16/04/2020

Covid-19 Lockdown

Maya - 11 :)  Darley Dale, Derbyshire

I lounged around in my bed for all of the morning today! By the time I could be bothered to get out of bed it was 12:30. Later on in the day, I went for my daily bike ride and managed to teach my self to ride no handed! I was very pleased! After my bike ride (and pushing my bike up the steep, usually busy hill) I decided to make some muffins, I made 24 successful fresh rhubarb and ginger muffins with a sticky lemon glaze. They were delicious and my siblings and parents both liked them!! The street where I live is very quiet at the moment but whenever we (by we I mean my parents) do see a neighbour they/we always like to chat for a while - while keeping our distance of course -  about life in lock down, sometimes for aaaaaaaggggggeeeessss!!!!! :)  Life in lock-down is OK I suppose, the worst part is not being able to see my friends, grandparents and other family in person :( .  I am not looking forwards to going back to homeschooling next week because  I think I get less work at school than I am getting as home schooling work, the actual homeschooling idea is alright though!

16/04/2020

Hello From the Hudson Valley

Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York

I did something last night which I had  I promised myself I would not do…. just before I went to bed I went online and looked at the news. Specifically The New York Times. And there on the front page was a long article about how a number of experts believe that outdoors, infected virus particles can travel much further than the 6 feet of social distance spacing we have been practicing and remain more viable for a longer period of time… possibly either hanging in the air for many hours, or possibly being blown great distances by the wind and breezes out of the exhaling mouths of runners, joggers and walkers. Being outside on our early morning hikes has been what has been keeping me sane… and healthy. I thought. As I was reading the article and feeling myself panicking I kept trying to make myself turn off the screen and go to sleep. But no… not only did I read the entire article but then I went on and read many of the comments... most of them alarmist… which made me feel even worse. Were we going to have to stop going outside now too?

 

The result was that I didn’t sleep well, and got out of bed at about 5am. At 6am I could see the beginning of daylight so I took Jay and headed to the trails hoping that I would be the only paranoid out there at that time of day so I wouldn’t have to worry about blowing infected particles. There were no cars parked by the trails. Just ours. I took a moment and measured the width of the trail with my feet…came to about 10 feet which made me feel better. And as we headed onto the trail, we were rewarded by the sight of a pair of coyotes silently crossing in front of us and loping off across the field. At one point, one of them stopped to stare at us, before continuing on across the field. 

 

Being out there calmed my nerves and made me feel grateful again for having those miles and miles of trails with which to feel inspired.

16/04/2020

Tropical Thoughts

Paul Lowden, Malaysia

How odd that the shabby shed should become almost the defining building of these times, a symbol perhaps of resilience, simplicity and maybe isolation too. They come in many shapes and sizes as seen in some of the correspondence. Just before my involuntary incarceration in the tropics I was invited [in the way that Don Corleone invites you] to help take down a friend's shed, one that had perhaps been a touch out of keeping with the conservation area it was [illegally] erected in. Perhaps in many years to come Pevsner might have commented on its stark minimalist Stalinist structure or its Cold War sense of scale but for a ground floor flat back garden in a village high street, it was 'out of place'.   

 

Shed

[Shed: noun, a simple temporary structure for storage; also to get rid of or cast off superfluous matter; also to shine a light on, to illuminate.]

 

A robin atop a wooden handle,

Rustic barrow, watering can, seeds, twine,

Compost mushrooming from spidery sack

Ill-fitting door, rattling latch, cracked pane.

 

No bucolic vision: this shed, driven

Ashore by a gale like an oil rig stranded

Straddles the back garden, four square.

Normans could defend its walls and laugh

A siege to scorn; its rooftop battlements

Would house a troop of archers: councillor beware!

Bold the rebels then who, blighted, now dare

Seek its demolition. Charges are laid.

 

Planks, joists, purlins, rafters, beams, soffits, struts,

Roofing, insulation sheets, all dismembered.

Within, a paradise of wonky nails, 

Useful rusty screws, worktops-various hues-

More cladding than Chernobyl’s seen [part used]

Wood of course, lengths random, some pots of paint 

Convenient in times to come, no doubt.

Foundations plummet down, midst rubble, clay

“Built to last…like Rome, not done in a day.”

Four tyres lurking too and then a surprise, 

No actual car is buried inside.

 

Where will these extras go instead?

Oh look, a little garden shed!

Yeats' extraordinary vision of an apocalyptic state of affairs where 'things fall apart' has a certain resonance. Oddly it is reassuring that his poetry should provide a window, to echo Mr Scupham, on a world view that we have not reached. And yet out walking [sans binoculars-left behind in UK] when the bird of prey spiralled up it was hard not to imagine Mr Yeats sucking his pencil and pondering what this might portend...

 

A sight worth seeing

 

Turning and turning the raptor rises

Thermalling the wind of the approaching storm.

Squinting, the outstretched wings blur to a mote

And then I can see no more. Below little moves.

