Isolating in England: Day 10, Clive’s surprise

Two of the three young Aussies

The UK lockdown came into force on Monday night, March 23rd.

In some ways, it feels like more than 10 days ago. In others, we know it’s early. We’re still figuring out how best to cope and what helps in our daily routine.

Clive’s surprise

This morning’s treat was a surprise Skype call with Clive’s son and family in Australia. Because of the time difference (currently a mere 10 hours) and everyone’s busy schedules, we usually know ahead of time when the calls will happen.

Today’s was special because we were supposed to be in flight between London and Sydney, instead of in lockdown in Felixstowe. Clive chatted with everyone except his elder grandson. This young man, still in high school, is also an essential worker in his part-time job with a large supermarket. We’re so proud of him! We hope his evening shift went well and look forward to seeing his handsome face on the next call.

Grandad really enjoyed his one-on-one talks with his grandchildren, and of course catching up with the adult happenings as well. He said the call was extra-special because it was a surprise.

One thing for sure: seeing our children and their families, if only on a computer screen, always makes our day. Heartfelt hugs and good on ya, Aussies.

Paranoid, moi?

Cheltenham Racecourse, 13 March 2020 before UK lockdown (Getty Images)

Three weeks ago, after C-virus warnings were issued around the world but before the UK lockdown, more than 60,000 people per day poured into the annual, four-day Cheltenham Festival. The festival is a major event in the UK racing calendar.

At the time, I expressed concern — shock, actually – that the government hadn’t stepped in to cancel the event.

Clive said I was being paranoid.

Today’s news is flooded with reports the ex-husband of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Andrew Parker Bowles, has C-virus. He’s believed to have picked it up at – the Cheltenham Festival. The UK Telegraph also says, ‘Hundreds of racegoers have also reported symptoms.’


Hindsight is great, but this does remind everyone we all need to stay the heck at home.


UK Prime Minister 1 April 2020 (video still from Twitter video)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted a video on Twitter last night. Among other things, he acknowledged the need for the UK to increase C-virus testing.

Today a Public Health England spokesperson said ‘everybody involved’ is unhappy about the lack of progress.

To me, the PM looked unwell. I find it difficult to watch daily press briefings, no matter who’s doing them. My non-medical, non-politically-expert view is the country needs more clear, coordinated leadership. We pray for the health and safety of the NHS and all essential workers (and will applaud for them again tonight – more below). We hope they will get the tests and equipment they so urgently need.

Daily scary chart

C-virus tracking chart (Financial Times 1 April 2020, John Burn-Murdoch)

The UK Financial Times is a trusted source for news and C-virus information.

Their reports include what I’ve nicknamed the daily scary chart. If you’re interested in ‘stories, stats and scatterplots’, I recommend following FT analyst John Burn-Murdoch @jburnmurdoch on Twitter, for his informative highlights.

Last night, with reference to the above chart, he tweeted, ‘For me this chart is the most alarming of the latest batch. US & UK daily death tolls are accelerating in a straight line … still increasing exponentially. ~All other countries had begun slowing the rate of increase in deaths by now.’

I can’t bring myself to look at these numbers every day. We can’t control much if anything about them (other than to stay at home). But sometimes I find it helpful to understand trends and see how different countries fit into the global picture.

Champagne plus

Champagne on the balcony a few days ago (we put the eggs away before the first sip)

Clive and I enjoyed our champagne earlier this week. We ordered one bottle, though Sainsbury’s maximum is three.

Australia is where I learned to drink champagne on occasions other than weddings and New Year’s Eve. In Sydney’s warm climate, a glass of sparkly goes beautifully with beach picnics, barbies and evenings with friends.

Going into an Aussie Dan Murphy’s liquor supermarket is like going into a large Barnes & Noble bookstore in the US: row upon row of the latest releases, shelves of old classics or quirky finds, sections organised by region or country, seasonal boxed sets, special-offer tables, discount deals and loyalty cards.

Like UK bottle shops, French wine boutiques and US liquor stores, Aussie alcohol purveyors have been deemed essential. They remain open.

According to the latest Aussie drinking news, Dan Murphy’s now has the following ‘limit per customer per day: 18 bottles of wine, three casks of wine, six bottles of spirits and three cases of beer, cider and premix.’

