The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th January 2020

I can’t say I am complete convert to millet, but having used it in Red Bean Stew with Millet Pilaff tonight I am certainly going to be using it again. Or at least using up what I have still in the cupboard. Watch this space.

I have continued to be gripped by events in the US and Trump’s impeachment. Listening to and reading reports and analysis, especially about how senators are wearing body armour, employing bodyguards, fearing for their own and their families’ safety, made me think about some parallel events here. When the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Gina Miller after she took the UK government to court in 2016 over its authority to trigger article 50 without parliamentary approval she became a hate figure, received death threats, and had to have 24 hour security installed in her home. The Mail described the judges as enemies of the people, when they were exercising their independence and protecting our democracy. Ironic as The Mail tends to see itself as upholders of law and order. This headline was not just wrong, it was an attack on the judiciary, it undermined the judiciary and that is a dangerous thing to do. It is important for the judiciary to be independent and that government actions can be challenged through the courts.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th January 2020

As I was clearing up after breakfast I was thinking that this year I really should sell first the boat then the car. The car at least seems to be on the same page, though determined to cause me unplanned expense first. As for the boat, I have a feeling that however great my resolve is ona cold wet day in January, one lovely weekend in May will soften it.

I had booked a slot at the local recycling place to leave my defunct towel rail and some other bits and pieces including a ex-toaster of Celia’s. Off I went. All well until I was half a mile from home and there was a sudden bumpy feeling, a funny noise and I recognised the sign of a severely flat tyre. A puncture as it turned out. I don’t have home start as the garage is just across the road, but I should have read the small print, as home start means within a mile from home. It’s a long and tedious story, but it looks more than likely I shall need a new wheel. Ho hum.

I have been following the live updates re Trump’s impeachment fairly obsessively. On the news tonight several Republican senators answered the reporter’s polite enquiries with almost identical words along the lines of this is a stunt by the Democrats at a time when we need unity. My guess is it was a format of words they were advised to say, but some were clearly angry. It sounds reasonable until you think about what it means, which is that somehow by drawing a veil over those people who attacked the capitol, encouraged, urged by Trump, and over the President‘s words too will heal wounds. No it won’t. It would send a message to all those other people who have demonstrated peacefully that Trump and his supporters are given leeway and not held to account. As indeed they are. Remember Black Lives Matter? That’s all about how black people do not enjoy the same freedoms, the same respect, the same treatment by the police and the law as white people.

Uncomfortable truths have to be faced. Not just in the US, everywhere. We have our own deniers here. People who cannot see that white privilege exists. People who say we shouldn’t worry about who got rich due to the slave trade and whose descendants still grow fat on the exploitation of human beings. It’s long ago, they say, as though that had anything to do with it when the effects are still felt today. Try saying that to a Scot who hates you for being English because of Culloden, never mind that your family hadn’t even arrived here when that battle happened. It’s an inherited guilt.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 11th January 2021

Monday. It’s traditionally a day to do the washing and so it was chez IsobeletChat. It was dry, much milder than the last few days and, best of all, windy. I actually woke in the night because I was too warm. Chris called me just after breakfast, and it was only later in the day I realised I hadn’t read the paper, realised too that without being aware my morning routine is now to get stuck into The Guardian (online edition) while I drink my coffee.

There was nothing exciting about my day. It was one of domestic chores and waiting for the ONS person to turn up so I could take swabs which will go to the Covid study. The news regarding the pandemic is fairly unrelenting in its grimness. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed, numbers of people infected are still dying, the young as well as the old are dying, there are temporary mortuaries in Surrey and NW London. There may be light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still a long tunnel.

