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CREDIT: Homer Sykes

Hope. Struggle. Change. March 2020 - A Lockdown Diary

Contemporary Home | Events | News

This is the twentieth blog in a series on COVID-19 and lockdown, edited by and


24 March 2020

It’s hot, it’s almost summer, not much work done today, but I did a lot of gardening, cutting back roses and generally tidying up. Walked Rocco TWICE, that’s once more than is allowed, as we can only exercise once a day! I wonder if the local spies will tell on me!

Another letter to Jenny.

Dear Jenny,

In quarantine in south London, its bright, sunny, warm and spring like with a clear blue Mediterranean sky. From upstairs bedroom window I can see the couple that are renting across the road. How very jolly there are sitting on the garden wall drinking a bottle of wine, they are not going to work. Perhaps that’s the reason for an early tipple. I raised an imaginary glass to them and we exchanged greetings. I don’t think I have spoken or even seen them before. At lunch my neighbour’s two houses away were barbecuing. They are all scooter fast food delivery people, from I know not where. After a while, I suspect after a can or two, they started singing patriotic songs, or perhaps football songs, who knows! I didn’t recognise the language. 

Mrs. Markle is telling the German people to stop ‘Hampstering.’ The bloke who owns Wetherspoons, the pub chain, has told his workforce to go to Tesco’s and work for them; they are recruiting 20,000 ‘To Feed the Nation.’

My amaryllis sadly has now started to die back; I enclose a photo, it will be another year before it springs to life again. May we all hope that we will no longer be in this pandemic isolation. 

Tate Britain have just emailed me, the show I contributed to has now changed its name, again. Its now called "Hope. Struggle. Change: …” and has been postponed for a year. 

I trust all is well; I would call only I suspect you are very busy throwing pots, but hopefully not at the crockery cupboard.

23 March 2020

Well Lockdown came this evening and about time too. Johnson read the script off an invisible screen and was absolutely spot on. It’s lockdown but with some exceptions, food shopping, etc. What will happen to the funeral? I have no idea, probably no guests, that would be safe for everyone.

When walking Rocco today, everyone who I passed made an effort to step back so we passed each other safely, as recommended in the social distancing guidance. Only one walk a day for Rocco; I wonder!

20 March 2020

Jenny phoned, spoke for first time for six months. She is in good shape but concerned about her work. Teaching is not happening and she will only be paid until Easter. We talked pots, John Leech etc. and her efforts to throw a decent one.  I sent her a couple of examples of pots I like, a beautiful medieval pot, yellow under glaze and brown and green stripes running vertical.  Also, a small John Leech that I fancy.

Morning Jenny,

I hope all is well with you, and your girls. Just back from a 7am shop in Sainsbury’s, very depressing, never shopped so early in my life before.  I need essentials; sadly there was no tonic for my gin, they have sold out! No bread for my breakfast, too early. But I did get apples, bananas, eggs, salad and a decent bottle of Bordeaux and jumbo pack of mixed nuts to nibble with a glass or two. But not until this evening. Sainsbury's was mobbing but friendly I spoke to my elderly neighbours, ha ha they are my age! This is the first time I have seen them in months. “Hello Homer," and a short chat, they were queue barging at the check out - I think unintentionally, so I sent them to the back of the class! What I hadn’t realised was at that time in the morning besides all the first time opening hour shoppers looking for loo rolls and baby wipes - unscented, for sensitive skin. No I wasn’t buying any, but I do cry a lot. The place was full of people on their way to work. Several doomsters and gloomsters in face masks. I hope they didn’t have COVID-19 as they should have been self isolating and, if they didn't, then they should not have been wearing them, as they are incubators, warm and damp a perfect environment for the dreaded germ. One woman I spoke to - tried too, in a slightly jocular manner while we all queued up before the 7am bell rang, got cross with me, she was French. She said that her friend had died of COVID-19. I wanted to retort, that the friend no doubt died of complicated underlying health issues and COVID-19.

When I got home my black and white printer Barb, not at all hard and spiky; but soft, wrinkled, worn and round, phoned. We were supposed to be meeting today not as normal in Starbucks at Green Park tube, but I was driving to her home in North London probably 1.5 hours away to collect the prints for Tate Britain. She has a fever and best not to meet up until she knows she is well.

17 March 2020,

Hi Jenny,

Bad situation all around, Covid-19 will change everything. Economy down the tube is the least of anyone’s real worries; it’s the health of the nation that matters. Besides businesses going bust, though my son who is a farmer says his sales are 20% to 30% up over the last 3 weeks, it will change and he will need to adapt. Sadly lots of stuff is being cancelled and or postponed. I just see the MPF is closing down for a while. I was going to 'give you the elbow' if you had turned up. Joke.  An elbow kiss.  I have a show - part of in Lille, France staring in April, that’s postponed until September, and another in Sete in the south of France in May; at the moment they tell me that it is going ahead, but I suspect it will be postponed. I don’t know what Tate Britain will do, I guess go ahead with fewer visitors, but at least there is a book that going to be published from the work.

I hope all is well and family is doing OK, Comanche too, and you are fine and happy and thriving.



Top image: Plastic flowers on the windowsill, in a squeeze-by alley brightening up someone's day. Venice Italy 2009. 


Amaryllis that has started to die back.


COVID-19 in April 2020. Everyone had to stay at home and go out as little as possible. But they could exercise outside. Suburban south west London, neighbours, brother and sister, Cindy and Lee Colliver exercising in traffic free streets. SW20 London. I met neighbours across the street who I met when I moved into this house 14 years ago and had not seen since.


My back garden during Lockdown due to COVID 19. June 6th 2020. "Well summer’s been and done, the med heat has gone where it usually is, France, Italy, Spain, you know where we used to go on holiday when we needed a bit of sun. It’s raining again, however my suburban back garden loves it." Forced to stay at home, I did 99% of the time, gave me time to enjoy a rose filled garden


Generous Gardener roses from my back garden, London SW20.  Sent as a greeting, a keeping in touch email card during the lockdown.


VE Day 75, a family gather on the pavement outside their Parsons Green home for a two minutes silence so as to remember the sacrifices made during the WW2 8 May 2020 at 11.00 am. VE Day Bank Holiday Friday

Oh, the good life, full of fun seems to be the ideal

Mm, the good life lets you hide all the sadness you feel

You won't really fall in love for you can't take the chance

So please be honest with yourself, don't try to fake romance.

- Courtesy to Tony Bennett.


VE Day 75 street party to celebrate seventy five years since the end of the second world war. Social distancing observed during the Coronavirus pandemic. Fulham, London 2020.


A holidaymaker peeking through a restaurant sunscreen curtain, St Marks Square. Venice Italy 2009.



Homer Sykes' principal commissions in Britain during the 1970's - 1980's, were for weekend colour supplements such as The Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Observer, You and the Sunday Express magazines. He covered weekly news for Newsweek, Time and the former Now! Magazine.


Homer Sykes’ Photo Archive at:

My British Archive The Way We Were: 1968-1983. Dewi Lewis Publishing.