This is Manhattan …

There are no yellow cabs now in Manhattan.

The streets are empty with only a few scurrying individuals collecting their groceries, faces all but hidden behind masks. Except the eyes. Darting, accusatory and nervous.

There are no tourists wearing their backpacks, looking lost and filling the horse drawn carriages for an expensive saunter around Central Park. The enterprising men and occasionally women who dance, juggle, sing and leap over each other to make a few bucks from anyone who’ll watch are all gone. … Except one solitary man, who sits just a few yards from Times Square. He has no shoes but wears long, dark shorts and a faded cap, and in his hands he holds an old battered pair of drumsticks. In front of him are a variety of pots, tins and the occasional glass jar. Every single day he is there. He sits and beats out some sounds with a strangely beautiful rhythm. But today he lacks his energy; he is wilting. He has no audience and the street is empty.

In Central Park, parents sharply order their children to walk in single file behind them and curtly step off the path to let others pass. Scarves are quickly lifted to cover strained-looking faces.

There is a solitary helicopter hovering above the edge of the park. There are very few police on the streets, but there is order. Silent queues stretch around the block from the grocery store.

With empty avenues and streets, the true numbers of the homeless are glaringly apparent. Lying on the subway gratings where the warm air blows, in filthy doorways and on the sun-warmed benches around Columbus Circle … anywhere offering some shelter. But without a tourist in sight and few people passing, their opportunities for donations of money, food or cigarettes are limited.

For a few hours each morning in Central Park, dogs are allowed off their leads. They bounce and bound, oblivious to the troubles of the world, simply enjoying their daily freedom, chasing the pigeons and squirrels. It is their same routine every single day without a single care or worry to curtail their fun. Bliss.

Kx

Ps What’s it like with you? Is it the same or different? Where are you?

70 thoughts on “This is Manhattan …”

  1. Dear Kate What an amazingly descriptive piece. I can just picture it if I close my eyes and imagine myself there. You write so beautifully but it sounds hauntingly ghastly and scarey. I really hope you are both ok and not going stir crazy. Can you get out for some exercise every day and are you all right? I really hope you are managing. Is Ollie working from home or going to work? I’m sending loads of love and hugs and thinking of you lots. Take care, Katie xxxx

    >

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    1. Aww thanks Katie so much! We’re very lucky because although we don’t have a balcony, we have Central Park within just a few minutes walk. Each day we’re allowed to go out for our exercise and of course O. is so disciplined that there’s no getting out of it! It must be said that what is a gentle stroll to him leaves me puffing and panting! He’s working from home and, like you I’m sure, I am providing a constant supply of vaguely edible food! It’s getting quite inventive! Thank God for the internet! I’ve also discovered Duolingo which is hilarious and can now say in both french and German, “This is a man”! Quite how that’s ever going to be useful I don’t know, but it’s keeping the grey matter going! But now what about you? I do hope you’re all ok and how are you keeping yourself busy? You have your lovely garden of course … sending you masses of love and do let me know. K xxxxx

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  2. We’re not in the city–NYC–now, and I’m glad of it. Up here closer to Woodstock NY it’s empty in the streets, to the point that one of our favourite new agey/spiritual shops, Mirabai, is having a gofundme to try to stay in business after decades. In many ways it’s more mellow, but maybe a little too isolated for many. Stay well.

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    1. I’m not surprised you’re glad to be out! I do hope Mirabai manages to stay afloat … I imagine there are a lot of shops, restaurants and small businesses that will be hit hard by this. I wonder when we do all get to go back out again, if we’ll go mad in the shops or if by then, it’ll be too little, too late for the shop owners …? I just don’t know. Keeping my fingers crossed. Stay well and thanks for reading! Katie

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  3. Your writing so poignantly evokes the reality of life in the city that never sleeps when it is forced to shutter itself away. And the stark tragedy of the homeless with no choice but to carry on business as usual except there are no customers, no kindly people to spare a dime for anything at all let alone shelter. Businesses all over the world are suffering but surely none more than those that have nothing at all and rely on the scraps and crumbs of others passing them to cling to the tenuous thread of mere survival. Here, we are still only advised, not ordered. Something I feel increasingly uncomfortable with. For sure, there is hardly any movement on our road, the dustcart was the high spot today. We pass a few people on foot or bicycle when we take the dogs for their morning jaunt. But everyone has that hunted look, that look of a fugitive hoping not to make eye contact for fear of contagion. The message is not getting through to all. People still go and sit in parks when the sun shines as it does today. I feel that an order is the way forwards. The Police have my absolute sympathy with no power to force people to go home. As the figures mount, as the cost of this pandemic increases moment by moment, I know that I am also that scared, haunted soul when I venture out, as I did yesterday, for necessary provisions. The reality here is softer, but it is not soft. I hold you hard in my thoughts, Katie. Stay sensible for that is the only weapon we have in our quest to stay safe and well. Much love xxx

