500 Words

Residents were asked to put into words memories and impressions of the lockdowns and other effects of COVID in approximately 500 words. These are the results.

When lock down started in March 2020, it was during Lent. I was involved with Bere Ferrers Lent lunches. For that week we needed extra supplies of homemade soup, bread, cheese, butter, tea and coffee. As well as our usual village supporters, a walking group of up to 20 were expected. It was cancelled that Wednesday so I was awash with 3 different soups! I needed a lot of containers to get it frozen.

I was very unused to empty days. I had been involved with West Dartmoor U3A, keeping busy with Monday walks, monthly groups including re-reading the classics, poetry, fruit and veg growing and opera. I helped at Hope cottage café fortnightly in Bere Alston, and went to a WI monthly meeting. All these came to an abrupt end.

My neighbour did my shopping for me once a week. Each day felt very long as I had no commitments, and I couldn't go anywhere. The saving grace was that we had two months, April and May, with fine weather. I set about working hard in my garden: weeding, digging, sowing seeds, reducing the size of large clumps of phlox, Michaelmas daisies and chrysanthemums. That all took time.

I went on solitary walks, starting from home, usually down to the station, along New Road and up to the village through the horse field.

My friend, who was 94, and I formed a "bubble". In the July of 2020 she fell in her kitchen and cracked her hip. That stopped her driving, and she needed to hold on to something when standing up. We played lots of Scrabble, had a short walk at Weir Quay, or had a cup of tea and a chat.

My shredder had a lot of use: bank statements, receipts etc from the last 16 years, all sorted out. My box files have more room to fill again.

My son lives in Plymouth. We met once a week (he has 2 dogs) for a walk whatever the weather: Clearbrook, Grenofen, Magpie Bridge. Sometimes I drove to Plymouth and we went around Sutton Harbour, the Aquarium and on to The Hoe. I didn't go into his house. On Christmas Day we walked at Shaugh Prior and I had vegetarian meal with them.

I was amazed how much I enjoyed doing my own supermarket shopping again. I chose a quiet time. I met a friend in Tavistock Meadows for a walk. We bought a coffee at the stall and sat by the canal. It was a real treat!

My computer skills are very limited. I hadn't heard of zoom meetings before lockdown. They became a lifeline. The church morning service, a monthly U3A meeting, lady gardeners monthly talk, re-reading classics discussion.

I had Astra Zeneca jabs in January and April. Since May17th I have visited 3 friends in their homes. Meeting indoors in large groups still seems risky. I will take each step to more socialising very carefully.

Valerie Hamer


This felt as though I went to sleep and woke up in a forest of fear. The trees were thick around me and no birds sang. Everything was black and the only thing I could hear were the sounds of other people crying and I knew I couldn't go to them, even if I could find them, because that would mean certain death. I knew that wolves and bears roamed this forest and would certainly kill me too, and that almost nothing I thought I knew was true anymore How did I know, because everybody said so, didn't they. I wonder how I knew that. No moonlight or sunlight reached this forest and when I tried to move, my hand met a smooth surface, and I realised that I was inside one of the trees and it was made of glass. Everything was impossible, and yet it was happening!

I shivered and realised I was cold. Then I saw it: a bear, who came and stood before me and I was terrified. The bear put out his giant paw and where he touched the glass a door appeared. He opened it and his paw came towards me... and handed me a blanket, warm and furry. How could that be? So now I was warm and amazed to find that I was not dead.

As time went by I realised I was hungry and immediately the biggest wolf I have ever seen stood before me, carrying a basket in his mouth. He did the same thing with his paw and now I had food, the most delicious I had ever tasted. So, in my glass prison I had food and warmth but I was alone, and I hated it.

No sooner had I thought it than a voice said, 'You are not alone. I am with you, in the trees, the people around you, the wolves, the bears and the moonlight that you cannot see. So time passed some more and I found that if I tried hard enough, I could call out in the glass forest of fear and someone, just like me, would answer me, and give me hope.

