Taking pleasure in small things

Joanne Aylward

Four moments of welcome distraction today.

The first, whilst weeding, a small orange bee that I didn't recognise, yet to be identified.

Two, a very round grey spider with a damaged leg.

Three, a tiny black bug on the yellow Lino floor in our kitchen.

Finally a harlequin ladybird.

I will give context for this last sighting as it is significant.


I am stood at the bottom of the stairs trying to console my eighteen year old daughter who has been confined to her room for three days since her return from art college in London. She has a large cactus thorn protruding from her finger (don't ask!)

The tension of the last few days, her separation from her boyfriend who is now in France with his family and the pain in her finger are making her cry. I really want to fly up the stairs, remove the thorn and give her a hug but I am unable to get close. Glancing down to a jug of flowers from the garden I see the ladybird on a primrose. 

Please note, this story ends happily. The eighteen year old and all aforementioned insects remain well.

I can't completely vouch for the spider.


Virus paranoia

Susan Fox

In our neighborhood the houses are very spread out.  I rarely ever notice anyone walking down the main road to which our drive attaches. Everyone around here drives to get anywhere.  But…. earlier today, Jay (our dog) and I decided to take a walk up to the top of our drive and just as we arrived there, a man was jogging past. Jay..with impeccable timing… coughed and sneezed just then.  The man jumped and momentarily looked panic stricken. And Jay barked because he is not used to seeing people passing our drive on foot. Another abnormal reaction in these times of virus paranoia.


Housebound Housemakers

Amanda Banham

This is an excerpt from my online blog which I began when my family developed Covid19. I have now fully recovered but my husband is still unwell. We have had the virus for nearly two weeks in our life. I have called my posts Housebound Housemakers as my job is making ceramic houses.

Today we woke up at a “normal” time of 7am. I made us a cup of tea and we looked at our phones in bed. I chatted with my friend Jenny whose daughter has cystic fibrosis and so they are in isolation and have been for some time and will be indefinitely as it would be extremely dangerous for them to have C19 in their house. It really bought home to me how many people I know directly who are in the vulnerable group of people. We did make each other laugh as we always do with anecdotes about our Mothers and it felt good to know my sense of humour hadn’t been wiped out with my sense of taste.

I checked my emails and noticed the yoga studio next to my house where I sporadically go to classes was holding “live” yoga sessions using Zoom which is an app I have repeatedly been invited to join this week to join up with various events. I really fancied doing some stretching and yoga and Jac who runs the studio is so lovely and calming I knew this would be just the perfect start to the day. I enthused to Matt that I was going to do a live class every day and would be booking bundle of classes straight after my shower....

Who knew how exhausting brushing your teeth and having a shower is..... I was shattered. Completely wiped out. I ended up having to lie back down on the bed feeling really fed up with heavy leaden limbs. I was so fed up. With my usual bullish determination and reluctance to take heed of my body I dragged myself downstairs to find my yoga mat and purse to book on to yoga...... In the kitchen I could hardly even lift my yoga mat up let alone lay it out or perform any moves! Anna and Matt were eating their porridge and eyed me cautiously...

I made it to the sofa and laid down, exhausted. My muscles ached and I felt like a lead weight. I had to accept that this was a new phase of C19 and I wasn’t going anywhere. My new life as a regular online yoga practitioner was going to have to wait.

Matt didn’t feel as bad as me initially and decided to mow the lawn as that always makes everyone feel better.

Following his grass cutting activities Matt was absolutely shattered and had to join me on the sofa until he couldn’t handle the exertion of sitting up watching you tube videos about carpentry any longer and had to go back to bed to sleep.

Anna was at “virtual school” and it was so lovely to hear her laughing and chatting with her friends and to see her teacher who is teaching from isolation himself, a teaching assistant in the classroom and the whole thing running seamlessly.

Anna finished virtual school and was chatting to other friends in self isolation online. Elliott still hadn’t appeared and it was 12.30 but to be honest Matt and I were so wiped out we imagined he probably was too.

Matt appeared and made us baked beans on toast and Elliott made an appearance ...... We all agreed that even though we couldn’t taste the beans on toast the taste is so familiar and etched on our memory it’s as if we could taste it. Tea and coffee is a bit like that too.

