Annabel, A village in North Norfolk
I believe it is Thursday. I did go out to clap last night at 8.00pm and couldn't understand the silence. I had even taken my apron off and washed my compost covered hands from potting up dahlias.
The government has not reached its 100,000 testing figure. The NHS feel it is a complete red herring as the tests should be aimed at the right people in order to do their jobs and every week. I listened to a chief nursing lady the other night who is also pissed off with the hero thing. They just want to be recognised for the professional intelligent people they are doing the highly skilled jobs they have trained for. They don't want a patronising hero title and pat on the head. They want the tools required to do their job safely among other tested people.
Everyone is getting very exercised (is that the right word?) about how lock down will end. I don't know if people really realise how things will never go back to normal. Nothing will ever be the same again.
Went for another beautiful walk in the bluebells. Saw one dog.
This morning am trying to clear the decks and get my paints out. Had a quick flit round with the horrible Dyson. I am so glad they didn't get the contract for the respirators. The nurses would have been continually taking them outside and giving them a good bang. The floor in the spare room where Earnie sleeps under the bed was like a gentle mist in the morning of a layer of orange fur. Staff, where are you?
I have a meeting in a little while in the real world. Better make my self look less aged garden nymph and more professional decorator. It might take a while. My "office" is so full of my cushions and an even bigger pile of ironing you can hardly get in the door.
Boris is on the radio saying Happy Birthday to the renamed Colonel Tom. I wish they'd made him a major then we could all have sung him Space Oddity. He had a special flypast from a spitfire in his honour.
Happy happy Birthday Colonel Tom and well done for the 30 million you have raised.
Can you hear me Major Tom, Can you hear me?
I feel shamed by my inaction. Even my mother is making scrub hats and hair bands.
Better go and find the lipstick.
Love Annabel xxx
Ps I love the Trump rant by Marli Rose Macrae the other day.
Words from Wood Lane
Susan Neave, Beverley
April has flown by, in spite of lockdown. On Monday we were up early to clap the 'waste operatives', who seemed really pleased. All the bins had ‘thank you’ labels tied to them, some with presents attached. One of our neighbours made a large medal for their van and drew a chalk rainbow on the road. Felt a bit sorry for the driver having such a large audience when he negotiated a particularly narrow gap between a house and a parked car. Now there are plans for celebrating VE day with a street party, but in social isolation. The bunting, left over from the last one, will go up, but we’ll all be inside or in our back gardens. Not everyone has access to the technology to have a ‘virtual’ party, especially some of the oldest residents, so not sure how it is going to work.
From St Just
Jane G, St Just
Remote teaching has begun, and it's very strange indeed having undergraduates' faces loom up, singly and in pairs, in my garden room in St Just, and deducing from their backdrops whether they're in their parents' houses or in rented rooms. Disembodied arms appear around doors in the background offering cups of tea, and shadowy figures stroll into view, stop short and exit screen left at a sprint. Smokey has also put in some virtual appearances, mostly in the form of two ears and disembodied purr. So long as the internet holds out, this looks as if it will more or less work.
But being confined not just to the house, but to a single chair, for multiple 4 hour stretches a day is tough: tougher somehow than doing the same job in college - I suppose because there I move between a teaching chair and a typing chair, and the teaching isn't on screen. Focusing exclusively on a single point about 14 inches from my nose reminds me of doing Finals - two papers per day for several consecutive days - and discovering on the third day that my eyes had lost the ability to re-focus automatically: I remember standing in Parks and giving them a conscious instruction to focus on a clump of grass. They did it, but the way a camera zooms in or out: choppily and in stages.
Another odd thing is that of course I'm looking at my students through reading glasses.
Bumpy landing on the south coast
Catherine, Sussex, UK
I heard on the radio that many people's alcohol consumption has now changed. At that point, mine had rocketed from a bottle a year to a bottle a week, as the only antidote left to me in the face of domestic disharmony, which had been shredding not just my nerves but physical health. It didn't really work, though, so I finally raided my carefully-hoarded stash of Mother's Little Helpers, aka gold dust, so grudgingly doled out to me by my previous GP.
Just one, yesterday morning when I felt I would surely have a stroke or heart attack, worked wonders. Hello equilibrium. So, new regime, plus feelers to be put out to new GP (who by all accounts is a generous-hearted woman) for replenishment.
My new state meant that when I woke up this morning and my eyes alighted on my little 'family' on the windowsill, I actually 'saw' them, with new eyes. They pleased me no end. I have a few of these little families dotted around: I can't help spotting new members when I'm on the beach and bringing them home to join the others. An outlet for my tender heart.
Talking of which, I'm in trouble with Junior 1 for letting her dominant tortoise get in with the baby. I was going to report that the new Domestic Harmony Strategy had worked after all, but now I've blown it. Plus ca change:
As Nicky says, it is what it is.
Other things which are what they are - or should be - are the roots of David E's oak trees. Mention of them put me in mind of Isabella Tree's engrossing book about the rewilding of her estate, Knepp. It all began with a solitary oak tree. Do read it - it eloquently describes the mess we have made of the land and its inhabitants, and how this can be reversed. As we are seeing, with videos galore emerging of animals reclaiming land which we have appropriated but which is currently deserted. And I see the same with plants, now that no one is cutting the verges or generally messing about with our environment. I can't help feeling that if my death, along with many millions of others, is what it would take to restore the Earth, then I would go willingly.
Meanwhile, Constance's noticed silence is wonderful. Of course it isn't quite silence, only a redistribution of sound, from man-made to natural - abundant birdsong, for starters - and all the more wonderful for it.
