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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The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th April 2020

With my anxiety increasing hourly about finances and conflicting stories about how the government help for those of us who are self-employed circulating, I got down to my tax return. Why can I never get the columns to tally first time? Anyway, I felt I made a fairly good start, and with luck and application I’ll have it finished by the end of the week. Except I always find I have forgotten something, so maybe the end of next week. Hopefully not the end of the week after that.

Totting up columns was interspersed with domestic tasks to give me breaks from sitting in front of a screen and going through files. The bed linen dried quickly, i brought it in from the line, ironed it, put it in the airing cupboard, back to the columns. Lunch was a big treat. Last night’s curry was enhanced with broccoli and cauliflower and served with brown rice. It was good. So was the raspberry flavoured ice lolly I had for pudding.

Then more going through bank statements, filling in columns. When I saw a text from Celia suggesting three thirty as a good time to go for a walk I didn’t hesitate. Yes!!!!!

So off we went. She suggested Vauxhall Park, a destination which would mean we would go down the road with The Car. It wasn’t there. We need to study the photograph for clues as to which driveway it was in. Were they just visiting? Out somewhere today? Was it just a chance in a million it had been there when we had walked by?

Lots more roses today, most of them very fragrant, but I don’t have the power to transmit those smells here. You’ll just have to imagine. I write this blog mainly as a diary for me, maybe if I read this in years to come those fragrances will come back as I look at the pictures.

Pink and yellow

Frothy white

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th April 2020

I’ve just had one of those dinners where at the end of it I put knife and fork down, looked at my empty plate, and thought, that was good. Simple, good food with fresh ingredients makes me happy. Well, I say fresh, but it did include frozen chips. Being happy, or at least not depressed, is a vital ingredient for surviving this weird time. You could probably say good food is a vital ingredient in surviving.

On the whole I think I am surviving fairly well. Walks mainly with Celia and always with my camera around the local area are a constant source of delight and interest. The weather is a huge help. Tomorrow it’s due to rain. Maybe I should have left renewing the car insurance until the morning. On the other hand that sheaf of papers has now been filed away, another task has ticked off the list. I read an article a few weeks ago about not having long to do lists. Have one or two tasks on post-it notes which you then keep as a record of what you have achieved. That last bit might not be great for me as I am not good at throwing things away, and I can imagine a scenario where over months my home could just be covered in yellow coloured squares. However I know that anxieties are bubbling away somewhere. I woke at half past three this morning feeling tremendously anxious and a bit unsafe, but I could not tell you why. It took quite a while to get back to relaxed, deep sleep. My carpal tunnel in my left hand didn’t help. You wouldn’t think numbness would be painful, but it is. Is there a link between carpal tunnel and anxiety, carpal tunnel and champagne? Might be interesting to find out.

I finished the jigsaw last night, so today I could dust and vacuum without fear of vacuuming up a piece.

My work is done

Finished

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th April 2020

I spent much of today on the ‘phone, not chats with friends, though all the calls were amicable, chats about car insurance. Mine expires next Saturday. My current insurers sent a renewal notice. The cost had risen by £70 from last year for no discernable reason. I rang, it was reduced by £20. I rang other insurers. The cost was more or less the same. If I had to choose just one word to describe it, that word would be high. Two words – too high. I’ll mull it over this weekend and decide if it is worth switching to save £12.

I don’t use my car much. I keep it mainly so I can get to das Boot. But my boat, has not been relaunched because of coronavirus, after being out of the water for its/her insurance valuation inspection all winter. Lockdown looks set to continue. I have already paid for my river licence, for my mooring fees, the boat insurance is due in July, the car tax, now the car insurance, all for something I can’t access, let alone enjoy. It’s a bit surreal. Or maddening. Choose your own adjective. Actually expensive would probably be the most accurate.

So. Is this going to be the moment I decide to sell das Boot, to give up the car? Maybe the moment, but those two things will have to wait until a) I can get to das Boot and remove her to a mooring where boats are sold b) a prospective buyer can take it/her for a water trial. Until the boat is no longer mine, I need the car. Do you see a circularity? a roundabout with no current exit?

