As Plato put it

As Plato put it: Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.

Whatever the outcome of today’s general election, the lyrics of this fugue will still be true. Unfortunately. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd April 2020

How not to queue safely

Believe it or not I took atet photograph yesterday. I heard the security guy telling women who had gathered around the shop they it’s right people have to wait, that it was better that way, safer, and it would only be a few minutes. I don’t think they agreed. From my flat I have seen police on bikes and wondered what they were doing. Now I believe they were patrolling queues and persuading those shoppers too ignorant or bloody minded to observe safe distancing that it is not an option to do otherwise.

I was on my own bike this morning, rather cobwebby but with pumped up tyres. It felt great to be out on it, to cover a distance in five minutes that takes so much longer on foot. But it was cold. I had evidently not understood the weather forecast. Celia was doing her own walk today to keep a hospital appointment north of the river. She reckoned she’d have had enough by the time she got home. There is so much less traffic on the roads, and anyway I avoid the main ones, that I’d like to think I might get my cycling mojo back. My confidence has never recovered since my accident.

I whizzed round our local streets and headed too Kennington Park to see if it was as empty this morning as it was when I drove by yesterday. It was. To my delight Bee Urban was open and welcoming visitors to stroll around the hives and beds, keeping a good distance apart. As I was the only person there, it didn’t present a problem.

Bee Urban – Open!

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd April 2020

I spent an hour outside today with a litter picker collecting all the rubbish around our shared garden. All of it courtesy of human beings. Plastic bags, cigarette stubs, till receipts, fast food containers, broken clothes pegs, miniature bottles of Vodka, crisp packets, polystyrene. Fortunately no condoms. Apart from the broken clothes pegs this litter will not have originated from this block of flats. The fast food containers will have been abandoned on the main road, still with food in them. Our resident foxes will have picked them up and retired to our outdoor space for an al fresco supper. I forgive the foxes. I despair of the humans. We get several miniature Vodka bottles every day, yet I have never seen anyone propping up our wall and drinking from them. In the summer they turn to cherry wine.

Earlier I had driven my car around the neighbourhood in order to stop the battery from going flat. I discovered that Kennington Park is very quiet in the morning. Interesting. I usually save my exercise allowance for the afternoon. This may have to change. MasterB, my lovely cat, was on form, playful and as usual interested in everything I did, especially if I went into the kitchen. He has a strong belief in the bottomless bowl. Maybe it’s the feline equivalent of Father Christmas.

As a new tax year is beginning my main task for today was to fillet an old file I no longer have to keep – hurrah! – to save the filleted contents of the 2019-20 tax file when I have filleted it. Tomorrow. Maybe Saturday. Lots of shredding; a huge pile of scrap paper; some thought provoking moments. Do I keep the POA documents that Aunt drew up to go in the family records? Is it so long since I paid out nearly £3,000 for urgent repairs to das Boot? Why did I file the leaflet about saving money instead of following its advice?

I did some shopping too, leeks and loo roll for me (loo roll is now widely available), bleach, tinned tomatoes, baked beans for Celia. Tomorrow I think I should do the alcohol run. B&J if you are reading this, get in touch with your orders. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 1st April 2020

It’s been a grey day. Celia tells me it was sunny mid morning but I must have missed that. It felt like one of those days that doesn’t ever get going. Or maybe that was just me. I slept badly last night, mainly I think due to my neighbour TW who is being particularly tiresome. In itself, the isn’t unfortunately unusual, but it is an added stress I could do without. Probably though not as bad as the stress of my neighbour Pam is enduring. Her daughter is a nurse. Every time the daughter goes to work Pam worries about her life.

