April always seems such an ‘in-between’ month, suspended between winter and Spring, havering, unsure whether to let go of winter and commit to Spring! And this year it has seemed just as indecisive as ever!
The month began with some dramatic displays of winter weather. Whiteout conditions, blizzards and sub-zero nights were common – too common!
It looked as though another Spring would be blighted, as the early Japanese plum blossom struggles with the snow. Last year much of the garden suffered with blackened buds.
The plants that had overwintered indoors thrived, sheltered from the cold – and our Xmas Cactus gave us a lovely colourful display – at Easter!
And as April drew to a close the Victoria plum was full of blossom. We kept our fingers crossed that no sudden blast of frost would kill the blossom before the fruit buds were established. Maybe a good crop this year?
With the weather still cold, and the arctic winds strong, I spent most time indoors.
Here I was shooting macro, and having fun with what the macro lens can show. This is a small 1 inch slice of a computer motherboard!
I love to shoot glass, all sizes and shapes – it is always a delight and a surprise too. Here a burst of evening sun caught two crystal glass balls ….
…. and here shooting a glass cube on a glass side table, against the reeded glass of the front door. Shooting on glass or through glass there are always interesting effects to find!
And finally the collage of all my uploads to Flickr this month. My uploads reflect only a small selection of what I have been shooting, out and about as well as indoors in my little studios.
April is the cruellest month! How right T S Eliot was! Winter continues unabated – sub zero nights and cold days have dominated April 2021. The plum blossom is almost completely killed on the Japanese flowering plum tree by the gate. Usually the tree turns into a pink delight in April, but this year there are just a few random pink dabs among the bare branches! The new green buds on the hydrangeas and azaleas are blackened and blighted too. It is indeed cruel! There is more hail than snow, and the high winds sweeping down from the Arctic are driving the hail off the large field behind the house, and into our garden, building up against the house, and into our faces when we open the back door!
By the middle of the month the snow has been replaced by overnight frosts and bright sunny days. Better than the constant snow and hail, but the weather pattern is still so very cold, even at midday. The blue skies are very welcome, and the sun is hot through the window glass – but it is deceptive! And there is now no rainfall at all – so the land that has been soaked all autumn and frozen solid all winter is now too dry for the Spring planting to germinate properly.
On the personal front we have managed to continue to do some of our own grocery shopping. The lockdown together with the vaccine roll-out has seen a welcome and reassuring fall in infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths. There is now a Covid Dashboard provided by PH Scotland that shows cases by Local Government areas, and within each area too. So we can check to see how safe the places we wish to visit are. It is a strange world when the freedom to enter a shop and choose my own fruit and vegetables is a real treat! What used to be a regular chore has become a mark of returning normality, and real delight to look forward to!
April 14th – and another milestone. We both get our second vaccination jag! That is only 8 weeks since the first, and we were expecting to wait another month. So now we only need to wait another 3 weeks to ensure the antibodies have built up fully. Early May will be so good! No ill effects from the 2nd AZ shot – a mild ‘flu’ feeling for a day, but not even a sore arm!
April 26th – and there is a lot of easing of restrictions, both for travel, meeting others, and for opening up of shops, cafes and pubs. The emphasis is on outdoor meetings and venues as these first tentative steps test how effective the lock-down and vaccine roll-out have been.
But most of these changes are not affecting us two, as cold winter weather continues to make indoors most appealing! So I have been enjoying shooting anything and everything that I can find lying around in my studio! Catching the fleeting moments of sunshine, and celebrating the feeling that the year of constant stress might be loosening its grip…
I call this slightly frivolous excursion into random still-life shots my Flickr Odds and Sods album, and am happily adding to it as often as I can!
And before April ended we managed another trip to Fyvie Castle and grounds, to see if the new green of Spring had finally managed to emerge. This time I took a Sony NEX-7 with the magical Zeiss Makro E 50mm F2.8 lens. Usually used for close macro photography, I have discovered it is a wonderful landscape lens too!
To round off April with the photography I’ve posted on Flickr, here is the collage of my online month.
April ends the way it began, with driving hail and freezing temperatures.
