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."
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!