National Treasure

I got my first jab a few weeks back but, being a tad younger than me, Liam had to wait a tad longer for his. He got his first shot in the food court at the Castle Quarter Shopping Centre in Norwich where life-saving injections rather than artery-hardening fried chicken are now on the menu.

Vaccine centres across the realm come in all shapes and sizes but none is more majestic than the soaring Gothic splendour of Westminster Abbey in London. And who better to enter stage right than Norfolk boy Stephen Fry, actor, writer, presenter, everyone’s favourite audiobook narrator and all-round gay good egg. Here he is getting his first jab by Poets’ Corner, final resting place of writers, artists and actors down the ages – Chaucer, Browning, Tennison, Dickens and Olivier, among many others.

It’s a place for national treasures like Stephen Fry.

Valentine Greetings

Local lass, friend, author and blogger, Roving Jay, is a remarkable lady – intrepid, resilient, resourceful, on-the-ball and bright as a button. Little seems to faze her. She just gets on with it. As it turns out, she’s also quite the artist too. Not a piss artist like Liam and me, though she can sink a few with the best. No, a proper artist in pen, pencil and paint. She’s good, very good, as in people-would-pay-good-money good. Our Christmas card this year was a classic and, unlike most cards chucked into the recycling, now hangs proudly on the wall of the office here at Pansies HQ.

Jay recently travelled from the UK to Turkey and was forced to endure the tortuous tedium of quarantine. As she did so with fortitude and good humour, a Valentine’s Day card dropped on our mat.

I guess it’s unusual for a couple of married old fairies to get a romantic Valentine’s card from someone of the opposite sex but then, Roving Jay is unusual in the best possible way.

Read about Jay’s witty and informative Quarantine Chronicles here.

Putting on the Ritz

I know it can be tough on pets and those of a nervous disposition but I do love a pyrotechnic extravaganza, especially at New Year – all that sound and fury signifying nothing but the turning of time. When London was home, I’d jump on the Tube to enjoy the spectacle from the banks of Old Father Thames along with tens of thousands of other revellers. These days I’m content to watch from the comfort of a warm sofa, glass of bubbly in hand.

For obvious reasons, we assumed the fireworks would be off this year. But the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, had other ideas. Without plug or promotion, sneaky Sadiq gave us the old razzle dazzle to cheer us up. The theatres may all be dark right now but London can still put on a show.  

Jack’s Diamond Jubilee

Jack’s Diamond Jubilee

Edinburgh, Scotland’s elegant capital, was on the agenda for my sixtieth birthday. Alas, with the latest lockdown it wasn’t to be. That particular jolly has been postponed until 2021 – a bit like life really. But Liam wasn’t going to let the most important celebration since the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee pass without marking the occasion. Oh no. A veritable festival of delights came a-knocking.

Overture

A concert production of Hair, The Musical in a big tent in the grounds of the University of East Anglia featuring an ensemble of rising West End stars. Great show but no nudity. Just as well really. The COVID-secure tent was open to the elements so any dangly bits would have shrivelled up in the cold anyway. Not a good look.

Act One

Afternoon tea in the garden of Rosy Lee’s, Loddon’s famous bijou café. Or at least that was the plan. Mother Nature had other ideas so our hosts packed the goodies into takeaway boxes and we scoffed the lot at home instead.

Act Two

A trip to the local leisure centre to sign me up for a fitness programme to work off Act One. There wasn’t a bar so I took a rain check on that one and headed into town where there was a bar.

Act Three

The actual day was a deliciously indulgent whirlwind – so many messages, cards, calls, gifts and flowers from family and friends, including a portrait courtesy of our niece. I also received enough wine to sink the Queen Mary. The day continued with posh nosh in Norwich and a mini-tour of our favourite city watering holes. I laughed, I cried, I drank, I took calls. My head spun. I felt rather humbled, not something I experience every day.

The Finale

Lunch at our local to receive the warmest of welcomes on a cold autumnal day. Hearty fare was topped off with cake, candles, a rousing rendition of that song and the scariest face mask ever. I even got a hanging basket of pansies. Now there’s a first.

My double chin’s getting bigger!

I was exhausted with all the excitement but what a gig. Now I’ve come up for air, it’s a huge thank you to all those who made it so memorable. You know who you are. Extra special thanks have to go to Liam. Who knew he could be so devious?

Finally, I got to pick up my first free prescription, making my status as a senior citizen – and grumpy old fart – official.

Don’t Be a Twat, Wear a Face Mask

All masked up, Liam and I jumped on the bus to Norwich to take a gander at In Memoriam by artist Luke Jerram, flapping about in Chapelfield Gardens. The installation premiered in Belgium and is now on tour across Europe. Made up of bed sheets arranged in the form of a red cross, In Memoriam is a tribute to all those health and care workers who risk their own lives caring for the sick during the COVID-19 pandemic. We meandered through the forest of sheets in grateful silence. Lest we forget.

We wear face masks when required – on public transport and elsewhere – not because we want to. No one wants to. We wear them because it helps protect us and those around us. That’s the socially responsible thing to do, the civilised thing to do. We don’t think wearing them is any more of an infringement of our civil liberties than, say, wearing a seat belt or stopping at a red light. So my message to those ignorant refuseniks who think they’re striking a blow for freedom, don’t be a twat, wear a bloody mask.