THE GREEN DIARY : Sunday, 17 May 2020.

NOTES FROM THE COUNTRY

Yesterday we drove into London. The first time there and away from Mistley for 64 days. 

During this time no-one other than us has set foot in our home here.

It was strange; rather like going back to boarding school; a feeling of foreboding; of leaving something familiar and going somewhere strange. Certainly our anxiety levels were raised.

I had to have my knees X-rayed and Tony had to have a blood test, Tony at the Wigg Clinic in Kentish Town and me at UCH on Euston Road.

Continue reading “THE GREEN DIARY : Sunday, 17 May 2020.”

MADEIRA : 2020

Pedro-of-the-Green :  Travel Notes  :  Madeira 2020

22 January, 2020.

Dear Friends
A few weeks in Madeira seemed like a good thing. We checked into our lovely apartment here after a smooth flight from Gatwick this morning as EU citizens! When we return on the 28th February we will be walking down the “others” channel! How strange that will seem.

The last time we came here was with the grandchildren for Christmas 2018 staying in a hotel along the coast near Reids. This time we are here with Friend Richard – he of Tarry Tour fame – and have an AirBnB above the town in the Santa Antonio district for five weeks until the end of February.

23 January, 2020.

It’s a whole house. Up a lot of stairs and hills and with a rather disconcerting garden; very pretty but with an enormous amount of rather kitsch garden decoration: gnomes, cement flamingos and other “bricolage”. Suzanne Costa, the owner, lives in the house immediately below us with her husband, her mother and Rocky the dog plus a perpetually cooing cageful of beautiful white doves – in fact there are two more cages in amongst the tropical shrubs and flowers. It is the mother who is the green-fingered Costa.

Suzanne Costa has a South African accent and lo-and-behold, hails from Johannesburg where she was born and lived until nine years ago when she returned to the ancestral heimat so-to-speak, her grandparents having left here to make a go of a new life after the war. They have all returned, including one grandparent, the grandmother, who sadly hangs by a thread at the local hospice being 98 years old. Costas from all over are assembling as we speak for the inevitable, sad departure.

Its lovely here. The weather is mild; warm in the sunshine, cool in the shade. There is neither aircon nor heating in the house and warm clothing is needed in the evenings with welcome duvets and blankets bedside. There are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It is double-storeyed with large reception rooms, a laundry and kitchen filled with the usual questionable wares, but it all works and we are all domesticated and managing well. Why are AirBnB’s so badly equipped in the kitchen department and always but always, have blunt knives? Richard has brought a set of ceramic knives thank goodness.

Shopping is nearby though getting both our luggage and all the piles of shopping from the street up stairs and terraces was a mission that nearly induced a cardiac arrest! 

But here we are Friends and intend taking things gently: there is no need to hurry to every Lavada on the island all at once. 

8 February, 2020.

Pencils at the ready Friends for some note taking! Don’t think our wintering in Madeira lets you off the hook! Just because you’ve not heard a peep from us for nearly three weeks doesn’t mean we are not here nor does it mean you must stop your researches!

What a cheek!

It’s a great lark this notion of “wintering”. We have settled into a good routine in a kind climate from a comfortable base in a large two-storeyed house with a gnomically groomed garden and a partial view of Funchal. 

We were above the clouds and our hearts were singing! (Too much?)

Its famously steep, Madeira. Exhaustingly so which is why their Lavadas are perfect for us and a miracle of ancient engineering. An irrigation system that clings to the cliffs and hills but runs along gentle contours for miles and miles is a truly lovely way to walk this island with its mighty cliffs and gorges thrust up from the sea by unimaginable forces aeons ago. Now covered with trees and flowers, not all blooming quite yet because this is February, and thousands of banana plantations, small vineyards, vegetable allotments and orchards on terraces that induce dizzying vertigo, making one wonder how many of these patches are reached to be worked and, indeed, even some of the houses? How on earth did anyone get the bricks and mortar there in the first place. 

Poiso to Porto da Cruz

We are companionable. The three of us flew out here, and  quickly established distances to good shops and markets – either uphill or downhill and either way of course up and down! Thank heavens for the newly established Ubers – U is for UP and so is Uber. Down in the bus and up with the shopping. Fortunately we are good at cooking and so far have not, except for once when I dined out two friends who live here, eaten out. Wine is cheap and plentiful, fresh fish and sea food amazing and a fairly well equipped kitchen (no decent knives; we had to bring our own as we know of old how 

We are companionable. The three of us flew out here, and  quickly established distances to good shops and markets – either uphill or downhill and either way of course up and down! Thank heavens for the newly established Ubers – U is for UP and so is Uber. Down in the bus and up with the shopping. Fortunately we are good at cooking and so far have not, except for once when I dined out two friends who live here, eaten out. Wine is cheap and plentiful, fresh fish and sea food amazing and a fairly well equipped kitchen (no decent knives; we had to bring our own as we know of old how 

We are companionable. The three of us flew out here, and  quickly established distances to good shops and markets – either uphill or downhill and either way of course up and down! Thank heavens for the newly established Ubers – U is for UP and so is Uber. Down in the bus and up with the shopping. Fortunately we are good at cooking and so far have not, except for once when I dined out two friends who live here, eaten out. Wine is cheap and plentiful, fresh fish and sea food amazing and a fairly well equipped kitchen (no decent knives; we had to bring our own as we know of old how 

useless the cutlery is in these AirBnBs) means we treat ourselves well on the culinary front.

Plentiful fresh fish!

Friends have come and gone. Richard’s brother Philip joined us for an action-packed week last week; Tony has tripped to and fro the MBFIL in Trivandrum, Kerala, where he was wined and dined and had a positive and happy interaction with the many writers there. They were kind enough to fly him from here to there and back again – not through London. And next week Friend James arrives for a week. With three double bedrooms and two bathrooms this is all comfortably possible. Any more takers?

Friends have come and gone. Richard’s brother Philip joined us for an action-packed week last week; Tony has tripped to and fro the MBFIL in Trivandrum, Kerala, where he was wined and dined and had a positive and happy interaction with the many writers there. They were kind enough to fly him from here to there and back again – not through London. And next week Friend James arrives for a week. With three double bedrooms and two bathrooms this is all comfortably possible. Any more takers?

Other friendly coincidences have been lovely. Friend Di Langford was here for a week though we never actually met as our plans did not quite fit and then from our disastrous cruise to South America some years ago, Friends Hugh and Howard are here for a month.

There are museums and galleries and I have been once to a concert by the Orquestra Classica da Madeira under Ariel Zuckerman in fine form with works by Johann Strauss, Elgar and Saint-Saëns, the 2nd Piano Concerto being the centre piece of the evening – well played by Suzana Bartal. The orchestra is a permanent asset of the island and I hope to hear more. We’ve not heard any Fado yet.

