From Twickenham

David Horovitch, Twickenham


Yesterday my sister forwarded me a message on What's App which purported to be from a 'health worker' - 'As of tomorrow, do not leave home for bread for anything!' It went on to say that the virus was about to peak and then, in 2 weeks it would 'decrease' The first sentence - 'bread FOR anything!' - was a dead giveaway and, sure enough, before I'd finished reading it, my sister had texted again to say it was a hoax. Who on earth would perpetrate such a thing?   


Amid a plethora of phone calls one stood out.; it was from a very cosmopolitan writer friend who was calling from a cottage in Hereford whence she and her partner and daughter had retreated a couple of weeks ago. She wanted to know how I was, and, when I told her I'd not had a face-to face conversation with anyone, except the occasional shopkeeper, for a week and I had another 11 weeks to go she said - "Oh that's just a worst - case scenario. It'll be over in a couple of weeks. Look on the bright side.' (I had thought I was being factual rather than gloomy and felt rebuked). ' Didn't you know they've found a vaccine - well it's not exactly a vaccine but they can cure it now and everything will be back to normal by the middle of April. But we mustn't go out at all this week.' It was only when I hung up that I wondered if she'd swallowed the hoax message that my sister had sent. This is a sophisticated woman but I might have as well have been talking to Donald Trump. Surreal and destabilising.  


I've been thinking of Marianne Moore saying 'The cure for loneliness is solitude.' I lost count of the calls I had yesterday but it was my loneliest day of the week. Today I haven't spoken to a soul and it's been blissful. I got up about 6 and went down to the river. It was cold and the river swollen, lapping onto the towpath. No-one about - a robin hopped along in front of me, an invisible woodpecker in the park, six swans taking off over the water, to the East over Richmond Hill a thin band of yellow trying to become a sunrise in the grey. I was home by 7 with The Observer and I made myself an asparagus omelette with leftovers for breakfast, something I've never done before.


From Dorset

Lesley Quayle, Brockhill, Dorset



We needed milk. I can drink black coffee at a push, but not black tea, and no cereal tastes good without it. We’re allowed to walk the dog and, as we already live in an isolated rural setting, she can run free in the fields until we reach the village, a scatter of thatched cottages straddling the river. Three cards to post, which made an ominous clunk in the postbox, attached to what had once been The Old Post Office, now an unseasonably empty holiday home. No postcards from sunny Dorset – we’re relieved you’re not here. 


The village shop and new Post Office had a sign up, directing everyone through the village hall instead of straight up the narrow, less than two metre wide alleyway to the steps. Inside, a row of chairs, red plush and iron, each placed the requisite distance from the next, stood in line by the rear door. Queuing in style.


An old man turned to greet me as I entered and pointed to a chair next to him. I thanked him and sat down – there was no-one else in the room. He said his name was Dennis. He asked me for mine and where I lived and, having exchanged a few pleasantries, he said,

'I’m ninety-two, you know.'

I was touched by his obvious pride and told him he didn’t look it – then, conscious of the cliché, wished I hadn’t. A woman entered quietly and sat on the other side of him. He smiled.

'I walk about six miles every day, down to the valley, round by the river, up the hill by you and back down again, to me home. That’s what keeps you young. You have to keep moving. Take more than Coronary Virus to keep me down. Oh, do you know Wendy?' He gestured to the other woman, who leaned forward and winked.


'Okay Dennis, you’re next. No nattering now, you got five minutes.'
The queue-guard grinned as Dennis rose creakily to his feet.

'Talk for Dorset ‘e can. Can’t yer, Dennis?' 

Dennis, clutching his old-fashioned string bag in both hands gave a hoarse laugh, as if he had brown paper rustling in his chest. He turned to me and said,

'I won’t be long. Promise. Nice to meet you. Now I know where you live, I might pop in for a cuppa on me walk.

leftovers for breakfast, something I've never done before.


Thoughts from the Suffolk Coast

Harris G, Between Aldeburgh and Southwold


My daily exercise took me on a much longer walk today and while I was out I sat on a bench in the graveyard of the local church and forgot all about time. I was away from home for well over an hour. Perhaps nearer to an hour and a half. Is this an offence? 

Spoke with K while out. He is a local I’ve not met before. He struck up the conversation and I was happy to continue chatting. Turns out we share a lot of interests and he knows lots of people I know too. We kept a very safe distance ... at least 10 feet apart.