After lunch Matt went back to bed and I cleared up the kitchen. Elliott wanted to watch The Phantom Thread ( Daniel Day Lewis film) which is excellent but I didn’t have the energy for it so I vacated the lounge and attempted to darn another house in the studio but there is no where comfortable to sit in there and it was freezing and everything ached so I decided go to bed too. I was exhausted and I hadn’t done anything all day except darn a house. I slept for a couple of hours only woken by Jane our west highland terrier barking in the garden, she is finding isolation a huge challenge and I am absolutely desperate to get her out for a good long walk. Our neighbour did take them out this evening for a good walk which I was very grateful for.

I went down and checked Anna was happy, still chatting to her friends online....... I didn’t have the energy for sewing clouds today which is not a sentence I thought I would ever write...... Must try and up my game tomorrow.

Being in isolation feels like being held back in a race as everyone “outside” seems to be learning about new ways to navigate shops and everyday routines. I am trepidatious about what will be available when we can go out. Today a lovely friend bought us some french bread which we made garlic bread with this evening and another friend messaged to say she would make us a cake which actually made me cry. Our friend Michelle bought us oranges which I was delighted about as vitamin c is supposed to see of C19.

When I had the idea of this blog I was planning to share links of online resources such as fun things to do with children or creative pursuits for adults but I haven’t done that yet as I have not felt well enough since C19 took it’s grip. I have also on occasion found all this enthusiasm people I follow on instagram keeping posting about for “learning new things’ and ‘ using our time wisely’ overwhelming even though I know it is meant with the kindest intentions. I suspect it is because I haven’t had the energy to do anything due to being ill but I have also had enormous feelings of guilt today that my daughter has basically spent probably upwards of 7 hours on a screen....

I am sure we will find a new way of doing things once we are feeling better.


Isolating (sort of) in Melbourne

Jean Holland

My two medical daughters laid down the law and I have been firmly (and I mean it!) directed to self isolate - no going to the shops, the medical clinic, or into the city, and absolutely no socialising except by phone or Skype., No ifs, ands or buts. Walks outside are ok, thank heavens! Mostly friends here think this is 'over the top'! Australia is a couple weeks behind Europe and the UK, and unfortunately very fuzzy messages from the government have left people confused about the urgency of acting to control the spread of the virus.

Still, from the Melbourne living room I am feeling more and more intensely connected with friends and family all over the world. So many conversations! They have been wonderful even despite the sadness of knowing we can't get together for the foreseeable future. No longer able to go to the States in May for my younger daughter's graduation, the three of us celebrated via a Zoom teleconference me at eight in the morning.

The three of us celebrated together via a Zoom teleconference - and with champagne - in Alabama, Cambridge and Melbourne. Mine was a mimosa because it was 8am!


Rural Norfolk

Chris Gates

Day 8, Monday. Shopping remains difficult: the fundamental exchange of money for goods thwarted by there being none, but on the upside getting around visiting shops is easier as there’s so little traffic. Through the day we’re prepared for something momentous at today’s No10 briefing - which is delayed until 8.30 - giving plenty of time for the message that a tightening of the screw - compulsion - is to follow.

The past week of escalating seriousness (UK deaths total now 281 with 5600 confirmed positive testings) will force extraordinary measures, and sure enough in a short appearance, bang, Boris hits us hard: the country is now on a three week ‘shutdown’ with most shops other than food shops closed and everyone other than key workers confined to their homes except to visit medics, shop, exercise once a day and go to funerals. As ‘gatherings’ of more than two are forbidden, weddings are banned. As gatherings of more than two are banned, all cafes and restaurants are to close, including the mighty Burger King and McDonalds, even where there are drive-through service. Queues immediately form for a last burger. All travel except in the course of permitted pursuits is banned - backed by emergency police powers to stop, interrogate and issue fines for non-compliance.

There is some nuancing... bike shops can remain open to service the exercise cohort. Sensing a crack, the notorious head of Sports Direct, Mike Ashley, announces his vast shops will stay open to similarly service the public with trainers.


For the purposes of record, these remain open: supermarkets and cornershops selling food, healthshops, chemists, bikeshops, hardware shops, petrol stations, garages, banks, post offices, newsagents.

Everything else is to close down. Now.

later the same day... Mike Ashley gives in to Gov’t pressure and agrees to close his sports shops, and perhaps in pique, his 50 Evans bike shops too. No doubt online sales are a big factor these days. The current ‘figures’ have been released this afternoon: 8077 confirmed, 422 dead, 90,436 tested positive. I had a book once, about Slapton on Sea, Devon. It was called “A Fortunate Place”, which I thought charming. A friend has just described our circs here in the same way, and begged us not to leave its shelter. That’s fishing off for the moment then...


