And the Birds Still Sang – an ode to 2020

It started in the east this thing as plague, as cholera, had before it. It crept onto our television screens before last Christmas, lost in the news of Brexit posturings and snap general elections. In any case it was not about us. This was distant, sad maybe but it was happening somewhere else, to them and not to those we knew. We carried on with our lives as the insidious wave swept inexorably closer. By January, the infection reached our shores, brought back by travellers returning from overseas.

Then it began. It passed from one to another, reaching out. Survival instinct set in and showed itself in the scramble for toilet rolls, for pasta, for hand sanitiser and soap. We began to be afraid. At first perhaps a salacious, voyeuristic fear, still believing it couldn’t be, wouldn’t be, our friends, our family, ourselves who died. We were told that it was older people, those with underlying health conditions who were at risk but some of us were older, some of us were sick. We grieved for Italy in a way that perhaps we had not for Wuhan. Inexplicable this distinction but we’d holidayed in Italy, we knew people who knew people. It was still not about us but we began to believe that it could be.

Deaths were announced, in other cities, other towns. Deaths of younger people, healthy people. We were not immune. Yet still, for most, the impact was no more than shopping shortages, or small children being sad that the caretaker no longer high-fived them on the way into school. Then school children who had been on half-term skiing trips brought it to our county, our neighbourhood. We watched the lines on the graph rising ever more steeply.

As the number of cases grew, a numbing terror, a paralysing grief for the life we had known, a life we would never know again. By March, people who were able, or whose fear allowed them to do no other, began to hide in their homes. Then this became a requirement. Worried owners fastened the doors on shops and businesses, fearing that it might be a final closure. Children stayed at home, their parents forced into the role of educators, whilst teachers hastened to provide materials to support their pupils at a distance. Other teachers continued to work, foregoing their Easter holidays, risking their health and sometimes their sanity, to provide care for vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Mournful teddies peered from windows, hoping to catch the eye of a passing child, out for a fleeting moment, their exercise circumscribed by geography, by expediency. Rainbows of hope adorned fences and walls. Aimlessly they stretched across the smeared window-panes, symbols of an optimism that we did not really feel.

Many feared for their jobs, wondered how the next bills might be paid. Workers were furloughed as the government promised help, throwing money at the problem. For some this was a relief, yet others fell through this hastily cast net. We were told to keep our social distance. Suddenly, everyone understood just how close, how far, two metres might be. We became physically isolated from our families, our friends, our neighbours.

There was a frantic struggle to secure a supermarket delivery, if we did not go out would we be safe? Yet when those deliveries arrived there was the dread that somehow the unseen enemy had crept in unawares on our box of cereal or our tin of beans. People spent hours scanning websites or waiting in telephone queues, trying to get on the ‘vulnerable’ list that would entitle them to priority deliveries. Frenetically, we wiped our groceries, sanitised surfaces and washed our hands. Suddenly, every day was a birthday as we sang the song to ensure we had scrubbed away our infection and our guilt.

Obsessively, we tuned in to the daily government briefings, looking for guidance, looking for hope. We scrolled through social media, reading the horror stories because we could do no other. Seeing the breakfast TV News presenters ‘socially distancing’, sitting at opposite ends of the sofa, brought things home. This was real. This was now. Yes, this was happening to us. It ripped through our care homes, taking our most vulnerable first. Bewildered elderly folk died without the comfort of their families, excluded in a failed attempt to keep the virus at bay.

People spoke of waves of anguish, of incapacitating fear, of inability to concentrate, of not being able to settle or get things done. Here was something that we could not control. There were tales of overburdened hospitals. The aging and the unwell were encouraged to write DNRs so, if they were hospitalised, the decision as to who would, or would not, be given scarce ventilators would be taken out of the hands of the medical professionals. Sobbing health workers appeared on our screens, their skin bruised by goggles and masks, exhaustion etched on their faces and unseen scars branding their minds. They begged for PPE to protect them from this horror. Nightingale hospitals sprung up at amazing speed, designed to help cope with the strain on hospital beds. Retired medical professionals and the nearly qualified were pressed into service.

