The Coronavirus Diaries, 25th May 2020

Oh, how the days pass. How the government fails to convince us it has our welfare at heart. I checked in just after four to hear what Dominic Cummings had to say. But he despised the courtesy of arriving on time, so I missed his excuses. Probably just as well. It would have been a complete waste of time. Far from apologising for ignoring the guidelines, Cummings, backed by Johnson and other spineless weeds in cabinet and government, maintains his actions were completely justified. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th May 2020

Shall I write about Dominic Cummings, how alone in the UK under government guidance it is acceptable for, nay heroic of him to drive 250 miles to hi parents and then visit beauty spots with his wife and son? How key members of the said government are queuing up to say it as absolutely fine and no story at all? I don’t think I’m going to insult your or my intelligence. We know he shouldn’t have done it, we know this is a hypocritical cover up, we know certain parts of the press will condone it, we know anyone else would have been forced to resign. I say anyone else but of course Johnson seems to have a special power that allows him to move between Dwning Street, Chequers and perhaps a couple of dozen other addresses unknown to me.

It makes it very hard to maintain a Pollyanna view of the world.

So instead I am going to write about my day which unsurprisingly did not include a 250 mile trip to my parents. As my parents are both dead it would have been beyond my power anyway, even if I had felt like flouting the government’s advice. I didn’t go more than about a mile and half from home but I still had an enjoyable, varied day.

I started well, outdoor and indoor plants watered, seedlings unwrapped from their clingfilm cocoon and placed in a sunny spot, Romeo fed with a sachet of cat food. MasterB had breakfasted earlier. The bathroom surfaces sparkled, I swept the communal stairs which were very dusty, and restored the kitchen surfaces to pristine models of hygiene. Lunch. Then I turned to the jigsaw. About three hours passed. I am enjoying and not enjoying this puzzle. The cardboard pieces are flimsy and move very easily but the image, of the coats of arms of 102 its livery companies with panels of text about their collective history and the Lord Mayor’s show is interesting. I have a fair familiarity with the livery companies so their names and a number of their coats of arms are known to me. If I can prevent MasterB from sitting on it and dislodging pieces or skidding across it and destroying the whole thing, I should finish it in a day or so.

MasterB asked to go out. This is not unusual. However, between asking and actually leave ng the premises he often changes his mind. We do a lot of standing on the front door step. I hold the door open, he decides if out is really where he wants to be. The sight of Romeo immediately causes him to decide in is preferable, as does a motor bike, a scooter, a loud child, a group of loud adults, a car travelling too fast. Sometime I cannot see what it is that had decide him against the outside, but he runs and I walk back up the stairs and into the flat. Today was different. Hardly had I opened the door than he was outside and striding confidently towards the garden gate. I left him to it and went for my own walk.

Celia had thought she might join me, but another neighbour was with her in the garden so off I went on my own. On a whim I turned down beside a row of newly refurbished railway arches.

Red is the colour

To let

I imagine that a few months ago the business prospects for these arches were good, and whoever is leasing them was anticipating a tidy return. Not so today. There as a cut through and I could hear voices, laughter, and smell a barbecue. A Latin American family and maybe their friends was having a bit of a party. Whether they had any right to be there I have no idea, but they were definitely enjoying themselves. A bit further down the road I saw these railway arches, unrefurbished but with businesses in operation. And a dog. There must be a moral in that somewhere.

Old style arches

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd May 2020

When all those weeks ago we had our first Clap for Carers it was great. Those of us who were suddenly living more sequestered, less social lives, our work and income gone, felt like we were doing something. We might be spending our days at home, catching up on long neglected tasks, clearing cupboards, or in my case doing jigsaws, but we knew in the hospitals staff whether medical or other were working hard. Delivery drivers came to the rescue of those who could not leave their homes; post became erratic, but still came; paramedics, fire officers, police, street cleaners, bus and train drivers have been working. So it was a shout of recognition that we knew and appreciated that often their health was compromised by going to work while we stayed safe. It was also a great chance to see neighbours, to wave at friends who stayed firmly behind closed windows. It was unexpectedly sociable. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd May 2020

A day of domestic successes and failures, a day of acceptance and and adjustment, a day of conversations with neighbours.

