From Brenda in Hove: A Walk in the Park – and the new “Rule of Six”

12 September

I went for a walk in the park today. I haven’t ventured there very often in the last two months and I was fascinated to see the differences since early July. They were quite dramatic.

The whole park was a buzz of cheerful activity. All the things that had been halted when we went into lock-down were back in full swing. The children’s playground was full of happy youngsters doing their thing. The tennis courts were full (I do like the royal blue courts are painted nowadays). The café was open (although only one person at a time can make an order) and, while are no longer tables inside, there are more outside (all occupied). Football markings were back on the grass and there was one kids’ game in full swing (with shouting parents on the side) and further on, there were about 50 children, in groups, getting soccer training. The climbing wall was full and the basketball court had lots of people playing. There were numerous people walking on the paths, alone, in twos and threes, and no ducking off the path to maintain distance.

There were some things that one didn’t see much before. Firstly, there were a lots of people having picnics – in groups ranging from eight and upwards. Secondly, there was a large children’s party with decorations hanging in the trees and around the tables. Thirdly, there were at least four traders setting up shop along the road abutting the park: a large van with several tables in the park selling farm produce, a van selling coffee (big queue there),  a pizza van (who knew?) and an ice cream van (not new but doing a cracking trade). And finally, there was a book club meeting.

I didn’t see one single mask (fair enough, you might say because we were all outside) – but I also saw little evidence of ‘social distancing’ in any of the activities I have described.

Most of this is about to come to an abrupt end. The government has just announced new rules for England. They come into effect the day after tomorrow – and they limit gatherings to six people both indoors and outdoors, and apply to all ages. There are some exemptions such as gatherings for work – whatever that means. A new report this morning quotes a police union as saying that the public must not treat this weekend as a “party” before the rules apply. The fines for disregarding the rules are quite steep – £100 for first offence, doubling on each further offence up to £3200.  

This all means that the number of cases in the last couple of weeks has been steadily rising and there are several local outbreaks necessitating localised lock downs. It is also a reaction to the fact that the R number has been raised to between 1 and 1.2 for the first time since March. The signs of a second wave, long expected, are there. Clearly strict measures are appropriate.

Which puts me in mind of one unusual thing that happened on my walk: a child of no more than 6 years old with his younger sister in tow has lost his father and as I walked past him was shouting “Daddy, f……. hell, where are you?” I looked at him. He looked at me. “F …….hell”, he said. Little did he know he had come to the right place for support. I couldn’t agree more.              

From Brenda in Hove: It’s a small world

29 August

My son, Ian, in South Africa was attending a virtual conference recently and one of the speakers was Shaun Tomson. For those of you who weren’t paying attention to surfing competitions, Shaun was the World Surfing Champion in 1977 and since then has received many accolades. He is regarded as one of the 16 greatest surfers of all time (Surfing, 2004) and is listed as one of the 25 most influential surfers of the century. (Surfer, 1999) He was also one of my students at the university in Durban where I was teaching at that time. He was, and still is, a legend.

Ian sent him a note saying how much he had enjoyed his presentation and signed it off as ‘Ian, from Durban’. Much to his surprise, Shaun responded – and then they spoke on the phone for nearly two hours and found they have many shared passions, including school education. Shaun spends a lot of his time talking in schools, not only where he lives in California but also in Durban, where he grew up, and elsewhere in South Africa. As they talked, Shaun was amazed to hear that I was Ian’s mother and remembers going to my lectures, sometimes right off the beach and still in a damp wet-suit.

The surf was very good along the coast of Natal where we lived and lots of students (including my sons) were keen surfers. I remember going to beach once with my children and group of hunky, glamorous surfers called out to me “hello, Mrs Gourley” – and , as I waved back, I realised my children were looking at me with an awe I was not usually accorded.

Anyway, Shaun got in touch with me to say hello – and send me a link to one of his talks: https://bit.ly/3akAgbx:). He has written a book called The Code – The Power of ‘I will’, an inspirational book that tells of how he developed a personal code for living – and hopes to persuade all young people to do the same. I hastened to read the book. When it was published in 2013, one of the reviewers, Steven Hawk (former Editor of Surfer Magazine) wrote “ although The Code sells itself as a self-help book for teens, it is a much richer mix than that. It’s part memoir, part surf rap, part homage. Above all, it’s a gut-punching journey of emotional resurrection. Shaun Tomson confronts the darkest tragedy – the death of his own son – with grace, intelligence, and a historic kind of hopefulness. The lessons herein penetrate in unexpected ways.”

