Rosemary, Rodborough Common
We are known as a nation of gardeners - we delight in our flower gardens filled with colour. We enjoy growing and picking our own vegetables. We wax lyrical about their flavour and how delicious our own tomatoes smell and taste compared with produce from the shop.
Now, I am suddenly questioning why is it that the Government has deemed Garden Centres as non essential, and yet Off-licenses have been allowed to remain open? It appears that it was a move to bring cheer to millions of hard-pressed consumers shut-up at home with pubs closed, but what consideration has been given to those of us that want to spend time in our gardens growing our own flowers and produce! Keeping the recommended distance apart would be very easy in a garden centre and nurturing plant life must surely be of help to us during this difficult period.
I heard a hospital doctor talking and he said that currently there has been an increase in alcohol related problems in A&E along with domestic violence which often tend to go hand in glove.
Even people residing in flats can grow plants on their window ledges and balconies. Flowers, herbs, tomatoes - can you imagine just how much pleasure that could give to those looking out on nothing but windows and brick walls? Interacting with Mother Nature is an essential part of our well-being.
Faced with a similar crisis during WWII everyone was encouraged to have a Victory garden, also called war gardens or food gardens to supplement rations and also to boost morale.
An unexpected sunny day we took full vantage of. We deemed that classes finished at midday and lunch on the hill behind the estuary more important than Standard Form Maths (the Daughter), the 6 times table (the Son), or the finer details of Congruence (me).
I was told that to eat a hard-boiled egg - just as it is - proved I was OLD, that I'd taken a little pinch of salt screwed up in a scrap of baking paper sealed the deal. The Daughter could not contain her laughter as I carefully dunked my egg in my cupped palm.
She demonstrated her lanky youth by attempting to balance on a fence and Floss at the same time - perfectly executed.
The Son spent the entire walk negotiating behaviour patterns that may result in use of the X Box "if I don't keep asking, but you forget by accident, and then I ask again - is that going to mean I'm pestering? If I wash my hands when we get in AND make the tea - without being asked - would that mean I could do the thing I want to do that I'm not pestering you about?" and so on ad infinitum.
All I wanted was a moment of quiet to take in the view and enjoy my egg.
John Underwood, Norfolk
The copy of John Aubrey’s “Miscellanies”that I rediscovered in my cupboard is well underway. It arrived originally in a sorry state. Someone had bodged a repair and glued the text block (the pages) into a truly horrible and inept binding. Glue had spread from the binding to the title page, which had in turn been used to reinforce the inner hinge of the book, further damaging it. It needed complete restoration. I had previously got as far as breaking the book down and sewing it up again on to hemp cords, and gluing the spine using exactly the same materials as were used originally.
The book had modern boards, covered in printed marbled paper, and could not be reused. I do gather boards from discarded bindings, usually still covered in their original leather. This is not always retrievable. The leather can be carefully peeled off the cardboard, but there are difficulties with gluing the old leather back on to a new binding. Sometimes it works, and on other occasions it will stain badly, or shrink. I found some old boards that I thought I could re-use. The old leather needed to be removed and the boards prepared. I usually soak the boards for an hour or so, and the old paper and leather coverings can be scraped off.
C17th boards are basically compressed fibres which become rather rough when the old coverings are removed, and they need pressing in a nipping press, which also squeezes out any water from the soaking process. The damp boards need to dry under weights to keep them flat- our underfloor heating works a treat. At the same time, I will be polishing the surface of the boards with a bone folder, (basically a short piece of sheep rib polished and shaped), to force the roughened fibres back into the surface. I am trying to recreate the look and feel of the boards when they were originally used, so that the surface of the boards will be slightly uneven- as they were originally. If you use modern, very flat and hard card for the boards, you end up with a modern looking binding. Bit by bit, I am trying to recreate what the book would have been like when first bound.
I can’t put my life back as it was, recreate my comings and goings, and I’m not certain that my book selling life will be there to go back to, but I can at least put this book back as it should be, which is a kind of restorative comfort.