Had you told me two months ago that I should be happily engaged sewing seams on aged pillow slips and a small back pack on my old Singer sewing machine I should have stared at you in disbelief. But that’s what I was doing in the early afternoon. I almost wanted to find pillow slips in need of new seams. YouTube came up trumps with a couple of videos by showing how to fill a long bobbin, load it, thread the machine, and another with a tip for using a piece of white paper or card behind the needle you are threading to help see the eye. It was all very satisfying.

The failures were with washing. after dinner last night I realised I had an oil mark on my dress. This was odd on two counts. I had been wearing an apron while I cooked, and my meal had contained very little oil. I examined the apron, and realised it has an oily patch on the bib. So I soaked the dress overnight and today put it, the apron and some other clothes in the machine together with a product that promises to remove oil stains. I can tell you now that it doesn’t. Fortuitously my neighbour Carol called me as I was finishing the last pillow slip. She wanted to know if I’d like to go for a walk. We arranged to meet in ten minutes. Carol’s elderly dog, a miniature pinscher called Rosie, who is now deaf and blind, sniffed my hand and wagged her tail. In her day she was a demon for games and I used to make toys for her and play with her. It was nice to be recognised and even nicer that she was pleased to sniff me. Coronavirus and the lockdown has made Carol decide she is going to move out of London to the Sussex coast. She wanted to tell me of her plans. It’s all very exciting and I shall miss her if she moves, but she sounds pretty determined. Now you’ll have noticed I used the word fortuitously and so far nothing I have written seems to warrant that word. But Carol is immensely knowledgeable about fabrics. She deals in lace and linen, her laundry skills are second to none, so I was glad to ask her advice. I have yet to put it into practice, so I can’t say if it has worked or not. I know my rhubarb and apple cakes have worked, and the smell is curling deliciously around my home. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st May 2020

I am wearing a sticker that says I gave blood today and asks people to be kind to me. So far so good. No one has been in the slightest bit unkind. I made the appointment before lockdown and received my reminder last week. I rather assumed I’d be swabbed to check if I was ill, and my blood tested for anti-bodies. Actually neither of those things are part of the donor service plan. I arrived hot and red faced having marched from home on a day that was considerably warmer than the forecast had led me to expect. I had to rush because I had cut things a bit fine. I had been doing housework and not wearing my watch. I’d also had a long ‘phone call with a friend, and of course I needed to eat before making my donation.

We donors were invited on chairs spaced two metres apart while our personal details were checked and we answered the health questions before we went on for the blood test (for iron) and then the needle in the arm bit. The venue was the William Booth Memorial College at Denmark Hill where there is a lot of space and beautiful grounds.

William Booth Memorial College

Tower, William Booth Memorial College

Accommodation William Booth Memorial College

I’m not ready to sign up for the Salvation Army, a lack of religious faith would seem to preclude my membership anyway, but they are good lot, and their brand of practical Christianity appeals. There was a half finished jigsaw in one of the communal areas I had to ask through. How I should have loved to have sat down and fitted a few pieces in. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th May 2020

I’ll steer clear mainly of politics for this post, though I shall include a link to a great article in the Guardian Review from last Saturday.
This sentence made me laugh out loud, albeit in a somewhat cynical way: Johnson, like Donald Trump, represents people who believe in the value of hard work, but don’t do very much of the really unpleasant hard work them selves, either for reasons of wealth or age. Here’s the link if you’d like to read the rest.

But today is a day for celebration. I have had a few minor successes I have been feeling very pleased about, and shortly we have a socially distanced glass or two of champagne to toast Michèle because today is her birthday and next week her new book comes out. So, how you might be thinking, can you top that? Well here’s how, my friend and neighbour Mark was diagnosed with throat cancer last year. He had the treatment. It wasn’t fun. He was anxious, lost lots of weight as he couldn’t eat much without discomfort or worse. But he came through that and started looking more himself just as we went into lockdown. Each time I’ve seen him over these last weeks he looks better and better. But you never know, do you? So he’s had the scans, the tests, and now the appointment with the consultant and he is all clear. Could there be better news? It’s just wonderful. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th May 2020

