THE GREEN DIARY : Sunday, 8 November 2020.


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.

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.

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

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: 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.”

THE GREEN DIARY : Wednesday, 26 August 2020.

A Friend in Wilderness, South Africa sent me this poem, which I felt was hilarious considering where we all are today, surrounded by U-turns and indecisions.

I won’t arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
I’ll sanitise the doorknob and make a cup of tea.
I won’t go down to the sea again, I won’t go out at all,
I’ll wander lonely as a cloud from the kitchen to the hall.
There’s a green-eyed yellow monster to the north of Katmandu
But I shan’t be seeing him just yet and nor, I think, will you.
While the dawn comes up like thunder on the road to Mandalay
I’ll make my bit of supper and eat it off a tray.
I shall not speed my bonnie boat across the sea to Skye
Or take the rolling English road from Birmingham to Rye.
About the woodland, just right now I am not free to go
To see the Keep Out posters or the cherry hung with snow
And no, I won’t be travelling much, within the realms of gold.
Or get me to Milford Haven. All that’s been put on hold.
Give me your hands, I shan’t request, albeit we are friends
Nor come within a mile of you, until this shit show ends.

FROM A Brisk Walk through a Pageant of English Verse

Though to be fair our new regimen of what we call Quartet Luncheons & Dinners has gone some way to breaking the ice in our isolation, so-to-speak. These are Two+Two affairs observing the niceties of distancing, always only four of us.

But much excitement into the big smoke we plunged to visit Friends Penny & Nick, one of our BridgeBase-Online partnerships in East Sheen. It seemed so naughty driving there, not playing live bridge but spending a lovely evening in actuality not virtuality. 

Thanks Friends it was a lovely evening. A Quartet dinner of note.

Home to sad, dusty Leverton Street . It needs love and a lick of paint I think. The windows remind me of scenes from Miss Haversham’s failed wedding night in GREAT EXPECTATIONS; but I am just too fat and unsupple to do the deathly window ledge balance and clean the acres of dirt & diesel off the glass! Oh where is the wonderful window man?

This is Falkland Road just before you turn into Leverton Street. It has become very colourful. Perhaps because Sir Keir Starmer lives in the neighbourhood. He is our MP.

Hampstead Heath was surprisingly not crowded; perhaps it wasn’t the finest day. We walked our usual circuit up from Parliament Hill to Kenwood House and round down to the Ladies’ Pond, the Boat and Men’s Ponds to catch a 214 down the hill home and were distraught at the sight of all the diseased Horse Chestnut trees, their leaves brown with some sort of fungus.

The autumnal effect is in fact some sort of bacteria or fungus. This is the lane near the Ladies’ Pond. In summer!

What do you think will happen to them? Can they fight off this disease or will they go the same way as the beautiful Dutch Elms that were so ignominiously expunged from the English landscape? It’s a tragedy.

A Sestet birthday party of note in Clapham changed gears slightly. Friend Edward’s 69th. Soixante Neuf. An excellent position we think! The 88 bus took us all the way from Camden; it was immaculately clean and empty; alighting at its terminus in Clapham Old Town we were surprised by the over-flowing cafes, bars and restaurants filled with unmasked, careless twenty-and-thirty-somethings for whom there seemed to be no worries. For us hayseeds this came as a shock.

So, the ‘burbs are busy but the West End and City glumly uncrowded, we found.

This is where the bus stopped but it was not like this! Clapham Old Town.

Two more Quartet Luncheons last week and Quartet Martini & Campari Locktails of a sunset : except we were blown indoors! There is a lot of wind at present, the weather has cooled appreciably but none of this changed the taste of the martinis, I can tell you!

Tyger, Tony and Fin : Lovely Lallies all three!
With Tyger and Fin gathering lots of blackberries. Jams and Puddings have been forthcoming.

Two grandchildren came to visit and stay the night. We took them blackberrying and then wined and dined them at the Thorn Hotel round the corner where an extremely brisk trade has taken advantage of England’s new Staycationing habits. In fact on Monday last when our lovely Polish Ladies came to dust us down (they like the house to themselves), we went for breakfast at the Thorn where the special discount is still in force. Friend David McKay, the owner, stopped by and told us that they have never been so busy and were run off their feet; its impossible to get a booking; that even if there were no discount they would still be just as busy with people who have found they need not be in London to work and play. The empty cafes, bars and restaurants there are gains for the provinces.

This was brought home to us when we went for a Quartet Luncheon with friends in Thorpeness, near Aldeburgh. We have never seen so many cars and people there before, even in normal times. It was astonishing. Some friends who’d been up to Cromer and visited the north Norfolk coast told us that there were at least 20,000 cars at Holkham. Everybody is holidaying at home and there is no room at any inn anywhere. All this chimes with what David told us. Their Enoteca in Manningtree, Lucca, is chockfull too.

I rehearsed and played in my first Webinar last week too, playing Colonel Lukyn in Pinero’s THE MAGISTRATE. This seems to be the new way forward with much theatre now, streamed events whose virtuality never quite adds up to actuality but is great fun nonetheless. 

