Day to Day
Mick and Brita Manning, North of England
Thursday 26th March We took Hilda and Nelly our lurcher girls for their morning walk on the estuary today at 7.30 am. The tide was out and there was nobody else on the gloopy mud. Quite sunny and spring-like. Curlews on the mudflats and later a peregrine went over.
Carried driftwood home. Both the boys and Nelly and Hilda helped.
Our boys spent the rest of the morning doing their homework sent to them via iPad, including much hilarity as they followed ‘PE with Joe’ on You Tube with Nelly and Hilda trying to join in.
Illustrations by Brita Granstrom
Thoughts from the Suffolk Coast
Harris Galbraith, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold
On the wireless this morning the presenter said routine is one of the most important factors in survival. Survival?! Please! Well, I shall maintain as much of a routine as is possible.
It is a beautiful day of sunshine and birdsong. I love it that there is no distant traffic noise to intrude on my thoughts or activities. I begin by eating porridge in my pyjamas and looking out over the lawn and on the frost that has followed the stripes from the mower. The frost is soon gone, however, and I’m outside by 9.30 - pottering about, checking the greenhouse, getting out the wheelbarrow and tools. Coffee, then gardening, more coffee. My thoughts stray into the peculiarity of the situation ... I must be positive. See this as an opportunity. I am determined to do all the things I have been meaning to do for years. I am going to achieve more than usual. I will trim the edges of the borders. I’ll work on that ground elder. I’ll redecorate the living room. I’ll oil the hinges on the gate. I will ...
The phone rings. It is the chap who’s to tile the shower room floor. There’s no adhesive for tiles. No, nothing - no grout, no stay-white fixative, no specialist supplies - nothing for love nor money. Who knows when he will be able to do the job. He will call again when he knows more. I’m downhearted. Lunch and a walk with the dogs. Exercise once per day is permitted. I spot another dog walker. We wave and smile and pass at the prescribed distance. Some yapping but nothing too annoying. Did he just cough? Sneeze? Droplets ... droplets filling the air, landing on hard surfaces, surviving on hard surfaces ... calm down, I say to myself. Enjoy the fresh air. The dogs are joyful. Tails wag.
Home and back in the garden. This year I must repaint the summer house. That laburnum needs reshaping. It is growing in an odd way. I’ve got some linseed oil - I must sand down the chairs and table and oil them. Earl Grey tea I think. I’m pleased with the edge I’ve clipped around the lawn by the greenhouse. The daffodils are so bright and intense. Uplifting yellow. I go indoors. Television is on and Boris is talking. I haven’t turned on the sound and decide it is best that way. I cannot lip-read but he isn’t smiling. His expressions are actually giving little away ... Supper is chicken casserole. French beans and broccoli. Then rice pudding with fresh nutmeg. More tea. There’s an Agatha Christie play on TV. Easy watching. I’ve seen that actress in Rebus too. The phone goes. Let them leave a message. I could be in the bath after all. And it is the bit where Poirot finds the gun hidden in the new sculpture .... A little glass of ginger wine before bed. So soothing. More gardening tomorrow. Time to climb the wooden horse to Bedfordshire. Only there is no wooden horse here ... So the day ends. I’ve survived.
Mary’s Projects Mostly
As a weaver, unless you rely on tried and tested patterns, you don’t know with any certainty how a project will turn out. You may get your mathematics wrong and the finished project is too short or not wide enough; the colours you thought were startling as a warp may turn out garish when combined with a weft; the fabric you create might feel like a board, not the soft, draping fabric you envisioned.
My present weaving project is a bit of a challenge that I have set myself. The design has geometric blocks – you need to see all of them to get the effect. But, for various reasons, the piece also must be a certain width. So, over the last few month I have woven several samples and done my maths a number of times. Now, that time is available to begin the project for real I tell myself, ”Take the risk – begin.”
But, suddenly that word, “risk” sounds hollow and silly when used to describe a weaving project. The word has entered our daily vocabulary with a sombre new weight.
A Wymondham Plaguery
George Szirtes, Wymondham
Out for afternoon walk. In the town this time. The sun is still steady though it is colder now. Hardly anyone about except for what looks like a huddle up the main street. As we get closer we see it is a queue for the chemists. People are standing the recommended 2 metres apart so the queue looks rather long. In fact it is rather long even without the distancing. What are people queuing for? Paracetamol? Is it 'in case' or because there is a present need for it?
