I had my booster vaccine today. It began with an M but I have forgotten its name already. Funny to think that when the vaccines first came out we learned their names overnight and compared notes on what we knew about them. Now I just want to know if I am going to have an adverse reaction.
The vaccinator – a new word to me today – asked me to expose my arm. That’s the first time I have heard that phrase. It made me laugh. He looked surprised, then laughed too. Apparently he’s been saying it for days and only when I laughed did he think it sounded odd. In future he’s going to ask people to roll up their sleeves.
In the last few days I have decided my sitting room needs redecorating. It’s not a task I relish, and I shall certainly employ someone to do it, so probably not this side of Christmas. after exposing my arm I walked to the Old Kent Road and a branch of B&Q to pick up colour samples. I had been thinking pale grey, but they all seem either too grey or too pale. My thoughts are drifting towards white. The walls are off white now, but quite which off white I don’t recall. I’ve tucked the various cards under picture frames, and lost one behind the sideboard, to stare at over the coming weeks.
Celia and I went to the Small is Beautiful exhibition today in South Ken. The ads for it looked good, but it was even better than we’d hoped, housed in a space which seemed to unfold as we made our way round. An exhibition can be made or spoiled by how it is laid out. This one felt like a journey of discovery and exploration. Engaging, stimulating, exciting and in the true sense of the word, wonderful.
It closes on Sunday so you haven’t got much time to see it in London, but then it’s off to New York. Might be a good excuse for a hop across the pond. There were people of all ages. Young children were both mesmerised and audibly thrilled by the whole thing. We went in the morning. We were actually the first people through the door and we spent nearly two hours there. Time flew by. Some of the pieces amused, some provoked, amazed the skill of all the artists amazed. My favourites were Simon Laveuve whose pieces I loved, and Slinkachu whose pieces I recognised, though I don’t recall from where. Anyway, check out the links.
A couple of days ago I had acupuncture for my shoulder and neck pain. I went back to Luke who I last saw four years ago. It has only just dawned me that this is now chronic pain as I have had it for months. The session has definitely helped, and I feel more positive that this is not something I am going to have to live with for ever. I go back fr more needles in ten days. Watch this space.
I’ve always been a reader, but at the moment I am never happier then when I have my nose in a book. A trip to the Barbican library netted booty: four novels to enjoy. The Barbican library is the best lending library I know. Unlike so many, it hasn’t been disemboweled and turned into a café with a few books around and a lot of computers. I think there are even still librarians working there, as opposed to library assistants. In the various lockdowns while our local libraries closed, the Barbican did all it could to make sure us borrowers could keep borrowing. We reserved our books online, then collected them from the library’s back door. It worked perfectly and gave our walks to the City real purpose.
Yes, it seems the current COVID wave has peaked, but if wave jumping is your thing never fear, another one should be along in the autumn. Woohoo. Or should that be boohoo? Apparently one in twenty people in Northern Ireland is estimated to be infected at the moment. I’m looking at NI’s figures as, if trains and planes allow, I shall fly into Belfast in ten days. It has started to feel imminent as I have had a message from one of my cousins, not the one I am staying with, about meeting up and seeing Uncle Bill. There was no mention of a party, but I’m hoping one is on the cards, just a small one, but he enjoyed his actual 100th birthday party a lot, and was keen to repeat the experience come the summer. Not that the temperatures in NI are suggesting a relaxed occasion in the garden under blue skies. It’s going to be quite a shock to the system, especially after the heat we have had in London.
Michele’s text made me realise I need to start getting myself organised. At the moment I am far more focused on work than on what I need to do before I go away. I was trying to complete a podcast recording today, but managed to delete part of it, the part I was happy with of course, so it’s back to the beginning with that task tomorrow. Still, I am happy with the script which I have edited. I did get to the bank to pay in a cheques and some cash, and to the Oxfam bookshop to drop off the latest pile of books I have managed to cull. I also thought I’d check out some Chaco sandals, but it seems there’s only one shop in London stocking them, and it’s not in the neighbourhood I was in. Maybe there’s a stockist in Belfast. Fingers crossed.
A normal where although the pandemic is not over it feels less of a threat than before? A normal where we watch aghast night after night at what is happening in Ukraine and feel helpless? A normal where the poorest countries in the world teeter on the edge of famine and food poverty is a term that has entered all our vocabularies?
I can’t say it’s that cheerful. Yet despite the disaster which is the UK government, the lurch to the right by so many countries including my own, there is something about long light evenings, about wild flower meadows, about blue skies and chilled white wine that mitigates the gloom. It’ll be a different story in December.
