The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th July 2021

It’s odd, or perhaps interesting is the word I want, the things that give you street cred. In my case it’s never going to be my clothes or anything else about my appearance, though in my defence I can claim to have been a precursor of several clothing trends: Levi shrink to fit straight leg jeans when everyone else was in flares, a tweedy jacket several seasons before they featured on catwalks, and Adidas Stan Smiths decades before they became the in footwear. All of these were accidental, driven by economy and thrift.

Today was different. I was walking home from MCQ, a wonderful treasure trove of a shop owned by Clyde, and Mary Portus’ idea of a vision from hell. I was carrying my newly repaired amp. A man sitting outside a café on the Walworth Road beamed a huge smile at me and made continuous eye-contact. “NAD,” he said, “A 3020. Nice. Very nice.” I was beaming myself as I continued my journey home.

Some simple interactions like this can do so much to lift the spirits. I don’t think I’d recognise the man if I met him tomorrow, and I reckon unless I was again carrying my amp, he wouldn’t even notice me.

My MCQ collection was just one of the things of my to do list. I was working via Zoom in the morning so at home, tied to phone and internet. The flat needed cleaning. With the windows open these past weeks the amount of dust is startling. I am very glad I do not have asthma. I took some fabric to Rocket Van. They are going to photograph it for me to include in the virtual yard sales. They have turned down my Tourlet Lulu. I am realising people are prissy about second hand portable toilets, however little they have been used and however much they have been cleaned and disinfected. I’d hate it to end up in landfill, so I shall have to keep trying. Anyone here who goes camping/glamping/champing or makes long car journeys where public toilets may not be available, or whose toilet is unusable thanks to building work, or if you are just having problems with an on-board toilet on your boat, please get in touch. I can share pictures.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th July 2021

Some pictures from last week at the das Boot.

I love the cows. Some are very friendly, others are shy. One young bullock couldn’t get enough of me. He licked my arm, nuzzled my shirt, wanted head scratches, raised his nose to my face. If we had been on the same side of the fence I reckon he’d have sat on my lap.

When the bull approached I thought he was going to tell me to keep away from his herd, but no, he wanted head scratches too. No sign of Mr Handsome from last year. I fear he has been slaughtered, butchered and eaten. A sad end for any animal, but especially for one who loved humans as much as Mr Handsome did.

The cows in the field next to the marina. This bullock would like some attention
This younger chap was up for a face rub and chat

The ducks turned up and stayed around. One has very orange feet, one has muddy orange feet. They work singly as and as a pair. They woke me early on Thursday morning doing some sort of duck flamenco outside the window. My neighbours across the pontoon feed them, so I am guessing the ducks thought the café was open. they were remarkably persistent. One even flew onto the roof of the boot and peered over the edge to watch me. They quack softly and plaintively, tap imperiously on the windows with their beaks, march up and down the gunwale (they are surprisingly heavy footed) and do a good job of staring at me beadily eyed.

The one with muddy orange feet

The one with orange feet

The swans also turned up. One young swan, last year’s cygnet by his feathers, was alone and so excited when I came out of the door on das Boot I thought he was going to climb aboard. This pair, swimming off the Portside, were more self-contained.

On Friday morning I was about to open the door at the back of das Boot when something caught my eye. I paused. A kingfisher. I took a picture with my little camera through the glass. Obligingly the kingfisher then flew to another boat to prt of my galley window, which I opened very gently and slowly. My little camera does not have a strong zoom, so I ma quite pleased I can see the bird at all in these pictures. I was feeling a bit blue, and this encounter, followed by the ducks visiting while I had breakfast, and then some affectionate bullocks, did a lot to lift my mood.

Swans off the portside
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The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th June 2021

Much to my surprise I have been dancing around the forecabin this evening.The sound system at das Boot is great, but I was barely able to lift myself off the cushions to eat a short while ago. Maybe it was the power of Nanci Griffith, or maybe the fact that after a day of rain and drizzle it’s approaching a fine evening. Maybe it was the power of curry. Maybe it was the adolescent swan who appeared at the rear of das Boot as I was preparing to head over to the shower. It was so excited when I hung my wet trousers on the grab rail it almost climbed aboard.

I didn’t have high expectations of dinner. I prepped a curry while it rained this morning, Fortunately there were chilli flakes and ground ginger in the cupboard because the amount of curry powder was less than meagre.But it was plate licking good. Yes I did lick the plate. And tomorrow I’ll have seconds. curry is always better a day or two later.For pudding I had soya yoghurt with mandarin oranges. A can that came from Mother’s so is at least a decade old.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th June 2021

It seems ages since I posted. Blogging is so last decade, or maybe that should be last century, but it does help to clear my head, to clarify what I’m thinking, what’s on my mind.