One of the insurers I called, once he had my address, said I didn’t sound like a south Londoner. I wasn’t sure if it was a judgement or what. I said, “Don’t I? I have lived in Se17 most of my life.” This is true. It turned out theta he had lived in Greenwich, though his accent suggested his origins were a couple of hundred miles north of the Thames. I resisted saying it isn’t where you are born that matters, it where you make your home. My friend Patou was born in Argenteuil. Sh has lived longer in London than anywhere. London, she used to say proudly, is my city. Then Brexit. She won’t be here much longer. I have promised to call her this evening. Time is getting on. This post will have to be curtailed.

So, briefly: Celia and I walked over to Vauxhall. I took some photos. Celia announced a) she wanted to have a drink of cider in a pub and b) as the pubs were closed she wanted cake at the Vauxhall Tea House Theatre – which is also closed. We compromised by going to the latter and staring in through the windows. I took some photos.

Maggie the Cat

Muddy Boots and Dogs Welcome

I am a bit concerned about Maggie and the dogs. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th April 2020

Another anniversary today, a happier one this time. It’s nine years since I brought MasterB home. On these pages he’s been known as Previously Known As, or more simply, PKA (what he was previously known as was Facebook, a name that did not last the train journey), and then Not Cat to distinguish him from Cat aka Freddy, until finally I felt it was unfair to call him by a negative so he became MasterB, Master being his title and B being the initial of the next of his string of names. If you asked him if he enjoyed the anniversary he’d probably complain about the vacuuming, but he is looking pretty happy right now, curled up asleep on the chair. I am of course sitting on the floor.

I watched an elderly lady walk down our street. She was talking to something or someone. I couldn’t see at first what or who. Then she bent a little and Smudge, Hartley’s brother, sashayed across the street to greet her. A nice moment for cat and human. We have the daughter of one of the other flat owner’s staying here temporarily. Her father lets the flat he owns, which used to belong to his mother. His daughter is a nurse in the NHS, but as her father has some serious underlying health issues, she has been told she cannot stay in the same house as him. Fortunately the tenants have just moved out. It must have been a bit daunting to move into a pretty empty flat with one cup, one plate, one spoon, one knife, one fork etc, but Hartley has made her the immediate object of his affections. He’s there on the window sill when she makes her breakfast, has visited her inside the flat, follows her across the garden. She’s already saying how much she’ll miss him when she moves out.

The most relaxed person I have seen since lockdown began is Barnaby the Bee Man. He has his bees, there are birds flying in and out of the nesting boxes, I suspect there will soon be tadpoles in the pond. Sometimes Casey, his partner’s dog, comes to work with him. Casey is part Staffie. Before Tracey got her from Battersea, Barnaby had embargoed Staffies. It didn’t take long for Casey to bring him round. Tracey emerged from the bathroom one day to hear him saying as he cuddled the dog, “Who’s my little baby?”

Nature and animals, better than Prozac. MasterB is the best companion I could have in lockdown, even when he has the zoomies as he did today. He’s vocal, demanding, affectionate, and just watching him makes me happy.

MasterB makes me happy

My constitutional was later than usual. Celia had walked the same route I was planning to take and told me of a new Thank-you NHS sign to look out for. She told me it was quite large. On the way I saw a cat on a wall watching something out of my sight. Then a slender fox, a vixen, slid between the cars. She was with another fox, a dog fox who, bolder than his mate, stopped and took stock of me.

London Fox

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th April 2020

I am feeling a bit sad. After a certain amount of discussion Celia and I have agreed that our socially distant but still sociable walks must cease. I realised Celia was having doubts the other day. The crazy thing is we can still be closer to total strangers legally than to our friends. This is the point where I may start to feel lonely. Though that said, when I see neighbours and we stand two metres apart we can still talk. There are a lot of holes in our socially distant advice.

Today was glorious. Normally this would be welcome, but I avoided the parks as I guessed they would be very busy. If my absence means the parks will remain open, I’ll stay away. I can walk the pavements, the tarmac streets, but if I had children living in a flat with no garden, no balcony they and I should be at screening point. As it happened I met Celia and Mr Celia on their return from Kennington Park. It was busy they reported, police patrolled.