We are told to stay local. Boris Johnson was seen cycling seven miles from his home in Downing Street. OK it’s not that far, and a bike ride of seven miles is not great, but it does make you remember Dominic Cummings and his interpretation of stay home involving a very long car ride followed by another car ride to a famous beauty spot in order, he claimed, to check his eyesight. Johnson’s cycling suggests a tin ear at the very least. Government has to be seen to be practising what it preaches. Most of us interpret stay local as staying in an area less than seven miles from our homes. The Cummings fiasco did untold damage. The Prime Minister telling reporters that more vaccinations have been given here in the UK than in any other country as though we are in some strange international vaccination race (and it’s GB going for Gooooooold) is as bizarre as it is irrelevant. Yes we want the vaccines, and we want them as fast we can have them, but I am really not going to be dismayed if another country administers them more quickly than we do. This is a global pandemic. We want everyone, everywhere to be vaccinated.

postscript 12th January. I just read this piece in today’s paper on the subject of bending the lockdown rules. Food for thought.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th January 2020

A stunningly beautiful day: cold, but with bright blue skies and when you in it the sun was warm. Octavia and I met and went for a walk. There has been a short series on BBC4 this week called Winter Walks. Five well known figures have gone for a walk alone but with a camera recording a 360° view of what they saw. I have seen three of the five programmes. Don’t think car chases, or indeed anything fast, though one farmer had a fine collection of old tractors he was happy to talk about with Lemn Sissay. In some ways it reminded me of those short filler pieces between programmes back when all television was in black and white, things lies a pot being thrown. Slow, mesmeric, and somehow deeply pleasing. the filming has been edited down to thirty minutes per programme. when I have finished writing this post, I shall probably watch the two remaining episodes. The fact that the words Series 1 follow the title means, I hope that there will be more. I was struck by how in the three I have seen (Lemn Sissay, Simon Armitage and Richard Coles) at some point each muses on the power of walking and landscape to soothe, to heal, to inspire and to calm. I shall be shocked if Selina Scott and Sayeeda Warsi say anything to the contrary. The programmes made me more than ever want to get my boots on and get out into the country, but with strict instructions to stay local, Cynthia and I are planning an urban walk from our front doors to Norwood cemetery next week. we need to plot a route. The most direct way is along main roads, but they will be the most polluted, so we would be better sticking to side streets, housing estates and parks. It’s going to be an adventure.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th January 2020

Last night I took down the cards, the various decorations and the lights that I only have at Christmas. I have left the flamingo lights, one set of white lights in the hall, and I am still burning candles, though a reduced number. Then I turned on the television to watch the news. It wasn’t quite what I expected. Like much of the world I suspect, I was slack jawed in amazed disbelief at the scenes from Washington. It was like some dystopian film. A mob, really I cannot bring myself to dignify them by calling them protesters, swarming around, threatening, breaking and intimidating; braggarts, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, while inside the building elected representatives were told to reach for their gas masks. Trump, from the safety of the White House egged on his followers, repeating over and over the lies about the election being stolen from him, about voter fraud. It was fascism in action. Ugly, dangerous, deluded.

Where were the police? Apparently close by, the lights of their cars flashing, but as so many have commented already their softly softly approach was markedly different to the one they took against a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in the summer.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th January 2020

In some ways I was disappointed when Celia didn’t carry out her threat to scream. Maybe it was because we were pounding the streets, not in the field which was where she said she needed to be to make loud her frustration about being once more in lockdown. Is it the third or fourth lockdown? I’m losing count. It’s supposed to be like the first lockdown, except of course it’s not because now we are much more familiar with the whole thing; our habits established back in March have for many of us remained largely unchanged. The shops have got their one way systems, sanitiser gel, perspex shields in place; the lines on the pavement which began to disappear at the end of autumn reminding us to keep two metres apart have been renewed.

