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Thursday 26 March 2020

Adjusting 4

Part of Glentworth Vicarage Garden

For many years I have paid people to help me with various jobs.  When I lived in a vicarage I had a large garden and Jack came and helped me there and he continued to come for several years when I moved to Caistor.   When he was no longer able to come Pete-the-gardener-and-handyman came instead.
Part of my present garden

But Pete can't come now.  His children are at home and he's needed there so this year I am going to have to look after the garden (at least for a few months) by myself.  And that will not be easy.  I can't kneel to weed, I can't dig and my strength is very limited.

And quite honestly I don't know how I'm going to manage but manage I must.  Maybe when the lock-down is relaxed Pete will come which would be my best case scenario.  I've got a raised bed which I may be able to sort for myself.  I've invested in weed killer to deal with as much of the problem as I can.  I shall just have to do my best.

Annie my home-enhancer won't be coming to clean for me either.  I shall flick a duster and push a vacuum cleaner but the windows won't get cleaned and the furniture won't be moved.  Both Annie and Pete will be welcomed back with open arms when they do come!

But there are those who have far more problems than me.  Many are not getting their usual visits from carers and other people who add to their comfort.  My adjustments will be comparatively simple.

Update.  I've had a message from Jack.  Long time readers will know all about Jack but I've put a label below so everyone can find out about him.   He's got big family responsibilities now but wishes he could help me as well!  Anyway, he wants me to thank everyone who has sent their good wishes.  He thinks my blog readers are great!  If you comment he will read it but can't reply.

Wednesday 25 March 2020

Adjusting 3

We weren't designed to live alone.  We talk about being independent but in truth we are interdependent.  We need each other in order to fulfil our physical needs but we also have our mental, social and spiritual needs.

Many churches are using this time of isolation to experiment with new ways of joining together using technology.  Last Sunday worship was streamed from various places to allow people to join in remotely.  Even those who don't have the technology knew that the services were taking place and they could pray at the same time.

One group of churches where I often help out has gone one further and they are steaming Morning Prayer at 8.30 each day and I've been joining in with that.  In my isolation I am finding that to be a source of strength, knowing that others are joining in remotely too.   

I'm phoning various people on a regular basis to support and encourage them.  One of my ladies, E. has a son who is stuck in Portugal having gone on a business trip.  I'd love to visit her and share a cuppa but that's not allowed so a chat has to suffice.  S has a heart condition which would make Corvid 19 exceptionally dangerous and she is frightened (but she'd never say so!).

And I am being contacted by various people especially my cousin J's wife.  J is having chemotherapy at the moment so his wife has plenty of worries of her own but each night around 7.30pm we have a chat on Facetime.  I find that especially comforting as I know that if I didn't answer she would alert someone to check on me or, if necessary, alert the emergency services.  As an older single person living alone, I find that very re-assuring.

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Housewife, 49

Victoria Wood as Nella Last
Nella Last was a very ordinary woman living in Barrow in Furness. an industrial town in Northern England.  In 1939 she accepted the invitation to write a weekly diary for the Mass Observation Project which was set up to record the lives and opinions of ordinary people. She continued to write her diary throughout the war and indeed until 1966.  Forty years later in 2006 her wartime writings were made into a film starring Victoria Wood and the name of that film was "Housewife, 49", 49 being Nella's age when she started her writing.  

Bloggers are a sort of twenty first century mass observation project. We come from all walks of life and all backgrounds.  Some blogs are political. others commercial, others reflect the special interests of each blogger.  Most of the ones I read are written by people with quiet, hidden lives.  I read of people struggling to make ends meet, mothers with young families, older people reflecting on how the world changes around us.  We know (hope) that what we write will be read by total strangers but we choose our own subjects to write about.  

In these last few days I have noticed that many bloggers are writing more posts than usual for we are living through "interesting" times.  We bloggers are recording how world events are affecting each tiny corner of the globe not as mere theory but as real experiences.  We read about how families cope when schools are closed suddenly and indefinitely.  We read about the battle of the supermarkets not as a mass event but how each household worries about their own supplies of toilet roll and tinned tuna.  We share hints or recipes, we write about caring for the vulnerable, we reflect on the generosity of neighbours and, sadly, the stupidity and selfishness of others.

These last few days and weeks have been unique in the history of the world.  There have been pandemics before but never have there been the opportunities for ordinary people to make their voices and feelings heard.