Choose Something Like A Star

Kate, Hitchin

The world pressed the pause button..... took a long walk this morning across the fields of Charlton and Preston.  The most striking sound of a skylark....will this be a silent spring ? The sounds are changing, for sure. Becoming more natural. Phrases or quotes are on my mind; Never waste a good crisis. Not sure who said this, but I seem to remember that crisis and opportunity are the same pictogram in Chinese. Is this true? I always liked this idea. And a Proust quote from an amazing book Kim gave me called "All Good Things" 'The creation of the world did not occur at the beginning of time, it occurs every day'. Never more true, than today, I feel. By the way - the starry title of my contributions, is the title if a poem by Robert Frost.


Midwife 42

Emma, NZ

We woke to rain and an endless stream of emails as the country tries to coordinate school and work and grocery shopping.

Both the husband and I are deemed essential workers and currently we are debating who is most essential. He will be asked to coordinate C19 training for the hospital and I’m on the Maternity ward. Realistically only one of us can work as the risk of contamination to our areas is high. 


It’s not something we have agreed upon yet. 


Meanwhile my procrastination has reached new and interesting levels as my research project is put off for the more urgent tasks of baking, book shelf arranging, cat de-burring, and general doodling. It seems that even in an enforced rainy lockdown getting to grips with a deadline still beautifully alludes me.

Before supper I drag the children out to walk the bank of the small estuary behind our house. After moaning and dragging their gumboots down the track they’re soon happily skimming stones and the dog is doing his best to frighten the oyster catchers and spoonbills.

In a bid to secure wine and cat litter the husband had to wait in rain outside the supermarket. They were only allowing groups of 20 in at a time. People are still struggling with the idea of social distancing, I hope that instead of it being simple ignorance it’s an unconscious need to be closer to each other and that we naturally drift into others paths. 


Tomorrow on line classes start in earnest for the children - maybe I’ll be better helping others with their homework?


A Wymondham Plaguery?

George Szirtes, Wymondham

It is the acceleration, isn't it? Although it was perfectly obvious that it would happen since it is, as has been explained several times, a matter of exponential growth (I think I am using the right term, if not someone will correct me). We have all seen the rising curve on the graphs, to the extent that if curves had hot breath we'd be feeling it on our necks by now. It's the compressed time scale, the sense that you are not where you thought you were yesterday but somewhere else entirely. There is a Twitter hashtag CORVIDIOTS that has plenty of examples that live up to the name. People living in an eternal vacancy.

It looks as though Boris himself has been accelerated into another rather different and dizzying time zone. He's not much good at the Churchillian thing really. Too much 'Have I Got News For You'. Yes, he does have news, a little like a form teacher in an unruly class pleading: Come now, chaps! Do stop it, chaps!

(The thought of Churchill dispensing his speeches in a HIGNIFY format is diverting: 'Which is the odd one out, a dog with a bucket on its head, a car with five wheels, a photo of the Normandy beaches or a plate of Eggs Benedict?)

But Boris can't really have been surprised. He himself warned us, before things shifted into overdrive, that there would be a rather large number of deaths. (I'm afraid some of you chaps might not make it so chuck a few things into the old kitbag now).

Another BUT, and a big one. I think the right things are being done now. On the whole. Not that there is much choice. But the self-employed and zero-hours people must have support as soon as possible. Some basic national wage fed into their accounts seems the most obvious solution but how that would be done is a matter for the chancellor who seems capable and, frankly, a better leader than Boris.

And yet another BUT. Listen, chaps, I believe we are aiming at a peak of 20,000 deaths which, if you are one of that 20,000 or related to one of them, or love them, or are in any way dependent on them, is, in every case, 20,000 too many. But it is still not an astronomical number. Nobody is going round with a cart crying Bring out your dead!

As to myself, I am with Woody Allen (Mark 1) on death, in saying 'I don't mind dying I just don't want to be there at the time.' Like many friends here, I suspect, I am very glad to have lived a life a thousand times more fortunate than my parents. I have no great wish to hang around into the ultimate family-ruining decrepitude. I rather like looking at the small tree outside with its visiting birds. They are getting on with life though for some it might be curtailed for various natural reasons. They don't look careworn on account of that.

"I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself" wrote D H Lawrence. Hard to tell, I suppose. Maybe some elderly blackbird will tell us about its own self-pity.


