News and Comments

The TRUNK April 2020


01 May 2020

We wanted to give our members an opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences during the lockdown with each other. Earlier this month, we asked that you let us know what you’re doing with this time – gardening, spending time with your families, finally doing that spot of DIY, or catching up on good books. We requested anything from a captioned photo, to a few lines from a poem you’re reading, to a detailed account of how you have been keeping busy.

The response has been both overwhelming and inspiring. Throughout England and Wales, MA members are still doing their bit for their community, holding together their families, dealing with grief and finding ways to get through this trying period. The activities described – from the gentle joys of a country walk, to the pleasures of video chatting with loved ones, to the more sober musings on the nature of the times in which we find ourselves – are a heartening account of people across the country pulling together as best they can in the face of unnatural isolation.
 
We think it’s important that our members stay connected to us and each other, and sharing your stories, thoughts and experiences is a lovely way to do that. We received over 100 submissions and we could not put them all in one newsletter, but we eventually intend to publish them all, in either the TRUNK or MAGISTRATE magazine. Please read on to share the lockdown experiences of 30 of our members. These submissions were sent in throughout April, so represent our members’ experiences at a range of different times in the last month.

Beekeeping in Oxfordshire

These are times of uncertainty and I expect most of us are staying at home, wherever possible, under the government guidelines which it is certainly the right thing to do. I welcome the opportunity to share my experience during the lockdown.

I am a beekeeper. We rolled out of the winter months into spring and are now gathering momentum and shifting rapidly into summer. A beekeeper is faced with transitioning from what was a fairly quiet time during December, January and February to an acceleration of hands-on nurturing of our apiaries from March onwards. This has all timed very nicely with the lockdown. As we have moved on during this woeful time to virtually no movement at all of people, unless you are a Key Worker, I have been ‘freed’ up to tend to my bees. I have never actually been in this position where I can visit on any day and at any time. Normally it has to fit in with work, the weather and other lifestyle pressures.

The Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (Defra) has issued guidance to beekeepers asking them to be responsible and to ensure that they continue good beekeeping practices, effective stock management and health checks whilst observing the Government’s guidance on COVID-19. (Guidance issued by Defra, 03 April 2020)

As such, not only can I go to my apiary on a huge farm (about two miles away) but I have been encouraged to do so. I can drive up there and immerse myself in nature and focus on a hobby that I love. It clears my head and I am, for a few short hours, removed from TV, the radio and social media. There is no one else around - just birds, insects and acres of farmland that has seen season after season come and go. There are no buildings, no roads and no farm animals either, as it is an arable farm.

My bees are getting extra attention now that I couldn’t normally afford without the lockdown. I am growing my colonies in order to divide them and intentionally have more bees throughout the summer. Each colony will house around 70,000 at their peak this year and if I can get to 14/15 colonies that will be around 1 million bees! I can also monitor disease better and prepare for a strong flow of honey in July.

I am deeply aware of what is happening to the UK at the moment and I take no pleasure from that at all. I cannot escape the reality of the situation as I have been affected by friends and family who have either died or are working on the coalface of this virus at this time. It is just somewhere where I can selfishly escape and find the sanity that we all used to know.

Nick Holt-Kentwell

Oxfordshire MA

Working towards the greater good in Buckinghamshire

As I sit in my living room, my role as a magistrate is not far from my thoughts.  As a teacher with a responsibility which includes safeguarding I am struck by how my day job and my role in family court cross over.  My weeks have been spent talking to the students and parents talking about physical and mental health while they are in lockdown.  Many students are spoken to more than twice a week, as they are identified as vulnerable families. In this time, this is one way to make a difference. At the moment we are that last line of defence before and after social services are involved. 

On the other hand, my role is also to motivate and support all students to continue their education virtually and train teachers to embrace the short term new normal.  Everyone where I work is working together for the greater good of the students we care for remotely. Working together for one goal reminds me that, as magistrates, we all work for the common goal: Justice. It is with that level headed ideal of justice that I work towards delivering grades for my year 13 students without fear or favour of the reaction of the students and parents.

