The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th November

Octavia and I realised on our evening walk that these next few weeks are going to be enlivened by Christmas decorations.

Only six weeks until Christmas

Obviously the shops have gone all out on Christmas since the day after Hallowe’en. It seems more than one Londoner has also decided the jolly season has begun. Octavia reckons it’s lockdown and people looking for enjoyment where they can find it. I am not so sure. Some people just love Christmas decorations. I have only once spent Christmas in the US. It was something of a culture shock. After lunch on Christmas Day we strolled the neighbourhood where every house, without exception, was decked in lights, lawn displays, roof displays. The national grid must have been going quadruple time. I had never seen anything like it. Except of course I had, because such scenes often figure in US films set at Christmas time. I just don’t think I had believed they were real. It was like having far too much sugar to eat in one go.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th September 2020

The month comes to an end with a wet evening, although this morning was dry and warm. Last night we sat in a group of six in the dusk then dark drinking and talking, nibbling on crips, or in my case water melon. Actually we were seven, but before your outrage and rule breaking surges, the seventh was feline. Not MasterB who was snoozing indoors, and took his constitutional later, but Hartley.

Hartley had a lovely evening. He found B&J before they even had time to sit down. He made sure he acknowledged each member of our little group, and checked out Celia’s bag in case it had anything for him. J groomed him and his face expressed his bliss. Later Celia groomed him as well, so if he keeps a diary I suspect yesterday would have been a five star day.

Celia had returned from Wales earlier in the day and rescued me from the computer screen by suggesting a walk in Burgess Park. It was another beautiful afternoon. And very autumnal. There were swathes of michaelmas daisies.

Michaelmas daisies en masse

Michaelmas daisy close up

The South London Botanical Institute is not offering fungi identification at the moment, though I notice it has an open day tomorrow to visit its garden. Celia’s interest in fungi has not waned and we spotted a wonderful specimen at the base of a tree.

Not everyone was interested in fungal growths. The park wore an air of contentment.

By the lake

By the lake

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th September 2020

We had another (chipless) evening in the garden. Hartley is definitely bonding with J. The aloof fox came and ignored us. It’s been a hot day, and the evening is still very warm. MasterB is out. I am pleased, as when we go to das Boot tomorrow he’ll spend most of his time afloat. It gets dark so early now, and unless the light by the pontoon has been fixed – I’m not holding my breath – I am reluctant to step off the boat where I cannot see. It’s still going to be warm, but not as warm. I have put some bits and pieces in the car including the older great niece’s birthday presents as her parents are hoping to make a flying visit on Friday. I have bought her a range of art materials, and the not-plasticine-but-something-akin-to-it is very heavy. Too heavy to post in my opinion.

I was in the City and in Westminster this morning. Both were pretty quiet, though people started to emerge from their offices at lunchtime. I found a message on my ‘phone from B&J asking if I was going to the shops. I replied that having eaten my lunch I was thinking about the vegan Magnums I had seen but not bought in Morrison’s the other day. I ended up buying them for both of us. Yummy. Perfect on a hot afternoon. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th September 2020.

This will be a post in two parts as in a very few minutes I am going to join Octavia, her mother and her cousin Humphrey for dinner in Octavia’s garden. So far as I know, there won’t be chips. I shall be taking my almost alcohol free gin alternative for a non-intoxicating aperitif if there are any takers. Actually I have already had an alcoholic aperitif in the shape of half a pint of medium dry cider on the return leg of a walk with Celia. It’s been a beautiful day, and I feel nicely mellow. I was working this morning with a very pleasant group of people which started the day off on a good footing. Lunch at home, a cursory read of today’s papers, and a more thoughtful read of a short story. I should have vacuumed, but that can wait until tomorrow. I have given MasterB his supper and fed the boys. Joe returns tomorrow so my garden cat feeding duties have come to an end. I intend to go to das Boot on Wednesday, so it’s just as well.

