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, 9th December 2020

I have made a bit of dent in my Christmas card writing. It’s not much, but at least there are a gathering of ticks on my list. It’s funny how receiving a card can be so lovely, and yet writing them is a bit of a chore. I was going to post the ones to people in various locations in mainland Europe, but the post office queue snaked up the street and I didn’t want to go further afield. I hope to get to the City tomorrow, so I’ll take them with me and buy some more stamps or the UK ones while I am at it. Once the cards are written and the gifts wrapped, I think I’ll put up some decorations. By which I mean fairy lights. I love fairy lights. I have some all the year round, solar powered ones which brighten up dull days and winter evenings. I don’t have a tree. I don’t want one and I dread to think what havoc MasterB could wreak if I suddenly changed my mind.

Other than fairy lights I have a couple of baubles, some bells, and tea lights, real and electric will complete the decorations unless I go the whole hog and deploy the tinsel. I often have tea lights at Christmas, but for some reason this winter I am loving lighting candles in the evening. I even bought a new one today, lightly scented. Strongly scented candles don’t do it for me usually. Celia says she has been using candles more too. If we meet in the garden they are great, and even provide a little warmth. I may buy some little holders to take outside.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th November 2020

I have been suffering from lockdown/coronavirus blues. So the fact that the end is in sight is a huge relief and mood lifter. Poor folk in tier 3 and people in Leicester in particular. Leicester has been in almost continuous lockdown for months. But bad though the lockdown blues are, I prefer them to the terrifying prospect of the virus rampaging through the population to ‘protect the economy’ as some argue, the MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell being one. A compelling reason not to move to Romford if ever I heard one.

His interview on the tv news was a study in opinion over fact. Most statements were prefaced by the words “It seems to me..” and he clinched his ‘arguments’ by saying he had spoken to many of his constituents and they felt the measures were unnecessary and had gone too far. Even Boris Johnson, a man who cannot resist jollying up information with confusing imagery, scores higher on the talking sense scale than Rosindell. Not that it’s a high bar. The evidence is that countries who have taken controlling infection seriously have made the best economic recovery. It’s not a binary choice 0f letting people die or saving the economy, the two go hand in hand.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th October 2020

There are some advantages to being disconnected from the internet. I have no idea what Trump has said or done in the last few days, and Boris Johnson may have exploded for all I know. I nearly said or care, but some poor soul would doubtless have to clear up the mess and I doubt if it would be Patel, Gove or Cummings.

I took fright at the idea of a virtual tour of my home after reading the email from the company outsourced to do it. ‘Viewers will be able to see into every corner’ they said breezily, then some stuff about putting away works of art and personal things. Where? I wanted to ask. If there is a big store cupboard I haven’t found in thirty-four years of living here I should like to know about it. And what about the patches on the walls and the empty picture hooks, or holes where they have been? So it’s photos only. I am engaged in clearing away bits of paper and reorganising files. It is quite enjoyable, and a task I have been meaning to tackle for a while. I often move furniture around, and that is when the clear outs happen. This time I am moving furniture out. A chair has gone temporarily to Celia’s. Another is off to be reupholstered. B&J have taken in two of my boxes while my Great Aunt Eve’s bone china is also with Celia. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th September 2020

A chipless evening last night, but one spent outside in the garden in a social gathering. Two social gatherings actually, each of three people, but from time to time we linked up and even shared olives. The curious fox came back. We decided collectively it’s a female. I still didn’t have my camera with me, but B took some photos which she may share. It was all very jolly, though as the light went it was a lot cooler.

For most of lockdown I found it impossible to concentrate well enough to sustain reading what I would classify as a good book. My attention kept wandering. I was ok with light reading, undemanding stuff, but something stopped me from losing myself in a book the way I usually do. So it’s good to be reading again. I attended my first book group by Zoom to discuss our summer long read, Homeland by Fernando Aramburu. I enjoyed the novel, but my reservations about Zoom as a medium for book group continue. Michèle wasn’t there, her computer won’t do Zoom, so it may have been that which left me feeling less than satisfied with the whole thing. I always enjoy book group more when she is there with her extensive knowledge of literature and her insights.

The next book is Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. I’ve only read ten pages and my first impression wasn’t favourable, not because of the quality of the writing, but she opens with an all too accurate description of a smear test, which is something most women do not anticipate with any enthusiasm. So that’s my fictional for the next while. I am reading another memoir, this one by Margaret Drabble, and my respect for her grows with every chapter. I read her novels a long time ago, and although I enjoyed them, I don’t remember anything about them other than the titles. This memoir has made me warm to Drabble. It is scholarly and never pompous. She comes across as an interested and interesting person, a kind person who is unshowy and reflective. Michèle, who knows her, says I should write to her to tell her I am enjoying the book. Maybe I shall. I also have Diary of a Teenage Naturalist which I bagged at the library the other day. I am guessing others will reserve it, so I should get a move on and read it. There was an extract in the Guardian some months ago and the writing was extraordinary. Luminous, and lyrical while also scientific. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th September 2020

I had a lovely day in Wivenhoe yesterday. I was almost disappointed. In some ways it would have been easier to have gone and wondered why on earth I had ever thought I might move there. At first under grey skies I thought it wasn’t going to exercise its charms on me. I had a few goals, to visit streets further up the hill, to check out the Co-op, the bookshops and any other shop, to visit the library. All of which I achieved. In so doing I ruled out the up the hill options as feeling too suburban. I want to be in the thick of things, even if the thick of things Wivenhoe style is a very different affair to London’s thick of things. The Co-op didn’t exactly make my heart go faster, but it’s adequate. The Syrian shop sells tahini in plastic containers like the tahini I buy here, just at a much higher price. There’s a Norwegian bakery I didn’t manage to visit before it closed. Up the hill and down the hill people had left garden produce for passersby to take. I am a sucker for that sort of thing.