I read this morning that the low wage increase might have to wait. I should have felt this was a bit more reasonable had it been accompanied by a message saying those in high earning tax brackets should expect to be paying substantially more. It wasn’t. Unbelievable as it seems, there are people (I don’t mean Farage, that man is so far beyond the pale that were he not to say something bigoted and ignorant it would be news) busy trying to blame the NHS for the lack of PPE. Excuse me? Is this just spin or does Laura Kuenssberg not read the news? Jeremy Hunt turned down requests to stockpile equipment for a pandemic when he was Minister for Health. Now his is one of the loudest voices saying how dreadful it is the NHS lacks the equipment it needs. It is Jeremy. It is. Feel any shame? Thought not.

I am equally shocked, or stunned might be a better word, to read that Johnson has a 72% approval rating for his handling of the crisis. Did they only poll Express, Mail and Sun readers? The bit that made me have to lie down under a damp tea towel How? why?was that Trump has a 90% approval rating among Republican voters. WTF? We really are doomed.

Fortunately this stuff was balanced by a video of nuns miming to We Will Rock You The one playing air guitar gets my vote. I don’t watch any of the Britain’s Got talent ilk of programmes but if I heard these nuns were going to be on I’d be tuning in and voting. Actually I’d probably vote for them to be the government.

The number of silly and funny videos being shared at the moment is astronomical.
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The Coronavirus Diaries: 31st March 2020

It’s astonishing how quickly I have become shop phobic. Only a week ago I was wondering how I was going to manage without my almost daily popping into a local shop to buy one or two items. Now I am delaying, and yesterday when I came home clutching a big bag of spring greens I was thinking I could be shop free for several days at least.

The third podcast went up today. I seem to be more relaxed about leaving verbal stumbles and errors, but I am confused by the amount of ambient rustling n this one given I was sitting still. Or did I just think I was sitting still? Those of you who have taken to studying philosophy while confined at home can wrestle with that one.

No pictures today, or at least no pictures from today as my camera battery was flat. I took a couple of photos on my ‘phone, but although I have plugged it into the computer the two do not seem to be talking. That’s annoying as I wanted to decant all my ‘phone pictures onto my laptop as the memory is full. Normally I’d ask Ahmad at All About Phones and he would sort it out for me, but of course the shop is shut. The things we take for granted until they aren’t there.

The amaryllis are doing nicely. MasterB is taking quite an interest.

Checking on the amaryllis

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th March 2020

To be honest I do not know if I shall keep up daily diary posts if this goes on for six months. It would probably be good for my mental health and to look back at in a couple of years when I hope this all feels even more unreal than it does now.

Just a local walk today. I had already braved Morrison’s. I must take my camera next time so I can show my non-shopping friends the changes made to the inside of the shop to protect shoppers from each other. Ditto that thought for M&S. Loads of food on the shelves, even green veg, hallelujah. Lots and lots of bananas. So not like the war then.

Back home and down to work and then lunch, curried lentil soup if you’re asking, and still curried lentil soup if you’re not. I was down to the last few spoonfuls when the ‘phone rang. Not a number I recognised, but hey ho. It was Uncle Bill. I am so glad I answered. He sounded well, told me about the new wee hen that is in her socially isolated space until she has built up some strength to outrun her two new sisters or stick up for herself. She, like the others is an ex laying hen. That doesn’t mean she won’t lay eggs now, just that she doesn’t lay enough for the farmer who owned her to think her worth keeping alive. Uncle Bill was saying you might have expected some compassion from the other two hens, as they come from a similarly deprived background. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s a dog eat dog world in the hen hierarchy. There had been a previous hen, a very bossy one, who kept these two under the claw, but the fox got her. Uncle Bill hinted that this was karma.
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The Coronavirus Diaries 29th March 2020

Coronavirus suddenly seems closer with my friend and neighbour Bridget’s brother hospitalised, and one of he nieces unwell too. Some music just works at these times, and for me Bob Dylan, someone who I like but I wouldn’t say I was his biggest fan, somehow hits the spot. Currently listening to Hard Rain which I have been thinking about since Celia and I were caught in a small hail squall during our constitutional today and Shelter from the Storm from that album began to go round my head. Perhaps a taste of the April showers due to start next week.

