Colonies Covid Chronicle 13: the beauty of cobwebs

Dear Colonies Covid Chronicles

I feel I must reassure one of last week’s contributors [Alastair Hulbert]. We are not gone – we have simply decamped to one of his neighbours. My (very) extended family and I are happily feasting on a fresh supply of sweaters. We are alive and well and still living in the Colonies.

Yours sincerely


[Elizabeth Serjeantson]



Reflection, observation


Reflection, observation,

observation and reflection:

how obedient we’ve been,

writing, reading,

chopping, peeling,

to cook, to eat,

but no one to meet

for a shared meal –

will this country heal

or shrink to reveal

the sickness ingrained

in the imperial past

and still infecting

the abuse to the last

in the queue of acceptance

and decreed in the dance

of politics and power

even at this hour

of crisis?


Pat Bryden



Week 12: 15th June: Expedition

On Wednesday I settle myself in my customary position on the sofa: books, knitting, phone within reach; water and biscuit in case of emergencies.

I set off on my expedition.

No map required; I am well-acquainted with the terrain. Or am I?

I pause briefly, forcing this familiarity to the back of my mind. I wish to be a proper explorer, seeing each new detail for the very first time.

Photos on the mantelpiece: savouring memories of sticky hugs, wedding ceilidhs, recent funerals.

Bookcases: lingering on spines of novels I’ve read. Plots fade, characters dwindle, fond feelings remain. They sustain me. One day I’ll return to non-fiction. But new novels beckon.

Looking up, I delight anew at the detailed cornice and note that the frail cobwebs have a beauty of their own.

Light filters through the window and the trees opposite bloom.

There’s more to discover tomorrow. Time for that snack.

Hilery Williams





sitting on the sofa

reading my lockdown book

(Anna Karenina if you want to know)

I was stung on the thigh by a wasp –

it was on its last legs, though

they’re the worst my mother says –

it may have been half-dead

but it didn’t half hurt.



I’m paying the milk

bill, folding a cheque

into the tiny

brown envelope

left with the bottles

on the stoop –

I never seem to

hear the clink.

Hamish Whyte



Did you not say, prince, that beauty would save the world?*

The world in which we live needs beauty if it is not to sink into despair. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse are out and about – Economics, War, Technocracy, Destruction of Nature.

How is it possible to make sense of a world full of foreboding? How in the face of the catastrophe of unbridled economic and technological growth, relentless war and environmental degradation – can we avoid a lockdown of the spirit and be saved by beauty?

I challenge you all now, all you atheists. With what will you save the world, and where have you found a normal line of progress for it, you men of science, of industry, of co-operation, of labour-wage, and all the rest of it? With what? With credit? What’s credit? Where will credit take you? *

*Dostoevsky, The Idiot​​​​​​

Alastair Hulbert