Dual carriegeways hover mid-bridge, stalled construction sites

Encircled by hoarding strain upwards, 

Scaffolding claws the air. And further still

Brochured estates sweat it out; cracked pools, wiring 

Spiralling from concrete slabs, windowless, sightless.

Jungle that used to be there bides its time.

The upwelling swamp, the vicious grasses, 

Skittering claws and carapaces.

A roaring silence except in the mewing distance

Something stirs. 

 

 

With the miracle of the internet one can feel close to events at home. I happened upon a BBC clip of an NHS worker, knackered at the end of her shift, giving vent to her feelings about the shelf-stripping public. Here there are no shortages of anything [at least not of things that I wish to buy] but the notion of staggering in from work to find nothing at all was pretty shocking. It also came at a time when some of the illustrations here for social distancing were of someone at trolley length separation from the person in front; as if the arm +trolley were evolutionary symbiosis! As a fan of Attenborough I fantasised that his voice would be calmly and astutely commenting on this new species that has evolved; those little pauses, that wry shrug of the blue-shirted shoulders, that hushed, genial but steely resolve in the tone! 

 

Homo Supermarket-trolleyus

 

How amazingly apt that, down from the trees,

Our fore-limbs adapted with predatory ease

To hunter, gatherer, stalker of aisle,

Rootless stockpiler, entreprenurial style.

In their Darwinian view the fattest survive

So heap up the trolley, the cuckoo’s alive

And damned be those who’ve just arrived.

14 hour shifts and 3 days straight, she was

Just one who got there too late; empty shelves

Gasped, so red-eyed on the bus she sent us

A message. I wondered what would happen

If, next on the ward, she encountered these folk

Now desperate for help: “Oh what a shame, no

Medicine for you; get in early, like I do!”

16/04/2020

From Rural New York

Sandy Connors, USA

This is something of a confession but one I heartedly recommend ~ I accidentally stumbled across video clips from a BBC show I that I have never seen before ~ The Graham Norton Show. It has had me enthralled with hilarious interviews with the most entertaining people ~ I spent more hours than I care to admit, but all my out-loud gaffaws and laughter were worth it ~ so good for the soul!

Thank you so very much, David H, for your link ~ I will get serious tomorrow.

16/04/2020

Bookbinding

John Underwood, Norfolk

Family entertainments.

I spent yesterday making a box for a collection of manuscript Victorian parlour games that we have recently acquired. As well as binding books, many binders make boxes. This might be, as in this case to keep loose items together, or possibly to contain a book that has been bound, or a book that either cannot easily be bound or is important to keep in original condition in a disbound state. Some books are beyond binding, at least, beyond my capabilities to bind, or would need so much paper repair that the cost of the repair would be more that the value of the book fully restored. Boxes are pleasant to make because the results are usually worth the effort. They are fiddly, and you need to have mastered working tidily with paper and glue. One spot of glue in the wrong place can mean a whole new cover, or peeling off marbled paper, cleaning, and replacing. One of those jobs that needs doing properly the first time. 

 

Ally and I have not yet got out the playing cards for contract whist, or dug out the Monopoly set, although we have talked about it. My sister is doing 1000 piece jigsaws, and all over the country families must be trying to find activities that can fill the long lockdown days. 

 

The manuscript parlour games are charming - all from the same home in Suffolk, and dating perhaps from the mid nineteenth century. One is a game based around a dream, and precious stones. Players have to read rhyming cards aloud which teach about the origins of the various stones. The Sapphire for example begins ;

 

“ From India’s burning clime I came, 

  With all the Pride of eastern dame,

  I long to shine in Ladies Hair,

  Or deck the arm of beauty fair.

  Tis said that if I’m cast in fire,

  My Sapphire beauties soon expire…”

 

A fine is paid if a card is not read, and players must rise from their seats if the name of a precious stone that they hold the card for is read, and fined if they fail to do so. When the word “jeweller” is mentioned, all the jewels must rise or be fined. The fines may be redeemed at the end by performing “the required penance”. Another game give cryptic clues to different authors whose names must be guessed, another has risqué questions and answers for the ladies and gentlemen present, and the last is a series of gold-edged cards with cryptic conundrums to be guessed. It is difficult to imagine the starched gentility of the participants in these games - at least in this household. Perhaps you are all crinolined in the parlour or withdrawing room sipping Lapsang Souchong from delicate bone china with your pinkies raised. I like to think of you that way.

16/04/2020

Youlgrave lockdown

Dianne, Youlgrave Derbyshire

Sleep. This is very strange. For years I have been a poor sleeper - I refuse to use the word insomniac. Often I would only sleep for two or three hours. Now I am sleeping six to seven. Trying to analyse this I can only think that my mind has decided that this is all beyond anything I can control so there is no point in worrying or even thinking about it. Usually my brain buzzes away with inconsequential thoughts and refuses to switch off. Now it's calm.