Then one morning, when I opened my eyes, I could see a light illuminating the glass trees, and I saw the faces of the people I had called to in the dark, and was able to see them smile. Then warmth flooded the whole area, and back came the wolf and the bear, carrying a lantern in his giant paw. They both put their paws on my glass tree, and to my utter amazement, for this time was full of impossible things, the glass shattered around me, without hurting me at all, and a path was laid clear and straight at my feet; then the wolf and the bear took my hands and led me out towards the sunlight where at last, I could hear birds singing again; and behind us, the shattering of glass and joyful footsteps following us out into the sunlight!

Sheila Gay


Seagulls soaring through the sky

Dogs are jumping trying to fly,

But I’m just locked up in a house

I’ve got one friend and that’s a mouse.

I beg and beg all day long

But I still can’t listen to the robin’s song.

If one day I go outside

I’ll swim with fish all over the tide.

I still beg from this day

Maybe I’ll be able to another day.

By Alice Aged 7

Written during lockdown

BURNS NIGHT 2021 (Covid style)

Burns Night on Zoom: virtual haggis, real whiskey (provide your own), and an original lockdown poem by Burns himself, resident ghost in the tower of St. Andrew’s, Bere Ferrers (it’s a long story). However, we do rather fear that the Immortal might have taken lockdown to be a stretch of water somewhere in Scotland.

LOCKDOWN By Robert Burns

Where have a’ the Laddies gone?

Gone tae loch Doon, awa tae loch Doon.

Nae mair Celtic, nae mair Rangers,

Nae mair deckin’ perfect strangers.

Where have a’ the Laddies gone?

All off in loch Doon

(That’s somewhere near Troon?)

Where have a’ the Wee Bairns gone?

Gone tae loch Doon, awa tae loch Doon.

Nae mair shriekin’, nae mair scrumpin’,

Nae mair givin’ sister a thumpin’.

Where have a’ the Wee Bairns gone?

All off in loch Doon:

Mebbe they’ll droon?

Where have a’ the Lassies gone?

Gone tae loch Doon, awa tae loch Doon.

But not Mona McDonald, bonnie sweet Mona:

She’s awa tae Glencoe-rona.

Which day of the week is it? That is a standard test for dementia. Well, I don’t know about you, but in our quiet semi-rural area, relatively untouched (thank goodness) by COVID, this was one of my major problems. Small, in the great scheme of things, but what happened to time?

I found out how much of my life since retirement had been marked by ‘events in the diary’. These had mainly comprised: seeing friends for coffee or tea, monthly gardening club meetings, flower arranging, art, or U3A meetings - especially the wine appreciation ones!

There were looked-forward-to family meet-ups and intermittent personal maintenance ones: GP, dentist, chiropodist and hair-cutting, both for us and the dog. And, of course, shopping for food essentials and just browsing; in the village, Tavistock, or a morning out.

All of this pleasurable cycle suddenly stopped on 23rd March 2020. All my daily markers gone!

How then to mark the passing of the days? A multi-pronged approach was indicated. Radio 4 fortunately told us the day of the week as well as the time. Milk and more delivered on alternate days.

I turned out a bookshelf (didn’t we all?) and found another aide memoire: an odd title – ‘The wrong kind of snow’. Opening this book I found it was actually about the weather and significant events on this day in the past. 1925, 4th July, the first BBC shipping forecast was read out at 10:30 on longwave, as this was the signal received most clearly at sea. By 1980 all vessels had radios but this daily poem of weather and sea has become (especially to landlubbers safe in their beds) a heritage theme for an island nation.

I then discovered a ‘Poem for the Day’ book. Date reinforcement! For example, April 20th: ‘What is this life, if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’ by WH Davies; July 11th: ‘Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow’. This finally firmly rooted me on a present day date.

Now that I knew whether it was Thursday or Friday, I started a lockdown journal.

This comprised what I thought might happen - for example milk delivery - and a list of aspirations to aim to do. Many days these were merely hopes rather than fulfilment!

‘Busy doing nothing’ seemed the order of many days, especially in the first two months of blessed sunshine. I weeded, pruned and the garden transiently looked wonderful. I decided to enjoy the weather and sit there with a book. Oh dear, they weren’t worthy or improving books - many were ‘after Jane Austen’.

The last 18 months has made us appreciate taken-for-granted things much more.