I am part of a Commonwealth of Learning mentoring programme and I immediately realized that this was a book and a message to be shared with not just the young people I mentor but all the people in the programme. I told Shaun about the programme and I didn’t even have to ask.  He promptly offered to give one of his talks, pro bono, to all the people on the programme, mentors and mentees alike.  

I still can’t believe the timing and coincidence in us coming together. I had been giving a lot of thought as to how to inject more focus into the mentoring journey. All the young people I mentor (and this must go for millions more) are finding life very difficult with this Covid menace. It is taking its toll wherever you are in the world and whatever your circumstance – and mentoring takes on a different complexion.  The advice and inspiration and motivation that Shaun shares so selflessly has never been more needed.

Another reviewer emphasises this and I think is worth quoting: “ The world today is very much like a wave: it’s shifting and changing virtually every second. Like surfers, we are defined by the decisions we make in this dynamic environment. Shaun draws on a life of learning, both on waves and off, and offers some sage advice for drawing the best line through life.” Jim Moriarty, CEO “Surfrider Foundation”, 2013

From Brenda in Hove: Goodbye Persona

9 August

I had occasion to check myself into an Accident and Emergency department recently. It was a sobering eight hour experience.

Once one gets through the Covid screening – and you haven’t got an axe in your head (so to speak) – there is a quick triage exercise: blood pressure, blood sample, urine sample and a list of questions.  A male nurse asks me how much pain I was suffering, on a 10 point scale with 10 being child birth. Naturally I answered “one or two” and thus sealed my fate.     

The department was really busy. Part of their problem is that doctors are only giving telephone appointments and if they can’t fix a problem are recommending the patient to Accident and Emergency, a department already over-burdened without the now standard Covid arrangements being added to its load.

The waiting area was adjacent to the area where paramedics bring in those needing attention. Even though I wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t been rather desperate, I felt my problem diminishing with every arrival.  

The first thing one notices is how calm and focused the staff are – and how kind. It was truly impressive. And they have to demonstrate such perseverance. One man was being questioned right next to me. “Do you know where you are?” (Not really) “Do you know what day of the week it is?” (Not really). “Are you married?” (Yes) “Do you know the date you got married?” “C’mon, mate, your missus will be really cross if you don’t remember that one!” It turned out he had had a fall at work and been brought in by someone he works with. He was carted off somewhere.

The system is also impressive in the way it orders you through the various possibilities. It would normally take you weeks to get examined by three different specialists, get a scan, and a lab test – and there it takes hours (somewhat spread out, but nevertheless).

The second thing one noticed is how stoic the patients seemed to be. I wouldn’t know if this is generally true but the ones around me were. One elderly woman with a face covered in blood after a fall insisted that she really didn’t need to be there and had been brought in under protest. She found herself on a trolley fairly smartly. Stoic they may be, but they are also so vulnerable – probably a lasting condition for some of them.     

Behind a curtain somewhere a woman with a posh accent was saying “Stop that. Don’t do that. Leave me alone.” I was told later she has dementia. A significant proportion of Accident and Emergency patients have dementia, I am told. Imagine their disorientation magnified by all these people in masks. Jesus wept.  

You have to suspend any sense of normality in these situations and you have to also abandon your persona and identity at the door. I was lucky in that I didn’t have to strip and don a robe with an opening at the back! You might be the CEO of your company, mate, but lying on a trolley clinging to the back of your robe and flat on your back, you are nobody in particular! You are in no position whatsoever to call the shots. You are definitely not in charge here. Nobody (apart from the immediate staff) even ‘see’ you. We naturally avert our eyes from people at their most vulnerable lest we invade their privacy but perhaps that also makes them feel invisible and even more disoriented than they already are?  A lonely business.

Eight hours might seem a very long time but I was not complaining and I went home much chastened.        

From Brenda in Hove: It’s only a matter of time

27 July

Our valiant cleaner phoned the other morning to ask me to open the door to the building for her. “Oh!” I said, “I thought you were coming on Wednesday.” There was a slight pause. “It is Wednesday,” she said.

Losing track of time is supposed to be something that indicates how engaged or happy you are doing whatever it is you are doing but in my case I rather think it’s because I am beginning to lose the plot! It’s all become a bit of a blur, one day very much like another and none of them particularly memorable.

