THE GREEN DIARY : towards Valentine’s Day, 2021.

4th February, 2021 : The Vaccination!

Yesterday we drove up to London to receive the first round of our Covid vaccinations. So exciting. Not just the prospect of immunity but the actual jaunt to London itself; we’ve not been there for several months and found the flat dark, dank but surprisingly un-dusty. It was like going on a foreign holiday and checking into a strange Vrbo apartment; like we’d never been there before.

Our vaccinations were delivered by the Caversham Group Practice, where we are registered – and have been for nearly forty years.  The fact of our lockdown in Mistley nearly a year ago was a happy coincidence since we’d not have wanted to be locked down in London. As you all know, dear friends,  from my endless description of walks and hikes, there is far more breathing space here than in the big smoke where, anyway, everything that we love is shut. 

Except friends – who we miss very much; as I am sure, do you.

Caversham Group seem ahead of the game for our cohort. No such luxury has been extended yet down here and won’t until probably the end of this month. So we are lucky.

Lucky too to be in the hands of such an efficient clinic. We were impressed with the whole process from the invitation to receive to the administration of the actual injection itself. Caversham have mustered retiree doctors and young medical students to corral us in orderly fashion and herd us at the right moment into our surgical stables! My doctor was chatty; she explained everything to me; told me when I’d get the second jab – in about twelve weeks – and produced her syringe and the magic elixir, the Oxford AstraZeneca brand, with a flourish – and in it went.

We went back to the flat to spend the night and woke up this morning feeling rather under the weather : aches, sore throat, tiredness;  indeed, many of the symptoms we remember from a year ago when we had the actual virus itself. They warned us there could be side effects and also said that if we had had the virus we were likely to react more than those who haven’t.

The Estuary at Manningtree.

Here we are back again in Mistley, with threats of snow, back into hunker mode, spirits raised by our adventure and the news that today the virus peaked and from now on things can only get better. 

Encouraging not so?

We’ve been back from Canada just over three weeks though I can’t say really that the routines have much altered.

We love Popcorn. It’s our new snack. I’ve never paid it much attention really until the granddaughters made us promise to sit through the entire Marvel oeuvre.

Friends! Sympathy please!

There are twenty-one of these massive movies filled with incomprehensible plots and so much CGI that you do not know whether you are coming or going! BUT – the best thing was that halfway through each film Libby would disappear and return with freshly made popcorn to which we are now addicted. The salted kind, not the sugary sort. I prefer making them on top of the cooker in a big, non-stick pot with a glass top. Part of the fun is watching it grow from nothing to something in mere minutes. You can’t do that with those microwaveable, brown bags where the action is unseen!

It reminds me of a job I did once in Munich. I was making a series of commercials there being “the IBM man”. It was lovely. Lots of time to explore the city and appreciate all the other privileges of commercials-making in the 1980’s, when we were given such generous schedules.

Popcorn – I was in the studio commissary alone and mind you, having no German (scripts were always learnt parrot fashion!), when an assistant to the third assistant director came in to make coffee and, here is the point, shove a glass bowl containing far too many corn kernels and no lid  into the microwave oven, setting it going and disappearing before I could remonstrate.

The result was a spectacular explosion of white, puff pops that filled the entire oven and then blew off the front door cascading across the commissary in a scene reminiscent of a Laurel & Hardy movie.

There was much sturm und drang I can tell you!

And now a little rant. This time about dog pooh!

Friends, what is it with dog owners and their poo? Can someone please explain to me why -and of course many of you have dogs so you will be able to put me right, I’m sure – why when dogs are taken on walks through our beautiful countryside, their owners, proudly equipped with every luxury known to a dog, from a lead, to tennis ball throwers and black, plastic pooh bags (in Canada some even wear booties to protect their pads from the ice), and the dogs attend to their toilette, the owners unravel these ghastly little black bags and go through the appalling routine of picking the mess up, tying the bag neatly and then – and this is what gets me – hanging the bag on a tree or even leaving it lying in the middle of the path? Why?

These faecal decorations “will be collected on our way back”, say the mendacious dog owners; but they never are. Since the start of the pandemic, the dog population has sky-rocketed – and so have the poop bags!

Why not simply encourage the dogs to crap in the bushes or off the path where their turds can naturally biodegrade? This would obviate the humiliation of collecting the turds by hand and storing them in little, non-biodegradeable (and believe me they are non-biodegradeable), schlocky, skanky blag bags?

To the miserable, selfish and ignorant dog owners who leave their charges’ turds in the middle of the path or outside our front doors along The Green I ask, “Why do you do this? Are you qualified to own a dog at all?”

