Comfort and Calm in the Crisis


This is the first day of our NZ lockdown. We are in self-isolation in our forest, enjoying peace, solitude and solicitude.

Not just words, and offers of help from our little caring community, but the delivery of a bag of organic fruit and vegetables and a dozen big brown free-range eggs from neighbours who also have a farm-let some hour’s drive away.

The doctor rang me, so I didn’t have to drive into town to see her, and wrote a prescription which I can collect from the chemist.

When we ventured into town briefly yesterday before lockdown, to pick up a prescription for Douglas, both chemists had a table at their door, where drugs were handed to customers. The queues at each place stretched along the pavement in the gentle autumn sunshine because everyone was observing the six feet rule between each person. The atmosphere was calm, sensible and caring.

At the supermarket there were far fewer people than normal and no loaded trolleys. People seemed to be picking up last minute items, as we were. No pasta or tins of tomatoes left, and intriguingly, shelves bare of chocolate. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and no panic.

Douglas insisted on us washing the beautiful apples, pears and squash from our friends, after watching a video which had showed how germs travel and last on surfaces. I hard boiled one of the precious eggs for my lunch, and nestled the peeled egg into a bed of steamed leeks, poured some cream over them and topped them off with a thick layer of grated parmesan leftover from the previous night’s supper.

A few minutes under the grill turned it into a crunchy gold topping. I had forgotten what an almost sweet taste and texture a fresh egg from a happy hen was like. This delicious little lunch ended with one of the crisp, freshly picked apples from a tree which had never come in contact with a chemical.

Himself had tender pork sausages for his lunch… I boil them now to cook them, and then they just need a few minutes in the frying pan acquiring a crisp golden skin.

In the soft sun-light I sat on the sofa looking out through the open French doors across the green valley. The urgent call of a covey of distant quails were the background to the sounds of swallows twittering as they circled and dived around the house, and I heard  the first autumn serenade from a cicada. Though I am concerned about my beloved family, this place felt peaceful and nurturing.

Like everyone else, my family is scattered and coping with this unprecedented crisis. One grandson is in London, another has had his business closed down for the lockdown, the end of which is uncertain and unknown. Our tetraplegic step-grand-daughter, who only has thirty percent use of her lungs and a totally compromised immune system has had her three daily carers leave… the family don’t know who they would have come in contact with, the risk too great, so the huge burden of 24 hour daily care has fallen on my son’s wife. He has to work from home so as not to bring infection into their isolated little bubble of comparative safety.

Other family members who were going to share the load can no longer do so under ‘lockdown’ since they don’t live there. My daughter who is president of boards and clubs, and director of national organisations, is coping with total chaos across every facet of her normally hectic life. And I can only watch from the distance. I am like every other older person, watching sadly from the sidelines as our children and grand-children and other family struggle, while this tsunami engulfs their lives and their livelihoods and threatens every known certainty.

The actual illness seems almost like a sideshow compared with the dire effects of it on the whole world. And yet when I woke this morning with the dry thyroid cough I often have, and remembered the head-ache I’d had in the night, and felt the slight soreness in my throat, I had a sudden moment of panic – these are the symptoms of the bug. Then I had a drink and the throat returned to normal, and the fear faded, and I remembered my firm intention not to join the crowd!

I looked across to the window, where outside, the sun was shining on the mountain, and the jitters – a word that emerged in the early days of the Second World War, evaporated in the peace and beauty of this blessed place.

Now the day is ending, night is drawing nigh, shadows of the evening, steal across the sky – the first lines of a hymn my grandmother taught me during WW11. The first day is ending of our long retreat into self-isolation, night is drawing nigh. It has been a good day for us. I just long to share that goodness with others, before the shadows steal across so many lives.


It may cheer some to know that ISIS’s Health and Safety Department – fancy a terrorist group having such a thing – have advised their enthusiastic jihadis who are all dying to create mayhem, to steer clear of western infidel countries in order to avoid infection from the virus. So there is a silver living to every cloud!