I really don’t know what more to say about this. As a popular expression goes, the Aussies do like a drop. Clive says, ‘That’s Australia.’


Visiting our friends’ allotment (2015), Yorkshire

Meanwhile, in Yorkshire, a woman was fined £660 (751 euros / AUD $1,356 / USD $816) for failing to tell the police why she was at a railway station. Clive and I just shake our heads. The police have more than enough to deal with and we’re squarely behind them in cases like this.

A friend in Yorkshire says the police are setting up roadblocks and asking people where they’re going. If the journey is not essential, they ask them to go home. Word of their presence is out, and this is deterring people.

We’re still not sure if the UK will impose mandatory maximum distances we’re allowed to travel from home. Our friend is happy because thus far, the government has said it’s perfectly OK for people to work on their allotments. These individual garden plots are part of the English culture and a beautiful way for those who don’t have large gardens or yards at home, or who live in apartment buildings, to get outside and grow their own vegetables, fruit and flowers.

A second UK Clap for Carers is planned for 8pm tonight. My phone is set for 7:55pm.

I don’t plan to bang my metal spoon on our steel frying-pan lid, as last week I was the only one on our street doing more than applauding. Clive says you never know. I might have started a trend. We agree applause is more dignified. More tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s also our first ASDA delivery, with a time slot of 3-5pm (interesting as Sainsbury’s gives one-hour slots). Life in lockdown: Will ASDA have bananas? We wait to find out.

We send all positive thoughts from us to you. Stay strong and safe, everyone.

Tree by the sea, Thursday 02 April 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Isolating in England: Day 9, Tickety-boo

Ducks on today’s walkabout, Suffolk Living shop, Felixstowe

In an email exchange last night, an English friend wrote, ‘Good to hear from you in these rather strange times … trust that you are both tickety-boo.’

This wasn’t the first time he’s used this wonderful expression. For some reason, it always makes me smile.

The Urban Dictionary defines tickety-boo’s meaning as, ‘Going smoothly, doing all right.’ The Oxford Dictionary goes further, with ‘Very good or successful, with no problems.’ Actor Danny Kaye sang ‘Everything Is Tickety Boo’ in ‘Merry Andrew’, a 1958 American film.

Clive and I know we’re blessed to be safe and well and to live in Felixstowe. But I’d give anything to hug my son right now. Today’s the day we were supposed to depart for Australia, and Clive’s feeling the disappointment. We may not be 100% tickety-boo, but we try to stay positive, and usually do.

Thank you to our lovely friend for the smile. In the midst of the pressures and pain of the world’s C-virus events, may we all find something each day, no matter how small, that’s tickety-boo.


Suffolk Living shop, Felixstowe, on today’s walkabout

As someone who reads and writes a lot, I’m happy to spend time inside, especially in our custom-designed study. From the front of our apartment, we’re blessed with a view and a balcony. The ever-changing sea and plenty of fresh air are readily available.

Before the C-virus pandemic, Clive was often the one advocating for a walk. We know it’s even more important now, to stay healthy, move our bodies and get daily exercise and fresh air.

Sometimes, though, I resist. I have to motivate myself to change from comfy tracksuit pants and ancient Topsiders which act as slippers into jeans and sneakers – not to mention to put my face on, or at least mascara.

Today I asked Clive what he likes most — beyond the basic ‘exercise and fresh air’ – about going out and about.

The first thing he said was, ‘It helps keep us in touch with the outside world. You step out into it. With due caution and social distancing, we taste it for a while. It’s a different atmosphere from what we have on the balcony and our surroundings are beautiful.’

He also said he enjoys the different views and scenery as we move around and through the environment, and that the walks help remind us of the importance of social distancing.

As the family worrier, with a husband who has underlying health conditions, I’m not keen to step out anywhere either of us could be at risk of infection. I’d never thought of our day-release walkabout as the kind of sensual experience Clive describes.

I thought this was an interesting and insightful way to look at it. Then again, he’s always been a sensitive, and sensual, guy.

Today’s UK virus numbers hit a tragic new record, with a one-day high of 563 deaths. Total deaths are 2,352. It’s hard to fathom the still-rising numbers in the US and other countries in Europe.

As our friend also said in his email last night, stay strong and safe.

I can’t think of a better hope and prayer for all.