We lost track of what day it was, like a perpetual bank holiday but our weeks were punctuated by Thursdays, when at 8pm we gathered and we clapped and we cheered. Bells rang and saucepan lids clattered as we thanked those who nursed, who cared, who despaired. We did it for them but we did it for ourselves, buried in our impotence, in our guilt for letting others take the burden.

It was not all bad news. Captain Tom Moore, in his hundredth year, circled his garden on his walking frame. Endlessly walking, lap upon lap. He caught the imagination of a jaded public, of a grieving world seeking the good news story, a reprieve from reports of the soaring death toll. Donations flooded in, over £32 million but why did an old man have to walk and walk and walk again to raise money for a health service that successive governments have bled dry? With the morning came the irrepressible Joe Wicks. We jumped and stretched and let the aching muscles take our minds from darker thoughts for space. Children who would normally receive free school meals were left hungry at home. It took a young footballer, Marcus Rashford, to cajole the government into action, ensuring that our children were fed and another hero of the pandemic emerged.

There were too the villains of the piece. Dominic Cummings drove to Barnard Castle ‘to test his eyesight’, making a nonsense of government restrictions; their exhortation to ‘stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives’. Anger fuelled our fear, we were a rudderless ship and emphatically we were not all in this together.

Gradually, resilience and determination begin to surface. We created our own new normal. Interaction circumscribed by our screens, our diaries began to fill with online events. We sported lockdown hair styles of increasing shagginess; some took matters into their own hands and inexpert hair-cuts appeared on our screens. A few took the idea of DIY to extremes and self-administered dental treatment. Those of us fortunate enough to have outside spaces dug the soil and squeezed joy from the nesting birds, the cleaner air and the silence, as traffic dwindled to a trickle. In all this awfulness, the environment was a victor. The birds still sang. Whilst some people baked soughdough bread or learned new crafts, others remained paralysed, fraught by memories a life that was no longer ours. We were told we were past the peak. Children began to return to classrooms.

Summer. Outside our bubble, our safe cocoon, in the heat and the terror, the world went mad. Democracy was thrown to the storm. The compassionate joined in outrage as another black life was lost to intolerance and hate. Then they gathered, coming together in their anger and their fear. The crowds formed because black lives do matter but the seeds of infection lay lurking amongst those desperate throngs, waiting for the unwary.

Small sighs of relief as numbers began to diminish. We donned our masks, the latest fashion accessory and ‘ate out to help out’, supporting the hospitality sector that had been so badly hit. Folk crowded to beaches, to areas that had thus far escaped from the worst impact of the virus. Relief that struggling business were being supported was accompanied by the fear that those city-dwelling tourists that were a life blood were, at the same time, bringing with them disease and death.

With public examinations cancelled, students received their teachers’ predicted grades. Another furore, was this fair, was it just? Schools and colleges opened their doors and gradually, relentlessly, the graphs that we studied so avidly began to rise once again. Universities restricted students to the corridors of their halls of residence in history’s strangest freshers’ week.

November and another lockdown, slightly less restrictive than that of the spring but now it was winter, we were weary, exhausted, drained. Plumbing the depths of our mental reserves, we sighed and reconciled ourselves to the inevitable, yet were mindful that there were those who had nothing left to draw upon. The virus brought not only its own casualties but other victims, those whose physical and mental health had been damaged beyond repair as a by-product of this year.

Then a glimmer at the end of the endless tunnel. News that a vaccine had been approved for use. The oldest amongst us stood by to receive it before the end of the year. The prospect of Christmas shone out, a beacon of hope. We could mix in a limited way, a reward for all that we had endured. The creeping worm of doubt, reverberated from the mouths of the scientists, the medics. Yes, we could but could was not should. We could but they would rather we didn’t. Many planned solitary celebrations that, although sad, would at least be safe. Others clung to the opportunity to see long-estranged family. Getting together would be a salve to their bruised and battered equilibrium.

