The Diaries, 20th May 2023, Faces from the Past

No walks in the countryside around Guildford to report tonight, but memories do seem a recurrent theme in my life recently. Someone from my undergraduate days found me on the internet and contacted me. We have been enjoying an online correspondence now for several weeks. After our first year, I remember very little of him, and absolutely nothing from our final year, yet I have an address for him for after graduation so we must have had some contact. The prospect of us meeting is remote, but it is quite nice to have a connection with whom I have a shared past even if I recall little about it.

Meeting up with Russell always means some sharing of childhood, adolescent, and early adulthood memories. Then there’s Graham, who I am now absolutely sure I would have known by sight back in the day. Then yesterday evening I had a chance conversation with a neighbour I barely know. We were talking about how much the neighbourhood has changed. She hasn’t lived here as long as I have and was asking me about what the Walworth Road had been like. I found myself dredging up images of long gone shops, then suddenly remembered a second hand shop I had all but forgotten where there was a restaurant. It turned out she knew it, not only knew the shop and the restaurant but was friends with the people who owned and ran it. The conversation ran on.

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The Coronavirus (?) Diaries, 16th May 2023, Another Guildford Circular

It’s ages since I met up with my cousin Russell, so it was great to find we were both free and up for a walk on Sunday. Russell suggested a route which was for both of us a real trip down memory lane, places close to Guildford centre yet ones which I haven’t been to in literally decades.

We made our way up to Pewley Down by a route new to me but which took in the flat Russell lived in with his father, Frank in his mid and later teens. Pewley Down, like elsewhere on this walk, is a place I have walked so many times with my immediate family, and of course that included the dogs. In my mind I can see my black Labrador Tessa hobnobbing with the dogs being walked there, rushing off for a mad game for several minutes, then returning to us, her tongue lolling and her face a happy grin. Our wire haired dachshund was more reserved, and would watch, enviously I sometimes thought. Pewley Down has always been a special place to me, and that was confirmed on Sunday.

We continued along the narrow path of the Pilgrims’ Way. There were more people, more dogs than I remembered. Then the gradual climb to St Martha’s Chapel, a place my parents both loved. If we ever had visitors from Ireland or Canada they would always be taken to St Martha’s. The horse service, where there was always a donkey, was an annual fixture of family life.

We stopped there for a while. Russell was telling me about his mother-in-law, now in a care home, her body needing that care, and her mind alive and active. I ate some of my lunch. Russell, for reasons unexplained, had left his in his car.

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Coronation Diary 6th May 2023

I find it ironic that as WHO announced that coronavirus is no longer a global emergency crisis we have the coronation of Charles III. Given that the virus and the event have an etymological link. If you are wondering what I am on about, here’s why: The characteristic surface of a coronavirus virion has a crown-like appearance that can be seen under the electron microscope, which is why the viruses are named after the Latin word corona, meaning crown or halo.

I watched the coronation with Celia. Charlie joined us midway. I ate a lot of olives. We had lunch after the balcony bit. The king was wearing a purple outfit which did not look great quality. Both Celia and I thought it looked as though it was cheap polyester.

I went home after we’d eaten and we met up later for a walk. We met Michèle who is definitely not a monarchist. I think she said she was having a republican day. Celia may correct me. I’m not sure how representative our neighbourhood is but we counted three flats, one car, one pub and one church sporting union flags. Oh and a house which had plastic bunting and two flags, both with portraits of the king. That is a house which is always decorated to the max at Christmas, and for hallowe’en, so it wasn’t exactly out of character.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th May 2023, Guildford for Graham

Graham and I have never met, but we both used to live in Guildford, he used to visit my aunt’s pub and he follows this blog. So this post is dedicated to him.

It was a perfect day. Celia and I, suitably booted, with our lunches in our back packs along with waterproofs – just in case, and in the event totally unnecessary – took the train from Waterloo at 10.00, reaching Guildford just over half an hour later. The day was mild, the sky blue.

Up the Mount to the cemetery, along the path and onto the Downs, and greenery. We hoped for bluebells and we found them. Lots of them. Lots of other flowers too, not all of which we could identify. Down the hill which leads a sandy track and the main wooded part of the walk where there were bluebells galore.

We heard birds. Again we could not identify them, part from the woodpecker. We reached my favourite crossroads of paths and continued towards Compton. There were only four horses in the fields either side of the track when we came out of the woods. Usually we see many at this point, but there was some construction going on and maybe the horses had been moved further away. The chickweed looked wonderful. Could you eat it I wondered. Apparently you can, but frustratingly after this part of the walk we barely saw any more. We watched a bumble bee disappear into a bee hole in the bank beside the path. Lunch was in the picnic in the area of Watts Gallery, our vittles supplemented by cake from the café. A robin joined us at our table. It has obviously worked out lunchtime is a great opportunity for extra snacks.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 1st May 2023, Bridlington, Blooms and Another Birthday

The forecast was not promising, but the sun is out and it’s going to be a lovely evening. Carol’s lilac is blooming, the lilies of the valley Celia gave me several years ago have multiplied and the flowers are appearing, the May flowers look like a bridal gown.

I have spent the day with MasterB. He’s having his dinner now, having already enjoyed an aperitif of biscuits. I am trying to encourage him to use his grooming arch. It’s probably the least successful thing I have ever bought him. He sniffs it, but does not behave like the cat in the adverts. As the weather is warming up he is shedding his coat for lighter late spring wear. Using the arch would relieve me of some grooming duties.