Filed under beauty, birds, family, food, life and death, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized, village life

40 responses to “Comfort and Calm in the Crisis

  1. Dear Valerie, what synchronicity: we must have both pressed ‘send’ at the same time, I for my newsletter & blog, you for your blog. How wonderful to be in such a sanctuary with the one you love, and to have caring neighbours on hand. Your afterword had me chuckling. Another good thing is that the planet is breathing at last.
    I am about to start a series of 4 online support sessions to help people turn isolation into self resourcing and sanctuary. Your stories of your family remind me how much people need help at this time.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dear Valerie,

    I was just about to tuck myself in for the night when your post came to my messenger, one last treat for the eyes before retiring.

    The sun came out today and the scent of spring is in the air on the second day of our stay at home ordinance. I went to the grocery and there weren’t many customers. Most likely because there’s no more toilet paper or paper towels on the shelf. I took my time shopping. It seems the items I went to purchase aren’t on the endangered species list. Fresh produce, for the most part and a few things from the health market like my essential all-natural peanut butter.
    It makes me happy to see that Douglas is writing again and to read about your haven from both sides. I send my good thoughts for your continued health.



    Liked by 2 people

    • Aha, lots of threeway conversations going on at the moment!
      I had to laugh at your essential all-natural pea-nut butter, which is also considered essential in this establishment too… we feed it to the rats who can’t resist it in the traps! Sort of cindemned’s last meal before instant death!!!!
      Yes, it IS lovely that Douglas is writing again,
      Stay well, love Valerie

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love that hymn. Thank you, Valerie. When I read your blogs, I get a strong urge to go out and get some double cream to pour generously over something! We’re not quite locked down, but severely restricted. Nevertheless, I haven’t gone out for five days except for short walks round the blog. Wishing that you and your family come through this ordeal safely. Cheers, J

    Liked by 2 people

    • Josna,
      I Love it that over the years, we’ve discovered that we’ve shared the same songs, and poetry and books and hymns… amazing,that our common culture reaches unto so many shared memories and areas, and somehow gives a resonance to our connections.
      One beloved friend calls me the queen of cream, but maybe you’re like me – if I read about food or drinks, my mouth starts watering and I want to share the taste..Even reading of a Gergette Heyer Regency miss sipping ratafia prompts to pour myself a glass of sherry!
      Thinking of you too, in your social distancing, and stay well V XX

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Valerie, you always manage to capture how so many of us feel and what we are going through. But I love that you have access to healthy food. Please stay careful. Many hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Luanne, what a lovely comment, thank you so much. I hope you and your family are well and coping, and the pussies are enjoying social isolation too… how’s darling Perry… Love to you all


  5. Margot Wilson

    It’s a difficult time but it will pass and we must follow the rules. I miss seeing my grandchildren who are 14 and 8 but I can talk to them on FaceTime. As grandparents we are used to being needed and helping out when necessary so it’s new to us. Our daughter is doing a brilliant job working from home as well as supervising the children in doing their school work. Our son is also working from home but he lives alone. I can talk to him on Skype however.
    We are grateful to the NHS and all the doctors and nurses and other staff. Also to the police, lorry drivers and staff in supermarkets. Also for all the people who have volunteered to help others – just shows We Never Walk Alone

    Liked by 1 person

    • So good to hear from you, Margot… our age group share a common Task, don’t we – enourager les autres!
      What a wonderful idea to clap in appreciation of all those wonderful people you mention, all working for the good of others. really heartwarming, and very unifying.


  6. Angela Ogden

    Such strange times my friend…..we’ve had flood, fire & now plague – heavens! Stay safe …. and one good thing out of this enforced isolation is that I’ll have such tidy drawers & sparkling cupboards! (If you don’t laugh you simply howl). God bless.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lovely to see you Angela… you’re so right – “these are the times that try men’s souls”
      Talking of Plagues there have even been plagues of Locusts in Africa and Pakistan … nature really is the boss!
      Join the club… I’ve begun the Great Tidyings and Sortings too!!!
      Blessinhs to you and your family, and stay well love V XXX