Can you not see the pooper bins?

But once having tripped over the doggie-doo the walks, though muddy and slippery, continue to be wonderful. We keep on discovering new ones and view our Heimat from different and ever-changing perspectives.

The woods are old. Several of the trees date back nearly a thousand years. Old Knobbly is reputed to be 800 years old and has its own website : https://oldknobbley.com/

Old Knobbly. Not Tony – the tree!

On one walk we came across signs warning us of poisonous snakes. Astonishing. I know there are adders about and have seen them a few times but they are timid and, compared to the snakes of my South African childhood, not very poisonous. Perhaps the signs are to discourage walkers, some farmers would do almost anything to sabotage our rights of way, or perhaps they are to warn horse riders?

Are the farmers putting off the hikers or warning the horse riders?

And the streaming of course continues apace. Several series are occupying us, Your Honor, Spiral, All the Sins, Call My Agent, Traces, The Serpent, to name a few; but without doubt it’s been It’s a Sin that has had quite an impact.

The Guardian reviewed it and says it better than I can and I unashamedly copy some of it here : 

“Russell T Davies’s new drama, It’s a Sin is something of a companion piece, 20 years on, to his groundbreaking masterpiece, Queer as Folk. The latter was the riotous celebration of gay urban life as led by three friends broadly representing different stages of exploration as they embraced life as hot single men. In essence it was a gorgeous fantasy, designed to counteract both the historic worthiness and prejudice surrounding such depictions.

What it did not do was look much at the darkness out of which such freedom had emerged and which still shadowed the lives of its Canal Street party people. It didn’t, in short, deal with the effects of Aids on the gay community.

It’s a Sin does. It follows the lives of three young gay men, Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin who move to London. They evolve into a family (along with Ritchie’s university best friend Jill) as they commit themselves to the enjoyment of every freedom the city has to offer.

But the group arrive in 1981*, just as the first reports of a new disease are making their way across the Atlantic. 

The shadows are starting to gather by the end of the first episode, which is mostly devoted to establishing the characters and their relationships in full measure. It is Davies’s great gift to be able to create real, flawed, entirely credible bundles of humanity and make it clear, without even momentary preachiness, how much they have to lose.

The most hedonistic are Ritchie – who has left a loving, unthinkingly homophobic home in the Isle of Wight to study at university – and Roscoe, who had to flee a deeply religious household set on driving the homosexuality out of him even if they had to return to their native Nigeria. Colin, from the Welsh valleys, is quieter, thrilled by his new job at a tailor’s and befriended by an older colleague, Henry a sweet, gentle man who has been living with his partner, Pablo, for 30 years.

Henry and Pablo both fall ill at the same time with … cancer? Tuberculosis? Pneumonia? No one really knows, but Pablo’s mother forces him home to Portugal and Henry is left brutally isolated in a hospital ward. 

At one point, the doctors think it might be psittacosis, a lung disease contracted from, among other birds, parrots:

“You haven’t got a parrot though, have you?” says Colin. 

“Of course I haven’t got a fucking parrot,” replies his friend.

This all takes on a special resonance, of course, in the time of Covid. We can empathize that bit more with the fear, uncertainty and responses rational and irrational to the emergence of a new disease. Ritchie favours denial. Jill, her slight distance from what was seen by many as “the gay plague” giving her a different perspective, begins to arm herself with knowledge. We can also identify with endless, mindless joys coming to a painful halt, the jostling within oneself of reason and unreason – and perhaps in episodes to come, the wrestling with woefully inadequate and incompetent government responses to a proliferating crisis.

As the series moves through the decade, the subject matter naturally darkens but never loses its funniness or fleetness. It’s possible some will complain that Davies does not treat the subject as sombrely as it deserves. This is nonsense. Fleetness and funniness are the essence of life, and only by making them as central to characters, as Davies does, can you convey the depth of the tragedy about to unfold. It’s a Sin looks set not just to be to Queer as Folk’s companion piece but its companion masterpiece.”

Petshop Boys: It’s a Sin!

*I couldn’t agree more with this review and watching the series has brought so many unexpected and not always pleasant memories of coming out, of loss and of the sometime discomfiture and struggle that being Gay has meant.

And then there was Pygmalion:

The Oxford & Cambridge  Club usually conduct readings and other cultural events live in the club in Pall Mall but because of the dreaded lurgy we are now streaming online instead. Not nearly as smooth or easy as in real life I find, but fun. 

