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.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th May 2021

My first haircut this year. My first haircut since 8th December 2020. I love it. There are, I realise, advantages in being forced to go through the growing out stages of a haircut. At almost precisely six weeks after my December cut my hair was wild. Then it settled down, seemed to grow into a new style and I was happy with it again. The pattern repeated itself over the five months. My curls grew back and I liked having them. So today although I had a couple of inches cut off my hair it is longer than it was in December, still wavy, and in a bob with graduations and layers. I had it done at the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Buckingham Gate, a building that was formerly used by members of the Met Police where they stocked up on bacon butties when demos were on.

Lauren cut my hair. She walked across the foyer in a cardigan decorated with lemons and I watched amused as three women opposite me followed the progress of that cardigan covetously with their eyes. At that point I didn’t know Lauren was going to cut my hair.

I liked her and trusted her immediately. On the way to having my hair washed I told her about the cardigan reaction. “M&S,” she said delphically, “I got it in the sale.” It turned out she had been a wig maker, having got into that from being a costumiere, having got into that through learning how to sew because she did an art foundation course, liked drawing clothes but didn’t know how to make them. She’d spent much of lockdown on the Isle of Wight at her parents’ house going slowly bonkers having got away from New York where she’d been working a day before that would have been impossible. Now she’s escaped to London. You can follow her on instagram @lamacdesign. I am. If she sets up a salon I want to be her client.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd May 2021

I am very much enjoying my birthday weekend. It has been more sedentary than I imagined as I had a procedure on my leg on Friday, and due to the site of the wound, the chances of it breaking open and becoming infected are high if I move around too much. That gave me the perfect excuse to lie on the sofa (leg raised) and watch Local Hero yesterday afternoon. What a lovely film it is.

Plans were so fluid in the morning as to be next to non-existent. We are still limited to meeting outside in groups no larger than six, and after a very dry April, scattered showers were forecast. However, the skies were blue, and on Friday night I had been talking to Celia on the ‘phone. We thought elevenses would work. So I bought croissants, some vegan, and some with butter, then pains au chocolat (butter), orange juice and clementine juice. Cynthia arrived with a bottle of champagne and glasses. So organised. Charlie had gone to Notting Hill to spend the day with his friend Chris watching cricket, so Celia was unaccompanied. Michèle met me at one gate, and B&J arrived at another. It was very jolly and as well as cards I was given perfect presents, including a new doormat with silhouettes of cats on it. It’s very handsome. I am not sure what it says about my stage of life that I can spend so much time admiring my door mat, but there it is. Books, a picture, fudge which I ate watching the film, some hand cream Celia and I had found and tried out a few weeks ago, and that most necessary accessory for summer, a wine cooling sleeve.

Naturally Hartley joined us. J has started giving him treats and has made him a toy. He stayed close to her, rolling over and offering her his tummy. That cat just thrives on love and affection.

That might have been it, but the forecast was showing less chance of rain for the evening, so we decided on a takeaway from the Vietnamese restaurant, to be eaten in Celia’s garden. Mid afternoon I had an invitation from Reinhild and Mark to join them in their garden for drinks and nibbles. I had asked if they wanted to join our al fresco dinner, Michèle and Cynthia having other engagements, but Reinhild was chilled having met friends for lunch outside the café in Russell Square, so they politely declined.

It wasn’t a late evening, and I enjoyed some time at home with MasterB and let him outside for a while before bedtime.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th April 2021

With the situation in India worsening by the hour, the title of these posts is not changing yet awhile. I watched the news tonight and Matt Hancock’s response seemed repulsive. He showed no evidence of empathy or understanding that while Covid is actively killing people anywhere in the world we are all at risk. He didn’t sound interested or concerned.

I don’t mean to suggest that Hancock is a colder fish than other members of this government. Boris Johnson’s dismissal of concerns about who paid for the redecoration of the Downing Street flat with an airy comment that the public isn’t interested illustrates how out of touch he is. The cost of the redecoration has also raised eyebrows and dropped jaws. Yet another example of how the poor are expected to exist on very little but someone who is already very entitled feels he should have more.

I happened to be Westminster at lunchtime today and saw these banners. They pack quite a punch. There were more police officers about than usual.