But it is the Lavadas that possess us and on which we have spent the most time. They are long hikes. Eight to as much as 15 kilometres and in gentle weather manageable even though knees and backs and hips twang with pain!

Yes, the weather: ambient temperatures in the upper teens, mostly sunny and as high as 24 midday. Cool at night; a little humid. There have been spits and spots but mostly clear skies; clouds on the mountains; sunny along the coast.So that’s what wintering is Friends. As Storm Ciara approaches the UK, and with no ghastly Brexit news, no Coronavirus (yet), no bush fires, no lying presidents and silly prime ministers – we are having a delightful time.

Back at the end of the month.

Boa sorte e saudação, amigos!

12th February, 2020.

Thank you, Friends for all your observations about Madeira. So interesting. Thank you for bothering to read them at all!

We are here for almost six weeks which means that we are actually living here properly; not in a hotel but in a house which we rent from Suzanne Costa.

The South African connections are fascinating for us of course.

Suzanne, her husband and young son, and her mother and, until last week, her grandmother, live here in what for Madeira is a large property with adjoining houses and some land. Imagine my surprise when we arrived and were greeted by perfect, South African-accented English. It transpires that after the war, Portugal having been very much impoverished by isolation and a breakdown in international trade led to a sad decline for what was once the oldest Nation in Europe (Founded in the 9th Century), with the longest and oldest still-serving navy and the first global trading Empire. It was the Portuguese who sent forth the Da Games, the Henri Navigators, the Bartholomew Diazs to discover a new world – and they became rich and powerful – more so even than Spain. Her oldest ally was and still is, uninterruptedly, Britain. Both maritime traders. 

Wars in the 18th century and the advent of Napoleon ended all that success and Portugal did not keep up, nor progress industrially though clung to her enormous Empire. Indeed during Napoleon’s rampages the Portuguese Royal Court removed itself to Brazil whence it ruled its Empire. The First Republic ended the monarchy and the influence of the Catholic Clergy.

The advent of Salazaar, Hitler and World War 2 kiboshed everything and what I am leading up to saying was that many Portuguese, like the British in 1945 sought work and success in places like Angola, Brazil and Mozambique among others. Because the Union Castle and other ships stopped in Madeira en route to and fro Africa and where there was no work, the fruit (banana) industry having collapsed, took ship south and many went to SA. Suzanne’s granny who died last week and granddad were one such family. 

Now that Angola & Mozambique, like Zimbabwe and to an extent SA have collapsed for whites, the Portuguese are returning to their roots just as the English South Africans are moving to the UK and the Commonwealth. 

So Madeirans are loyal and have returned in their droves where they find an Island that prospers and a lovely setting in which to live. So we have come across, almost every day, SA accented Portuguese or, even, just South Africans holidaying here.

The Livadas obsess. They are astonishing; and vital to the island’s existence. Temperate though the climate may be with mists swirling the mountains and rain falling fairly regularly, even snow on the peaks, because Madeira is basically a rock sticking out of the sea, the water runs off it like a roof; there are no rivers, just gorges and flash floods. There are water shortages and the livadas act like gutters collecting the run off and diverting water all round the island along a maze of complex canals that run in contours at unimaginably impossible heights, sometimes through tunnels, along ledges and there is always the gurgle of water to be heard. It is miraculous.

Today we went to look at the Palheiro Gardens, inextricably entwined with the fortunes of Madeira wine and the Blandy family: a merchant dynasty founded two centuries ago on the Atlantic island of Madeira by a young Englishman in search of better living. Today the Blandys are best known as the leading shippers of Madeira wine but, from the foundation of the firm in 1811, they built up an extensive trading business, sending shipments of wine and goods across the oceans, to North America and Caribbean, to India and the Baltic. The family made remarkable sums from coaling and victualling passing ships, supplying both Yankees and Confederates during the American Civil War. While numerous English wine houses were ruined by the devastating wine plagues of the 1850s and 1870s the Blandys emerged with the world’s finest stock of vintage Madeiras, a tradition magnificently maintained at their Wine Lodge in Funchal.

They restored the old Estate of the 1st Count of Carvalhal, re-establishing the beautiful gardens and building up a considerable collection of exotic trees and shrubs.

There is a tea house there overlooking, believe it or not, an 18 hole golf course, surely the only course on the island, where we were delighted by and fell for the Pasteis de Nata, a custard tart of inestimable wonder that I cannot keep my eyes off and my mouth away from!

And we all fall for them!

Valentine’s Day, 14th February, 2020.

And don’t forget Fado. I love Fado. Many say its music and poetry to kill yourself with its so depressing. Get out the razor blades and Nembutal!

Not so.

Its warm and funny; sad and evocative and as Alexandra Sousa explained to us, the feelings, the passions are more important than the technical perfection of the singing. Justice must be done to the truth of the poetry.

We visited Sabor a Fardo a restaurant in the old town run by a family of singer/restaurateurs who served up typical Madeiran fare and entertained us to an evening of Fado: Mother (Alexandra Sousa), Father, Daughter, Daughter-in-Law (Sofia Ferreira) and on guitar and Portuguese Guitar – a beautiful instrument – son and a cousin.

It was an evening so filled with warmth and love; clearly this family get along well and their commitment to the music was obvious. Much dedication there.

We spoke to both Alexandra – definitely the most mature voice and clearly a matriarch – and Sofia and they told us of the history of local Fado and their part in it.

Justice must be done to the truth of the poetry.We visited Sabor a Fado a restaurant in the old town run by a family of singer/restaurateurs who served up typical Madeiran fare and entertained us to an evening of Fado: Mother (Alexandra Sousa), Father, Daughter, Daughter-in-Law (Sofia Ferreira) and on guitar and Portuguese Guitar – a beautiful instrument – son and a cousin.

It was an evening so filled with warmth and love; clearly this family get along well and their commitment to the music was obvious. Much dedication there.

Fado

We spoke to both Alexandra – definitely the most mature voice and clearly a matriarch – and Sofia and they wonderfully explained the history of Fado and their part as a family in it. We came away from the evening feeling warm after an evening of great humour and love. It’s a tender music. The Portuguese Guitar looks and sounds very like a mandolin but is not; rather, it was explained, it is an English invention, the English guitar which caught on in Portugal during the 16th Century and was imported and slightly adapted into its present shape and sound. We came home very happy. 

Here is a sample of Alexandra Sousa’s Fado.

16th February, 2020.

I first came to Madeira when I was a little boy travelling from Durban to Southampton on the RMS Edinburgh Castle.We arrived early in the morning and 

stayed for the day. Madeira had recently extended the harbour so that our 28,708 ton ship could just squeeze into it. Before that ships rode  anchor and you went ashore on lighters. Little boats would put out from the shore with tourist trinkets, lace and clothing made on the island for sale, Madeira wines and cakes and other tourist knick-knacks.