Pygmalion  has been our latest event. I gave my Colonel Pickering, probably one of the least challenging and most boring characters in the whole Shavian oeuvre! He is so ineluctably nice. It’s also nice to be in the company of friends though I am dismayed by how badly I read these days. I seem to have lost the knack somehow and made some faux pas during our webinar last week. Please forgive me, Friends!

I look forward to the next project, Lady Windermere’s Fan.

That was the week that was and it’s Valentine’s Day to end it!

Thank you, dear Friends-all, for your loyal support of my blog. It’s gratifying especially when you respond. What other way is there of keeping close in these strange times? I am flattered when you respond and rather surprised! I am always slightly embarrassed when I post; it’s rather inconsequential when weighed in the scale of contemporary affairs and the appalling suffering of so many. I am lucky anyone reads it at all and grateful that they do.

Much love – Pedro

THE GREEN DIARY : Canadian New Year 2021

Friday, 8th January :

We got here in the nick of time and it looks as though we are going to get out in the nick of time too.

The UK has announced that all international passengers will have to be tested for Covid no later than 72 hours before their departure; but as they have as yet not announced a specific date, in the usual indecisive manner we have come to expect from Bojo and his Shudder of Cabinet Clowns, it looks as though we are home free. 

Ironically, four days ago the Ontario Government announced that anyone from the UK and all those with whom they are in contact must take the test. We, by which I mean our whole Canadian family bubble, six of us, duly attended a clinic, had sticks up our noses and tested negative. It was all efficiently handled, results received online and in printable format to be easily produced for inspection if necessary. 

That test of course expires before we leave on Monday but by now it is too late anyway to have one, get the results and travel. If Grant Schapps suddenly imposes a date by then we are liable for a fine of £500. I shall elect to go to prison rather than pay it! Ho-hum!

It’s -11˚C here this morning; clear sunny skies and crisp, dry air. I was meant to get a massage from John Bain (rhymes with pain), the local sports physio. Having ricked my back and neck rather badly when I fell on the ice the other day. But the results of his obligatory test have not come through yet and he is not allowed to be in touch with anyone until they do. So that was cancelled. 

We have watched, like the rest of you no doubt, the appalling events in Washington unfolding in the past day or two; not to mention the soaring Covid statistics coming from Britain. Apparently our local hospitals in Ipswich and Colchester are now full and the death rate the highest ever. I offer no comment on these dismal turn of events but as we feared, 2021 looks no better than 2020 so far – early days though. As for Brexit? Well let’s see what next the Cabinet Clowns come up with. Will we be able to get tomatoes & lettuce let alone Camembert & Frisee at the Co-op? Shock horror!

Ivan & Libby & Sarah & Grandpa Tony & Anna – a New Year’s day – Canada 2021!

For us the two pieces of really good news is that we were able to be with our family at this special time and that the forces of reaction in Washington were repelled. Rejoice! Rejoice! 

Saturday, 9th January :

And so this morning our test clearances allowed me to meet John Bain (rhymes with pain!) at his clinic for an hour of a massage of the sports variety. No pampering here as he melted those knotted muscles. Such relief.

Spontaneous rinks

Another sunny, icy day. Some of the family went skating at Beaverbrooke. Apparently the crisp white covering will now stay until spring so there is less ice to kill yourself on!

Still no specific news from Mr Shapps and his friends so we are now passed the possible deadline of 72 hours and may well appear in London on Tueasday with no valid, negative test certificate. Ho-hum. Do not pass GO, do not collect £200, go straight to JAIL.

One journey – and for once only please – has been traversing the cosmos with all twenty-one of the Marvel epic Avengers, a Disney odyssey of quite spectacular destruction ending in half the universe being killed off by a dour, large-looking man called Thanos (I think). CGI has never had it so good; but very diverting especially while we have another set of real avengers busy trying to destroy American democracy just south of us here!

While on the subject, we’ve finished The Flight Attendant, a rather whimsical comedy thriller and the latest, brilliant Bryan Cranston series, Your Honor.

Sunday, 10th January :

Overcast today, our last day – and still no news  from Mr. Shapps. 

The massage yesterday has proved wonderful. Today, hooray, no  pain-in-the-neck and upper back! I wish I could have another massage soon but our lovely Paul Carey in Manningtree I guess, will not be able to come out for a while.

We have to go into immediate quarantine again when we get back. Friend Willie Meston has laid in emergency stocks and Tesco’s comes with a big order the day after we arrive. Other than that there is nothing in the Calendar for the whole of 2021. Our Madeira visit is cancelled, sadly, and the Voucher Folder is now overflowing with pretty useless airline vouchers none of which can be amalgamated into a nice, single, handy amount nor converted into cash. Hey Ho, Friends. 

