Friday, 6 November 2020

Travel by Proxy, and various sorts of Art.

Well, now we're in lockdown again - sort of.  When it comes to this isolated life we lead, I'm with Jeanie Croope, one of my favourite bloggers.  Jeanie's recent post "Stolen Time" says it all for me, and, judging by the comments, for a lot of other people too.    It's sad to miss all kinds of things, but missing kids growing up is really hard, because that time can't be regained. 

For various reasons T and I haven't spent the night away from home for a while, even when it was allowed, but the twins' parents have been taking them to YHA youth hostels and keeping us in touch with lots of photos, and the twins have also written us postcards which they give to us on their return.   A sort of travelling by proxy, and we do appreciate it very much.  

A couple of weeks ago they went to the New Forest, staying in a land pod in the large grounds of Burley hostel, near Ringwood, We've stayed there in the past, and remember it as right in the middle of all the trees, a gorgeous location.  They saw wild ponies, pigs foraging for acorns, wandering cows, and, as Girl Twin wrote on her card, "wasps and skwirils and baby skwirils."  

(photo: YHA)

And they saw shooting stars, and had a wonderful meal and breakfast at the pub next door, and saw a  tapestry in the church at Lyndhurst showing Alice in Wonderland, who lived in the area after she grew up. They came home and stood on the path telling us all about it, leaping up and down with glee as they did so. 


The week before that, they went to Michelham Priory in Kent, staying in a tent in the grounds of South Downs hostel, near Lewes and Eastbourne - photo below. I think the hostel was once a farm and I recall it had a fine rural location right on the steep downs.   (Love the way the YHA takes its publicity pictures on overcast days or in the rain,  by the way)   
 

 Nearby Michelham Priory has a historic working watermill and a forge, lots of modern sculptures, a great teashop, and tours by volunteers.  The twins loved their tour, they were intrigued to see a witch bottle and discover how olden days kitchens worked. 


Everyone was so nice to them that they insisted we put Michelham Priory on the list to visit as soon as possible. Historic and unique places like this rely on visitor income and really need people to visit, so that they can keep going for us all. So it's top of our list for a post-Covid visit when we can start doing real life travel with a clear conscience.  
 
Right now we can't even walk over and visit them in their home, though, so Boy Twin had the good idea of a Zoom Club, so now we zoom sometimes and they think of things we might like to do if we were there with them. In the most recent club meeting they had a pillow fight.  They really did love doing it, and as they whacked each other Girl Twin puffed to us, "Do you wish you were here yet?"  We had to admit we did!  

Our older grandkids, who are now teenagers, live the other side of London but we met about ten days ago near St. Pauls Cathedral.  They are avoiding public transport, and you can't park, so they walked there and back from their home in South London, a 7 mile round trip. (We did not underestimate the sacrifice required of teenagers to get up early on a Saturday and walk 7 miles in the rain to see us.)  

Despite the vile weather, we had fun looking for chewing gum pictures (see last post). Ben Wilson had told T. about his Millennium Bridge trail, which leads directly across the bridge to St. Pauls.  We soon found some of his distinctive images.    Here are my favourites, a homeless man called Mark and his dog Gizmo. The pound coin is to show the scale;  It's about the size of a nickel.....



and here is St. Pauls. 
 

And we learned that Oldest Grandson is helping at a food bank.   He loves it.  Apparently instead of everyone being depressed or angry, they're all friendly and positive and trying to help the customers, so good vibes all round. (I heard also that they let him eat some of the items the customers never choose, which are generally unusual, expensive and "healthy" things, such as long-life turmeric latte. He's willing to give it all a try).

Ah well, we can't even see them again till early December.  I do think lockdown is vital now that things have been left to get almost out of control. The stricter the better from a medical point of view, though I'm not sure enough is being done to help small businesses. I noticed how quiet and asleep everything seemed even when we cycled to St. Pauls before lockdown began. Many shops and cafes appeared to have closed down, and we had quite a job even finding a coffee stall. Imagine that in a major London tourist area like St. Pauls!  London really shouldn't be that way.  

You'll notice I haven't said anything about the US election.  Right now we're waiting for the result from Georgia, and the whole thing seems scarily close-run. I avoided being on the computer at all the last 2 days, because I didn't want to be spending every minute on tenterhooks. Instead, we used the beautiful weather and went to Hampstead Heath again. I think I have a low boredom threshhold,  so I feel incredibly lucky to live near somewhere so unusually varied, when so far I have not been bored at all. 