Not sure what MasterB was up to while I was out, but he seems unaccountably tired right now. That’s just tired, not knackered. Celia said she was knackered as we neared home. It was a good walk though. I anticipate that we shall shortly be confined much more strictly due to the number of people still behaving as though somehow the current restrictions do not apply to them. With that in mind I suggested a walk to the City so we would see the Thames and St Paul’s. Just typing that makes me realise how much of a Londoner I have become.

We saw both. We also did some shopping. Now for you who don’t know London, the City is the oldest part where the financial centre is, but it has a very small residential population, so at the weekends it is always quiet. Today it was even quieter. We gazed upon empty streets, upon empty buses and buses carrying at most two passengers. Our walk from our homes brought us few sightings of other people. The market at East Lane was closed. Unthinkable for a Sunday.

Empty East Lane

Equally empty in this direction

We crossed an empty London Bridge and looked at a Thames devoid of pleasure craft.

Empty River

I mean, really empty

My friend Nadia, who I visited just over a year ago in Wellington, NZ, used to work in Adelaide House, an office block on the north side of the bridge opposite Fishmongers’ Hall. There’s a little Waitrose next door. No queue. I went in, Celia having said she’d like some milk. I was after bread. We have now perfected our shopping technique. Celia stays outside so as to avoid accidental contact with shoppers who appear suddenly round the corner of an aisle. I collect the things she has asked for plus anything I think she might like and return to the entrance where I hold each one up for inspection. I explain to security staff what I am doing. Celia signals yes or no, and the items either go into the basket or back on the shelves.

I waved some hand sanitising wipes at her. Thumbs up. How many? I asked. Two? Her face was a doubtful question. We are being restricted to buying items in ones or twos. They have loads, I said. She held up four fingers. At the till I asked if they has cleaning products as I hadn’t seen any. I knew Celia was after washing liquid. I was directed to a corner of the shop I had avoided on my first sweep as there were people there. I returned to the window with washing liquid and kitchen rolls. Both went into the basket. Buoyed up we continued our walk.

I wondered aloud if M&S on Cheapside might be open. It’s my favourite to place to shop for food if I am working in the City at the weekend. We walked down Laurence Pountmey Hill and gawped at the house that sold a few years ago for £6 million or so. The lights were on. That was my first Property Envy spot on this walk. Only the cost of curtains and carpets consoles me. Though I suppose if I had £6 million I probably shouldn’t be too worried.
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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th March 2020

When Celia and I met for our walk along parallel paths this afternoon we were trying to remember how long we have been on lockdown. Is it a week? Less? Time has taken on an elastic quality. Tonight the clocks go forward an hour and we welcome British Summer Time. However, March has got its animals mixed up. It is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. After days and days of blue skies and warm sunshine this afternoon March remembered it is supposed to be the windy month, and sent me back to coat, hat, gloves and scarf. It also got my washing dry very quickly. Definitely more leonine than lamb like.

All the people taking their daily exercise allowance near their homes, are they becoming more aware of their local environment? Certainly Celia and I are not the only ones to stop to watch a crow gathering soft material to line its nest, a robin eyeing us from a low branch, sparrows clustering around a bird feeder.

It is both comforting and disorientating to see the non humans going about their normal lives. The swans are nesting by the lake in Burgess Park again.

Nesting swans

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The Coronavirus Diaries 27th March 2020

The day started with a flurry of messages, the usual ones where we check on each other, a number about last night’s clapping, several from fellow freelance professionals discussing how the money we are promised as self-employed taxpayers will work, one about a jigsaw. This jigsaw in fact:

Cakes Galore

I gave it to Charlie for Christmas. When he had completed it he gave it back to me. I finished it yesterday. Today it goes to my neighbour Cherry around the corner. I am guessing we are not the only operational syndicate in town.