I realise that virtually all my life until March this year, time was something to be checked and measured. I was in good company. After all, as Simon Garfield reminds us in his book Timekeepers,  “time is the most precious thing we have.” His book is about “our attempts to measure it, control it, sell it, film it, perform it, immortalise it , and make it meaningful. ” And here I am, wishing it away.

 I recently read a couple of books by Alexandra Fuller and she describes growing up on a series of farms in Zambia and other African countries. You can well imagine that time on a farm revolves around seasons (one of the books is called “Leaving before the Rains Come”) and time, for a lot of people at least, revolves around the planting and harvesting of crops – as, indeed, it used to be long ago in much of the world, and still is. It wasn’t necessary to synchronize clocks in the UK, for example, until people started using trains to get to work etc. Greenwich Mean Time was introduced – and all that. School holidays to this day in the UK are timed to coincide with the harvesting of crops. Fuller describes the first thing that she noticed about the United States (to where she emigrated) was the attitude to time. “They believed time belonged to an individual. “Don’t waste my time,“ they said.”  She realized that on the farm they didn’t bother trying to “hoard what could not be safeguarded, restrained, and stored.”   

I am afraid I cannot change everything about my attitude to time. In March I finally gave up on paid employment – and then lockdown happened. That was a double whammy for me. I was so used to being busy and focussed on completing one task or another that I have found the last few months very trying. The worst part is that I know I could be “busy” reading great tomes that I have neglected until now, doing virtual tours of all the important museums, listening to opera and other concerts online – but a curious ennui overtook me. I am ‘waiting’ – and waiting is not something I am good at, that is for long periods of time. Added to that is the knowledge that waiting, in this case at least, is a futile pursuit anyway. I am far away from getting a vaccine. My bucket list looks increasingly fanciful and I am extremely limited in the places I can visit. Two holidays have been cancelled so far and I have no taste under present circumstances to embark on train or air travel.  There is a limit to William Davies’ warning about “a life where there is no time to stand and stare”. I need to make another plan.    

And I have: another job – and the bonus is it is a job worth doing.

From Brenda in Hove: The Rich get Richer, the Poor get Poorer

19 July

Twice a year the ‘wealth management’ firm that looks after our modest savings usually invite their small clients to London for a talk on how it sees the markets and what position it is taking on various sectors. This is accompanied by a extravagant lunch and a choice of afternoon activities: tickets to a play or private tour of an historic building. It is meant to convey that all is well with our little world as long as we stay in their hands. This year such an occasion was clearly not possible so we were invited to a Zoom meeting.

I settled down, filled with apprehension, expecting to hear that our savings had plummeted and we were not in as good shape as we had hoped for our retirement. I listened in sheer astonishment at the smooth, assuring and assured presentation telling us all that we were doing rather well, actually. Really?

The quarterly news letters continued along similar lines. Take this extract: “The possibility of a second wave in America has shaken US markets, which have had an astonishing quarter. The S&P 500 gained significant traction between the end of March and the start of June, posting the greatest 50-day rally in the history of the index.1 The Federal Reserve has played a key role in boosting US markets, and the gradual recovery of cyclical stocks since May suggests that investors are adopting an increasingly ‘risk-on’ approach as lockdown measures are progressively eased. Oil has made a swift recovery over the quarter after the price of a barrel turned negative for a brief period in April: prices are currently their highest since early March.2   

The contrast between markets and economies, however, is striking. Unemployment in the United States remains at a historical high, and the GDP of the world’s advanced economies is expected to tumble by over 6% this year, surpassing the fallout from the global financial crisis.3 Global output has been badly damaged; world trade fell by 12.1% in April, by far the largest drop ever recorded.4 While the optimism in global markets is encouraging, the risk of permanent scarring on the global economy should not be overlooked.” Really?

https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/record-stock-rally-big-companies-edge-coronavirus-pandemic-jim-cramer-2020-6-1029284194

You can guess that wealth management institutions stick to the big companies – especially with people our age who have a low risk profile.

I asked for a private meeting with the person who manages our small portfolio in early March when it was clear there was stormy weather ahead. I was told by this very assured young man that our portfolios were very well placed for what was unfolding. I said that was some kind of minor miracle. The biggest collapse in economic fortunes for many, many decades – and we just happened to have the ideal portfolios! He stuck to his guns and sent me the latest quarterly report and the company news letters to back him up. And events so far have proved him right. I am under no illusion that this state of affairs will continue but in the meantime, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It was ever thus.  

I can see no defense at all for not increasing taxes for the rich. It seems not just a practical necessity in these difficult times, but a moral imperative.

