The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st March 2021

Census Day. I completed mine online, though now I rather regret not asking for a paper form. I have looked at old census returns in the course of research for my work, and also when digging into family history. There is something of a thrill at seeing a handwritten form, even if at times I have struggled to read it.

I waited until today to fill in my form. I understood that was the idea: a snapshot of the country on a particular day. But towards the end of last week I heard a number of people saying they had completed theirs already. I reread the letter today. It states that ‘all households should complete the census on Sunday 21 March 2021 or as soon as possible after.’ Nothing about completing it in advance, yet as people have completed it online on the government site that has evidently been permissible. It feels like cheating to me and quite takes away some of the romance, if I dare call it that, and the excitement. I know civil servants, functionaries will be able to read the census returns, but for the rest of us they are like burying a time capsule. They are only open to public readership after a hundred years.

I am fairly sure this is the first online one I have completed. Maybe even the ones completed by hand will simply be copied onto some form and the original destroyed. No signatures, no misspellings.

I am strangely tired, and I don’t think that has anything to do with the demands of the census. Maybe fresh air. I had a short walk with Michèle this morning when we caught up, and scoped out the availability of geranium plants for B&J. At the Nunhead Gardener (the branch we visited was at the upper end of the Walworth Road, very near the Elephant, though M had initially demurred thinking I was suggesting we walked to Nunhead), I bought some lemon thyme, and M treated herself to a couple of plants and fell in love with green candles. Green is her colour. I have always thought of blue and green as being mine, but I realise I am green amateur compared to M. It was sunny, though there was a cool wind, and in the shade slightly chilly. I was glad I had my warm scarf.

MasterB was full of fun when I got home. He is a very sociable boy with me, wants to be involved in everything I do.He is also very affectionate. I count my blessings daily. Sometime after lunch, when I had just completed some work J rang to say they were going in search of the geraniums at the Nunhead Gardener I had photographed for their information, and would I like to join them on the stroll. I would. And it was good that I did, as the shop was by then busy and they are still keeping out of shops as J is vulnerable to the virus. All the red geraniums had gone, but they settled on three papal purple ones. Home via a Vietnamese takeaway of which J has read good reports. It wasn’t open, and anyway we had all eaten lunch, but we studied the menu and made vague plans to get food from there in the not too distant future. Then a stop via the Electric Elephant café for cake. B treated me to a slice of date and carrot cake (vegan). I thought, when we sat down in the small garden down the road, that I would just have a bite and keep the rest for later. I ate the lot.

I had already arranged to go for. proper walk with Celia, and she texted me to say she was free. So it was a quick turnaround at home before I trotted down the road to meet her. We donned our masks and went in her car. We have both had Coronavirus tests in the last few days (there was a case of the South African variant locally and so testing as advised) and the results were negative.

Dulwich Park was lovely. It always is. It does not matter how many times I go to Dulwich I am always astounded at how a neighbourhood so near my own can be so radically different. We talked about local matters: the forthcoming residents’ meeting which promises to be interesting, though maybe not in a good way; about book group books; neighbours and friends.It was very pleasant. I have now learned that every year in May Queen Mary would visit Dulwich Park, be driven about, talk to nursemaids and admire the plants.

So maybe I do have reason to be tired. I think I shall call it a day.

Stay safe. Keep well.


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