Tree by the sea, Wednesday 01 April 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Isolating in England: Day 8, Town Walkabout

‘The Triangle’ Felixstowe

Greetings from the North Sea coast to wherever this may find you.

Yesterday on our day-release walkabout, Clive and I wanted to see for ourselves the impact of C-virus on Felixstowe’s main shopping streets.

We did a loop around Hamilton Gardens, Orwell Road and Hamilton Road. These photos are more or less in the order we walked.

Felixstowe Card Centre, my favourite local shop

Card Centre Easter window display

Looking down Bent Hill to the seafront

Bent Hill post office, the one we normally use, C-virus hours M-F, 10:30am-12:30pm.

Lines outside our surgery (GP practice) and ‘little’ Boots chemist

Turkish restaurant Anatolia, a favourite, where our friend Peter introduced me to Efes beer, The lovely owners are from the Izmir region of Turkey. We all hope they survive this situation.

Shared pedestrian/car area, normally buzzing with people. Clive says the only thing missing is the tumbleweed blowing down the middle of the street.

Closed shops, no people

Best kitchen shop, without its usual wonderful window displays

Looking back toward the sea

Iceland, which sometimes comes in handy

We often meet friends for coffee here — last time we couldn’t find a seat, inside or outside

WH Smith open because it houses a second Post Office

Not really a chemist, but managing to stay open

Boots the Chemist, a mainstay of English high streets. We call this one ‘big’ Boots as it’s much larger than the one next to our surgery.

Waiting in the queue. We’re so thankful we can do online orders and delivery

Empty benches in ‘The Triangle’

Fruit market open, cafe closed

Another view from the deserted Triangle

I wanted to take more photos today of a few favourite places, but Clive reminded me there’s plenty of time ahead for that. More in future.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour of our town.

Deep Throat Testing

Dr Norman Swan (photo ABC news video)

Aussie doctor Norman Swan, whose expertise is highly-trusted Down Under, experienced flu-like symptoms last Saturday night. Today he published a 4-day diary of his experience.

‘The testing was surreal,’ Dr Swan writes. ‘The carpark was a bit like that scene in Watergate where Woodward meets Deep Throat. No one is there. Eventually my GP walks down the ramp cleverly disguised in a N95 mask, and apron and gloves of course.’

Dr Swan had to do the swab on himself, since the GP ‘explains that since he doesn’t have full PPE, this is the only way he can stay safe.’

‘It’s made me reflect on the many hundreds of people who are in enforced quarantine,’ he says. ‘It’s what needs to happen to protect our health. They’re doing it tough to help us all.’

He adds, ‘This pandemic is forcing difficult decisions from those in power. Those decisions are reducing the power we have to make our own choices – but it’s for the public good.’

I’m pleased to say Dr Swan’s test came back negative. I hope he remains well, that testing increases where it needs to and everyone in enforced quarantine (like our precious friend in NYC, who’s doing OK) will find a way that works for them to endure and recover.


bananas 2

We have no bananas today.

In our Sainsbury’s delivery today, items not available include bananas, canned chickpeas and butter beans (for Clive’s next stew) and Dolmio Smooth pasta sauce. They do have pears, apples, cherry tomatoes, green beans and sugar snap peas – and eggs and champagne.

Around three weeks ago, when we attempted to submit our regular fortnightly order with Sainsbury’s, we found every delivery slot blanked out for several weeks ahead.

I worried. Mr Technology, always up for a challenge, got to work. After days of ‘still nothing for weeks’ with Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons and Iceland, on March 19 he found a lone slot on ASDA. Delivery date: Friday, April 3. We jumped on it.

Since then, things have changed. Today the BBC reported supermarkets have changed their practices in response to supply and demand.

Thanks to Mr Tech’s continued vigilance, we’re back to receiving Sainsbury’s deliveries (and getting loyalty-club Nectar points). Today we deleted items no longer needed from ASDA, and added a few not available from Sainsbury’s, like bananas.

Of course ASDA’s website is different from Sainsbury’s. It lets you order an item, and only after that, tells you it’s not available (they don’t have chickpeas, butter beans or Dolmio Smooth, either). There have been many mutterings from Mr Technology about this. But we kept our order small, and got it done.

Anything could change by Friday, or overnight Thursday, when the order is picked and packed. We’re so blessed to have nourishing food, and so grateful for the grocery-shopping services available in Suffolk.