And so April began – month 2 of our COVID-19 experience.
March 23rd had seen Boris Johnson placed the UK on a police-enforced lockdown with strict measures to contain the spread of the virus. The lockdown meant that we were under strict instructions to go out only when necessary – for food, medicine, or exercise. It also meant that no one was able to see friends or family – and shops, restaurants, bars and offices across the country were closed until further notice. When the lockdown was first announced, the initial time it was ordered for was three weeks. We had no idea what lay ahead, though reports from Italy had been coming through since late January, when the WHO declared the coronavirus a ‘pandemic’, meaning it had reached all around the globe. Italy was the place we looked to (mainly online, as the UK media were not focused on Europe much). And the news from northern Italy was both horrifying and scary. The spread of the virus, and its lethal potential became very clear. Could we in the UK heed the warnings and take early action to avoid a disaster here? Those were the questions we were asking as April began.
Personally we began to look online for advice and information as nothing was forthcoming from the Westminster government.
A new ritual of washing incoming deliveries in dilute bleach. Ensuring enough fuel for the central heating boiler as well as cars. Trying to locate hand sanitisers and face masks (not easy at all) Finding out which ways of protecting oursleves were most effective (an ever-evolving journey of discovery!) Thinking in terms of living without help in either house or garden – and starting taking on that work load (not very successfully!) Thnking in terms of much more home cooking, and keeping the freezer stocked with home-made meals. Contemplating possible rationing, as everyday items became ‘unavailable’ due to panic buying.
Not what a normal Spring might offer as we emerged from a long, cold winter! And we were finding life becoming ever more complicated, with ordinary tasks taking twice as long as ‘normal’. A lot of time was spent online trying to find out as much as possible, to help us in our highly vulnerable situation. Together with the underlying stress of the presence of the virus, it meant we were sleeping badly, and waking feeling tired. To me this felt very close to a return/relapse of my underlying ME/PVS and this added to my stress levels! The advice on offer in the UK was pretty basic:
It was basically suggesting we treat coronavirus rather like ‘flu.
Basic hygeine and avoiding close contact. Looking at our position as we moved from March into April we should have been well placed to prevent the descent into virus chaos that ensued!
What developed over April was stark and alarming, and moved us up to the top of the deaths table! Here in rural Aberdeenshire we had no idea how fast and far the virus was spreading. We had experienced an early incident in our local town of Turriff, but just how ‘at risk’ were we? We had no idea, so had to assume that we were at great risk … hope for the best but plan for the worst!
Monday April 6th We got official notice that we were in the ‘Shielding’ group. We felt relieved that there were contact points both online and by phone to give us support.
Wednesday April 8th We felt well enough to go for a stroll in the grounds of Fyvie Castle (within the 5 mile radius for travel). But on arrival we found that the entire site, including all the grounds were closed, gates locked, and access denied. We felt so deflated, as it was/is a life-line for us as it offers open spaces that are uncrowded, and grass to walk on. Both are important, as walking on roads or pavements are too painful for Mike’s back injuries. We tried to find somewhere else to walk – but the ground was very uneven, and without any paths ….
We did find it was beautiful in the wild strips of trees that lay between the cultivated fields, but no substitute for the grounds on Fyvie Castle!
So our Shielded status together with the closure of safe walking places meant we were restricted to our home and garden. We needed to find a completely new ‘normal’ to maintain our health and sanity! We both needed to keep moving as much as possible, to prevent muscles weakening and creating problems … so the garden was going to have to be our exercise ground. That was easier for me than Mike, as any prolonged standing, stooping or bending causes him pain. So garden chores fell to me, along with cooking etc. indoors.
Monday 20th April Are we shielding? Or are we not? Confusion! Probably we are no longer on the Shielding list! We have discovered that maybe the command to stay restricted to house and garden rather outweighs the benefits. If we are not officially ‘Shielding’ then I am free to start recovering my driving skills.
By the end of April we were getting used to the UK lock-down with a 5 miles radius for travel, stay home except for essential outings, clean all incoming items, shopping online with grocery deliveries, social distancing of 6′ and face masks ready if needed.