I had something, a washing machine perhaps, where the dial would move with a satisfying click as it worked through the programme. The trajectory of our lives during the Coronavirus crisis feels a bit like that, only without the satisfying bit. We started with fear, resentment, I felt tied at the very prospect of lockdown. Then it started and worry played quite a big part, worry about falling ill, about loss of earnings, about survival, while at the same time there was a dawning feeling that this was in someway a special time. We were living through something, to use a very overused word, unprecedented in our lifetime. Flyers came through our letterboxes very early on, volunteers offering to help us if we were ill or self-isolating. The skies became quiet, the roads devoid of cars. Birdsong, not car engines was the sound of morning. Some people began to say this would be the dawn of a new world, a world of empathy, an understanding that extreme wealth is unworthy aspiration, that those underpaid workers in the NHS, at Royal Mail, drivers and cyclists delivering food and other goods (thank-you to the cyclist who brought my birthday flowers), street cleaners, refuse collectors, shop workers, are more important to us in our everyday lives than hedge fund managers, stockbrokers, influencers and A-Listers. We saw the applause for workers on nighttime balconies in Barcelona and were inspired to do something similar. The first time I went outside to call my thanks for the NHS and key workers, I was wearing a duffel coat and gloves, neighbours who didn’t know what was happening opened their windows in curiosity and then joined in. Even senior politicians who voted down a pay increase and then cheered were filmed clapping on their doorsteps. Pictures of rainbows appeared in windows, a glorious display of fake flowers declaring love for the NHS was installed outside Tommy’s. Gradually people realised that bikes would give them more freedom for their allowed exercise time. The roads filled with confident and dangerous cyclists who I look at with extreme jealousy. I do cycle, but the legacy of a badly broken wrist six years ago when a car drove across my path has made me a wimpy cyclist. Probably the lockdown cycling memory that will stay with me is the few hundred yards I cycled along the New Kent Road, just me and a few buses. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th May 2020

If a genie were suddenly to emerge out of say, my ginger cordial bottle, and offer me one wish from a choice of a) a walk in the country that included a drink, cider or grapefruit and soda, at a country pub, b) the chance to sit down with a group of friends inside someone’s house and enjoy a good meal and good chat, or c) a haircut, I think I might well go for the haircut. A woman walked by me the other day and I thought, nice haircut, and two paces later, haircut? It was a short haircut too, so unless she had a buzzcut pre lockdown, she has access to haircutting skills denied to most of us.

But so far no sign of a genie, so every day is a Bad Hair Day, and when the hair salons do reopen I imagine the rush for appointments will mean those Bad Hair Days are set to continue for quite a while yet. At least I have photos of walks taken stored on my computer.

Pony on the fens


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The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th May 2020

On the way back from our walk in the City today a woman ran by us. Celia, I said, why is that woman wearing a wig and a false moustache? Celia didn’t know, but she hadn’t noticed either. Lockdown does strange things to us. Earlier I had become somewhat over excited at the sight of a lone canoeist on the Thames at Bankside. Yesterday we saw two canoeists as we crossed Vauxhall Bridge. If we hadn’t stopped to gaze at their wonderful, perfectly socially distanced paddling, we might not have encountered Frederick.

Yesterday’s canoeists

He had leant his bike against the barricade that protects the cycle path from the cars and was climbing over to the main carriageway. He wasn’t finding it easy. What is he doing? said Celia as we stared at him. He held up his hand as cars hurtled towards him and Celia and I gasped for his safety. Perhaps I should mention Frederick (he introduced himself later) was a man not in the first flush of youth and his appearance was a little eccentric. I’d mention wild hair, but my hair was probably looking fairly wild at the time, so I’ll skip that bit. There was a jacket on the ground, Frederick wanted to pick it up.

Amazing what you find in the road, he announced cheerfully, still the car side of the barricade. He was pleased with his find, a waxed jacket. Celia and I were now firmly in the role of audience and Frederick was playing to us. Let’s see if it’s a good make, he said and spread the jacket over the barricade to check the label. Marks and Spencer, he announced, not bad.

Still the wrong side of the barricade he engaged us in conversation, asking if we liked music, and inviting us to join the Choir With No Name, which in normal times meets on Shaftesbury Avenue, assuring Celia that her avowed inability to hold a note was no impediment. A further inducement was offered with the news that a meal, usually with a vegetarian option, was served afterwards. Some of what he said was lost to the sound of the traffic, but he told us to watch something which we think was titled The Trouble With Mother on Vimeo.

Today, as yesterday we saw people wandering along the foreshore while the tide was out.

Foreshore walking

though we didn’t notice any ducks today.


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