Heard a little of the news on the wireless when I got home. Gloomy. Reports on deaths and the spread of the disease. Friends send video clips on my phone. Jolly stuff I guess. I’m still keen to avoid the news. Ignorance. It’s no defence in the eyes of the law.


We got this! This could be cool!

t, Rural Norfolk


So I finally cracked. I have been so engrossed in work this week I haven’t really had time to consider things. Yesterday afternoon I had time on my hands. So what did I do? Did I read a book, bake a loaf, sit and paint spring flowers? Nope. I cleaned. From midday yesterday, to 4am this morning, no corner was left in peace. The house is shell-shocked, but I woke early with a lighter heart, because cleaning works that way for me in a crisis. And I think having reached a point of looking out to see what’s going on in the world, I was about to have a crisis. I’m inclined to be reclusive at the best of times, but now, I’m actually dreading the day when going shopping for fruit and veg becomes unavoidable. I might take the teen (to wait in the car) for moral support. 


This morning, instead of relaxing, I decided to make the most of a sunny breeze and launder the mountain of linens. That wind and hail out there right now? My fault. I’ve never understood the need to dash out and bring in wet laundry from the rain. My Ma used to say it would get dirty, and maybe in a big city that’s true, but out here, it just gets more wet. So by my logic, it’s having a second clean right now. 


I remembered the clocks last night, I forgot this morning. I am aware that even some of the electrical ones need adjusting, but I never remember from one time shift to the next which ones. For the record, the kitchen clock does not change by itself. I just lost an hour.


Corona Diary

Annabel, A village in North Norfolk


Saturday 28th March 2020 Went to Verandah to sort things out. 

Bought some veg for my self isolating neighbours including ginger which is good for your immune system with half a lime, honey and raw cider vinegar. The car is stuffed and now the house looks like a bomb site. The spare room is full though no guests are due. 

One more cup tips the balance between order and chaos so now serious reorganisation is required.

Earnie and I go for a walk and drive about a mile down the road to our track. It is freezing and windy and we don't see a soul but masses of birds, a flock of chaffinches and then field fare. I rarely bump into more than a couple of the locals if that. 

In the evening I hear on the news it is now against the law to drive to your walk!  

Earnie and I are now law breakers, fugitives. 

I pot up some corbea scandens in the green house and kill a slug that is lurking under the dahlia seedling tray. Not very Jayne but self isolation is being observed.  


A professor of epidemiology said on Any Answers how it would be quite easy to convert all the testing machines in every school, university and many businesses and factories to test for Covid 19. He said they should make 1 million tests a day and test the whole of the UK once a week which knock it on it's head as you would know where it was.  

Boris is going to write to every household. What a waste of money.
Spend it on testing.  


My friend and her husband and now the children are struck down!  


Sunday 29th March 2020 Clock has gone forward.
Theres a hail storm when I go out to feed the chickens. 2 eggs. 

Sun for a few minutes, then more hail and then snow!  


Pick some flowers in between downpours. 

The coronavirus free Archers has just come on and it is a bit of a relief though I hate the looming evil Phillip modern slavery gang master who breaks Kirsty's heart story line.  


Have warned Earnie that he will be on a lead this afternoon unless we walk to the track and risk getting run over. Love Annabel xxx


Choose Something Like a Star

Kate, Hitchin


The first day of official summer ! An arctic wind is howling and it feels like it could snow. 


I've been slightly obsessed by the BBC World Service this week.....reports from Taiwan to South Africa to the rest of the world that are not on the main radar. 


There were several stories that stuck with me; this is the one from India, which recorded the sounds of Delhi before and after lockdown. If you have travelled to this ancient and overwhelming city, you will have felt amazed, hot, filthy, stunned, overloaded, exhausted, exalted, and more....so the sound of Delhi before, was the deafening bustling crowds, noisy tuktuks, cars beeping, and the Infian crows cawing. After lockdown..... was a heartbreaking silence broken by the horrific sounds of the police with their Lathi sticks. I dont want to imagine what they are hitting - perhaps they are lashing the sides of buildings to move the pavement dwellers along. But to where should they go? Isolation, if you need to practise it is actually a luxury. How to isolate in a slum, a shanty town, a favela, a township? 


And here in the UK, how to cope if you have no garden, no nearby parks, no woods, no beach, no wild places, no countryside? 

In short, today....... I'm feeling lucky.


Merrywood Dispatches

Lily Wonham


We are in day 5 of lockdown; already, funny things are happening to time. I can't decide if 5 days feels too short, or too long, in comparison with my experience. Divided as my days normally are into office and home, with a regular rotation of other locations, in some ways the last 5 days have felt like one long day. Contained within four walls I have a fresh gratitude for large windows which look onto the sky (my housemate and I do not have a garden), and for phones and laptops which these days are primarily used as windows into the houses of my loved ones.


