After Nelson was toppled from his column in Trafalgar Square and dunked in the fountains, the Prime Minister announced that all statues around the kingdom would be removed and replaced by more of the ubiquitous figures of Everyman created by Antony Gormley.
Angry protestors, objecting to Gormley’s exclusive use of the male human body and also the fact he is white and has been middle aged for a good while, gathered at the foot of his Angel of the North. On arrival they called for more supporters to help pull it down as it turned out to be much bigger than it looked when they were driving along the A1.
One art enthusiast gathered to protect the great work and point out that the Angel was androgynous, a heavenly not human body and had led a blameless life, so could not offend anyone.
After a petition on 38 Degrees, parliament passed a motion that all the now empty plinths would be filled with life size replicas of the Angel of the North. Buckingham Palace released a statement saying The Queen was delighted at the prospect of seeing The Angel when she looked out of her bedroom window and retiring Queen Victoria to the back garden.
Vivienne looked out of the bedroom window across the road, glad to see signs of life. The little boy in the corner house was outside again after the welcome rain, playing swing ball on the lawn. Since the family moved in a couple of years ago the house had been transformed, the noise of all the building work had been worth it and with the designer garden it was a welcome outlook in these restricted days. Young Freddy was an only child, she had felt sorry for him, such a quiet little thing, not like her grandson, but he seemed happy with his own company, playing, building tents and searching for wild life amongst the flowers and his father’s strange sculptures. She wondered if a grandparent or lost uncle would be added to their household to create one of these new bubbles, more confusing instructions from Boris. Well she couldn’t join a bubble, not with James living with her, you had to be living on your own; so still no chance of seeing Jason and Jacintha. Julia and Jack lived too far away to pop round with the twins and stand in the front garden. Even if she had been on her own who would they choose to share their bubble; she felt a stab of jealousy, probably one of Jack’s divorced parents, his lonely father or his needy mother. Unless they had both acquired new partners… Vivienne smiled to herself, she couldn’t be bothered to house train another man, even in the unlikely event of meeting someone. She imagined some dreadful man in his eighties wanting to try out Viagra, or even worse, a chap in his declining years searching for someone to look after him.
Over dinner it turned out James had his own idea about bubbles.
‘What would you think Mother about inviting Cassie to join our bubble?’
‘We haven’t got a bubble.’
‘No, but we could make one. Cassie hasn’t got any family, she’s new in the area, so perhaps she would be glad to visit us?’
Vivienne pictured having someone new to talk to, someone intelligent to chat with, not about geckos, but it sounded as if this on line girlfriend had plenty of other interests, including her new gardening adventures.
‘Or I could visit her.’
She wondered what her son had in mind exactly, how did on line dating work? It was not new, a few of her friends had had some hair raising adventures on line, or rather, when they went off line. James visiting Cassie would obviously give them privacy, surely he didn’t want his mother part of the bubble.
‘What does Cassie think?’
‘I haven’t mentioned it yet?’
‘Has she suggested you meet up in the open, now there are less restrictions?’
‘No, I sometimes think she prefers being on line, she has never exactly said where she lives. I only know it’s within cycling distance of work.’
‘And how would you get there with the ferry still being out of action, surely not on your bicycle?’
‘The boss was talking about a short term car hire. I shall have to go in to the office soon, if only to finish my assessment of who or if anyone can work in the building. Anyway, what about you Mum, you could go out a bit now. ’
‘A walk round the block is going to be my limit for a while yet, where would I go with everywhere closed ?’
‘It’s a pity you gave up driving so long ago.’
‘Because you could have borrowed my car?’
‘No, no of course not, so you would be independent.’
‘I was independent, near the town centre for my bits of shopping, meeting friends at that nice waterside restaurant, popping over on the ferry for a proper shopping day out and of course Suzanna was always happy driving me and Dee out and about on our little outings.’
‘Oh… yes, I’m sorry that must have been such a shock.’
‘…and most of us only finding out on the grapevine, Suzanna’s family didn’t know who all her friends were, not that we could have gone to the funeral. She was the fittest of all of us, the last one we expected to get Covid.’
For some pre-Covid tales, why not dip into one of my collections?
A second anthology from the author of ‘Dark and Milk,’ including recent prize winning short stories. As you would expect, some tales are light, others very dark and you will not know which are which until it is too late! Visit places you may or may not find on a map, discover the Hambourne Chronicles and meet people who may not be what they seem.