Wake me when it’s over!

Narnia!

Home to Covia Brexitannia.

A gentle song from the sirens of Mistley:

THE GREEN DIARY : Canadian Christmas 2020.

Thursday 17th to Tuesday, 29th December :

We got here in the nick of time. Soon after we left,  a travel ban was imposed on the UK by pretty much everyone and all flights to and from Canada suspended for three days. This has now been extended to the 6th January ’21; we are meant to be returning on the 11th but with the new virus strain threatening everyone, who knows whether we will be returning at all!

Canadian Christmas

Yesterday the Ontario Government extended its lockdown regulations until the 9th January so, while Tony and I come out of quarantine in four days time with the whole family, we are all still in lockdown with everyone so our status doesn’t really change much. 

ArriveCAN is an App we have to use to report our temperatures daily and receive and send any Covid communications necessary. From time to time either a virtual or actual telephone call will come in to check on us. So far there have been no personal visits though these apparently do happen as well.

In the end this journey will be one, long quarantine but as we came here to be with the Canadian family anyway, it does not matter a jot. It’s just a pleasure to be so welcomed by them and they have gone to extraordinary lengths to prepare for the siege. We lack for nothing. Entertainment, media & meal menus have been meticulously prepared and all my hopes of a thinner New Year have been kicked into touch!

With Gin, Jigsaws, Netflix, Bridge- virtual and actual – games and books aplenty, we have been royally looked after. We have even played Bridge-online with friends at home and both our Canadian and English families joined transatlantically in a web game called Codenames. Technology is astonishing.

One piece is missing. We think it’s in the dog!

Best of all is just to be here after all the months of cancellations and nail-biting moments as plan after plan went south. Its been over eighteen months since we were last together.

We are allowed to walk outside. The joy of this is Nala, the youngest edition to the family. She is a seven month old Bernerdoodle with the sweetest, kindest nature and adored by all, needing lots of exercise in the freezing cold to work off her enthusiasm! She has us all wrapped round her paws and seems not to feel the cold at all.

Temperatures have ranged between -15 and +8˚C with some light falls of snow and rain on the warmer days. Today it was –9˚C with clear skies and sunshine – and no wind.

We are of course riveted by the Brexmas developments at home, the sad slide into the new coronavirus variant and the casting off of HMS Britannia, finally slipping her moorings and leaving the European quayside to journey we know not where.

See amid the winter snow………….

We come out of Quarantine tomorrow, the 30th December straight into an Ontario lockdown similar to Tier 4 at home. Apparently the new British Covid Variant has arrived here now. It remains to be seen what the new developments mean for our flights home on the 11th January. Air Canada have not cancelled us yet but we are expecting they might. This is certainly a spontaneous, flexible journey, who knows what 2021 will bring.

In the meantime yet another jigsaw puzzle bites the dust as Schloss Neuschwanstein, that 19th Century vanity project to honour Wagner by Mad King Ludwig II comes together. This time with all the pieces.

It’s -15˚C (chill factor) this morning. Yesterday we played transatlantic bridge with Friends Edward & Jane, our third stab at transatlantic gamesmanship. It snowed in the morning, rained at midday; during our bridge the snow melted completely; after bridge we walked Nala and Granddaughter Libby into a blizzard and over the day the temperatures ranged from 3˚ to -9˚C (wind chill -11˚C). Astonishing swings. It was my first blizzard. A small one but quickly re-covering the ground in white.

I was going to run this until New Year but think I’ll close 2020 here.

A very Happy New Year to all our dear Friends everywhere – may it be Vaccine-filled, healthy and safe.

See you all in 2021!

THE GREEN DIARY : Saturday, 12 December 2020

SNAPE

We have just returned from Snape where we listened to and watched the wonderful Nicola Benedetti playing works by Biber, Bach, Paganini and Ysaÿe, whom I’d never heard of but glad I’ve now met.  She has a charming presence and took us through the works with such warmth on her £2,000,000 Gariel Stradivarius, that the hour flashed by far too fast. We wanted to hear more, especially Paganini, but with a concert immediately following, there was no time for an encore.

Here is an interesting link. Nicola chats about her violin.

https://www.facebook.com/ClassicFM/videos/10154276056879260/

Speaking of violinists, Jorge Jiménez, our wonderful composer/virtuoso and neighbour, has just released a new CD, Lunaris featuring his own compositions and works by Ysaÿe, Berio, Bartók and Merula. Along with Anna Stegmann, the Recorder player, has created an eerie, moody Lunar soundscape in the pattern of the 28 day moon cycle: New, Crescent, Full and Eclipse. It is rather esoteric but fascinating – and certainly creates atmosphere.