This time we visited the Pergola, originally built about a century ago by the millionaire Lord Leverhulme.  It was part of the grounds of a mansion which I dimly remember as a public orthopaedic convalescent hospital, but which has now been taken over by someone else who has transformed it into something from the hundred-million-dollar property pages, with high fences and huge notices everywhere saying it is guarded by patrolling dogs so keep out.  Charming.  However, the pergola still has oceans of period charm and faded glory. It's not the the season for its wisteria and roses, but there were plenty of vines with coloured leaves growing up its columns. 


It seems to go on for miles and has lovely views over its surrounding park and gardens as well as the wild heath beyond the fence. We had it almost to ourselves and I couldn't think of anywhere nicer to be on a sunny day with T.   

Before that, we'd decided to do some litter picking on the heath, and had brought with us a long handled picker,  gloves and plastic bags to hold whatever we found.  Litter is cleared daily on the heath, so it is usually clean enough except that a few people obviously feel that if they throw their junk into the bushes, it will mysteriously disappear forever. In fact, it festers there for years, or forever.  We make it our mission to find these bits of indestructible trash and take them to their rightful place - the bin.  

We mostly pick up plastic bottles and food packs,  that brightly coloured wrapping material used for sweet packets and party balloons, plastic party ribbons and, (yuk)  wet wipe tissues which don't biodegrade and ought to be banned. (We're always glad of the gloves, picker and hand sanitiser.)  We braved the brambles and collected a bagful of the usual junk from the bushes, and were just about to walk back to the road and find a bin when all of a sudden there was the crunching noise of something jolting along the muddy track to the glade in which we were standing.

It was a ranger's vehicle, bumping across the leaves and roots, and it stopped on the other side of a big oak. Two men climbed out with huge plastic bags and much more professional looking long handled pickers than ours.  They were the real litterpickers, and so we took the chance to have a bit of a chat. 

Seems they get 110 bags of litter a week from just this tiny section of the heath, but the man in charge loved the job because he felt it was doing something really worthwhile. He didn't have a massively high opinion of the habits of the general public, hardly surprisingly, but he was very pleased with us and thanked us several times for giving him our little hoard of horrors to add to one of his 110 sacks.

So that meant we could carry on looking around without having to carry the bag of rubbish and eventually we set off and left him doing his work. Can you spot him in the picture below, with his big black sack, blending in with the trees?  


 I may have mentioned I was starting a short course at the Royal Drawing School.  I've now done two days of the five, and I'd love to post something I'm proud of but so far all I've done has been aimed at solving problems and it doesn't always look great. (I guess the truth is that I don't usually solve the problems, but I do keep trying.) I've had a lot of fun doing it and it's been an excuse to buy myself some new soft pastels to do some sketching of my own.  I have a box of good quality Rembrandt soft pastels,  but they're almost used up. 

Soft pastels are much smoother in texture than brittle hard pastels which quickly crumble and get dusty, but good ones can be so expensive that I've been balking at buying them new.  Then I spotted a box of 24 by Conte of Paris on eBay, and managed to get them for £15. They're used, but barely, and I don't mind the occasional broken one, so I'm well pleased.    


I've become a big fan of eBay lately. (It's also cheaper than Amazon for books.) My latest eBay purchase is Ronald Blythe's book, "The View in Winter."   The best parts of the book are  where Blythe interviewed villagers in Suffolk in the 1970s, all of them born in the Victorian age. He asked them to describe their lives and their thoughts on living and being old.  I read the book once when I was young, but I just couldn't care much about old peoples' lives then, so not a single thing of it stayed with me.  Now, I find it riveting!   What incredible social history, a glimpse of rural Suffolk nearly gone, and very different views and experiences than now, all in their own words, many of them in dialect.  I felt that this was also a kind of travel by proxy - but this is time travel. 
 
Ronald Blythe is now 97 and I imagine that doing all those interviews may have helped in his own ageing journey.  I attended a lecture by him about 10 years ago and he seemed to be in good shape. 
    



Well,  that's me up to date.    I hope the election comes out the way that I (and everyone else I know) wants, and wish you all a good Friday and a good weekend!  

