The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th March 2021

Glorious glorious weather for the first days of this week, though apparently on Friday it’s all change. We are now allowed to meet outside in groups of two households or up to eight people. When I was out and about today I’d say no one needed to be told twice.

However, thanks the marvel of Zoom, this evening I was chatting with people in Berlin, Vancouver and Berkeley, California, and was reminded that some people are heading into a stronger lockdown as we start thinking we’re free. It could all start up again. So I am not counting on being able to do anything yet.

A year on we know the ropes. What was strange last year is now familiar. It’s also different. In those heady days of the first lockdown we did not understand it would last so long. Like now, spring sprung and held us in a blossomed embrace. People rediscovered the joys of cycling as the streets emptied of cars. It was in some ways an adventure. If we were going to live a curtailed existence for a limited period of time we were going to find ways to enjoy it.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd July 2020

I bought the laptop. Now I am finding my way around it. It may take me some time I feel. Today I tried to use it for a Zoom event. It all seemed fine, then I realised I had no sound. Nor could I understand how to get sound. It was a quick switch to the iPad. Now I need to use it to try to join other Zoom meetings while I work out what to do. Or is there another way?

This was after enjoying a cycle ride with Octavia. She has been cycling a great deal during lockdown, far far more than I have, and she has become more adventurous, more confident. It was great to go out with her. She’s off to Yorkshire and her mother in a couple of days, so I shall have to wait until she returns for the next spin. We went to places I have walked with Celia, just to the south of where we live. It was fun. It reminded me of my helming with Stuart, how being with someone who is calm, confident helps give you confidence. It’s a good feeling. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th June 2020

I watched the news and there was footage of people queuing outside shops. Not the spread out queues of people in search of groceries we have become used to over the last weeks, but great long snaking queues of people wanting to buy handbags, to browse, maybe buy perfume. I felt like I was watching scenes from another planet. I have never understood the great allure of shopping anyway, but right now I can’t think of anything worse.

So it seems not everyone has (re)discovered a love of nature; not everyone has found themselves reassessing how they have lived their lives pre-pandemic and decided on a new course. I understand that the pressure to return to old habits is huge, but I didn’t think the return would be this fast. Another item on the news was, to me, more positive. It was about how more areas of more towns are to be given over to cyclists and pedestrians, with goods being delivered only between certain hours. That should help lower pollution in our streets.

Another hopeful item was the interview with Patrick Hutchinson and his companions. Hutchinson was photographed carrying a white counter protester, a member of the far right, to safety when things got nasty on Saturday. He is dignified, calm and coherent; a natural spokesman. I’d have preferred it if his companions weren’t all manspreading in their seats, but that was a minor distraction. Maybe we’ll still be living in a society which is crazy about shopping but starts to be more equal. And men will learn to sit with their knees closer together. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th April 2020

There was a man sitting at a table outside a closed pub writing in a notebook. He had a can of beer in front of him. It brought a whole new meaning to BYO.

My bike ride today was to try to gee myself up. Some days I seem very lethargic. The hours pass and I do very little. I was thinking a lot about my friend Vicki in Melbourne. She emailed me to say her father had died. Not of coronavirus, at least she didn’t say so, and she did say the family had been able to spend time with him before he died. It’s so hard when you lose a parent. Given that happens to everybody we are unaccountably bad at looking after others when it happens to them. In many workplaces you are allowed one day off to attend the funeral of a close relative. One day. It’s ridiculous. It’s unkind. It’s dangerous. Would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who had just been bereaved? flown by a pilot who had had one day off when her mother died? I wouldn’t. You are vulnerable when you are bereaved, fragile. It’s like an altered state.

So fresh air on a noticeably cooler day than we have for some time sounded like what I needed. My goal was Westminster. I reckoned it would be quiet, which was what I wanted. The ride to St Thomas’ was uneventful, though one speeding driver of a 4×4 on a narrow road might have ended my existence had I not heard her coming and pulled over. Her shouted “sorry’ out of the window as she sped on did little to appease. I wonder if she observes social distancing. Probably not.

Opposite the hospital and right where I parked my bike was this sign.


I realise I did not include another photo yesterday from outside Guy’s Hospital.

Free to key workers

The windows of the school opposite the hospital were covered with children’s drawings, all of them to thank the NHS.

