14 June 2020

Lockdown week 14. Same old, same old . . .

This week we have been mainly enjoying cloudy, overcast, blustery and showery days. We’re not yet regretting our request for rain – the water butts are full but the garden could still do with more. But, I think we could do without the torrential downpours – on Saturday last week we had an astonishing deluge with hailstones the size of baseballs. OK, I exaggerate a bit but they were still the size of marbles.

It’s a pity the weather has been so uncooperative over most of this week. Otherwise, Penelope would have been up to her knees in her element – horse poo! Our neighbours up the lane have horses and subsequently a huge pie of well-weathered horse poo. We have availed ourselves of this miracle garden product many times and they’ve always been delighted when we take some away with us. A couple of weeks ago we filled some builder’s bags with the black gold and loaded them into the back of our car to bring home. Penny then spent many happy hours shovelling the shit all-round the garden.

This week, though, the neighbour informed Penny that a local farmer was coming to take the whole mountain away. Quelle merde! So, she scampered around with three builder’s bags which she filled to the brim. Sadly, though, these were a might heavy for us to lift into the back of the car. Thankfully, another farmer in the village came to the rescue! He brought his tractor round with which he was able to hoist the bags, one at a time, and deliver them up to the top of our driveway. Had the weather been fine I’m sure most of it would already be spread around the garden. Still, when the weather does improve there will be many a happy moment spent shovelling and trundling the bounty all over. I am assured the flowers and vegetables love it!

Cycling has been somewhat hampered by the wet, blustery weather so we’ve sauntered out across the fields for our exercise. On Wednesday we set off across some fields of barley just up the lane from us. Lovely – the barley is gorgeous and lushly green and waves gently in the breeze. As we crossed the third field Penny noticed a pair of very large ears poking up above the barley, stock still, clearly keeping a wary eye on us. It was a Muntjac deer which very possibly had just given birth or was accompanied by a baby. It clearly thought it was well hidden as it kept its eyes just below the level of the grain. But those large ears are somewhat of a giveaway. Sorry the photo doesn’t do it justice – I only had my phone with me and it was a fair way off. But, you can just about see its ears poking up.

And, Penny insisted that I take a video of the waving fields.

Nick, Adam, Penny and I should have been in London this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium watching the Chicago Cubs play the St Louis Cardinals. As I’ve written many times in the past, Penny would rather watch paint dry than attend just about any sporting event, especially baseball. But, because her boys were going she graciously agreed to come along with us. Sadly, the baseball was cancelled many weeks ago and, indeed, the season has not yet even started in the States. Although Penny has been very quiet in her celebrations, when she thinks I’m not looking I’ve seen her turning cartwheels on the back lawn.

This week’s National Theatre at Home streaming is The Madness of King George III starring Mark Gatiss. As I mentioned last week, we saw it as an NT Live performance when it was first broadcast and it is absolutely superb. If you’ve got a couple of hours spare one day this week (it’s available until Thursday) you won’t regret it. Next week (from Thursday) it’s a production from last year of Small Island. Very topical in these troubled times. If you’ve not read the book it’s about the challenges facing black immigrants to the UK in the period just after World War II, the Windrush generation. We were to see it in the New Year but that’s now been postponed. I do wonder how theatres are going to survive. I guess a number won’t.

The BBC had a short video about the street art of David Zinn which caught my eye the other day. One sees a lot of this sort of street art around but I thought his was very sweet and it certainly raised a smile.

With the lockdown easing the gardens which we’ve been sharing with you are beginning to open up to real visitors. Still, it’s not yet possible to just pop in the car and trundle off to one. So, thankfully, the videos continue.

Many of you will have seen the marvellous videos narrated by Andrew Cotter, a BBC sports commentator who is especially known for his rugby commentary. He has posted some very amusing videos of his dogs during the lockdown and did this latest one for a Banbury-based charity, Dogs for Good.

The stealth of a sofa moving across the lawn!

The regular round up from the “You Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up” department has only a couple of references this week – there simply is not enough room to catalogue all the failures of this government.

John Crace had another excellently amusing article in the Guardian:

 Matt [Hancock, the Health Secretary] began with his default mantra that he was proud of the government’s record. A death rate of nearly 60,000, when the chief medical officer had said 20,000 would be “a good result”, and a YouGov poll showing the UK joint bottom with Mexico in an international survey of approval ratings for its handling of the pandemic seem strange things of which to be proud, but he said the country had done the right thing at the right time. The rest of Europe must be mightily relieved that it had chosen to do the wrong thing at the wrong time instead and somehow avoided the UK’s disastrous public health outcomes.

In the middle of the week there was testimony from Prof Neil Ferguson, one of the pandemic modelling gurus, to a select committee that the number of deaths from coronavirus in the UK could have been halved had the lockdown been introduced a week sooner. The fact that Boris’s mistress was holding a baby shower at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s grace and favour retreat, on the Saturday before the lockdown was finally announced is surely just a coincidence and played no part in Boris delaying the announcement until the following Monday.

And finally, a very good article in GQ Magazine – an end of term report for the Cabinet and their handling of the pandemic. As you might guess, “Could do substantially better.”

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating and keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,



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