Like Japanese soldiers found hiding on remote Pacific islands decades after the Second World War, unaware the hostilities had ended, I fear I may emerge from isolation months in the future to discover everyone else has been out and about, holidaying and having fun. Scenes on the news of crowded beaches and beauty spots and anti racism protests, leave many of us wondering if we have missed a miraculous and sudden end to the pandemic.
One of my earliest memories is looking out of our upstairs window at sunshine and blue skies and feeling shut in. Until I was nearly seven, by which time my parents had a toddler and baby to cope with as well, Mum and Dad rented what they called a flat, but was really the spacious two top floors of a large Victorian terraced house. A quick glance on Zoopla reveals you would pay over a million and a quarter for such a house in that road today. But Mum had to lean out the kitchen window to hang the washing on a pulley line, suspended high above the back garden of the ‘wicked old lady’ ( mum’s words ) who lived on the ground floor. She never offered to let me play in her garden. But I certainly wasn’t a prisoner; my parents were always taking me down by the river or to Kew Gardens, Marble Hill Park and Richmond Park for fresh air and exercise. I feel so sorry for children literally locked into cramped flats because of the virus. Most children in England will not now return to school till after the summer holidays. While many are having fun and never had so many walks and bike rides with their parents, some children are isolated indoors because of their health or underlying health conditions of someone in their family.
We adults may grumble and some people have found themselves in dire situations, but we are not sheltering in a basement in a war shattered city. For writers, bloggers, artists and gardeners it’s just another day at home, an endless succession of days at home, but it’s okay. Obviously I could not survive without BBC Radio, books, music, the internet, television and of course chocolate.
When we were having our medical dramas just before lockdown, there was another patient who seemed to be following Cyberspouse from ward to ward. He had no visitors because he had a frail wife at home and no family near. I knew this because I heard all his conversations to medical staff and on his mobile, but his greatest upset was not having anything to read and nobody seemed able to get him a newspaper. When any medical staff asked how he was he told them he was soo bored. He was reduced to doing origami with the paperwork they left behind. By the third ward I made sure I brought him a newspaper and he was overwhelmed with gratitude. Boredom can be a worse threat than a pandemic.
What things have been essential for your survival in isolation?
They didn’t do clapping and banging saucepans last night, did that mean Covid was going away? Freddy didn’t want Covid to go away, he wanted it to stay forever so he didn’t have to go to school ever again and Mummy and Daddy didn’t have to go to work ever again.
Freddy was good at home schooling; he did all the work his teacher set, he did lots of BBC Bites, he liked those and the extra work his parents set because they didn’t think his teacher gave him hard enough work. Even when Mummy was doing conference calls and Daddy was busy on his lap top, Freddy carried on working, looking up countries in the big atlas or writing a story. If he kept being good at home schooling then he wouldn’t need to go back to school.
At the weekend they had had an important conversation with him.
‘The Prime Minister says your class can go back to school, but we have some bad news… now don’t be too disappointed, but Daddy and I have decided you should not go back yet. We are very proud of you doing so well at home schooling and it might not be safe at school; remember how we measured two metres?’
‘Yes and our desks are closer than that’ said Freddy hopefully.
‘What Mummy means is that some of the children who aren’t as clever as you might forget at playtime and bump into you.’
Freddy knew for sure who would bump into him, purposely and give him Covid. He certainly didn’t want to go back to school if They were going to be there.
‘Are the other children in my class going back?’
‘Some are, perhaps when things settle down you will be able to go back.’
Freddy didn’t want things to settle down. Perhaps They would go back to school and catch Covid and die.
At bedtime he listened to his mother talking on the phone, who was she talking to?
‘Yes I know, it’s a difficult decision, we’re just lucky we can work from home and Freddy has taken to home schooling so well. But it’s not really fair on him, being an only child, he needs to be with other children. Yes, I heard about that, extending the end of term.
On Monday I got a Christmas letter from Australia. For a moment I wondered if 2020 had all been a nightmare and we were still in 2019. But alas, it turned out a friend from long ago had been tidying her office, no doubt a Covid stayathome activity and had found the unsent Round Robin. On the reverse side was an updating handwritten letter. But this blog isn’t about Round Robins or my friend’s ‘far more interesting than mine’ life. The salient point was that she had been reading and enjoying my website, which was pleasing and also made me wonder how she had arrived there. Had I enclosed a business card in her Christmas card, had I even remembered to send one, or had she just looked up my name on the internet – for experimental reasons I tried this and my website came up first.