From Brenda in Hove: It’s Part of my curriculum

the Toulouse-blue crepe van

11 July. I have been feeling a bit poorly for a few weeks and haven’t been out much. Truth be told, life felt somewhat joyless. Covid and attendant restrictions are getting to me. Today I felt a bit better and went to the park to find out if my legs still worked (they did). I trod my usual paths and looked out for anything different since I was last there. Same old thing: lots of men with very shaggy beards; lots of men who haven’t heard of clippers; lots of women with weird hairdos who clearly haven’t made it onto the appointment lists; boisterous teenagers being the only people who at least don’t seem as subdued as the rest of us but behaving rather recklessly nonetheless. No joy there.

I noticed that there are now well trodden, clearly discernible paths alongside the main paved paths around the park – made by people like me trying to keep an acceptable distance from the people on the paths – lots of them. I read somewhere (The Observer, 14 June) that these are called “desire paths” (can you believe it?) – paths trodden by people who are usually intent on a shortcuts but are now intent on keeping to social distancing measures. It struck me how furtive and suspicious we all seem now – avoiding each other as if our lives depended on it (and they may). If an alien landed from another planet, it would think we were a very unsociable species. And that is before we don our masks. No joy there either.

The children’s play area was open. Now there is a joyful thing! I love children and I love watching children play. They have been kept away from the playground for so many months that they were relishing being back. Children walking with their parents on the path and spotting the playground just took off, faster than they have ever run before. Amusing. And joyful.

And then I caught sight of a dear little Toulouse-blue van advertising French crepes (gluten free, by some miracle). I felt genuine joy! I love crepes and haven’t had a single one since I went on a gluten free (dreary) diet. The brand name was “Oui!” I leapt to it – even though I had to go back to the apartment for my card. It was delicious. It reminded me of what I already knew: joy can be found in small things. It doesn’t do to be too ambitious.

I read a book some time ago called The Book of Joy by Douglas Abrams in conversation with the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. There was much to be learnt from it. One story stuck with me and comes to mind as I try to come to terms with a life after Covid (challenged as I am by my advanced age). The author’s father had fallen down some stairs and suffered a traumatic brain injury – with no guarantees that he would ever return to his former self. As it happens, he did, eventually. When one of his sons said that he was sorry he had had this terrible experience, the father replied, “Oh no, not at all. It’s all part of my curriculum.” (page 157)    

I think it is very much like this with Covid. We have to learn to find joy in new ways. It’s part of our curricula.     

From Brenda in Hove: Picnics, more or less

“There are few things so pleasant as a picnic eaten in perfect comfort.” W. Somerset Maughan

Namaqualand daisies by James Gourley

14 June. Lockdown restrictions are easing here in the UK. So when I went for my usual walk around our park today, I was interested to note the differences this occasioned – especially as it is a Sunday. There was much that was very different. Teenagers, in particular, seemed to have embraced their freedom with a vengeance – especially the boys: riding their bikes and skateboards as fast as they could manage on the tarred path; having riotous games of basketball; having football games; and generally hanging out with their friends with no heed at all for social distancing. I suppose they have read about their odds of getting the virus and even the longer odds of dying from it. I felt very sympathetic towards them. Lockdown must have been very difficult for youngsters that age.

There were also more people in the park than has been usual – many of them picnicking. Picnics seem to me to be the ideal way of meeting your friends when social distancing is required, and they are seeing a resurgence. But I have to say that either none of them today seem to have had much experience of picnics or they were all very unimaginative. If a picnic is to be enjoyed there needs to be some sense of occasion to the affair.  

I have been spoilt in this department. One of my very best picnics was at Glyndebourne during the opera season. I have a generous friend who does the spoiling. One year, he ordered everything it was possible to order for a picnic during the interval. He had a table (no less) with six chairs, draped in damask, cut-glass wine glasses, silver cutlery, champagne on  ice, and an excellent three course menu served by a waiter. Somerset Maughan would have approved!  

Another standard-setting picnic years ago was in South Africa on a trip to see the Namaqualand daisies which come out once a year for about three weeks and are as spectacular as anyone could wish for. We and a group of friends had booked out a very small boutique hotel near a place called Velorenvlei (the name translated from Afrikaans means ‘lonely marsh’ describing an estuarine marsh on the Atlantic coast and a bird lovers’ paradise). We had left the booking to our friends in the Cape and left the arrangements to them as well.

