A Non-Lockdown Saturday In Beetley

It wasn’t that long ago that I was posting about lockdown life in Beetley. To be honest, it wasn’t that different to life before lockdown, at least for me.

Now it has been almost a week since ‘Freedom Day’, and not much has changed around here. On Monday, I collected an Indian takeaway meal from a restaurant we use. Staff were still wearing masks and face shields, and the screens were in place between tables. But the diners were not wearing masks of course, so I kept mine on as I waited for the meal to be prepared.

I went into Dereham on Tuesday, and did the ‘big shop’ at a huge supermarket. Around two-thirds of the customers were weaing masks, and all the staff I saw were wearing them too. They had an announcement playing over loudspeakers suggesting masks should be retained, and that shoppers should still try to social distance where possible.

I saw some maskless shoppers grinning at that, and all of those not wearing masks were quite obviously younger than forty.

Out walking with Ollie, fellow dog-walkers are still keeping a reasonable distance if they stop to chat, and we are standing at the side of narrow paths to allow others to walk by without having to be in close proximity. But the youngsters and teenagers playing around in the river or basketball court are behaving as if Covid doesn’t exist any longer, with close physical contact, and not a mask in sight.

Where Julie works at out local Doctor’s, most people are complying with the mask rule, which is still in force for medical sites. Only a couple of people refused to wear one this week, and they were not allowed into the building. In one case, a woman became abusive and aggressive, and the manager had to be called down to make her leave.

Next weekend, there is a big family party in the Watford area, in Hertfordshire. I wasn’t going anyway, because of leaving Ollie. But Julie was looking forward to attending the 50th birthday party, and seeing many of her extended family. However, that area has shown an alarming spike in Covid infection during the last week, so attending a party inside has become a worrying prospect. Wearing a mask in that situation is not much fun, so she will likely cancel her long-awaited trip.

This all goes to show that despite ‘Freedom Day’, the virus is still around, infections are still increasing, and many of those who didn’t want to wear masks are taking full opportunity of the relaxation of rules.

In many ways, nothing has changed at all, so we carry on as before here in Beetley.

Monday: A Late Message

Beetley was hit by an unexpected power cut today. From 14:56 until 21:38, we had no electricity at all.

So it was a cold sandwich for my dinner, and an exceptionally boring evening with no computer, Tablet, or TV.

I will do my best to get to all your posts and comments sometime tomorrow.

So much for modern living! Power cables ‘affected by trees’. The trees were there decades before power cables, so you think the power company might have known. 🙂

Country living!

Best wishes to everyone, Pete.

Ollie And The Feral Cat

Some years ago, a person here told me about some feral cats living in Beetley. I never encountered one, and thought he was probably teasing me, regarding me as a ‘City Boy’ who had moved to the countryside.

Yesterday was very humid, and after Ollie had taken two dips in the river to cool down, I headed over to Hoe Rough as usual, hoping to make a longer walk of it in dry weather. Ten minutes in, and along the narrow riverside path on the north side, I spotted a cat a couple of hundred yards ahead. It looked scruffy, had no collar, and seemed to be in need of a meal, it was so thin and ragged. It was also a strange colour, with black and tan markings resembling some kind of spotted fur, like a wildcat.

(We don’t have wildcats in England any longer)

When it saw me, it arched its back, like they do in cartoons. But then it noticed Ollie following, and it turned and ran off. Ollie saw the movement, and took off after it at lightning speed. Despite his age, my dog cleared the distance in a remarkably short time, and for a moment I thought he might catch the cat.

Luckily for the feline, there are plenty of trees around there, and it had scooted up one before Ollie was close enough to grab it.

Following at some distance, I could hear Ollie whooping and yelping, sounding like a real hunting dog. When I caught up, I found him at the base of the tree, and up in the top branches was the cat, staring down at us.

Reluctant to leave the tree and the cat seeking sanctuary in it, Ollie eventually followed me along the path. He got as far as the bend in the river before creeping under the wire of the fence and plunging in for a much-needed drink.

At least the cat had made him remember once again that he was one of nature’s hunting predators.

Hailstones In May

I am trying so hard to be positive.

Honestly, I am.

I have stopped moaning about the Block Editor, and my moans about the weather had changed to trying to be amusing.

But it is only 6:15 pm, and already very dark, with low cloud.

Then we had a hailstorm.

So fierce, it scared Ollie, and he came to me for a ‘comfort stroke’. The noise was incredible, as the hailstones crashed onto the windows and pattered off the roofs and cars outside.

I checked the calendar, just to be sure.

As I suspected, it was still the 4th of May.

Being positive in England is not easy, I can tell you that.

A Lockdown Saturday In Beetley

Next Monday, the lockdown restrictions in England will begin to be eased.