Before our walk, Celia and I sat in the garden with B&J. And Hartley. Of course. Hartley loves human company and made sure he was near us. It was only when I went inside briefly that I realised Romeo was lying in the grass at the far end of the garden. He is much less needy than Hartley. We are promised two days of hot weather, so Hartley may find some of the residents who are working from home joining him for garden breaks throughout the days. I am glad it’s going to drop to low twenties for my sojourn on das Boot, though I anticipate chilly mornings and evenings as autumn establishes itself. I am also hoping it’s not too late for blackberries. I love coming home with containers full of blackberries. There are actually quite a lot of blackberry bushes near the flat, but picking them in the country, at the edge of a field is more my thing.

Celia and I were talking about how objects take you back to places and people. We all know about Proust’s Madeleine, but he was not the first person to have memories stirred by the sight, smell or feel of something. We all have dozens of madeleine moments. So picking blackberries by a field’s edge takes me back to childhood and the excitement of food for free, fingers and mouths stained purple. Celia was saying how when she looks at the cacti in their willow pattern continuers on her kitchen window sill, she is momentarily in Coventry. It’s almost a year since we were there in the flesh, and we’d planned to return in the spring. who knows when we’ll get there now? Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 25th August 2020

A lovely evening with my friend and colleague Chris. We trained together twenty six years ago which seems an impossibly long time in the past. I always say we are friends due to our postal codes as I realised at the start of the course that she was a nearish neighbour. She probably thought this woman saying ‘oh we live quite close to each other’ and expecting a connection/friendship on those grounds was bonkers. Maybe I was. But it worked and we have been friends ever since. We ate. I cooked a curry, Chris brought a very nice bottle of wine. We drank. We talked.

I showed her pictures of possible houses and we discussed their potential. I realise now I didn’t show her a flat in further south London which had caught my eye. Maybe that means something.

I worked on notes all morning and met a neighbour at lunchtime. She is fostering a cat for the RSPCA and I was offering her some of MasterB’s cast offs and toys he has rejected. She has sent me nice pictures of her cat enjoying them. She told me RSPCA Putney is closing down due to lack of funds due to the pandemic. This is big. RSPCA Putney is the flagship here in London. If they are letting that go the charity is in trouble. If the charity is in trouble animals are in trouble. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd August 2020

I am pleased to say that work went well and was very enjoyable. My face shield was a bit of a problem as the weather was windy and the face shield threatened to depart for other places. Otherwise all was fine. I think the adrenalin got to me, because mid afternoon I could have very happily gone to sleep. MasterB did go to sleep, leaning against me, and then taking the space I had occupied when I got up to answer the ‘phone.

Then I started a jigsaw. It was one I had given to Charlie for his birthday in April. It has done the rounds of our cartel and come back to me. It’s weeks since I did a jigsaw, and part of the desire is to do with The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble which I am reading. It’s a memoir, and she uses jigsaws as a way of linking her thoughts and experiences. It is oddly enjoyable. Another spur is that I find jigsaws relaxing in a meditative sort of way. My thoughts can drift around, take time to clarify. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th-18th August

I am hoping to meet my neighbour Cynthia in an hour or so for a walk with a pub as our goal. Our local pub closed at the start of the lockdown and has not reopened. It may have been sold, the owners tried to get permission for it to be converted into flats some years ago. Since then it has been listed as a community asset, and that listing is up for renewal. Some parts of London are rich in lovely pubs, Camberwell for instance. Walworth has few pubs I want to enter, so if our local does close, it would be a blow.

I have been working through tasks work related and domestic today and feeling pretty pleased with my progress. The bossy neighbour has been out which always makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. Her unshakeable belief that we are all accountable to her is somewhat wearing as well as wrong. So I have swept up leaves, hung washing out, planted some bulbs, put fat balls in the bird feeder. Romeo had a good sleep on my car. He seems to approve the new cover. I don’t like it as much as my last one, it’s much harder to do up the ties, and will be harder still in bad weather. I need it to protect the paint work from the cats and foxes.