Adjusting 2

The next few weeks are going to be very difficult.  In many ways I am very fortunate.  I am used to being on my own.  I have a very well stocked store cupboard.  I have no-one who depends on me and others have offered such help as they can give.

But in other ways this is a difficult time.  I am used to my alone-ness being punctuated by coffee with friends, going to church, popping to the shops and all the thousand and one little sociabilities of life.  Life has a rhythm , needed if I am going to relate to other people.  

That has changed.  One day looks much like another and it is my tummy, not my watch, which gives me the nudge to get things done.  As I said yesterday I am still dressing fully even though there is a temptation to slob all day.  However, I am determined that these next few weeks will be good and fruitful so I am trying to create little "rituals" to look forward to each.

I have to admit that often I am a total slob and eat my meals from a plate or tray in the sitting room but I have noticed that my inclination to use the table has increased.  I want to make meals much more of an event.  

I have set the table properly rather than just grabbing the cutlery as I sit down.  I've used a pretty napkin rather than just scooping up a tea towel and making do.  I've taken the time to bake mini bread loaves rather than just a big cob.  I've taken a few flowers from the bigger bunch in the sitting room.  I found a bottle of sherry and one of my Mother's cut-glass sherry glasses and I've had a small one before lunch.  And you may just see a chocolate orange, the gift of a friend who left it on the doorstep.  It's a little reminder that even though I am eating the meal in solitary splendour, I have friends who are thinking of me just as I am thinking about them.

Monday 23 March 2020

Adjusting 1

Flylady would be proud of me!  That mighty guru of all things domestic advocates dressing to the shoes every morning and even though I'm not leaving the house I am still lacing up those shoes daily.  Coronovirus may have a pretty name but it's an ugly bug and it's not going to reduce my standards!

Other things have changed.  You know about food supply and things like that so there's no point in writing about things like that.  I want to share some other things.

First I have re-organised my sitting room. The chair where I sit faces the window but although I can see out no-one can see me so I've set up an arm chair and a makeshift desk where I can both see and be seen.  Not many people are passing but I want to be able to wave to anyone who does.  The couple across the road have been sorting their garden.  I'm on a favourite route for joggers and although their numbers are greatly reduced a few still pass.  At this time of day this isn't the greatest place to sit as it faces due east but as the sun moves around I will be able to see my computer screen more easily.

The second is that I've started on some MOOCs.  "What's a MOOC?" I don't hear you say but I'm going to tell you anyway.  Its a Massive Open Online Course.  Universities from all over the world set them up.  I wrote about them here.

The first is a three-week course on Covid 19 run by The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which is part of London University.  I want to be able to distinguish between information and misinformation and I feel that this may help.  I accessed it through

The second is rather longer but still only twenty hours and is run by Silliman College which is part of Yale University.  It is The Science of Well being and it's about being happy!  That seems very relevant to these times and also to long term health.  I accessed it via

(JUst a quick reminder, if you want to be part of the letter exchange you have until Friday to let me know.

Friday 20 March 2020


I am stuck at home so I don't see the supermarket battles.  I have no children so I'm not worrying about childcare.  I'm used to being at home on my own so alone-ness is no problem.  The problems of industry, transport, health provision are things to be left to others.  I am indeed a privileged woman.

And yet even from my little bungalow in a small town in Lincolnshire I can see so much loveliness and so much kindness.

I hear from others about takeaways and pubs sending meals to those who are having difficulty.  

I hear of hotels offering beds for NHS workers.  And I hear the heroic efforts being made by those workers.

I hear of luxury perfume makers and gin distilleries turning their production lines to making hand sanitiser.  And of engineering firms helping to make ventilators

I hear of supermarkets trying to help the elderly and vulnerable by reserving shopping times for them.

All my neighbours have contacted me to offer to shop for me or give any help I need.  

This must be the first time in history that we have been asked to stand together by staying apart but I think that many people are rising to the challenges of this pandemic very nobly.

And on a very personal note I've had an e mail to say I've won a small hamper in a competition,

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Keeping in touch

Isolation is becoming my new norm.  I'm used to spending lot of time alone.  I have very well stocked cupboards and freezer.  I've got excellent neighbours.  The idea of twelve weeks relative seclusion really isn't bothering me too much - in fact I'm rather looking forward to getting a few things done.

