John Owen Smith’s log for 2020

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28th December 2020

What a funny old year it's been! Even with 2020 vision we couldn't have forecasted it. We've been lucky as it hasn't affected us personally too much, but for others it's been devastating. And then on top of that there was Brexit!!

Our Christmas week unfolded (see pics):– Emma & Sarah managed to meet up at Norman's Bay to exchange gifts; we shared Christmas Day at home with Deb and the Whites and enjoyed playing silly games; some of us took a walk on Ludshott Common and saw what they were doing to 'Cathedral Pines' (basically, removing it!); and yesterday we took a stroll in the sun round the wood outside our back gate (and how lucky we are to have that!).

Emma & Sarah at Normans Bay

Jo in Santa jumper at
Xmas Day silly games

Mel & Deb at the 'muddy river'
on Ludshott Common

Deb & Dil returning home
from Arford Common

21st December 2020

Went down to Devizes to meet the Corsham side of Dil's family and swap Xmas presents in the car park – also had lunch with them in a pub. Then heard that London was to be locked down, and Deb 'escaped' just in time to be with us for Christmas.

14th December 2020

Another week has Zoomed by – Theatre Club committee meeting on Monday; saxophone lesson on Tuesday; Pilates on Wednesday; Theatre Club chat evening on Thursday (though nobody turned up!); Green Room on Friday; a day zoomless on Saturday (when we met Sarah, Rick & Ben for lunch at Loxwood, see Sarah, me & Ben right); but finishing up with organising a Christmas Quiz on Sunday. We're doing things on Zoom that we couldn't have done 'live' – will we carry on doing it when we're free to meet up and mingle again?

7th December 2020

Our back door won't open! The handle doesn't release the catch fully any more, and wise heads are trying to resolve how to fix the problem. In the meantime we're getting used to using the other exits. Luckily we have them – if this were the flat we once had, we'd be stuck inside!

30th November 2020

At the end of this week we're told that the 4-week Covid lock-down will end in tiers – which is relatively good news for us as we'll be in Tier 2 and able to meet others in gardens & pubs outdoors again. I think. It's all got rather confusing after all this time and the chopping and changing of rules!

23rd November 2020

On Thursday I gave a Webinar on 'Self-Publishing' to the Society of Women Writers & Journalists – I think it went down wellyou can watch it on Youtube.

15th November 2020

On the 15th of the month, 10 months a year, I compile the Headley Parish Magazine and send it (electroniclly) to the printers. This year has been no exception, except that, since there's been very little social activity to report, I've been having to gather interesting historical information to fill the pages instead. Today, for example, I filed a page on the history of Arford Common, just over our back fence. Now a largely wooded area, in the 1920s it had been earmarked as a 'Recreation Ground' with plans for football, cricket, tennis and bowls to be played there. It never happened, and today's parishioners would be aghast at the thought of losing their precious woodland for something like that. Times change.

9th November 2020

As we head into another 4 weeks of 'lock-down' it's useful to remember some of the positives that have come out of this year: We've got to know some of our neighbours better through social meetings in the street; we've kept in contact by Zoom with people who we wouldn't normally see each week; I've managed to get some transcribing done of local records, and I've walked every footpath in the Parish; many odd jobs in the house that were waiting for us to get 'a round tuit' have been completed; and … there must be more. Always look on the bright side of life!

2nd November 2020

I was contacted by a local musuem wanting to down-size their stock, and asked if we would like a wooden cog reputedly from our local water mill (see right). I said 'yes please', and a lady delivered it to my door. It's now sitting beside me on my desk waiting for the day we're allowed back into the archive room.
That day seems further away today, as we're told of another month of 'lock-down' starting on Thursday. Just when we'd begun to do Pilates on the floor of the village hall again, it'll be back to Zoom next week.

26th October 2020

Headley Theatre Club organised their first Zoom Quiz last week, with various people setting different rounds. I did one on Local History. We plan to do another soon.

Today we took advantage of some fine weather to pop along to see the autumnal colours at Waggoners Wells, completely forgetting it's half term! We managed to get the last space in the car park. The trees have shown some magnificant colours this year.

19th October 2020

I've finally finished the project to walk and report on all the footpaths and rights of way in the parish – see my webpage on Walks where I've listed my walks books as well as the footpaths. All can be downloaded as PDFs onto mobile devices for those on the move.

12th October 2020

Every Saturday night during the pan-crisis we join in a Quiet Knight Inn on Zoom, and it's getting to a point where we've done all our normal pieces – so this time I decided to do my version of Françoise Hardy singing Tous Les Garçons et les Filles which I'd learnt decades ago in France. And it seemed to go down well! So now I'm looking at other songs of hers. I might even sing with a long wig and en jupe!