Jorge continues his work with the Hanover Band on their project to complete the full set of Beethoven Symphonies recorded in the Mansion House in London. All eight of them have now been presented and the 9th will be streamed next week. Here is Mark Elder talking about the symphony which he will be conducting.  Jorge is the lead violinist. It has been beautiful listening. All the instruments are period pieces:

https://youtu.be/e3DRvq3FpoM

I thought I should mention this 1-MINUTE-FILM-ABOUT-MARRIAGE. We’ve not been streaming only escapism only but trying to find other insightful creations too – “art baby!” There’s a limit to how far MAR DE PLASTICO and BARBARIAN can take you! Have a look at this, it is very sweet and only takes a minute:

This is delightful, Friends.

https://aleteia.org/2020/01/02/20-year-old-filmmaker-wins-award-for-powerful-1-minute-film-about-marriage/

WALKS

Our walks continue. 22 kilometres was our biggest one since my last post. On this subject may I have a little rant? Forgive me, but today it’s farmers!

 

As you know we walk a great deal all over the Tendring and Shotley peninsulas taking advantage of the literally hundreds of specially marked pathways that crisscross farmland, through woods and along riversides. Most of these we have memorised over the years but we have a set of survey maps of the area to make sure we do not stray into forbidden territory or get lost. East Anglia is flat and low lying and once you’re out there it can be confusing despite the smallness of the landscape in these islands.

Why are farmers so grumpy always? Our experience is purely anecdotal of course and I have no statistical evidence to back me up here other than what we see and hear around us on our walks, on the television and the radio.

With Brexit coming up and all the lunacy surrounding that, the farmers are now holding their collective breaths. Gone will be the protections of the Common Agricultural Policy and who knows what will replace it? Yet it was many farmers that wanted this; they want ‘out’ but want the privileges of ‘in’; they never get enough subsidy or if they do its unfairly distributed; the weather is too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry; the public are a nuisance; the public should not roam the land; they don’t want immigrants but can’t find migrants to harvest their land, to pick their cherries and apples and fruit; English labour is useless we have been told; they don’t want immigrants but are not prepared or are incapable of doing, themselves, the grubby, back breaking jobs that migrants do. 

Farmers plead poverty but seem in many cases to be able to afford public schooling for their children and, one hears, private medicare, Bupa and so forth. I know this is not universal but it happens.

One of the things they frequently do around here is obliterate the pathways and even maliciously destroy signposting so that you can suddenly become lost in a clod-turned field, reminiscent of the muds and clays of the trenches of world war one! Short cuts become long doglegs turning for example a ten miler into twelve or thirteen; what was there last year has gone this. It can be infuriating. 

Then there is the evidence hidden in ditches of carelessness with rubbish. Driving along in a car you see a beautiful landscape, hedgerows, avenues of trees and immaculate fields. But walking slowly along these routes you see evidence in the ditches and under the brambles of detritus strewn about. Not just coke cans, burger boxes and bottles (which could be passing cars) but empty plastic containers of fertilizers and chemicals and other farming detritus just dumped in ditches and concealed by brambles. 

Well that’s enough rant for this post! At least we get to walk the routes and draw sustenance from this beautiful landscape – despite the farmers, not because of them.

We are going to Canada for Christmas – seeing our family there at last. It has entailed the most extraordinary skill navigating the labyrinthine eVoucher and airline schedules; the restrictions, the quarantine regulations – all an exciting travel adventure on their own. There are no direct flights to Ottawa; we fly via Toronto being one of  the three airports open in Canada for Inbound international flights. We have had to fill in special quarantine forms which, in Canada, unlike here, are properly policed. So the entire family will lockdown at home for two weeks. Stocks have been laid in and all measures to survive the siege are in place! It remains to be seen whether we are all sane at the other side! Watch this space, dear Friends.

I don’t really like Round Robin Christmas Cards and have sent real ones this year to as many as I can but for those who are in parts unrefreshed by my postal enthusiasm I want to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and, please god, a very Healthy, Prosperous and Vaccine-filled New Year. Great Mistley talents, Derek & Nancy Bell designed the Christmas Window here. I love it because it is both Festive and Hopeful. Their home overlooks the ghastly fence along the quay which we have all protested about for twelve years now. At last the Supreme Court will rule and we are all hopeful that we will win and the monstrosity will be removed. So the little fence at the bottom of the picture will perhaps not appear in next year’s festive greeting!

The fence is at the bottom and we really do have black swans in the Stour River.

