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

The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th June 2020

It was a sudden decision to return home; the spur was the weather forecast. It has been windy since Saturday, and I really wonder why I have bothered to comb my hair, but when I saw that the wind speed of around 20mph was likely to increase to 40mph I decided to pack my bags and leave as quickly as I could. I had been planning to wash the rear cover, but it seemed likely it would end up being blown into the river if not the next county. Next time.

Last night MasterB was absolutely determined to march around the marina, albeit in his harness. The trees thrashed about above us and one very young calf was totally intrigued by my boy. He could not stop looking and came closer and closer to the fence for a better look. What he made of what was probably his first view of a feline I should love to know. The large black bullock didn’t care about MasterB, he wanted a head scratch and probably to lick a human arm too. It is shocking to think he’ll end up on someone’s plate. This is an animal who loves people and should be a companion bullock. He could probably have a whole career visiting care homes lapping up love and affection from entranced residents. He’s certainly a hit at the marina.

Thrashing willow

MasterB also made it clear he wanted some shore leave this morning, but when I did strap his harness on and liftEd him from the boat he was suddenly less sure, and most certainly disgusted to find this was a short outing ending in his travel carrier in the car. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th June 2020

I went to bed early last night feeling very tired, whether due to the wind, the exertions of boat cover cleaning or a combination of the two, I don’t know. I went to sleep quickly, but was woken an hour or so later by the sound of things falling to the ground, knocked there by MasterB who had decided to check the view from each of the windows. I woke again some time later when the rain began falling. The boat was rocking and the fenders squeaked as they rubbed against the pontoon. I went back to sleep.

The alarm woke me, buzzing insistently from somewhere near my left ear. I had expected to wake up before it went off, so it was a good thing I set it. Today was Pump Out Day and a bit of helming practice. When I first started on this boating lark I did a helmsman’s course. I am glad I did. It covered the basics and although locks gave me the creeps, as they still do, if there was someone willing to take care of the ropes, I was confident enough about taking das Boot in and out of the marina, tootling along the river for a while until I had had my fill, turning round and coming back again. But as time went by and I didn’t get practice my confidence ebbed and failed. Older Nephew loves helming, so I have relinquished the task to him when he is aboard. That needs to change. But he is not a natural teacher, so practice with someone who is calm and also happy for me to be at the helm is needed. I have seen enough of Stuart to know that he is pretty unflappable, so today was my opportunity.

MasterB was very lively over breakfast, so lively I had to deploy the catnip fish, kept for special occasions, so that I could drink my coffee. When I returned from the shower block he was at the window watching the world. He saw me, and I could see him meowing at me through the glass. By the time Stuart appeared he had tucked himself into his new favourite place on the floor under the rug that covers the seating. Stuart wanted to check the battery, which is under the floor at this place, so MasterB had to be moved to the rear cabin. He disappeared under the quilt, only to poke his head out almost immediately, so I think he has got used to Stuart, knows his voice and his smell. Sure enough, once we were under way he joined us in the forecabin where I constructed a cushion citadel for him.

Planning a bit if mischief

When this day was planned I hadn’t counted on the wind. I saw people struggling yesterday to get in and out of the marina, people with far more confidence and experience than I. So I didn’t even suggest I might do that. But on the river itself it was a different matter. I soon settled to it, feeling how the boat responded. We just about managed to keep a metre apart, and hand gel was literally applied. Stuart gave me small tasks, and paid me the compliment of saying if I could helm the boat in today’s weather, he didn’t see a problem. In fact he was curious to know why I felt I needed some tuition. That was a boost to my confidence in itself. I handed over to him when we saw paddle boarders and some anglers in curious contraptions that looked like they belonged in a private swimming pool (I have no desire to commit man slaughter) and when we returned to the marina. Next tuition day will be about manoeuvring in and out. And I need to recruit some crew. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 26th June 2020

Before I went to bed last night I managed to look at today’s forecast. Fine until nine then hours when there was a very high chance of stormy showers. I decided I should get up at seven, reakfast, shower etc and then retire to the fastness of das Boot and be a comfort to MasterB. I Woke just before seven and quickly realised the rain had started. It was pattering on the roof with sturdy regularity, but unaccompanied by thunder or lightning. I turned over and went back to sleep, MasterB lying somewhat heavily on my legs. When I woke an hour or more later the sun was shining. There was no storm all morning but blue skies and a lot of humidity, fortunately accompanied by a refreshing breeze. This allowed for some washing on my makeshift line.