5th October 2020

We thought we'd take a short break 'off grid' on the Isle of Wight, so booked a few days at The Shack, which is just down the coast from Gurnard. After bumping about a mile down a farm track, and through a locked gate, we found it (see right) along with an array of other 'shacks', some made out of old railway carriages, overlooking the sea.
Ours had two bedrooms, a lounge, a kitchen and a 'compost' loo – which involved no compost; you just 'went' straight into a plastic bucket under a wooden seat, but at least it was indoors!

28th September 2020

We've been using the time that we should have been in France in doing a bit of tidying up at home – including getting to grips with stuff in the side shed which was there just because we thought we 'might need it one day'. There is now a pile to be taken to the tip this week!

21st September 2020

We should have been on our way to France today for a week's break in La Hague – but there was too much danger of us having to self-isolate coming back, so we didn't go. Fortunately we have a ticket with Briittany Ferries which we can move on to another time, so we're hoping for March next year – fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, the mantra here is "Hands; Face Space", so I thought I'd check it out as a location on 'What 3 Words': the answer is, just offshore from Llandudno – see right. Thought you'd like to know.

14th September 2020

Back from a peaceful week on a canal. We hired a narrowboat (the Emily, see right) at Autherley Junction near Wolverhampton and chugged at walking pace up to Market Drayton and back.
The cares of Covid and Brexit were a world away.
We also met up with Dil's family in Stoke, which was nice and all too rare an event.

Now we're home to face the 'rule of six'! Nobody seems to know precisely what the rule covers and what it doesn't. No doubt we'll find out in time!

31st August 2020

The last (meteorological) day of summer! Yesterday Headley Theatre Club held a 'break-out' picnic in a member's large garden – 17 of us went to it, and it was nice to see some of them who we'd not seen in the flesh for a while. At the same time, we decided to cancel (again!) our proposed trip to Auderville with Dave & Sarah – there's too much chance that we'd be quarantined when we got back. Fortunately the ferry ticket is flexible, so we can use it some time next year when (if!) things get more stable virus-wise.

17th August 2020

Someone in Tiverton wants to have a read of my panto scripts – so panto lives on! at least in the minds of some. They aren't thinking of using them before next winter, but it's an optimistic 'straw in the wind' to post-coronavirus thinking.

10th August 2020

Had a 'drive-through' consultancy at the hospital on Friday – my annual pacemaker check. You pull up by an open window at a cabin in the car park and someone dangles a device on a long cable to hold over your pacemaker while their computer runs its checks. Mine was deemed OK. See you next year – they hope back inside the hospital, but I rather liked the fact that I didn't have to find and pay for a parking space this time!

Another project starts this week – I've received from the County Record Office a digital copy of the first Minute Book of our Parish Council, from 1894 – so now for transcription! I'm raising a possee of assistants who I hope will help me knock it off in no time.

3rd August 2020

We had another 'street party' this week, to celebrate a 70th birthday. All very communal – we're meeting the neighbours far more now than pre-Covid.

I've been walking the footpaths of Headley to update the Parish Council's booklet, as I reported earlier. The other week I did nine, and on Sunday a small party of us 'knocked off' another nine of them. We must be about half way through the list now. But I'm finding that writing them up and putting them on the website afterwards takes longer than walking them!

27th July 2020

Dil had a week off work, so we decided to go 'on holiday' and visit a few local places: so Monday was Butser Hill for a picnic, Tuesday was the Three Horseshoes at Elsted for lunch in the garden (magnificent view of the South Downs, good food and good service), Wednesday was Loxwood to walk up the towpath of the Wey & Arun Canal before lunch in the canal-side garden of the Onslow Arms (slightly disappointing after Elsted) – then by Thursday we were ready for a day ay home! I gave the shrubbery its annual trim and we had an Indian take-away delivered for supper before we logged in to a Murder Mystery by Zoom – and it turned out that Dil was the murderer, using cyanide from cherry pips! On Friday I masked up and went to see the dental hygienist, who as usual told me I should be taking more care of my teeth and booked me in for two more appointments!! Another Zoom folk club session on a wet Saturday evening, and lunch in the local pub garden on Sunday. That was the Week that Was.

20th July 2020

Dil had her hair done and we visited the recyling tip, both for the first time since lock-down. Other than that, the same old same old.

13th July 2020

We went to the local pub for Sunday lunch yesterday to celebrate its re-opening, and it was nice to be there again. We were able to sit in the garden as it was a warm, dry day – not sure how it would have been indoors.

I'm about to update the local Footpaths booklet – which of course means walking the footpaths. I started on my own back doorstep with the ones on Arford Common – and found that they didn't all follow the 'proper' course as shown on OS maps. Let's hope the others are less problematic.

29th June 2020

There were a few really hot days during this last week, and Dil had a couple of unexpected days at work, but other than that life has proceeded much as usual for 'these days'.