As a senior member of school, I have also been in school supporting students of key workers and vulnerable students who need to be in school. When I last drove in this week, I was reminded that - as magistrates - we are to show no fear in the outcome and again that reminds me that no matter how many precautions we take the outcome could be bad and yet thousands of people just like myself go to school without letting the fear control our actions.

In what spare time I have, my children and I are learning sign language.  This is stretching my brain in different ways.

So, in conclusion, how am I coping? I am a committed teacher and magistrate. I'm proud to be both and, in this time, I bring those skills to adapt and move forwards. Each day in court is the same but very different. Each day in lockdown is the same but very different. As magistrates we adapt and always move towards the future for the greater good. I look forward to seeing you in the future.

Claire Sexsmith

Buckinghamshire

Singing fabulous songs in Cheshire

Although I was disappointed to miss sitting at court, I’ve been busy. I volunteered for a couple of organisations- no response yet. I’ve been gardening and cleaning with my youngest son while my wife is at work (NHS). Although she has been working half her time at home. I’ve got on with some clarinet practice. Grade Four exam cancelled through lockdown, so preparing for Grade Five. 

The most important thing I’ve done is helping two friends to set up a volunteer network in the village and we’ve been delivering leaflets to every household so they have our information. 

Oh, and there’s this. Hope it doesn’t get me banned! PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR TIM’S MUSICAL STYLINGS!

Tim Handley

Cheshire

A doctor’s work is never done, in Manchester

I had my lockdown all sorted with remote piano and singing lessons, gardening, once daily dog walk and sorting out cupboards that I have been putting off for years. Then I got the dreaded e-mail from the General Medical Council telling me they have temporarily restored my licence to practice. So, from next week, I’ll be back at my old job as a Consultant in Communicable Disease Control with Public Health England, working from home. I’m feeling rather apprehensive as I’ve been retired for nearly four years, so I’m spending Easter making sure I’m up to date with all the COVID-19 guidelines. Unfortunately they seem to change almost daily!

Lorraine Lighton

Manchester

Painting in Wiltshire

I do agree that it is so important that members stay connected and we provide support for each other during this difficult time.

I am sure that there are many examples of members using their talents and caring for each other in many ways.

I have spent time in my studio where I create contemporary paintings which are posted on my website www.judithbeeby.com. This is an example of my work.

Judith Beeby

Wiltshire

Teddy Bears in the garden in Northamptonshire

THE DAY THEY INVITED THE DOLLS TO A POOL PARTY (pictured left)

THE DAY THEY DRESSED UP AS STAR WARS CHARACTERS (pictured below) 

I feel very guilty that I am enjoying the current regime. I have been furloughed from work and so have the luxury of time and (for the moment) the security of pay. The company I work for is in financial difficulty, but none of us know if this will continue after we are able to return to work.

In the last couple of weeks I have redecorated the bathroom, cleaned the glass on the conservatory roof, cleaned my car, painted window frames, baked bread and scones and cooked evening meals that my family have shared together because they are not out working or enjoying other activities.

I have made birthday cards and knitted presents for friends who have had birthdays on lockdown. 

I have taken my daily exercise in the form of a jog around a local, quiet country track and as a result my fitness is slowly improving. My husband has also managed to settle into a routine (rather than travelling extensively). He has lost a stone in weight and his blood pressure is very healthy.

I have put Teddy Bears in our front garden so that local children can spot them on their walks. I’ve tried to make the daily teddy themes fun and I post a picture on Facebook. I’ve never used social media before but I now have daily messages from many people around the village - most of whom I never knew before.

I have picked up my daily lessons learning Italian, which had fallen by the wayside for months.

The lockdown has given me all these opportunities.

I still have occasional work meetings, just so they can keep us informed. And - being a deputy for my bench - I have regular meetings to discuss the changing circumstances in court.

Thank you for asking for our feelings and experiences. I go back to my original point - I am thoroughly enjoying myself whilst feeling terribly sorry for people who have suffered from the virus or the economic difficulties that it has brought.

I sincerely hope that, once we return to normal, everyone will hang on to the good things that lockdown has shown us.