46 comments:

  1. There is no doubt your posts take us well out of ourselves. The Heath and the distant places are always good.
    The accompanying photos excellent as always.
    You are much needed during LockDown.
    Good to see the man working at Food Bank. They are magnificent things. This Tory area Food Bank now has two outlets!
    I wonder if the MP has visited? I know Peter who works there would like him to visit, he has some questions for him!
    Lucky Twins, camping out is such an adventure for kids, especially in such areas.
    Postcards re skwirels sound good.
    Not sure about visiting the grossly overpriced health food shop for a 'long life tumeric latte' however.
    Great post.



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    1. The turmeric lattes came in a sealed carton and I think there were half a dozen of them which someone must have donated after enjoying them so much, I suppose. Or else they bought 7, drank one and realised they weren't going to want the other 6. I have often looked in the food bank boxes and am astounded at the stuff people donate. Artisan mushroom ketchup, even caviar I have seen..... The local MP in Older Grandson's constituency is Labour and fumes enough about the government as it is, but I am sure he would visit the food bank if asked!

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  2. Fascinating post, paragraph after paragraph. It took a bit to finally see the picker in the woods. I didn't know what a witche's bottle is. Your grandchildren are precious keeping you up to date with their lives. Happy Drawing!

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    1. Thank you. I thought it was interesting how the picker blended in so well, too. A witch's bottle was used in folk magic for centuries.

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  3. Well, it sounds as if your days have been full, albeit different and how lovely to get to see your grandchildren, even if from a distance. I know full well the bitter-sweetness of that.
    I am feeling so guilty for not making better use of this time, doing something like volunteering or taking an art class or...anything, really.
    Which reminds me that I should go clean out the hen house which needs doing frequently these days with all of the chickens we now seem to have.
    Jessie and her boys are coming over to spend the afternoon and night while the daddy is still away. That will be wonderful.
    And meanwhile...we all wait. The whole world is watching.
    Thank you, as always, for the beautiful pictures from your part of the world.

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    1. Your comment just summed that feeling up. It is bittersweet! I would not think you have a mass of free time to do classes or volunteer, I always think your blog describes an almost perfect rural life, with so much clamouring to be done and made just in the ordinary way of things. It is great that Jessie is coming over with the boys. And yes, I'm still waiting. I don't think Georgia has announced its results yet, but all eyes are now on Penn.

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  4. Hope you made the most of your visit to Hampstead Heath because I do not think you will get much of an opportunity in the next month. Good on you litter picking it is just a shame people do not dump the stuff in a bin

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I always enjoy your blog posts. If we are able to cycle we can get to Hampstead Heath although it is a bit hilly around it, but I guess that makes it very good for the health!

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  5. Still waiting on the election. Hopeful!

    I love that the twins have you join in their adventures via the internet. And--wow!--you got teenagers to walk 7 miles in the rain for a visit--OMGosh! That just made me smile so wide! Awesome.

    The priory looks fascinating! All beautiful places to visit.

    Have fun with your new pastels!! :)

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  6. What an interesting post! Your teenage grandsons are awesome to walk such a distance in the rain to see you, that is so lovely. Working at a food bank is very rewarding, I was thinking of doing that, then COVID hit and I didn't dare to mingle with the other people. I think England is doing the right thing in shutting down again, I wish this was done here. Depending on the outcome of the election we might never get a grip on it (I sure I hope not). Since Tuesday I haven't watched the news or looked into a newspaper, I'm just avoiding it because it is too nerve wrecking and I need to keep my sanity. By the way, I like the soft pastels as well, I often use the ones by Schmincke.

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    1. Thanks for your comment! I spent 2 days not looking at the news or even the internet, I so didn't want to have to deal with all this. (And it's not even my own country! But of course, the US is important for the whole world). I only started looking, in fact, because T. happened to overhear something that Trump said which suggested he was the winner. I don't know what it was but I decided I might as well know then. I haven't heard of Schmincke's art materials, but I'm guessing that they're a German firm.

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  7. My granddaughter spent some time working at a food bank. I think these experiences are good for youngsters. As for the big, bad election over here, spend no time thinking of it. It simply will end one day.

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    1. I think it is good for anyone to work at a food bank, gets the important things in life into perspective, I think.