I’m not one for gratitude lists, but have taken pride and pleasure in small achievements. These are mainly in the garden, as I’m not a domesticated creature, although I had a phase of polishing every bit of brass in the house!

The end is in sight. I’m really pleased to find that I haven’t lost it completely and can actually tell you which day of the week it is (mostly).

Take care. Be safe. Enjoy every day of your life.

Frances Howard. Weir Quay.

Although Covid 19 created so many problems for us, there were also some plusses. The first lockdown made me appreciate more fully the beautiful peninsula we live on, as I explored the footpaths and bridleways – some I’d not walked before - with the dogs. I ended up walking three plus miles every day instead of just the usual one, and took even more photos! We were so very lucky to live in such a wonderful place when some were stuck in blocks of flats in cities.

One big sadness was the closure of churches. As the organist and choir mistress at St Andrew’s, it almost felt like part of my identity was being taken away. The powers that be decreed that organists could go to their organs and play each note in turn on each stop, but they were not allowed to play pieces. I refrain from comment here!

I still played the keyboard and led the singing from home for our Zoom church services once they started, which was better than nothing, but on Zoom you cannot hear each other singing due to the time lapse, so it’s a bit solitary. But it was good to see those who could manage the technology each week, and on Zoom we had a chance to discuss the sermon, which we wouldn’t in church!

Trying to sort something for St Andrew’s Singers was more complex as only some were able to Zoom. We did eventually start some online practices, but once again everyone except me had to mute so we couldn’t hear our combined voices. It’s pretty lonely trying to lead an online choir practice when you can’t hear whether the other members are actually singing! It was great when in December we were allowed to meet in the church and record a couple of Christmas pieces, which were shared online and played during our online carol service. But then the next lockdown struck!

At the beginning of the first lockdown I joined Gareth Malone’s online choir and that was the start of recording myself, visually and with sound, for the various projects. It comes as a shock the first time you play back a recording of yourself. Do you really sound and look like that? Horror! I also joined the online National Methodist Choir of Great Britain.

It was through Gareth’s choir that I heard of the Stay at Home Choir and joined them. That has been such a blessing. Tori and Jamie, who run it, have such knowledge and enthusiasm it is infectious. The projects with that choir have involved working with such amazing people and groups as John Rutter, Karl Jenkins, Christopher Tin, The Kings Singers and The Swingles – something I would never have been able to do normally. By the end of each month-long project, having been in Zoom sessions with them and being able to talk to them and learning so much about them, you feel like you know them personally. It has been truly amazing. And the amount of singing knowledge and technique I have acquired has been more than I have learnt over my lifetime! Extra challenges thrown at us re-awakened improvisation and composition in me – and even resulted in my efforts being shared by Christopher Tin and The Swingles! Thankfully the choir is to continue as a new way of making music together with amazing people.

But back on the peninsula, once churches were allowed to open congregations still weren’t allowed to sing. The utter frustration of seeing thousands being allowed back at football matches, for example, while our small congregations, masked up in large buildings, weren’t allowed to raise our voices joyfully, was unbelievable. But such joy when at long last we were finally allowed to sing! Although those who hadn’t sung during the pandemic might have had a shock when they tried! The voice is a muscle and needs exercise and singing is good for your health. Conclusion: no matter whatever happens, keep singing! It will brighten your life!

Ann Parsons

The longer it goes on the more I feel my life has been ruined.

In Bere Ferrers there used to be much more social life. I live alone and relied on various events such as the community shop, art group, singing group, coffee mornings, meals out in the pub or with friends, church services, when we could sing and meet people, and fellowship group. In the social club there were regular entertainments such as music nights or talks and nice meals.

Then there have been so many deaths from COVID, although not here, and so many bereavements and we feel for their relatives.

Many of us have not been able to spend time with our families, but it seems to be better now. Modern technology with Zoom, Messenger etcetera on our computers has been very helpful, but not so happy.

DM. 25.4.21

In the autumn of 2019, our then bellringing tower captain, John Adams, stepped down and I took over. We had not held any practices for about three years due to a lack of ringers. So on January 4th 2020 we held a successful open day at St. Andrew’s tower and recruited four enthusiastic beginners. In addition, we were supported by ringers from towers such as Sampford Spiney, which helped to bring on our existing ringers. It was a great disappointment when we had to suspend ringing, as our beginners were making such excellent progress.

