a tune, “Blackbird” for example, in three flats- and then suddenly a natural note is thrown into the mix, and you have to remember this for the whole bar. The words “ Blackbird fly” in the song , is a series of six descending chords in the left hand, and the same number of chords and single notes in the right. The words repeat, and the same chords too, until the last two, where a key change is introduced. What is wonderful is that the whole tune resolves itself into the right key at the end. Magic. To quote Eric Moorecambe, “ I am playing all the right notes, not necessarily in the right order”. I feel barbarous as I mangle the beauty of the tune and rhythm, like a pagan Viking on the rampage in an early Christian monastery. I am trying to force my brain and body into accepting these notes as a whole system, and into reproducing it at will. Isolating oneself in viral times is a mirror for this process. The component parts of our lives are being deconstructed and rebuilt as the weeks go by. We assimilate new patterns and new ways of interacting with other people. Meeting people on a daily walk has become a new social situation to negotiate. Our bodies are starting to react differently, with more anxiety, we tense with a “ fear and flight” instinct. We are living in a William Burroughs novel, where sentences are cut up and pasted into a different order.
I am most interested in how we will behave as a society when this virus is being managed, what we will have learned . Learning to act collectively is a good starting point. Will we still laud those who care for others, or allow the tedious and shabby hedge fund managers to continue to make a profit from gambling with our financial systems? Will vacuous “celebs” command the attention as they did before? A well known top hatted politician supposedly has a share in a fund which, it was reported in the newspaper, suggested that there was “good money” to be made in these times. An American counterpart reportedly made $2.6 billion dollars betting on a falling market. He had placed his bet shortly before a world pandemic was announced, and cashed in as markets fell. The carers who wash the bodies of the elderly in care homes without access to adequate protective clothing, are sacrificing themselves. Christ washed the feet of his disciples. We get to choose what resurrection looks like.
Chris Gates, Norfolk UK
So, inexcusably late and only after seeing the online and TV fallout from the refusal to answer the NHS mortality question, Hancock appears on video from home with an answer: “19”. Then in a spectacularly wriggling caveat adds “but we don’t know if they contracted the virus at work”. Like he’s a loss adjuster trying to minimise an insurance claim. Out here in the real world, no-one believes it’s as low as 19 anyway. This is followed by Priti Patel, taking Saturday’s briefing, responding to a hack’s request to apologise for lack of PPE where needed by saying “if people feel let down, then I apologise.” IF? Our frontline people are dying for want of proper protection. They continue to appear on tv and radio relating their experiences. This Cabinet is not of the highest calibre, spouting shameless deception day after day. The ScotsNats, Greens and Keir Starmer are on the case, wanting to hold Ministers to account in Parliament (where wriggling is more difficult) and they’ve asked Jacob Rees Mogg, titular head honcho of the Conservatives and Leader if the House for urgent consultation about getting Parliament open - maybe ‘virtually’ - to do just that. Meanwhile, in the real world, active outworkers in the rag trade have taken the initiative and formed ‘Scrubhub’ (https://scrubhub.org.uk/) to mobilise their collective manufacturing potential if material supplies and co-ordinated transport can be organised. They are deliberately sidelining formal channels as they evidently can’t deliver and deal direct with local demand. Well done them.
Something the Home Sec did reveal that was an interesting and most unwelcome side effect of domestic containment, perhaps with a partner who’s been laid off work: reported incidence of domestic abuse is up 120%. Given the imprecision of briefings, I can't help wondering if she knows the difference between a 20% increase and six times that number... both awful, of course. Either way It does rather contrast with our very fortunate existence here, amiable companionship, plenty of space. In some ways it seems very unfair that we, who had the best of times through post-war years and have arrived at companionable, pensioned, comfortable old age continue to have the best of it while younger folk on who we rely to provide are having the worst of it.
ITV have got hold of the news that 250 Cambridge medical students are to be declared ‘passed’ and immediately put to work, four months early. Blimey. Wartime Conscription. Lambs
I think I mentioned we’re participating in a coronavirus tracking survey by self-reporting daily. I wanted to email them this morning and was surprised to get my mail bounced back as undeliverable. Found I’d typed ‘corvidtracking’ in the address bar instead of ‘covidtracking’. A website dedicated to tracking members of the Crow Family around Britain - now there’s a distraction, I like a bit of birdwatching. I’m currently disproportionally pleased that a pair of White Wagtails have taken up residence in the outhouses we call ‘Desolation Row’ on account of their condition (the buildings, not the Wagtails) and spend their time bobbing about on the grass, looking for whatever it is Wagtails are happy to spend their days searching for. Distraction is welcome, the restriction of isolation affects us all in different ways. I got the mower out yesterday though the grass didn’t really need cutting. Had a lovely, illicit bit of socialising over a glass of wine with neighbours, sitting at safe distance and with only one hand on the bottle(s).
Sheila has just suggested that after a day of gardening today, we should change out of ‘day clothes’ into something smart for dinner. She should get out more... sorry, of course, she can’t. Anyway, I find I’ve put on a kilo and a half in the past week or so - I probably shouldn’t be fixating on dinner at 9.30 in the morning, dressed or not.
Lily Wonham, Bristol
I have found the second week of furlough/lockdown has dragged significantly more than the first. The lack of a social calendar and of things booked in the diary are starting to take their toll. My scheduled 'quarantine activities' are as diverting as ever - various online courses, reading, some crafts, writing, running, cooking and yoga, but it's the small moments in between that become difficult. I imagine myself frozen in amber, anxiously waiting for something to change.
I am one of the unlucky people who lives in a separate household to my partner and it can be easy to feel sorry for myself and how much I miss him (and of course, the many other people I love). The separation would be easier to handle if we knew when it will be over. At the moment it feels like time is an exponential curve which will just get slower and slower so we never quite reach the finish line. When I get bogged down I count my blessings- I have so much to be thankful for. Today there are daffodils on the table. My housemate and I are cooking a nut roast for Easter Sunday lunch. Later we will watch the National Theatre's Jane Eyre and enjoy the rewards of the Easter Egg hunt we are setting up for each other around the house. After all, life is happening right now and it would be foolish to wish it away. As much as it feels like we have become displaced in time, it bears us forwards.