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  8. So much news !
    As I have been very housebound for many years I don'r go out at all. So my life is my gud dugs, wildlife and the mountains. Even with a huge wildfire that almost burned down my home.
    I have lots to say about the election but I am waiting to talk about it.
    Your photo on your header and the last one are so beautiful !
    As you go into your next lockdown, Be Safe and Be Well.
    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Thank you Parsnip. I am sorry to hear that the wildfires were that bad. Here we hear news of wildfires in the SW but it is not always clear exactly where they are. I think we are all pretty glad that the election is now over and done with, and I am looking forward to some stability next.

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  9. The twins sound like they are really growing up, and what fun they are too with their adventures. Love the idea of sqwirils, which I always look for when I visit the UK :) Your older grandsons are lovely boys, walking so far to see their grandparents. What a blessing. So sorry to hear about the latest lockdown, but then hopefully it will have the desired result. Queensland has been isolated for months from the rest of Australia, and our Covid count is down to zero. However, we are not yet permitted to travel and see our new twin grandsons. Isolation does seem to work, and we are also doing zoom meetings to see the little ones. Lovely photos as always, and the Alice tapestry is gorgeous. Happy drawing, I love pastels.

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    1. It sounds like the folks in QUeensland have some common sense, and I'm really glad to hear you're infection free. It makes such a difference. You must be so keen to see your new twin grandsons. I hope that the promised vaccine lives up to expectations, and it won't be long before we can travel further afield to see loved ones again.

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  10. Your blog posts always cover so many interesting and fascinating things that I often don't know which ones to comment on. I was most impressed, however, with your teenage grandchildren, who walked seven miles in the rain to see you. That's dedication and love (I agree with their decision not to take public transportation).

    I really like that Alice in Wonderland tapestry.
    And I also like your lovely set of soft pastels. They remind me of a pastel set that I got when I was ten years old. I thought they were so pretty that I kept them in the original box all these years. Unfortunately, they were lost when I moved from Texas to TN (along with MANY other items).

    As for the elections -- I stopped watching the news. It could drive me crazy....

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    1. Thanks, Jon. Yes, public transport at the moment is not a good idea. You're supposed to wear masks but it is tough on the drivers if people refuse to do so. And most of them don't want to get into a stand up argument. I thought the Alice tapestry was very good, I suspect the whole tapestry was made by local people if it is about the town and they must have worked very hard. I hope your Blogger problems are fixed soon.

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  11. Beautiful scenery. It's good you live so close to some beautiful places to walk as it certainly makes life more interesting and rejuvenating. What came through for me in this post is what special people your grandchildren are. You must be very proud of them. Sad about the Covid numbers going up so high in so many places including where I live. Let's hope we can all get it under control.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. Yes, our grandkids make us very happy. There is now some hopeful news about a possible Covid vaccine and that is good too.

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  12. How wonderful your grandchildren are for walking so far in the rain to see you. That had to be so emotional for you all. I had tears in my eyes reading that.

    I feel so bad for all the people losing their businesses during this time. It isn’t only the small ones either as I see large stores that have been around for decades close. Our neighboring small town, that is known for its restaurants and bars and small shops, has done everything it can to encourage business, but some have just closed up. I expect more will do this in the coming winter months, especially with the virus raging in the US now.

    I am getting used to the quarantine life and am doing better with my anxiety about it. I save all my anxiety for the election and all the fear involved. We have been to outdoor restaurants four times in the past few months and have seen some of our family outside and socially distanced. We are trying to figure out the holidays so that we can spend time together safely, even if it is just for an hour and, of course, we rely on Zoom. We are praying for good weather because except for Internet visiting, every meet up must be outside.

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    1. This is a time of high anxiety which ratchets up a further notch when we encounter all the regular problems of life, I think. Just a bit of overkill. I'd think you're feeling better that the election has been decided. It's strange that there is such a long handover period but I'm told this is something to do with the electoral college, which seems to be something that no other country has. I think we are all looking forward to when the new president is fully in office. Here in Britain we are a bit punchdrunk with everything but there is great anxiety about Brexit, which looks to be a social and economic catastrophe for our country on top of Covid. Sadly, we here feel we are being run by people who took their inspiration from the worst of world leaders and believe they can get away with anything, however outrageous and indeed illegal. I guess we will get through it.... I hope you get to spend time together over the holidays, you're lucky in that your climate allows for outdoor meetings which are so very much safer than indoor ones.