May we continue to give thanks for our food and every person in the supply chain who helps bring it to our shops and our homes. May they be blessed with good health and safety, for them and their families. May they know how grateful we are.

Tree by the sea, Tuesday 31 March 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Isolating in England: Day 7, ‘Triste’ (Sad)

Suffolk Show 2019 – cancelled for May 2020

In the 2016 UK Brexit referendum, Clive and I voted Remain. But Remaining was not to be.

With the C-virus problems adding to the challenges of Brexit, we’re now seeing reports with headlines like ‘Farmers warn over food supply with harvest workers shut out’ and ‘Fruit and veg ‘will run out’ unless Britain charters planes to fly in farm workers from Eastern Europe’.

Clive saw an interview today with a farmer who said he’s struggling to keep up with demand. Panic- buying, lambing season and decreasing availability of EU labour all play their part.

The farmer wondered if UK citizens, temporarily laid off from their regular jobs, could be hired. We’re not exactly optimistic about this. They’d earn much less, and the work can be back-breaking.

The farmer also said he’s struggling to keep up with the demand for — potatoes.

UCLH Hospital & Mercedes Formula 1

A breathing aid to help keep patients out of intensive care (photo from BBC/UCL/James Tye)

A place we know well, University College London Hospital (UCLH), is in the UK news today. Clive had two surgical procedures at UCLH in 2018. I’ve spent a few nights in their accommodation for family members. We’ve always been impressed with their specialist staff and expertise.

A team of UCLH clinicians, University College London engineers and Mercedes F1 engineers have built a device called CPAP, for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. It helps oxygen get to the lungs, and is designed to help keep patients out of intensive care.

CPAP is described as halfway between an oxygen mask and an invasive, increasingly-precious ventilator. The devices have been successful in the Lombardy region of Italy, but are in extremely short supply.

UK trials of the newly-manufactured ones are promising. If successful, Mercedes F1 can produce up to 1,000 per day. They’re based in Brackley, Northamptonshire, 78 miles northwest of London.

We never would have guessed UCLH and Formula 1 would team up for such an endeavour. Like the rest of the country, we’re cheering them on.

‘C’est très triste’ (it’s very sad)

My 80 year-old Paris neighbour told me on the phone yesterday she’s still going out every morning. She makes sure to take her attestation, the paper explaining why she’s out. Her 89 year-old husband isn’t well, and hasn’t been out in more than a month. They have two sons, but both live far away.

My friend goes to the boulangerie, which is now open only from 8am-2pm. She goes to the pharmacie. She’s a social person. She misses, deeply, the interactions she’s had for decades with local merchants and market purveyors. Now she must trek through Monoprix for fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. Everything else is closed.

C’est très triste,’ she says. It’s very sad.

My heart aches for my friends. I’m thankful our concierge and other residents in the building are helping where they can. I love this couple, and pray they will continue to survive their confinement.

Morris Column, rue des Écoles, Paris 30 March 2020 (photo by Tom Reeves, Paris Insights)

Paris Insights shared a beautiful photo today of a Morris Column on rue des Écoles, in the city’s 5th arrondissement.

According to photographer Tom Reeves, ‘the column illustrates various homebound activities taking place during this period of confinement. From left to right, top to bottom: a man playing the saxophone; a woman listening to the music; a cat scratching the window blinds; a woman meditating, a person with earphones at computer; a girl dropping provisions to neighbor; a mother arranging her daughter’s hair; a neighbor releasing a gift.’

Thank you, Tom and well done, Paris. Paris, je t’aime.

Magnetism Down Under

Australia (2019), Sydney Royal Botanic Garden

Australia has tightened its C-virus restrictions, with no more than two people allowed (unless immediate family) in any public gathering. I’m sad to say Dr Norman Swan, the Scottish-Aussie expert I wrote about last week, developed symptoms and is self-isolating. He’s been tested, with results expected in the next day or two.

And, because the person written about today in a Guardian Australia article is OK now, I can’t resist sharing, ‘Astrophysicist gets magnets stuck up nose while inventing coronavirus device’. He was working on a way to stop people touching their faces.

According to the Guardian’s FB post, ‘the mishap … was made worse when the 27-year-old resorted to pliers to pull the magnets out, only for the pliers to then become magnetised by the magnets in his nose.’