Rosie Moffat

Deputy Chair, Northamptonshire Bench

Busy in Essex

I don’t think I’ve ever been busier than I’ve found myself during the lockdown. 

With two children of school age still at home, I’ve found myself employed as head teacher, caretaker, referee and school cook. Between lessons and the absolute necessity to ‘Google’ the answers to much of their work, I’ve started on the long list of jobs that I’ve been meaning to do for years. 

In the last week alone I have: jet washed the patio, painted the fences on three sides of my garden, fitted over 50 metres of conduit and run more than 80 metres of cabling within it in order to supply electricity to the garden shed, two new garden wall lights and six garden spike lights. I’ve also fitted two sets of outdoor power sockets and two wall mounted external speakers. I’ve rebuilt, painted and filled a garden vegetable trug, (a raised planting bed, specifically designed for growing vegetables), which the girls will now plant a variety of seeds for veggies in, that they’ll probably never eat. 

My role as manservant to our three dogs has continued unabated during the lockdown too. They’ve still demanded food and daily walks, but they’ve trained me well, so this is not too arduous a task. 

Apparently, having made such a good job of tidying the garden up, I can now start on the inside of the house and a list of jobs for me is currently being drawn up by the management. 

Between all of this I’ve found a little time to study for my diploma and do a little bit of work for my business. 

I do hope that they develop a vaccine soon, I really need a rest. 😁

Andy Williams

Essex MA

Helping hospices in Hertfordshire

I feel rather as I did some 70 years ago when, returning to school after the Summer Holidays, I was asked to write an essay entitled ‘What I did on my holidays’. Still here goes.

For around a quarter of a century, with chums now over 40 in number, I have organised a one-day Plant Sale to benefit our local hospice. Last year to the tune of £12,000. Sadly, this year with the advent of the Covid – 19 epidemic we have been engaged in un-ravelling the plans we had for the 2020 event. A much less enjoyable task! Still we have learnt a number of new skills – launching a JustGiving appeal principal amongst them. Indeed if any of your readers would wish to contribute please visit our Just Giving page at: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/markyateplantsale

With apologies to Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator, “We’ll be back!” Hospices are too valuable to lose!

Ian Bradley

Hertfordshire

Self-isolation and stories for the grandkids in Leicestershire & Rutland

I am usually a very busy person with Family Court, sitting on the Board of a Prison (IMB), Director of an Academy and working as a Mental Health Act Manager for five areas.   

Because my wife is very vulnerable to the virus we have been self-isolating.  It is amazing how busy you can be, having time to do all the jobs you have managed to put off ‘until tomorrow’.  I have painted all the garden fences, and been working in the garden.  We also have the cleanest cars in the Close, having been washing and polishing them weekly - even though they don’t go anywhere.   On cooler days we are in the house sorting out the rooms one by one - amazing what you find!  We are also able to talk to our daughter via Skype (she is in Canada) and currently working from home designing computer games.

In my spare time I have been writing stories for my grandchildren (our son lives in the village) and chatting to them on Skype. I have also been helping out a lecturer at Leicester University via email - which is fun.  I have yet to venture into the main loft or the garage loft but doubtless with more weeks of self-isolating to go, I will get into them - goodness knows what we will find.   

As we move forward I have been asked to undertake mental health reviews online, we have had prison board meetings using teleconferencing and meetings at school via Zoom. So life goes on, even though I can't physically be there.  So, thankfully we are coping and managing to get food delivered - good old Sainsbury's! What do I miss? Well, colleagues and face to face working.  What don’t I miss? Driving into Nottingham to undertake mental health reviews and getting stuck in long traffic jams as they continue to repair Clifton Bridge. 

John Berry OBE

Leicestershire & Rutland

Becoming the High Sheriff of Shropshire

I took office as The High Sheriff of Shropshire on 6 April, just as we started lock down.

My declaration was due to take place at the Shrewsbury Justice Centre before many invited guests and dignitaries, including The Rt Honourable Lord Justice McFarlane.  Unfortunately, due to the movement restrictions, this could not take place. Making a break from 1100 years of tradition, special permission was given for my declaration to take place via video call.  By the power of WhatsApp, I made my declaration at home, witnessed by my Undersheriff (Madeleine Butcher), my chaplain (The Rev Matthew Stafford), Christine Holmes JP, my husband (Mark) and my dog (Rupert).  This may be viewed by clicking here.

