Hi again everyone

I wonder whether I’ll be continuing this diary throughout the year or will it come to an end soon? Actually, I’m thinking that I might do one more at the end of April and possibly May, and then maybe continue the theme of the post as a summary of the month’s end. Anyway, here in England (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have slightly different rules and regs) the relaxation of the Christmas lockdown has begun.

People seemed to like the list I put up last month so I’m repeating it so you can all see how very strict this last lockdown has been and how slow the relaxation is:

From 29 March

  • Two households or 6 people can mix outdoors in gardens or parks (Let the celebrations begin!)
  • Outdoor sports and leisure facilities can open

From 12 April

  • Non-essential retail can open (Three resounding cheers!)
  • Self-contained accommodation for one household allowed (We can now go on holiday in England)
  • Pubs, cafes and restaurants open for outside eating (Will avoid for a while)
  • Gyms, swimming pools, theme parks and drive-in cinemas open (No drive-in cinemas near us)

No earlier than 17 May

  • Two households or 6 people can mix indoors (Amazing!)
  • Indoor cinemas, theatres and, I presume, museums and art galleries open (I’m longing this cultural fix)
  • Hotels and overnight stays allowed
  • Indoor gym classes (So glad to say our Zoom classes will continue)
  • Large capacity events 1000 people (Nope, not for me)
  • Outdoor events from 4000 to 10,000 allowed if seated (I shall avoid)

No earlier than 21 June

All legal limits on social contact to be lifted (Hopefully for ever but fingers crossed for next winter)

Phew, this is the beginning of a better summer to come, although, as you can imagine I shall be very, very careful, in fact, I am the first to admit I’m a bit anxious about this relaxation, and readily admit that throughout the pandemic I’ve been near phobic about meeting up with people. However, what a month March has been as I visited the dentist (two veneers coming up) the opticians (new glasses very soon) and the chiropodist (unfortunately, no new feet but it was so good to have a professional look at them and sort out a couple of issues). And what’s more I’ve travelled to two of these appointments by bus, no less! Hey that’s progress for me, although many of the occupants of the apartment block I live in would think me a right wimp, as they’ve been travelling by bus throughout the pandemic to get to the centre of the city to do their food shopping. Me, I now go to our wonderful deli for good veg and other little luxuries, plus the butchers for the best cuts of meat, but everything else I order on line. Shopping for food and other household requirements is not really my idea of a good day out, however, when the non-essential retail opens I shall be over the moon and jump for joy.

I got a foretaste of that positive joyous vibe when I went to the opticians in Lewes (a town just a short distance away) and had to go to the Post Office, which was situated in the stationers WHSmith.  This is a shop I hardly ever go into, but as I was queuing up I turned my head and looked at the contents of the aisle next to me, and, and, it was pencils of every colour you could imagine – I thought how beautiful they looked. I finished posting my parcel and instead of walking straight out of the store I walked up and down the aisles in raptures, saying to myself, ‘oh my word, crayons, pens, papers of different colours, files, office stationery, magazines, and actual books’. To me, it was a positive Aladdin’s cave of colours and the experience of being in this very ordinary store was as good as any art gallery installation and a cornucopia of pleasure. To be this enthused by a very ordinary shop must mean I’ve been starved of that visual hit that I get when I visit art galleries, but hey May 17th here I come! Meanwhile I shall enjoy the month of April enormously 🙂

What I’ve been watching and reading

I note that I didn’t say anything about my reading last month so here goes. In February I read The Siege by Helen Dunmore and in March I followed that up by reading its sequel The Betrayal. These books are not an easy read as the first book is about the siege of Leningrad and, oh my word, how those Russians suffered during the Second World War and then afterwards through Stalin’s regime. During the siege the citizens of Leningrad were driven to eating shoe leather amongst other ghastly things. Why would I want to read about this?  It is beautifully written and almost a page-turner in its depictions of that grim life and of course, the characters are believable, and you care about the two main protagonists Anna and Andrei, who meet in the first book and are swept up in the challenges and horrors of Stalin’s purges in the second. Actually, I’d agree with the review on the back of one of the books, both novels are powerful, moving and touching.  I continue to think about these books and their contents long after I finished reading them.