22nd June 2020

One unexpected benefit of this lockdown is that we're getting to know all our neighbours better. On Saturday we had a midsummer picnic 'street party' on the grass area opposite, and on Sunday an evening drinks gathering there, maintaining 'social distancing' of course. This week coming promises to be a scorcher, so perhaps more opportunities to meet.
Also, Deb turned up for lunch yesterday in her shiny 'new' car – the first time she'd broken out of London since the start of the viral troubles. It was good to see her.

15th June 2020

The news is that shops are opening again today – but in reality we'll hardly notice the difference here. One Stop across the road has been open all the time, and many other local shops have been providing 'necessities' all the time.

8th June 2020

I shouldn't have mentioned the weather last week – a sunny Spring has morphed into an overcast June. Let's hope that wasn't summer!
Sarah sent us a lovely rendition of Over the Rainbow played on her clarinet, with a magical background.

1st June 2020

Whatever other problems we've got at the moment, we can't complain about ther weather. Another glorious sunny weekend, and a few more hot days in prospect. Of course, I've no doubt they'll soon be talking about water shortages…
And now up to six people are allowed to meet together in a garden. Hooray!

25th May 2020

Dil bought me a surprise present – a plastic 'saxophone' made in China. Looking it up on the web, I see that everyone is saying it's difficult (or impossible) to play, and I agree. But it was a nice thought. Meanwhile, if you want to learn how to play a proper sax, see my daughter Sarah's beginners' sax lesson on Youtube.

18th May 2020

Still alive – not much new to say, except that I played my version of 'Route 66' ('The Ballad of the A339') in the key of E at the Zoom folk club on Saturday reasonably well, which is encouraging. Meanwhile my grandson Ben is playing drums here in a gig of some quality!

The life of lock-down proceeds in its routine. But at least the weather looks like it's warming up this coming week.

11th May 2002

We're Zooming here there and everywhere now! The Saturday night Folk Club goes from strength to strength (see Youtube clip by the Horne family) and the HTC script-reading went well enough for us to try another one this coming week.

We had a very good VE-Day on Friday with most of the street turning out in the sunshine to share cake at a 'social' distance – and we met people living here who we'd never met before, so the 'lock-down' has some benefits! Shades of the 1987 'Hurricane'.

My daughter Sarah is giving her music lessons by Youtube – if you want to learn the flute, see this clip. I'm hoping she might do saxophone lessons, which would benefit me!
Meanwhile, Dil has bought me a Spanish guitar. Can't remember when I last had a guitar to play – decades ago I think. The fingers of my left hand are a bit arthritic and I was afraid I couldn't manage the chord shapes, but the key of E seems OK. Haven't dared tackle C yet.

4th May 2020 – 'Star Wars Day'

We're getting to grips with Zoom now, and have bought a year's subscription for Headley Theatre Club. The first thing we used it for was today's committee meeting – see participants (right). The meeting took considerably less time than usual, yet we got through the whole agenda – such are the swings and roundabouts of electronic communication. Unfortunately one of our number had to sit in Tescos car park to use their wifi because their own wasn't working at home.
Next up; we're going to try using Zoom for some script-reading this coming Wednesday evening.

27th April 2020

The 'virtual Folk Evening' was a great success and we plan another this coming Saturday, perhaps with more people – all thanks to Zoom.
Other than that, life continues. Dil is going through the contents of her shed at the bottom of the garden and finding stuff relating to the history of Headley Theatre Club which we'd forgotten we had – so one of my jobs now is to look at it, scan what seems worth scanning and adding it to the history section of the HTC website.

20th April 2020

Another Monday, and the fifth week of 'lock-down'begins. A group of us are thinking of organising a 'virtual Folk Evening' later in the week – we'll see how it goes.

13th April 2020

Easter in lock-down – and they say it was one of the warmest Easters ever, which didn't really help. And they're still talking of another 3 weeks or so befire we can think of having more freedom.
Mind you, I appreciate that when you read this later it will be in reverse date order – so you'll already know the outcome. Rather like us reading diaries from the War now and knowing how much longer they had to cope with it, whereas of course they didn't.

6th April 2020

The daily routine during 'lock-down' tends to consist of reading, jigsaw puzzle puzzling and TV watching with a bit of exercise thrown in – we have a static bike and try to do half an hour on it each, and I take part in a weekly Pilates session by Zoom (which would normally be in the village hall). Dil does quite a bit of cooking, and she has also been asked to make 'scrubs' (medical clothing) for the local doctors' surgery – these are being made from old duvets! Can the NHS really not provide its own?

Meanwhile Spring has sprung and the weather is clement, which makes it all the more frustrating not being able to have communal gatherings, picnics and the like.