I did have a diary full of events and meetings, but obviously everything has been cancelled. As such, I have been making contact with relevant organisations and people across the county by email and video call.  I have also been doing a lot on social media to engage and support however and wherever I can.

We all await a return to some semblance of normality but then to address the issues that will undoubtedly emanate in the aftermath of Covid-19.

Amanda Harris

Shropshire

Not quite a cruise in North Kent

My wife and I should have been on a cruise to celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary, but guess what? We're not! So, I have followed the original itinerary with a fictional, virtual cruise blog to share with friends. Especially those in my local U3A.

On the day of our anniversary we celebrated via Zoom with pre-dinner drinks with seven friends. Dressed in posh frock and DJ (that is not a ‘district judge’ outfit).

Yes, the fence painting, gardening, and interior painting have been tackled, albeit a year or two (ahem) in areas.

After three weeks, we have settled in to a new routine which includes a 20 minute fitness workout (for seniors) produced by a coach on YouTube. It has had to replace the several rounds of golf we normally enjoy.

I think the message has to be keep moving, keep doing, keep (virtually) socialising. Try to find fun in things no matter how bad the situation.

Paul Flint

Kent

Pitting wits with against a wily canine in Kent

Lockdown Kiwi style

My husband and I left the UK on 24 February for three weeks to visit our son and enjoy a holiday in New Zealand. We are still here eight weeks later, having had 2 return flights cancelled.

We have just started Week Four of total lockdown. We are fortunate here in Auckland to be able to take walks in beautiful places in warm sunshine, along the bay and in large parks, where we have seen kingfishers, herons and even parakeets. On our way to the supermarket we pass gardens with trees laden with oranges and lemons. The people here have been friendly and extremely courteous in social distancing. At the supermarkets there are always gloves and bottles of hand sanitiser and queues are well disciplined with two-metre distances marked on the ground. We have even had our temperature taken at the chemist shop.

We are extremely fortunate to be safe with our son, but we miss and worry about the family back home. Thanks to modern technology we were able to see them all (onscreen) on Easter Saturday as our eldest grandson organised a family quiz on Zoom.

Cases of Covid-19 have been very low here and the lockdown measures seem to be proving successful. I hope the UK will soon see improvements from lockdown.

Best wishes (Kia Ora)

Pat Sherwin

Cumbria South

Family bonding in Manchester

As a family I think we are definitely enjoying the slower pace of life. Everyone seems to have found their groove with work and school fairly seamlessly. The only time life feels strange is when we go to the supermarket. 

Family time seems to have become re-energised without the constant running around between the boys‘ schools and extracurricular activities. The evenings have taken on a more leisurely pace, with board games and jigsaws that only used to come out at Eid and Christmas holidays. 

As the conversation more often than not turns to coronavirus, my 14 year old pointed out that what had surprised him the most was that adults thought we would never face a global pandemic on this scale. Maybe the younger generation can teach us a thing or two. 

I’m currently reading A Bit of a Stretch - The Diaries of a Prisoner by Chris Atkins. I highly recommend it to all magistrates. 

Shazia Latif Book

Manchester

Giving thanks in South East London

My experience during the Coronavirus lockdown is very difficult because of my father’s passing one week before the US ban on flights from the UK. My father died and left 13 siblings and only my sister who lives in the UK will be able to attend. I have gone from being from being stressed to being tranquil. Giving thanks I am still here.

Jacqueline Carty

South East London

Restoring antique railway goods’ cabins in Powys and Herefordshire

I was the Group Secretary for National Farmers Union in Hereford for nearly 35 years. I consequently visited hundreds of farms and a good number sported some form of railway carriage or wagon.

Inevitably, following the railway closures of the 1960s and earlier, there was a regular scattering of railway goods wagons available, as well as other equally useful stuff which my farmer clients would acquire at nominal cost at dispersal sales held locally and put them to good use.