Breakfast eaten and domestic chores completed I turned to the most important item on my list for toady – podcasting. This is for my work. While doing the jigsaws thoughts were percolating slowly through my mind, and one of the things I was thinking about was retaining presence in the world of work even if it didn’t yield immediate pecuniary benefits. It turns out I am not the first to be thinking along these lines. So today I have been playing with the technology and hoping that by the end of tomorrow I shall have my first podcast live and online.

It didn’t go completely to plan, and having recorded one version I realised i could not upload it to my platform of choice. However, I learned a lot, so tomorrow it should be all systems go!

Being at home all the time meals seem to dominate the day far more than usual. Normally I enjoy food preparation and meal planning. Tonight I caught myself thinking, oh no I’m hungry again, I need to make dinner. I had a solo walk as Celia had already been out. I had already done around eight thousand steps. I had been in and out to the washing line, had risked my life buying some mushrooms and tomatoes. I approached a street stall where there was no other customer. As the tomatoes went into my bag and the mushrooms were following I was suddenly hemmed in by new customers whose focus on what they wanted to buy seemed to make them forget any idea of social distancing. That or I had my invisibility cloak on. As I already had the produce I couldn’t just run away. I had to pay. I came home and the handwashing, key cleaning, ‘phone cleaning went on for longer than usual. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries 26th March 2020

I’m just back inside after joining my neighbours (at a safe distance) for the Big Clap to say thank-you to everyone in the NHS. We were on our doorsteps, at windows, in my case and with two others, one of whom works for the NHS, from the block of flats where I live, on the pavement by the car park gates. There were whoops and fireworks. From all the streets around us we could hear the sound of applause. Magical, wonderful, heartwarming and heartbreaking.

The Ginger Ninja remains in good health

This crisis has brought out the best and worst of us. I know of a nurse who is doing thirteen hour shifts on an ICU. Her thirty minute lunch break becomes twenty by the time she has climbed out of her protective clothing and when it is time to climb back into it again. She and all the others working in these conditions are heroes, but had successive governments not run down the NHS so cynically, their task might be more manageable, more hopeful. For years now the NHS has warned it is near to breaking point. Johnson said three weeks ago that “our NHS will cope” now he needs to show strong, practical support, leadership, except leadership is not something any of us expect from Johnson, and reward not just with words. The NHS should not be coping, it should be properly funded, able to step up with confidence when a crisis happens, knowing the government is at its back. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, Wednesday 25th March 2020

MasterB is one the sofa behind me – I am in my usual subservient position on the floor – and he’s snoring. The world may be going to hell in a handcart, but My Boy remains blissfully ignorant. That is only right because our current crisis is entirely human made. That’s globally human, or more properly, greedy exploitative humans who view the world as their personal breadbasket. So no, I am not blaming China, though an astonishing number of people who ought to know better are. I don’t include DJ Trump in that, because even if he did know better I would expect some sort of disgusting xenophobic blame game from him.

As is now my routine, I stayed at home most of the day. I did some shopping which included items for Celia and Charlie so braved the Walworth Road. I admit after reading this in the Guardian online I was worried. The market in the photograph it mentions is my local market’ The Walworth Road is the road at the end of my street, the one I wrote about yesterday with the too close queuers. So hardly surprising I delayed and delayed going out to buy some necessities- mushrooms, bread, tofu, capers – the usual sort of vegan stuff. Had I not committed to get a few things for Celia and Mr Celia I might not have got out of the door.

The Incomparable MasterB

I headed up the road for the tofu, past the supermarket with a longer, closer queue than I liked, past the post office which made me think the package I was carrying to post for Great Niece Number Two would be coming home with me. Most fellow pavement users were doing the same dance, slaloming from side to side to avoid close contact, slowing down to let some one get ahead or speeding up the someone was too near. A few insouciant types just ploughed through the middle, leaving waves of distress at the possible fallout from their behaviour. Celia wanted tofu too. Upon enquiry I discovered this was because she has liked the sound of the scrambled tofu to which I am somewhat addicted. Continue reading