I confess this made me chuckle. A lot. Maybe I’ll be cheering for him, too, if he contributes to a new, life-saving invention. We wish him well.

By the dozen

Thanks to Mr Technology, who jumped on a normal online delivery slot last night, our next Sainsbury’s order has been placed. Today we also received an email about additional slots open for EVUC.

In our last two deliveries, we received about 50% of what we ordered. We await tomorrow morning’s notification of what is, or is not, available. Delivery time is 3-4pm. The order includes a dozen eggs and a bottle of champagne.

With any luck, we’ll raise a glass on the balcony before 5pm.

Also sad: almost-empty town carpark

On our day-release walkabout today, we found central Felixstowe nearly deserted. The Ranelagh Road carpark, on a normal weekday, would be half to two-thirds full. Today it’s virtually empty. More about the town tomorrow.

May the farmers find the workers they need. May we use our food wisely and not panic-buy. And may we not get magnets stuck up our noses.

Tree by the sea, Monday 30 March 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Isolating in England: Day 6, A Study in Self-Isolation

Sunday windy walkabout, tree by the sea 29 March 2020

Greetings from a windy and chilly North Sea coast.

Today on our day-release walkabout, Clive and I noticed how carefully the few people who ventured out were observing social distancing. A group of three, which seemed to be a mother and two teens, crossed the street well before we would have had to pass each other. A few minutes later, we waited for another couple to pass by before we crossed over. They saw we were waiting and gave an appreciative nod. No-one wants to take a chance of getting too close.

A Felixstowe resident dies in Ipswich Hospital

Busier times on Felixstowe Prom (2015 photo)

Only today we learned a 66 year-old Felixstowe resident died on March 24 at Ipswich Hospital, after contracting Covid-19. Before his hospital admission on March 20, he had developed symptoms at home and gone into self-isolation until his symptoms worsened. He had underlying health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

Though we didn’t know him, our hearts go out to his family and loved ones.

Suffolk, our county, has 74 cases of C-virus at time of writing. The county population is 758,556. The UK total is more than 19,000 cases, in a population of 66.4 million. The UK death total rose by 209 overnight and is now 1,228.

We don’t always keep up with the numbers. They’re changing so fast. We do keep up with the news, as we always have. This afternoon we read that Dr Fauci, the trusted American medical expert, said US deaths could exceed 100,000.

We’re also hearing more and more stories from friends about the virus striking ever-closer to their loved ones. You are all in our prayers.

Isolation, side-by-side

Clive building our Felixstowe study

When Clive and I embarked on a new adventure (2011) and moved from Australia to England, Clive transformed a tired 2-bedroom flat into our customised living space.

Among many other projects, he built our joint study. I wrote about (and shared photos of) the creation of this indoor happy place in Our New Study, from 45 Boxes to Heaven.

The study is where I write, Skype, send emails that are too long to tap out on my phone, sort and file papers, process financial transactions and pull my favourite books off the shelf. Often it’s where I chat with Clive, since our desks are side-by-side, as they were in Australia.

And thanks to a Felixstowe friend with insider connections, we even were able to buy incredibly comfortable chairs from her office’s supply company. Who would have guessed their placement six feet apart would meet C-virus social distancing requirements.

Our study, thanks to Clive

At my desk on Friday, I received an email from one of my father’s dear sisters, who’s 83 years old and lives in the western US state of Arizona. She included a link to a NY Times article by David Brooks, The Moral Meaning of the Plague.

‘We’ll look back on this as one of the most meaningful periods of our lives,’ Brooks writes. And, ‘We’re forced to be intentional about keeping up our human connections.’ He poses some interesting questions, such as, ‘What role do you play in this crisis? What is the specific way you are situated to serve?’

I found the article thought-provoking, so printed it out to re-read later.

Church in the C-virus era

Bethesda Baptist Church, Felixstowe

Last night, at 10:30pm Saturday night UK time and 9:30am Sunday morning in Australia, Clive watched the live-stream service of the church his son and family attend on Sydney’s Central Coast. Clive was at the large computer screen on his desk. I half-listened while catching up on e-mails at mine.

The pastor said something about ‘an article I received this week’. Then he quoted, ‘Are you ready to die? If your lungs filled with fluid a week from Tuesday would you be content with the life you’ve lived?’