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  13. Hello Jenny, In Ohio it was also my habit to collect litter in parks and natural areas. I used to take a plastic bag when I went on walks or picnics. A few times I found paper money in addition to the usual litter, so I guess that virtue has its own rewards.
    --Jim

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    1. Wow, paper money! No, we have not found anything of the slightest value, unless you count an unopened bottle of beer which someone chucked into the bushes. :) (And you know what, we did not feel like drinking it at all.... !)

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  14. The quarantine is getting to all of us, it sounds like you are making the best of it that you can. Keep trying with the pastels, you only have to please yourself with your art, you know.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I am quite hard to please, that's the trouble but I am working really hard on breaking out of old habits and now i find I am learning a lot and taking the plunge and doing so many different pictures is really rewarding.

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  15. I'm an old stick-in-the-mud, or stick-in-the-cabin. By choice, it is quite a few years now since I've spent a night away from here...my little abode, and my two furry mates.

    I'm sure you're lov8ing your drawing/art lessons...you'll do just fine...allow you, and your style to shine through! (You have loads of style, imagination, and talent). :)

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    1. Thanks, Lee. I am learning so much, it would be nice to think that my pictures would improve someday too but anyhow I am having fun on the journey!

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  16. hello, Jenny,
    I read your post with pleasure, and I think that you correctly named the time in which we all live now - stolen time, especially a pity that you cannot see our children, no matter how old they are. Time can not be returned.
    It's good that you met with the older grandchildren. They are good fellows that they have traveled such a distance, it shows their love for you grandparents.
    I watched the elections very attentively on Euronews TV, they showed every state. In addition, my son also voted for the first time and was also waiting for the result.
    I want to see your drawings in pastels, I hope to see them soon.

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    1. Hello Nadezda, I do believe people all over the world were looking at the elections. I held off for several days but in the end I was checking every 5 minutes it felt like! Yes, we appreciate our lovely children and grandchildren. I hope the vaccine which has had some publicity today can be rolled out and bring an end to this pandemic. It would be wonderful!

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  17. An interesting grand tour. I love the Pergola - a shame it needs such high security. Good for you collecting all that litter. As you say, there are so many mindless people who think their litter will magically disappear. Like you, I hardly thought about old age when I was younger, but now it's very much centre-stage. It's encouraging to see a 77 year old (78 on November 20) taking over one of the world's most important jobs.

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    1. It's encouraging but also just a tad worrying, although he certainly looks in good shape. Anyway I'm not going to look a gift horse in the mouth!

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  18. It's so tough not to be able to see kids right now. Even older kids. I miss my older son like mad.

    Thanks for the top about getting books on ebay - I will check there next time I order a book.

    (This is Secret Agent Wmman - it will NOT let me sign in!)
    So glad about the election!

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    1. I find that it's hard to sign into your blog too. The only one that I do find it hard. Maybe there is some kind of strange vibe going on between our two blogs Thanks for your comment anyway

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  19. There is so much to love in this post I don't know where to begin. Just loads and loads of joy and hanging in there. I loved hearing about the twins and the Zoom club and their trips to the hostels. what a terrific experience for them. And impressed with the food bank work, and even more so with a seven mile walk in the rain early on a weekend day. The Alice tapestry -- Wow. And I love your visits to the Heath. So great about the picking up -- and then meeting the real litter-pickers. How interesting. I bet you're their favorite Heath people! That pergola is really beautiful.

    I love that you are doing the drawing course, and sketching outside the course, too. I've never used the soft pastels, just the stick ones and oil ones (which I don't much like) and the pan pastels, which I really do but don't use all that often -- I need to get the knack of them far better than I do and I keep falling back into the paint. The book sounds good too -- and I think especially since you are now spending a good deal of time in Suffolk it may have an even more personal meaning.

    Thanks for the mention. Yes, it is stolen time. I'm glad you were able to see the grands before locking down again. I wish we would -- officially. I am soon unofficially.