30th March 2020

So here we are after the first week of 'lock-down' due to the Coronavirus. I see that the first two letters in the Sunday Times yesterday are suggesting that the "Lockdown is more deadly than the disease" – and I can't help wondering if that isn't true. During the Asian flu pandemic of 1957, I don't remember any of this sort of panic. I went on holiday in France that summer. Perhaps it wasn't so serious, but perhaps it was because we didn't have internet and social media to hype it up. Who knows? We'll see what the next few weeks bring. I just pity all those poor souls who are now losing businesses, finances and much else beside.

23rd March 2020

Everyone's been busy cancelling (or, more optimistically, postponing) events this week. We have two holidays booked, but it looks doubtful if we'll be able to take either of them. Food supplies seem OK locally at the moment. Dil has discovered some seeds for lettuce, beans and the like which we bought last year but didn't use – maybe we should plant them now. It will have to be in pots, as we have no other place to grow them, unless we start digging up the lawn. Shades of 'Dig for Victory'!

Luckily, before the crisis fully hit, we were able to launch the book on the Farnham Theatres which I'd spent many weeks typesetting. You can buy it on Amazon.

16th March 2020

We took the opportunity last week – while we over-70s were still allowed to get out and about! – to visit some old haunts, including the village of Chalfont St Giles where I grew up. Some things had changed since the 1940s, but I noticed that Warners the butchers is still there; I remember it with sawdust on the floor.
I took the picture of the WW2 soldiers through a shop window – part of a display of old photos. I would have been born about the time the photo was taken.

As it is today … looking NE

… looking SW …

… and as it was during WW2!

9th March 2020

Great fun last week watching the tree opposite our house being taken down by tree surgeons.

As it was …

… then bereft of branches

… and finally,
roundel by roundel,
it was felled
by a fella
with a chainsaw
and a head for heights!

2nd March 2020

All the news is about the Coronavirus spreading round the world and disrupting people's lives one way or another. One potential plus side is that an economic downturn may ease global warming. You win some, you lose some.

24th February 2020

There was I, paintbrush in hand and dripping with white gloss from doing the doors in the kitchen, when the doorbell rang and there was a man from BT wanting to check our broadband. Not really a convenient time, but he insisted it had to be done then and there, so in he came and fiddled around with the phone wires while I carried on painting.
It turns out that the new router doesn't like working with the tangle of old wires leading to the office from the master phone socket – so we moved it to the hall and plugged it directly into a new master socket which the man fitted (free of charge) and all was well as far as he was concerned. Only trouble was that it needed a power point to be fitted in the hall – so my next job, after finishing the painting, was to find an extension lead and enveigle it through an internal wall to plug into an existing socket in the lounge. Luckily I still know how to wire up a plug safely!

17th February 2020

We bit the bullet and decided to redecorate the kitchen. A certain chaos now prevails in the house!
But at least we were largely spared the ravages of the latest storm (Dennis) to hit the country.

10th February 2020

The country was hit by storm 'Ciara' yesterday – and although we were generally sheltered here, a tree came down and blocked our road yesterday afternoon. It also hit a parked car, though fortunately nobody was injured. After much communal activity and the help of a retired tree surgeon, the road was cleared and the wood (acacia) piled up on the grass verge. Added a bit of excitement to an otherwise dull day!

3rd February 2020

So, we're finally out. The UK formally left the EU on Friday 31st January 2020.
I never thought it would happen – but that's because I'd always hoped that common sense would prevail over parochial bigotry. I was wrong. I think it will come to be seen as a very bad decision.
When fish leave the shoal, or birds the flock, they are likely to be picked off by large predators. Why does this country feel strong enough to take on the world while not strong enough to take on and guide Europe? It makes no sense.
So now we leave the management of continental Europe in the hands of ther Germans again. That didn't turn out too well in the 20th Century, did it?

27th January 2020

I've been typesetting books for several people over the past few months: Grayshott, from Then to Now; Marks in the Sand; A Tale of Two Theatres; and Inspector William Donaldson.
The end of January marks the end of this procession of books, so I'll have to find something else to do with my spare time. I'd quite like to write another play, but can't easily think of a suitable subject.
Meanwhile there's various things to do for Headley Theatre Club, as Dil and I are running a 'Green Room' in a month's time and directing the Summer Show in July which will be an homage to WW2 – and we still have to write the 'script'.

20th January 2020

Have pantomimes had their day? We did a brilliant show over the last two weekends (6 performances) but had the lowest turn-out of audience ever. Perhaps they're all watching Netflix now!

13th January 2020

The first weekend of Snow White went well – see pictures.
Now we're into that 'between shows' week when we've still got our minds on the performances to come, but we also have time to think about other things for once.

6th January 2020

Back from a cruise on Friday, we got plunged straight in to panto preparations! This year it's Snow White.

Continued …

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