This outpouring of thanks is wonderful, and I should love to see it translated into greater investment in the NHS, better pay for NHS workers. But I fear that when we are over coronavirus it will be the rich who remain rich and the poor who become poorer. The rich are good at lobbying, and using influence to get what they want. That Philip Green and Richard Branson, neither of whom are UK taxpayers, expect the rest to bail them out while they keep their billions, says it all. Amazon must be making a fortune from coronavirus, all those deliveries. Does it contribute millions to the UK treasury? No. Tesco accepted a government hand out to pay its workers and then paid out more to its shareholders.

Some of my neighbours are saying that when this is over we shall all have learned what really matters and the world will change. I’d love them to be right, but I can’t see it. As China gets over the virus it’s a return to business as usual and the clean air people have enjoyed is already polluted.

I walked to Westminster Bridge and took another picture.

I ❤️ NHS

It was still very quiet, hardly any traffic other than buses and some cyclists. One or two people on foot. I could see hospital staff enjoying their breaks by the fountain where the geese swam. I walked onto the bridge. I was about halfway across when I saw around ten people coming towards me. I was surprised. They filed by. Then a group of cyclists who looked very much as though they were out together. I was more surprised.

But that was nothing. When I reached the far side of the bridge by the Palace of Westminster which I had expected to be deserted there were families and couples evidently doing a bit of serious sightseeing. I revised my plans and returned to my bike. I rode through Archbishop’s Park. I wish these signs were everywhere.

Keep Your Distance

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th April 2020

Beautiful weather today, and the barbecues have been going since lunchtime. Not chez IsobelandCat you understand. The one who does the cooking being vegan and not wild about barbecued veg, and the other, being a cat, has his own tinned food and weighed biscuits. It’s also been a lot louder. I am guessing some people are going to have bad headaches tomorrow.

Mind, having written that I realise it is not quite ten thirty and the music seems to be turned dow. There was disco coming from one address at half past one.

So maybe people have stayed home and been sensible. It’s so hard when the temperature rises and we throw open our windows properly for the first time this year to think there is a virus that can kill under our sunny skies. How do you explain to children that they have to stay in? Every muscle, every nerve, every instinct is telling us to get outside after a winter spent mainly indoors. My get of jail free card came in the shape of shopping for neighbours. It unfortunately does not also come with guaranteed immunity, and for the first time in days I had to ask someone to move away from me.

I queued outside M&S, all very orderly, then forgot to buy the milk B&J wanted, and managed to pay for the tomatoes twice on the self serve. I am hoping I can get a refund tomorrow. Celia wanted broccoli and there wasn’t any. I reminded her that Louisa who runs a local café which she has turned into afresh food shop for the duration had tweeted to say she had broccoli. Celia rang and placed an order. I thought I’d also check out what was available at the Farmer’s Market at Kennington Oval, behind St Mark’s church, so I took my bike and a rucksack. What I didn’t realise was that Celia had ordered more than broccoli. Louisa presented me with a crate. I didn’t have any bungees, but Lousia kindly offered to cycle with me to Celia’s with the crate on the capacious carrier she has on the front of her bike. My half kilo of new potatoes went into the rucksack.

I ditched the Kennington market plan and headed for Borough Market. Since breaking my wrist badly in a cycling accident six years ago i have become a nervous cyclist, and therefore a less than occasional one. Also my work often starts in one place and ends in another, cycling to work is no longer practical. But the roads are so much quieter have been itching to cycle, and my neighbourhood ride yesterday only whetted my appetite.
It was wonderful, liberating, to able to get so much further so much more quickly. It was like having wings.

My first impression was that the market was very quiet. There were the notices we have quickly become used to telling us to stay at home, to wash our hands, to keep our distance. Part of me longs to explore empty streets and take pictures, to witness and document. Another part of me hugs the safety of my home. That part wins.

Now familiar notices (2)

Now familiar notices (1)



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Stayin’ Alive

Five months today since I smashed my wrist. Maybe I should have bought flowers to commemorate the day, but actually I did something far more exciting.

Bike in the Park

Bike in the Park

In the weeks following the accident I seriously wondered if I would ever get back on my bike. It stayed locked up in the bike shelter, gradually getting dirtier and dustier while I looked at adult push scooters, and waited for my fracture to mend.

I thought about selling my bike; unravelling the floral garland; removing the star shaped reflectors from the spokes; handing it over to a stranger along with my cycle clips, gloves and hi-viz jacket. It felt like betrayal. But I was scared. What would happen if I broke my wrist a second time? The talk of possible nerve damage when I was in A&E kept playing in a loop around my head. I’d got away with it this time, but a future when I couldn’t use my right hand made me cold with fear.