I have been enraged by Sheffield Hallam University’s announcement that it will suspend its English Literature degree course on the grounds that graduates do not swiftly move Ito high end high status highly paid posts within eighteen months of achieving their degrees. English Literature is apparently a low value degree. Oh yeah? Tell that one to the marines. Since when has education been valued by the salary one earns?
So busy. It’s like the old days. I am working. Due the current economic climate I hardly dare to turn anything down, just like the old days, but boy it makes me tired. Today was a welcome day off. Colm returned the book table yesterday. While it’s been at his workshop I have realised how much bigger the room seems without it. In the long term it’s a piece of furniture I could part with. In the short term it’s much too useful. Still, I felt inspired to cull some of the books normally housed in it. They have been taking up an impressive amount of space in their strong carrier bags in the corner of the living room.
I carried as many as I could to the Oxfam bookshop in Bloomsbury. Since coming home I have filled another bag, and put a selection aside for my great nieces. Some of the books are too old for them now, but they are growing up fast.
Others are old in a different way. Two big books on natural history belonged to my great grandfather and he has written his name on the flyleaf. How do others part with inscribed books like these? I foresee a day when the only books I own will belong to long dead relatives, most of whom I never met.
The news: Could it be bleaker? The war in Ukraine goes on with no end in sight. News of atrocities have become everyday. Here, the government says it cannot provide for everyone as the economy goes tits up. Which means what exactly? Will we become accustomed to mass homelessness and starvation, and primed to accept it as the only option? Dead people on the streets an everyday occurrence. Shrug and pass on until the day comes when we are those desperate, abandoned people. Laws are being passed which make the government unassailable. Those at the top cling on to power for power’s sake. They don’t even try to hide it, yet a compliant press published distracting non-stories on their front pages: family rifts between William and Harry as related by William’s ‘close friends’. He doesn’t need enemies then. Faux outrage that Keir Starmer has sympathy with striking rail workers. Who in their right mind wouldn’t have? Grant Schapps saying the last thing rail workers need to do is strike. Well Grant, what’s the first thing they should do then? Do tell. Strikes are not popular, they are disruptive, and that’s the point of them. And they are often the only effective way that continued grievance over pay and work conditions can be conveyed to an apathetic public, and a government which frankly does not care. Its indifference shown by its refusal to join last ditch talks. Cynical conniving bastards.
Boris Johnson has so far stayed out of prison, as indeed has Trump which seems daily more improbable, but surely it’s only a matter of time. Oh no, I’m forgetting the new laws. Johnson’s inviolate. Nadine Dorries (if you live in another country than the UK and have never heard of heard Ms Dorries, thank your lucky stars) will be the person who decides what should be censored from our news feeds. Read about it here. It seems someone has jumped the gun. A story about Boris Johnson trying to get Carrie Symonds a £100,000 per annum job when he was at the Foreign Office, a story which was reported in the newspapers, has disappeared both the Times and the Mail online. Well what a surprise.
Fortunately The Outlaws has returned for a second series, and as it’s starting in less than five minutes, I am stopping here.
Big news: I am plaster cast free. Oh the joy. My wrist is stiff and a bit sore, I have to make sure I don’t lift heavy objects, I have a splint to wear when I am not exercising or engaged in an undemanding activity, and my sling is still a good idea when I am out and about.
I had been trying not have my hopes too high before attending fracture clinic this morning. Obviously I wanted the X-rays to show everything was healing well, but I didn’t want to pre-empt anything and come crashing down in disappointment. The waiting area is airy and light. We are all spaced out, or rather the seats are. Some patients might have been actually spaced out, I shouldn’t like to say. Michèle had been there yesterday. I don’t think there’s a way we can make our appointments chime, though it would be nice. Instead I wondered if I were sitting where she had sat yesterday (no, she was in the area reserved for wheelchair users), and that made me wonder about a series of narratives, tales of different people sitting in the same spot throughout the day.
I settled down to read more of The Sun is Open by Gail McConnell. Two weeks ago I became suddenly a fan, having previously been entirely ignorant of her work. It was while I was in Northern Ireland. Two days after Uncle Bill’s 100th, there were the annual John Hewitt Birthday Readings. For a while I have thought I’d like to attend, and that thought was cemented last year when Roger Robinson and Sinead Morrissey did the readings and had a discussion online. So Fiona and I had tickets. Only Fiona was not well, so I attended alone.
What a friendly welcoming bunch the John Hewitt lot are. A lovely man, very dapper and with silver hair took my name and made me welcome. I didn’t recognise his name, but it turns out he’s a literary agent and an actor. We were chatting, and he told me Tome French, one of the poets, was already inside ( I was the first member of the audience to arrive having allowed myself lots of time as I didn’t know where the venue was and thought it more than likely I should get lost). I picked up a book of poems by another of the poets Siobhan Campbell and was immediately taken by her work. Lucky perhaps, as she arrived while I was reading it. I bought two books of her poems as gifts, and decided to leave it there. The third poet arrived, Gail McConnell, dressed in black but with a bright yellow checked jacket.