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    1. Oh you write so beautifully …. you say in just a few words what I fluff and flutter about nonsensically. 💕💕
      I cannot imagine how hard it must be for owners of small businesses … utterly devastating. And yes, the homeless situation here which is always terrible, just appears to be all the worse.
      I seem to be reading the news incessantly, with a real need to have information but then we probably all are. Are your shops well stocked and you’re able to get what you need? Most importantly, are you ok? Stay well and take great care. Xxxx

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      1. Thank you. But don’t demean yourself. You do not fluff and flutter nonsensically. Not a jot!

        I made the mistake of reading an article about a new model for predicting outcomes state by state this morning. If it’s right then Massachusetts will ultimately fare worse than NYC and that only if our Governor imposes a lock-down. I went for a jog and watched the swans carefully tending their nest, a woodpecker hammering on a branch and a squirrel that looked almost blue in the early morning light. That scoured the unease somewhat but it’s impossible not to keep reading and watching and listening to news reports – it’s a compulsion like picking a scab or scratching a mozzy bite.

        The stores are OK here with the exception of the usual suspects – loo roll, liquid soap (Bed, Bath and Beyond who for some reason have my email address sent a helpful note out explaining that bar soap is in fact soap with the exact same qualities of cleansing and protecting as pump dispensed soap. Honestly!! I unsubscribed) and hand sanitiser. And eggs. Eggs are suddenly flying off the shelves as though the chickens had left their feathers on them. It’s bonkers. The hens can’t have all simultaneously gone off the lay. Is it that people who are now having to make food from scratch only know egg dishes? I predict that they will all get egg-bound!

        Toi même – soins sain et sauf. Xxxx

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      2. Egg-bound!! Love it! We do a Costco trip every few weeks and they have limits on all the dairy products … When I went a few weeks ago it was utter chaos but since then they’ve got it a little more organised. I know what you mean about the compulsion to watch the news and read about it all. I can’t help myself, although it’s probably better than being on social media I suppose. Stay safe and healthy and enjoy your lovely jogs watching the swans …. how beautiful they must be. Xxxx

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  4. It’s very quiet here in London too, but then I’m not right in the centre. Plenty of people get their exercise, but it doesn’t quite have the eery or ominous feel of your description of NYC. Hope you’re keeping well, my lovely friend. xx

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    1. It’s probably because it’s usually chaos here … utter, utter chaos and noisy and manic and, and, and …! So I think probably the contrast is partly what is making it so strange. Do you have everything you need? Are you ok? If you’re up for a FaceTime call sometime, do let me know … it would be lovely to have a proper catch-up! Xxx

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  5. A lovely portrait of the city. I liked it very much.

    I live in Zionsville, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis. It’s a car-centric place. There are as many cars on the road now as before. Where are they all going? There’s nowhere to go.

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    1. Indeed!! Where are they all going? Do you have the same rules as us, as in you’re allowed out for exercise and groceries? Or does Indiana have different ones?
      Now in truth I didn’t know where Indiana actually is, so have looked on Google Earth … turns out you’re three states away from me. (Which you probably knew!) This incredible country is vast isn’t it? When all this is over, I’m so looking forward to exploring. We were supposed to be going up to Canada to visit Quebec and Montreal … Never mind, we can gather ideas and get excited about the future. If you have any suggestions of places that you’ve enjoyed, please do let me know!

