We got this! This could be cool!

t, Rural Norfolk


We continue to monitor the deluge of COVID-19 emails; companies stating the obvious, with added cleanliness advice. I realise they need to say something, but I prefer the ones who do so with some selflessness and wit. I wonder how many companies will receive a deserved boost after this is over, and how many will just vanish, because they saw nothing to gain in keeping in touch with customers if they had nothing to sell.  


Of course what we really want to find in our emails is some concrete news of exams, university offers, and student finance. We heard from his first choice; the Office for Students has blocked universities from rushing to make their offers unconditional. So in what seems a very silly bureaucratic dance, his offer is not unconditional, but all students applying this year will be considered to have experienced ‘mitigating circumstances’. We don't have to complete a form, or send any 'evidence', it just is. And by the way, they take far more into consideration than just exam results… I’m glad about that, because until now it seemed to me that those dratted pieces of paper are used to define our young people in entirely unhealthy ways.  


I think the Uni were trying to say don’t worry, you’re in, but I’m not sure, and neither is he, so the email missed the mark if it was seeking to offer ‘clarity and reassurance’. Meanwhile his sixth form tutors say they are still waiting to hear how they will be expected to contribute to grade calculations for the non-exams, and so he waits, because there is nothing else to be done. Remarkably he is coping very well with all the ambiguity, something he particularly struggles with. He and his friends generally continue to amaze and impress me with their level-headed and pragmatic response to their new reality. But I guess the cracks will appear at some point. 


This year is not the one I would have chosen for my boy to leave home, I had already been dreading rattling around this place without him, and now it will be even harder to distract myself. But we’re certainly getting a lot of time together before he leaves and for me at least, that is a rather happy side effect of this whole sorry muddle. Given the complaints and angst when I insist he now joins me on my daily walk, I'm not sure he agrees, and perhaps that’s all as it should be.  


I have been reminded more than once of Joan Wyndham’s war diaries (I recommend them). What came across for the first time to young me reading them, was the utter boredom and inconvenience of it all for those going through it. Later, my mother in law also shared memories of her experiences, and how it was for those at home, compared to the history we were fed in films and books, and that in turn lead me to the Mass Obvs diaries which I loved reading. And that’s why I love this initiative, ensuring seemingly insignificant everyday experiences are not lost when history records sweeping events. *Big appreciative wave to fellow contributors!


Loud noise from neighbours

Anonymous posting, local network, Southwark


we've been a victim from our neighbours.

since we move to this flat 2015 we've disturbed by our neighbours downstairs we critical mental issue speaking screaming loud also bumping to walls at night and day time.  since we move into this flat we've been calling and email the team noise from the council always the same answer they need evidence to come over. have explained to them these neighbours start is nois for 1h and then stop and then start again and now the flat upstairs playing his music loud smoking weed with his friend during the sleeping night.

now the government ask people to stay at home because of this virus. how can we stay at home to stop the spray with all this situation?


if anyone can help us will be great full


Touch of cabin fever

messycrafterpam, Lancashire


I seem to have got a touch of cabin fever today. It’s around a week now since we were effectively locked down, and I have probably gone through the same stages as everyone else - shock/disbelief, anxiety, acceptance etc - not necessarily in that order! Whilst the sun was shining and it was warm, I was going out on long walks every day watching nature unfold and feeding the local ducks. The last two days have been really cold and I haven’t ventured out-it looks pretty cold out there again today, and rain is likely. However I think I will put a few layers on and brave the outdoors! I always feel so much better when I get some fresh air and some different things to look at. I always feel so much better when I get some fresh air and some different things to look out. Been reading all sorts of good articles and things to do while we are stuck indoors. Luckily I have my many crafting interests, as doing a freezer inventory doesn’t really grab me! I am not going to go down the road of daytime TV unless it’s a crafting or cookery programme. 


I hope these antibody tests are available soon and that I manage to get hold of one. Several weeks ago I had a persistent dry cough and a very hot forehead. It did not turn into a cold as I was expecting. This was before all the information about coronavirus became widely available, but I am now convinced I had a mild dose of it. If that turns out to be the case, I will be glad to get out more and would love to be able to volunteer in some way e.g. delivering food to people stuck indoors.


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates, Norfolk UK


Sheila has been sent a daily meditation course by a friend, Friederike, in Austria. They involve silent, still, deep concentration while listening to... well I dunno what exactly. Reassurance, I suppose. The effect is to render her sepulchral, and it’s caused me passing distress once or twice til I notice the earphones, but the messages are benign and some, like today’s, welcome: to be non-judgemental. To be fair, she’s pretty good on that front anyway, but I find I’m reassured - so two bangs of Reassurance for the household meditation Buck. 