For a change the tide was in, so I ate my packed lunch looking at working vessels, then made my way along the river to where the pleasure craft are moored.

Harbour

Fishing boats

Cruiser

Rowing boat

I had some time to kill before I was due to meet the estate agent. I went into the Wivenhoe Boutique. I explained I wasn’t a real customer, just someone scoping out the town with the idea of moving there. Natalie was more than willing to give me advice, but three more people turned up, and under the current rules Natalie is only allowed to have three customers in the shop at a time. I excused myself and said I’d come back later. She advised me to speak to Sarah in the Wivenhoe Bookshop, but the shop was closed for lunch. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th August 2020

Hot again. The promised rain did come but just not in the quantities expected, I woke to the welcome sound of it at seven, but by eight it had stopped and the ground was dry. The forecast said it would start again at eleven. It didn’t. I carried on taking books of the shelves and was rewarded by finding I still have my copy of Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs. Hallelujah!

I’ve started sorting my books into categories with the idea that I may that way decide to streamline them. I am astonished how many copies of plays I have. Mainly Shakespeare, but still. I had a quick flick through some history books to see how well slavery was covered. Badly. Like women’s history it barely gets a page, if that. Yet trade, empire, industrial revolution all get covered. As though these things didn’t happen without the profits in trading slaves and slave labour. L’Oréal (because I’m worth it) claims it does not soil its hands with animal testing, yet it sells its products to China in the full knowledge they will be tested in animals there. That is rather like British history’s attitude to slavery.

I truly hope the BLM movement will lead to a more informed understanding of history. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th August 2020

Still hot, but there were rumbles of thunder this afternoon, the sky has clouded over and rain is forecast tomorrow. Hurrah! Or it would be hurrah, except that this is unusual weather and the rain is probably not going to be the usual light rain we are used to, but a downpour with the risk of flooded drains and worse. Today three people were killed when a train was derailed in Aberdeenshire due to a terrain rendered dangerous by heavy rain. Climate crisis is with us, and not getting the attention it deserves. There are still countries intent on extracting and using fossil fuels. I don’t get it. I am increasingly in sympathy of the group whose aim for humans to die out. I think the planet would probably be much better without us. Clever we may be, but boy are we destructive.

The main things on the list today got done, though slowly, including making an appointment for a haircut. Outrageously expensive as instead of having it done at the training school I’m going to the salon. Hopefully this cut will last as long as the last one has. The big task was to begin lifting books down from the shelves in the hall which is going to be painted on Friday. The plan was to sort books out for the charity shop and pack the rest in bags. The discarding didn’t go too well, and gradually I realised it was probably better to pile the books on the floor where I could see them and sort them into categories. I was thrilled to find despite my cull last year I still have a copy of Clive James’ Visions Before Midnight. Maybe tomorrow I’ll find more treasures. I still have the greater part of a long shelf to go. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd July 2020

So from tomorrow we have to wear face masks in shops. Celia and I practised this morning. She successfully tempted me away from the computer to the Barbican Library which has reopened. Glorious.

No so busy at the Barbican

I returned a book I’d borrowed in early March. It all felt very odd, and we were only allowed half an hour. Celia had a pile of books in her arms as I struggled to dredge names and titles from my reluctant memory. When I finally managed to I was out of luck, but I did borrow a reference book so I’ll be back there before long.

In St Giles Church there was a book sale. What a treat. A great selection of books too. For five pounds I got two Len Deighton novels I have read before, and Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien.

Hurrah for book fairs

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th July 2020

For nearly a week Celia has been in a state of suppressed, and sometimes not so suppressed excitement at the prospect of a haircut this coming Friday. So she is having to be very grown up at the moment as the appointment hangs in the balance. This morning her husband Charlie was told to go to A&E at St Thomas’ after Celia had called 111 on his behalf at breakfast time. He was allowed to come home, but there is talk of a follow up appointment at Guy’s hospital for investigations. So I imagine that tomorrow Celia will be on tenterhooks hoping that appointment will not be on Friday while at the same time hoping it is if the need is urgent. She’ll be torn.

Last night I had an email from City of London libraries to say they will reopen under certain conditions shortly. There were reassurances about books borrowed before lockdown, and advice to renew loans online if we didn’t feel ready to enter a library building. I have one book borrowed from CoL, another from the London Borough of Southwark. I live in Southwark. I have walked by some of Southwark’s libraries over the last few months, and, crucially, over the last couple of weeks. I have looked at notices, hoping for information about plans to reopen. Nothing. Nor have I received any email message. Fired up by the message from CoL, today I had a look at the LBS site. There was a notice about libraries closing due to Covid 19, nothing about reopening. Continue reading