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The Coronavirus Diaries, 25th June 2020

Tonight the ducks are back, one strutting in a proprietary sort of way along the gunwale. The other perched at the back of the boat. When one of them flew up to the roof MasterB’s hunter instincts kicked in and he made to chase it. The doors are now shut. I am beside the only window open far enough to allow him out or a duck in. After our stroll last night I was sitting in the forecabin with my book.the lights were on as I thought all the windows were shut. Open windows and lights mean a boat full of flying insects. Not my idea of home comfort. Illoked up to see MasterB sauntering along the gunwale. I had left a window in the aft cabin wide open. Fortunately he responded to my opening the window loop window by coming in to say hello. I rewarded him with biscuits, shut the offending window and tried to still my pounding heart.

At the moment he is sitting on top of the back seating cushion looking out at th field. There aren’t any cows in sight, and now I come to think of it we haven’t seen much of them today, but there is a black bird bobbing about and one of the ducks is being very vocal at varying pitches. It sounds rather like it is practising a scale. The boy is definitely in hunter mode. He has walked stealthily along the top of the seating cushion to beside and above me where the window is open. Nearby some people are enjoying some drinks and we can hear their voices. Normally that’s enough to put MasterB off the idea of shoreleave, but I wonder tonight if he will be bolder.

I was in two minds for most of the day as to whether to go home and avoid being in board for the anticipated storm tomorrow and rain on Saturday. I bought provisions, including a bunch of cornflowers from the farm. That made me think of Aunt as she chose a bunch of them there the last summer of her life. But provisions can travel, and wherever I am I need to eat. As well as shopping at the farm I went to a big supermarket. There was hand gel, signs directing customers around a one way system, reminders to stay apart, but no one seemed that bothered. I think complacency has well and truly set in. This evening, for reasons I shan’t go into here, I decided to stay. If the storm does break over our heads MasterB is going to need a lot of reassurance. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th June 2020

Forget what I wrote yesterday about needing to do any physical work by eleven. Today by half past nine I was working up a sweat just walking from one end of the boat to the other. MasterB has spent most of the day stretched out on the floor below water level in various locations, mainly where I can see him, but sometimes under a rug. I did two small lots of hand washing, and, using a broom handle as a support, rerigged my washing line, doubling the length of line available, and got everything dry.

Lying in a cool spot

The windows and the door are open, and there is a slight breeze. It’s cooler by the car under the trees, but people walk up and down the path which the boy wouldn’t like, so in solidarity I have spent the day on board with him.

It’s very easy to just sit thinking how hot you are and not get anything done, so I pulled out a file, made some notes and recorded a new podcast. If I can get the internet to play I should be able to upload it this evening. It was a good thing to do. While I worked I was less distracted by the heat. I drank copious glasses of water. Most of my exercise today has been walking backwards and forwards to use the loo in the shower block.

There is still something leaping from time to time, but I never seem to be looking at the spot, I just hear the splash and then see the concentric circles in the water. The fish I can see a re small with red fins. Normally they dart about, but I was watching them a little while ago and they seem to be just hanging in the water, a little below the surface. I am guessing they are enjoying the heat as otherwise they could swim down to the cool mud. They certainly dive when they see my shadow.

Spot the fish

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd June 2020

It’s been really hot today. I have had all the windows open on the boat most of the time. Only when I made a brief sortie to Reach to but tomatoes and other salad stuff did I close them. I don’t know the young master would have tried to go ashore, probably not, but it was a risk I was not willing to take. So windows were left very slightly open but locked to stop a keen paw pushing them wider. I know if he lies on the floor it’s below the water level and so cooler, but the hot weather means I am reluctant to leave him for more than a short time. Oddly, he likes to sleep under the quilt, or even under the pillows in the heat of the day. His fur feels cool to the touch, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Last night he almost came ashore for a walk. It was dusk, his favourite time.