We didn’t realize that one of the hotel’s claim to fame was its cuisine. One of the arrangements made was that the hotel pack us a picnic basket for a day out to one of the nature reserves in the area. When we arrived at the reserve we picked out a suitable place to have our picnic and set about opening the three massive hampers that the hotel had furnished. The most astonishing things came out of those three hampers. All the ingredients for a three course meal (including, I seem to remember, ostrich eggs) – complete with a printed menu for each of us! Damask cloths on the lawn, beautiful crockery, silver cutlery, you-name-it, even silver cigar cutters.

One of our party used to write the wine guide to South African wines every year and he had brought us just the right wine for every course (in an ice-packed hamper). I can’t drink wine so it was wasted on me – as was the conversation discussing the merits and demerits of every wine. At first, it was hilarious – again Somerset Maughan would have approved – but then we found that the reserve was on the tourist trail and we had settled ourselves very near to where all the tour buses parked. Dozens and dozens of people from all over the world who had come to see the daisies (!) were absolutely amazed to find this decadent scene of South Africans having a serious picnic. Out came the cameras and we were the subjects of an untold number of photographs. So embarrassing. How were they to know that none of us, before or since, had ever had such a picnic?

Moving on, we are planning to have some picnics of our own in the near future with much missed friends and family. They might not meet Somerset Maughan’s standards but they won’t descend to the minimalist fare seen in the park today!  

From Brenda in Hove: “It is the lives we encounter that make life meaningful.”

11 June

 “One key feature that we have come to appreciate about Covid-19 is that it is a disease of old age. The chance that a person over 75 will die from it is actually 10,000 times greater than it is for a 15 year-old who gets infected.” * If you are, like me, over 75, that sentence concentrates the mind. It also puts you on notice that, unlike most people in the population, your life won’t change dramatically when lock-down is lifted until a vaccine is found. Even then you are highly unlikely to be anywhere near first in line to get a vaccine. Administering a vaccine to a sufficient number of people to make a difference takes a long time – a very long time. Years.

Pondering what this means to my life put me in mind of the novel A Gentleman in Moscow and an arresting quote: “Adversity presents itself in many forms, and if a man does not master his circumstances, then he is bound to be mastered by them.” The novel is about a Russian aristocrat, Count Rostov, who is ordered by a Bolshevik tribunal at the time of the revolution to spend the rest of his life in a luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow. He has to vacate his suite of rooms in the hotel and instead take up residence in the servants’ quarters – and all his activities are bound by what can take place in the hotel. It feels a bit like what we oldies are to endure – and how we can find meaning and pleasure in our much reduced circumstances.

When we started out as a group recording this time of Covid, I was immediately pre-occupied by getting my affairs in order, dealing with the practicalities (like wills and other personal papers) as indeed the Count does in the story. The Count is portrayed as a very disciplined person who does not allow himself to drop his personal standards in the matter of dress and daily exercise. He also sets himself the goal of reading the books he has always meant to read (Essays of Montaigne!) but never got around to. Intellectually, one agrees that these things are important when confinement is visited upon one. I even set out to do the very same things! I failed – not miserably, but a ‘fail’ nonetheless. I can’t say I feel ‘mastered’ by circumstances but I do feel challenged. Standards have definitely fallen around here. I wear the same clothes for days on end (who cares?), my hairstyling is left to the tender and haphazard mercies of my husband, my exercise regime goes in fits and starts, and my concentration levels don’t seem to extend to the great books I was so determined to read at the start of all this. Getting the apartment in order after our big move doesn’t seem that important any more. We will take it at a much slower pace. One thing is true and that is that my bridge has improved. Better than nothing, I suppose. Even the inestimable (fictional) Count didn’t get to finishing Montaigne!

If television and YouTube and the vast domains beyond are to be believed, the on-line world is practically humming with self-improvement: virtual exercise classes of one sort or another, language lessons, choirs, orchestras, zoom encounters from one end of the world to the other. I am lost in admiration – but I can’t help noticing it is mainly younger people who are keeping all this going. It is one thing to throw yourself into these activities to pass the time until lock-down ends, it is quite another to embrace this as a new way of life. My world is enhanced by real people interacting with real people in real time. Of course I miss theatre and concerts and exhibitions and dinner parties and book clubs and journeys to far-away places – but they all seem relics  of a life denied for the foreseeable future. Does this challenge my will to live? No. Not even close. Maybe the phrase “master my circumstances” is a bit too ambitious. It could be that we are coming to understand the essentials that make life worth living.