We were able to resume ringing in a very limited way in summer 2020. As the ringing chamber at Bere Ferrers is so small, we could only ring 3 bells for a maximum of 15 minutes at a time. When restrictions were re-introduced in autumn 2020, ringing again ceased; however, we were able to chime a few bells on Christmas Eve and I was able to join ringers all over the country in marking the passing of Tom Moore and Prince Philip.

In spring 2021 ringing was able to resume again but, due to the cramped tower, we continued ringing three bells only (and plan to do so for the foreseeable future). The good news, however, is that our novices have been able to ring again, and the 18 months gap has not dampened their enthusiasm.

Professionally speaking, the last year and a half has been entertaining to say the least. I teach Year 6 pupils at Pennycross Primary School in Plymouth. Arranging home learning was a rather steep learning curve for both staff and pupils alike, but we soon got into our stride. I had to attend school for a week in April 2020 and taught a class of Key Worker and vulnerable children aged 7-11. It was all rather relaxed and the children were generally happy. In June 2021, I returned to teach half of my Year 6 class each morning only. Although there was some relief that SATs had been cancelled, it was sad that the children couldn’t enjoy events such as a leavers’ show and trip to Woodlands in their final term in primary school.

Things looked up in September 2020 when the whole school returned on a full time basis; however, we had to keep to class bubbles and it was tough for the children when they could only see their friends (we have two classes per year group) across a barrier at breaktime!

Of course, we were then back to square one with the school closing to all but a few children from January to April of this year. Fortunately, when the children came back, they could now mix in year group bubbles. To mark the end of Year 6, we were able to have a show and a trip to Woodlands (almost called off on the morning due to a Covid scare!). Those children will certainly carry some unique memories forward as they enter secondary school!

David Pike


I have never been a great fan of New Year celebrations - you never know what you’re letting in - but I had a really good feeling about 2020 - the year of our golden wedding and we had plans: the trip of a lifetime to the Holy Land and a visit to our Japanese daughter-in-law’s family with our children and grandson. Even the dogs weren’t forgotten, with caravan breaks to Wales, Cornwall and Bognor. What could possibly go wrong?

We set off for the Holy Land at the beginning of March. Bethlehem was off limits as it’s under Palestinian administration and they were not allowing visitors, due to some virus we’d just begun to hear about, so we visited the birthplace of John the Baptist instead. The whole trip was amazing, but we were the last tourists allowed into Israel and on the last flight out again. Phew!

I had carried a secret with me to Israel - a walnut sized lump at the top of my leg - so off to the GP on our return. I needed a scan but these too were off, as at my age it was too risky to attend a hospital now that we were in ‘lockdown’. When the lump had grown to the size of a mango it was decided I would have to risk a scan and biopsy after all. This revealed metastatic melanoma in my lymph nodes and urgent surgery was needed; I just had to wait for a slot in theatre, as every available space in Derriford was now occupied by Coronavirus patients. Much of the peninsula was now praying for me and lo! a slot appeared.

Two days before the op I suddenly started to talk gobbledygook. I knew exactly what I wanted to say but totally different words came out. Amazing paramedics came and took me to Derriford with a suspected stroke. ‘Well God,’ I said. ‘First a pandemic, then cancer and now a stroke. Over to you, as I just can’t do this anymore.’ It turned out to be a very bad migraine, triggered by extreme stress and a celebratory cheese on toast, as Adam Smith had just fixed our grill which had been broken for 10 years.

After promising the anaesthetist I won’t go near cheese, I am given a new slot and the operation takes place. I can now affirm that all those evenings we clapped the NHS out in our streets were well spent. Such care and kindness from every doctor, nurse, cleaner, tea lady, often doing 12 hour shifts behind headache-inducing masks, are beyond words. Equally amazing are all the many acts of kindness great and small from family, friends and the wonderful community that is the Bere Peninsula. Thank you.