Immediately I grabbed the NY Times piece and started waving it around, saying ‘This is the article! My Auntie Peg sent it to us!’ Clive then read it quickly himself and we both listened to the rest of the sermon.

For some reason, it moved me greatly that that my auntie in the western USA and a minister in New South Wales, Australia were both contemplating the same deep questions around the meaning of the current pandemic. Then I realised: of course. We all are. Thank you, Auntie Peg and Andrew Heard.

‘Viktor Frankl, writing from the madness of the Holocaust, reminded us that we don’t get to choose our difficulties,’ Brooks writes, ‘but we do have the freedom to select our responses.’

As one of our responses, this morning Clive and I again joined the live-stream of our local church service (another well done, André Beck). In addition to the virtual fellowship, we enjoyed an upbeat song from Sovereign Grace Music, which we were told has made their offerings free during this time.

England’s deputy Chief Medical Officer said in this afternoon’s daily press conference it could be six months or more until the country returns to normal. Oh la la! May we all strengthen our patience and pacing muscles to get us through.

Now that England’s clocks have sprung ahead, we think the extra hour of daylight each day will be something to appreciate and enjoy. Maybe we’ll even have a glass of champagne on the balcony.

Thanks for all your comments here (and on FB). They mean a lot and it’s great hearing about what’s happening in other places, whether near or far.

Happy walking, or whatever form of exercise each one of us is able to do – not too far from home. May we find meaning in our daily activities and responses to the pandemic, whether inside or out.

Daylight Savings Time, tree by the sea 7:30pm Sunday 29 March 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Isolating in England: Day 5, Eggs

100% goodness: Clive’s beef stew

I woke this morning to the sound of Clive in the kitchen, chopping vegetables. Whoo hoo! My photo doesn’t do justice to his beef stew.

That’s two, or maybe three, dinners sorted. Best of all, the stew tastes better every night.

Our spud supply is decreasing nicely. Unfortunately, my response to C-virus self-isolation does not include a chirpy, ‘Oh, fun! I can find some tasty potato recipes.’

I just want to use them before they sprout little growths and make it look like we’re housing C-virus pods in our kitchen.

NHS Nightingale Hospital

London ExCel centre, becoming a hospital (photo Sky News)

London is the epicentre of C-virus in the UK, with more than 30% of its cases. As of 5pm yesterday, 1,019 people have died after testing positive for the virus.

In the east London Docklands area, the ExCel exhibition centre will open next week as ‘NHS Nightingale Hospital’. Military and trade construction workers are transforming the space of 100,000 square metres (1.076 million square feet), the size of Terminal 5 at Heathrow.

The new facility will be the biggest hospital in the UK, beginning with 500 ICU beds, fully staffed with medical teams, oxygen and ventilators, and growing to 4,000. Last night I watched a news report of a similar transformation in New York City’s Javits Center.

Additional NHS Nightingale Hospitals will open soon in Manchester and Birmingham, followed by one in the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, the national stadium of Wales.

Today the NHS England medical director said if the UK death toll is kept below 20,000, ‘we will have done very well.’ Clive and I both feel horrified by the forecasted numbers.

Coping with overload

Musée d’Orsay 28 March 2020: La Seine et Notre-Dame de Paris (1864), Johan Jongkind

Amid the information and communications deluging most of us each day, I’m finding moments of calm by narrowing my focus and appreciating single images of art and beauty.

Today’s daily landscape shared by the Musée d’Orsay is La Seine et Notre-Dame de Paris (1864), by Dutch artist Johan Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891). Jongkind is regarded as one of the precursors of the Impressionists. He met a young Claude Monet when they both worked in Normandy, and Monet later said, ‘He was the one who really trained my eye.’

I’m also enjoying the blossoming spring beauty of a French garden. Jackie Skingley, author of High Heels and Beetle Crushers, posts a daily photo from her home in South West France, near Cognac. Merci, Jackie!

A home and garden in the Sud-Ouest, France (photo by Jackie Skingley)

As always, I’m treasuring the daily Skype call with my son.

And for Clive’s and my seaside walkabout, I’m down to mascara-only when putting my face on. I cancelled my hair trim for this week, just before the salon had to close anyway. My hair grows fast. It’s pointless to use electric rollers at the moment. I may become some albino-looking woman ‘of a certain age’ with long scraggly locks.