The consultant was reassuring. With all the metal in my arm, even if I broke it again, it would be in a different place. Rather haughtily I was told they had done all the wondrous and wonderful work on my wrist exactly so I could ride my bike again.

So the problem was me, how I felt, not my healing wrist. I kept renewing my bus pass and stopped looking at my bike. Deep down, I believed my cycling days were done. Continue reading

Of Older Persons, New Irons, the Shard and Accidents

With timing that I found infelicitous, my birthday post included an invitation from the hospital to attend the Older Persons’ Unit to check out the state of my bones.

According to the government, I am a mere sprig of a thing, with plenty of years left on the clock before I can even think about drawing my pension. Yet in health terms, I am obviously considered to be heading for my final furlongs.

The double think required to keep both those ideas compatible seems to demand the mixed metaphors. I loved Alice in Wonderland as a child, but never expected to be living in a world where the Duchess and the Queen of Hearts seemed relatively sensible.

Anyway, this afternoon I had my appointment. I finished work at lunchtime, but it wasn’t worth going home, so having eaten, I had a mooch about the City, and did some window shopping for a new iron as I think mine is not going to last much longer. I don’t know if there’s an Older Irons’ Unit, but mine would definitely qualify. It was given to me by a neighbour who sold up to travel the wotld. That was around seventeen years ago.

It was one of those days when you are aware of power tussles among the weather gods; first one then the other seizing the controls, and leaving us mere mortals taking sunglasses on and off, being buffeted by winds, drenched by sudden heavy showers, and warmed by the sun.

I was dawdling along near the Monument when I realised the clouds were stacking up. I decided to head across the bridge to the safety of Guy’s Hospital.

The light was impressive.

Shard Under the Weather

Shard Under the Weather

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All Change: What the Well-Dressed Arm is Wearing for April

I’ll spare you the goriest photo featuring stitches and bruises. I sent it to Octavia, but she a) is a doctor, and b) while I was still digesting my breakfast, sent me a photo of dead rat her cat had caught .

Once again the NHS did its stuff beautifully. I arrived at the fracture clinic and was despatched almost immediately to x-ray. Then a short wait and I saw the consultant, this time in shirt and tie and minus his blue scrubs. He was smiling. In moments he removed the smelly old plaster, and my new lizard skin was revealed. Though I suppose that should be old lizard skin. Suddenly the dinosaurs seem like near relatives. He showed me the x-rays; a sort of t-bar plate with lots of screws sticking out of it so it made me think of a broom. Everything seems to be healing nicely. He wouldn’t be drawn on whether I shall have a lump on my wrist or what degree of moevement I can hope to achieve in the future. But I am not a trained journalist for nothing. I asked a different question. Pushed, he said we could hope for 80-90% of my previous rotational skills.

Back to the waiting room where a small child looked worriedly at my exposed arm. There was a list of things to be done.

The Checklist

The Checklist

I had just about got my phone out when I was called to the plaster room. Ruth, the staff nurse who attended to me, is the daughter of a seamstress. It showed. I shouldn’t be surprised to see her fronting her own craft show on tv one of these days.



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Celia to the Rescue

You know what it’s like, there you are, stuck in a waiting room with nothing to read. Fortunately you have a mobile phone, so after calling the people who are expecting you so where you are definitely not going to be, you text a couple of friends.
I needed to thank Octavia for the gift of rhubarb I found through the letter box this morning, but knowing she was at work, I didn’t expect a reply before this evening at the earliest. Then I texted Celia who promptly pulled on her Superwoman tights, and found me in A&E.
I had nearly completed my cycle ride to work this morning and was passing St Thomas’ Hospital, when, just ahead of me, I saw a white car crossing through the lane of traffic to my right. I didn’t think the driver had seen me and I didn’t want to slam into the side of the car, so I applied my brakes, hard.
The good news is my brakes are very good; much better than I expected. Impressively effective, I should say. I came to an immediate halt, and fell off my bike in an undignified sprawl on the road. Kind people asked me how I was, picked up my bike, and I got to my feet. My arm felt bruised and instinctively I raised it and held it across my chest. I was pleased to find no holes in my trousers, and although I felt it was nothing serious, allowed myself to be led to A&E by the young woman who had rescued my bike. I am ashamed now that I did not ask her name.

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