Another biopsy reveals that I have the BRAF mutant gene, whose patients do not usually do well. But those precious souls who’ve travelled this path before me have trialled a new treatment which gives 50% of patients who take it for a year, cancer free life for another 5 years, maybe more. It is taken at home in tablet form. As I write this I have just 2 weeks of treatment left. So it’s ‘over to you Lord as I certainly can’t do this on my own!’.

Jean White


All things considered, it has been a good pandemic for the local dogs. First and foremost, the quality of walkies has improved immeasurably, and I do mean in length, as a nation increasingly obsessed with its ‘mental health’ has conscientiously made the most of its right to exercise. One small snag: in a place like Bere Ferrers, where there are no pavements so no need for pedestrians to waltz at a dainty distance around each other, dog walkers do like to spend even longer nattering. The reduction in traffic has favoured this trend.

Attending the vets’ seems to be less frequent - and it has become more difficult to get your dog neutered. I leave you to ponder the pros, cons and general implications of that one. As we take our dogs there to have needles stuck in them with alarming regularity, our best friend must feel some satisfaction at us having a taste of the same medicine (at least twice) without even getting a treat from an NHS nurse.

What’s more, there has been no significant problem with doggy food supplies as pet shops have remained open: not just for essentials, but for the whole gamut of canine toys and luxuries which owners might well be tempted to purchase as it has become so much harder for them to spend money on themselves. Whilst we’re on the subject, how many of us now think of imperilled rain forest or a doughty race of warrior women whenever the word “Amazon” is mentioned?

A dog’s vocabulary (sit, stay, NOOOOOOO) has changed little, unlike ours. Alongside a host of by now everyday terms (social distancing, face covering, hospitality industry, herd immunity etc) and a clutch of acronyms, eg PPE and ICU, an evil brood of nasty neologisms has come into its own. COVID itself, of course, but staycation, eateries and that huge litter of silly cross-breed names (sired by labradoodle and selling at even sillier prices) have come into increasing vogue. Driven by demand, the price of puppies has indeed soared to an astronomic extent that even embarrasses some breeders; eleven puppies are now worth more than Tottenham Hotspur… but only if you’re an Arsenal fan, of course.

The quality of a dog’s life has also improved: less time spent cooped up in the back of a car as the owner has nowhere to go, and being boarded out has virtually ceased alongside those holidays in places that would be too hot or cold for a dog anyway. Nor are dogs being left for long periods at home due to time spent in cinemas, theatres and restaurants or down the pub; the loss of a diminutive treat is a small price to pay. And there’s another reason not to leave your dog in the back of the car: someone might pinch it. The dog, not your car, the latter having become much less valuable than the former and not just because of the gaping hole where the rear window used to be.

There are, however, minor drawbacks: the overwhelming stench of fresh paint (not in my house I hasten to add) and a lot of hacking down in the really interesting parts of the garden. More seriously, there’s a different epidemic to fear when everyone’s back in the workplace: a plague of unwanted dogs.

Roger White


When it got a name and number it still didn’t mean much. It was somewhere else; it wasn’t in the UK.

Then it arrived. March 2020 Lockdown. It was a bit of a novelty, queuing outside the Co-op, glad it wasn’t raining. Talking to people, everyone was fine. Soon be over and back to normal.

We tried ‘normal’ in the summer. That didn’t work. The government hurled more money out of the austerity pot they had accumulated over the past decade. There was talk of vaccines sometime in the future. The numbers were growing - the infections, then the deaths.

Nightingale Hospitals, furloughs, foodbank, mental health, restrictions, Covidiots, Zoom, ‘unmute all’ became new words with which we became familiar.

Still, here on the peninsula we were untouched. It may have been raging in Plymouth but that, like everywhere else, was somewhere else. It was in the UK but not here. Then it was.

You heard of people who were having to isolate but without symptoms. Others had symptoms: neighbours rallied round. The shops in Fore Street kept us going: there was no need to venture into Tavistock for everyday things.

Christmas came. Boris said the country could relax a bit. COVID maximised its opportunity. Lockdown 3.

The vaccine came, international squabbles, a political blame game that took the virus off the front pages. Somewhere in the midst of that Brexit happened, Trump wanted to bomb Iraq, America inaugurated a new president while the old president’s men stormed the Capitol, and Harry and Megan popped up saying they wanted a quiet life away from the media by broadcasting an interview globally. Piers Morgan lost his job.