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  6. wow Katie! Thats so awful! I heard it was bad in NY. Its not that bad here but the streets are mostly empty here too. And there are lines at the grocery store also. Its a sad situation all of this covid19 stuff. xoxo

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    1. Indeed it is … you stay safe! Do you have a garden, I can’t remember? I’ve got a bit of a longing to do some gardening today … digging in the garden would be wonderful and it looks as though the cloud is lifting too. Have a happy day and hope you’re safe and sound! 💕💕

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  7. South London is quiet though i didnt know so many people took exercise. They must normally live troll like in gyms. Too many MAMILs as well for one’s optical health. Generally social distancing is becoming a thing, almost normal. Food shopping remains the most stressful occupation. I have a lot of admiration for those still serving us – cashiers, bus drivers garbage collectors as well as the emergency services. Bozza ending up in intensive care has really stopped any flippancy that might have been left over. The debate here is beginning to shift to an exit strategy which is pretty pie in the sky but in 2 weeks – goodness doesn’t that seem like an eternity – the sombrero might have been sufficiently squashed for us to think about it. The nighly news tells us how it is washing over the US now so let’s hope you stay safe and it soon passes.

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    1. “Too many MAMILs as well for one’s optical health.” !! Oh God you’ve made me laugh! They probably rarely get out, but confinement desperation has called for the extreme measures of digging out the Lycra from the bottom drawer. Yes, I would imagine Boris going in was the final push needed to get people to understand the seriousness of the problem. We had a particularly bad day yesterday in terms of numbers here, but I guess we’re 8 million people pretty hemmed in. What I’m curious about is whether when it’s all over, we’ll all go racing out to the shops, cinemas, theatres and restaurants… or perhaps after the initial few days of our release from hibernation, we shall discover we don’t actually need all this ‘stuff’ as much as we’d thought. Hmmm. What about you?

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  8. Sigh! I miss the liveliness of Manhattan, the yellow taxi cabs, the magnetic energy and the vibrancy of everything that I had witnessed at Manhattan and now to read about a close to apocalyptic like state breaks my heart given NYC is one of my favourite cities in the world. Here in Bangalore, India infamous for the notorious traffic snarls, life has come to a standstill. Although I haven’t stepped out of home for three weeks now, I see pictures of wide open streets, the few delivery men dropping off the groceries across the city. There are the homeless, pictures that the daily newspapers keep publishing, amazed, their blank expressions staring into the lens of the camera. I keep pondering when will the pause end. Stay safe.

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    1. Oh my goodness … I’ve just had to look on Google Earth for the second time today (!) to find out exactly where Bangalore is. It showed lots of wonderful pictures too and as you say, although it doesn’t show them, I imagine it to be busy, busy, busy. I saw a stunning picture of the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens … and it all looks so green and lush. Are you in the city or out of town and with a garden?? Is it like that … as in, like Manhattan where there are no gardens just parks, but out of town people enjoy growing food? I do hope you’re well, and would love to know more … I’ll have a look through your posts too, I’m so behind and really have no excuse now at all! Stay safe 💕Katie

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      1. 🙂 Lalbagh and Cubbon Park are the two large remaining green spaces in the city that are such a respite from the towering glass and concrete structures. I call them Central Park of Bangalore. 😀 I am in the city and we have a couple of little parks close to where I live, my morning jog. But there are a couple of friends who live in the suburbs with large sprawling gardens and vegetable patches. I have a little balcony and terrace garden much to my relief, pansies, roses and some hibuscus and a few herbs that I grow 🙂 I hope you are keeping well too.

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      2. That sounds lovely … I’d love to have a terrace or balcony here, but that would have either meant compromising on the space we have inside or spending thousands more! We could have moved out the the suburbs and indeed have friends who have done, but we felt that if we’re just here for three years we may as well be in the thick of it all … In hindsight I should have perhaps been more careful what I wished for!!

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      3. I completely understand. Moving to the suburbs would imply longer commute time and since you mention you are there for three years it isn’t worth the move. But on a different note you have the view of Manhattan skyline, well you are a part of the skyline which I am quite sure many in the suburbs would wish for! Ain’t it strange!

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  9. You definitely describe the effects of the pandemic so poignantly. Here in Raalte, a town in the eastern Netherlands, people still walk the streets and I didn’t live here a year ago, so can’t compare the atmosphere to last spring. However, indeed, people take care to keep their distance.

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    1. It’s good that everyone is keeping their distance … I’ve never been to the Netherlands and would love to visit. Indeed, I too cannot compare this city to last spring as we weren’t here then either. I must say however that it’s beautiful in the park as all the magnolias and blossoms are out and the first leaves on the trees are just starting to show. Thanks for reading and I look forward to reading more from you too! Katie

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  10. I guess in big cities it is more noticeable Katie. We live in a suburb near Lancaster UK and in walking distance of the supermarket. Other than there being fewer folks walking past the house there seems little to feel ominous about. Obviously we are both at home and cannot go to work – if we travelled through the town I am sure we would see a difference.