Railway goods’ wagons were particularly popular. They tended to be well constructed and, despite decades of neglect, were used as lambing sheds, storage for whatever, cattle shelters, and so on. However the years do take their toll, and some are now past viable repair.   The following example probably represents such a case.  I came across this wagon surrounded by nettles and thistles.  My farmer friend was due to retire and leave the farm which was a County Council holding .The wagon was there when he arrived at the farm years before and latterly was used as a duck house and a lambing shed.

It didn’t smell very good in there, as you might imagine!

However, my enthusiasm got in front of realism and below are a selection of pictures as it looked before and after, so to speak.  I will admit that there came a point about a year ago when -after many days work - I did feel that perhaps this torment might be better used as a firewood source. It was a near thing.

I am satisfied with the result. The carpentry doesn’t t stand up to close scrutiny, as I have no previous experience, but I have rescued it for at least the next few years.   What particularly interested me about this wagon was its age, as it dates back to c.1890.  It was constructed on an oak chassis with oak cross members to give rigidity. Some poor soul then had to drill by hand two holes from front to back, through which an 18-foot iron rod was slid to keep it square when pulling other wagons. Just amazing.... 

Chris Hillyard

Powys and Herefordshire

Still sitting in Cambridgeshire

I recently lost my partner and had been coping by keeping busy with friends. This has had to change, and I am now keeping busy on the allotment and garden and working (slowly) through an indoor list. I am walking or cycling every day. I phone at least one friend who lives alone every day. Our reading group meets virtually. I work for a professional regulator chairing Fitness to Practice panels and these converted to virtual panels almost immediately and very effectively with up to nine people participating.

I have sat in court on several days and am shocked by the contrast in the positive messages from on high compared to the reality in the magistrates’ court. The defendants are mostly appearing remotely, but virtually everyone else is in court and cannot keep their social distance because of the fixed microphones. Why has so little progress been made with virtual courts in these days of technology? I get that Crown Courts took priority but we are now a month in and we could be getting so much done if virtual hearings were introduced.

Joan Tiplady,

Cambridgeshire

BBC World Service

We are staying at home as my husband is older than me - gardening, cleaning and video calling like a lot of other people.

The thing I have discovered and want to share is the BBC World Service. There are a lot of interesting programmes and some of them are kept available as podcasts for years.

Margaret Lonn

Buckinghamshire

A wealth of amusements in Cheshire, at 83

Luckily I began to prepare for retirement when I was 21, with the result that I am never short of something to keep me amused, or busy. I collected books I wanted to read but did not have the time to do so, dress fabrics that took my eye, embroidery items and plenty of paper to write that story I have wanted to get to but again never have. As such, I am quite enjoying the time to be able to have a good sort out to see just what I do have to keep me busy.

A couple of years ago I learned to spin, very therapeutic, as are my knitting and crochet. I have longed wished that I had more time to give to it.

This is all serving me in good stead now. I am never bored, just wishing there was more time to enjoy all the things I have tried to prepare for.  At 83, it is debatable, but these things can always be passed on to somebody else.

Some friends thought me mad to look so far ahead but I am glad that I did.

I managed to sort out the greenhouse yesterday, my refuse collector is not going to be very happy when he sees all the extra bags he has to take to his truck.

I am very fortunate that I am blessed with a very good family, friends, and neighbours who keep me well supplied with food. It is company that I am short of, but all being well it will not be too long before I will be able to get that back into my life again.

I am not looking forward to my next telephone bill!

Claire Crosbie

Cheshire

LOCKDOWN - DAY 20

Just how do you get your head around the report that 866 fellow human beings in this country succumbed to the Coronavirus outbreak in just a 24 hour period? Good Friday - I think not!

Personally whilst the figures are staggering I take minimal comfort in the fact that whilst there are tough measures in place I, for one, feel blessed and grateful but relatively comfortable in following government advice meticulously. I’m not one for complacency and I have usually followed expert advice whenever and wherever it has been proffered.