Lithe men would dive for coins from the boat deck in an amazing display of prowess and bravery.


Ashore steep, narrow roads, mainly cobbled, led you to the island’s secrets: tea at Reids Hotel, a pony trap ride up to Monte to see the church and resting place of the last Habsburg Emperor, Karl 1 of Austria who died here aged 34 in 1922. You were amazed by the tropical gardens in Monte and then thrilled by the descent in rickety basket sleds pulled by two white clad young men, returned to the Funchal Esplanade before embarking the ship for the last leg north to England.

Today in feats of staggering engineering there are modern motorways that thrust through the mountains in long, complex tunnel systems and over gorges on impossibly stilted, concrete viaducts all around the island; cable cars whisk you from the centre of Funchal up to Monte and then across the gorge to the Botanical Gardens; there are ubers and taxis and buses that fetch and carry you from shops, to and from livada walks and to pretty eating spots with lovely views. 

But still the white clad toboggan drivers ply their energetic trade and there are even a few horse drawn carriages though poor things must get exhausted, horses and men!  

It’s a world away from that visit I made when I was a little boy!

Fine dining at Quinta da Casa Branca, Madeira after lolling around the Lido and overpriced Henricks Gs&Ts + Cucumber preprandial on the Roof Terrace at the Nine Andrade Silva Design Centre. 
Quinta da Casa Branca is brilliant. If you come here ever dear Friends, its worth the money. They do a superb tasting menu too which we will go back to sample next week. Their Chef came out and chatted afterwards and told us that he is aiming for Michelin status. Good luck to him. It was a superb evening.

Today, Friends another 10 kilometer hike through sensational scenery, along terrifying levadas, up roads so steep one driver requested a re-routing. Steps up; steps down; steps along to the 25 Fontana at 1,400 metres. Returning to Funchal the smell of heated brake linings was distinct! How cars, gearboxes and big ends last here is a miracle! 

24th February, 2020.

We have had high, hot winds from North Africa the past few days. Flights have been cancelled from Madeira’s terrifying airport and at one point it was closed altogether. East Nor ‘Easterly winds are not good for planes. There were diversions to other destinations and in some cases, planes were simply rerouted to return to base. 

But the weather through it all is warm and sunny. Pot plants have been flying and garden gnomes smashed; chairs thrown all over the deck and most colourfully of all, ostrich feathers and paper streamers have been everywhere.

Yes, Friends last night was the Madeira Carnival. Not to be confused with Mardi Gras at the beginning of Lent next week, nor the spectacular New Year’s Fireworks display which we witnessed a couple of years ago.

This was The Madeira Carnival – more a winter-end celebration than anything much to do with Easter and Redemption!

What a sight. Made more dramatic by the high winds which played havoc with the parading dancers and performers. I have never seen so many ostrich feathers in my life, many of them airborne, as the parade passed us by from 8pm for a solid two hours to just past 10pm. We had seats in one of the galleries that lined the Esplanade as two miles of glittering paper mâché, tulle, feathers, lycra, gauze, organdie, organza, wobbling embonpoints and converted bus-bodies paraded by to a variety of the loudest music we have ever heard. It had to be loud else the dancers could not keep step. Indeed many did not!

How many mothers and daughters slaved over sewing machines to create such a vast array of costumes; how many dance master/mistresses rehearsed the throng, for how long? For some not long enough.

It seemed the entire population of Madeira went by – every size, age and shape – so that we wondered who was left to watch the spectacle, man the restaurants, drive the taxis!

An incredible logistical feat nearly blown away in a few puffs of wind and this morning there seems little evidence of any of it left : no strings of streamers or nike shoes hanging from wires, everything quickly back to normal while the wind still blows us about – today from the Lido where we survived only a few hours, a toastie or two and a beer, five pages of my book and three movements of a Paganini violin concerto before returning to the house.

Oh and I should mention excellent music after the parade at House of Jazz an unpretentious jazz cafe just off the Avenue Arriaga where we supped on pork and chicken and an excellent bottle of Douro. 

Bon chance, Friends all. 

27 February, 2020.

The Fellowship of Funchal has been dissolved. 

Yesterday Richard flew back to England Coronavirus notwithstanding, nor dust clouds from the Sahara. 

Friends and family have been and gone, Tony has  visited The Literary Festival in Trivandrum and he and I are now alone with two days in hand having made a mighty cock up with the return air bookings.

What to do?  A short booking at The Belmond Reids Palace, an hotel of stupendous luxury, is what you do!

The Belmond Reids Palace Hotel, Funchal.

So here we are and it does indeed live up to its world famous reputation situated on a promontory overlooking Funchal and the harbour, with decks at all levels facing South and the sunshine, a Harris’s Hawk named Sasha, and her gloved handler, to keep the pigeons away, swimming pools both heated and chilled, a lido at sea level for access to the ocean and perfect service including a Spa whence I have returned from a pampering massage much needed after our last Lavada walk yesterday:

Ribiero Frio, 14 kilometres of gut wrenching galleries, ledges, caves and narrow paths high, high above the valley; dizzying views down to Porto da Cruz – perhaps too much this time as the knees are in a shocking state, particularly the left one, and “something will have to be done”.

You’ve probably heard of the mighty Saharan dust storms that closed airports in the Canary Islands earlier this week and streaked the buildings red in the rain? Not to mention of course, the thousand tourists isolated in a large hotel because of the Coronavirus?

The dust storm didn’t hit us in the same way but it raised the temperature markedly and the air was hazy with dust brought by powerful winds that among other things, smashed up some garden gnomes and a few pot plants!

It wasn’t conducive to walking or swimming so we hired a car and drove the more exciting routes around and across the island instead.

On Shrove Tuesday there were further parades and another visit to Sobor do Fado. Everyone dresses up and the children are much indulged. Maria, the 7 year old  granddaughter of Alexandra Sousa, joined her granny to sing in the Lenten season and we were enfolded once more in a warm, family atmosphere of eating, drinking and Fado in which three generations of singers and players took part. 

There are more “last-times” – we returned to Quinta Da Casa Branca, Tony and I, last night for the weekly Tasting Menu which was brilliant. Discounting the Amuse Bouche, there were five courses with wines from Portugal to match. But I don’t want you to get jealous so I won’t tell you what they are. Written requests for details will be accepted. 

Tonight we are at The William in Reids, a 1 Star Michelin restaurant that the hotel is very proud of. But that is the future as is our flight home tomorrow, for now we must loll on the sun deck and Tony must be wrapped in warm towels and massaged & sauna’d.

