Hello From the Hudson Valley

Sue, Lower Hudson Valley, New York


27 March 2020  This morning, I noticed that one of Jay’s eyes looked very red and swollen, and he kept tilting his head to one side. I called the vet and scheduled an appointment for later in the day.   


The safety procedure our lovely vet has in place during this infected time was fascinating. It felt very much like going through the drive-through at MacDonalds. I drove into the car park and parked the car. Next, I called inside to the reception desk and let them know that we had arrived. Shortly after, the door opened and a gowned and masked young woman came to the car. She had me take Jay’s collar off and she put one of theirs on him and took him inside. I had to remain sitting in the car. A short time later, a call came into my mobile from the vet. He wanted to put a stain in Jay’s eyes to determine if there was corneal scratch. That was fine with me. Then I got another call from the vet to say that Jay’s cornea was not damaged but that he does have conjunctivitis. He would be sent home with eye ointment which we must put in 3 times a day for ten days. Then the begowned bemasked young woman came back out with Jay and his newly greasy medicated eyes and ointment and put him in the back seat of the car. Then I had to call reception again to give them my credit card details and then we drove home. No hamburgers, french fries and a coke but ointment and relief.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk


Friday 27th I watched Contagion last night. What wit of a TV exec programmed that.  Rishi who sounds like a labrador announced some more eye watering amounts of money and help for the self employed. Hope it applies to me otherwise I don't know whether I will eat Earnie or he me! We will probably both eat the chickens before it get to that stage.  


Saturday. There was a bit of a loo roll incident yesterday which rather shocked me. I wonder how long it will be before tiredness and frustrations and fear turn into the Stazi and denunciations!  


I went to the shop to sort things out a bit and say hello to my fellow shop keepers. The boys in the closed cafe are painting windows, Gill is serving fish, Nigel the butcher is there and Mr Crow and his sister are rushed of their feet in their little vegetable shop. The local shop keepers are brilliant and working so hard to supply all their lovely food to a rapidly increasing clientele ringing them up and placing orders. They all look exhausted.  


I had a crab for lunch with a paleo seeded cracker that are the best ones I have ever made. Delicious. My top tips for helping your immune system are no sugar or white processed carbohydrates. Bicarbonate of soda that I use in my weird cakes and biscuits is alkaline which possibly helps and also Vitamin D.  


Saturday 28th March Surprisingly have had a couple of sales on my website so must buckle down and up load stock. 46 Doctors have died in Italy. A lot of older people talking on the radio are saying "Do not save me, save the young." Very direct conversations going on about death.  

love Annabel x


Musings from self isolation

Billy Hearld, York


Today was grey and cold and so I spent the day huddled under woollen blankets, pouring over my copy of paradise lost, taking needless notes to keep myself busy. I lost myself in Milton’s words and passed the day doing prescious little more than lounging about in my Pyjamas and dressing gown until, at three, we took a walk along the outgang near my grandparents house, pausing to wave to them through their kitchen window and to drop off some essentials and some cheese and chive scones (baked by my sister) for them at the doorstep.


Youlgrave Lock Down

Dianne, Youlgrave, Derbyshire


Youlgrave in the beautiful White Peak is deserted at last apart from a few locals walking alone or with dogs. The two village shops and bakery are still open and doing a great job. Meals are being prepared by the bakery and a couple whose business is outside catering. These are delivered to people who need them. 


Our son’s birthday today – his 3 year old daughter wants to know why he still has to go to work when “there are germs out there”. Hard to keep a balance between information she needs to know and not terrifying her. He is helping to keep toilet roll production going – not as vital as the NHS but definitely what people seem to want. Our son’s partner takes a photo every day to show the effect the virus is having on our lives. 

Another son’s 11 year old daughter asked if she could phone me when she feels stressed. “Of course, anytime “ I said. “All the time” her mother’s voice in the background. 


Our neighbour opens her windows every evening at 5.50pm and plays a few hymns on her cornet. She isn’t religious but feels it is a positive thing to do. I stand outside and sing or hum along to the so familiar tunes. It is comforting. The vegetable beds are prepared as never before. Yesterday our neighbour offered me half of the vegetable seeds that had just been delivered to her. We are so lucky to have the garden and to have good neighbours we can talk to, at a distance of course. 


We have just spoken to all of the family on the Zoom app. Chaotic with 10 adults and 5 children all wanting to engage with each other, the youngest crawling around the back of the screen to look for us. Happy birthday was played inexpertly on the violin accompanied by her uncle on a cardboard tube didgeridoo. Lovely to see and hear them all.


Notes from a factory in the Midlands

MFS, Midlands


The government announced a subsidised loan scheme for businesses with annual sales of up to £45m, alongside a corporate finance scheme for credit-rated large companies. Our company is too large for the former, too small for the latter. I emailed our local MP about this gap in the government’s otherwise very impressive business support initiatives: he is yet to reply. Ironically, he had been due to visit the factory on 20th March for the official opening of our new production line, but of course the event was cancelled. In my need to build up our cash resources, whilst the economy is imploding around us, I am now hurrying to negotiate retrospective financing for the production new line, by selling it to our bank, and leasing it back again. All being well this should give us an injection of around £3m within the next month. I had a long phone conversation with our bank manager on Friday morning. She, like me and most of my contacts across the business and financial world, is worrying that the cure (the shutdown) may be worse than the disease. Importantly, she confirms to me the bank’s continuing support for our business whilst apologising for the noises off: her two primary school aged boys running around the house while she attempts to work from home.


The foxes were the first to notice

RJG, Birmingham


The sound – more frequent, now. A layering of echo. Another fox at the boundary edge: wary, purposeful, calm. Listening. The smell of smoke. A blackbird’s alarm call from an ivied tree. The sound – of others.