Very strange times and today has been no exception - up at the usual time of 6.45a.m. Breakfast and making plans for the day - need to take some exercise but thankfully no shopping today. Queuing yesterday for 35 minutes to get into our local supermarket for our shopping and also essential items for a very good friend - an 82 year old lady who was widowed just two years ago - no dependents but now socially isolated! Living in the picturesque Vale of Belvoir, my wife and I count ourselves fortunate. We can still walk through our village and out into the open air, keep social distancing and still maintain our mental health and well-being. Thank goodness for the garden and all the associated jobs. Make no mistake we count ourselves very fortunate and are in no-way blasé especially the indiscriminate nature of this wretched virus.

Although not unexpected, my court sitting this week was cancelled due to Covid -19!! Never mind there’s always my Blood Donor session to attend the day after - you guessed, cancelled just 3 hours before my scheduled appointment due to Covid -19. But there’s always the station garden project though - mmm that’s also been curtailed - what else but Covid -19!!

I’m sure there are many others who no doubt feel as though we are making little or no tangible contribution to defeating this dreadful virus other than following daily advice ‘Stay at Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives’. I’m pleased to have been accepted as an NHS Volunteer Responder and am ready and able to support wherever the need might be. Armed with my “Responder Good Samaritan” App on my mobile phone I have been reporting ‘for duty’ each day. I have accrued 63 volunteer hours but have yet to be contacted to be able to help. I know that this will change as things are bound to get worse before they get better.

Have you noticed how attitudes have changed - people seem more tolerant of others, they ask how you are, are you managing? Traffic noise has reduced significantly. My ‘Plane Finder’ App has never been so devoid of aircraft movement! Bird song, bleating of sheep and the plaintiff cries of new lambs - probably always there but never a minute to stop and listen. A realisation now that some of our neighbours have always been alone - how did they manage in the past when they are now so reliant on others during these dark days?

We accept our world is in crisis - many countries are struggling to cope. The sacrifices of so many are now being recognised - we are grateful to our fellow human beings for helping in whatever capacity. This spirit shines through the darkest of times. A good friend and fellow Magistrate here in Leicestershire and Rutland - a GP now moved into Intensive Care and a potential move to NHS Nightingale. One of our Legal Advisors whose son is also a newly qualified doctor working in a hospital in the North east. We, like them, quite rightly worry for for all those involved in the continuing fight. We send them our love and immense gratitude for their sacrifices to date and we wish them well in their continuing selfless contributions. We can also reflect on our own families, friends and those nearest and dearest to us - a time perhaps to stop and realise just how lucky we are to have them and a reminder to us to let them know - not just now but in the future.

To my fellow Magistrates - and all members of the human race - I wish you well. When we eventually come out of this the other side, may we all have a greater tolerance and kindness towards others. Finally, some profound words, attributed to Etienne de Grellet, a Quaker missionary, on which you might wish to ponder: ‘I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.’

Philip Salathiel

Leicestershire & Rutland

Cambridgeshire

Lucky in South London

I thought I would write, as I think my experience might be very common but not often told.

Because there is no drama here.

I live alone, so house is not suddenly full of people who would normally be at work/school. Except me, of course, I am working from home. But as my job is office-based this was always possible, it's just that I do it full time at the moment. I'm in touch all the time with colleagues, and the tech we have means we can video call as well as e-mail, instant message and of course phone whenever we need or want to.

So, I am as busy as I would normally be, except I'm saving 2 hours a day because I'm not commuting - and that's a real plus. I am also not being rota'd to sit in court at the moment because I don't have a car, and the fantastic job the staff at HMCTS have done of reducing sittings to a minimum means they are coping without me.

The only significant negative change is that I have a cleaner, but she can't come at the moment so I'm having to clean my own house - boo hoo, poor me. I have obviously continued to pay her (it's not her fault) and she'll be back as soon as we're allowed, so hopefully this is only short term anyway.

I do miss being able to go to the pub with friends, but we are doing this via Skype, and so far the novelty is fun - as well as the nattering and the wine.

I had already started reading The Mirror and The Light and I have not finished yet (I'm a slow reader and it's a big book) so that continues, and I have dusted off my old keyboard and am trying to re-teach myself piano, which is a bit painful (I'm a slow learner too) but I think I'm getting a tiny bit better each day.