Tea on our balcony at Reids

If you are all very good and have bothered to read this far, I’ll make your exams less fiddly and enable you to write them online. But you will have to know the code and disclosed to me that you have read this far to find it. When you access your exam forms there will be a place to enter and submit it.

Or else all is undone…………..!

Thanks for travelling with us – hope to see you again. I will leave you with a terrifying picture of Madeira’s airport – the tenth most dangerous in the world!

LOVE IN THE TIME OF Covid 19

Pedro-of-the-Green :  Travel Notes : Coronavirus – Lockdown in Mistley!

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Our latest journey is through the wilds of the coronavirus. Five quiet weeks in Madeira – the calm before the storm – and now this new world drama!

We have been chased by it through the cinemas and theatres of London since we got back. Squeezing in a packed schedule before the doors are closed – and not quite making it. Will we make LEOPOLDSTADT next Thursday and ROBIN LE PAGE the day after? I wonder? We will see. Certainly audiences have gradually diminished though not by much, before our eyes as people seek the safety of isolation and things wind slowly down to a sort of blessed calm.

In the meantime Friends, we have been delighted by so very much. LA CAGE AUX FOLLES first. At  The Park in Finsbury. The French play, as it started, in true French Farce style, later becoming a film and then a Broadway hit musical and then a musical Film.

By Jean Poiret it is now rather old fashioned but still  funny though its interesting that in the early 70’s when it opened as a play in Paris it was boycotted and demonstrated against by the budding Gay Liberation Movements as being patronising and even homophobic in its depiction of limp-wristed, overly camp men mincing about the stage for laughs. The militants felt it an insult to insinuate that gay men are automatically air-head trannie types, more interested in lipstick and feminine things than being ordinary men. So from that point of view it is dated indeed. 

It also requires a certain skill to play this kind of farce and not all the company had enough to pull it off.  The main characters were excellent but others in the company didn’t quite have the right dynamic. A good solid, old fashioned repertory theatre production I thought, of the kind one might have seen in the provinces forty years ago though it was still  entertaining and the adaptation by Simon Callow and direction by Jez Bond were excellent.

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FIDELIO next. Beethoven’s only opera – at the Royal Opera. I am utterly prejudiced of course because in my book Beethoven could do no wrong; others feel he should never have strayed into opera at all and, well it’s the purists that say that and perhaps they are right. It is so full of melody. You really only need to listen to it, a story of personal sacrifice, heroism, and eventual triumph. With its underlying struggle for liberty and justice mirroring contemporary political movements in Europe. Jonas Kaufman, not in good voice due to a cold and really rather underpowered we felt, is Florestan; Fidelio (actually Leonora disguised) is his wife beautifully sung by Lise Davidsen and Amanda Forsythe as Marzelline, unrequitedly devoted to Florestan who is a rock of honour and faith. It was all very tuneful, competent but somewhere underwhelming.

Pencils poised, Friends? Good. Next?  

PARASITE. From Korea.  Bong Joon-ho’s brilliantly dark comedy, superbly shot, a luxuriant feel to its textures and fully deserving its four Oscars amazed us, despite its obvious commercial qualities. A worrying view of the rich/poor class divide in our over-material world though our Friend Damon Galgut  advised us to have a look at the Japanese film released two years ago, SHOPLIFTERS, which handles similar themes in a far subtler way. We downloaded that one almost immediately while PARASITE was fresh in our minds. Try it Friends. Its worth the effort.

And then to The Barbican for a new departure for us, and a lovely one too,  as neither of us know much about Jazz,  with Friends, to listen to the BRAD MEHLDAU TRIO, of whom neither of us had ever heard but rather wished we had. It was riveting; this endless stream of sounds and rhythm seemly conjured from nowhere, effortlessly echo the hall. 

And echo is the word when we ate afterwards at our favourite eatery in Islington, the Mercure; always a handy place if you have been at the Almeida, which we weren’t (its dark at present by the way) and usually packed to the ceiling. The four of us sat all alone in spooky splendour, the darkened Almeida and the coronavirus taking the blame for our isolation.

What’s next? Do you need to sharpen your pencils? I’ll wait a minute and look at the pictures.

Yes, brilliant : at the Crouch End Picture house we finally caught up with the mind boggling  National Theatre production of CYRANO DE BERGERAC, in which James McAvoy trailblazes the acting firmament in this astonishing adaptation of  Edmund Rostand’s romantic, almost-melodrama – without a prosthetic nose!

How do you do that? Well Martin Crimp’s new version and McAvoy’s performance make that possible.  It started rather slowly by soon picked up; its convention of the drama workshop made the play less dated, funnier, sadder than the original version. 

It is reputed to be the longest play in the contemporary canon, with Cyrano’s the longest part ever (maybe to match the nose?). Certainly he never stops talking for a minute and I remember my dear Friend, now sadly deceased, Hilary Groves, then a stage manager at the RSC urging us to see Derek Jacobi’s formidable Cyrano many years ago, also brilliant but more conventional and telling us that on the first day of rehearsal Derek Jacobi arrived word perfect in the longest play piece in history! Wow.

We’re getting there Friends (are you still with me? Have a look at the pictures if not!), just two more to go, our repertoire of theatre and cinema attendances for just two weeks! (Its all Tony’s fault).

SWAN LAKE. 

Oh Friends. It always, always……always gets me. How many times have I seen this? It never, never fails to please it is so, so beautiful. And that music. Wins every time. By the end, the dams are breached, the hankies drenched, the sobs have wracked ………(not camp, my dears, not camp!) …….. and I could see it all over again. Coronavirus certainly did not keep anyone away from the Opera House for  the popular pair of the moment, Marianela Nuñez and Vadim Muntagirov (so slim one wonders how he manages those enormous leaps).

 

But I’d not seen this version before. It was still Petipa and Ivanov’s original choreography, Frederick Ashton’s Neapolitan Dance in Act 3 but additional choreography by Liam Scarlett whose production it is. Very different in many ways from other versions. This ending is so tragic: suicide, Prince Siegfried left alone, the wicked Von Rothbart powerless and the swans transformed once more into young women . But somewhere dark and sad. The last Swan Lake, designed by Yolanda Sonnabend, lasted in the repertoire for many years but reached its sell-by date (apparently) two or three years ago. It ends in a wholly magical way. Rather than live without her, Siegfried dies with Odette and is carried to Heaven on the last, stupendous, glorious notes that end the ballet, Rothbart’s power is broken and the swans are finally released from the spell. It is truly cathartic whereas this current version is not for Siegfried must live without his love forever. 

 

And then, oh Friends defy the coronavirus and get into The Pinter Theatre to see UNCLE VANYA. You’ll surely get seats as the fall off is now palpable. One of our guests cried off and we could find no-one to take the ticket even as a freebie. It is without a shadow of a doubt the best UNCLE VANYA I have ever seen and I have seen some. 

