The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th November 2020

Another Tuesday, another edition of The Great British Bake Off, but tonight it’s the final. So by the time I finish writing this and post it I shall probably know who the winner is. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell. To be honest I am more worried about my bike light which is not charging than the fate of the bakers’ cream slices. The front light charged perfectly, the rear does one little flash to say it recognises it’s on the charger and then, nothing. I’m going to unplug it and try again later.

It is strange as the days cool and the sun sets shortly after four in the afternoon to see the GBBO tent and the contestants sweltering away during a heat wave in high summer, all blue skies, shorts and sunshine.

More announcements from our unesteemed Prime Minister, B Johnson, about what we can expect to be able to do at Christmas. Without wanting to go all bah humbug it does sound crazy to allow up to three households to mix indoors for five days. Maybe Johnson thinks everyone lives in a big house, doesn’t realise how families cram around the dining table and squeeze into tiny sitting rooms to watch the Queen’s Speech or whatever the blockbuster movie of the day is. It always used to be The Great Escape. I must have seen that film a dozen times with my dad while my mum escaped to the kitchen. I don’t recall my sister watching it either, so she must have sloped off somewhere. If other families do the same that may make the sitting room a bit safer.

I imagine there will be some pretty intense conversations around the country with families trying to decide what’s best. Unless miraculously the infection has dropped massively by late December I think I’ll be doing the one household Christmas Day indoors with the two or three households mixing outside options.

Boxing Day is traditionally when everyone goes out for a walk to do a little towards working off the calories consumed the day before. Maybe this year we could just do long distance walks over the whole of Christmas and the New Year. Just a thought.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th November 2020

I have not been at my brightest and best these last couple of days; nothing wrong with my physical health, just a bit of the Coronavirus/Lockdown blues.

The urge to hibernate is very strong when I feel like this. So far I have resisted and today I enjoyed a walk with Cynthia which helped. I am doing another jigsaw which Charlie has passed on to me.. Taking things slowly, taking things easy. It’s about removing pressure, eating well, playing with MasterB. It’s just that it feels there is nothing positive on the horizon. A letter in the post reminds me it’s time to renew my contents insurance. Necessary but not exactly a cause for celebration. There is a vaccine, but I doubt a) if it’s vegan and b) if I will be able to get one any time soon. Brexit gets closer and closer and the only good thing I can think of about that is that it will mean the day we rejoin the EU will also advance.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th November 2020

The semi-finals of GBBO tonight. I have been rooting for Hermine. Fear not those of you who fret I am going to give away the result before this season airs in your country. I am not planning to give anything away. So I’ll stop there before I say who else is still in the tent.

An early evening walk with Celia and we saw more Christmas decorations, but I didn’t have my camera. Celia tells me the early appearance of Christmas decorations is so widespread this year it’s been reported in the press. I know some people put them up in Lockdown1 which seemed completely nuts to me. Now I am wondering if they ever took them down. I hope they did, otherwise their rooms are going to look like an homage to Miss Haversham. I’m looking forward to hearing what the psychologists have to say.

I’m just making comfort food. Last night it was rumbledethumps, a Scottish leftovers dish closely related to Bubble and Squeak. I had some swede, not my favourite vegetable, which I wanted to use up and it seemed a good idea. I substituted vegan cheddar for real cheddar. I’m not a big fan of fake cheese, but I have had it melted and been pleasantly surprised. But what to have with it? Beans of some sort, but rumbledethumps is fairly beige in colour apart from the cabbage part, so I decided on red kidney beans. Again not my favourite bean, so that’s three ingredients not on my loved list.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th October 2020

Wow, I am reconnected: television, internet and landline. Will it last? I do hope so. It meant however that I had the dubious pleasure of watching some of the news and seeing news from Wisconsin where quite normal looking people said they intended to vote for Trump because they ‘don’t trust Biden’. I felt this needed more explanation. especially what they trust Trump with that don’t trust Biden with, though I have a feeling that would probably worry me quite a lot.

Toady has been busier than anticipated. I think I have said that before. I eventually cleared the sitting room floor of paper, but the papers weren’t as ordered as I had hoped. Still, it’s a start. Michèle gave me an old hand made quilt. I am not sure where she got it, but it was a bit damaged and rather grubby. I asked Carol’s advice about putting t in the washing machine. Yes, she said, but I’d need to repair it first. So sewing was added to my to do list. I can’t say my repairs were professional, and I think they are more temporary than permanent, but hopefully sufficient to stop it falling apart in the machine. I used the sewing machine and MasterB was intrigued by the moving needle. Not a good idea.

Parsley soup was on the menu for lunch, and I took a break from papers to make it. I had some squash to use up, so I popped that in too. Usually parsley soup is a lovely deep green colour. I can tell you that adding squash makes it look like a swamp. Tasted ok though. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th October 2020

Unusually I am writing a post in the middle of the afternoon. I shall be going out shortly and then later meeting B&J for some socially distanced socialising outside. Which reminds me I need to put some Becks Blue in the fridge now.

Yesterday’s jaunt to Wivenhoe was both delightful and depressing. Delightful because each time I go there convinces me this is a place I could live. Depressing because the properties I looked at did not suit. I’ll do the depressing stuff first. I saw a very pretty cottage in a good location. As I had feared the living room was very small, but the garden was great, there were all sorts of quirky and interesting storage places, original features and cleverly adapted ones, but the real decider was the staircase which was vertiginous. The second property, also in a good location, in many ways suited me, but did not suit MasterB as there was a long balcony, but nowhere I could fit a catflap to give him access to the real outdoors. I haven’t completely ruled it out, but as it will probably be snapped up quickly it may rule me out. The third property was lovely, perfect in every way bar the location. It looked ok on the map but I tried the walk to the station and it was around twenty minutes. As my working day involves a lot of walking, the idea of struggling up the hill and into a housing estate in all weathers reduced my enthusiasm. It was also in a housing estate and I couldn’t see myself there.