I got my 12k steps today running errands. I stuck to side streets where possible and met very few people. Only once did I feel that someone was oblivious of the need to keep a distance. Celia is probably right. The coming week is the one where cases of coronavirus is expected to peak. I do not want to catch it. There seems to be an argument where the threat is dismissed by pointing out how many people die in RTAs and from the ‘flu every year. This disregards the fact that RTAs still happen, ‘ordinary’ ‘flu still happens. It’s not as though all the causes of death to which we are accustomed are suddenly folding their arms and sitting on sofas watching old films to make room for coronavirus. Coronavirus is on top of these causes of death, not instead of. Mind, the lessening traffic must surely mean a lessening number of RTAs. I hope so. I intend to get some cycling in over the coming weeks if nothing else. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries 24th March 2020

Another glorious spring day, blue skies, sunshine. Warm too. No need of a coat or even a cardigan when I took my exercise allowance late afternoon. I reckoned the later I took it the better, so that I had that break outside my home to look forward to. It seemed to work.

Blossom

I pegged out my washing this morning, put the recycling in the correct bin, emptied the coffee grounds into the compost. Celia and I arranged a swap, I took a jigsaw for Charlie, some lavender oil for Celia and the current copy of the New European for both of them, and my hula hoop for Celia to try. Celia had dug wild garlic plants out of the garden, put some disposable gloves out for me and an empty jar which had had sage pesto in it I given her.

Looking out of my window when Celia called me I was surprised to see Javier coming into the garden. I assumed the garage was now closed, and my car keys locked up in it. As I keep MasterB’s basket in the car I was thinking it was going to be a problem if he needed the vet’s attention. It turned out Javier had decided to come in and complete all the work on cars in the garage and return the vehicles, and in my case keys, to their owners and then shut.

Yesterday Celia thought it was Sunday, and that was how it felt today too. Very quiet. Some people walking along the main road I could see from my street. Actually, when I did go for my walk there were more people about than I expected. There was a queue outside Oli’s, so it seemed the number of customers allowed in was being restricted. The trouble with the queue was the people in it were too close together. I swerved in the opposite direction and saw a similar too close queue outside the post office.

I quickly left the main road and returned to side streets where there was almost no one about, and when I did meet anyone, we all made efforts to keep apart. Admittedly it’s safer to step off the pavement into the road when you are in a back street. To do so on a main road could mean death from something other than coronavirus.

I have heard this evening that one of my relatives is recovering from the virus. She hopes she did not spread it far, had not been out for several days when the symptoms showed themselves, and is now hoping she is immune. Continue reading

Catkin Days

The light is reclaiming the days by stealth. The night’s tenure is shortened by a minute at either end of its lease and suddenly early evening, late afternoon, breakfast time reveal the onward move towards spring. In the garden narcissi, snowdrops, crocii, anenomes are blooming. Next it will be the hyacinths, already pushing knobbly green buds through the middle of the protective sheath of their leaves. Birds are bulking up for parenthood, eating the seed from the feeders greedily. Another year turns.
Jeeves, our neighbourhood semi feral intact Tom cat has gone walkabout. Presumably there will be a kitten explosion in late March and early April. Much as I love kittens, I wish people would neuter their cats. There are too many abandoned cats needing homes, as well as the ones people have to give up when they move to accommodation where pets aren’t allowed. Such bans exacerbate the problem, make pets homeless and deny people the proven benefits of living with a companion animal. Continue reading

Time Off and Time Out

I worked eight days in a row after returning from my hols and boy was I glad to have a couple of days off. I love my work, but it can be a bit intense at times, and I definitely needed time to recoup. I am rereading Milkman by Anna Burns for book group next month. However, my recuperation required doing a jigsaw, and having more credits than I know what to do with with Audible, I decided to buy the audio book so I could listen and solve simultaneously. It works really well. I’m switching between the audio book and the print version according to where I am and what I’m doing. It’s a multi-sensory experience.

This afternoon I left both the audio book and the real one at home and headed to Tate Britain to see the Frank Bowling exhibition. I am so glad I did. It is wonderful. I took some photographs once I realised it was allowed, so maybe I’ll post some of them tomorrow. His work is abstract and I found it tremendously uplifting, though I can’t say why. It made me wish I lived in one of those loft places which are murder to keep warm but which have vast walls. There were several paintings I think I could happily gaze at for the rest of my life. Continue reading