Ian Rickson’s production is made possible by Colin MacPherson’s adaptation which makes the whole play easily accessible without sacrificing any truth or subtlety, by Toby Jones’ stupendous performance and the almost timeless era in which the play is placed. It is funny; it is sad and you love all the characters – even the professor – for their flaws, their strengths, their weaknesses and the frustrated passion of their loves. One aches through it . I hope they broadcast it because the world should see it.

Uncle Vanya was our undoing because that’s where we think we caught the Coronavirus, a week before the lockdown. We should never have been to all those theatres. How stupid. So, I have to say we have retreated to Mistley. Everything is being cancelled all around us – doctors appointments, eye tests, meetings and pub quizzes. On Tuesday we are meant to go to Canary Warf, on Wednesday to Oxford, to see LEOPOLDSTADT on Thursday, ROBIN LE PAGE  on Friday; friends for the weekend and a gathering here for luncheon next Sunday. 

But will any of it happen? Well, it didn’t and we are here in Lockdown until further notice.

I heard today that 360 people died in Italy. 360 in one day. Suddenly it is all becoming scary. And I have also heard that President Cyril Ramaphosa has banned most foreign travellers including from the UK, entering the country which puts paid to my plans to visit my brother and sister next month for a month.

We live in dangerous times, Friends.

 

Mistley, Ides of March – our 35th Anniversary – 2020. 

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Friends

What a difference a week makes. We are living in strange times. Last week I reported full diaries, theatre outings, cinema attendances, dinners, lunches, farces and fun.

This week and until mid-June, Tony and I have wiped our diaries clean. We have retreated to Mistley where we have decided to self-isolate; some of this is because friends have cancelled; some because the State has intervened and some because we felt it the responsible thing to do.

Yesterday a 94 year old woman on the TV was asked had she ever known anything like it. Without hesitation she said, “Yes! The beginning of the last war.” Exactly the same feelings of apprehension, the waiting, the quietness, the emptying public spaces. Only this time we are waiting for a minute, infinitesimally small speck of matter to attack instead of the Germans and their Luftwaffe, their Wehrmacht and their kind of poison. 

The Sitzkrieg it is. The calm before the storm while Brexitannia gears up for we know-really-not-what. When will the attack, the big attack occur? When will the bombs start falling, the hospital beds start filling – and death come in battalions?

Who will prevail? How will we survive in a radically changed world.

Friends we are moving into a sort of world war state. 

When Chamberlain declared war in September 1939, the markets crashed, capital tried to flee, all British assets overseas were ordered repatriated, strict fiscal rules were imposed and a Command Economy installed for the duration. It served us well then; in Britain we were rather good at it and indeed, it helped us afterwards to introduce the Welfare State; State Capitalism helped revive our economy and revolutionised our society through the 50’s and 60’s after which it reached its sell-by date and had to move over.

In the same way, today, it is clear that only the richest institutions can step in to help : The Exchequers of the Nations of today. As the markets crash as never before, as our airlines and tourist industries, theatres, cinemas, restaurants and all the privileged paraphernalia of the so-called freedoms, shrink at a frightening rate, in our heart of hearts we know that things will never be the same again. For in order to win, Mr Johnson will have to install another Command Economy, take the reins of leadership much more firmly, with far greater gravitas, with far more generosity and imagination than I am sure he never in his life thought possible. One wonders whether he is up to the task. Or is he the Chamberlain of today who as the viral forces breach our island nation’s defences, will have to make way for a real Churchill who can mobilise our island, and face this existential threat?

We shall see, Friends. We shall see. 

For truly we are at war on a global scale –  and a few extra bog rolls will make no difference, I fear!

In the meantime, this morning I have woken with a dry, sore throat; no temperature, no dry cough yet – just a lightheaded rather unpleasant feeling of something stirring. 

Or is it? Who knows. Perhaps just a silly cold? I hope so. 

And we are all in a way isolated. Many of our Friends live alone and must feel strange and a little nervous. 

Keep in touch Friends; keep speaking; keep going and be gentle with your friends and neighbours. Reply to this! Write. Say what you think. How you are.

If we don’t we may find that at the end of this tunnel our society is so fractured, so inward looking as to be unable to function properly.

Because we are all we have got!  (Getting slightly sentimental here. Perhaps this is the cue for DESIDERATA?!)

But what illustrations can I cheer you with? 

Stay well, take care and much love to you all –

Pedro 

Mistley, March 18th, 2020.

3

I’ve been astonished at what I can find completely free on YouTube. With so much time on one’s hands it seems churlish not to try some of it.

Well that reduced me to tears in short order! I stumbled across the sublime Martha Argerich aged nearly 80 playing Liszt’s 1st Piano Concerto at The Proms a year or so ago – Barenboim conducting his East West Divani Orchestra. Friends, such power, such delicate precision. 

Its a pyrotechnic piece if ever there was one, and a particular favourite, in a concert that has gone down as one of the best she ever gave. Well I just had to play it. Here it is for you. I do wish you joy listening to it and hope it helps fill your time a little. 

Both Jews; both grew up together in Argentina and are life long friends. Its so so brilliant I am afraid I am in floods. She reminds me so much of wonderful, beautiful Melanie Horne (do any of you remember her?) who was such a dear friend, and lover, and who introduced me to Martha Argerich when I was at Drama School (UCT). She was a model for Mel’s own playing. Mel attended RAM and had a wonderful concert career, cut short at 46 after a failed heart transplant operation. Just so tragic. Anyway…..I of course was thinking of her. 

It is Martha Argerich we are meant to be seeing in concert in July. We had planned that a year ago in Bayreuth when we were there for the Opera Festival and saw a poster advertising her recital. I doubt that’s going to happen any longer. 

What a talent; such a powerful presence at the piano………oooooo where are my hankies! And look how gnarled her hands are. Arthritis?

We are both poorly. Whether this is THE EVENT, we know not but have been instructed not to leave the house for two weeks. No temperatures yet, nor dry coughs just sore throats, lethargy and a great tiredness. Lots of aches. 

From Italy :

4

Friends, thank you so much for your voices of concern. Whether I have this virus or not is a mystery. Its true that I have experienced now, all the symptoms, except that the dry cough is not dry but rather wet which leads me to suspect that one has been fooled. Tony has had much milder symptoms and seems quite perky. It’s the unutterable exhaustion that seems to overwhelm one. 

But, dear Friends, I am not complaining. Some of the things we have seen on the television, heard on the radio, are truly ghastly and my heart goes out.

And what of the scrabbling supermarket pigs? And the crowded tubes? 

Enough selfish people to render the isolation policy pretty useless? 