After a few days of cold turkey (surely there must be a vegan version of that?) from spiralised courgette and carrot I am back on it as of tonight. Is there a three step programme, and if there is, is it necessary? I do not understand how these two simple vegetables, spiralised and then mixed with spinach or lettuce, with olives and dressing, with butterbeans or chickpeas taste so good. Oh I forgot to add wholemeal bread or wholemeal pitta.

It’s been. busy week. Computer problems and then when computer up and running more hours in from t of it than I care to admit. There are days, quite a few days, when the memory of those simple times of pen and paper, books and buildings housing reference libraries seem enormously attractive.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th June 2021

I’m on the sofa, MasterB is asleep in drawer under the bed, outside it’s raining steadily. I had my stitches out this morning and have been told to be careful, rest today, walk tomorrow and then in a week I should be all systems go. I haven’t had the results from the further excision but the hospital staff seem pretty confident they will be negative. All good. My next health issue will be making an appointment about the numbness in my left hand. It’s the old carpal tunnel problem, but it is so much worse since I broke my wrist. I am reluctant to have it fixed just yet because it means weeks of being one handed again, and for the moment I’d rather like use of all four limbs. I need to get to das Boot before the season is over to get on with the cleaning, and then see about putting it up for sale. Ideally I’ll be in the position to do that by July.

I managed to speak to Cousin and she is happy for me to come to stay. Now it’s a question, a big one, of seeing about cat care for MasterB and then the availability of flights. I read that there’s a company working on airships for shorter greener flights, such as the one between London and Belfast. I don’t think they’re going to be available for a couple of years, but it’s an encouraging development.

Yesterday I met my cousin Russell in Richmond. Ali Clarke, a friend of his, has an exhibition the One Paved Court gallery. You can see some of the exhibits by clicking here. I had looked online and was expecting large pieces but in reality they are are domestic in scale. I liked the arrangements of bits and pieces from her studio the best. Russell and I were going to the Private View, and we met several hours earlier, enjoyed a stroll through Richmond to the river, then went to the same pub Celia and I had enjoyed a couple of years ago. Sitting under a shady umbrella in the pub’s walled garden, pints of cool cider in front of us, the time passed quickly. B&J had also spent the afternoon in Richmond, but in another part of the wood, and they joined us at the gallery. Then it was another pub, more cider which we drank sitting on a bench overlooking Richmond Green. Very pleasant.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th May 2021

I know self-pity is a deeply unattractive quality and something to avoid, but this morning I am feeling very sorry for myself. Perhaps if I write it down I’ll feel better. I have a pounding headache, a horrible metallic taste in my mouth, and I suspect a slightly raised temperature, all the result of my second Covid vaccination yesterday. I feel betrayed. Everyone said the reaction I had to the first one would not be repeated.

To be fair, and I don’t much feel like being fair, it is a much milder reaction than last time. But again as I prepared for bed last night I began to feel unwell, to start shivering, To feel slightly sick, to struggle, even when under the quilt, to get warm. My head felt as though I had a tight band around it. This morning the nausea has gone, and if anything I am too warm, but the taste in my mouth and the headache remain.

To add to my woes my leg is very sore. Yesterday I had the extra margin of flesh excised from my leg in case there were any satellite cancerous cells establishing themselves near the melanoma. The doctor and nurse could not have been nicer. The procedure, under local anaesthetic, went without a hitch and by the end we were almost at the point of exchanging addresses so that we can send each other Christmas cards come December. The only bit that was disconcerting was when the doctor asked me if I’d like to see what he had removed. I don’t know, I was saying and looked up to see a larger chunk of my flesh dangling from a surgical instrument than I had imagined was being excised. It’s an image that will remain with me for some time.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th May 2021

My first haircut this year. My first haircut since 8th December 2020. I love it. There are, I realise, advantages in being forced to go through the growing out stages of a haircut. At almost precisely six weeks after my December cut my hair was wild. Then it settled down, seemed to grow into a new style and I was happy with it again. The pattern repeated itself over the five months. My curls grew back and I liked having them. So today although I had a couple of inches cut off my hair it is longer than it was in December, still wavy, and in a bob with graduations and layers. I had it done at the Vidal Sassoon Academy in Buckingham Gate, a building that was formerly used by members of the Met Police where they stocked up on bacon butties when demos were on.

Lauren cut my hair. She walked across the foyer in a cardigan decorated with lemons and I watched amused as three women opposite me followed the progress of that cardigan covetously with their eyes. At that point I didn’t know Lauren was going to cut my hair.

