The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th September 2020

I should sleep well tonight. This morning I scrubbed the foredeck and then parts of the port gunwale until my spine ached from nape to lower back. I have no doubt I shifted a lot of dirt, the water in my bucket turned a muddy brown and there was great deal of sluicing to be done to see the results. They were good, but not as good as I’d wanted. My mop decided this was all too much and fell apart. After washing down the top and sides of the boat I did the windows inside and out again, inexpertly as I could see later, but a job that needs repeating often. My neighbours, who had spent a relaxing morning as the day warmed up, set off for Waterbeach and I walked crab like to the tap to rinse my waterproof trousers and my cleaning cloths. Then a hot shower. That did much to restore me and I realised I was hungry, too hungry to drive to Reach, order food and wait for it to be served. I had a lovely lunch on das Boot, and was just finishing when I noticed a kingfisher had landed just by the boat. I sat mesmerised by its closeness and compact perfection, then it flew away. I didn’t see where it went, but maybe if I’m lucky I’ll see it again before I leave tomorrow.

Washing up done, MasterB asleep under the rug in the fore cabin, I went to Reach to pick blackberries and sloes. Then onto the farm shop where (hurrah!) they had salad. Just one bag so I bought it and then went slightly wild buying fresh chard, a bunch of azaleas, a bag of new potatoes as well as some mammoth beetroot and a delicate thyme plant for B&J. Driving back to das Boot I was aware how much I had slowed down and was enjoying the rhythm of the day. On the road, I passed teenage girls riding their ponies, any number of cyclists, mainly adult and in twos and threes. It seemed a good way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon in September.

Cherry, from the neighbouring boat, and I had been wondering about Mr Handsome as we hadn’t seen him. He turned up this evening. I am so glad he’s not on anyone’s plate, though I suppose that is his inevitable fate. It won’t be my plate, but that’s not much of a comfort. Unusually he did not come over to say hello. Maybe he has learned the horrid truth about human beings. He is just as handsome as ever, and, I think, quite a big bigger.

Mr Handsome and Friend having a paddle

Mr Handsome gets up while his lady friend remains in the water

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th September 2020

There were watermelons at the organic farm today so I bought one. I haven’t cut into it. It’s in the boot of the car and I shall take it home intact. The fridge on das Boot is not much bigger than a sheet of A3 paper, and I already have quite a lot of fresh food in it. Making sure it doesn’t go off means I have been eating very well, though having established that the pub at Reach is now properly open for business I am tempted to go there for lunch tomorrow before I start my sloe and blackberry picking in the afternoon.

I had a short stroll around the marina, admiring some boats and noting the absence of others who have either been sold or moved to new moorings elsewhere.

Jolly yellow boat

The countryside around is flat. It’s one of the things the fens are famous for.

Flat as far as the eye can see

Bare fields

MasterB has had two walks ashore. The first this morning as the day warmed up, the second this evening. Given that the weather is gorgeous though autumnal, I expected lots of people to arrive this evening. They didn’t. So tonight’s walk was an unexpected bonus, and achieved just in time as, having had a very long pee (yes!!) and spent almost as long covering it up, MasterB looked about, evidently considering his options and a car turned into the marina. I watched it drive the length of the track and guessed correctly it was our neighbours who have the boat the other side of the pontoon.

Boats

MasterB has been gradually become braver about people and cars at the marina, but the likelihood of him having a panic when he saw people walking towards him was high, so I made the choice for him, lifted him up and popped him through the window of das Boot. He was quite calm while I took his harness off, but when the footsteps crunched on the shingle close by and the pontoon began to rock he displayed his disquiet by growling and sinking his belly to the floor. He didn’t rush to hide though, and that in itself is progress. The light was already fading while we were ashore, so there has been no socialising between our two vessels, and I am guessing they will set off somewhere early in the morning. I needed to cook my supper,* so I drew curtains, popped a CD into the player and poured a glass of wine. MasterB remained crouched on the floor until I lifted him onto the bed. He looks pretty relaxed now. Maybe he’ll join me in the fore cabin in a while. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th September 2020

So what have I done today? The military aircraft continued their fly overs much later than I expected, so my early night didn’t happen. I was in my pyjamas, but the noise kept me awake, so I read and MasterB slept on my feet.