We have kind friends and neighbours who have picked up the odd item or three for us and by some miracle, just before the curtain came down, I did a major shop and just managed to pick up a slot in April for another delivery. How lucky is that?  Though the orders were ordinary monthly orders of staples. There are still a number of weeks before we could with a clear conscience head to the shops.

I had intended to do a sort of daily “Isolation Journal” but our routine is so mind-bogglingly boring that there is not a lot to say.  Vast amounts of reading and box set TV.

And that’s where you come in: We are watching things like THE BUREAU, SPLIT, MRS. MAISEL, and so on and of course dipping into our Curzon film library, listening to concerts and so forth – but what are you chaps up to? Can you recommend anything that we should no about? God knows we have enough time to watch everything. The Amazing Channel 81 with hundreds of not always very good old films but worth a look. All free.

Any suggestions would be warmly received.

The weather is simply perfect. Sunny clear skies, Spring is here. I don’t go outside yet but Tony is allowed to. There are two Robins busily working away in the wood pile, our guess being that if not already the eggs are on their way. Shame – their GPS’s severely put out of kilter yesterday when the first pile of washing of Spring was hung up. Their flight paths somewhat compromised and noses out of joint.

5

Friends, 

The Robins fly to and fro the woodpile; their nest is long complete and it looks as though they are sitting. We have a grandstand view from the kitchen and its wonderful to watch the intricate way they navigate new obstacles. The washing line was erected a few days ago to take advantage of the warm sunshine and they were a little disconcerted but soon had arranged a new flight path. But then we noticed something else. There are other birds around, not to mention a few cats. 

So – in order not to disclose their hideaway, this is what they do – INBOUND they will fly to the highest point on the garden wall separating our back yard from our neighbours, the Pilkingtons. They then make an incredible fuss about flying into their garden, hiding under a bush, waiting a time to check if they are being followed, then sneak into our garden very surreptiously further down the wall, nearer to the house. OUTBOUND this entire procedure is followed in reverse.

Its so sweet.

Now Friends this is a Round Robin to thank you all for your kindnesses, your cards, your good wishes, phone calls, emails, your help with shopping and the general goodwill. Last night we meant it when we banged our pots outside the front door – not just for the NHS but for you our lovely neighbours.

I want to give you an update but under no circumstances is this to be construed as a  sympathy grabber or a whinge. There are thousands, hundreds of thousands of people sicker that I am but the fact remains that it looks as though we will be in quarantine for a while longer. I have now exhibited all the symptoms of Covid-19 yet still have no way of knowing whether this is just ordinary ‘flu.

What it isn’t is an ordinary spring cold.  The overwhelming  tiredness is the worst of it. And the breathing is compromised though not a lot as long as one stays inactive. It reminds me of our stay in the high countries of the Andes, Quito, Cuzsco, Agua Calientes, Machu Pichu where at 3-4,000 metres breathing for me was very difficult and altitude sickness, Soroche they called it, a very real unpleasantness.

So no way are we going to duck out of here for a few days yet and though Tony is only showing very minor symptoms, I fear they may develop too. Lets hope I get better in order to look after him as he has me.

So – many waves from our front window, and hoping you all enjoy this wonderful weather – with thanks and much love from us both.

6

Friends, 

What can I say? There is no hope of answering all your emails, WhatsApps. Phone calls, Messages and offers of help.

I hate resorting to this sort of ghastly “communiqué-type” reporting but neither of us have the energy to do much beyond lolling about in a heap other than, and I think this is important, reporting our progress. 

We  cancelled our whole diary for the next three months from Saturday the 14thbefore HMG published its guidelines, and moved to Mistley. By Monday the 16th I had developed a sore throat and started feeling bad.

Since then I have been on a rollercoaster ride of high temperatures, coughing fits, sweating, difficulty breathing – indeed all the symptoms listed in HMG’s guidelines – to the extent that we did eventually dial 111 and got as far as running their electronic menu.

It is now the 30th March and for the first time I have woken without a temperature and feel as if some sort of corner has been turned. I am able to function – slowly.

For now Tony has caught up having been behind me a few days – why I do not know. So It’s a good thing that I can look after him a little as well. He has a temperature of 102F today.

And through all this dear Friends, is the irritating fact that despite all we are experiencing, we still don’t know whether this actually is Covid-19 until we get some sort of test. And goodness knows when that will be.

Of course we are hoping it is since then we will have some sort of immunity hopefully.

The other interesting thing is that in our little neighbourhood we appear to be the only ones. Everyone else is looking fighting fit as they stride across the Green with their children and their pets! 

Clearly we have brought this from London and I would hate to step outside and infect anyone local. So we continue to remain immured, gazing from our windows to the world of Robins and The Green, Box-setted to distraction, Mrs. Maisel’d Ozark’d, and Split till the cows come home! (Who agrees with me that Nicola Walker is no good? She acts by numbers and never gives a performance that you could for a moment believe she is a Lawyer with any sort of gravitas. What a dysfunctional law firm!) – The Bureau is so brilliant I fail to understand it at all in my current state.

So, Friends – with much tenderness I thank you all for your astonishing generous inputs, Lovely Sacha and Jo, Kath & Sean, Willy, Sherri with her formidably brilliant fresh bread, Miranda, Ruth and the Richards.

Thank you.

7

Friends, 

This morning it is sunny and chilly in Mistley. A beautiful Spring morning if you will  though the radio says it will change later.

The bustling robins outside are clearly at some important moment in their frantic nesting cycle. Whether the eggs have hatched and there is the cry of life and demand for food and attention from within our woodpile, we do not know; but the parents bustle as parents with demanding young always do! Oblivious of the world and its cares.

On the radio I heard of the death yesterday from this dreaded virus of the famous actor, dialect coach and voice teacher, Andrew Jack. He was working on the latest BATMAN movie and has succumbed at 76. He taught me at LAMDA oh so very many years ago. Sad news at a time of much sad news. Yesterday too at thirteen the youngest death in Britain occurred – and the young are meant to be more resilient.

Friends, here is another update on the Mistley duo now known as THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF CORONA – and I continue to circulate this because it may be useful for any or all who may suddenly have symptoms.

Tony and I are now, we reckon, three weeks in; during this time we have lost our sense of taste and smell, had persistent and very high fevers; coughs, sore throats;  difficulty breathing to the extent that we actually dialled 111; cold sweats so that bed clothes are completely drenched; light-headedness and mindboggling tiredness so that it is impossible to concentrate; collapse in appetite; weight loss.

Today completes the first 24 hour period where our temperatures have remained ‘normal’. In an attempt to reduce the chance of re-infection, we occupy separate parts of the house and use separate bathrooms.

This is the most ghastly illness and not to be taken light-heartedly. Apart from anything else it makes us tearful and depressed.

