Lonely in Lockdown? No need to be, the new Minister for Fun, when interviewed today, said there was no need for people to be lonely in Lockdown just because they are not allowed to see real people, they can make new friends. You can make new friends out of anything and on the government website you can see some suggestions – here is a sneak preview.
Films, television and the media are to come under strict scrutiny and indecent images are to be banned. People dealing with lockdowns, social distancing and Pandemic Pandemonium ae finding it very stressful when they turn their television on for escapism and relaxation only to be confronted with scenes of people shaking hands, hugging and even kissing. Seeing a crowd scene is liable to cause a total breakdown.
Here is your handy guide to what pictures you must NOT put on Facebook, Instagram or blogs.
Today’s window opens on a digital Christmas Card with a visit to Cyberspouse’s Facebook page. He wasn’t interested in Facebook, but he did create a website and a Facebook page for his photography and digital images. The last picture he put on his page was a Christmas card. There are lots of other interesting pictures worth looking at on his page. The Christmas picture was taken at Kingston Lacy, Dorset, a lovely National Trust historic house with beautiful grounds worth exploring at all times of the year.
The Gesualdo Six is a vocal consort formed in March 2014 . I first saw them on Facebook, actually I’ve only seen them on Facebook, but when they pop up it’s a lovely peaceful interlude amongst the other Facebook rubbish or the Christmas hype, or this year an escape from Covid and Brexit. Visit them on Facebook to see them singing a German Christmas Carol. The picture is of one of my favourite cathedrals, Lincoln, where one of the group was a choirboy. At the top of the city it looks wonderful illuminated for Christmas.
Today I welcome another of the occasional guest blogs written by my sister in Australia. This time she reflects on an unusual find near a country town in Western Australia.
A Tribute to Those That We Love by Kate Doswell
It could be mistaken for the dog that sat on the tucker box, 5 miles from Gundagai, but instead, it was a dog sitting on a small concrete plinth, 5 km from Corrigin. Corrigin is a small wheatbelt town, population 800 or so, 230 km south east of Perth in Western Australia, and the red kelpie dog immortalised in stone was guarding the entrance to the Corrigin dog cemetery.
My visit to Corrigin was nothing to do with dogs, but I couldn’t resist stopping and having a look around. It was quite large and surprisingly well kept, considering it seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. It was surrounded by the flat dun paddocks and the dry stubble of harvested crops, and only a blur on the skyline to suggest the presence of a town.
The ground around the graves was dry and sandy, with hardly any living green, but all the graves were well tended and each was utterly distinct. The owners of these beloved dogs had used imagination and care in designing the graves, and it gave some sense of the stories that lay behind their pets’ lives with the family, and there was no doubt they were family members and friends.
A black poodle statue with surprised eyes sat on a bed of stones, and the plaque told me she had lived for 14 years. Poor Rusty had died the day after his 10th birthday, and his grave was a simple oblong, surrounded by the railings that I had often seen around human graves for those of a higher standing in the community.
The one that touched me most was that of Dexter, who had a cross formed from bricks laid on a simple slab, with a clay scroll into which a child had carved “Dexter – A dog who is missed Heaps”. It was sad to see a little stuffed puppy sitting on the grave as well, and I wondered if this had been Dexter’s favourite toy.
One dog’s family had improvised with a brass fire screen with a scene of Pointers out hunting. There was no doubt that the image on the next grave was of the dog itself, a hand painted china plate with a picture of the dog and words telling of the wonderful companionship he had given for 15 years.
There was even a multi-story grave that housed 3 successive dogs. Some people cannot face the idea of having another dog when the one they have loved for years dies, but I think most people recognise that each dog is loved for his or her own original personality. A point for writers – one of my teachers firmly instructed me that the animals in my stories (usually – well OK – always, about dogs or horses) should be referred to as it, rather than he or she. I have never been able to comply, as I know they are living, breathing personalities who deserve to be recognised as such. Maybe there would be less cruelty if we could all see them in that way, rather than as objects or commodities.