As we fought back with the administering of the first vaccines, the virus did not lie sleeping. It retaliated with a mutation, more virulent, more terrifying. The promised comforting warmth of Christmas interaction was ripped from us. A necessary but devastating precaution. We dismantled our Christmas plans, unpacked our suitcases and wondered what to do with 24lb turkeys. Daubed ‘Plague Island’, Britain was shunned by its neighbours as Europe closed its borders. Thousands of lorry drivers were stranded on Kent’s roads and there were fears that our food supplies would be compromised. Tiers were tightened and more people were set to enter lockdown once Christmas was over. All this, interlaced with a Brexit deal that nobody, be they leavers or remainers, voted for.

Jupiter and Saturn aligned in what some saw as a welcoming echo of the Christmas star. Would the more superstitious regard it as being more akin to the comets that were in past times harbingers of disaster?

This was the year when every email, every virtual meeting, signed off with ‘take care’ or ‘stay safe’. A fruitless platitude but all that we could utter in our impotence. As 2021 dawns, with the vaccine on the horizon, we hope for better things, believing, trusting, that they could hardly be worse. When this is over, whatever over will mean, will we speak of ‘before’, as earlier generations spoke of ‘before the war’? For us all, whatever happens, 2020 has been a life-changing watershed; we and the world, will never be the same. So ‘take care’, ‘stay safe’, be kind and be hopeful.


Mostly about going Virtual – Isolation day 93

With all the awfulness that is going on at the moment, I am sure this should be a deep and meaningful commentary on current affairs. It isn’t. Not because I don’t feel strongly about things. Not because I don’t care. I am an historian. I should have something to say. Not least about what some claim is the erasing of our history. Indeed I do have thoughts and opinions, it is just that they are not yet fully formed and putting them into words requires more emotional energy that I have at the moment. So I am sorry if this seems a bit like I am burying my head in the sand and ignoring world events but just for now, I am retreating back into the everyday, whilst I process everything.

There haven’t been many posts lately because, to be honest, most things are just jogging along in much the same way as they have for the past few weeks. The weather has turned a bit and the garden has reached a plateau. Plenty of baby blue tits to watch but not much else to report. So far, the relaxing of lockdown restrictions has not made any difference to my life, so I remain here in my own little world, making contact online. I have been invited to do several online presentations and have attended a lovely school reunion and several Devon Family History Society meetings. I took part in Crediton Literary Festival, talking about Remember Then, which was fun and there is also a YouTube video of me, with a very croaky hay fever voice, reading from Barefoot on the Cobbles. I will be reading for Exeter Authors’ Coffee Time Sessions on Thursday at 12. I have decided to run my own series of family/social/local history lectures, as well as provide a four week continuation of the family history course that I ran for Crediton library. There are still spaces if anyone is interested in any of these.

Tomorrow is the cover/title reveal for novel #2; so anyone who has been waiting for more news will learn more of what it contains. I am attempting to read some extracts from the book at 11am via Facebook Live. That’s another whole new learning curve. Now to create my ‘set’, which so far involves some red material, a sprig of bay and a noose …….hmmmm.


Unhappy Post: or why parcels should never be triangular – Isolation Day 74

Martha, Rob and Edward have been posting and hand delivering ‘Happy Post’ to scores of people during lockdown. It is part of their fundraising effort for Calvert Trust Exmoor, where they all spent an amazing holiday last year and hope to again this summer, if circumstances allow. It is a wonderful facility, providing experiences for individuals with a range of disabilities and their families. I thought they and Rebecca’s family too, deserved some happy post in return and wanted to time it for when the husbands went back to full-time work out of the home. In the first instance, it was a total fail on the finding anything suitable to send front. In the end, I managed to get a game for each family that I thought they would enjoy. Rather than send them direct, I thought I would order them to be delivered to me, then I could add other things before sending the parcels on.