The Co-op is empty but for two or three people stacking shelves. The usual things are still missing. Only one person on the till, our regular, R, with his quiet voice and shy ironic grin. I buy a paper from him, touching my card in.
This is one of our usual walks but anticlockwise this time. No one on the streets until near the end of our last but one turn. It's a girl with a dog on the other side of the street. We meet no one along the narrow pavement.
We walk across the football field. The playground is empty, of course. A man with a dog keeps double distance and we exchange a few words. Nice man. 'Keep you well,' he says. That's Norfolk syntax.
We walk on glimpsing the odd person, mostly people with dogs. Either they or we cross the street, giving each other a smile.
The hedge normally full of sparrows in full voice is still full of sparrows but a little less vocal.
The excellent little wine and delicatessen shop is open. They are just stocking up. We talk through glass. They look to continue. They sell food so they are entitled to.
It's a ghost town with determinedly cheerful ghosts.
Meanwhile I see a post by a young Indian poet friend. She is in Goa in the lockdown and desperately needs vital drugs for her condition but she can't get them. She has only a few days left.
Another friend, an American poet in New York, tells me five friends in Brescia are dead. Here in England a perfectly healthy young woman of 21 has died of the virus.
It isn't difficult to find cases, but, for us, at this distance, it is like catching sight of small figures on the horizon. So we go on in the beautiful sunlight, genuinely enjoying it. It is, after all, beautiful, and perhaps all the more beautiful in the silence.
On Tuesday night (24 March) the government called for 250,000 volunteers to help the health service and with social care. By Wednesday night 405,000 had volunteered. Within a few hours that number had climbed to over 500,000.
That is extraordinary. It speaks well for the country. I, as one of the officially vulnerable, am grateful.
We got this! This could be cool!
t, Rural Norfolk
I will admit, against all ethical considerations, I stockpiled approximately two months chocolate supply (estimates based upon analysis of available data). Within a week of our self isolation getting underway, supplies reached crisis levels. On the upside we found two Bakewell Tarts and a Viennese Whirl in the back of the pantry. I have hidden these under the stairs. I am hoping one of us will remember that when we are facing starvation. (We will not starve, we have a full pantry, a full freezer, all we need to bake a cake, and an excellent farm shop within two miles of home!). Meanwhile, there is fresh broccoli. The boy says it will go out of date in just one more day, then the house can officially be declared a vegetable free zone. This, apparently, outweighs all other aspects of our situation. There are potatoes, which are not vegetables because they’re potatoes. There are also frozen veg, but I’m keeping those hidden for now. Pasta is a thing of course, and I have plenty of that in old sweet jars. I have the kind of pantry that is always on standby for a revolution. We never needed to stockpile the basics. It did amuse me that pasta sold out almost as fast as loo roll. When I was a kid in the 70’s, my mother had one pasta dish in her frugal cook repertoire. It was a pudding; macaroni boiled in watery milk with lots of sugar added. I have no idea if it was a thing for others, or if Ma just made that up, but it was fun to eat. The first savoury pasta dish I ever ate was Spaghetti Bolognese, or rather, something by that name made in high school Domestic Science class. Like many parents of subsequent generations, I have used pasta sauces as a way to sneak vegetables into meals. Largely unsuccessfully these days, but there are batch cooked sauces in the freezer, and I intend to deploy them without mercy.
Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
Woke up to texts from my sister. It took a while for the penny to drop, an almost too subtle "nudge" to remind me that it is nearly the twins birthday. I have sent them their presents, the most brilliant and topical of choices I think. A pack of two loo rolls each. Wont they be thrilled! Another top present going out tomorrow, two packs of baby wipes! Different times eh? Forget commissioned hand made necklaces or bespoke ceramics. A couple of bog rolls and be grateful! Am feeling slightly sick in anticipation of the statement from Rishi this afternoon. A pack of cashmere scarves has arrived! The sparrows are deafening. Love Annabel xxx
The heart of Cornwall
Tristan, Truro Cornwall
Trapped between two coasts, I feel their magnetic draw. The unyielding ferocity of the north, all jagged cliffs and gulls cry’s and the south lulling with tamarisks and sea pinks. Both have their charms. I long to hear the rhythmic sigh of shingle raked over in the ebbing tide, to taste salt on the air, to let my focus rest upon the distant horizon. But today I’ll content myself with spells in my garden, with my print making and my work. I teach art, you have to really like people to teach, it’s about connecting, emotions, performance and listening. But today I’ll talk to a screen, I know my students are there and even this strangeness will bring some familiarity and comfort to them; all worries and hopes for the future.