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    1. Thanks for the nice comments, Jeanie! I think there's a lot to be said for sticking with the materials you know and which you enjoy working with. Your pictures have a great quality of aliveness and honesty, and you are obviously really comfortable with your paints as a way of expressing that. You're already doing other stuff like felting. And you've been doing art, constantly. I felt I was in a terrible rut with art and literally not picking up a paintbrush or trying to draw anything for yeasr on end. So I love the challenges of being in a class now, and find it fun to explore techniques I hadn't ever tried before. One of these is watercolour. Such fun but so different from anything I did before! I always used to love oils but oh, so expensive to buy all the gear, and so disruptive, messy and space consuming to actually do, and then so sl-o-w-w to dry....

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  20. Late to the party as usual, but nonetheless enjoying the read and the pictures.
    As a species, we humans are a terribly messy and dirty bunch. We should not be allowed anywhere near a park unless we have understood how to handle our rubbish!!

    Love the zoom club with your grandchildren, and the trips they have been on sound all really good.

    That pergola is a place where I could lose myself completely in terms of time. It is the kind of place that has its very own beauty regardless of the time of year, day or weather.

    The US election and its aftermath... I am sure it will stay with us for quite a long time, news-wise.

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    1. Oh, very much "Better late than never!" Thank you for your comment, Meike. And i couldn't agree more about parks. In the old days in England there used to be park keepers who would pull you up if you were littering. I haven't seen one for a long time. I also agree entirely about pergolas. They're like being in a dream or a film set, I always feel. This one is quite complex as well as huge. It was built for great outdoor parties in about 1910. I sometime stand there imagining the ladies in their pastel coloured teagowns, hobble skirts and huge impractical hats, with the men in tailcoats! I must try and find a photo of it at that time.

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  21. I do enjoy your posts, Jenny; they just draw me in. I can't wrap my head round the amount of rubbish people just discard - do they ever think about it, or do they simply not care? But I don't understand Mr Trump even more. And it's not as if Biden is particularly brilliant - though he is, I think, decent and mature. That said, look at the sorry options we had at the last general election. Can't beat a skwiril, that's what I say.

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    1. I prefer to concentrate on the lives of sqwirils than look into the details of what goes on in politics! :D

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  22. Hello Jenny, lovely to read your post. Got a little way down the page and then popped over to visit Jeannie's blog and read her post on "Stolen Time" - she touched my heart and I told her so :D) Thanks for mentioning it.
    I love the sheer enjoyment your dear grandchildren have for all the activities they are having and how they share it with you both.
    That was so lovely and caring of the older ones to make that walk to visit you too. Early departure and in the rain as well!
    Yes, we were glad of the lockdown, harsh and long as it was, in our capital of Melbourne. Masks being made mandatory as well, so necessary. I hope you see the benefits of it soon in your country and wish you well.
    That's disgustingly amazing about all the litter that's thrown in parks... yes, as if it will magically disintegrate (not that the disposers give any thought to how it will end up)
    think I'd better go, I've had troubles with my computer and its starting again. All the very best Jenny, warm regards,Sue xx

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  23. A lovely post, Jenny. I love the eclectic product of your low boredom threshold. We also go to the woods with pick up sticks and bags now and then. It gives our walks an extra dimension and makes us look more closely at the things that are meant to be there too. I must start looking on ebay for books too. What a good idea!

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  24. Hello, Jenny! Things are difficult but I try to count my blessings. Same with you, I miss seeing my loved ones most, but thanks to modern technology we can see each other, though not in person. My children all use iPhone, so we have meeting using Face Time. I’m glad that COVID-19 is not an airborne disease so that we can manage keeping preventive measures. Like you, I’m concerned about many people losing their jobs. Steering the country keeping balance between economy and health/life must be so difficult, but people’s cooperation will realize it under wise, dependable, compassionate leadership. The sixth photo is beautiful and reminds me life is beautiful consisting of both light and shadow, and the photo on the header makes me feel how leaves end their lives beautifully in the light toward the end of the day. Stay safe and paint your life colorful even under the semi-lockdown. My best regards to T.

    Yoko

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  25. Oh Jenny, I know many others have also said it BUT I just love this post, especially reading about seeing skwirils and that tapestry is lovely.

    We haven't been able to see family for what seems an age, I do so hope that on December 2nd this will change - time will tell.

    In the meantime, we continue to take precautions to stay safe and well.
    My good wishes.

    All the best Jan

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