I think a lifetime of self employment (ie the normal calendar week, significance of weekends, national holidays all rather blurred) coupled with a few years of ‘retirement’ (I have in fairness to use the term lightly, there are those who’d say I led a charmed life and never really worked, so the contrast is imperceptible) coupled with our rather remote rural existence has rendered me particularly suited to self-isolation. I am, of course concerned for family and friends who are ‘out there’, and perhaps at greater risk than us - but what I’m talking about is contentment within the isolation. 


It’s all very Mr Bennett: “I am quite at my leisure”, though of course I’d very much like to go fishing. I am, to my surprise, not stir crazy. Yet. 

This awaits: and it’ll still be there on the other side. But:  


The Sunday addresses from both Sturgeon up in Scotland and London carried the plainest warning yet that while we focus on three weeks or three months isolation, maybe we should be reconciling ourselves to six months. There’s no info on just what we all do (or don’t do) for this time, or what will remain of our worlds afterwards (assuming we’re lucky enough to survive) - because no one really knows. Or if they do, they’re not telling us yet...



John Underwood, Norfolk UK



Many book binding processes are quiet and contemplative. Sewing requires a clean, ordered table, without cluttering objects to snag the long linen threads. Sometimes, to speed the process , I might sew two sections of a book at one time. This is done by starting on a lower section, adding another on top after a couple of stitches, and dipping down into the lower section for the last stitch round the cord or tape and the kettle stitch. This requires concentration. I learned early on that alcohol and bookbinding do not sit happily alongside each other. Other processes require some strength and pressure, skiving for example. Finishing work , applying gilding to a book cover ,is on another plane of existence as far as I am concerned. Working with gold leaf is akin to trying to have a meaningful relationship with Kingfishers. The unfeasible gleam and glitter, the utter unpredictability. The knowledge that you are dealing with something outside of your ken, or ability to control. Suddenly, you are in a world where the rules are different. A door opening will cause your sheet of 24 carat gold to wisp away and collapse into itself irretrievably. A cat jumping onto your bench at a delicate moment will have me yelling and demanding “who let the (add your own preferred expletive) cat in?” There were always Binders and Finishers. Binders handed over their bound volumes to Finishers- and never the twain should meet. 


I struggle with gold work, and always will. Forced isolation provides opportunities though. I will have to make a label for the Bible that I am struggling with binding, and time is not what it was at the moment. If I spend a day or so making several attempts at a label that I can live with, then so be it. Just keep the door closed, and the cat away. In the meantime, and while I still have breath, I will practice holding it in.


The all new (apart from the label) but aged

(using contemporary cloth from another broken binding) manuscript journal that I have been writing about.



A full panelled calf binding done a little while ago.


Mary's Projects Mostly

Mary Hildyard, Bristol


There is a weaver I follow on Instagram who posts photographs of designs and patterns she observes when walking in towns and cities - the arrangement of tiles on a roof; maybe some decorative railings; even the cracks in the paint on a door. When she posts photographs of her woven scarves you can see those patterns reflected in her weaving.  


I think of these patterns and designs as we walk for our allowed exercise through the streets of Clifton. On Saturday we found a square of Georgian houses where each had a unique wrought iron archway to its front garden. On a nearby gothic Victorian monstrosity there was a line of twisted brick chimneys. Later, I admired the surprisingly satisfying curve of the drive to an imposing building. I hope to keep these images in my head for later weaving projects.


Without Art

Dawn Cliff, Yorkshire


I have been MIA (missing in action) for a couple of days. Saturday awake all night worrying night before then slept through the deadline !!! Saturday teatime Dad discharged from hospital only to be readmitted at 3 am this morning with breathing difficulties and temperature - and yes he does have severe underlying health problem as well as being 84 years old so it’s all a bit scary. No idea where Sunday went! 


As I look out the window the weather seems to reflect my mood today one minute sunny and hopeful and the next dull and full of foreboding. Today I am currently working my way through copious amounts of tea whilst keeping family informed of developments, avoiding the media because quite frankly it is making me worse and trying to stay busy to take my mind of things. Yesterday I spent some time with Georgia O’Keefe, Desmond Morris, and Matisse the three art documentaries that calm me the most. Today I think I might have to call out the big guns, now where are you John Berger? Aaaagh .... there you are !


Bunny and Me

Henrietta, Leicestershire


So, I’ve made Kedgeree, learnt to juggle and sorted out my pants drawer. The latter was a long needed task as it had become a dumping ground for miscellaneous socks, vests and other random articles... it’s so tidy now it could possibly be seen as an attack of OCD. It’s not though and will I’m sure, soon become messy again. 