In anticipation of the news I began a jigsaw. Whatever gene those who felt the first lockdown was not only the perfect opportunity to sort out their cupboards but actually did sort them have, I am missing it. Lockdown induces a kind of paralysis in me. I can walk, shop for neighbours, do jigsaws, cook, take photographs, keep this online diary, but it has a time standing still quality I struggle to get over. I was relieved when Reinhild, who I met by chance today, said her cupboards have remained similarly unsorted, but Mark, aka Mr Reinhild, was busy disposing of their Christmas tree.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd January 2021

Celia and went for a walk this afternoon. Our goal was the Southbank where we had seen lights and signs of festivities a few weeks ago. There were still lights and a fair number of stalls selling food and drink, but most people seemed to be enjoying the view of the river and a walk as the afternoon turned into evening.

It would appear that with the restrictions on what we can do and where we can do it, more and more people are strolling the streets. There are an enormous number of beguiling puppies. Covid has made much of the last twelve months pretty bleak, but people discovering the joys of walking has to be a positive. Those who have acquired canine companions will obviously be out pounding the pavements and parks, will the rest retire to bars and restaurants? We saw a few runners. This is the time of year when those running the London marathon start taking their training seriously. There was no marathon in 2020. What are the chances in 2021? Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th December 2020

The year stumbles to an end. There will be no New Year’s Eve parties, the UK’s ignominious departure from the EU may be televised, but at least we shall be spared some of the excesses the Brexshitters wanted. I confess I am not a fan of New Year’s Eve. The sentimentality, the Auld Lang Syne linked arms with people you may not know who may well have had too much to drink; the fireworks that scare and kill wildlife; the going to bed too late and feeling out of sorts as a result for the first day of the year. None of it works for me. So that I don’t regret.

If the weather permits I’ll go for a walk with Celia. In the evening I shall close my shutters against the night, and if a vague plan we have hatched goes ahead I shall eat chips and drink something bubbly in my home, while B&J, Celia and Charlie, B&J’s friends Chris and Jean, maybe some others do the same in their homes. MasterB will be protected from noisy feux d’artifice and we shall be warm. I shall probably be in my pjs before midnight, possibly asleep. I hope Hartley will be tucked up safe in Helena’s emergency cat shelter.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th December 2020

It’s a cold night after a cold day, but the forecast sleet did not come and I got out and about in Holborn and Bloomsbury this afternoon. I am hoping for similar walking weather tomorrow. Walking is good for me at any time, but during the pandemic it has been a lifesaver, a joy, a freedom.

Local streets and shops are often busy, so heading for areas of big shops, hotels and offices where fewer people live makes sense. We can walk alone, enjoy outside space, remove our masks. Actually I only removed my mask today as I realised it was getting and staying damp from my condensed breath. Celia wasn’t with me today. I travelled on an almost empty bus with all the windows open. Bracing might be open description. I cannot imagine travelling on an air conditioned coach where the windows stay closed and the air circulates. Death trap.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 26th December 2020

I hope you are all having a lovely Christmas. I am. There is something rather nice about pared down festivities, though I was amazed at how many shops were open on the Walworth Road and Bermondsey Street today. My home twinkles with fairy lights, and glows with candles. The candles are all white, but the fairy lights in the sitting room comprise pink flamingos, blue stars, and green Christmas trees. The fairy lights in the hall are white and cream. The wine in the glass is red.

I still have three presents to unwrap. When I was little the excitement was all about the actual presents, now it is the fun of anticipation. Deferred gratification has something to be said for it. That is snot to say that the presents so far divested of their paper have disappointed, far from it. Lovely books, a scarf, a t-shirt (striped), chutney (I broke the accompanying jam when I dropped the present), Booja Booja chocolates, a gift voucher for a fabulous sum. We didn’t win the lottery yesterday but it almost seems churlish to mention that.

Christmas Day was bright and very cold. As my sitting room was flooded with sunshine the low temperatures outside were something of a shock. The park was full of dogs and their people. It was good. Today looked cold; grey and dull bit was actually mild. I had a late start, enjoying a grass matinée reading my book, while MasterB slept on my leg under the quilt. Hartley and Romeo had a late breakfast.

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