I did wonder why the items arrived not in a box but liberally wrapped in bubble wrap (useful for future book orders). The answer dear reader is because the games are packed in triangular boxes. Very aesthetically pleasing but totally impractical. I foresee the recipients not being best pleased with me when they try to find a home for said boxes. I had a complete lack of larger boxes in which to pack said triangular boxes. With permission, I sent the fisherman of my acquaintance, to raid the community shop’s recycling bin. This is about as exciting as it gets for him going out wise. The shop is next door but one. I am still not going out at all – well apart from a quick drive to charge the car battery and not then getting out the car. My co-lockdownee was however going stir crazy, so he is now going out for ‘exercise’ but not, I hasten to add, to Barnards Castle, or to any country estate anywhere. I digress, Parcels.

Well, we managed to find one box that I could pack a ridiculous triangular box in (with a bit of gentle persuasion). I congratulated myself that it was even just small enough to be sent for £2.95 instead of £5.05. Win! Now, this parcel also had to contain my son-in-law’s pants. Why? you may well ask. Firstly, I wish to make it clear that these are new pants, thankfully. By dint of clicking the wrong address button, Martha had ordered them to come to me instead of her, so now they needed to be sent to their rightful owner. Well, who knew how weighty pants were? With the added 1kg of pants, the parcel was now too heavy to go for £2.95.

I wrapped the parcel with lashings of tape and string. I am a bit of a dab hand at tying parcels. Once a girl guide……… AFTER the parcel was secured more tightly than UK Civil Service Twitter accounts, I get an email from Martha ‘could you just post me…….’ Maybe next time.

There was still the second triangle to tackle. Nothing we could find constituted a suitable container. We tried and failed, to construct a box out of other boxes. In the end I gave up completely and went for the solution adopted by the original seller. Copious amounts of bubble wrap. Then I needed some kind of strongish bag. Ah T****s shopping is currently being delivered in strongish bags, excellent. I put the cursed triangular box inside a T****s bag and then realised that it was the one the loose onions had come in, so it was already occupied by plenty of onion skin. By now this whole venture was seeming like a BAD IDEA. The T****s bag, now relieved of most of the onion skin, was not quite large enough. Cue black bin bag. Now I am a cheap skate, not for me the ultra-strong, suitable for posting things in, black bin bags. Oh no. Mine are really thin and flimsy with a stupid pleat at the bottom, tear as soon as they are looked at black sacks.  Reinforcement is required. Parcel tape doesn’t quite cut it. I am also having issues with removing excess air from the parcel; it is a little akin to deflating a lilo. Ah ha! The ubiquitous gaffer tape is to hand. The parcel is now wrapped tighter than a mummy. I suspect they will have a bit of a job trying to open it. I hope the corners survive the journey.

The story is not yet over. So far, we have only posted parcels that fit in the postbox over the road. Sending these on their way will entail running the gauntlet of the mobile post van. I’d better look out the Hazmat suit before casting the fisherman of my acquaintance into the abyss. Oh, and we have no masks, now where did I put that gaffer tape?


My Own Take on the Marathon #TwoPointSixChallenge

Even with my daily dose of Joe Wicks, I shall never run the London Marathon (other marathons are also inaccessible). Many charities rely on donations from those taking part in the London Marathon, which was scheduled for 26 April but cannot now take place. In order to compensate for the loss of funds, a number of people are taking up ‘at home’ physical challenges and are seeking donations. A number of possible challenges are suggested. I can now manage a 26 minute workout without too many ill effects (thanks again Joe) and I’ll add on 26 minutes of gardening.

The idea is that the challenge should be something energetic but I thought I’d play to my strengths. Therefore I will also offer 2.6 hours of free British genealogical research (or provide a 2.6 hour consultation) for each of the first 26 people who donate to this charity and contact me before the 26th April 2020 with proof of their donation. I am not specifying the size of the donation but it would be nice if it had a 2 and a 6 in it! Bear in mind though that this is nearly 70 hours of work if 26 people respond and may take me months to do all 26. This is of course limited to what I can do from home.

The charity I have chosen is The Calvert Trust Exmoor. This is a small Devon charity who provide adventure activities and holidays for individuals and families with disabilities.

Here is Edward enjoying his time there last summer.