For light relief I began the second in the Discovery of Witches trilogy, Shadow of Night. I’m quite conflicted about reading this book as the author, Deborah Harkness has the most amazing ideas and the story is beyond intriguing, but her style of writing irritates me, as it is far too wordy and reads rather like a film script. Despite finding the story interesting and wanting to finish it, sad to say, I’m bored by the wordiness, so I struggle on. Here’s the thing, those Dunmore books, they’re slim volumes, the Harkness books, they’re huge door-stoppers: quantity of words does not equal quality. That’s not much of a recommendation!  But you might like it.

I have also read Hadley Freeman’s memoir of her family, House of Glass, which is the story of a twentieth-century Jewish family in both Europe and the States. Freeman is a Guardian journalist and boy, can she write.  It’s a brilliant read – I highly recommend.

As well as being half way through Shadow of Night, I am also half way through Failures of State. The Inside Story of Britain’s Battle with Coronavirus by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott. This is a mind-boggling read, but wouldn’t suit anyone who rates Boris Johnson!  And I have another memoir waiting for me in the wings, Imperial Intimacies. A Tale of Two Islands by Hazel V. Carby, which looks as though it’s going to be a good read as it touches on the legacy of slavery and colonialism and how that impacts on families.  I’ve read one chapter and it’s beautifully written.

We watched only three films in March, of which one was awful and two excellent. The first good film was White Tiger (Netflix) a film made in India of the book that won the Booker Prize in 2008.  To say that it reminded me a little of Parasite will indicate that it was about the extremes of poverty and wealth and the travails that come with the master-servant relationship. Overall a very enjoyable film to watch.

The other excellent film was the Australian version of Rams (Amazon) which is the story of two feuding sheep farmers and their dog and stars Sam Neil. It’s very good and quite funny and worth watching, but for me is not quite as good as the Icelandic version, which came out a few years ago and was a darker tale with blacker comedy that suits my taste in films.  Also I preferred the scenery and the cold of Iceland as the land and its terrors play a large part in in both films with the Australian version showing us the devastation of fire in the heat of an Australian summer, while the Icelandic version uses the extreme cold of winter as part of its story arc. Both are well worth watching.

Talking about terror, we have watched all episodes of The Terror (BBCiPlayer) and very good it was too. This is the story of two ships, The Erebus and The Terror, going off to find the North West Passage. I won’t say too much about it just in case you don’t know the story of their voyage, but wow, the acting was superb, especially that of Jared Harris, although I’d say it was an ensemble piece with so many good actors too numerous to name. The whole series was an outstanding watch and I hope it wins many awards.

We continue to watch Call My Agent (Netflix) which is utterly delightful and have just started the excellent Deutschland 89 (All4) but do watch the first two series as there is so much backstory that will be missed. Likewise with the current series of Line of Duty (BBC iPlayer) which must be incomprehensible if you haven’t watched the previous 5 series as it is essential to understand the convoluted story of ‘H’ which lies at the heart of this gritty cop series. And I was quite devastated at the end of Unforgotten (ITVHub) but not saying any more as it’s quite a plot spoiler. A great series of decent coppers working on cold cases – well worth watching. And for some very light relief and laughs we continue to watch the wonderful Schitts Creek (Netflix). I adore the Rose family!

Well that’s all for now, I leave you with one photo of our walk by the seafront taken two days ago on quite a hot day for the UK. The beach on the right of the photo looks rammed. I shall avoid that area and look forward to more walks in different and hopefully quieter beauty spots!