Looking around this cemetery, there can be no doubt that many people see dogs as valuable and much loved members of our families; companions, helpers, protectors and comforters. This cemetery started as one man burying his dog in the 1970s, then others from Corrigin joined him in laying their dogs to rest. Over the years it has attracted the interest of people from far afield who want a permanent memorial to their companion. So it isn’t just the people of Corrigin who feel so strongly about their animals, though this IS the town that set the record for the most number of “Dogs in Utes” – a parade of 1,527 utes ( Aussie abbreviation for utility, any vehicle with an open cargo area at the rear, which would be called a pickup truck in other countries ) each with a barking, tail wagging dog in the back.
We all have our own ways of remembering those that we love. Personally, I have never felt the need to have something tangible to remind me of a loved one – I have lost 3 dogs, and each have been cremated. I have never wanted an urn with their ashes in, though I understand and respect those that do. With my last dog, a close friend came with me to the veterinary surgery for that final visit, as she had looked after my dog many times when I worked away and loved her as much as I did. When they asked me if I wanted to keep the ashes, I shook my head, but as I did I noticed the look of dismay on her face. “Would you like them?” I asked her and she said yes. I was happy for her to have them, I could think of no better person to keep them.
I have recently lost my Mother. She was 94 yrs old and she had lived close by for many years, so it was sad to have to say goodbye. This Sunday her ashes will be placed in the memorial garden at our church, next to my Father’s ashes. There are no plaques, simply a book inside the church with the names of all those who are in the garden. When I think of my father, I don’t think of the garden, I think of the furniture he built, the advice he gave me, the funny things he said. Likewise with my mother, it is and will continue to be, the memories of all the times we had together, the laughs we shared, and the problems we talked over. It doesn’t matter whether we have a grave to visit, a plaque, or nothing solid to see. The important thing is that we remember our loved ones, human or animal. I wonder if our animals remember us after we’ve gone?
Vivienne looked out of her front window, the road was quiet, empty; Saturday, day three of the new lockdown. At least in the first lockdown it had been spring, a spring as warm as summer and she had not been living by herself. Glad as she was for the peace and quiet after her divorced, inexplicably homeless son had left, you could have too much peace and quiet. She was used to living by herself since Geoff died, but that was without a pandemic; going to her groups, lunches out, friends round for coffee. Now the clocks had gone back, the nights were drawing in, dark by five o’clock… a month was a long time, but there seemed little hope that it would be only a month. It made little difference that Julia had been stuck in Tier Three, no one was going anywhere. If James drove her up there for Christmas they would be the exact limit of six people, but she presumed that was another rule that had gone by the board. Now her son was talking about helping cook Christmas dinner for the homeless, no doubt because Cassie had also volunteered. Vivienne felt like a statistic, vulnerable because of her age and pitied as a one person household. Could join a bubble or was that just lonely old people who needed help, certainly not her. Meet one other person for a walk, hmm, Sonya down the road had said she must pop in for a cup of tea a couple of weeks ago, after her ex husband had departed from Sonya’s life and his own… but her new friend had been busy with the funeral and both daughters returning from abroad and now it was too late.
A morning walk would be good and the autumn weather was pleasant, a newspaper was all she needed, with James still insisting on doing her on line shopping, but it gave a little purpose to the outing. As she passed by Sonya’s front gate she was pathetically grateful to see Sonya coming towards her with the dog.
‘Oh I’m glad I caught you Vivienne, why don’t you come in for that cup of tea, I’ve still got cake left over from the funeral, I’m sure no one is going to tell on us.’
Vivienne didn’t take much persuading, she was rather curious to see inside the house. Their front gate chats had really only been about Covid, the dreadful ( Vivienne’s opinion ) dying ex husband Sonya had taken in for his last two months that had turned into seven and Vivienne’s trials and tribulations having a son in his forties back at home.
Inside, the house was bright and tidy, not at all the gloomy hospital scenario she had imagined from Sonya’s descriptions.