A few days ago I asked the 12-year-old boy across the road what he felt about all this. Unfortunately we were interrupted before he could reply, but I really want to hear, at a later date, his young thoughts and feelings. I was moved by young Franklin's M's take on it all. It's too much for young minds and hearts, I think, with no recourse to booze or pills...
Musings from self isolation
Billy Hearld, York
With school work completed and the sun finally breaking the bank of clouds, I set out for a walk alone for the first time since lockdown began. Heading from my house, I walked through the almost entirely deserted streets, hearing the birdsong as loud as if I had been out in the fields. Soon enough, I was walking through the countryside and, pausing to look around me I saw not a soul about. It was very quiet and my footsteps on the gravel path seemed very loud. The air was heavy with the cloying scent of the oil seed which stretched outwards, swaying in the breeze. The illusion was shattered momentarily by a group of cyclists hurrying by and so I walked on, the birdsong and the sound of my footsteps were soon the only noises to be heard.
James Oglethorpe, Virginia, USA
At Least Let’s Dance
I start with panic.
I have forgotten how to breathe words.
Then, oxygen is delivered from the ether,
a voice from the desert holding up
a mirror to my predicament.
I pour fizzy pink water over white ice
and read the words of the visual priestess
sheltering in amongst towering dunes,
and I know I am not alone in the thoughts that blow through
me like a sandstorm full of plastic bags and discarded dreams.
“Don’t try and be original,” she wrote on misted-up glass.
And here I am, in this plague of fear and uncertainty,
Baba Yetu playing, luxuriating in sound,
not being unique in the gathering high of creation;
dancing with black shoes on a white stage,
bodies swaying to the music, Ginger and Fred,
her bloody feet, his bloody attitude, but confidence
to choreograph reason, step by step,
and pas de deux through dark times.
Reluctant to stop or move forward
I take a beat.
I read and re-read.
Over and over, like a dancer in rehearsal,
repeat, stumble, repeat, repeat, stumble.
The music plays, rat-a-tat-tapping on the door.
A swig of chilled pink inspiration
swings open the memory of Cip’s messaged voice:
“Yea us artists have been training for this day.”
So, unobserved on the stage of your life,
come on let’s, you and I, cut a rug
and waltz to the adagio of words
in the sanctity of our dreamt distanced spaces.
From Rural New York
Sandy Connors, USA
Two lovely sunny days which the dogs and I spent working in the garden planting some little old-fashioned pansies in pots. All that lovely manure has made the roses and flowers happy with a burst of new growth ~ like a dose of vitamins! Yesterday I finally got around to trimming the boxwood spheres in the close kitchen garden patio, and raked up all the cuttings ~ it looks very tidy! We all (the two dogs and me) had a nice rest in the reclining chaise afterwards ~ quite a sight! I wish I had had my iPhone to take a snap shot!
This morning I am busy with inscribing the last of the 23 Beatrix Potter little books which I have been sending to my friend’s two little grandchildren for various holidays. Having no grandchildren of my own, I have ‘adopted’ this lovely family who live in Maine. The oldest, a little girl, Lydia, is just a little over three, and has such a love of reading. She can be found up in her bed at night in the dark, sitting with a book in her hands telling her various favorite stuffed toys the stories she recalls from being read to by her parents. When my parcels arrive, her Momma takes a video of Lydia unwrapping the package ~ ‘It’s a present! Oh, books from Sandy!’ Lydia exclaims. ‘Oh, more Peter Rabbit books from Sandy!’ I can’t tell you how much I enjoy sending them. But this is the last bundle, for May Day ~ I shall have to think what book to send her next!
Thoughts from the Top of the Hill
Linzy, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire
The Radio Times arrived, happily, on Wednesday, the day's delay causing some confusion about bin collection day. This resulted in my husband driving down to the bottom of the hill in the dark at 11pm to take the kitchen waste to the wheelie bin, which stands next to that of our nearest neighbour, quite ignoring social distancing.
Order has been restored and no doubt the bins were emptied as usual this morning, which reminds me how many things are carrying on as normal, despite everything. Up here farm life carries on apparently uninterrupted. Large numbers of cattle occasionally gallop past our door, on their way to have their feet washed or have some other essential procedure administered. They are always excited to be out of their sheds, bucking and leaping onto one another, the farm gates closed to prevent them dashing off to the fields. I wonder if we'll all behave in such a random fashion when the doors are re-opened, will we all rush to the pub to drink ourselves senseless, or lie down in great crowds in the parks to sunbathe in an orgy of non-isolation?
Our daily routine has made us connoisseurs of the "daily briefings" from here and there. My personal preference is for Nicola Sturgeon, who sounds honest and reassuring, while being firm in the lovely accent which I would share now if I hadn't shed it two weeks after moving to London at the age of seven. We became somewhat bored with the governor of New York and we can barely watch the President's briefing, as we have become prone to shouting at the TV. We always turn on for the Downing Street one, but this now seems to be a waste of time as none of the journalists' questions get answered. More muted muttering at the TV ends with us stalking off to make dinner.
We watched the Panorama programme about PPE on catchup. Very disturbing reports. When I looked it up online just now social media is full of arguments about the validity of the evidence. I suspect that the population is moving slowly from the paralysis of fear to an unhealthy state of anger and who knows where that may lead. Naturally the government needs to keep the trust of the populace to avoid any possibility of civil unrest, so it fears to apologise for any apparent incompetence lest we turn on them with our ploughshares.
Following my brief quotation from 'Dune' the other day, and unable to recall where my copy is now, I consulted Google and discovered there is practically a Dune cult. The whole of the 'litany against fear' is now available as a tattoo, a T-shirt, anything you like! However, I will repeat it in full here, in case it comes in handy for anyone who doesn't care to look it up.
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain".
I found it useful and will put it on my wall so I don't forget it again. I won't bother with the tattoo.