The I’m No Longer Sure What to Call These Diaries, 21st June 2022

The summer solstice. The longest day of the year. After tonight autumn beckons. Still, we have a few more weeks of long light evenings to enjoy before the Christmas merchandise appears in the shops. Tonight we celebrated with Celia and Charlie in their garden. In fact they are probably still celebrating, with various neighbours and friends dropping by, enjoying a glass or several, plunge into the nibbles and relax in good company and chat. A friendly neighbourhood is a wonderful, wondrous thing. Like a good woman, or indeed a good man, it is above rubies.

I’d put a good cat above rubies too. MasterB is out in the garden. I left him rolling luxuriously on the paving stones. He has at last decided that my neighbour Simon is not the devil incarnate, but a perfectly nice human being, and has stopped shrinking to the floor or running away when they meet and instead approaches Simon with his tail held high. It’s good to see the boys bond. What MasterB has not understood is that Simon’s heart belongs to Hartley. I understand it’s the first time he has ever really got to know a cat, and it’s love. ❤️💕💖💕❤️. I was the same with Cat when he marched into my life. Taken by surprise, amazed, enchanted and fascinated, completely enthralled, smitten. Animals, when they choose to interact with you, to befriend you, have an extraordinary effect. They can unsettle you; tip you over, change the way you view the world. Four paws and a tail is all it takes.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 1st June 2020, the Bridlington Connection

A chance encounter with a memorial tablet while we waited for Ray’s coiffeuse to complete her magic led us to learn about a more than local hero. Ray is Octavia’s 99 year-old mother, and I am visiting her at her house in Bridlington for the first time. Octavia met me at the station yesterday. I have seen so many pictures of Ray in her kitchen, or sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and the view across the fields, that some parts of the house feel very familiar. Not so others.

Her five children, all adult, left home decades ago. It’s a big house, and a big garden. The garden was always Ray’s love, and it shows. It is gorgeous. Allegra, Octavia’s sister, has undertaken the herculean task of restoring it to glory. A restorative project in every sense. She is doing an excellent job.

The other day I was having a conversation about how changing technology affects the verbal expressions we use. I observed I hadn’t pulled a chain in decades. For years now I have flushed the loo. Within hours of arriving at the house I had pulled a chain. In the back kitchen are not one but two meat safes. There are people alive today in their late middle age who have never heard of, let alone seen, a meat safe, never mind two. This is a house where technology of the past is preserved and used alongside the technology of today.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th April 2022: In Which a Sachet of Cat Food saves MasterB’s Dignity

Actually, dignity is probably not the right word. Anyone acquainted with the Boy knows that dignity is not one of his attributes. Saved him from being stuck under a car with Floyd for hours would be more accurate.

Floyd is a cat, as indeed is MasterB. Floyd, and he may go by other names, this is what I call him, has been an occasional visitor to our garden over the last few weeks. I suspect he is a street cat. He was in the garden when I went out to collect the cat dishes. MasterB accompanied me. I knew Romeo and Hartley were also outside, so drew them off to the end of the garden to allow MasterB some mooching time. I hadn’t counted on Floyd. I saw he was there, but I carefully ignored him. Hartley sat on my lap and I began the work of teasing out a new clump of knotted fur on his neck. I could see Floyd out of the corner of my eye. I could also see Romeo under a car watching Floyd. Floyd wandered off.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st July 2021

I have just read that Led by Donkeys is responsible for the very moving Covid memorial beside the Thames and next to St Thomas’ Hospital. Well done them. I hope it remains.

Today I have been in Belfast. It was hot, and by the time I arrived at the bus station to come back here I was weary. Belfast, I realised today, is a city not designed to give shelter to pedestrians. In warm weather you bake, in wet weather you get soaked.

After a brief visit to the Linen Hall Library – no visit to Belfast is complete unless this is on the itinerary – where I enjoyed two exhibitions, I dropped into tourist information for a free street map. Then across the road to City Hall and beyond, heading for the university quarter, where the Ulster Museum sits in the Botanic Gardens.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th July 2021

One of the dogs has lots of stitches, the other has put on so much weight since I was here two years ago she looks like a sideboard. You could lay an array of dishes on her back, it’s now so broad.

It’s Westie Boy who has been in the wars. He feels very sorry for himself, but before you start feeling sorry for him too, it was all his fault. He rushed out of the garden a week ago to assault a large dog he has taken a dislike to and came off worst. Apparently the two dogs have been eyeing each other with some hostility for some time, but usually there’s a barrier between them. Westie Boy can’t currently wear a harness or a collar so no walking for him for the moment.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th June 2021

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.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th May 2021

A month or so ago I hadn’t read anything by Maggie O’Farrell. Now I have read three of her novels and I am hungry for more. Today I finished The Vanishing act of Esme Lennox. It’s not as good as Hamnet, which is luminous, but it’s still a damn good read, and one which made me think.

I’m on a bit of a reading jag. Celia lent me me Never Leave the Dog Behind by Helen Mort, which I devoured in three sittings. As well as the Maggie O’Farrell I have started on Dog’s Best Friend by Simon Garfield – you may see a canine theme going on here, and I have dipped into the first few pages of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. A year ago I was struggling to read fiction. Right now it feels like an escape.

Toady I had to go to Mayfair. It was busy. The sun has finally got its act together and was shining merrily in blue, cloudless skies. On the buses the signs telling you to leave certain seats free have been removed. I was horrified when a young maskless women perched on the edge of the seat next to mine. There were quite a few young and youngish women, dressed to the nines, with fake tanned bodies, no masks, both on the bus and in Regent Street. Where were they off to at ten o’clock on a Saturday morning?