Calvert Trust (25)

If you go Down to the Woods (maintaining safe social distancing) – Isolation day 33

This week Edward decided that we should have a virtual Teddy Bears’ Picnic. This is a bit more involved than Peter’s request that we should all wear particular socks. Always up for a challenge we went into the garden, bashed the dust of ages off four generations worth of teddy bears and struggled to get them to sit up in the wind. We brought out plates, cups, food, drink and arranged them perfectly on an attractive daisy-strewn lawn. The occasion was snapped from all angles. We reversed the process, returning all the picnickers to their homes and various foodstuffs to the larder. It was then I realised that the memory card was not firmly in place in the camera and that I had no photos. My camera usually warns me but in the bright sun I couldn’t see the screen. The pictures may be preserved in the camera’s internal memory. I am sure I should still have the lead to connect camera to laptop. I unearthed every lead in the house but none would fit. There was nothing for it but to repeat the process once again. By this time the sun had moved round so the teddies moved to the patio. This did mean I could prop some of the wobbliest of their number up against a wall and Lovely Boy could toast invisible marshmallows, courtesy of part of our C17th kit. I won’t apologise for Gladly (the cross-eyed bear)’s inebriated state, at 95 I feel she can be excused! No social distancing as they are all from the same household. This is just a selection of the many photographs. Edward was thrilled that so many people joined in.

A request went out on Facebook for a picture of a dusty stone demi-john to use in a film shoot. Well my house is full of random stuff, so I was able to oblige, complete with an impressive amount of antique dust (I am pretty sure this hadn’t been dusted since before Christmas). I am now using that as an excuse, ‘of course I can’t possibly dust any of my possessions in case anyone wants to use them in a photo shoot’.


In other matters, the zooming continues. Last night our local history group took the meeting online. Considering we were all still familiarising ourselves with the technology, it went quite well. The added advantage was that two members who did not live locally, one from Hampshire and one from New Zealand, were able to attend, even though it was 6am in New Zealand.

The latest gardening project is reinstating the gravel path that had becoming overgrown. This involves hand picking the stones from a mat of grass roots and weeds. This is startlingly reminiscent of the kind of tasks that might be required of workhouse residents in the past. It might be preferable to picking oakum but it is a close run thing.

On the subject of gardening, remember that family tree that I pruned a couple of weeks ago? Well, after careful reassessment, I have reinstated 9x great granddad. 9x great granny has been exchanged for a more plausible alternative (one who wasn’t dead when her child was born).

The novel is nearing completion. Hopefully, next time I post, I will be able to report that it is finished. If I am not distracted by gardening, zooming and piano playing of course (don’t mention the Cornish). A clue? You are welcome – the historical thread is set firmly in Mistress Agnes’ era, from the 1640s-1680s. The full list of clues revealed so far can be found here.

Zooming About – Isolation Day 29

There has not been a post for a while because, let’s face it, one day is pretty much like another. Day whatever it is (29 apparently) of staying at home and I am beginning to wonder how I ever found time to go out. Thankfully, I am gradually finding that I am getting a few things done now but I do still have 52 things on my ‘before the end of April’ list (like that’s going to happen). Sadly, there are a few more that haven’t even made it to the list.

So, what have I been up to since we last met? I have joined in with the millions (literally) around the world who do daily PE with Joe Wicks. Not for me the namby-pamby seniors’ workouts, oh no, this is the full on half an hour school PE session. Yes, I am probably certifiable. I should explain that, although we do walk a fair bit on holiday, I am not really an exercise sort of a person. I have never been to a gym, or for a run [edit – I have been reminded that once a year for getting on for twenty years, I have indeed run 5k as part of Race for Life – for which I have done zero training] and my idea of a successful school PE lesson was to hide my kit sufficiently well to be told to tidy the PE store. After day three of the enthusiastic Joe I could barely move. I persevered. I can now grit my teeth, get to the end and not feel any adverse effects. I am treating this a bit like essential medicine. Genetics mean that I am already at higher than average risk were I to catch COVID-19, so I really do owe it to myself to try and put my slightly dodgy heart and my lungs in the best possible shape in case I do succumb. I do still feel like the whole thing is a bit of a penance though.