Seeing me looking and taking photos, one of them spoke to me, and smiled. Is there a demo? I asked. No, he replied, PMQs, these are here every week. Now I live not far from Parliament Square but I am not generally there on a Wednesday lunchtime, so I had never seen these before. But isn’t it the role of the press to show us things like this? Or is this just another example of how these events are excluded so that we don’t get to see the peaceful protests about the state of our democracy?

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 26th April 2021

Happy birthday Celia! I hope it was a good day.

We saw each other this morning when Celia came to collect her birthday presents. One of them she knew about: a piece of wood from our cherry tree which has sprouted fungi, one of her passions. The others were a surprise. No sports car this year, instead a bird feeder and a gadget for opening cans, bottles, jars.

We also saw each other this evening in her garden. We were a group of five with nibbles and three bottles of fizz. It was great. The crows, magpies and wrens entertained us, the chat was good, the company, it goes without saying, was excellent.

I spent much of the day drafting a reply to some aggressive emails from my bossy neighbour, but by the end of the day I think I probably shan’t send it. Why engage? She is writing nonsense and writing it in her usual illiterate, incoherent style. I have already made my mind up to sell up and move, my energies are required for other things.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd April 2021

A day out. Yeah, I know I have been going out a lot, but this was a Day Out. Ok, I have had Days Out too, but for the last year generally alone. Today was a Day Out in Company. To be precise with Celia, my usual partner in crime in London as we go walkabout and miss Blue Plaques to Charlie Chaplin as we are too distracted by the cakes in the window of the baker’s underneath.

We went to Wivenhoe. It was sunny. The skies were a cloudless blue. There was a cool wind. We bought lunch from the Norwegian baker, went into both book shops, drank our first ciders in a pub garden for a year. It was great. Celia says it was too. She bought a coffee from the deli where we later returned for ice cream. It stocks Booja Booja ice cream. Heaven.

Lunch was by the river, tide out, with our Norwegian Bakery purchases. The cider at the pub was wonderful, though despite our carbohydrate intake we watched, with a certain amount of envy, people eating chips. Out then to the sailing club and a conversation with a lovely man who was clearing winter’s mud away from the slipway. We learned he is a diver who has lived all over the world, including Colchester, was born in east London and has lived in Wivenhoe for 18 months. Loves it.

I asked him so many questions he thought I was a journalist (I am!) rather than just interested. Then it was up the hill to the fish shop. I don’t eat fish but Celia and Mr Celia, aka Charlie, do. On previous visits I have walked passed it but wasn’t entirely confident I could find it without deviation. The barmaid at the pub gave us the exact address.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th April 2021

I just remembered I promised Pat I’d put a link to an excellent long read in the Guardian on the subject of whiteness and race. I’ll do that now. Here it is. I find the subject fascinating, how we started defining people by the colour of their skin not by where they were born. which explains how some people on these islands just do not understand how you can be black or brown and yet British. It’s really not that difficult. And it would be a great move forward if we could get over it. I think it’s easier if you live in a multicultural place like Walworth, where we are all colours, all languages, united by Britishness.

This morning I met Karima who I knew through my work some years ago. When I say met, it wasn’t an arranged meeting, we were walking towards each other down a street. She was wearing a wonderful pink outfit which I wrongly assumed was to to do with Eid. No, she explained, it was something she liked to throw over her pyjamas or scruffy clothes if she had to go out. She was her usual sunny self. this is a woman who spent two years with a severely ill son in hospital who the doctors told her would die. He’s now twenty, and although his legs are weak, he’s fine. She’d be at the hospital all day, come home, cook for her older children, clean, go to bed, get up, make breakfast for everyone, then return to the hospital. Her attitude is eternally positive.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th April 2021

It’s our anniversary: ten years since I brought MasterB, then called Facebook, home. He was young, less than a year at a guess, infested with fleas. He didn’t want to be removed from the students who had rescued him from the mean streets of Brighton, and I didn’t want a timid cat who hid behind the curtain. It wasn’t the most promising start. But against the odds it has been a success. We are a team, cat and human. An already close team which has become closer in lockdown. Not that MasterB knows about the pandemic. But he has become very used to having me around most of the time, has realised that I generally have three meals each day, not the two he was formerly acquainted with, and he now wants three meals a day too. He has given me an emotional support of which he is quite unaware in this time. Watching him has brought me pleasure.

Ten years ago I didn’t really want him. Now I think he’s the best cat in the world.