With love, Penny, the Frugalfashionshopper





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18 thoughts on “Lockdown diaries – March 2021

  • 1st April 2021 at 8:53 am

    Hi Penny , I loved your post today and so agree with how much we are longing for freedom! Although we should all continue to be very careful. I and husband will continue to wear our masks for a long while yet. We live at the Hove end of Brighton and the beach was crammed there on Tuesday and it’s not even summer yet so I dread to think how busy it’s going to be then! Oh yes ,how I,m longing to get to the charity shops again, do you think they will all open again? What about the good one in Lewes, they have been closed since last March, I was told their elderly staff were all very nervous. Thankyou for your film and book recommendations, we loved The Terror and it was mostly true, did you know? Also a great writer is Kate Atkinson, I,ve just finished “ Big Sky” brilliant detective story with lovely spikes of humour. Best wishes Judy S.

    • 2nd April 2021 at 7:39 am

      The beaches here can get so crowded although there are places where we are that are slightly less crowded – think in the summer we might have to go really early in the day our later in the evening.

      And yes, we’ve decided we’ll wear masks not only through this pandemic but whenever we have close encounters with strangers and/or go on public transport particularly through the winter months. Fortunately we can walk into the city centre and will do that for the foreseeable future, but our dentist is in Hove so it’s a bus for that appointment.

      Longing for charity shops to open – I think they will.

      The Terror was so good, wasn’t it. I think I might read the Michael Palin book on it. I too love books written by Kate Atkinson.

      Best wishes to you, Judy 🙂

  • 1st April 2021 at 11:05 am

    Hello Penny , I too read the Seige an extremely powerful book. I don’t know why I chose it perhaps to make me realise how very lucky we are , even in this lockdown. Like you though I can’t wait for life more similar to how it was . I always enjoy your blogs. Take care

    • 2nd April 2021 at 7:12 am

      Hi Linda, thanks and yes, The Siege was a such a good book. I still think about the two main characters and their dreadful ordeal – how people survived….

      Longing for some normality – onwards and upwards as, fingers crossed, the numbers are reducing.

      Thanks again for your kind words about the blog 🙂

  • 1st April 2021 at 1:08 pm

    Thank you for your chatty blog.
    I too have enjoyed Line of Duty and also Unforgotten.

    My husband has now had his second vaccination and mine should be in another few weeks.

    i feel desperate to see my grand children but my daughter is coming down to rural Hereford(from London) to stay in a rented house for a few days from the 12th and I hope to have a lot of fun with them then. Like you we shall be very cautious and wearing masks for some time yet but I do so miss the company of friends, family and even having proper appointments.

    Thank you again.

    Sandra Lawrence

    • 2nd April 2021 at 7:32 am

      Hi Sandra, both are excellent but I’m thinking that perhaps Unforgotten is the better, and what keeps us going back to Line of Duty is the long-form story arc. We just want to know, and have it all resolved, and will we know this time?!

      Oh for some more normal casual visits without the feeling that there is a risk – but at least we can sit in gardens although we’ll have to wrap up once again as the temperatures drop! Nevertheless enjoy the visit from your daughter – it’ll be lovely 🙂

  • 1st April 2021 at 6:04 pm

    Hi Penny,
    Thank you for all the information.
    I’ve thought about catching the bus but felt really concerned about it!!
    I suppose if it’s just a short journey that maybe ok?
    Wouldn’t it be good if we had the choice of an open top bus!!
    All the best
    Viv x

    • 2nd April 2021 at 7:27 am

      Hi Vivien, with regard to catching a bus it felt quite safe. Everyone wears a mask (and I double mask with a pretty cloth mask over a medical mask) and you cannot sit close to other people (seats are designated to either sit on or not) and all windows are open so I sat by an open window with the wind blowing around my head, you really need to wrap up with a hat and scarf! Yes, that was my first trip since December 2019, but I’ve watched from my window on the 3rd floor all the much older residents getting on the bus throughout the pandemic and they’ve all survived! I think you have to weigh up the risks, I mean everything is a risk now while the virus is around, but as numbers decrease and more and more have the vaccine some risks lessen.