Zoom has taken over my life. There were several meetings last week, including chatting to nearly 100 genealogists, predominantly from Australia and New Zealand and writers’ group get togethers. Having climbed the Zoom learning curve, I have now arranged to take two sets of regular family/local history meetings online and organised a virtual two day one-name society reunion for May. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The garden has been duly attacked. Of the ancient seeds I planted a couple of weeks ago, only one sort has germinated. I now have a glut of woad. Hmm, that will come in useful if we are inside long enough to run out of clothes. Actually, outgrowing them is probably more likely, despite Joe. Some new flowers and veg seeds have also been planted. I don’t really have sufficient room but fingers crossed. The trees are coming into blossom and there are blue tits (one of whom thinks it is a woodpecker – long story) and sparrows in the nesting boxes. It is a positive aspect of being at home that I can see the garden at the nicest time of year.


We had another family sock wearing meet up, lobsters .v. Amelia Earhart and the grandchildren have been showing me their Easter gifts. One of our number had to confess to not having his socks accessible but we managed to include him using the wonders of technology. It is surprisingly difficult to photograph your own feet – especially when they are hovering in front of a laptop.

The NHS clapping in our village gets louder each week. This week I broke out the replica C17th drum in order to join in.


The piano is progressing, the Cornish not so much. I have very very very nearly finished novel number two. I estimate there will be about another 2000 words to go. Then for the edits. Today’s clue is that it includes the (true) story of an errant clergyman with a chequered past.

Happy Easter!

Pruning the Family Tree and other adventures – Day 19

I, like many others in these strange times, am finding it difficult to concentrate, least of all on what I should be doing. After a couple of totally unproductive days. I revisited a branch of my family tree that has been virtually untouched for over forty years. Before you scoff, bear in mind how difficult research was then. No digital images, no indexes, just trawling through page after page of original parish registers in archives. In fact, much of this was done by another trusted researcher. It is only now that I have got around to going over the earlier generations and verifying the information. Or in this case not verifying it. I come from a long line of Bishops. Not actual bishops you understand but people with the surname Bishop. This included four successive generations of chaps called Christopher.

It seems that the original researcher was pretty hot on baptisms and marriages. She also spent ages doing in-depth research in churchwardens’ and overseers’ accounts in which they feature, all good stuff. What she failed to do was to attempt to kill these guys off. First, I discover that the lady who held the distinction of being 9x great granny, Annes (or Agnes) Maddick, died before alleged 8x great granddad was born. Cue the substitution of Jane Thorne, second wife of 9x great granddad Christopher Bishop I, in the role of 9x great granny. Oh hang on, here was a burial of a Christopher Bishop just two weeks after the supposed baptism of 8x great granddad Christopher Bishop II. Clearly ‘my’ Christopher Bishop, who married Mary Bowman and went on to have yet another Christopher (lacking in imagination these Bishops), was not only not the son of Christopher and Annes but not the son of Christopher and Jane either. In the absence of probate material for Devon, I doubt if I will ever be able to be conclusive about my 9x great-grandparents on this line but never mind, I’d rather have a shorter tree that was accurate.

I have also undertaken the biannual excavation of the flies’ graveyard that is the shelf round my conservatory where the ‘walls’ join the roof. This involves much precarious balancing on window sills and is not to be recommended. Said shelf contains many historic ornaments, all of which have to be taken down and wiped in order to remove the fly pooh. What is it about flies and conservatories? The warmth I suppose. I maintain that I leave the cobwebs there (and believe me there are plenty of those) for six months in order to catch the flies. Are you convinced?

After over a week of ‘block’, I have just written some more of novel number two. Still scheduled for launch in August, even if it can only be a virtual launch of a digital version at first. It is so nearly finished. Probably about 4000-5000 words left to write. Today’s clue. Although the characters in the modern strand inhabit a rather different version of 2020, there are references to COVID-19.