The world went crazy, so did the infections and the number of deaths - but still all of that was somewhere else: Kent, South Africa, India. The strains got attributed Greek letters - India became DELTA

Then I heard of someone who had lost three friends to Covid; of someone who spent weeks in a medically induced coma and that when they took their first physical steps it was the first of many Everests they would have to climb. I saw it in the faces of the nurses administering vaccines on a Saturday morning in Tavistock. Another thousand jabbed and when X millions had had their first jab then those same nurses had to start administering the second jab to the same people all over again.

It was a strange year; frightening for many, challenging for everyone. No one knows what the fall out will be. No one can say what ‘normal’ will be. We will find it but it will take time and it might be quite different to what we used to think was ‘normal’.

Andy Bottomley


I will never forget the first lockdown starting on 23 March 2020 because I was exactly half way through four weeks of daily radiotherapy treatment at Derriford Hospital for prostate cancer. The change from that Monday morning was immediate and very noticeable because the 17 mile drive from home to the oncology department became 30 minutes compared with the usual 45/60 minutes (via the main route through Tavistock), the reduction in traffic being so significant. So, for the remaining two weeks of my treatment the journey starting at about 9 o’clock was made more leisurely and very predictable. I remember two mornings when I covered the stretch from the main roundabout at Yelverton to the next roundabout at Roborough without seeing a single vehicle travelling in either direction – a phenomenon unheard of in normal times, certainly in daylight. The experience compared to the previous week was dramatically different, the most significant thing being the reduction in general noise, except for birdsong and the sight of rather more wildlife - an occasional kestrel, fox, deer and many more rabbits - especially when crossing Dartmoor. I encountered police travel checks on two occasions at Yelverton when my reason for travelling was readily accepted by the officers on duty.

Things had changed quite a bit at the hospital, too. Car Park C near the oncology department I found was now free of charge (the barrier was permanently open) and oncology reception, normally a very busy place, was relatively deserted as patients had been requested to attend alone without accompanying persons so my wife, Jean, could not be with me as she had been for the previous two weeks. I had my temperature checked by a nurse immediately on entering and hand sanitiser dispensers seemed to be everywhere. Two out of every three chairs in the waiting area had been taped off to prevent use. I had been requested now to do all my pre-treatment preparations at home and check in only five minutes before my treatment time.

The lockdown meant that the Mustard Tree Centre run by Macmillan Cancer Support had to be closed and, at the time of writing sadly remains accessible by appointment only. No longer could we relax in comfortable surroundings with what had become a happy band of fellow travellers sharing similar problems - an experience that brought home to me how prevalent my situation is among ‘men of a certain age’.

Happily, my treatment was able to continue to completion without interruption and since then routine tests have been showing that the treatment has apparently been successful. I believe I have been very lucky to be diagnosed at an early stage as there is no sign (so far!) that the cancer has spread.

Granville Starkie


OLD MAN O' THE TYNE (Written in a spare moment during lockdown)

An old ship, a bold ship,

A doughty man-o'-war;

A hurt ship, a heart ship,

Limps slowly to the shore.

'Neath sullen skies without a star

The lighted piers of Shields glow bright;

She sways across the harbour bar -

Old River Tyne is now in sight.

A sailor man of yester-year,

With sharpened eyes and leather skin,

Conceals a wisp of thankful prayer

As lanterns guide the vessel in.

He sits by day or night or more

And looks beyond the cold North Sea;

He studies close the sandy shore;

His inner heart flows gently free.

A ship sails out beyond the pier:

He sheds a tear, a tear of dread;

He deems no doubts, nor loss, nor fear,

But bids her fond farewell instead.

A ship sails in, his tear is joy:

He checks her rig and sees her turn

To navigate each safety buoy

And gain the Groyne from head to stern.

If asked his name he will not say:

He tells of sailors who have died

Below the seas of yesterday,

Their names unknown, their loss uncried.

Oft-times he ‘cites upon a theme:

That deaths are ports from pole to pole,

How, hid beneath the waves of dream,

Our hearts be simple, ageless soul.

When nights grow long and stars are ripe

He drifts in equanimity;

He lights his old, encrusted pipe -

The picture of serenity.