We started my website ages ago after publishing my first novel on Amazon Kindle in 2013, when I had even less idea what I was doing on the internet than I do now. It is a paid for website, a series of templates, a scrap book waiting to be filled in, without the glue, but for me just as messy; we accidentally created two domains, there were too many pages, which themselves had more pages… what to fill it with, lots of pictures?
My first positive step was discovering you could add a background colour, turning it yellow brightened the outlook, but what next? Over the years I have discovered skills at a slow rate, often there have been changes as soon as I got used to how things were done. How to change the size of words and pictures so people could actually see them, how to do links. At one stage you could put artistic frames around the pictures; that disappeared, but some interesting boxes turned up – perhaps I have been using blocks all along without knowing.
When I realised everyone except me was on WordPress I started this blog, the advantages are obvious, it is interactive, you know who is Liking or commenting and you can respond. On my Big Yellow Website visitors can only Like if they are on Facebook, there is also a visitor counter which records far higher numbers than the Likes. In the unlikely event a visitor is moved to comment they must make the effort to turn to the contact page and find my email address, I think only my sister and a few friends have ever done that.
If I share a link to the website on both my Facebook pages I get some Likes and lots of visits, so who is visiting apart from the friend in Australia? Of course none of this translates into actual book sales, which is why authors are told to start a website in the first place, but perhaps my website is happy in its own right, floating in yellow bliss in the ether waiting for its next visitor.
Day three experimenting with blocks. As it’s Silly Saturday it doesn’t matter what happens. So far I have managed to put words on the page and give them a nice yellow background. On the previous blog I turned my pictures round. Now I’m going to see what else I can do with pictures. If you are not reading this, it hasn’t worked.
Now I have managed to shrink everything on my screen so can’t see what I am doing…
Sorted my screen, not WordPress’s fault, but have lost all the other stuff so here are some more pictures – let’s have a theme – places you could socially isolate…
Cassie looked at the atomic clock on the wall, one minute to eight. She waited till eight on the dot before opening the front door. It it wasn’t for Doris next door she wouldn’t step outside, but it was the highlight of the elderly lady’s week, banging her saucepan and clapping for the NHS. Now it was the tenth week and there was talk on the news of this being the last, going out on a high. Their little road had never reached a high, not compared with the lively streets shown on the ten o’clock news and later on the local news. They had no singing, dancing or pipers piping, no string quartets or even any NHS staff to show their appreciation to. The children across the road would miss it; the chance to come out in their pyjamas, bang on saucepans and delay bedtime. Apart from that, next door the other side would chat cautiously across the fence to their other side, Doris would have her weekly catch up with the family the other side of her. Not every house came out; several parents of the children would wave to Doris, perhaps wander to the middle of the road to exchange a few words. Who would decide if their road should stop the ritual?
Cassie stood on the front path, no saucepan, just a self conscious clapping, then relief as neighbours started to retreat indoors. Doris would come for a final chat before going in, standing the exact two metres apart; Cassie had even measured the distance across the flower bed and hedge to reassure her. Doris would then relay news gathered in the precious quarter of an hour. Cassie hardly knew any of her other neighbours; before Covid she had been busy at work or out exploring her new city and happy to close the front door on the world.
Apart from Doris, the only real people she saw were those who passed by while she was watering the front garden. She was still happy to work from home and that looked set to continue. The almost constant sunny dry weather had given a holiday feel to the whole experience, it made the garden a lot more work than she had expected, but she was still enjoying it thanks to Doris. Her poor neighbour was bereft at the closure of garden centres, not able to go for coffee and plant buying with her friends. Cassie had gone on line and found a nursery that delivered bedding plants; in quantities that required her to share them with Doris.
Doris admired Cassie’s front garden, it was almost restored to its former glory. Her new young neighbour had done a good job reclaiming it from the several years of neglect after Ken’s health declined. At least he didn’t live to see this virus business; he would have hated being called vulnerable and put into lockdown. Doris hated being in lockdown, but she had come to terms with her situation and she was lucky; lucky to be alive, lucky not to be sitting in a care home in pink fluffy slippers, like that clip she kept seeing of an old lady’s feet on every television report on care homes. Very lucky not to be in an intensive care unit, expected to use some electronic devise to communicate dying words to her family. Well her son and his lot wouldn’t be able to visit her in hospital anyway, not from the USA. He was very good, phoned her regularly, even offered to organise on line shopping, but she had told him no need. Cassie next door had got a vulnerable delivery slot for her with Sainsburys, they shared an organic fruit and veg box every week and her new neighbour even bought the Radio Times and newspapers when she went for her daily bike rides. It was a mystery what Cassie did at work, how she managed to do all that from home. Doris didn’t pry into her life, modern women didn’t need a chap, they were happy to live by themselves, though she apparently had a friend from work who happened to be a man, that she talked to every day on the internet.