I tried out the television from the boat and got it working, though the DVD/CD player seems to have had it. I do quite enjoy watching television on das Boot when the evenings draw in, so this is timely. The one thing I really miss about buying a hard copy of the Saturday Guardian is the the tv and entertainment guide. I switched to an online subscription shortly after lockdown began. I like not having piles of newspaper about, but I know I miss lots of articles. On the odd occasion I buy a hard copy and it’s much more satisfying. Still, the subscription means I can read the Guardian six days a week, and The Observer on Sunday. Swings and roundabouts.

I am loving A Suitable Boy. It is so well done. I caught up with Mrs America which friends have been raving about, and I enjoyed that too, but A Suitable Boy is one of my favourite novels and this tv adaptation is excellent. Andrew Davies has not lost his touch. I can see me watching the whole thing again when it ends. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 11th July 2020

Although the restrictions are lifting the number of cases, when you can find the details, still seems very high. Early on, and presumably to encourage us to stay at home, the numbers were everywhere. Now we are being encouraged to go out and shop, take public transport to work, you have to search to find them. Is it any wonder some of us are disorientated?

I finally got down to finishing a podcast episode today. I started it at das Boot. All done, I recorded it and tried to upload it. The little clock showed its progress: 12%, 25%, 30%, 42%, 50%, 61%, 73%, 86%. It stayed at 99% for an agonisingly long time then Bingo, 100%! Except it hadn’t uploaded at all. Went through this performance three or four times. Each time I got the message congratulating me on publishing a new episode, but the episode in question was one I uploaded a fortnight ago. I contacted support. the reply came quickly and I followed the instructions. Only to get a message saying I had exceeded the number of episodes I am allowed to upload in one day. I haven’t managed to upload any. I emailed support again, and am waiting for the reply. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th June 2020

Last night’s supper with Octavia was great. The Grey Ninja was very welcoming and affectionate, and it goes without saying that the company was excellent. Tonight I have another supper date, this one’s by zoom. B&J, H&J and I will be eating and talking, drinking as well, in just over half an hour, so I need to write and post this quickly.

MasterB is in the garden, hiding from Romeo, Hartley and Mr Manx who are circling anyone who they see in the hope there might be food. I’ll pop out with a sachet and some biscuits and try to rescue my boy. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th May 2020

The other day Matt Hancock MP was asked about summer holidays. This is what he said: “I think it’s unlikely that big lavish international holidays are going to be possible for this summer.” Actually I don’t have any big lavish international holidays in mind for this summer, though I do have a flight booked to Belfast at the end of a July. I imagine most of compatriots have been thinking more along the lines of a week camping in the New Forest, or a caravan somewhere near the coast, than a month in the British Virgin Islands. Hancock’s answer was yet another example of the disconnect between those in power and the vast majority of the population. Matt Hancock has not shown to advantage in this crisis. He is one of those you seriously wonder about.

Maybe I will get to Belfast and then on to Magherafelt, but I have a day trip in mind that might be my consolation if not, and which can be reached easily by train: Bedford. Birthplace of John Bunyan, and not, so far as I am aware a major lavish holiday destination for international travellers. There was a piece in the Guardian on Saturday I almost missed. You can read it here. The Garden of Eden in Bedford. Who knew? Certainly not me.

Celia and I were talking about walks we shall take when we are allowed back on trains, and she reckons the Guildford circular that included Watts Gallery at Compton might have to be our first one. It is a lovely walk but I have a sneaking suspicion that she is hoping to buy a new shirt in the wonderful shop at the gallery.

Today’s walk was closer to home. I had a yen to see Cancell Street again. So our route took us there and through nearby streets. Each time we go down a street we notice something new. We are starting to pick out details in Cancell Street. I have never seen a sage plant with such large leaves.

The Biggest Sage Leaves You Ever Did See

Another garden was very ornamented.

Ornamented Garden

This front garden appealed to me a lot. I especially liked the little frog.

Spot the Frog

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