But sleep is proving a problem.  For several nights I've gone to bed feeling dog-tired but as soon as my head hits the pillow a Grand National of thoughts starts racing.  How will I manage the garden?  What if my computer breaks down?  What will happen if I get this wretched virus and I am on my own?  Generally about 4am I drop off through sheer exhaustion!

Then I nod off during the day but invariably I get woken after ten minutes by some kind person ringing to see if I am OK.  I'm really grateful - I live alone and kind support is really comforting but it's very frustrating!

Last night the exhaustion pushed me into sleep around 10.30pm but it didn't last long.  By 1am those jockeys had their horses racing around my brain and so at 2.30 I got up  and decided to read a few blogs. 

And there on Small Moments was a post about my letter swap which I wrote about a few days ago.  I had been in touch with Elizabeth who writes that blog to ask her advice about setting up a swap.  Many years ago I joined a swap which she organised. Later on I met her at Trelissick Gardens, a National Trust property in Cornwall.  We enjoyed a coffee and a walk (well, she walked and I rode my trundle truck).

It's great to make contact with fellow bloggers especially by letter (or even better meeting face to face) because letters are so much more personal than e mails.  There's no cut-and-paste, no personalising a basic document which has been sent in modified form to several people: instead there's something which the other person has touched and indeed created just for you.  The choice of stationery, the style of handwriting and so many things mean a letter is so very personal and could only have been created by just that one individual.

My letter swap is open until 27th March so you have over a week to decide if you want to take part.  You can e mail me at  Terra and Joyce F, you both said you would be sending me an e mail but I haven't received so could you send me another please - I will acknowledge receipt of all e mails.

I've had several e mails from people saying that they don't want to be part of the swap but they would like to be my pen-pal.   I've thought long and hard about this and have decided that as I can't say yes to all I will not say yes to any.  You can specify that you want a partner in your own country or abroad but you can't specify who.

Update.  In the comments below Marcia refers to this post by Elaine.

Sunday 15 March 2020

This was sent to me . . .

I don't know the source but wanted to share it

I’ve got a bag of pasta,

Tomatoes in a tin

an extra pack of loo rolls,

the ultimate new sin.

I can’t get any hand wash,

Baked beans are rare as gold

And everyone is worried

As we protect our old.

We watch out for the symptoms,

A sore throat and a cough.

And we avoid the handshakes

Life now is getting tough.

We’re following the guidelines

And up and down the land,

We’re singing Happy Birthday

As we lather up our hands.

And if we are out shopping

To see what’s left in town,

If we see someone sneezing

We step away and frown.

Schools might soon be closing

Parents buy up gin,

Weeks and weeks of boredom

The future’s looking grim.

Many will be worried

That they can’t earn any money,

And for all those little businesses

This time is far from funny.

But stop and look around you

There is blossom on the trees,

The birds haven’t stop singing

We have butterflies and bees.

Use this latest crisis

To step back from the strife,

The pressures of your workplace

And reassess your life.

spring is around the corner,

feel that gentle breeze

And when we have no paper,

There’ll be plenty of dock leaves.

Friday 13 March 2020


I love getting letters!  And I enjoy writing letters too.  Letters aren't just about the words we write, they're something of the essence of the person, something which they've taken trouble over.  Our handwriting is highly individual and to see a friend's offering on the mat is one of the great pleasures of life.

I’ve just written to a dear friend of mine, Doreen.  Doreen and I have been friends for around forty years.  She even reads this blog so now she knows there’s a treat in the post for her.  I’m staying away from people for the moment while this wretched virus is around.  Maybe you are doing the same.  It can get a bit lonely though.  I’m glad of phone calls and e mails but letters will be a great help.

So I’ve been wondering if the idea of exchanging letters appeals to you, Dear Reader.  If so, I’m happy to facilitate a swap.  If you want to join in put a comment below letting me know if you want a swap in your own country or whether you’re happy to send your letter overseas.  I will need your e mail address so I can let you know who your exchange is.  My own e mail address is on my profile page if you'd prefer to use that.

I’ll keep the swap open until 27th March (that’s two weeks today) and won’t organise the exchanges until then.

Update  I will acknowledge all e mails that I receive.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Time for a day out!

I'm a member of the Trefoil Guild, sort of Girlguiding for grown ups.  I belong St Luke's Guild which has only five members so each of us is very important.  We meet about once a month and often have a day out together.