Oh and the Cornish? Still not got beyond dydh da I’m afraid but a helpful book arrived in the post today.

And a pretty sunrise from my bedroom window (December 2017), just because I can.

19 Dec 2017 1 (2)


Getting Older and Learning Stuff (or not) – Day 17

“You’ve got all that time,” they said. “Why not learn something new?” Great. An opportunity to finally study Cornish. I have downloaded lesson one. There are 48 lessons. Lesson one will take me like about a year. At least. It is unbelievably complicated, especially for someone like me who has zero ability at languages. I passed French O level second time around. I even got a half decent grade but that was because the results were worked out on a curve of natural distribution and I was sitting it with all the others who had failed (remember the days when you could fail exams, instead of getting a grade 1 for putting your name on the paper?) the first time round. I did Latin for two years before it gave me up. It wasn’t even the sort of Latin that might be useful in an historical context and I have long since forgotten how to say, “take the spear to Caesar’s camp.” In my defence, when my daughter did French, I was amazed how much basic vocabulary I had retained after 2½ decades. This proved to be a disadvantage when we were in Canada as I could translate ‘Beware of’ but not the following word that specified the particular hazard, in this case deer, as I found out later. My one attempt to ask for directions in French was met with stony silence.

So what have I learnt today? The honest answer is nothing. The spelling is totally counter intuitive and apparently ‘mutates’ – please don’t ask. Oh, Hello is Dydh da. I will have forgotten that by tomorrow – or probably in about ten minutes time actually. Might do what I did when the children were learning to read and stick post-it notes on the furniture. The only consolation is that it makes learning the piano seem like child’s play. Now to remind myself how to spin.

Really pleased that there is a special version of the Christmas Puzzle to entertain us, though I am struggling to fit all these activities in.

So today I am a year older than I was yesterday. To be fair, my birthdays aren’t usually a riot of celebratory activity but under normal circumstances, I would be with one descendant or another. Martha had acquired yesterday’s shopping delivery for me. This meant that she had control of the list. When it arrived (with only one item missing) she had added in various birthday goodies: banners, a badge, balloons, party hats, daffodils.  We duly had a virtual cake cutting ceremony. This was in two parts as Edward couldn’t wait until afternoon for his cake. The grandchildren wore their party hats and helped me blow out candles.

Isolation Capers Two Weeks In – Day 14

We started early so today is day 14 for us. As the situation around us worsens, here are a selection of joyful moments.

The grandchildren have been participating in a Lego building challenge. Thursday (day 4) the challenge was the flag of your favourite country. I thought I’d cracked this with Libya.


Turns out this is no longer Libya’s flag – drat.

We also had a family ‘wear your lobster socks to isolation’ day, which went well.


Disclaimer – these are not my feet and legs

Given that the glorious weather (and goodness doesn’t it help) was not predicted to last, we went for outside activities. I managed to paint two bookcases and my co-isolatee has made good progress with the outside window frames. I am not close to running out of things for him to do (purely for his own benefit of course) any time soon.

Excited to receive my copy of Sara Read’s The Gossip. It is set in 1665 Could be topical.


We did the clapping for the NHS thing. It seems so little but it helps us to do something and we are able to stay in, so that’s our greatest contribution. Inevitably, there is evidence that people have no idea what the word ‘essential’ means and they are going out unnecessarily.

Martha managed to get us a food delivery slot for Monday – yay! Won’t have to break open the six year old cream crackers yet.

I joined in a genealogy chat with some friends, mostly those in Australia and New Zealand, so it started at 7.30am but I can do 7.30am.

After many struggles, I managed (I hope) to upload my new One-Place Studies booklet Ten Steps to a One-Place Study, so it can be purchased from Amazon in a day or two. If you buy one and the formatting is weird please be gentle with me – it’s all a learning curve. I haven’t worked out how to download a copy of the cover, which I created on Amazon, that isn’t super fuzzy, so you will have to make do with the image that I used on the cover instead. When printers are up and running again, it will be possible to buy copies from me as well.

146 8 August 2014 Dull and Boring sign.JPG