      Have a lovely Easter 🙂

  • 1st April 2021 at 9:39 pm

    Hi Penny
    Here in the US every state has it’s own rules as far as opening, distancing and masking. Also, in many places there is a rise in Covid cases but this is often ignored. I will see my children this holiday but each family on it’s own, not together as I had hoped. I might even go yo church which I have not done in over a year. I am hoping that some of the outdoor venues will open for the season. A local symphony cancelled it’s Spring program last year and never opened in the Fall. I have always enjoyed outdoor concerts in the Summer. Sometimes right in the park a block away, Fingers crossed. My Daughter and son-in law just dropped off a bunch of DVD’s for me, recent films and series. I finally was able to watch the much praised The Queens Gambit, which was excellent. So far I have watched One night in Miami, a film adapted from a play, a fictionalized account of the actual meeting of 4 famous black men in a hotel room. Also, the Borat film. Probably would not have gone to see it, I did not see the original which critics thought was better. I have to say that while not a fan of gross out humor some of the satire was funny and the young actress in the film did a great job. I think I did mention that I just read Caste by Isobel Wilkerson which is a must read, especially for those of us in the US. Our book club also read The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas, often considered a young adult book Very timely even though a couple of years old with the trial of Derek Chavin going on now. Another book I liked has the title Drive you Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Polish author Olga Tokarczak. The title is from a William Blake poem who the protagonist of the book admires. It is different but is well written and has won many awards. A book I might have not picked up but am glad I read. Another recent read was The Survivor by Australian crime writer Jane Harper. She writes books which give you a sense of place and have thoughtful character development. Anyway, enough nerdiness.
    Here’s to Spring and happy holidays!
    Love, Darby

    • 2nd April 2021 at 7:54 am

      I want to watch that One Night in Miami which got good reviews. Re: Borat. His first film was just breathtakingly funny in an excruciating way, and very very original, but I have never watched any of his other films – he rather overdoes it I think, and it’s no longer extraordinarily original as the first film was, although I have watched that clip of that politician going into the bedroom…….. what an idiot!

      It’ll be lovely for you to see your family even though it can’t be together – one day! I’ve taken note of some of your books as I read a lot of UK, Indian, and Russian authors and you might have noted, books about Russia, but I am not at all au fait with American authors, neither I do know much about South American authors. So will take up any recommendations 🙂 I have read some Australian authors and think one was Jane Harper, I really ought to write down all the books I’ve read, as I do with films.

      Yes, here’s to the Spring and new beginnings – take care and stay safe and enjoy the Easter break with your family 🙂

  • 2nd April 2021 at 2:18 pm

    Hope you’re able to meet up with family this Easter weekend, Penny and no it won’t be long before you can get your cultural fixes. I’ve made plans with my cousin to go to some National Trust places already.

    I have about half dozen Helen Dunmore books waiting to be read including the two you reviewed and know I will enjoy them now. I’ve only ever read a very early book of hers; ‘Your Blue Eyed Boy’ which I enjoyed. I have the Hadley Freeman book on my Kindle waiting to be read, too.

    You’re working your way back to freedom, Penny, bit by bit!

    • 3rd April 2021 at 7:10 am

      Yes, Helen Dunmore is an author I’ve only just discovered. I shall read more of her books as she really is a good author. The House of Glass is great – you will enjoy it, I’m sure.

      Ah yes, cultural fixes. While we adapted well throughout the pandemic I am so starved of different visual experiences – we’re nearly there!

      Have a lovely Easter but wrap up well!!!