But for our anniversary we were mainly apart. Gorgeous weather, with blue skies, sunshine and warmth. We have been getting used to blue skies, sunshine and cold cold winds. Celia and I set off to Stratford to walk The Line, a sculpture trail that starts north of the river then ends in Greenwich. The map on the app was rubbish. But the sun shone, we saw two herons in flight, and before we even started our walk Celia got a new strap for her Swatch in the Westfield Shopping Centre. There were serious shoppers. The queue outside Primark was lengthy. Shorter queues, but still impressive, outside shoe shops and mobile phone shops. If I were a shop owner I would be heaving a huge sigh of relief.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th April 2021

I may have missed it somewhere, but surely others have been wondering if Derek Chauvin is related in some way to Nicholas Chauvin whose legendary bigotry gave rise to the word chauvinism? I mean, it does seem a bit of a coincidence doesn’t it?

I have been reading James Walvin’s book The Zong, about the massacre that took place on a slaving ship in 1781. I knew quite a bit about it, but this book filled in gaps and joined dots. It is very well written and readable. Maybe it helped already having some knowledge because many of the names were familiar to me: Granville Sharp, Olaudah Equiano, Lord Mansfield, Peter Peckard, Thomas Clarkson. It inspired me to start another book Black England, Life Before Emancipation by Gretchen Gerzina, which I am also finding fascinating.

I was talking with a friend about these books and she assumed they had come out recently. I can’t remember her exact words, but they were on the lines of there have been lots of books published about black history in the last year. I told her the Walvin book came out in 2011 and the Gerzina one in 1996. The most recent book I have on black history is Black and British, a Forgotten History by David Olusoga (another book I highly recommend) and that was published in 2016.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th April 2021

Saturday night but I am not at the movies. I have been working at my computer and feeling virtuous. Some more to do on this particular project tomorrow, but then it should be good to go.

After warm days and sitting in the parks, the weather is cold. So cold that I thought for a moment it was snowing today. Not quite true. My thought when I saw white flakes swirling outside my window was it wasn’t cold enough for snow. I was right. The white flakes were petals from the hawthorn trees in the road.

MasterB is on the sofa beside me, curled up with his eyes closed, but there is something about his posture that suggests he is not entirely happy. I may be projecting. He has just had an encounter with Hartley outside. I should say at once that no paws were raised, and Hartley looked quite confused at coming face to face (twice) with His Gingerness. The first time, they were either side of the garden gate. MasterB strolled along the pavement, caught sight of Hartley and shrank back, flattening his ears against his head. But he didn’t run away. I was between the two of them on MasterB’s side of the gate. I made to rub Hartley’s nose through the bars, trying to demonstrate to my boy that Hartley was not being aggressive. Hartley obligingly rolled over on his back at once, then, when I went to open the gate, skipped gaily into the garden; an invitation for me to follow. Against his will, but to keep him safe as a van was coming along the street, I popped MasterB into the garden and followed Hartley round the corner.

He led me to the bench. Of course he did. As I said, it was cold. I had been expecting MasterB to go into the garden and that I would return immediately to the warmth of the flat. I was not wearing a coat. Still, I know where my duty lies. So I sat down and cuddled Hartley for a few minutes to comfort him and give MasterB the opportunity to have an alfresco pee, find himself a concealed spot in the bushes, or head over the wall to neighbouring gardens. But it was cold, so soon I stood up. Hartley reached out a paw and tapped me on the leg; a gentle message that he would like more.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th April 2021

I am feeling very proud of myself. Today I went to Tommy’s for my physio appointment. I have had six different exercises to do, twelve repetitions of each, three times daily, since my cast was removed. Two were easy from the word go, the other four have gradually become easier. In the middle of last week I was aware of a sudden improvement in the flexibility of my wrist.

The physio department was quieter than I have ever seen it. Where were all those people I had seen at fracture clinic? I was seen by a physio called Finn who wanted to know how I was getting on. I showed him what I could do and he seemed pleasantly surprised. That’s very good, he said. He said it quite a few more times during the session. I beamed behind my mask. We talked about other things I could do which would also be helpful. I said I had an inflatable beach ball which I had used after breaking my right wrist. He endorsed use of it again. Because he seemed genuinely interested and not likely to refer me to the psychiatric team, I told him that I had been doing the more difficult exercises with both wrists; my theory had been if my body could feel what my right wrist was doing then it might help my left wrist to get the idea. He stared at me and I wondered if he was considering calling someone to restrain me, but no, he said I was right, it did help. How wonderful.

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