I will of course be glad and grateful when the pandemic has run its course and people can stop feeling afraid, but I am one of the many million lucky ones, and I think it's worth acknowledging that.

Helen Smart

South London

Veterinary practice and teenagers in Dorset

My thoughts are with all Magistrates, and everyone who's at home, at work, or caring for others through these difficult and surreal times.

I'm a JP and veterinary surgeon, still working - mostly consulting from home but on the ‘frontline’  for 1-2 long days a week at the charity veterinary hospital where I'm the vet team leader.

As vets we've had to rapidly re-evaluate everything we do in this world where public health dramatically comes first - this means new ways of considering human versus animal health and welfare in a different light to everything that we've ever been taught or that has gone before. It's led to some really interesting discussions between our WFH vets -similar to retiring room discussions (but via WhatsApp) around how to approach cases, but also what constitutes an emergency in this strange new world.

We're exchanging >200 messages a day between 2- 3 of us, while we phone our lists of clients; use of social media is opening these up as slightly more down-to-earth, honest (sometimes harrowing) discussions too, which is enlightening. It'll be interesting to find out if this massively enforced pragmatism becomes a long term effect of the strange times we're living through.

In the pet hospital our barrier nursing training has now come into its own, but with us needing to protect ourselves and our clients over and above the pets that we treat.

We hugely appreciate that whatever we do in the veterinary field, our work and associated risks pale in comparison with those faced by our medical colleagues in the NHS, and we respect them all the more. We're minimizing anaesthetic and oxygen use in-case the NHS needs to requisition our supplies.

Meanwhile, at home, my husband is a teacher working on lesson plans and teaching from home and we have teenage boys lurking too. One of our teens is incredibly hard to motivate, having had his GCSEs abruptly cancelled without homework set, just as he was getting into his revision. But we're trying to get him going on some MOOCs (massive open online courses) even though he mostly gets up at noon.

We're shopping for elderly neighbours, and trying to get to the supermarket early to reduce the queuing time before a slow trek round the aisles in single file.

On my rare days off I've taken up Zen gardening (pictured), growing mostly fennel so far, but more veg to follow with help from glorious spring sunshine and large water butts while we wait for some rain. Gardening has given me some ‘head space’ and lots of time to listen to podcasts, and ponder on what sort of world we're all going to creep out of this strange period of suspended animation into.

I sincerely hope to see the same reassuringly familiar faces (outside of the dock!) when we eventually venture back into the courts again as our benches of three.

Wishing the very best of health to all, now and ongoing. Stay safe!

Becca Thring

Dorset

Support from the village

My wife and I are well qualified to be in the vulnerable camp, both of us being in our eighties! We have lived in a Northumberland village called Wylam for 43 years. We have been managing very well with the benefit of kindly neighbours who collect groceries for us and do other simple but important things such as posting letters and delivering our daily newspaper. Our village shops are particularly helpful in relation to deliveries.

Gardening, reading and keeping in touch with the family by telephone and online have been important. I take my exercise by walking the dog along the old nearby wagon way whilst keeping my distance from the very few people I meet. Nothing very exciting, frankly, but we are coping well. I have a number of DIY jobs staring me in the face but I am in danger of thinking that I have plenty of time to do things and putting off tasks until tomorrow. There is only so long that I can continue to do that!

I regularly telephone other elderly villagers for a chat.

On Easter Sunday I joined the morning service on line although of course it was just the Vicar leading the service, from a tent in the vicarage garden!

Kenneth John

Northumbria

Playing the pianoforte in Cambridgeshire

I have just finished my magistrates’ training, and was due to start sitting in April.  I’m frustrated at being unable to start sitting at the moment, although I have at least had more time for piano practice!  I’m the Executive Assistant to the Master of one of the Cambridge colleges, and have been working from home for the past few weeks.

I have recently been reunited with my piano (a Bösendorfer from 1927) after 2 years apart, while it was given a full restoration by my husband, Iain, and his colleagues at Cambridge Pianoforte, including French polishing of the casework and replacement of the strings and felts which are nicely on show in this video.  The approach was to restore the piano sympathetically to its former glory.  It was originally owned by a local violin maker and it came to her from her sister, who won it as first prize in a piano competition in 1927.  Iain and I bought it using all our savings when we were first married in the 1990s, when the only other furniture we owned was a bed, an inflatable sofa and a dining table (which Iain had made). 