For those of you watching the Good Ship Britannia slipping itself from its European moorings on an unchartered course to who knows where, we ask your prayers!

And here is a wonderful Christmas Carol by Friend Jo Michie in Scotland to be sung to the tune of the 12 Days of Christmas:

THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS 2020
 
The first day of Christmas Covid gave to me
A pandemic level tier three.
 
The second day of Christmas Covid gave to me
Two hand sanitisers …and a pandemic level tier three
 
The third day of Christmas Covid gave  to me
Three potential vaccines ..and a pandemic level tier three.
 
On the fourth day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Four in our bubble  ….and a pandemic level tier three!
 
On the fifth day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Five flimsy face masks  ….and a pandemic level tier three!
 
On the sixth day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Six pairs of  gloves …..and a pandemic level tier three!
 
On the seventh day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Seven shops going bankrupt….and a pandemic level tier three!
 
On the eighth day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Eight pubs a ’closing …and a pandemic level tier three!
 
On the ninth day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Nine Zoom meetings ….and a pandemic level tier three!
 
On the tenth day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Ten exhausted medics …and a pandemic level tier three!
 
On the eleventh day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Eleven MPs faffing …and a pandemic level tier three!
 
On the twelfth day of Christmas, Covid gave to me
Twelve more days of lockdown  …and a pandemic level tier three!
 
                                                                                                            Jo Michie

THE GREEN DIARY : Thursday, 26 November 2020

We went walking in crisp sunshine yesterday, along one of our favourite paths into Copperas Wood, along the south bank of the Stour, past the actor, Clive Owen’s beautiful arte deco home near Ramsay. He is one of our local celebrities and the walk is about 8 kilometres long. In all the years we have been coming here we have never seen so many people and the small, shaded car park was full; we had to drive a while along the road to find a suitable place to park. 

It is a reflection on our lockdown status that more and more of us are using local amenities and it is amusing to notice how many visitors have clearly never walked like this before. It’s extremely muddy and slippery underfoot and many were wearing completely inappropriate clothing for such an outing! One person was wearing patent leather shoes with heels

which reminded me of the scene in THE CROWN where Mrs Thatcher is utterly humiliated when she turns up for deer stalking at Balmoral with the Royals, dressed in a blue twinset, black patent leather heels and her obligatory handbag. She didn’t last long as you can imagine – poor woman!

Continue reading “THE GREEN DIARY : Thursday, 26 November 2020”

THE GREEN DIARY : Sunday, 8 November 2020.

REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY & EXISTENTIAL ANGST

Its Remembrance Sunday today, a beautiful, sunny, crisp, cloudless late-Autumn day and we are in our second national lockdown of the year. No formal gathering at the village memorial this year and Tony and I walked up to Furze Hill across the rugby fields and into the woods where we stood quietly for two minutes, reflecting together. You could hear the birds singing and in the distance the excited chatter of children, the sweet sound of innocent youth; we thought how fitting that theirs was the only sound other than nature’s, to be heard. For was it not for these children, our hope for the future, that toil and strife, pain and death was endured? That our world would be safe?

Mistley War Memorial at the entrance to the village

That at any rate is the hope that sustains humanity. Hope that decency, good will, understanding between the nations and religions of the world would banish fear, greed, graceless selfishness and evil? 

The news from the United States today can only be a fitting coincidence to this day of hope and remembrance. That Trump is gone, hopefully to languish in a jail in due course, where I firmly believe he and his Trumpfia belong, must surely be a cause for rejoicing?

Goodbye to Trump but not Populism I fear?

Then why is there a lingering feeling of anxiety on this sunny day? 70 Million Americans cannot all be monsters, racists and bigots and so it is surely true that many of their concerns, their issues must be real and will have to be addressed by the new President if he is truly to “heal America”. 

Can he do this?  Lets hope so.  

https://www.theguardian.com/commentsfree/2020/nov/08/hoping-for-a-return-to-normal-after-trump-thats-the-last-thing-we-need

There has been a fundamental change with us here since my last post. The American election and the new lockdown have had a depressive effect. That the world is not in a good place at present cannot be doubted. We are lucky because not a lot for us has changed other than swathes of travel plans; but that of course is not true for millions of others all over the world who most certainly are experiencing difficult, sometimes life-threatening times.

To the pandemic, to the rise of new populist leaders and their nationalisms, to extremisms, to hunger, need and fear must be added concerns with our climate.

We belong to a small chat group on WhatsApp which was sweetly set up eight months ago by some of you when Tony and I were laid low with the Covid virus. It acted as a contact group and we monitored each other’s health situations and lent moral support to each other; with the passing of the illness it became more of a platform for comment and debate on current affairs and as we fundamentally agree with each other on almost all issues, so it has become a bit of an echo chamber – reflecting, as one friend wrote, “an existential anxiety” devoid of optimism or hope. 