Parts of Wivenhoe are surprisingly enthusiastic about hallowe’en. I mean it was 15th yesterday, so the decorations are going to be up for a while. I’m not a fan of hallowe’en, but I do like the neighbourhood witch sign. I think I’d keep that the year round.

A skull on the table

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd September 2020

If it weren’t for the pandemic I very much doubt if we should have been sitting outside in the garden at half past eight eating chips. Is this something we will look back on fondly in years to come as we reminisce about the ways we reacted to and coped with the restrictions in our lives?

Tonight’s chips were from Shishlique. Up until now we have been patronising The Best Kebab, but we are starting to experiment. Shishlique is a new business, replacing the unlamented fried chicken shop. It is mainly take away, but a notch more upmarket than The Best Kebab. The staff were friendly, polite efficient. But Shishlique lost points immediately by serving the chips in polystyrene containers instead of wrapping them up in paper. The portions were definitely smaller which was not a bad thing, and the chips themselves were halfway between traditional fat chips of floury potato and French fries.

It’s nice to know we can choose between not just different establishments but different types of chips.

Hartley and the Curious Fox joined us in the garden.The fox played with an old shoe and a discarded face mask which she, or possibly another fox, had found and brought onto the premises. She repeatedly threw them in the air. I am guessing this is a play version of a hunting technique. She also had her eye on J’s Waitrose bag, and would have nabbed it and run off with it had J not picked the bag up and tucked it on the chair. There is something very endearing and innocent about this fox, but I fear her interest in human beings may be her undoing. Not everyone will be content to watch her play. There are some cruel people about. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th September 2020

There were watermelons at the organic farm today so I bought one. I haven’t cut into it. It’s in the boot of the car and I shall take it home intact. The fridge on das Boot is not much bigger than a sheet of A3 paper, and I already have quite a lot of fresh food in it. Making sure it doesn’t go off means I have been eating very well, though having established that the pub at Reach is now properly open for business I am tempted to go there for lunch tomorrow before I start my sloe and blackberry picking in the afternoon.

I had a short stroll around the marina, admiring some boats and noting the absence of others who have either been sold or moved to new moorings elsewhere.

Jolly yellow boat

The countryside around is flat. It’s one of the things the fens are famous for.

Flat as far as the eye can see

Bare fields

MasterB has had two walks ashore. The first this morning as the day warmed up, the second this evening. Given that the weather is gorgeous though autumnal, I expected lots of people to arrive this evening. They didn’t. So tonight’s walk was an unexpected bonus, and achieved just in time as, having had a very long pee (yes!!) and spent almost as long covering it up, MasterB looked about, evidently considering his options and a car turned into the marina. I watched it drive the length of the track and guessed correctly it was our neighbours who have the boat the other side of the pontoon.

Boats

MasterB has been gradually become braver about people and cars at the marina, but the likelihood of him having a panic when he saw people walking towards him was high, so I made the choice for him, lifted him up and popped him through the window of das Boot. He was quite calm while I took his harness off, but when the footsteps crunched on the shingle close by and the pontoon began to rock he displayed his disquiet by growling and sinking his belly to the floor. He didn’t rush to hide though, and that in itself is progress. The light was already fading while we were ashore, so there has been no socialising between our two vessels, and I am guessing they will set off somewhere early in the morning. I needed to cook my supper,* so I drew curtains, popped a CD into the player and poured a glass of wine. MasterB remained crouched on the floor until I lifted him onto the bed. He looks pretty relaxed now. Maybe he’ll join me in the fore cabin in a while. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th September 2020

So what have I done today? The military aircraft continued their fly overs much later than I expected, so my early night didn’t happen. I was in my pyjamas, but the noise kept me awake, so I read and MasterB slept on my feet.

During the night I woke briefly several times, mainly because I needed to change position which isn’t always easy with a cat who has decided to sleep on or as close to one as possible. Around six he came under the quilt, curled up by my chest and we slept companionably until half past seven. The morning wasn’t as cool as I was expecting, but the windows in the rear cabin where we’d slept were covered in condensation. Even so, it was obvious it was going to be a beautiful day. The light was gorgeous. I emerged from the boat in time to see a swan flying low over the river. It’s moments like this when it feels unthinkable to give the boat up.

I‘ve been puzzled by a bit of broken ceramic, tonight I got the answer when the bathroom shelf fell off the wall and I could see where the piece fitted on the back. Since it was fine on my last stay and Older Nephew and his partner were the last people to use das Boot, I assumed they had had a mishap with the shelf. He says not. Strange. The shelf didn’t get back on the wall on its own.

Anyway, MasterB and I enjoyed our respective breakfasts and then I read for a while, feeling rather contented and lazy. But there was shopping to be done at Reach. I wanted carrots, salad and a marrow. I didn’t find any of them, I ended up with squash and fresh walnuts. There weren’t any water melons either. I wasn’t expecting them. They are not the sort of fruit I expect to find on an organic farm in Cambridgeshire, but a woman who was there at the same time as I was waxed lyrical about them and was very disappointed not to get one today.

I turned down the lane and picked blackberries for a crumble I have made this evening. I had half feared there would be no blackberries, that I’d be too late, but I think these were on a north facing hedgerow. I’ll go back and pick more before I go home and I have two orders for sloes, both I think for gin. I may try sloe chutney. I have only had sloe gin once,  an ex neighbour made it and it was so strong I thought I’d go blind.  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