I recognised some members of the audience from other literary events I have enjoyed down the years. People were talking to each other and it would have been easy to have felt excluded, but somehow I didn’t. It was as though I was included, though silently in the warm embrace of the John Hewitt Society.
It was a small audience, an intimate audience. I settled down in my seat. As it was in a lecture theatre at the university there was a comfortable ledge to rest my beslinged arm and throw my coat. I didn’t take notes. The lights dimmed. The evening began. The poets read in alphabetical order, so Siobhan was up first, then Tom, then Gail. I am not actually on first name terms with the poets, but I think if I were to move to Belfast I might be soon.
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.
Friday again already. Unbelievable. The week has flown by. The opera was great last Saturday, both music and venue, both of which got good reviews in The Guardian. And that’s not even starting on the good company. Celia and I hatched a last minute plan to go walking on Sunday. We plumped for a walk we have done several times which takes in the cemetery where my great grandmother and Lewis Carol are buried, views across to Guildford cathedral, farmland, woodland, Watts Gallery, uphills and downhills, horses in fields, a country pile, a lake, the river Wey, and, most importantly for this time of year, blackberries.
We ended at a pub which used to be called the Jolly Farmer and is now I think called The Weyside, drank our half pints of cider, shared a packet of crisps, and got the train back to London. It was good. Monday, being a bank holiday, was grey and dull. I felt no regrets about getting on with paperwork. Work on Tuesday, and suddenly it’s Friday again. Michèle lent me a book called The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell. It was published in 1938 and has been republished as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. After Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, the change of style took a few chapters for me to find the rhythm. There was quite a lot of ‘ere, and, laarst, to conjure the accents of the Rotherhithe community. At first this grated, but I got over it and would happily read more by her. However, although Michèle lent me two further books from the series they are both by different writers, both new to me. I am just embarking on Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert. For fans of detective fiction, this series is a goldmine.
B&J, Celia, Mr Celia, Hartley, Romeo and I convened in the garden this evening over a bottle or two of wine.
There was more than a suggestion of autumn in the air.
Actually this was useful as tomorrow evening we are all, save Mr Celia who’ll be at the Cricket, off to an outdoor event, listening to Octavia’s niece singing in a Handel opera. Celia found her layers wanting within minutes, and although Hartley was doing his best to warm her by sitting on her knee, one of my fleeces was needed. I was trying out a combo of jumper (US sweater) and body warmer, which worked for the most part but there was a bit of a cool patch between the bottom of the warmer and the waistband of my jeans. B&J were rugged up. So it was something of a warmth dress rehearsal. I plan to take a blanket with me, possibly a flask, a quilt might be going too far. Maybe not.
It was lovely to have the gang reunited. Pre-Covid, Celia and Mr Celia hardly knew B&J. Now Celia says she can’t imagine life without them. They have all been wonderful carers of MasterB when I have been away in Ireland or more recently at das Boot. There are moments when the look in MasterB’s eye suggests he is wondering when I shall be away again so he can have the love and attention he deserves. Nothing in the diary at the moment, but there is Uncle Bill’s 100th in October.
We’re enjoying fabulous weather with temperatures in the mid twenties centigrade; warm without being enervatingly hot. I should be quite happy if the mercury rose no higher. I’m eating lots of salad and fresh fruit. My current addiction is spiralised courgette and carrot with chickpeas or butterbeans in a mustard vinaigrette. I eat it almost every day, along with lettuce or raw baby spinach. It’s tasty and really satisfying. Today there was added excitement of freshly cooked beetroot. My other current addiction is miniature gherkins. I keep meaning to look up what nutritional value the have.
An ad for an Audible book keeps flashing on my ‘phone. It’s called Food is Not Medicine. Maybe not, but surely a good diet is in some way medicinal. I should probably get the dictionary out to check the meaning of medicine. I am thinking about this because my wound is healing marvellously well. There’s one crusty looking bit at the edge, and the whole thing is rather pink, but I am both reassured and relieved. I do have the suggestion of a dart or pleat at either end, but I can live with that. The rate of healing seems quick, and at the hospital nurses and doctors have commented on it. Has my diet contributed to this? Answers on a postcard or in the comments box please.
I have started looking at flights to and from Belfast after first Celia, then B&J said they thought between them they could cover my absence. Helena also said she might be able to help. All are people MasterB knows and likes. Before I actually make the booking I need to double check with all of them as it would obviously never do if they all had commitments elsewhere at the same time. I fully expect Celia to be away a great deal, catching up on missed time with grandchildren.