During the night I woke briefly several times, mainly because I needed to change position which isn’t always easy with a cat who has decided to sleep on or as close to one as possible. Around six he came under the quilt, curled up by my chest and we slept companionably until half past seven. The morning wasn’t as cool as I was expecting, but the windows in the rear cabin where we’d slept were covered in condensation. Even so, it was obvious it was going to be a beautiful day. The light was gorgeous. I emerged from the boat in time to see a swan flying low over the river. It’s moments like this when it feels unthinkable to give the boat up.

I‘ve been puzzled by a bit of broken ceramic, tonight I got the answer when the bathroom shelf fell off the wall and I could see where the piece fitted on the back. Since it was fine on my last stay and Older Nephew and his partner were the last people to use das Boot, I assumed they had had a mishap with the shelf. He says not. Strange. The shelf didn’t get back on the wall on its own.

Anyway, MasterB and I enjoyed our respective breakfasts and then I read for a while, feeling rather contented and lazy. But there was shopping to be done at Reach. I wanted carrots, salad and a marrow. I didn’t find any of them, I ended up with squash and fresh walnuts. There weren’t any water melons either. I wasn’t expecting them. They are not the sort of fruit I expect to find on an organic farm in Cambridgeshire, but a woman who was there at the same time as I was waxed lyrical about them and was very disappointed not to get one today.

I turned down the lane and picked blackberries for a crumble I have made this evening. I had half feared there would be no blackberries, that I’d be too late, but I think these were on a north facing hedgerow. I’ll go back and pick more before I go home and I have two orders for sloes, both I think for gin. I may try sloe chutney. I have only had sloe gin once,  an ex neighbour made it and it was so strong I thought I’d go blind.  Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th September 2020

It wasn’t the most auspicious start to our few days away. I got caught up with some stuff this morning and MasterB stubbornly refused to have a pee before I put him in the car. Instead, just about a mile from home, he began to cry and then had a pee in his basket, immediately followed by a poo. He then cried a lot more, distressed at having to share his space with his own waste.

Fortunately I was able to pull over into a car park for customers at a group of shops on the Old Kent Road. For those of you only familiar with the district via the British version of the board game Monopoly, I should tell you it is a busy road with several lanes of traffic. MasterB showed a worrying desire to get out of the car. For obvious reasons I had lifted him out of his basket. I then had to use the basket, still with pee and poo, to block his exit. I am not sure which of us was the most stressed by this. Basket emptied, I then had to get it into the car again without my cat getting out. I ended up holding him firmly round his middle and shutting him into the basket, now equipped with clean newspaper, before closing the door and getting his seat belt round the basket again.

I don’t know if anyone watched this performance. I was much too concerned to get it done to look out for onlookers. After that he settled and slept for most of the journey, which was just as well as I think we hit every red light on the route and ended up travelling through school traffic. Never a good idea, though it did give me the chance to study the truly hideous uniforms girls have to wear at some schools in Bishops Stortford.  Is this an infringement of their human rights, or their rights as children not to be made to look ridiculous? There seemed a lot of school children about well before three thirty. Are schools finishing earlier? Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 14th September 2020

Time for some cat pictures I think. Just the one cat, MasterB, though I seem to be spending a great deal of time with Hartley and slightly less with Romeo. Hartley is a human seeking missile. B&J came over to the garden this evening and Hartley found them within seconds.

On the landing window sill

Carpet lounging

Teatime nap

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th September 2020

Last night we had a social gathering in the garden here. By we, I mean B&J, H&J, Celia and Charlie. Hartley and Romeo naturally assumed they were invited too, and a young fox gatecrashed, at one point running off with a bag I had used to bring the olives etc outside, and my iPhone fell to the floor.

We had chips. Not the cats, and not the fox either. Chips in the garden are somehow wonderful. And they work very well instead of nibbles. Celia has investigated a newish chip shop we noticed during lockdown and gives it a good report. I shall find out if they deliver. If we are allowed to socialise this Christmas in each others’ homes I think it will be drinks and chips in at least two of them.

The young fox was very sweet, watching us with hopeful, curious eyes, close to us but far enough away for his safety. He’s not tame, which is just as well. He decided to approach Hartley and got a hiss for his pains. I think he’s the one I saw the other night waiting for the cats to finish eating so that he could have any leftovers.