 

As a very young child I slept in a bedroom with my 4 year's older brother. He told me that the filament in the lightbulb was a little man and if I didn't do as he said he would tell the little man to come and get me. It wasn't clear what the little man would do to me but I was terrified. Also he said that if I told mum about the little man he would definitely tell him to come and get me. It wasn't until I was grown up that I remembered this and told my mother. She then understood why she had had to sit on the tiny landing outside the bedroom door in the freezing cold waiting for me to go to sleep - no central heating or even a bathroom in our house then. I can still picture her with her knitting turning to check my eyes were closed and if they weren't saying crossly, 'close your eyes and go to sleep'.

 

I really hope I continue to be a 'good' sleeper when all this is over. Something positive to come out of this time.

16/04/2020

Florist in lockdown

Jane, Near Manchester, England

“Unclaimed” I’m still slightly haunted by the bodies in pine boxes on Hart Island, New York. So much so that I say to my family, “Even if I die alone on a desert island, miles from anywhere, you better come and claim me! Even if we can’t afford the funeral, you better come and claim me!” “Don’t worry, we’ll donate your body to medical science and if they don’t want you we’ll stick you on a pole in your allotment, you can be a scarecrow!!” Came the replies. “That’s fine by me”.

 

Deaths from Coronavirus exceed 12,800 now, I don’t think that includes deaths in care homes and the community. All those goodbyes not kissed. 

 

Wonderful to see Captain Tom Moore, the World War Two veteran, on the news. He’s raised over twelve million pounds for the NHS by walking laps of his garden. Astonishing! I think he’s captured the nations hearts. Another astonishing thing was Michael Sheen’s portrayal of Chris Tarrant in the tv drama about the couple who cheated on “Who wants to be a Millionaire” I think it was called Quiz. He’s such an amazing actor.

 

We are in week four now and I feel like I need some sort of new routine, otherwise I will never be able to get up for work. In ‘normal life’ I usually have at least one list on the go. Brides to telephone, suppliers to call, orders to fulfil, appointments to arrange etc. I find a pen and paper. So far on my list today I’ve got: make nettle plant fertiliser, wax top lip. What to do first?? Happy clapping everyone (it’s Thursday). Xxxxxxx

16/04/2020

Dog Days

Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham

Not Exercising Dogs 

When I hear about the daily death rate it is like ‘another nail in the coffin’ kind of experience, not the final nail but each day it brings home to me the many people suffering a terrible loss. A friend says she can’t listen to the news anymore.

 

That is how I feel today as it is the anniversary of my father’s death, twelve years ago but the sense of loss is still with me, lessened in acuteness but still remembered. He was nearly 101 and like the indomitable lady aged 106 years old coming out of hospital after contracting Covid-19, he might have survived if he had caught the deadly virus . He was that sort of character too, indomitable. I am relieved he is not here now because the anxiety of not being able to help him (and my mother) would be intolerable. If this was happening twelve years ago my younger self would probably cope but there would be a price to pay. The families who are in this situation now, both carers and their elderly relatives, how are they coping? 

 

It is a deep human need to help and support others. With this in mind I want to remember the pregnant nurse who died yesterday after giving birth. It is dreadfully upsetting news. I think of all the sacrifices the 'front line’ of carers and NHS staff have and are giving so the seriously sick may come through this pandemic. I think giving every carer a badge (Nick Hancock’s Press Briefing) is a gesture, or is it like a war medal? There has been a lot of talk about this being a war against the virus. Will the Government get them manufactured in time? Will it be awarded posthumously? 

 

We have been told to exercise by the chief medical advisor. It is the best way to stay healthy in body, mind and soul while in lockdown. All ages, just what you can manage, you can do it in the comfort of your home. Are we being prepared for a total lockdown?  Before it was a 30 minute walk outside being necessary for physical and mental health. I looked out an instruction booklet produced by BBC Television, price two shillings and sixpence that I had found when clearing out my parents house, ‘Keep Fit with Eileen Fowler’ exercises for women! Leafing through the exercises (enough exercise for me) the ones that caught my eye were Rock and Roll ( to music She was a sweet little Dicky Bird), Winter Waistline (to music Marguerite Tango), Sitting Pretty ( floor exercise to the music The Cokey Cokey!!) Like Wiggins (where is he?) I am SO excited to begin this new healthy regime!!

16/04/2020

Choose Something Like a Star

Kate, Hitchin

I think yesterday will be one of those days that I'll remember snatches of, in times to come... the walk, safely distant from a very old friend, the quiet rolling fields, the bluebells and pigeons. The nettles and leaves underfoot and the tiny butterflies. Paths, big old flints. A pool of stagnant water and an old tree with what really looked like a fairy door in a perfect arch at the foot.

 

Crackers, lukewarm coffee in a flask. 

A church, the old door open with a description inside of George Orwells cottage nearby, and how he based Animal Farm here. 

My friend says the Lords prayer in Latin, a leftover from a Catholic schooling.

I brought some large flints home... they are so much lovelier than any manmade sculpture.

Covid19 seems very, very far away - but it's because of this that we were there that day.

16/04/2020

Home Thoughts

Hilary Q, North Norfolk

The first swallow against an Yves Klein sky... 

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