Stay local to exercise

In the Peak District aka Postcard Country with a lot of cows, 2006

In the initial UK lockdown, one of the reasons allowed to leave home was for exercise – one form per day, either on our own or with people we live with.

Some residents hopped into their cars, as many do in this walking country. They drove a long way, to places where they wanted to walk or cycle.

In the Peak District, Derbyshire – which I nicknamed Postcard Country when Clive took me there in 2006 – police left a note on a car windshield, ‘Travel to beauty spots is not essential travel. Stay safe – stay home. Reg. plate noted.’

Protests followed. The police were criticised for using a drone to capture images of groups walking together. A man said he needed to drive a long distance so he could cycle in the Yorkshire Moors.

As of yesterday, the latest advice is to ‘use open spaces’ near to home, where possible. Daily exercise was not intended to involve long trips. With new powers authorised by the recently-passed Coronavirus Bill, police may enforce with fines and/or imprisonment.

Many say ‘use open spaces near to home’ is not clear enough. We think common sense surely could apply. To date, though, that hasn’t always worked.

Last night Ireland announced new lockdown measures, including the requirement for all but essential workers to stay within 2km (1.2 miles) of home. France reduced its allowable distance to only 1km (.6 mile) on March 16th. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time until the UK follows.


The next challenge

We’re preparing a grocery list for our next online delivery. If the new system works, a selection of EVUC slots will open to us on Monday.

Will Sainsbury’s have eggs? They haven’t had them the past two times.

A friend in Woodbridge also couldn’t find eggs in the shops last week. Strange, since we live in a rural county with plenty of farms and chickens, as least as far as we know. An Aussie friend tweeted me that the sale of hens has skyrocketed in her area, as more people want them for food security.

Today Sainsbury’s website says, ‘We are currently experiencing some difficulty with the supply of fresh eggs in some stores. We are working hard to resolve this.’

We still have three eggs. Normally we buy six at a time, but maybe we’ll go wild and crazy and order a dozen. Or maybe get them from a farm shop. We remain optimistic.

I also plan to order the deferred champagne to celebrate Clive getting his 8-week supply of medication. We will of course toast our NHS angel.

Our clocks spring ahead to Daylight Savings Time tonight. We’re thankful we can step outside into fresh air and the sea breeze, or sometimes a sea gale force.


Me waving to Clive, tree by the sea Saturday 28 March 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.

Isolating in England: Day 4, Chicks

Sydney (2019), where we’ve sadly cancelled reservations for next week

Our NHS angel delivered Clive’s medication last evening. The specialist ordered an 8-week supply this time, though sometimes it’s less. Our hearts are filled with gratitude and we’re breathing much easier.

As of last night, our young friend in NYC continues to improve. We’re so thankful for this, and truly appreciate everyone’s positive thoughts and support.

It’s been another dramatic day in UK news, with both the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary diagnosed with C-virus. We hope they, along with everyone else affected, will recover as soon as possible. The PM was last seen outside last night, when he and the Chancellor stepped out onto Downing Street and joined the tribute to #clapforourcarers.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and PM Boris Johnson at 10 Downing St.

I’m thrilled to report #clapforourcarers was a huge success across the country, including here in Felixstowe and Suffolk.

Clive and I stepped onto our balcony a minute before 8pm – him empty-handed, me equipped with a large metal spoon and steel frying pan lid.

On the stroke of the hour, several residents on their balconies in the building next door and the one on the other side of them, our downstairs neighbour and two people walking along the footpath began to applaud. The clapping was sustained and loud, despite the competing lapping of the sea across the street.

While we were clapping, I couldn’t resist calling out, ‘Yay, NHS!’ We clapped for all the essential workers and health workers, from yesterday’s NHS angel to our friend’s daughter in Sheffield, who’s an NHS midwife. I also banged my spoon against the frying pan lid. Clive didn’t seem to mind, even though I was the only one doing more than clapping. I ended by returning to clapping, which went on for a good ten minutes.

Clapping in Felixstowe (video still from Everything Felixstowe and Beyond FB page, Alan Boyle)

Later, I emailed several friends in Felixstowe, my French group and my writing group. As their local blog reporter, I thank them for their replies and would like to share some great quotes.

‘Yes we went out (thinking we might be the only ones) but loads of people clapping, whooping and hollering – it was fantastic!’