In Sophie's World, Jostein Gaarder says that, much like the concentric stacking rings Sophie played with as a baby, her world has expanded into bigger and bigger rings as she has grown up. First just her house, then her school, then university, and finally, she trips around in rings the size of the whole world, able to go wherever she wishes. Likewise to Sophie, I have long been conscious of pushing the circle outwards, and suddenly find it pinged back to just my house and where I can walk/run to, like a stubborn elastic band. This could become frustrating, but so far, technology has provided us with the means to virtually reach out beyond our homes.


My company has furloughed me. Tomorrow, Monday, will be the first in a long time that I don't work. This will continue until the 31st May (unless the government extends it). It an immense gift, the gift of time. To be so free to design the direction of my day and where I can expend my energy is as terrifying as it is exciting. I am determined to make it a positive experience and have already got a list of projects I'd like to work on. This weekend my housemate and I have spent our time deep cleaning our house, writing, baking, and doing a large jigsaw. We co-exist well together, luckily.


It is hard not to feel guilty for feeling happy in my circumstances when so many are suffering. I know that people are losing jobs and income, struggling to pay their rent, working from home with cooped up children climbing the walls, and NHS and key workers toiling all hours. I am aware of how privileged I am to glide along on the wheels oiled by others. Yet I cannot help but feel positive.


We have spent so long writing our endless run-on sentence without taking a breath, and finally, we are putting in a comma.


Bristol Calling



Mary particularly misses the cinema. Of course we can see lots of films on television. We don’t have any streaming providers but each day I go through the Radio Times and circle the films and programmes that I want to record. Normally I have to leave out many that might be interesting and we have to commit to watching quite a lot just so there is room left to record more. In the same way that we now have to balance our food consumption with our ordering so that we keep room in the fridge. 

We usually watch what I have recorded recently because I can still remember why I thought it might be interesting but it is just as quick to start at the other end where there will be items recorded two or three years ago. I recently went this route and the first was “A Special Day” which I am sure I would have chosen for the cast : Antonietta played by Sophia Loren and Gabriele played by Marcello Mastroianni. It was made in 1977 but set in 1938 in Italy during a visit by Hitler. The day is special because there is a big parade with Hitler and Mussolini and the huge apartment block empties with massive enthusiasm to attend the parade. It makes it marginally more understandable how a current president can make one crass pronouncement after another and yet still see his popularity ratings climb.

It is also a special day for Antonietta and Gabriele who are almost the only ones left in the apartment building. She is a put-upon housewife with a dismissive husband and six children who is saddened by her lack of education. She keeps a scrapbook devoted to the achievements of Mussolini. Gabriele is an intellectual, a homosexual and a political subversive. The film opens with extensive footage of the actual visit. The rest of the film takes place inside the apartment building but with the sound track and commentary of the parade outside throughout. The film shows how these two individuals come together and eventually recognise that neither is considered by society to have any value. Gabriele points out that ”The party recognises a man as a husband, father and soldier. I am none of these. “  

It is quite a slow film with little in the way of plot. The colour is very strange: so subdued as to be almost black and white but with bits of red such as for the swastikas. However it lingers powerfully in the memory and was chosen as one of the hundred Italian films that should be preserved.


From Rural New York

Sandy Connors, USA


Yesterday I had to check my iPhone calendar when I woke ~ was it Friday or Saturday? All my days seem to run into one another with very little particularly memorable. Dickens survived his neutering and is back to trying to be in charge of Plum, a sweet-natured almost-four-year old black Labrador, who generally is happy to acquiesce.  


I thought Dickens might mellow some but these are early days and he is still just a puppy. What good companions they are in these days of solitude along with two cats, who prefer hunting in the garden with just their nighttime spent inside, and my operatic Spanish timbrado canary, the days seem to follow a comfortable rhythm. I have enough food, supplemented by one trip to the Farm Store for fresh vegetables and a few staples where everyone including me wore rubber gloves and masks, some of which are homemade. Drinking boiled water with fresh lemon and a drop of honey before my morning coffee, and a daily Tylenol have been added which seems to make me feel fairly normal and reduce worries about a sniffle or cough. I hear from friends or reach out to others I haven’t heard from checking in with each other and sending love. This is our new ‘normal’ and we are all trying to make the best of it.

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