Dusk on the river

He sat at the window and did a sort of green cross code to see what was about. The cows got a particularly long scrutiny.

Is the coast clear?

Ah, cows!

We were scrutinised in return by some of them, and one calf seemed very interested.

Are you looking at me?

The geese were again in the field, the adults and their collective young. When I moved to look at them the adults hurried the goslings to the water. I took a break from watching MasterB to see the whole raft of them on the river.

A raft of geese

I don’t know how he made his decision to stay onboard, because it seemed a perfect evening to me for a stroll, but although at one point he was out of the window and on the gunwale, he turned and jumped back into the forecabin. Tonight we have neighbours on a boat moored nearby at right angles to us. They have been sitting at the back reading, but are now zipping the covers on as the day cools, so maybe the boy will venture out in a while.

Something big has been diving in the marina. I would love it to be otters which I know are on the river, but I am guessing it’s a pike. People here used to talk about a very large pike they nicknamed Moby. Maybe it’s the same one.

I was planning to watch the news tonight, but my television, which was working perfectly last time I was here, is showing no signs of life. I tried changing the fuse, hoping it was something that simple, but no joy. So my social distancing has become more distant. Or maybe that should be social isolation. Right now I don’t have internet access, my phone signal is dead. I’ll try again to see if I can post this. It can be irritating but in many ways I like it. Technology is wonderful, but it is also wonderful to be disconnected for a while and to take time out from receiving calls and emails.

I have asked one of the family members who own the marina if they have a wallpaper table or similar so I can give my covers a scrub. It would definitely be a morning task, as by eleven the sun is too hot for energetic labour. I brought details of a walk that started nearby I thought I might do, but unless the temperature drops, I shan’t be doing it this time.

Once again I am enjoying the peace and quiet. I have several books to read, and some work I’d like to do. My store cupboard is full, I have fresh vegetables and salad, enough low alcohol lager for the next few days and my new soda stream which has done valiant service today. I have grapefruit juice, elderflower cordial and ginger cordial. I brought both my little Olympus and my bigger Lumix.

I don’t think I’ll be bored.

Stay safe, keep well.

The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd June 2020

Back on the boat and it’s more than warm. There was definitely more road traffic than last time, but again I did not drink coffee at breakfast time so there was no need for a loo stop en route. My seating cushions have been returned. Jeckells have done a very good job. I can understand why they are so well regarded and successful. I am very pleased.

I had texted Janet and there where eggs waiting for me to collect. I have seen two kestrels, the wood pigeons are being noisy, the geese were in the field last time I looked. MasterB has just emerged from under the quilt, has eaten his dinner and is now looking with some interest at the windows from his position on the floor. There were more people here when I arrived, I am guessing some of them had been on their boats for the weekend, but most have gone. The only ones remaining are at the far end of the marina, so MasterB may be brave enough to go ashore for walk before I want to go to bed. It won’t get dark until ten, but I am already tired, so I may not last that long.

Not a bad view

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th June 2020

Just a few photos tonight from the boat. I have not been in great spirits today, and I’m going to have an early night and hope that dos the trick. Michèle thinks the period we are now is putting us all under great strain, with lockdown easing but not over, the prospect of an imminent recession of biblical proportions, a future which seems precarious. She’s right I think. Lockdown is ending not with a bang but a whimper and the messages are very confused. I can hope that it’s this strain which is making my bossy neighbour behave as she does, it is probably what is amplifying my anxieties in response; feeling trapped, not sure in which direction we are headed. I shall be glad to get back to the boat next week to take delivery of my repaired seating cushion and find a balm in nature.

MasterB will be able to renew his acquaintance with the ducks.

Who’s that on the gunwale?

Listening to ducks above his head

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 11th June 2020

A very short post tonight, but even so I am over the midnight hour and therefore into 12th June.

I have come back to London. I love the space I have in my flat after the very restricted space on das Boot, but am already thinking about when I shall return to the space of the fens. MasterB may think otherwise. He was delighted to be in the garden, even though both Romeo and Hartley were there. Continue reading