This afternoon I went for a walk on my own. Celia had been swimming and that was enough exercise for her. I ended up in Ruskin Park and the streets to the west of it. It reminded me of lockdown, as this was a favourite destination when the highlight of each day was our permitted walk. The park is at Denmark Hill and the views across to the City and Westminster are great. Local residents stand at the top of the hill, south of the park to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Looking towards Westminster

Looking towards the City

On one of the trees beside the pond I found this notice. There didn’t seem to be any others. It’s probably true, but I was a bit puzzled by it.

Birkenstocks

I love the streets to the west of Ruskin Park. This afternoon they were very quiet which enhanced the lockdown feeling. We are used to seeing fake flowers decorating shops and restaurants. It’s become something of a tend the last year or so. But this is the first time I have seen a private house given the same treatment.

Unusual

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 31st August 2020

Another month comes to an end, and another season. When lockdown began I recall reading somewhere that we should still be coping with restrictions in September. It seemed an impossibly long time in the future, but here we are with September less than a day away.

I had a walk with B&J this afternoon. We chose quiet streets and they even risked going into the same shop where Celia broke her shopping fast. We were the only customers there. I’m wondering if a review saying how safe shielding people feel shopping there would be welcome. A double edged sword probably.

There were sunflowers to admire, some with bees and some without.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red sunflower, no bee

Red sunflower, with bee

Nature wasn’t the only thing that gave us things to admire. This Roma home called Deirdre attracted our attention.

Deirdre

I think this is the best Black Lives Matter sign I’ve seen.

Black Lives Matter

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st August 2020

I feel quite tired. This is good as I should like to get to sleep early and get up early. But the best laid plans etc etc as MasterB is currently asleep but almost guaranteed to wake up, yawn, stretch and decide on some outside time just as I make tracks for bed. Tomorrow morning I am going out to work for the first time in five months. Putting everything I shall need in my bag surplus to the pre lockdown requirements made me think of those bags new parents carry. My biggest concern is finding a loo before I start working. Many are still closed, so the early start is more to give my bladder time to deal with the effects of morning coffee than anything else.

While I was talking to Chris yesterday her partner was reading a message from their local council which warned that the second wave of the pandemic is likely to hit in September and to be worse than the first. If this is right my return to work may be very short-lived. Chris was in her garden, torturing me with descriptions of ripe pears and lots of tomatoes. I have four tomato plants this year. One ripe tomato.

The ripe tomato

I haven’t picked it. I am hoping by its example it will encourage the others to turn red. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 11th August 2020

It’s hot. Sitting still is hot. Walking is hot. Lying down is hot. As hot as Africa, says Celia; as hot as Turkey, says Viv; as hot as Greece, say I. All of us referencing places we have been in the height of summer where it has been, well, hot. Hotter than the dutch Antibes, says Ross who is painting my hallway on Friday. I am guessing he has been there, but I don’t know.

Wearing a face mask in the heat is hellish. Except if you are in Marks and Spencer where the fridges are wonderfully cool and three of us admitted to loitering today.

Octavia, back from France, is off to Croatia in the morning. She had bought a big box of disposable masks. I was surprised. It turns out when she flew out of London she was wearing her good cloth mask. No problem. No problem arriving at Nice with same face mask. But when she went to board the ‘plane for the return flight she was told paper masks only. The kindness off a fellow passenger saved the day for herself and other passengers in the same situation. For obvious reasons Octavia does not want to be caught out going to or coming from Croatia. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th August 2020

So home. It was glorious this morning at the marina, warm but not hot, the promise of a new day held in the palm of the sky. I vacuumed, stripped the bed, carried things to the car while MasterB slept. He had a short stroll after breakfast.

We left around lunchtime.

Our route took us over a bridge above a dual carriageway where I could see lots of cars. Decision made, we’d take the back roads as far as we could. I started taking these roads years ago as there is more shade, and in warm weather, with a car minus air con, I didn’t want Cat to overheat. Now I often choose them as the route home to get that last good hit of countryside.

There were very few cars. It was a loveLy drive. Inevitably as we got closer to London the traffic increased. A hundred yards from home I looked at all the people on the street and reflected that I hadn’t seen half as many the whole week while I was away.

Washing dried ridiculously quickly. Even at seven this evening the temperature was over 30C. Actually it’s over 30C now but only just. 30.1C according to my thermometer. Continue reading