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    1. I’ve not been to Lancaster. There are so many places I’d love to visit … it’s funny isn’t it that when something is taken away from us we want it all the more. I hope you’re well and enjoying the lovely weather that I hear you’re having and spending lots of time in the garden. In the park here the magnolia is out and the blossom too; I love how when the leaves start to appear, they’re so much more of a vivid green. There are plants here that I don’t recognise and birds too that we don’t have back in the U.K. I think anything here has to be pretty tough to survive, almost alpine-like as the summers are terribly hot and the winters harsh (and interestingly it’s very dry). In truth I quite like that! Hope you’re keeping well and life at home is ok too.

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      1. I get that totally. Until I started blogging I had lost interest in travel. Since then I have met up with blogging friends in Montreal twice and a third visit was planned for this spring. Gutted it will not now happen. Of course- Montreal has a very similar climate to New York. So far I have only seen the hot summers…
        Other than this I am OK, thank you and glad to hear you are too. X

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      2. Of course, I’d forgotten about your trips to Montreal … funnily enough, we were supposed to be there right now! I’ve never been and was very excited to be going there and combining it with visiting Quebec. Never mind, another time. Stay safe. Xx

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  11. I’m not a city person, but the struggles in NYC have made me want to fly east for a long weekend when this is done, spend money in restaurants, see a show, take a carriage ride through Central Park, listen and donate to street musicians and performers. You paint such a vivid picture of the city under the threat of the virus. I hope the numbers start coming down. The suffering has been hard to watch, even from a distance. Be well. ❤

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  12. You paint a scary almost apocalyptic picture. It’s replicated in many places. Here in our little village we still have no masks. Starting to see more people pop out for a local walk. When they meet others they keep many yards apart then shout normal conversations about the weather. It’s all a but surreal.

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  13. Nice reading about what Manhattan looks like these days.
    I’m a Norwegian sailor who went to work on board my ship as usual about ten weeks ago now. I was due to stay for six weeks, but then the virus came along and shut the world down as we all have learned by now. I have still not managed to get home from the Gulf of Mexico yet, but I hope it might happen some day sooner rather than later. There’s been a lot of issues getting the on-signing crew over from Norway to the US these days, both due to a very limited number of flights but also because of difficulties getting the right people with the right maritime certificates having the right type of visa to get into the country and ultimately on board the vessel.
    The corona virus as such has been no danger to us of course as we have been staying off-shore for ten weeks, but I must say I’m really looking forward to get home to see my family now.
    I’ll be back on board again soon though, as I’m still lucky to actually have work to go to. You can’t do this job from home anyway 🙂
    All the best, from a ship at anchor down south.

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    1. Oh my goodness … you must be desperate to get home. So you have the most experience with being cooped up in small spaces. How many are there of you on the ship and how much space do you actually have? How do you deal with the frustrations? I confess to feeling very humbled as it must be so difficult for you all. It’s a great pleasure to ‘meet’ you and am sending you a ‘Hallo’ and ‘Beste hilsener’ from Manhattan. Katie

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      1. 🙂 Thanks a lot, Katie! That felt really good, and best wishes back to you, of course!
        I’m finally back home now, but it wasn’t exactly “a walk in the park” this time. I’m doing my quarantine right now, but I’m absolutely fine so no issues taken on board during the trip to Norway.
        We’re about 70 persons on board this ship, but it’s quite spacious and does not feel claustrophobic in any way. The cabins are of good size, so no particular problems with that part of the life off work. Being a sailor probably gives you a different mind set than most people, and “dealing with frustrations” would be one of the things you just have to put on hold until you’re out of there. Then, when you’re finally back home you have forgotten everything that made you frustrated anyway, and everything is very good until the next time you get on board 🙂
        It’s a very weird way of life, to be honest… but some of us like it that way. Believe it or not.