The learning to juggle part of the day was actually quite enjoyable. It started with making my own balls, (juggling balls.) I’m really quite proud of them. I used buckwheat (only because the packet has been sitting in the cupboard for months winking at me to use it as it’s getting bored amongst the pasta and rice that gets used and replaced regularly). I felt sorry for the buckwheat and opted to make the balls from it instead of the suggested ‘rice’. 


We sat outside in the sun, Bunny watching me intently. The rattling of the packet of buckwheat sounding just like an aldi stick treat (his absolute favourite nibble of all time). 

His mouth doing that licky lip thing followed by a gulp. He smoothed himself past my legs about eight times and when he couldn’t smell the cat treat smell (it stinks) he wandered off and left me to my balloons. 


Ahh yes the balloons, an integral part of the ball making.  

Basically I had to shove the rice (buckwheat) into some small freezer bags and form a small ball shape. Then cut the stem bit off a ballon and fit the bag into the chopped balloon, add another chopped balloon over and wham bam juggling ball number one! 

I made three little buckwheat and rubber balls and began to learn.  

It’s a tough challenge but I was a good netball player when I was 12 so it should get easier.


From St Just

Jane G,St Just


A sad conversation with a friend who lives half the year in Edinburgh, half in the Highlands croft where she was brought up and which she inherited from her parents. When she arrived there a couple of weeks ago she was abused by two of her neighbours, who said she was an outsider, a drain on resources, and had no business being there. Fortunately other neighbours came to her support - and she realised on reflection that her croft has in fact been in continuous occupation by the same family longer than any other in the village. But the sheer nastiness and stupidity of it is distressing. Apparently the same pair were attacking people who permanently live in motorhomes on the edge of the village (and have been there for years) because they can't afford houses.   


St Just continues socially calm, meteorologically sunny and windy, and I've been marking a lot of finalists' coursework, which is a reassuringly familiar kind of chore.


A Norwichian Isolation

Andrew McDonnell, Norwich


A hardnut gang of blue tits have taken over the front garden. They flap down and bounce across the rose bush, the neighbour's leaking conifer, and whatever they can claim for their maundering mob-life. Our world is theirs now.   


I live on a fairly busy street near Norwich station. The sudden collapse in traffic means it's so quiet that my tinnitus is standing in for absent white noise of rubber friction on asphalt. I can hear about four different pitches.   


On Saturday gone, it was three years that I lost my father. He is, of course, in this isolation, on my mind. Born in 1934, he grew up in the North Downs village of Shoreham. All his life he walked the valley, climbing the exposed chalk downs to the crowns of forest. He would have embraced the one exercise per day rule with relish. Even before his illness, he would often walk up to five miles per day. He was the unofficial auditor of the TN14 postcode. I knew in our phonecalls he would update me in his surveying.  


I commute from Norwich to Peterborough for work. That's on hold, like so many other things. On that journey I cross the fenland wash reserve of Welney, a huge inland sea during the winter months that drops back in spring to become grazing land in the summer. I have photographed it daily, light permitting in the small hours, and written on it extensively. However, I was reminded by a certain social media site, by its 'On This Day...'  feature, that on the morning of the day my father died, Welney was coated in thick fog. Algorithms don't discern. I remember that crossing distinctly. I remember thinking it felt ominous, as if the landscape was trying to tell me something.   


My father died that evening in Maidstone hospital. I was lucky enough to be there. I got one of those calls, those calls you hope to seldom recieve, but it sent me hurtling through to London and down to Maidstone by rail. On that trip the sun was breaking through and the land looked like it was shrugging off its winter clothes and letting the warmth into its depths like a cat on a windowsill.   


As we sat with him, I opened the window, and we all stopped and listened as we heard birdsong. Although he was unconscious, we felt as if he could hear it. As if invited by the birds, we sang songs he loved. He seemed so peaceful. His rhythm changed and that was that. A few weeks after he died, I broke my lawnmower and couldn't fix it. I thought, 'I know, I'll call dad'. Then I remembered he was dead. As daft as it sounds, I had this vertiginous drop of abject horror as I realised I had to find a way and there wasn't anyone to help me. I had a fit of impotent grief-rage and kicked the machine. I was 39.  


I am afraid of what this world will be once this has cleared, afraid for what my young children will inherit. But then isn't that the same throughout human history? I have to be stoic, and find the last four pack of hope in the aisles. So I sit at my window in Norwich and watch the blue tits busy in their scheming.


Small things

Jo Aylward, East Kent



John Davies

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