David Horovitch, Twickenham
I am an actor. I have been an actor for more than fifty years. In that time I have spent more evenings on the boards than off 'em. I am used to applause. Eight times a week I have been applauded, night after night. Punters often say 'That's the moment that you live for isn't it, that's what makes it all worthwhile' but the truth is that the curtain call means less than nothing to most of us. We are, as Yeats says ''bred to a harder thing than triumph.' And so, I would suggest, are our NHS workers. I'm all for our Thursday evening ritual of clapping and cheering and banging our pots and pans for two minutes - it's the only means we have of expressing our gob-smacked admiration for their heroic work and I'm sure it's appreciated, but there's something so Marie Antoinetteish about it. Let them eat applause - oh and badges for the care workers - and now I read that the Culture Secretary says it would be 'a very good idea' to have a moment's silence for everyone in The NHS who has died during the crisis. Of course it would but where are the gowns and the masks and the tests?We read that the reason that Korea has handled the crisis so much better than almost any other country is that they listened to the experts and I think back to Michael Gove saying in 2016, the Brexit year,, how sick and tired we all are of the experts. Does he sleep at night? The chickens of austerity are coming home to roost with a vengeance; when Pandora's box was opened it released Sickness, Care and Death into the world but the one thing left in the box was Hope. Well, let's Hope that we get rid of this lot at the next election and that Keir Starmer heads a Clement Attlee like government which puts Health and Education and Equality back at the centre of our national life. Being born of socialist parents just after the Labour landslide of 1945, my middle name is Clement. They always said he lacked charisma didn't they? I'm not sure K.S. has much of that either so that augurs well.Deep intelligence, kindness, confidence, humility...more important now than glamour. Let's hope.
I lay in bed yesterday morning until 10, something I've not been able to do for years and had a really Sundayish day with The Observer crossword, Thomas Hardy, a FaceTime session with two dear friends in North London and in the evening two local friends came round and we sat outside the front door in the evening sun drinking wine and talking and laughing. My neighbour across the landing came in and out with her son and joined the conversation briefly. It was my first real social contact in 4 weeks-extraordinary how something I used to take for granted should feel like such a blessed treat.
This morning it was back to the horrible early morning waking - but then I looked at my phone and saw I had a message from another dear friend in Newcastle where she's isolating with her partner who is not well. Only six weeks ago she and I had been to the BFI to see Fellini's bonkers film about his childhood, Amarcord. We hadn't seen each other for a long time and we had lots to talk about but I'm not sure we talked about Coronavirus at all. It seems like another life. She's reading this journal so she knew a lot about how it was with me. It was wonderful to hear from her. 'There's nothing worth the wear of winning, but laughter and the love of friends.'
Words from Wood Lane
Susan Neave, Beverley
Our walk yesterday morning took us to the edge of Westwood common where we were delighted to see the bluebells in the old wood in full bloom.
Hello From the Hudson Valley
Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York
While the sun shone here all weekend, life, in general, didn’t feel so bright and cheerful. I have tried to remain positive but I took a turn towards pessimism on Saturday. Nothing in particular triggered it... just an accumulation of all that has been happening. The feeling was still with me this morning when Jay and I went for our hike which I had thought would help my mood, as it usually does, but it didn’t. Came home feeling low. But as we walked across our bridge (we have a forty foot bridge which one needs to cross in order to reach our house on the other side of the stream), I looked down, and there beneath me on the side of the stream was a husband and wife pair of Mallard ducks. Over the years, at this time of year, this duck couple has made an appearance in our stream. They stay for a few days and then they leave. One year they actually hatched their new family here which made us feel so honoured. But last year they didn’t visit and we felt badly.
Seeing them this morning made life feel hopeful again. I am so grateful to them for stopping by to visit.
The Runaway Diaries
If everything was going as planned, I would have been in rehearsal this week directing a new immersive theatre production about the music industry. I would have been working with a fantastic company of actors, stage managers and producers and we’d be making all sorts of merry. It was supposed to be a thrilling adventure that took in the bars, clubs and legendary music venues on Rivington Street. I would have been working long days so your Nana would have come to stay and would have taken you on your own adventures whilst your parents went to work.
But all our plans, like most people’s, got torn up and here we are, unemployed, in the wilds of Wales, writing an application to the Arts Council Emergency relief fund and spending every other moment together with you.
We are lucky.
We’ve been here a month now and there’s a sadness that comes in waves, it surges with thoughts of jobs lost, friends missed and home comforts we took for granted. But when the waves dissipate and I hear the bird song, your gurgling laughter and the stream babbling away I remember how we are lucky.