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th May 2021

I’m guessing quite a few of the readers of this page have also read about Dominic Cummings performance where he dished the dirt on Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson among others, admitted he lied, and confirmed much of what we already knew or suspected, that this government is rotten to the core. I find it bizarre that so many reporters refer to Cummings as Dom, as though he is their best mate. Dom and Boris, two first name first class shits, a double act from hell. I’m not sure which was more disgusting, Cummings dishing the dirt as though he believes he is now a knight in shining armour, or backbench Tories smirking and sniggering when Keir Starmer questioned Boris Johnson during PMQs about the tens of thousands of avoidable deaths caused by the casual incompetence of said Johnson and his pals of yes men in cabinet. Actually the most disgusting thing is the way this will slide off our Teflon coated PM like so many other things which have should have sunk him and people will continue to vote for him. I saw a headline in one of the red tops, I think it was the Express, on the lines of ‘ok the government made mistakes, but the Cummings’ show was pure revenge’, as though we should feel sorry for our sorry mess of a government and simply spurn Cummings. Spurn the lot of them. and check what is going into our drinking water while you’re at it. Something surely must be going on to make the public so supine and apathetic.

Other things. On Wednesday at the hospital I had the dressing on my leg changed. The wound was cleaned, examined, and acquired semi celebrity status. I’m half expecting it to be invited into Graham Norton’s show, my healing wound with me as chaperone. The nurse, Caroline this time, originally from Jamaica, fetched Sergei, the surgeon, so he could examine his handiwork. He was pleased. He summoned his boss, whose name I did not catch, who was also pleased. there was a lot of smiling and nodding. Then the chief nurse popped in, more approval, more smiling, more nodding.

Then they all left and Caroline got on with the job in hand, or on leg if you prefer. I think it’s going to be a fairly impressive scar and there are bunches of skin at either end so my leg she will be different. I’m not sure who is more keen to see this scar, me or Celia, We are expecting it to be the twin of Celia’s scar as she had a melanoma removed a decade ago from the same place on her left leg. Snaps! Last week I had promised Sergei and nurse Sonia my business card after we had bonded over our cats. So it was natural that the pet conversation continued with Caroline. I learned all about her dog Fluffy, how much she had loved him, how he had been beaten to death by burglars who broke into their home, how she had never been able to bring herself to have another pet because it felt like a betrayal of Fluffy. How long ago was this? I asked, expecting this death to have occurred in the last ten years or so. But no, she had been a teenager at the time, and Fluffy had been her close companion. MasterB features on one of my business cards, so I gave her that one. Oh, she said, her eyes widening and her mouth curving into a smile, he’s beautiful. Maybe she’s one step closer to giving a needy animal a home where it will be loved.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd May 2021

Oh technology, a blessing and a curse. For some reason I cannot post from my laptop. I have sent an email to WordPress, but if anyone here has any idea what I need to do, please do tell.

Another day of erratic weather, ending in a rainy night. I stayed in most of the time and got on with work. But it’s Sunday which means Joe isn’t here and I am on cat feeding duty for Romeo and Hartley. There was no sign of Romeo when I went outside, so I put some food down for Hartley, and took my recycling round to the bin shed. Romeo materialised beside me. So back we went and I filled a second dish only for Hartley, who had by now almost finished his breakfast, to commandeer it. It’s funny, of the two cats in most circumstances Romeo is the bolder, the more feisty, but Hartley seems to have first dibs when it’s a question of food. I lifted Hartley up, put him back by his dish and popped Romeo in front of the full one. In less time than it takes to tell Hartley had changed places again. Poor Romeo. Fortunately both boys were there tonight and Romeo tucked in with gusto.

MasterB is also a cat who likes his meals. This morning, as I slept beyond seven, he became impatient for breakfast and started his bouncy castle routine. Usually it disturbs my sleep but doesn’t hurt me. Today he bounced on my wound. You know that feeling where the pain is so intense that it feels like a black hole swallowing you up? That’s what I felt. It took several minutes of deep breathing and repeated ows before I could bring myself to sit up.

MasterB and I have spent most of the day together. Celia went over to Notting Hill, and although B&J and I had planned to convene this evening in the garden we decided it was too cold, and rain looked imminent.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th May 2021

There’s a slender silver sliver of moon in the skies tonight. It’s beautiful. I saw it a moment ago when I went out to retrieve the Boys’ dishes. The Boys are of course Hartley and Romeo. Tomorrow is Sunday, so it’s the day I am on breakfast and dinner duty. Romeo missed his breakfast with Joe this morning. Sleeping in was Joe’s verdict, and when he, Romeo, saw me mid morning he was hopeful I was bearing food. I wasn’t. I was bearing a stack of clean dishes to return to Joe, so I told him (Joe) about Romeo and the next thing Romeo got his breakfast. Or maybe that should be brunch. Hartley’s brother Smudge approached me while I was talking to J by her front door. I have a mission to get Smudge to trust me so I can start work on the dreadful knots he has in his fur. The trusting and the removing may take many months.

April was dry. There’s a rhyme about spring weather: March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers. I used to take comfort from it when I was a child as most of the cousins on my father’s side of the family, that is the cousins who I saw on a weekly basis as opposed to the Irish cousins who I saw every other summer, had March birthdays. Mine is in May. I felt a bit left out. But this year April was windy and May is showery with temperatures see-sawing. I was working today and got caught in a couple of showers. They were short but effective. The damp has brought the slugs and snails out in the garden. I avoided them when fetching the dishes, and was relieved no slug was actually in either dish. I know Celia will pick up slugs, but I am more prissy.

Work was good for several reasons, one being it involved walking. I mean to pack a decent walk in every day until Wednesday, and shall probably walk to the hospital before my movements are curtailed for the next few weeks. Mother used to say she wanted to keep her mobility. I know what she meant. Being able to get out and around on your own two feet is a freedom beyond price.

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