‘The girls did a great job helping me put the house back to rights, once the hospital bed and all that equipment had gone. Glad to get rid of all those things with wheels and brakes, the number of times I banged my ankles. It is a bit strange without him; they rang me up, the cancer charity, in case I wanted to talk. I felt like saying I would be more upset if the dog died.’
‘But you might benefit from someone to talk to, it must have been very stressful.’
‘I feel sorry for our daughters, nothing much was really resolved, especially as he was dead by the time they got here.’
‘Oh dear, I’m sorry, but it must have been good for the three of you to be together.’
‘Yes, they decided we must celebrate the good times; all those photos I had up in the loft have been digitalised and you wouldn’t believe what you can order on line.’
Vivienne could hardly miss the large framed photo in the hall. The young man bore no resemblance to the withered scowling figure Sonya pushed in his wheelchair.
‘He was very good looking.’
‘Yes, unfortunately lots of women thought so.’
Sonya led her into the front room where a large framed collage of photos took up one wall; babies, holidays, happy days by the look of it. Turning away Vivienne supressed a smile as she saw heart shaped cushions scattered on the large sofa, each bearing pictures of young Sonya with her beloved.
‘Wait till you see the dining room, I’ll put the kettle on.’
On the dining table was a colourful jigsaw in progress, as Vivienne tried to make out the picture her friend came in with two mugs of tea and slices of cake.
‘Only his cousin actually came to the funeral, so we didn’t have to worry about numbers or getting much food in – do you like the jigsaw, that was when we had the caravan.’
Vivienne picked up the large bright mug, disconcerted to look into the eyes of the deceased ex. She thought of the one family photo and picture of she and Geoff at that dinner and dance displayed in her living room and wondered how many items in this house were dedicated to Sonya’s husband.
‘Did you see on top of the piano?’
A very blingy metal frame contained a picture of an impossibly glamorous Sonya leaning against the muscular loved one, who in turn leant against a huge shining motorbike.
‘That was before we had the children and how about this, I ordered it from Amazon, my family tree.’
On the other end of the piano was a gaudy metallic tree with heart shaped frames hanging from its branches. Tiny babies and aged people peered out.
‘It was a very reasonable price, for real silver. But I still like this best.’
Vivienne followed her gaze to a large family portrait, two little girls swamped in frills and their father gazing adoringly at his wife and daughters.
‘We won a free studio session, though it turned out you had to pay a fortune if you actually wanted to keep any pictures, but I’m glad we had that done.’
‘I wish Geoff and I had thought to do something like that, you can’t beat a professional photographer.’
When I am late writing my Wednesday blog, which is not always on Wednesday and sometimes moves to Thursday… Whenever I AM writing it I wonder why I am not doing Wordless Wednesday, like so many other bloggers. Pop a picture on and it’s done.
Which leads me to ponder the popularity of using the days of the week. I have Friday Flash Fiction, but I fear so do other bloggers or is that Flash Fiction Friday, is there a monopoly on days or titles? Can I patent Silly Saturday? If you want to post on Saturday don’t be Silly, choose Sensible, Strange or Strictly – for those who only post blogs on Saturday. Musing on Monday, Tuesday Tunes, Thursday Thoughts, Thor’s Day Thunder, Sunday Salon. Other languages expand the possibilities, I do still remember les jours de la semaine from French lessons. Jardin Jeudi, pictures of gardens are favourites, especially when there is a pandemic on. Lunatics Lundi, Mardi Marvelous, Mecredi Motivation, Visages Vendredi… luckily we share some of our words.
Words or pictures or both and how many? There is nothing wrong with just posting one picture, every picture tells a story, though you may sometimes be hard put to work out what the story is, but if you are snowed under with unvisited blogs you can dash in and out and a scene of somewhere you have never been and never likely to visit could brighten your day. Using pictures chosen by someone else is also popular for inspiration for flash fiction or haiku…
Haiku is everywhere and why write 2000 words when you could compose a haiku.