What we see on the news does not encourage. Britain clearly lags behind. Lets not go there and thank god we are not Russian, Iranian, American or Brazilian. What lunatics we have for leaders and how badly they serve their people. But there will be a reckoning for us too at the end of all this when who knows what New World we may be viewing.

Tony received an NHS screen testing package today for Bowel  Cancer. We both get these every two years. The package had been torn open and was delivered in a plastic post office bag with a message that a lot of these packages are being torn open by thieves looking for Cornavirus Testing Equipment. So – be careful what you commit to the post-box.

If our temperatures remain normal for a few more days and if we stop the terrible night sweats, we feel fairly confident saying that we are definitely on the mend though the exhaustion will take a while longer to get over and usual energy reserves restored. Hopefully taste, small and a healthy desire for a glass of white wine might return too. 

Thank you wonderful Friends for helping out, for food, for bread, for box sets and films and “fun”. 

Our Sanitizer finally arrived! 6 tubes! From China!

Please do take great care. After all, without each other we are nothing.

8

Today the robins are frantic. Clearly some sort of major event is happening in our woodpile. The birds are reckless in their movements; in and out and roundabout as you will see them never….! No decoys or anything and my fear is they think that the local pussy population of which there are some quite scary members, are, like their indulgent carers, self-isolating and not looking our for careless breeding birdies! As Julia Roberts once famously said in PRETTY GIRL, “BIG mistake! Big!”

Anyway every time they are outbound over the lands of Crayston-Singleton-Meston and Uncle Dave and all, we hold our breaths until express inbound they fly in to the never ending demands of their eggs/hatchlings/young…..we know not what yet! (No Xbox Sets yet!)

But FRIENDS. I digress – while Tonto is a day or two behind me and feeling as my grandmother used to say, rather peely-wally still, I set off in Martita for my first excursion for weeks. Off to Waitrose in Colchester hunting for victuals; such an expedition as to make my heart burst with happiness for there on the tarmac, in 7C, two metres apart I stood for over an hour before making entry! With lots of space, plenty of lovely, helpful Waitrose staff to “ask”, and only about twelve other shoppers around, I managed to turn a short list into a long one and finally staggered out of the store, not with a stockpile but only a month supply of ordinary shopping!

Whistling a happy tune at the feeling of freedom and being out of bounds and awol, I hit the audio button and whizzed home in Martita with Schubert’s last great quartet blaring forth.

Back to unpack; to sterilize hands; to feed my frail-Tontokin and then complete three weeks worth of ironing.

Now exhaustion sets in. But tonight, yippee, I am allowed wine! Fat, juicy steaks, nupes and a crisp fresh salad, and some excellent Portuguese red (Portuguese is our latest “go-to” wine), ice cream and frangipani tart with box sets to follow!

OZARK perhaps? UNORTHODOX? Mrs. Maisel? Oh well, the list is endless.

What a day!  Anything like yours at all Friends?  Bet it is.

9

When I was a little boy we lived in a place called Kloof, near Durban, Natal as it then was. Our beautiful home was built by an English architect in the early 50’s. Noel Hobbs was his name and he was the head of Architecture at Durban University. He and his wife who were both Italophiles, together they designed and built with the help of a solitary labourer, the beautiful home that my father eventually bought from them when they left South Africa and returned to the UK.  They were liberals and aghast at the apartheid madness, the Sharpeville shootings speeding their return.

But the house is a testament to their love for all things Italian. Built on sloping ground over 2.5 acres and edging the krantz, it was designed on many levels and landscaped with ornamental stairs, arches and walls which he told us had more bricks in it than the house. It was beautiful. It was known as Casetta Rondini a name not much appreciated by my father who regarded the naming of houses as pretentious; though in this incidence it was an accurate description, for it was indeed a “little house of the swallows”.

Every year like clockwork the beautiful little birds, tireless in their pursuit of their instincts, swooped in from northern climes to summer in Natal and under the eves of our beautiful home, their clay nests reinvigorated by new birth and the fast cycle of migratory life.

I am thinking of these birds at the moment as we watch the Robins outside in their race against oncoming summer and to keep up with the feeding of their unsatiated chicks – how many we do not know. There should really be a sort of air traffic control as the parents swoop in and out of the woodpile feeding, feeding and feeding again. Their activities have alerted other birds and of course the local cat life. Robins are very territorial, aggressive birds – and brave. They have dive bombed me several times when I hung out the washing and we had to attend to a blocked drain. Rats are their enemies at this stage. Rats will eat eggs and the young, so our little family are on full alert morning noon and night.

I thought back to those Swallows years ago in Natal. They were tear-jerkingly beautiful. When they were big enough their parents, aunties and uncles taught them to fly.

Between the hallway where our black Bakelite telephone (77 458) proudly stood on top of its national directory and Yellow Pages, on the Jacobean dresser, there was a single cable which passed out under the eves and stretched in one long, sagging strand across the “top lawn” to the pole on the road outside. One sunny, late summer morning there was a commotion as the elders prodded their young out across this wire, a line of terrified chicks clinging desperately to the black cable. Never have claws clung so tightly as the little ones bucked to and fro and upside down on the swinging wire. The twittering and chattering and exhortations alerted Ambrose our moggy whose feline instincts became electrified by opportunity as he sat under the wire gazing longingly up at the terrified swallows.

Not one of them fell to earth; not a morsel did Ambrose sample. The wily parents chivvied, exhorted, tweeted and chirped, flew up and down, and eventually dived bombed them off the cable. They simply plummeted to earth and in that miraculous second of free fall a million years of DNA and instinct came alive and they flew. How beautiful is that? They flew, not very well for their ailerons, their little feathers were not yet stretched but they were all safe and all within days ready to line up in serried ranks along the electric and telephone wires to rehearse the great return to the north for the winter, leaving their muddy nests for the wasps and worms, until next year for their return.

And all this has passed through my mind as I look out of the window and watch our Robins, wondering when they too will edge their young to the entrance of the woodpile, to induct them to the thrill of flight and freedom. 

Some years ago a family of blackbirds chattered into the wisteria and built a home at eye-level while we were away. Imagine their dismay when we returned and they found two enormous humans clomping about their little domain. We were very sensitive and left them and their three chicks alone as far as possible. We watched that whole process right to flying lessons when very unceremonious the three chicks were tipped out of the nest into the hydrangeas where they scuttled frantically about “on foot” while the two parents tweeted and exhorted and eventually lift off was achieved. 

They could not achieve enough height to fly over the garden wall to freedom as their feathers, their ailerons, were not yet developed enough for steep climbs. Eventually we realised we had to open the back gate in order to allow them  to shallow glide from childhood to adolescence and into Jilly Crayston’s ivy across the road, never to be seen again though the same nest was used again a year later.