Certainly the essentials for me are the people in my life: my family, of course  – but importantly, my friends. Strange to relate, Covid has brought us closer together. Thanks to the wonders of Whatsapp I can spend hours and hours, week after week, talking to friends all over the world. Most of them I have known for a very long time and we never tire of talking to each other, sharing our ups and downs, our insights and issues, our families’ fortunes and misfortunes, exchanging book and film titles, tips for getting on and leading meaningful lives. It was Guy de Maupassant who said “it is the lives we encounter that make life worth living” and how lucky am I to have such marvellous friends  – and, it must be said, to live in a technological age. Where would we be without technology?

*The Guardian quoting Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, 7June.   

From Brenda in Hove: “I can’t breathe”

a ‘meme’ that is travelling the internet

3 June

The picture of George Floyd being murdered clutches at my heart – as indeed it has clutched the heart of hundreds of thousands of protesting people across America and other parts of the world.  

Sadly, I am not new to protests nor police brutality in the face of those protests. I spent most of my life in South Africa where apartheid and all it entailed ruled supreme for too long. Scenes of protest marches turning into massacres were reported all over the world –  Sharpeville perhaps being the one that seared itself most dramatically on the minds of the watching world. If anything, matters got worse in South Africa after Sharpeville – but it was, I think, a turning point. Maybe, just maybe, the George Floyd murder will also be a turning point in American history.    

I worked at a university in South Africa which was designated ‘white’ until freedom came in 1994 but was at least part of a small group of “liberal” universities. We all had to deal with increasingly draconian measures after Sharpeville until the late 1980s when pressure started to build for radical change.  Much of the pressure was evidenced by protest marches in the name of one cause or grievance. Many of those marches got out of hand, sometimes because people who had other agendas used the event to further their own ends – but more often because the reason for the march was not addressed and some reasonable way forward not found.

Achieving freedom in South Africa without a bloody conflict was seen as almost miraculous and Nelson Mandela hailed as a truly great leader. Even then, the country still had a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to hear and redress at least some of the awful crimes committed during those long years of struggle.

Clearly the protests rocking America are vast in number and being managed by multiple agencies – but there seem to me to be some basic mistakes made at leadership level. Is it asking too much that there be some acknowledgement that there is some systemic problem that needs addressing? Is it asking too much that civic leaders be called to come together and forge a way forward, perhaps city by city, state by state?  Is it asking too much of a president that he be seen to be leading such efforts to seek some unity in finding a solution?  

It defies belief that the leader of “the free world”  could only come up with two ideas:

  1. Threaten the protesters with military action – which is probably unconstitutional; and
  2. Stand in front of a boarded up church and wave a bible at the cameras. This must be as bizarre a sight of an American president as one could possibly imagine. But it is also a sight that might represent a turning point. Waving goodbye to his re-election, and ushering in a true leader who will address the grievous racism in his country.

From Brenda in Hove, UK: “I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky …”

Hove Beach, UK. a sunny day for beach huts

28 May. So far we have been told to take our exercise close to home (really, Dominic) and I have obeyed that instruction. The brakes seem to be coming off somewhat so I ventured down to the Hove seafront today. It is officially half term for the schools and normally we would see thousands of tourists on the beach-front but the town councillors warnings to people to stay away from Brighton and Hove seem to have had effect – even in the glorious weather we are enjoying.

There were quite a few people on the beach and in the sea – but distances more than respected – and the same went for the promenade (and not a mask in sight). It was more than a very relaxed and pleasant experience; it was so normal; it was a joy! .

People had also returned to their beach huts and there was an unusual amount of DIY going on.  Quite a few are scruffy and one wonders why some people don’t sell their huts if they clearly haven’t used them for years. They sell for something between £16,000 and £25,000. High price to pay! Anyway, hot owners out in force, with their deck chairs and picnic tables hauled out and the kettles on – and much sun worshipping in evidence.  

Much to my surprise, Hove lagoon café was open for take-away after being closed since lock-down. Hurry on over! Chips on the beach – new special treat. Another joy! Really. Nothing like a pleasure denied and then allowed.

Table tennis being played but lagoon and children’s playgrounds and paddling pool not in use. I miss the sound of small children playing.

Cyclists much in evidence as usual and it is worth noting that the line-up of bicycles provided by the Council had been added to – and there were lots of newly painted cycle lanes on the way to the beach.

What I had sorely missed was just looking at the sea. We have lived near the sea for more than half our lives and I never tire of contemplating the waves and the sun playing on the water. Such bliss to be able to indulge such a simple pleasure again.