Today we went to Epworth Old Rectory, home of John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism.  It's a lovely old house originally built by their father when the previous rectory was burnt down.

The open season has only just started and the house is very quiet.  Today the only visitors were us and a coachload of American tourists and they'd finished going around when we arrived so we had the house to ourselves.  It's not really a very accessible house for someone on  mobility scooter so the others went off with a house guide for a full tour of the house and I had a volunteer guide all to myself!  I saw the ground floor with the entrance, the parlour and the kitchen but there was a book of pictures of the rest of the house and the guide talked me through it all.  The Wesleys were a fascinating family and Mrs Susanna Wesley was a formidable woman.

After going around the house we went out into the physic garden, a fascinating place.  All the plants are labelled not just with their name but also with their uses.  Maybe I should grow agrimony.  It it is used to cure raging madness.  

Sunday 8 March 2020

It felt very odd

I was at Thoresway today, celebrating Holy Communion, just as that congregation celebrates regularly at its monthly communion service.

It's happened regularly at St Mary's since at least the twelfth century and, God willing, will happen for centuries to come.  There are changes, of course, which reflect the changing times - it's only in the last few decades for example, that there have been female priests - but the central act of breaking bread and sharing wine has been seen at Thoresway for the last eight centuries at least.

Today only I (as the celebrating priest) received wine.  Everyone else just received the consecrated bread.

I know that would have been commonplace until the mid sixteenth century when the Anglican church split from Rome but it is the first time I have celebrated the Eucharist in that way.

It felt very odd just as it felt odd to use hand sanitiser instead of a ceremonial wash with cold water (don't worry my hands were thoroughly washed with hot water and soap before I started).  It felt very odd to "withhold" the chalice.  

But that oddness reminded me in an odd way of my solidarity with Christians all over the globe as we, with all people, face a possible pandemic and I prayed for all who live in lands without good health services and so face it with fear. 

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Wrapping up February

Well it wasn't dull.  

I had a couple of days away.  I realised a few years ago that a treat in February was A Good Idea.  January and February can seem interminable but something to look forward makes life a little more interesting.  This wasn't one of my better breaks (I'm not even going to write about it) but it was a break and it served its purpose.

I saw off a ghost!  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

I had a message from a cousin whom I hadn't heard from for twelve years.  Each year I send Christmas cards to all twelve of my surviving cousins on my Father's side of my family and each year I get cards from six of them.  Each year I invite all twelve to a picnic and only four come.  S never sends a card or greetings but in February she contacted me out of the blue.  I feel very happy about that.  

I had days out, meals with friends and lots of relaxation.

And I went to Mandy's to make cards.  Enjoy.

Sunday 1 March 2020

A Story for Lent

A seeker came to a holy man.  The holy man was respected for miles around and many people came to him for his advice.  The seeker knelt and the holy man asked him what he wanted.  He said that all he wanted was to know how to resist temptation. 

The holy man sent him to the river and told him to bring back a bowl of water filled to the brim.  The seeker was anxious to please so he filled the bowl right to the top and then came back to kneel before the holy man. 

The holy man noticed two soldiers also waiting to talk with him and he called them forward.  Then he said to the seeker, “Carry your bowl through the streets of the city, through the market, through the places where the girls go to talk, through the busiest streets.  These soldiers will walk behind you.  If you spill one drop they will run you through with their swords.  If you come back with your bowl full you will have earned the right to the answer to your question.  Go now.”

This was not what the seeker had hoped for but he took his bowl and walked slowly through the streets of the city.  The streets were bustling but still he walked.  He went through the market and still he walked.  He passed the women but still he walked.  It was a long way and the path was not good, but he knew that the soldiers were right behind him.  It took several hours but eventually he returned to the holy man with his bowl.

The holy man saw him approach and asked, “Did you see anything in the market you wanted to buy?”  “No” said the seeker.

“How long were you in the gaming houses?”

“I did not go into the gaming houses.”
“And the girls you passed.  Were they beautiful?”

“I did not look.  Every step of the way I kept my eyes fixed on my bowl of water.”

“Well,” said the holy man, “today you kept your eyes fixed on your bowl of water.   If throughout your life you keep your eyes fixed on the truth you will resist all temptation.

This is not an original story.  I have known it for years but have no idea where I found it.