They were lessening restrictions, but would that make much difference to herself Cassie wondered. She had no local friends to meet outside and socially distance from, not a group of two, let alone a group of six. James had suggested they could theoretically meet, but the ferry was still out of action, neither of them had a car and public transport was still to be avoided. He would safely remain on the other side of the water. But she still looked forward to talking to him. There was something missing from her life. She had relished living in a new part of the country, by herself; spending her free time as she pleased, wandering round galleries, going to the theatre or cinema, dropping into coffee shops, taking in the ambience, people watching. Now all that was taken away.
We all need friends while we’re in Covid isolation and according to WordPress, Block is my new best friend.
Meet your new best friends, Blocks
I am pretending this Wednesday is next Wednesday, because by next Wednesday we will have changed to Gutenberg. I am going for a trial run so I thought I had better actually read the email …
Say Hello to the WordPress Block Editor
On June 1 we’ll be retiring our older WordPress.com editor and transitioning to the more recent (and more powerful) WordPress block editor.
…and ‘take the WordPress editor for a spin’
“The web up until this point has been confined to some sort of rectangular screen. But that is not how it’s going to be. Gutenberg has the potential of moving us into the next time.”
What! I like my rectangular screen. Are we going into the fifth dimension? If I am never seen or heard from again, you will know why… or probably not notice I have gone.
I am writing this on a word document, as I usually do with my blogs, then I shall dive into Gutenberg. But first a word about our sponsor from Wikipedia…
Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg was a German goldsmith, inventor, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press. His introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution.
As far as I can see, he should not be held responsible for whatever is going to happen next…
My blog starts here.
It is hard to believe, but there are people in the world who don’t even read blogs, let alone write them, in fact there are many people who have not heard of blogging and if they had, could be forgiven for thinking the panic induced in some of us by the word BLOCK is of no importance compared to world dramas such as a pandemic.
Many of us don’t know how WordPress worked in the first place, presumably by magic. As no one else in my house or family uses WordPress I must have got here all by myself.
And here I am in a block? I have added colour… shall I try putting in a picture of no relevance?
When I wrote on Silly Saturday exactly a year ago How To Cheat At The Chelsea Flower Show, I never imagined that the BBC would be cheating this year.
The presenters have been standing in their own gardens at home this week and showing clips of previous shows, because The Chelsea Flower Show is one of the many events that is Not On this year. We all know why, but I’m not going to mention Covid 19. Does it really matter? Thanks to television and television archives, unless you were planning to go and mingle with the heaving hordes, one flower show is much the same as the next on television. Lots of colour, same presenters, some more irritating than others and all that is missing is the scent of the blooms.
If you want to know what’s on this year, the answer is probably nothing. Those theatre tickets you got for Christmas and the whole season of your favourite orchestra you purchased months ago are all wasted. Nothing beats a live performance, whether you are squashed between two hefty modern patrons in a narrow row at a very old West End theatre or wading through mud at a pop festival, watching on television will not be the same. There are advantages to your humble or perhaps gigantic wide screen television such as comfort, no queues for the toilets, eating your dinner on your lap or enjoying a takeaway.
Optimistically the BBC has apparently delayed announcing the 2020 Proms till the end of May. Will it really go ahead with all those people filling the Royal Albert Hall, or will they have a spaced out audience of a few dozen and only soloists or string quartets dotted on the stage. They could dress orchestras in full protective clothing, but any safe option would rather detract from the festival atmosphere. Most concerts are not broadcast on television, the BBC could get away with showing a few old concerts, though music lovers might notice the difference if they broadcast a black and white 1940s concert with Sir Malcom Sargent conducting.
Whatever happens, the Sun will surely rise on June 21st BUT ‘This year’s summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge have been cancelled because of the ban on mass gatherings prompted by the coronavirus. Senior druid King Arthur Pendragon said it was disappointing but unsurprising. The sunrise will instead be live-streamed on English Heritage’s social media.’
It won’t be quite the same.
Bournemouth Air Festival has been cancelled so don’t come round to my beach hut in August this year. Air shows are best seen live. We may watch the Red Arrows doing a fly past over Buckingham Palace on television, but I’m sure it’s more exciting watching from the balcony of the palace.