Staying In in Manchester

Clare Degenhardt


28th March - Today was cold, the sunny weather and blue skies replaced by grey and a cold wind. Could feel the effect on my spirits.  Felt several times today that I was living in the debris of a collapsed civilisation. Received a Boden catalogue, full of images of carefree lives of freedom, safety, summer holidays, all based on the secure assumption of income and a consumer society that seems very much in doubt at the moment. Who is there to even notice what clothes I am wearing, anyway? I was stunned into a kind of numbness at the crass irrelevance of something that only a few weeks ago I might have leafed through with interest. How fast everything changes. There’s an end of days feel. 


We go out on a walk later, around our nature reserve. The M62 runs down one side of the water park, so we usually avoid that side due to constant and oppressive traffic noise. Today we walked there, and motorway was almost silent - a vast empty construction, a lifeless concrete artery. We passed the closed leisure centre and restaurant - still with lights on inside, but empty, exuding a sense of obsolescence and decay.  

Everyone we passed was scrupulous about observing the 6 feet distance rule – apart from several teenagers, oblivious, and one group of lads bumping matily shoulder to shoulder. I wonder how it is for these young people, so full of energy, having their lives put on hold. And how their parents cope with the enforced incarceration, at a time when they need to be carving out their own lives outside the family home. Doing so now is potentially lethal for someone. Dogs seem to channel the human desire to connect, approaching when their owners can’t.


Meanwhile, nature is teeming with life. A heron’s nest is raucous with the noisy rattle of young herons. Woodpeckers abound, and we watch one ricocheting its head off the trunk of a silver birch, like a pneumatic drill. We explore the small paths that take us into woodland, past still ponds frequented only by moorhens – and love how untouched these creatures and places are by the pandemic. There is a stillness, a freshness to the air, and a sense of contact with the power and irrepressibility of nature – of which the virus is an emanation too.


I’m wanting less and less to check the news, but feeling a compulsion to do so. And I’m aware that as the number of cases increases fast, venturing out for food will become increasingly risky, as my husband is 72, and thus vulnerable. There's a sense that the politicians are not in control, they’re getting ill themselves, yet saying they can carry on with the job.  Seems like hubris – with the fever and headache and fatigue, my son found he was unable to think clearly and flunked an interview, during the post-viral stage of the Covid-19 illness that he assumes he has had, although he has not been tested. Nobody knows where we are heading. We walk home down our local street of closed shops and bars, and wonder how many will resurrect when the pandemic is over. And if they don’t, what will replace them.

29 March - Had a Zoom call to a good friend today. Am slowly overcoming my technophobia around Zoom. It was good to share experiences - only a week ago we had been planning to meet for a walk in Derbyshire - part of my mind is still in disbelief that we are where we are now. She has an elderly mother with dementia, whom they have moved to live with one of her daughters, the other daughter is in total self isolation except to visit these two once a day as support, while my friend, the youngest sister, does all the shopping for all of them, to keep their social distancing total.  They've got a well organised strategy which is working so far. My friend's lodger is a nurse, who is feeling fragile mentally - we can choose to limit how much we take in of the frontline situation, nurses cannot.  


Will speak to our three grown up kids later today on a family Zoom. It feels like we are still feeling our way towards the best way to be in touch. Connection feels so important, and I spend much of my time communicating with friends and loved ones. 

There's a need to know they are OK, to send love in so many different ways, sometimes dark humour, sometimes a cat photo...  Despite isolation, in many ways I have never been so sociable.  


Very aware we have had just one week of lockdown, that this is only the very early stage of the journey - time has become elastic, the past seems a very long time ago, and I do have to stop and think to remember the day of the week. They are talking about lockdown lasting til May or June. The only way to deal with this mentally is just a day at a time, staying in the moment, appreciating and enjoying the good and keeping an open and tender heart.


From the South Downs

Stephanie, Midhurst


Living online and on paths. On Friday we took our walk across the fields and into town. We read the notices on the closed shops. ‘Due to government directives on Covid-19…’ The town felt empty with parking places along the usually packed road, but people were still going into Tesco Express, which has a queueing system out in the street now. We’re lucky enough to have an independent greengrocer, butcher, bakery, a health food shop, a Budgens and three pharmacies including Boots, so some shops are open. The atmosphere is kind and quiet. In the morning, I would normally have gone to my monthly novel workshop with Jane and Gill. We always meet in St Martin’s Coffeehouse in Chichester, the kind of coffeehouse Dr Johnson would have loved, if he’d been into organic food. The place is rambling, old, with log fires and daffodils on the tables and a piano (often being played). Our monthly meetings are productive and enjoyable, but this time we shared work by email. It was great that we stuck to the date and still helped each other but not the same as meeting at St Martin’s.  


On Saturday, I was booked to go on a writing conference in London. I’d been looking forward to it and more importantly was hoping to see my daughter too. The organisers put it online instead, so the events will now stretch over the week. I was amazed at the convener’s ability to field questions from a running chat stream of participants while giving his talk on-camera from his kitchen. This is the kind of multi-level adroitness we will all need soon, I suppose, if the lock-down continues and tightens as today’s news suggests it will.  


Gill’s second novel, The Child on Platform One, is out this week. Instead of a physical launch, she’s having an e-launch online on April 1st at 5.00. I will be ‘there’, but of course it’s not the same as listening to Gill live and also a singer she’d arranged to celebrate the musical theme in the novel. But my disappointments are definitely first world problems. We met one of our neighbours on a walk and we all remarked how much we appreciate living in the country and having gardens and still being healthy. We are so lucky. We’re relying on the internet more and more, yet our home connection keeps breaking down. If that happens, we certainly will feel isolated, but for now we’re fortunate to have these connections, events, and most preciously video-calls with our children and the wider world.

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