  7. Stay safe, my friend. But keep smilin’!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Anne Camilleri

    Dearest val Read your post this morning, this place is also like a ghost town, o workmen, no people , No dogs They closed the churches on Tuesday morning , so Edwards funeral was held at the graveside, it is a beautiful garden , overlooking fields, the girls did the readings, and the priest did his best, I have sent you an order of service we put together, of course no music , I chose our wedding march , for the entrance , toccata by vidor, an Maria callas ,singing time to say goodbye. ,for the exit, I hope to be able to have a remembrance service, here and in Malta , sometime Henry came in his medals and regalia , which Edward would have liked, he was so proud of Henry,s military record So now like you I am in isolation, with Caroline and indie bringing in food and supplies, Got dog food yesterday , a whole freezer worth Henry and family are at their farm with the animals, the boys do their school work from home as does Tilly, obviously Caroline and Henry can not fly anywhere Viki got rid of her lodger yesterday, who has the virus, London is one of the worst spots and viki took too long to register the serious situation My kids all fell out before the funeral over Things and it has made the situation worse , I have always tried so hard to keep the family together, and now everyone is doubly stressed, and angry with each other I take the dog out once a day, but hardly see anyone Caroline and Shaun have installed a portal , so that we can see each other and talk, and I am slowly getting back to my old self, energy wise! So now must ring viki, because she is scared, and get her Buddhist friends to help her Keep sending messages please, and look after yourselves Lots of love Anne xxxx

    Sent from my iPad



  9. A thought provoking post, Valerie. We who are living in the countryside are the lucky ones surrounded by space and nature which sustains more acutely than ever. Yet there is an eeriness to it as well, where dawn and dusk have an added resonance I can’t out into words. I’ve been finding it reassuring reading other’s blogs scattered far and wide as they are across the world – we are all in this together facing the same foe together. It is really mind blowing! That silver lining is something to be grateful for! Take care, cheers for now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Lynne,
      Lovey to hear from you, I hope you and your husband are keeping well, and are relishing the peace of social distancing ! Lovely isn’t it !
      I know what you mean about the eeriness of it, we were discussing this today… and if ever we needed to be reminded that the world is a village and we are all one, this strange unity in which we are all thinking about the same thing is it…
      It feels as though we are living through history, and I wonder where these strange times are taking us… keep well XXXXXX

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Jane Sturgeon

    Wrapping you both in much love, Valerie. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane, lovely to hear from you. I hope you’re keeping well, and enjoying the peace of social isolation…nature, birds and all the other manifestations of life seem to acquire such significance when there’s time to savour them, don’t they…Love to you XXX

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jane Sturgeon

        Oh yes, Valerie and I can feel Mother Earth sighing as she is gifted a pause. Watching the tides and the birds is such a blessing, as your forest is for you both now, Much love fowing to you both, always. ❤ xXx


  11. Pat

    We’re in lock down, too, here in the US and enjoying our Colorado mountains and nature. There is peace and serenity, Valerie, and I share what must be feelings very similar. Take care, my friend, and be safe and well. Hugs. 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear from you Pat, and I hope all is well with you and those you love… I’m conscious of the huge toll the virus is taking on your country and people… we are fortunate to be so far away in NZ
      Stay well XXX

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Lovely to hear from you, Valerie. I’m glad you have a peaceful haven where you can weather the storm — your forest sounds wonderful. You paint a lovely scene, with the descriptions of the swallows and cicadas. They are such a soothing sound.

    During the lockdown I’m keeping myself busy working from home, and my faithful Cavalier is enjoying the opportunity for more cuddles (she often snores away in my lap while I work at the computer).

    I’m also hoping to do some voluntary English teaching online for refugees, and keep myself fit and healthy by doing online Pilates. So it seems much of my life will be spent online for a while — here’s hoping the internet connection doesn’t fail!

    All the best 🙂


    • So good to hear from you Grace, you sound as though you’re going to be very busy in this period of ‘self-isolating ! Though when you have a cavalier you can never be alone, can you… I never get used to not having one… the little darlings…six in all…
      I’m sure the refugees will appreciate you…what a good idea.. online stuff is so amazing to a technophobe like me!
      Keep well, and give your faithful Cavalier a tickle behind the ears from an admirer ! XX

      Liked by 1 person

  13. What a beautiful and calm post. Thank you ever so much. And for:
    “It may cheer some to know that ISIS’s Health and Safety Department – fancy a terrorist group having such a thing – have advised their enthusiastic jihadis who are all dying to create mayhem, to steer clear of western infidel countries in order to avoid infection from the virus. So there is a silver lining to every cloud!”

    YAY for the SILVER LINING!!! You are so right, there always is a silver lining; if we look.

    Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ah, Valerie, what a wonderful post. Your ability to describe food brings back so many memories for me. Thank you. Vancouver has declared a state of emergency and we keep within our home, a condo that overlooks the Vancouver skyline. The sun still shines and the daffodils, cherry blossoms and tulips have arrived. As serendipity would have her way, I am reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” which recounts the narrative of a man whose destiny is to live his life in a Hotel. I started this before all the news came in so it seems that providence knew that it was appropriate. Here is a quote that resonates with me: “He had said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of lucidity—a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of the life we had been meant to lead all along.” Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow. Sending love and hugs. Stay safe!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Rebecca, so good to hear from you as always, I hope you’re finding retreat to home peaceful and fulfilling…I read a story yesterday about the Spanish ‘moles’ who hid from Franco in cupboards and under freezing (-20degrees) rooftops from 1939 to 1968 when an amnesty was declared…lockdown is no contest! .
      I delayed replying to you, as an amazing synchronicity was evolving, and I was hoping I’d have further news…
      I’ve read and enjoyed immensely A Gentleman in Moscow, and loved your quote from it… but the synchronicity was in a comment on a previous blog. You may or may not remember the story I wrote about an amazing White Russian woman who was a heroine during WW2, Mme Luba Ruperti. Well, after five years, her niece contacted me two days ago.
      I do hope she replies to my excited response with more information…
      I felt the Russian connection was intriguing in the light of your message !
      Hope all is well with you, and you’re safely tucked up with your son and your husband XXXXXX

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is marvelous synchronicity! I am so excited to hear this amazing news. I look forward to hearing more as the story unfolds. Oh Valerie, we may live finite lives, but the infinite does reach out and remind us that we are all entwined in a dance with nature and all the walk this earth. I a grateful that you have graced my journey – you continue to add beauty, hope and resilience to my dance. We are all safely tucked up on our side of the world. We are welcoming spring as you are welcoming the glorious colours of autumn.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Dear Riemke,
    What a treat to find your comment! So good to hear from you…
    It must be lovely to be tucked up in your lovely house with your little family.
    And congratulations on your grand child. What a thrill and a joy… I envy you having a baby in the house … my grandchildren are all in their mid and late twenties now !
    Your salmon feast sounded delicious…hard not to think about food at the moment isnlt it…
    Hope you all have a lovely time together, and remember me to your James, though I expect he was too little back then, to remember odd bods in your life!
    Stay in touch, and keep well, it’s lovely to hear from you, Love Valerie


  16. Thank you for this. I am glad that you are safe in your forest. The lock down is hard isn’t it – not so much for us but the worry we have for our children and their children. It is Bluebell’s 7th birthday today but of course she can’t have a proper birthday party. We are all calling in on various video calls to spread the love through the day.
    Leo, son-in-law, films sport all over the world so has no work at all and little protection it seems. Fortunately Katheryn works in IT so can work from home. Leo, a truly entertaining and lovely man has taken over the homeschooling for their two and is thinking of all sorts of fun for them all.
    We are so envious of your. Prime Minister, she really has her head around everything . I loved her reassurance to children that the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are key workers and will be doing their best to look after them all.
    Food does become all the more important doesn’t it?Your precious egg lunch sounded delicious.
    I send my love to you and all your family in these remarkably difficult days. xx


  17. Dear sally,
    My apologies – I’ve only just found your lovey comment while I’m trying to catch up my Blogging Housekeeping !
    Loved your description of how your little family is coping with lockdown…love the name Bluebell!!
    Yes, We are very proud of our prime minister…some international journal has named her the ‘most effective leader in the world today…but I’ve also been very interested to note that many of the countries who seem to be coping the best have women prime ministers too – Iceland, Norway, Denmark, one of the Caribbean countries, Finland , even Germany…

    I see today that the numbers are creeping up again in so many places… such a strange and insidious threat to people, and yet the seas are clean and blue, even round places like Portsmouth, the skies are clear so people can see the Himalayas and so on again, animals are taking over gardens and parks and beaches and empty place, greenery growing between paving stones in Rome… it feels so beautiful to know that it is possible to find a better way to live and preserve the planet if we had the will and could work out the way…
    Much love Valerie XXX


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