An old man, a bold man,

His mizzen light and free;

This fine man, this Tyne man,

This skipper of the sea.

Octogenarian. Bere Ferrers

Note: the Groyne is a picturesque, red-coloured lighthouse

situated within the harbour. It guards the entrance

to the River Tyne.

MALGAM (Another poem written during lockdown)

A hybrid cat from all we've had,

We love thee whether lass or lad.

Amalgam is a compound name,

But, Malgam with suffice the same;

Malgam conjures feline catchment

Cooked in cognitive detachment.

The inner poet hints at love:

Does love bide here? Deep hid? Above?

It's somewhat clear that, on the whole,

Though love may sometimes play a role,

Spinning coins have obverse faces,

Mischief cats have fallen graces.

A case in point, our wooden arch:

You'd stiffen there like frozen starch;

Oft the poet with his ladder

Helped you down to ease your bladder.

One afternoon at half-past four

You wrenched your cat-flap from the door;

This fracture flung bits far and wide

Athwart your wholesome, well-fed hide;

The poet with his superglue

Re-stuck the bomb-site, making do.

Dear friend, excuse these lines of mirth

Concerning your outstanding girth.

Most ungainly of your features

Is your sport with captive creatures:

From giddy toads to puzzled bats,

From unknown types to hulking rats,

Dispersed across the homestead floors-

Much better left outside our doors

Or safe within the forest deep.

Oh! Do conserve our nightly sleep.

Old pal – you have so many lives;

You outlive death, your spirit thrives;

Let's not list more misdemeanours;

Let's not take you to the cleaners;

Let's not judge nor take your measure.

Hail to thee, O wondrous treasure.

Although you've broken ev'ry rule,

Perfection tempts both saint and fool.

In spite of all that's gone before,

We seem to love you more and more.

From nose to tail, both flank and ham,

We love the whisker cat, Malgam

Octogenarian. Bere Ferrers


It has been a strange, long year. For the isolated elderly, like me, it has been difficult. A sentence of one year in ‘solitary’ would be excessive in any civilised society and tantamount to torture. We have, however, borne the domestic equivalent with stoicism, obeying regulations that sometimes seemed illogical and unfair. There were those who seemed to enjoy imposing ‘the rules’ and encouraging the reporting of other’s indiscretions. Most, however, were kind; neighbours were neighbourly and soon became friends.

I thought I would get on perfectly well on my own but was wrong. Restrictions on leaving the house showed up the fundamental loneliness I was still feeling since the death of Angela twelve years ago. The emptiness of the house had previously been covered by shopping at the drop of a hat, three or four times a week. Soon I became a desperate but careful rule breaker: spending time in Morrison’s and getting to know the forgotten heroes on the tills like Alex.

‘How are we this morning, sir? Living the dream?’

‘Joy unconfined, I’d call it,’ I would reply.

‘That’s the way, sir! Just remember, ‘the World is your Lobster’!’

This the gallows humour of another age. I remember as a child of the Second World War standing in pairs in the playground with thirty other five-year-olds before being led into the air-raid shelter in response to the air raid siren’s warning. The Flying Bomb, engine pop-popping 300 feet overhead, passed on towards the nearby roof-tops where the engine cut... a matter of long seconds and the wumph! of an unseen explosion, smoke rising lazily in a blue haze from the direction of Eastcote Lane. A near miss but the teacher continued calling the register. That was the day I discovered ‘irony’.

We were children of the Blitz and one flying bomb was no great shakes, but that war was a potential existential disaster too, but we could deal with it rather differently – ‘Keep calm and carry on’ rather than quite sensibly ‘Mask-up and hide away’. The ‘Blood, sweat and tears’ we were promised and duly received were taken as unavoidable but at least our contribution was communal.

I missed church and, with the lifting of restrictions, still do. Nothing will ever be quite the same again. I am a very poor but conscientious Christian, guilty, apparently, of thinking too much. (I was once ‘accused’ of being an intellectual!) Reading much and studying a good deal during this year, I have come to know our founder in his promotion of ‘The Way’ as a radical reformer of mind and spirit. Elevating the poor, Jesus would have had none of the sometimes comfortable middle class complacency common in the modern church. I am, therefore, both lost and found but changed, I think; for the better, perhaps, but lonelier.