Jo Aylward, East Kent
Popping to the studio this morning, which requires a walk through our garden to the area where we keep our small flock of hens, I was sorry to find a small dead mole. It had met its end lying amongst the feathers of a bird that had obviously fallen victim to one of the many cats roaming the gardens on our lane. I like moles very much and am sad that I am never lucky enough to see a live one. Liking them as I do, I have trained myself not to mind the molehills that spring up all over the garden - the newly laid gravel paths, flowerbeds, vegetable beds, and grass (I won't call it a lawn)! If you're going to have a wildlife-friendly garden, you can't really object to moles or molehills. Lawns are a bit like carpet for gardens, let's face it, although far nicer than most chemical-filled synthetic carpet! Let's not even think about astroturf, that really IS carpeting for the outdoors and perfectly disastrous if you are a worm... I did a quick drawing of the beautiful little mole, lying on its bed of feathers, and reflected on the fact that while we are all making these absolutely vital changes to our lives for an indefinite period of time, the natural world quietly carries on around us. This seems a very obvious thought, but it is humbling to notice that all the creatures around us carry on regardless of the crisis that currently unites their human neighbours. In fact, the planet is having a bit of a rest as we retreat.
The foxes were the first to notice
The foxes were the first to notice. The geese had gone. Not far – but closer to the boundary hedge and the shunned land beyond: a reshaping of their territory. By the river, new tracks and new paths through the wild garlic. On the field, the lingering presence, still, of others – dispersed, less intense. The ground was warming, but the earth felt different.
Choose Something Like a Star
Today I walk the long way round to Letchworth, through Ickleford and across the railway bridge. It's amazing spring weather, blossom everywhere and the skylarks singing their silvery fluttering sounds again. I get to the quiet town. Past Morrisons where the queue is tailing back though nice and peaceful, everyone a good distance apart, with a two in two out system. Across from there is my favourite Indian shop which despie saying 'no more than three customers' on the door, seems slightly busier. For £9 I get : a huge bag of dal, an onion, two avocados, an aubergine, tin of coconut milk, chilli and lime crackers and a big box off grapes. "Cash only!!....' Says the lady, in contrast to every other shop right now. I have a chat with the old Indian guy who runs the store. Me : what about the Indian people in lockdown? Him : no, no Indian people very safe. Me : but what about Delhi and Calcutta? Him: no they safe there also. Me : and Rajasthan ? Him : Rajasthan is very hot, they will have no problem. Me : and the people that live on the streets and the shanty towns? Him : ah now they are very safe. Police coming and feeding them. Me : really? Him,: yes police very good and feeding people from their own pockets ! Here news is wrong. They try to scaring people.!! Truth is 10%. Media is 200%!! I look a bit disbelieving. At this point an elderly Indian gentleman with a long white beard comes in, studies the shelves and coughs heartily without a care on the world. It's time to leave the shop.