All school pupils will return, depite some opposition from the teaching unions. One relative will now be allowed to visit the elderly who live in Care Homes, though they must wear full PPE, and be the only ‘nominated’ visitor.

On the 29th, outdoor gathering will be allowed, with the previous limit on numbers (six) applying, and outdoor sports such as Golf and Tennis will once again be permitted.

In late April, hospitality venues such as pubs will be allowed limited opening, restricted to outside service only. Not good news for businesses that have no outside space of course.

A full return to ‘new normal’ is estimated to happen by midsummer, but that might change if infection rates go up again.

Here in Beetley, Julie had her second Pfizer vaccination last night, and my second dose of Astra-Zeneca is due in May. We will continue to wear masks where appropriate or complusory, and keep any social mixing to the minimum.

Some people are rushing to book foreign holidays, in the hope that full international travel will be allowed again. I still think this is very risky, but it is up to those people of course. Let’s just hope that they don’t bring back new strains of the virus, and start it all up again. Just for the sake of two weeks on a beach in Spain or Greece.

For us, including Ollie, it will be a week on the Lincolnshire coast, 90 miles north. It is not until September, by which time travel in England should be permitted.

If all goes to plan, this will hopefully be my last lockdown report from Beetley.

Fingers crossed.

Waking Up To Snow

Late last night, it was still feeling very cold despite leaving the heating on until almost bedtime. I thought about the old and rather silly saying popular in England. “Too cold for snow”.

Sure enough, I woke up to see around three inches of snow settled on the back lawn, and needed no further prompting to go straight back to bed until 9:30.

The falling flakes have now turned to hard sleet. Driven by gusty winds, it is cracking against the windows, and beginning to melt the snow.

Other than taking Ollie for a walk later, I won’t be going anywhere today.

It’s Official! I’m A Jinx!

Hands up, I write a lot about the weather. I’s probably the most regularly covered topic on this blog. One reason is that before I moved here, Norfolk had the proud boast of being ‘The Driest County in England’. In fact, that was the title of one of the earliest posts on my blog, reflecting the irony that it seemed to rain every day here.

I also wrote a post about the fact that it always rained at 2 pm, my usual dog-walking time.

Over the years, my obsession with weather has led some people to conclude that I am exaggerating. Others might think it shows signs of serious depression, or some other mental abberation. Moving to a place supposed to officially be the driest spot in the British Isles only to discover it is probably one of the wettest, is a cruel twist of fate indeed.

Then yesterday morning, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow dog-walker, as we both stood looking at the severe flooding that has affected Beetley Meadows. The man was younger than me, but had lived his whole life in this area. And he was a gardener by profession, so spends his life outside, every working day. Gazing at the rushing flood-waters, he told me this.

“This used to be the driest place, you know. Some summers, we had no rain for four or five months, and it never rained during the school holidays when I was young. We had hosepipe bans that started in April, and water was treated like something rare, because of the lack of rain. They even used to close the drive-through car washes because they used too much water. But I started to notice that changing a while back. As I am outside all day working, I get a feel for those things, you know? We began to get heavy rain in early October, and then almost no snow at all during winter, but many consecutive days of heavy rain instead. Washed out summers, ruined barbecues, and only a few reasonably hot days each year.

I remember going home and telling my wife that something bad was happening with the weather here. Even the direction of the arriving bad weather was changing. It was always from the west before, but then it started to come down from the north, and across from the east. Weather patterns and gulf stream directions were all different. I looked it up. Then there was a really big change. I remember it as if it was yesterday. It started with weeks of rain, then a crappy summer, followed by a late winter that left us with snow almost into April”.

I nodded in agreement, then asked. “What year was that then?” He turned to face me, his answer immediate and full of conviction.

“2012. It started at the end of March that year, and it has been getting worse every year since”.

I moved to Beetley on the 23rd of March, 2012. It’s all my fault.

A Foggy Day In Beetley Village

I woke up early this morning because rain was lashing against the windows in the bedroom. Not wanting to get out of bed just after six, I turned over and lay there listening to it until it stopped.

When I emerged, I was startled to see the garden shrouded in thick fog. It was like one of those ‘Victorian fogs’ popular with writers of mystery novels.

Ollie had to go out of course, but he didn’t like the look of the fog that made it hard to see the end of the garden. He slunk out reluctantly, creeping into the mist and disappearing behind the leylandii hedges, as is his habit.

By now, I can make out the house opposite, through the window of the office room. But I still can’t see much beyond that.

I have to say it all looks very ‘murky and lurky’, and I have little inclination to venture out.

The Shortest Day

December the 21st is the shortest day in Britain.

It will be dark by 3:30 in the afternoon, after it never really got that bright to start with. I have had the lights on in the house since I got up at 8 am, and the SAD lamp is cranked up to full power.

The Beetley weather is marking the occasion with torrential rain that started during the night, and is set to last all day.

Oh joy!