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      2. Welcome home! I shall lift a glass to you this evening for that was a long time in getting back home. Have a wonderful break and I look forward to reading more of your posts. I don’t know anything about ships although we grew up with a father who loved to sail. When I look out of the windows from our apartment here we have just had ‘Comfort’, the big medical ship leave which was all quite a performance and just below us, ‘Intrepid’ is moored. She is now a museum and has a great collection of fighter aircraft on board and is huge! Just the size of the anchor is mind-boggling! Stay safe. Katie

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  14. Hi Lovely, gosh it is bleak isn’t it, Today I hear Germany is lifting restrictions next week buy letting hairdressers etc.. reopen, and the week after the schools, also Italy is easing up, so hoping the UK will be in the next 2-3 weeks, it’s weird in the world these days. I am in Northumberland, very beautiful but so quiet these days, my Husband is a walker and he has noticed a huge difference in the air quality, its much fresher and the world is quieter, I will be glad when we are back to normal though, stay safe and well, this will pass xxxxxxxx

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    1. How lovely to hear how it is in Northumberland… I don’t think I’ve ever been there but have heard it’s very beautiful. I’ve just heard that here in Manhattan we have another 4-5 weeks. Yes, I’ll be glad when it’s all over too. It’s certainly giving us plenty of time to reflect and make plans for the future which is good. Stay safe and well. Xxxxx

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      1. Whoo, thank you for that.

        Growing up in New York was–well, like growing up anywhere: You just kind of think that’s what the whole world’s like. Then you realize it isn’t and you either get jealous of other places or look down your nose at them. In a feat of mental gymnastics, I managed to do both. Simultaneously.

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      2. That makes sense. That was your normal and what you knew … mine was the middle of a field in England. And everyone we knew also lived in the middle of fields (their own) so it confirmed to me that was what everyone’s normal was. A sharp awakening was due to come …

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  15. Here in the country things havent changed much, you could almost think that nothing had changed apart from only being allowed in the village shop two at a time. Tractors still pass, curlews are curlewing and hares if we are lucky to spot one are hopping around. I feel very blessed to be in such a lovely space at this time. Thinking of others who are not so fortunate!

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    1. These pictures are brilliant and really show how quiet it all is now. I lived in Singapore for a year back in 1997 and how it has changed! I had forgotten though how wonderfully clean it all is. It certainly makes Manhattan here look utterly filthy … well, in truth, it is filthy here. Thanks so much for the pictures, it’s really good to see what’s going on elsewhere and strangely is reassuring that we’re all in this together, so we all understand what each other is going through. Do you live in an apartment or a house with outdoor space? I think that’s the thing that’s gotten to me most, not having any outside space. Very best wishes, Katie 💕

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  16. In Western Washington, there are a few less cars on the road. I have only been out in my car 4 times in the past month so I have not seen what it’s like at shopping malls and things but when I go pick up my groceries from Walmart, the parking lot seems as packed as ever, but that’s an essential business. We do have a stay-home order here but when I’ve left home, it doesn’t seem much different. I do see all my neighbors home, apartment complexes full of cars and more people walking the neighborhood and it is reported that the order is working. Parks are closed. I guess I thought there would be MUCH less cars on the road.

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    1. That’s really interesting … Thanks so much for telling me. Funnily enough in the last few days I’ve noticed more cars on the roads and more people out and about. I wonder if a sense of restlessness is setting in? I’m sorry your parks are closed … I’m not sure what people would do here if Central Park was shut. And a fair amount of homeless stay in the park too … It’s full of people running and walking their dogs … I guess there are some who are clearly lying in the sun rather than using it as part of their daily exercise … but there are very few police around to control that if they thought it necessary. I’m with you, I assumed there would be MUCH less cars on the roads! Anyway, I hope you’re staying well and healthy and not too mad by all this enforced confinement! Katie 👍💕

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      1. Our parks will be opening May 4th as part of a slow re-opening. I’m not mad at all by the enforced confinement. I am happy the governor is doing his best to keep us safe. It is much appreciated. I also like finally having time to do things that I never had time for. 🙂 ❤

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      2. How funny!! I painted some flowers in a pot!! I’d love to be doing gardening. I spoke to my in-laws earlier and their garden was looking wonderful and they were in t shirts and it was all sunny …. awwwww … so jealous! It’s piddling with rain here 😩😩!!

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      3. Brilliant! It’s cloudy again today and in fact feels like England in a bad spring. Never mind … I shall do some more painting again today, and there’s still my Duolingo to complete for the day! Too much to do 😄😄

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    1. Aww that’s terribly kind of you, but I can assure you there’s no talent! I think the following button is at the top of my blog page on the right hand side in black. Thanks so much! Katie

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