From Rural New York

Sandy Connors

Three to four inches of beautiful heavy white snow has fallen on my newly raked out flower beds overnight ~ called poor man’s manure, thus I reassure myself that all the little green sprouts and early bulbs will be fine. Yesterday I called our vet to see if six month old Dickens’ neutering scheduled for tomorrow is still on ~ ‘Yes, come at 8 am ~ you will be the only ones here, we shall meet you at the door, and the same when you come to pick him up.’ I wonder should I write them a check which I would have to handle and so would they, or pay over the phone with my credit card.  

My daughter-in-law is dropping off fresh canary seed for Mr. Jefferson later today which I had forgotten when I ordered large bags of dog and cat food last week.  I am set for food for myself for at least another week.

The warmth from the fire in the kitchen wood stove has always been a comfort but more so these past two weeks as we are housebound. Today I will work on my engraving, and afterwards my Shetland Hap Shawl, FaceTime with my son, and a friend, listen to a favorite classical radio station, cook, and walk outside to enjoy the snow-covered corn field behind my property.

I am very grateful for all that is good and feel we are all doing the best we can yet I woke this morning with the briefest feeling that I must call my long-gone parents.  

Was I anxious for them, or for myself ~


La vie quotidienne, la France profonde. Le 24 mars

MJK, Magrie France

Although we've been confined for eight days now, lockdown hasn't affected me as much as others in our little community. I'm house bound recovering from surgery and a high spot in my day is contact with the community nurses. 


Three of them call by in rotation. We chat and laugh in broken French and rusty English, and I get to learn a bit about their lives. One woman has two teenage daughters at home busily cooking to pass the time; she's worried that she'll get fat if she eats all the cakes and pastries that she comes home to after her shift driving 200 km and visiting up to 40 patients a day. Another is a man passionate about bringing about change in local politics, giving young and green voices a chance. Bigger worries are dealt with too: today's nurse regrets that there's now an 8pm to 6am curfew in Carcassonne because people are out on the streets despite the lockdown rules. And cases are rising by 15% with deaths following up behind.

Neighbours talk to each other through windows, wave and shout "bonjour" as they walk their dogs. The viticulteurs fire up their old tractors and chug off to spray the vines while others stand alone in the vineyards training the tendrils that will bear this year's grapes and next year's blanquette.


The sun is shining, the birds sing, the grass gets greener by the day. Last year's wine waits in cool cellars to be opened for toasts when the threat of plague has passed.


We wait but life goes on, as normal as we can make it.


In a Canary Plantation

Amanda White

My daughter arrives home with three bulging bags of groceries.

She is sweaty, hot, breathless and grumpy after shopping following an hour's wait in a queue that snaked through the underground car park of our local supermarket. No signal there so she couldn't even entertain herself with her phone. Which accounts for extra grumpiness.

Most of what was on my list is there except for white wine. She sees me grimace as I pull out the tinto. Right label. Wrong colour.

"Well that's all there was," she snaps, "and there were only three left anyway."

No cheese, the wrong chocolate.

(All three items I regard as "essentials", before anyone asks).

But the cats have done okay, thankfully.

I breathe a sigh of relief as I fill up the cats' food cupboard with their favourite tins.

We humans can always make do, but cats? That's something else.

Ours at least would far rather eat desiccated lizards than Lidl's own brand.


We got this! This could be cool!

t - Rural Norfolk

In the usually quiet daytimes of our home, the teen has requisitioned all of the Bluetooth speakers. This means that in a small cottage, every time I want to play music, I have to ask him to disconnect first. Thus far he has responded to my pleas with such reasoned arguments as ‘Classical music makes me feel nauseous and I need my strength, because deadly virus’, or ‘I’m a young person suffering unprecedented stress and anxiety, why would you add to that?!’ , or, the clincher; ‘My music is so much better. No.’ 

In fairness to the teen, it is a happy side effect of his generation’s constant intake of random information, that his playlists are in fact rather good. Inspired by game and film soundtracks, YouTubers and memes, one moment it may be Sinatra, then next E.L.O, or some Gregorian chant -like theme from Skyrim, followed by Tom Lehrer poisoning pigeons. We do not use music streaming services, I object to the practice of buying things we do not own and, out here, Wifi is by no means taken for granted, and we get no mobile signal at all. If the broadband goes down, this isolation thing will get real, fast!


Meanwhile I have a secret speaker in my shed studio, and have escaped for quality time with Audible and tea whilst the teen is still asleep. I am aware he is taking advantage of my Tech Ennui (trans.: I am capable of learning, I am just disinclined to do so). In time we will begin formal negotiations, and since he owns noise cancelling headphones, I believe I am the more vulnerable party here!

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