Heather Kilpatrick

Cambridgeshire

Lockdown Gardening

About two years ago I moved into a new house and designed the back garden to have a border.  I have spent the whole of Easter weeding and spreading woodchip.  There isn’t much colour at the moment, but I’ll send another photo in July when hopefully it should be full of colour!

Jonathan McCulloch

Cornwall

Conquering Europe in Coventry & Warwickshire

It's only at times like this when you realise how lonely it can be living alone.

My partner is stranded 42 miles away with her children, so I haven't seen her for 3 weeks and have no idea when I will see her again. Nor have I seen my own children; nor my elderly mother who lives alone in Belfast, and with travel restrictions and the demise of FlyBe I am unable to visit her.

Thank goodness for FaceTime, as it at least allows the best substitute means of regular communication. And books, DVDs, and an old computer game (Medieval Total War) which I have resurrected, and which is allowing me to conquer Europe, albeit not as swiftly as coronavirus!

Kyle Brown

Coventry & Warwickshire

Making an Easter garden in Cheshire

Elaine Hulton

Cheshire

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Joy from West Glamorgan

Elizabeth Davis

West Glamorgan

 

 

 

Lockdown with teenagers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry in Northumbria by Pat Usher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Branch News

South & South East London MA: AGM

South & South East London MA held its AGM at Bromley Magistrates Court, 1 London Road, Bromley, Kent, BR1 1RA on 22 February The branch welcomed Rachel Smith from the Human Trafficking Foundation to talk to members about Modern Slavery, a subject that increasingly comes up in court.

Rachel began by explaining the difference between ‘people smuggling’ and ‘human trafficking’ before discussing the different forms of control and of exploitation, including forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced criminal activity and the impact this has on individuals and our society.

A list of 25 potential key indicators that someone is a victim gave much to think about, before Rachel finished her presentation by touching on the Modern Day Slavery Act, Prevention and Risk Orders, and the National Referral Mechanism.

Feedback from attendees was excellent with many agreeing that they were unaware of the depth, breadth and sophistication of this criminal activity.

If you have any queries, please click here to contact Sarah Mclaughlin

An update from Coventry and Warwickshire MA

We have recently issued a newsletter to all members outlining changes to events, training, AGM and MIC as a result of coronavirus.  Our Branch Executive has made an offer to all members of practical support such as shopping for those that are isolated.  We understand older members may be a little more vulnerable and isolated and in need of some extra support so we have made personal phone calls to all MA Members who have retired from the bench to check on their wellbeing and offer practical assistance like shopping or collecting medicines.  All members have been grateful for contact and a small number have had shopping delivered or practical support – generating a donation to the MA!

Sadly we have had to postpone our Centenary Celebration for the MA and 100 years of women Magistrates in June, having already sold around half of the tickets and attracting national speakers like the Senior Presiding Judge and MA Deputy Chair. We plan to run the event later in the year.

Whilst our MIC work is on hold due to coronavirus, we have been awarded £1,000 from the Local Education Authority in recognition of our work in primary schools where we deliver over a 100 crime and consequences workshops to year 6 pupils.  We also launched our 100 Years of Women Magistrates on International Women’s Day at Coventry University. Due to coronavirus the presentation was streamed via Instagram to local students a first for our MIC team!

If you have any queries, please click here to contact John Taylor.

Wessex MA:  AGM goes ahead as online meeting

Wessex MA has decided that whilst its 2020 Training Day on the 25 April has been cancelled, the AGM will still go ahead on that day, but at a revised time of 11am.

The branch plans to run the AGM as an online meeting. Details of how to join this online meeting will be sent to all branch members.

If you have any queries, please click here to contact David James

500 Club - April WINNERS
1st Prize – Gail Goodman (Lancashire County)
2nd Prize – Mark Waller (Lincolnshire)
3rd Prize – Jeremy Tunnard (Lancashire Country)

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