Friends its lovely to reflect on these life-enhancing moments from the solitude of isolation. On that front, we are much better; we are well stocked; we have managed a few short walks; we are still a little breathless and tired but we think we may be over this ghastly illness having got away lightly compared to the thousands that have not. A Tesco delivery came yesterday, three weeks after I placed the order – and a welcome box of wine from our Wine Society, three weeks better late than never!

But apart from that it is box sets and books though both of us find reading difficult. We cannot concentrate easily at present. So lots of escapist movies – last night SINGING IN THE RAIN – what a perfect film – keep us amused. I have tried THE BUREAU, the French Secret Service series but am mystified by it. Six episodes in and I still have no clue as to what is actually going on!

So another day goes by, dear Friends, and we think of you all and pray that you are all safe and well.

10

No Flour. No dried pasta. Few frozen vegetables. Not many frozen ready meals. No Domestos; but a good supply of fresh vegetables, fruit & berries. No peppers. Plenty of fresh herbs and a good supply and range of fresh meat, poultry and fish. Bread.

That was Waitrose yesterday where I queued for and hour and a half in the sunshine, gloved and masked, two metres apart, for my slot at the shop; with some reading – WILD THYME IN IBIZA by Stewart Andersen, a wonderful piece of escapism describing life on the island before Clubbing and Mass Travel. Idyllic.

Apparently more people are home baking, hence the lack of any kind of flour; what about pasta? Why lots of fresh pasta choice and none of the dry? Fresh is more expensive and doesn’t last, so you can’t stockpile it. 

The obsession with stockpiling I do not understand. If we all shopped in equal measure as we did before, there would be no shortages of anything, surely? Its obscene. Still…….we are not blameless though not by conscious action. Sometimes online you have no option but to buy more than one of anything! Then if you accidentally push an incorrect button, twenty Radox Refreshing Bath Gels arrive, boxes of toothpaste and mouthwash and, heaven forefend, six bottles of bleach! Its embarrassing. You just have to be careful what you click on and where your cursor goes – definitely a first world problem?

Its beautiful here this Easter. The sun is shining, its warmed up, the fields and woods are empty, the skies are free of vapour trails and the wild life has encroached quickly where we tread these days so little. Birdsong everywhere. Woodpeckers pecking and the lawns covered worm-searching life. Did we glimpse a few tiny tots searching for eggs among the foliage, behind the flowerpots and in the trees. On our walk this morning someone had painted a whole lot of pine cones to look like eggs and just left them in magical places all along the route where early signs of Bluebell and Buttercup life are stirring, the gentle green spring haze colouring the trees and the air fresh and clear.

Our Robins are as busy as ever. We reckon that within the next two weeks they will leave the nest and learn to fly. This is a delicate moment and we fear our presence will scare the parents away: they abandon nests at the slightest sign of any intrusion or tampering so we are keeping away and gaze through the windows at their comings and goings. Once the fledglings are air born and free, the parents split up and go their lonely, territorial ways. They only team up in January, at the end of winter, to mate, to build nests and raise their young.

And we witness this grand cycle as from a private box. Pure theatre.

What else has intrigued? Box sets. Bridge. We play a lot of that with Friends online – it can be great fun. Lexulous, Scrabble, Word with Friends. More box sets and books. Cooking. Phoning friends with no news to hear no news – the same, really, as everyone else. 

Our front door lets onto The Green and all our neighbours are out enjoying the sunshine, all of course, several metres apart, some, yesterday drinking the most wonderful looking martinis!

Happy Easter dear Friends.

Pedro-of-the-Green :  Travel Notes : Easter

TWO GENTLEMEN OF CORONA

11

Poor pilots and even worse navigators, our Robin family have emerged. Three fluffy little chicks sidled out of the woodpile this morning still very much dependent on their stressed out parents. Useless fliers at this stage of course; a few feathers in vital departments allow them to flutter and crash about only to become lost in the creepers where mum and dad have then to search for and find them to keep popping endless food into their mouths; and they are greedy. Dad arrived with an enormous worm which one of the children, once found hidden in the Wisteria gobbled at so that dad yanked one half of the worm back to feed another of the triplets.

Yes there are three of them; to think they were in tiny little eggs only a week or so ago and now they are helpless balls of tweeting fluff which is changing visibly by the hour. The rate of growth is phenomenal.

A dangerous, vulnerable time, when rats, adders and cats maraud and for whom these chicks would be an easy delicacy – though it true, the cats just play with them and never eat them, naughty creatures.

Soon we will feel bereft because the birds will revert to their solo territorial existences in their own spaces, and leave us. It has been such a pleasure coming down each morning in what are monotonous days lets face it, to see how our little family are getting on. Such brave little chaps.

Fly well and stay safe, our Robins.

And dear Friends, I’m sure your monotony is the same as ours. Yesterday we walked along the river into Manningtree to get prescriptions filled at Boots, throw a few bottles away, social distancing strictly observed and masks in place.

But the walk was lovely back through the lanes, through the fields the buttercups and bluebells pushing ever upward – far too early I may say but the effect is the same whenever they show: beautiful.

Bon chance, dear Friends.

www.pedro-of-the-green.com

Pedro-of-the-Green :  Coronavirus : Tailpiece

12

The Robins have gone. We hear them twittering in the hedges and creepers but they are gone and we are bereft. 

The last chapter of this thread; the beginning of an extended lockdown and no end in sight yet. 

Now a routine has emerged – the Covid Lockdown Routine and, dear Friends, you all have them and they are probably the same as ours.

We tend our little garden –

We attend to the domestic routines –

We sit in the sun on our bench outside overlooking The Green –

We chat to our terraced neighbours, easily two metres apart –

We have lovely neighbours with beautiful children who play on The Green –

We allow masked & gloved visits to the Coop and Waitrose –

We walk alone in heavenly countryside –

There are no jets –

There are lots of birds –

Their songs are louder now –

Nature has moved closer as the noise & haste has abated over these times –

Rhythms have slowed –

Books are being drafted –

A website is under construction for no other reason than time permits it –

The Tax Returns are already submitted –

Books are being read and movies seen –

Boxsets enthral with Fauda, Ozark, Split, Nest, Bureau, Unorthadox, Stranger and Uncle Tom Cobbly and all……

Recipes are improved and culinary skills enhanced –

I bet this all sounds familiar, Friends, doesn’t it?

And so our routines are set and I think its time to end this Love in the time of Covid-19 story.

Perhaps there will be something new to say in May, June, July; months when we have cancelled trips to Canada, the US, Germany, South Africa – and Oxford!

But you know what – it feels safe and calm and sane here at the moment on our Green while the idiots in the Chancelleries decide whether we should be tested, be injected with bleach, be herd immunised, be masked or not, be on a list or not, whether to call it China Flu or not, whose fault it is or not, what? What? What not! Take care all. Visit me at my “site under construction” :

www.pedro-of-the-green.com