As I said at the beginning, it has been a strange, long year...

Brian Martin


I was brought up as a Christian, believing that God was part of my life, but I always hoped that what I had been taught was true.

However, I wasn’t prepared to accept the opinion of my Sunday School teachers, I wanted to find out the truth for myself, so for much of my life I have read and studied the Bible with an open mind.

Eventually, I made a simple, but momentous decision. If God was real, then nothing and no-one could be more important. The alternative meant that life was pointless. So I made a conscious decision to believe and if any doubts came into my mind, I would dismiss them. I would open my life completely to God.

Then came Covid and lockdown.

Suddenly I had nothing to do. All the activities that I believed God had given me to do in order to serve Him stopped and left me wondering how I could make use of the endless hours of every day.

Then, into my mind came one of the long-standing questions about the Bible that I had never been able to answer. Who was right – Science or the Bible?

So for the next eighteen months I sat at my computer for most of each day with a translation of the original Biblical text and other works by commentators who attempted to explain what the Bible intended to teach, and, as far as my limited ability allows, with the latest discoveries from scientists, I compared and researched.

Gradually the answers I had been looking for began to take form. The Holy Spirit, whom God gave to those who believe in order to reveal his Word to us, directed my studies and opened up the Scriptures to me far more completely than ever before. I began to realise that Science and the Bible were not in opposition – after all, God existed before science! Surprising links throughout the entire Bible went on to explain many things that I had not so far noticed. I was excited to discover something new each day!

I only intended to take notes - just to remind myself of what I had discovered - but the result turned out to be two manuscripts, one of sixty-thousand words and another of thirty-thousand, and a complete over-view of God’s Master Plan for Mankind. And whether or not anyone believes the answers I discovered or even reads what I’ve written, I know that the Holy Spirit was my teacher and that he taught me what I needed to know – and I am extremely glad and grateful for the unexpected hours I was given to find out the real truth from a God who interacts with the least of his children.

Helena Rogers


The pandemic had a profound effect on everyone.

Some became ill and we have all seen the deadly effect it had on the less lucky.

It highlighted essential workers who have always been there, quietly supporting, healing, providing food, transporting, caring – filling in the cracks that we are too busy to notice under normal times.

Faced with a dangerous present and an uncertain future, confined geographically, we started to notice each other and give our time to assist those close-by. We set up self-help groups to guard everyone and, in doing so, made ourselves feel useful rather than passive.

I found myself noticing and appreciating my surroundings so much more – the loveliness of nature and the sound of wildlife on our doorstep. I was overcome by the smells of wild flowers and the abundance of new growth in our hedgerows, the sudden appearance of an animal crossing my path as I cycled away from home on a support errand.

We got to know our own mini-communities and who was in greater need of support.

At home, our awakened local awareness and need to productively fill our days, meant we undertook garden projects that we probably would not have found time for under our previously busy lives.

We have never been so aware of how our actions could harm others. Wearing masks, sterilising surfaces and keeping apart became an essential part of acceptable behaviour. An unwarranted inconvenience for those maybe afraid and therefore unwilling to accept the existential threat or who dis-believed the science.

What I missed the most: person to person contact, especially with family members living away from me; having friends around; socialising in a bar or restaurant; mutual trust with others – temporarily lost as we feared contaminating each other.

I found myself painting much more than I used to. Maybe I was reaching out to remember the special people and places I so missed?

We have a sailing boat and when we were finally allowed back on the water and to undertake voyages away from home, this gave us a sanctuary away from the rules and fear contained in normal life. The pandemic only existed when we re-engaged with the shore and were brought up short as we remembered how to conform with the new-normal.

I am left with a legacy of feeling a closeness to my very local community and perhaps slightly less commitment to those living farther away. Hopefully this will change as we continue to reach out and re-attach older ties.

We now see the whole planet in a new light and how our actions affect others across the globe. I really hope this helps us to overcome bigger threats to us all such as climate change.

As the words to the song in my title say: ‘We learn to live again; we give and give again; we learn to love again; together we make a better life’.

Rosie Hinge