We have noticed that long silences have fallen between us. They are companionable silences but in our long relationship extremely unusual. Ours has been an animated partnership and these silences have arisen since Covid, since the unending bad news has unfolded and we have become paralysed by events to the extent that there seems little more to say or do other than to look inward.

Perhaps that may not be such a bad thing but it’s not really a happy development in the long run. I wonder, dear friends, whether you have perhaps experienced anything similar? A sort of ghastly emptiness underlined by anxiety? What is this? An indulgent middle-age, middle class crisis-of-no-importance? Perhaps.

Forward, Friends, forward! Into the sunny uplands of winter!

30 September, 2006.

Our walks continue; and the streaming, binge-watching and the reading – and the cooking! Exactly a year ago my brother David and I were on a two week cruise through the Panama Canal and I started A LITTLE LIFE by Hanya Yanagihara, a story in my opinion so over written that it could easily be told in half its 720 pages; but so compelling that I must get to the end of it – after a whole year! 

Which is not to say there have been no other books in the interim: there have and I have been multi-tasking.

Lots to help encourage optimism in the long month of lockdown. After all its not as though we have had no practice!

Bon Chance.

THE GREEN DIARY : Thursday, 22 October 2020.

What to say this time, dear Friends?

Lets turn the elephant out of the room: we may not agree about many things, some of us are Sumptionists, some of us welcome more lock down, others, less; but on one thing we can agree, and clearly do from your many emails and feelings on the matter, and that is Bojo and his Shudder of Clowns appear not to have any idea of what to do about anything very much; that Britannia is certainly advancing but towards what?

The virus spreading as we approach winter? The dread of half the Nation as we advance towards a no-deal Brexit? FOMO affecting the mental life of most of us?

While across the pond we gaze in horror at the possibility that the November Presidential election may very well not go the Democratic way and that banality, narcissism, cruelty, mendacity and greed may well succeed for a further four years?

Here in East Anglia and particularly Essex we have been moved up a tier and seem to have stepped firmly backwards witnessing a lot of disobedience and reluctance as we do so. Even our Conservative MP, Sir Bernard Jenkin is getting worked up, especially by the Government’s side-lining of parliament and descent to diktat.

Enough. You get the drift and we all agree that the world is not in a good place.

Dillie Keane, one of my favourite entertainers whose Fascinating Aida often hits the nail on the head came up with this last month:

Dillie Keane

I would love to play you her Dogging Song, otherwise known as A Song for Essex but might get into trouble with the censors, and I’m sure you have heard her wonderful take on “cheap airlines”?

Her Gavin Williamson song is rather apt too, for those of you battling with schools.

The Ferryboats to carry you across the Deben Rivermouth to rejoin the Suffolk Coastal path.

We continue our hikes which get slower all the time. The big one this time has been our Felixstowe to Woodbridge walk along the Deben River. This completes our programme of walking the left and right banks of the Stour, the Orwell and now the Deben Rivers though only the west bank of the Deben has access as it’s a maze of channels, saltings and dykes that snake inland, wild and isolated: low skies, rain threatening and very beautiful in its own special way. Part of the dyke has collapsed and entailed a long detour turning the whole expedition into 18.5 miles and eight hours from Felixstowe to Woodbridge stations with a lunch break at the Maybush pub in Waldringfield at 2.30, at least an hour late. 

Lowering skies by the Martello Tower overlooking the Deben Rivermouth

We were all alone. The estuary smells of oysters, mussels and samphire; the big skies are filled with honking geese and the cries of sea birds, Terns and other waders fishing the muds. 

I managed a dyke-glissando and fell upside down into the mud. Quite a manoeuvre to be righted and dragged up the embankment! Nothing serious but the event slowed us down somewhat. Here is a picture which shows the position I was in though not on a dyke; rather an example of our states of mind when friends join for lunch at our favourite pub, the Alma in Harwich rather the worse for wear. I think the entire carriage were singing of all things,  Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens……..don’t ask!

All I can say is that I was very grateful for our masseur, Paul’s visit the following day.

Hardly any due- tri- quar- or quin-tettes to report. The new lock down has seen those off for the time being but visits to Snape continue. They have solved the spacing issue and very comfortably accommodate an audience of about, I guess, a hundred. The concerts are small scale, never last longer than an hour and involve only one or two artists at a time. Thus we have been treated in the last two weeks to piano works by Schubert and Rachmaninov  and the brilliant virtuosi Steven Osborne and Christian Blackshaw. Thanks Friend Ruth Gee for alerting us to these concerts. There are more to come.