Some work well: we watched ALBION from the Almeida and though quibbled with some of the writing and one or two over-busy performances,  thought it was riveting and extremely good. It’s still available if anyone is interested.

Have a look, Friends.

On the television two major documentaries have struck us. ONCE UPON A TIME IN IRAQ, a five-part documentary shedding a terrifying perspective on that unhappy country and the effects of the invasion. 

So very sad. 

What we liked about it was that ordinary people from all sides gave their views and described their experiences. No politicians with their spin and their dishonesty. You can find it on catch-up as you can too the amazing full length film, due for theatric release next month, COUP 53, about the cynical involvement of the CIA and MI6 in the overthrow of the Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, in retaliation for his nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry which was hitherto wholly owned by British and American interests.

Ten years in the making and much material is still in secret archives, which MI6 will not yet release. What struck us most about the film was the ripple effect down the years that that sponsored coup d’état had on the whole region and how it has negatively affected so much there ever since, never mind any trust between the Middle East and the West. It was like watching a political thriller with the consequences of the action still to play out in our future.

And now I have added another book to my growing reading list, all being read simultaneously. Get a grip! Why can’t I get rid of this reader’s block?  LADY IN WAITING, Anne Glenconner’s fascinating story of her “Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown” may finally have achieved an unblocking. It’s wonderfully amusing, but dark too as much in her life was not easy. There was much tragedy. I can’t put it down.

I think she may have dictated it into a recorder because it has the directness of a speaking voice; quite a feat. It rollicks along at a rate of knots.

An end note for today – Tony and I have been together for just over thirty-five years and many of you, our Friends, have asked how we met.  If you are interested I have written a piece about it elsewhere on my site and if you click on the link a new story will open to entrance and amaze you (tongues in cheeks!).

Ha! Ha! See you all soon……………!

THE GREEN DIARY : Wednesday, 12 August 2020.

The Green is brown because we are having a mini heat wave here and, apart from a short storm or two, creating steam and humidity of almost tropical proportions, very little rain has actually fallen. 

I am always amused by weather conversations here. Of course it is a favourite topic, a well known national characteristic : stick to the weather, it’s the safest thing to do! 

Margz Green on The Green with Pedro & Tonto outside No. 11 – one of our lovely visitors.

It’s never right though.  It’s either too wet, too cold, too hot. It never seems utterly to please.  Droughts are declared in a matter of days if there has been no rain, and hosepipe bans follow in short shrift. For those of us brought up in countries like Australia and South Africa, the notion of a drought being declared after a mere week or two of clear skies is incomprehensible! What on earth have they done with all that water that fell, flooded and destroyed in the past seasons? It’s a mystery. I have a theory that it’s really to do with utilities companies needing to turn a profit and pay their shareholders rather than forking out cash for infrastructure improvements. Is here anyone out there who can enlighten us please?  The notion of actually owning the water or any utility designed for the use of a single community baffles me, let alone the notion of paying a dividend to its shareholders. Is there anything that can remain in public ownership? Must everything be owned?

Continue reading “THE GREEN DIARY : Wednesday, 12 August 2020.”

THE GREEN DIARY : Saturday, 25 July 2020.

Mistley sub-Post Office with Swan Basin (John Adams) in the foreground.

This morning in the Mistley sub-Post Office I was called a “f***ing arsehole” by the only other person in the little shop, at the counter, posting lots of parcels.

She was complaining about wearing a mask; it was stuffy and stupid, she said, and why should she? Her sun glasses misted up she told Frances the postmistress, behind her glass screen; how could it save the economy (sic) and what about her freedoms? She had a rainbow mask that could not cover both mouth and nose at the same time so she may just as well not bothered to wear one.

From a metre and a mask away and hoping to speed up the transaction taking place, in a calm, muffled voice, extremely politely I said, “Its less uncomfortable than the disease.”

Continue reading “THE GREEN DIARY : Saturday, 25 July 2020.”

THE GREEN DIARY : Friday, 10 July 2020.

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

The Bright Field : R S Thomas

I have become a real hayseed, so say some of you! A country mouse. The 4th of July is only six days ago and already the itchy feet are beginning to stir; though perhaps not mine, quite. Thank you for all your comments. One of the reasons for keeping this diary going during lockdown is to stay in touch with my wide family of friends everywhere and its good to hear from you. As I navigate my way through the widgets, platforms and instances of Web-making and attend more zooms and webinars, the construction becomes slightly easier though I do still find this algorithmic world confusing and frustrating – so if there are mistakes please forgive me. You can always unsubscribe which would be sad. Anything you say onsite passes through “Admin” – such a terrifying thought! “Admin” is me; it turns me into a sort of private censor board so all comments and replies come to my email address first and anything too private can be discreetly handled, shall I say? Some of you prefer simply emailing me and that’s lovely too.

Continue reading “THE GREEN DIARY : Friday, 10 July 2020.”