  • 2nd April 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Hi Penny. Great to read your blog as always.
    I couldn’t agree with you more about Line of duty, Unforgotten and Deutschland 89. I love them all. I absolutely loved the two Helen Dunmore books that you mentioned. I read them some years ago and I still think of them. I have read all her books. I think she is a terrific writer and I was really sad when she died. I have just finished Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. In parts it was a very difficult read because it was such an upsetting thing to read about. I cried a lot. But she creates life in Stratford on Avon in Shakespeare’s time so vividly and imagines Shakespeare’s wife beautifully. I have read all her books, I think she is a brilliant writer.
    Glad you’re enjoying a bit more freedom. Me too. Had my 4 year old grandson and daughter in the garden on Wednesday. It was such a joy.
    Jo x

    • 3rd April 2021 at 7:15 am

      Yes, I’ve only just discovered Helen Dunmore and will read more of her, but was so sad to read of her early death. I know that Maggie O’Farrell’s book is a very well written, but honestly I’m not sure I can read it, but I will try some of her other books. It’s so good to find new authors!

      I am enjoying the thought of getting out and about a bit more – and you’re the first to know, having my 2nd vaccination today!!!! Was texted only yesterday so they must have a batch of Pfizer they want to get rid of!!! Anyway, really pleased.

  • 5th April 2021 at 9:50 am

    Hello Penny, always so pleased when your posts arrive in my unbox! I really hope you continue to write, especially about what you’ve enjoyed reading and watching. We seem to have similar tastes. I’ve read and enjoyed all Helen Dunmore’s novels. The Siege has stayed in my mind since I first read it years ago – jam, wood, leather, starvation, all so powerfully described. I’ve also read and enjoyed all Maggie Farrell’s work, including Hamnet, which I couldn’t read at night, far to emotionally wrenching but a tremendous novel, her best in my view. I recommend All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, if you haven’t already read it, also A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – both books we read in our book group and, unusually, we all loved and rated very highly. I’m looking forward to your next post!

    • 8th April 2021 at 11:47 am

      I’ve read the two books you recommend and they were great, but I’m just not sure I can read Hamnet – maybe when we’re fully out of this pandemic. Everyone says it’s excellent so I will keep that book on a list of must-reads. I’ve just started the last of Helen Dunmore’s novels – so sad she died so young – this is the 3rd book of hers I’ve read and I’ll aim to read all of them. Thanks so much for your comment 🙂

  • 6th April 2021 at 11:25 am

    Hello again Penny
    I can also recommend A Gentleman in Moscow. It’s a big book that takes some getting into but worth it. I’m a fan of Helen Dunmore too. Last year I read a series of books by Caro Fraser about Caper Court, a set of legal chambers in London. The first one is The Pupil. I will always think of them in the context of being in the garden in that lovely weather we had. I’ve also enjoyed Nicci French’s novel about psychoanalyst Freida Klein (!). I find I enjoy reading about a group of characters and watching them develop over time. My next serious book is going to be After………………. by Dr Bruce Greyson which is about near death experiences. I like the look of the book about Covid that you are reading too. Your description of being transfixed by the colours of pencils in WH Smith reminded me of how much I miss the visual onslaught of a department store with the lighting and the mirrors as well as the colours of the goods. I will be going to the shops next week on the bus and also getting my eyes tested. We enjoyed the Terror until it came to the ‘beast’. Where on earth did that come from? I meant to look up the thing to see if it is a part of Inuit culture. Unforgotten was wonderful if sad &of course LOD continues to intrigue. Somehow we missed the earlier series but caught up last year. Brilliant drama. If you would like some light entertainment find Shakespeare & Hathaway on BBC iplayer. Just 45 mins of gently funny PI intrigue with lots of references to the Bard. We’re hoping there will be a third series. I’m supposed to be starting outside in person training this week but I think it may be too cold, although lovely sunshine for which I’m grateful.

    • 8th April 2021 at 11:52 am

      I could accept that ‘beast’ in The Terror as it seemed to just be part of the horrors of that place, I mean I like Norway and the cold, but really going there was just like going to the moon. The outside training sounds good but it must be too cold at the moment! I’m Ok with my classes and 1-2-1s being on Zoom as we ‘slingshot’ it onto our big telly, so it’s like my PA is in the room.

      Thanks for the heads-up on the Caro Fraser books – have taken note 🙂

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