Thanks Ruth Gee for chivvying us to Snape!

The other major project has been to watch the streaming of the MetOpera’s fantastic 1990 Ring Cycle produced by Otto Schenk, by far the best we have seen. Beautifully staged, Otto’s production captures the scenic world of Wagner’s Ring as brilliantly as James Levine and the Met orchestra capture the musical world. The incredibly complicated story is rendered at last easy to follow.

I know Wagner’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that many are mystified by both his story lines and his music, never easy in any opera, so I can’t resist introducing Anna Russell’s 1952 recollection of her own experience with the Ring Cycle which, Friends, took 18 hours out of our time!

We have an array of talent on our Green. Terence Davies the film auteur is a few doors down and in spite of lockdown has managed to keep his latest film project on the road. Benediction is a film about Siegfried Sassoon – interestingly named Siegfried after his mother’s passion for Wagner – and Terence and the production company backing it seem to be dodging all the Covid brickbats. 

Here is a link for more information if you are interested.

https://g.co/kgs/6yUEMc

Terence Davies

Jorge Jiminez and Joy Smith live a few doors down too and they are managing to keep their show on the road though it is of course incredibly tough. As well as home-schooling their two lovely daughters who form two of the Pixie quartet I mentioned in an earlier post, manage to keep their harps and violins singing. 

Visit Jorge Jimenez on his website at http://www.jorge-jimenez.es

This week saw the streaming of The Hanover Band’s latest project the filmed concerts of Beethoven’s symphonies starting last night with the 1st and Jorge in there as lead violinist. Such beautiful playing, it was recorded in the acoustically challenging Stationers’ Hall in the City of London. 

All the instruments were of the period Beethoven composed the work; it was premiered in 1800.

They were beautiful to listen to.

And so Friends, soon the clocks go back and winter is fully upon us; the leaves have almost all turned here; the migrating geese and other birds have now departed for warmer destinations; the last of our summer/autumn plans were cancelled recently and we head towards what Nicola Sturgeon calls a digital Christmas though I’m not at all sure what that means exactly.

Lots of Zooming I expect!

THE GREEN DIARY : Friday, 02 October 2020.

I went to London last Thursday for a long delayed visit to Laura, my Hygienist who is a charming, amusing person. She loves to chat away just when you are incapable of any response beyond a gargling, choking sound as the water spray, shrieking plaque scraper and rotating fluoride brush whizzes about; your head in her lap almost, gazing through Perspex goggles, gloves, masks and dazzling lights everywhere.  I have always been terrified of dentists though they have all been without doubt charming, gentle people. 

Continue reading “THE GREEN DIARY : Friday, 02 October 2020.”

THE GREEN DIARY : Friday, 11 September 2020.

Quartet, trio, duet and even on one or two occasions, solo dinners and lunches have been proceeding at a pace here at No. 11 while Bojo and his Shudder of Cabinet Clowns tinker with the rules of engagement, perform U-turns enough to make us dizzy and seem, certainly in the international arena, to be bringing our country into disgrace with broken treaties and, it looks likely, a dishonourable discharge from the Club of Europe.

Well we shall see. What else can we do?  Nothing.

Thank you so much, dear Friends, for all your emails and messages. This is proving an excellent way to keep in touch at this frustrating time. Its lovely to hear from you and thank you for reading these communiqués! Many of you were interested in how Tony and I met each other and asked that I complete the story as I think I left him in the last episode greeting me in his office wearing a smart Panama hat, courtesy of Marina Martin. That was Part 1 : HAPPENSTANCE – The Meeting.  

Parts 2 & 3 are COINCIDENCE : The Waiting (Sitzkieg) and ACTION : The Beginning (Blitzkrieg).

If you’d like to read those click on the link here:

http://www.pedro-of-the-green.com/significant-otherness-tony-peake-a-friend-for-life-part-2-3/(opens in a new tab)

So it’s been a short season of Staycationing, the new way to explore England for as long as the ever-changing rules allow. On Monday it will be a criminal (sic) offence to be in a domestic gathering of more than six people. Luckily this did not  disarray our August Bank Holiday visit to the Family in Cambridgeshire where there were eight of us. Now we would be subject to arrest and a fine or, I suppose, even imprisonment!

Three Grandchildren, Jabe, Fin & Tyger fronted by Father Zac and backed by Mother Julie. Last Christmas!
Continue reading “THE GREEN DIARY : Friday, 11 September 2020.”