I still have some Bridlington photos to share, but I need to be quick. Celia is coming round, and then we are due at Michele’s at seven. She has kindly offered to host snacks and drinks for my birthday and May Day at her flat.

First some more dogs. I met Jesse and Valzar on my walk yesterday morning. Jesse shot by me like a bullet in pursuit of a ball thrown by her owner. A collie she is full of zip and energy. Relucanttly she sat still for a photo. Valzar is a rescue from Italy, mistreated, beaten and locked in a shed, he is still nervous and constantly checking with his new people for reassurance. They have had him thirty days. The first three he refused to leave the house. Then they managed to get him down to the beach and saw a different dog, a dog who raced around, who went in and out of the water, who looked alive, alert, happy. He accepted a treat from me, touched noses with a friendly Labrador but was happiest sitting between his owners. I’d love to see him in a year’s time.

And actually I realise now I am out of time or I shall be late to my own party. Add your prayers to mine for a happy, confident Valzar, a dog who deserves so much more than his earlier life has given him.

Happy May Day!

The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th April 2023, Bridlington

When I met up with friends Humph and Jane for breakfast yesterday morning at the Wish Cat Café it turned out we had all seen the land train in which would take us to the party venue and thought it would be a good way to travel. So it proved. We trundled along the esplanade, out towards and along the cliffs to Sewerby. Children waved to us. Whoever had the idea of introducing this service to Bridlington deserves recognition.

The party was lovely. Why I didn’t take a photo of the cake I have no idea. It was wonderful, and as well as featuring a photo of Ray on the top, included a model of her beloved piano and some paintbrushes and a palette on a lower tier.

There were speeches, music, the fizz flowed. The room buzzed with conversation. No one in my hearing mentioned the coronation. I realise I am becoming a tad obsessed by the disconnect between the gushing pieces in some sections of the press and my own experience and feelings. Today I read how we are being invited to stand (in front of televisions, in parks, wherever) and swear an oath of allegiance to the king during the ceremony. I seriously thought I was reading a satirical piece at first, but alas not. Bonkers does not really cover it.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th April 2023, On the Beach

I keep thinking I should drop the coronavirus bit from these posts, but on the train to Doncaster today two women sitting behind me were talking about how they had both recently had the virus, and mentioning friends and acquaintances who are ill with it now. I thought of the man beside me on the tube this morning who sneezed, and hopes I have not been infected.

Maybe the sea air this evening will have banished any germs. I am in Bridlington in advance of Ray’s birthday celebrations tomorrow. She turned 100 a month ago, but the tea party is tomorrow. I’m staying by the seafront, and I love the view. Bridlington has evidently seen better days, and is now starting to reinvent itself, to look to a future, rather than past glories. As a result it’s a mix of run down, tired and very dilapidated buildings, and joyously restored ones, as well as a modern, confident leisure centre. The library building is an example of decayed civic pride and I rather love it. I’ll post a photo at some point. Local cuisine appears dominated by fish and chips. I was starting to wonder if anyone actually ate vegetables at all.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 25th April 2023, Going Places

I’m a bit of a home body. Celia is always whisking off to stay with children and grandchildren, meeting up with her brother for a holiday; Octavia goes backwards and forwards to Yorkshire to stay with her mum, nips to Menton for weekends, has regular holidays in Croatia, the US and I imagine will any day soon be off to Australia again. The last time I left the UK was before the start of the pandemic. I was supposed to be going to Marseille in April 2020, but of course that didn’t happen. I rebooked flights a couple of times and then got a refund. Since then all my trips have been in the UK.

This weekend I am going to Yorkshire for Octavia’s mother’s 100th birthday bash. She actually turned 100 a month ago, but this weekend end has been fixed for the gathering. I’ll only be away a couple of nights, but it’ll be good to be out of London in the spring. In June I am going to visit my friend Patou in Brittany whose husband suddenly a few weeks ago. The flights are booked, I hope I have cat cover for the incomparable MasterB. This is going to be my first use of two passports on one trip. I understand I use the UK one leaving and arriving in London, my Irish one arriving and leaving Rennes. I have a qualm though. I had to register my passport in the advanced passenger information section for my booking. I could only register one. I’m hoping, if I show the other, alarms are not going to ring, uniformed officers descend and drag me off somewhere intimidating for questioning. I tried Easyjet’s customer service number hoping for clarification, enlightenment even. No joy. It has a limited menu and that menu does not include anything relating to my question in options one, two to three. There was no option four for other as I had hoped. Any insight one or more of you can offer gratefully received.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th April 2023, Anniversaries

Twelve years is quite a time. I was thinking of when I was twelve years old, one year into secondary school, six years away from university. Thinking about twelve years ago, a year before the Olympics and Paralympics in London, a year after David Cameron became Prime Minister, five years before the referendum on the EU that has blighted us ever since. And more happily, yesterday marked twelve years since MasterB came home as my cat.

We didn’t have an evening at home together though. I went out to celebrate another anniversary. It’s twenty -five years since a group of us obtained the qualifications which bring me my income today. Itv was hard work, and we bonded. On the whole, we don’t meet each other very often in the course of our work, and if we do, there’s seldom the opportunity to exchange more than a couple of sentences. Sit us down in a restaurant off Oxford Street with good food, wine circulating freely, and there’s no lag in the conversation.

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