Dawn Cliff, Yorkshire
It is a glorious day here beautiful sunshine and clear blue sky which is always good to lift the mood. We managed to sort the shopping debacle yesterday thanks to our lovely daughter-in-law . Workmen have finished and moved on. Dad still in hospital but being cared for by the wonderful NHS. Mollie the dog caught a bee today of which she was extremely proud, us not so, in a panic that we were going to have to try and negotiate a lock down vet visit !!! Luckily either the size of the thing or it’s menacing buzz meant it was spat out immediately and flew off, no animals or insects were hurt in the making of this scene. We are going to break it to Mollie gently that she may have actually missed , either that or forgot to close her mouth mid snap. For the moment she is proud as punch and strutting round like she is three times the size she actually is. I am just going to continue spring cleaning my workshop come studio come whatever and I am quite enjoying finding things I had forgotten I had as well as things I wish I hadn’t made. Mr C is having a snoozle doozle in the garden bless him . Still seem to be lots of people driving along the main road hope they are out for good reason. Meanwhile in our little bubble so far we are ok love Dawn x
On the quiet, I've been a hobbyist 'prepper' for over a decade. My husband and I have egged each other on, 'future-proofing' our old church in the countryside for fun, and consequently have a well-stocked survival larder. (Once, he even sourced a supply of straws to transform muddy puddles into clear water.) We've been collecting cans for so long that some shelves are well past their 'use by' date and, while previously I might have looked at the stack of Fray Bentos pies that expired in 2014 thinking, I'd rather be dead than eat that, they are starting to look quite tasty now dystopia is served.
The Undivided Self
JH, East Sussex
Our best day yet of home schooling. AH, AJ and I took a picnic up onto the Lewes Downs and afterwards, whilst AJ read one of her favourite Sybille Bedford novels, AH and I sketched the view across the valley. The Downs are a simple landscape that is difficult to draw. The broad sweeps of the chalk do not translate easily into the thin lines of a pencil. But we did our best, sitting side by side on a gingham tablecloth, and AH’s drawing reminded me of one of Hockney’s pictures of the Yorkshire Wolds. I got tangled up in the branches of a stunted thorn. The dog scampered between us, tennis ball in his mouth, hope in his eyes.
Clarissa Upchurch, Wymondham
Well it isn’t properly ‘dog days’ yet but the sun is shining and at this time of the year is deliciously warming without burning. This is especially important for me owing to a chronic skin condition - guttate psoriasis. So I only go out for short periods to absorb some Vitamin B, too much sun is damaging to already sensitive skin. Later in the year in proper hot ‘dog days’ I will have to cover up. The lack of sun over winter means my skin begins to sting in March and my scalp is particularly uncomfortable (the condition starts on the head and works its way down the body). Leaning out of an upstairs window on this Corona virus morning taking in fresh air (no traffic) and basking in the sunlight I looked down on an empty street and then in the distance a figure running towards me, dark shadows crisscrossing her body. I recognised her, an academic and friend who lives in the next street. I called out and she stopped, surprised to see me from my lofty height. It is unusual for people to lean out from their windows in Wymondham. This is not Italy where balconies are a great way to hold safe conversations with neighbours and passing shoppers. As we exchanged news of family and friends a teenage boy on a bike passed by and then again, and again. ‘Doing laps ‘ he shouted, ‘got to keep fit’! No sign of dogs today. Maybe it isn’t warm enough, not the kind of heat that brings with it inertia and decline. I am glad as I need to keep working to avoid thinking about the pandemic. If I had a dog he would be called Rover…. or Sirius
Mother and Daughter - Snippets from Somerset!
Caroline and Daisy, Somerset
Up with the larks this morning bottle feeding lambs and keeping a watchful eye on our last but one ewe as she gears up to have her lambs. You can almost always tell when they are starting labour.. they find a spot in the barn and if any of the other ewes come near them they get very cross and head butt them out the way, they start lifting their tails and keep looking behind them as if to say “what the hell is going on back there!” Some of them make a certain noise like baaaing but
more theatrical! It is that noise that woke me from my bed in the barn this morning at 4:30am when Barbara decided it was her time! She had a lovely little ram lamb.. who she licked clean straight away and the greedy little boy hasn’t stopped drinking!
We then head off to check on some of our other ewes who are just down the road. They are all looking so well and you can definitely tell it is Spring time.. leaping and running and generally having a hooley, they barge and shove each other trying to get to us so that we can give them a fuss and some attention!
On they way back we nip in to our local pub/shop as they have just had a delivery of fresh fruit and veg. We wait our turn outside the shop, keeping our distance from others around us. We grab a couple of things including some bread flour and fresh yeast and then return home.
We are working our way through our pantry and looking through old recipe books enjoying having the time to cook and chanced upon one of Daisy favourite recipes as a child - cheddar cheese curry!! Sounds strange but utterly delicious, super quick to make and uses mostly store cupboard ingredients! Great with a jacket potato or rice - hope you give it a try!!