I liked her and trusted her immediately. On the way to having my hair washed I told her about the cardigan reaction. “M&S,” she said delphically, “I got it in the sale.” It turned out she had been a wig maker, having got into that from being a costumiere, having got into that through learning how to sew because she did an art foundation course, liked drawing clothes but didn’t know how to make them. She’d spent much of lockdown on the Isle of Wight at her parents’ house going slowly bonkers having got away from New York where she’d been working a day before that would have been impossible. Now she’s escaped to London. You can follow her on instagram @lamacdesign. I am. If she sets up a salon I want to be her client.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd May 2021

I am very much enjoying my birthday weekend. It has been more sedentary than I imagined as I had a procedure on my leg on Friday, and due to the site of the wound, the chances of it breaking open and becoming infected are high if I move around too much. That gave me the perfect excuse to lie on the sofa (leg raised) and watch Local Hero yesterday afternoon. What a lovely film it is.

Plans were so fluid in the morning as to be next to non-existent. We are still limited to meeting outside in groups no larger than six, and after a very dry April, scattered showers were forecast. However, the skies were blue, and on Friday night I had been talking to Celia on the ‘phone. We thought elevenses would work. So I bought croissants, some vegan, and some with butter, then pains au chocolat (butter), orange juice and clementine juice. Cynthia arrived with a bottle of champagne and glasses. So organised. Charlie had gone to Notting Hill to spend the day with his friend Chris watching cricket, so Celia was unaccompanied. Michèle met me at one gate, and B&J arrived at another. It was very jolly and as well as cards I was given perfect presents, including a new doormat with silhouettes of cats on it. It’s very handsome. I am not sure what it says about my stage of life that I can spend so much time admiring my door mat, but there it is. Books, a picture, fudge which I ate watching the film, some hand cream Celia and I had found and tried out a few weeks ago, and that most necessary accessory for summer, a wine cooling sleeve.

Naturally Hartley joined us. J has started giving him treats and has made him a toy. He stayed close to her, rolling over and offering her his tummy. That cat just thrives on love and affection.

That might have been it, but the forecast was showing less chance of rain for the evening, so we decided on a takeaway from the Vietnamese restaurant, to be eaten in Celia’s garden. Mid afternoon I had an invitation from Reinhild and Mark to join them in their garden for drinks and nibbles. I had asked if they wanted to join our al fresco dinner, Michèle and Cynthia having other engagements, but Reinhild was chilled having met friends for lunch outside the café in Russell Square, so they politely declined.

It wasn’t a late evening, and I enjoyed some time at home with MasterB and let him outside for a while before bedtime.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th April 2021

It’s our anniversary: ten years since I brought MasterB, then called Facebook, home. He was young, less than a year at a guess, infested with fleas. He didn’t want to be removed from the students who had rescued him from the mean streets of Brighton, and I didn’t want a timid cat who hid behind the curtain. It wasn’t the most promising start. But against the odds it has been a success. We are a team, cat and human. An already close team which has become closer in lockdown. Not that MasterB knows about the pandemic. But he has become very used to having me around most of the time, has realised that I generally have three meals each day, not the two he was formerly acquainted with, and he now wants three meals a day too. He has given me an emotional support of which he is quite unaware in this time. Watching him has brought me pleasure.

Ten years ago I didn’t really want him. Now I think he’s the best cat in the world.

But for our anniversary we were mainly apart. Gorgeous weather, with blue skies, sunshine and warmth. We have been getting used to blue skies, sunshine and cold cold winds. Celia and I set off to Stratford to walk The Line, a sculpture trail that starts north of the river then ends in Greenwich. The map on the app was rubbish. But the sun shone, we saw two herons in flight, and before we even started our walk Celia got a new strap for her Swatch in the Westfield Shopping Centre. There were serious shoppers. The queue outside Primark was lengthy. Shorter queues, but still impressive, outside shoe shops and mobile phone shops. If I were a shop owner I would be heaving a huge sigh of relief.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd April 2021

Easter weekend which means it’s two years since Celia and I did the Guildford circular walk via Watts gallery. I am cold. I have been sitting outside with B&J having an al fresco meal. I didn’t feel cold then, but coming in I suddenly want to wrap a blanket around myself, convince MasterB he wants to sit on my lap (he doesn’t, he’s sitting across from me, on the chair, having a wash), snuggle into the sofa cushions.

The meal was delicious, from a Vietnamese takeaway close to the Elephant which I have known was there for years, but never tried. The exterior does not invite. The interior is plain, there are no takeaway menus to take away. J had heard about it, then read reviews, all of which were full of praise to the point of ecstasy. There is no website, it’s cash only in these cash less times; it’s very much old Elephant rather than the new shiny, sanitised, any place model being promoted by the developers. I’d say its days are numbered.

There are plans to put a penthouse storey on top of the council flats where I used to live. I am affronted. We called our flat the penthouse suite as it was on the top (seventh) floor with views to die for. We also called it Seventh Heaven, though that was usually ironic and when the lift wasn’t working; or the Centipede With a Wooden Leg, because of the joke and we lived at number 99. Now it seems the joke was on us.

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