‘Yes I went out and neighbours were either out or at windows. The mood felt defiant as well as emotional.’

‘We went down as did one other neighbour. There were lots over the road and in the flats. It was quite moving and uplifting and a chance to exchange a few words.’

‘There was only us and our neighbours in the cul-de-sac; we need to galvanise the rest (I did notice our other neighbours poking their heads through their curtains to have a peek!). We could hear the [next street’s] rowdy lot! They made a fantastic level of noise and kept it going for several minutes – well done to them.’

‘Yes we did as did all our neighbours … it was very emotional.’

‘Probably 50% of our street joined in. There was also some whistling between two, maybe three houses … there was some saucepan beating!’ [ed. note: so I wasn’t the only one]

‘Clapping, drumming and shouting.’

‘Very noisy here, as event taken over by a noisy teenager. Rather spoilt the moment.’ [I’m sorry to hear this one.]

‘We thought we might be all alone in our cul-de-sac, as you can’t actually see other doors, but we could hear other people clapping a little way away, and there were car horns and a bell. Will get my old school bell out tomorrow! Really emotional.’

‘We clapped and cheered but unfortunately couldn’t hear anyone else [on a farm property] so hooted our car horn! We did it too for all the people who are keeping our country going at this time!’

‘There were several in the street clapping. No shouting this is xx Rd and you don’t shout in this road (smile). On a more serious note, we had three dustbin-men move over when we were walking down the road … I thanked them very sincerely for the job they were doing and I’m sure it was a boost for them given their gratitude.’

‘There were lots of people wooping! It was fab.’

It was fab, indeed. Clive and I both got quite emotional, as we could feel people coming together in a unified salute to all the workers who are keeping the country running. I understood at a deeper, more visceral level why our friends in Paris treasure this moment each evening.

We don’t know if this will become a regular event here. In any case, well done, Britain.

Manly Beach (2019), where we will not be next week

We’ve been spending time handling cancellations for our annual Australia trip, postponed like everyone else’s upcoming travel.

British Airways offered a refund (with a cancellation fee), or a voucher good for 12 months. We happily chose the voucher.

Our Manly accommodation, near our former home, issued two full refunds. We chose a voucher for Cronulla, near Clive’s daughter. The Central Coast hotel, near Clive’s son and family, cancelled with no drama. Thanks to all, we won’t need to make any travel insurance claims.

The hotels clearly didn’t want to see us, incoming travellers from epicentre Europe (though the World Heath Organisation has warned the US may soon be the epicentre), any more than we wanted to (voluntarily) self-quarantine for 14 days with them.

Tougher Aussie regulations come into effect at midnight tonight Sydney time. Now, all overseas arrivals, resident or not, will be forced to quarantine in hotels. This is an attempt to stop the spread of C-virus by those returning passengers who, sadly and infuriatingly, have violated the existing self-isolation requirement.

In potato news, last night Clive made beef massaman curry, one of our favourite dishes. However, it only calls for one large potato.

Hence tonight, instead of Friday fish and chips, we’ll have fish with a tray of roast veggies, heavy on potatoes and parsnips.

Regardless of the potato supply, we’re still aiming for beef stew tomorrow.

Take care of your chicks

The Paris Préfecture de Police tweeted a 12-second video (best tweet and video ever) of motorcycle officers guarding a duck and her chicks – inside the Périphérique, Paris’s ring road. I’ve heard this expressway referred to, with good reason, as the Périfreak.

The police said, Les motards de la DOPC et tous les policiers de la @prefpolice veillent sur votre sécurité. Faites attention à vous et prenez soin de vos poussins. #RestezChezVous’

Translated : The traffic police and all the police officers of the Préfecture de Police are watching over your security. Pay attention, look out for yourself and take care of your chicks. #StayatHome.

My Aussie/French friend Susan Walter, who with her husband owns and runs Loire Valley Time Travel, notes, ‘Of course, almost the first response was to ask if the mother duck has her permission form to be out and about.’

Vive la France!

May we take care of our chicks, whether in the same household or separated by time zones and distance. May we take care of ourselves. And, unless we’re an essential worker, may we stay at home.

Tree by the sea, Friday 27 March 2020

With continuing prayers for peace and everyone’s good health.

Thank you for reading and bon courage to all.