The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th October 2021

After joining a very short queue and waiting a very long time, I finally got some new toothbrush heads today. One reason why each customer took so long to serve was the array of goods on ‘special offer’ at the till. The assistant, who I didn’t recognise and assumed to be new, felt she had to ask each of us if we would like these items. No one did. One was a pack of three face masks for £1. I am guessing shops are now seeing falling sales of masks and want rid of them. The reverse of the rush to acquire and stock them last year. Maybe it’s good time to stock up. Although more relaxed about my mask wearing than before, I am aware it’s getting colder and not only are coughs and colds likely to be more prevalent, so is the incidence of Covid 19.

I’ve been pretty busy, mainly working on a new project which I have to deliver this weekend. Money wise it really isn’t paying, but I am thoroughly enjoying my research. Some of you know what I do, some of you don’t. I tend to be a bit coy about it here as this is my personal, as opposed to my professional space. Those of you who know my professional space also know I am a bit lax about keeping it up to date.

I have two books on the go apart from the ones I am reading for work: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, and The Women of Troy by Pat Barker. Giovanni’s Room is for book group which I may or may not attend next week. I read this novel forty one years ago and loved it. I managed to leave it in a pub in Holborn before I had finished it and it was weeks before I got another copy. The title has remained with me along with the knowledge that I loved the novel. Yet when I picked it up last week I found I had entirely forgotten the story. It is like reading a novel quite new to me. Every now and then I get a sort of frisson of pleasurable remembrance; the joy of Baldwin’s prose; descriptions of a Paris now vanished, but which I saw the tail end of. But the protagonists, the plot – nothing. I am slightly intrigued as to my much younger self’s reaction to this book. I know in 1980 I read everything I could find by Baldwin. How or why I discovered his writing, I now have no idea. But I am glad I did.

Pat Barker is nearer eighty than seventy. Many of us would have given up by work by her age, but her writing just gets better and better. I have a limited time to read this novel before returning it to the library, and it is like a fine wine, I want to sip it, to savour it.

Over the last couple of weeks I have twice to the SouthBank to hear authors I admire being interviewed. The first was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She has recently published Notes on Grief, her experience of and reactions to her father’s sudden death. I went vowing I was not buying the book. I bought it. It’s slim and I recommend it. She is one of the most articulate people writing now. Her novels are a joy, her – what should I call them? – other works are inspirational.

On Sunday Celia, Octavia and I went to hear Bernadine Evaristo whose new book Manifesto was launched at the event. My first, and I admit, shallow response was surprise at how small she is. I had the impression she was a tall lean woman, a long tall Sally of literature. She too is fearsomely articulate, and like Adichie deploys a mixture of honesty, humour and directness which made me warm to her.

Tomorrow I am having a haircut. For the last few weeks I have been constantly pushing my hair out of my eyes, or pinning it back with a hair slide. By the afternoon I hope neither action will be necessary.

Stay safe. Keep well. Don’t overrelax your guard against Covid.


6 thoughts on “The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th October 2021

  1. So pleased you bought “Notes on Grief” and lent it to me. So honest and moving and beautifully written. An extraordinary tribute to her father. Now I want to read more by her, and can see why you wanted to hear her talk and have been so enthusiastic about her writing.

  2. I’ve also been rereading some Baldwin of late (just finished Go Tell it On the Mountain, which remains one of my favorite books); Giovanni’s Room is next on my list. Curious how our responses to certain stories change with time. I remember the latter as perhaps being more impactful on me, but that may have been because it was one of the first books I read to deal directly and empathetically with homosexuality.

    • It’s weird. I read everything by Baldwin but Giovanni’s Room has remained the title that moved me most. So it has been a bit of a shock to find I remember so little. I didn’t even remember the protagonist was white. That was a surprise. I’d love to know how my younger self reacted to this novel, other than thinking it was brilliant. What was it that enraged me so emotionally? I may need to undergo therapy…

  3. I regret not purchasing the “Last dinner at Pompeii” face masks on discount at the museum back in June when everything was open and we were expecting nothing but blue skies. Always keep one handy – and Pompeii seems a fitting statement mask.

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