The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th June 2020

In a garden very close by a group of friends is getting louder and louder. I know it’s a share house, the number of different voices suggests this is a bit of a party. From the shouting and raucous laughter I’d say drink has been taken. I have shut my windows but that’s done nothing to deaden the noise. It’s making me nostalgic for the quiet we have enjoyed all these weeks.

Somewhere this weekend has marked a new shift in lockdown. It might be called break out. Two of the three flats that have been empty for months are now occupied once more. A family down the street who went to a property in Sussex in March has returned.

At Sainsbury’s at the Elephant the barriers behind which we have queued for weeks now have gone. There was no one on the door telling us we could come in or if we had to wait. Shoppers arrived from different directions. Inside there were still notices telling us to keep apart, and most people were, but there were fewer masks, no gloves. At Baldwin’s, which is small, they were operating a strict one out, one in policy and asking customers to use the hand sanitiser before they began to shop.

I dodged the market at East Lane which seemed to be heaving, and kept mainly to side roads. My newly returned neighbours went to Kennington Park and reported it was very busy there. MasterB who firmly believes their flat is now his territory walked in and out of their home several times as we talked at a safe distance from each other on the landing. and checked out bags and a new piece of furniture. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th May 2020

It was a wonderful evening; great company, great food, more alcohol than was good for me. A late night, a very late night in fact as I was preparing for bed and MasterB asked to go out. The positive from that was that I drank lots of water which staved off what would have doubtless been a headache in the morning. But I woke with a very blocked nose, and continued blowing it for some time. I think the blocked nose is also due to alcohol, and it is a good deterrent. MasterB is outside now, but as both Hartley and Romeo are also in the garden he is not exactly strolling his demesne. I think he’s lurking in a flowerbed waiting for them to move on so he can enjoy himself.

I have had a fairly lazy day. Late nights mean late mornings, but I still didn’t get my full quota of sleep. I did a little shopping, including buying the paper and some milk for last night’s hosts, B&J, and biscuits for Celia. She didn’t specify what kind of biscuits, other than saying (by text) she did not want chocolate ones. That still left a fairly wide choice, and faced with that choice in M&S I called. Just as well I did, because otherwise I should probably have bought the pistachio and almond ones, forgetting Charlie’s aversion to almonds.

Naturally some of last night’s chat was about Cummings. I mentioned the interview I had seen with his father-in-law. If you missed it, click here, but I do advise you to take care of your jaw or you may find it crashing painfully to the floor. It is scarcely credible that someone could hold these views, but it seems his father had an equally abhorrent attitude to those outside his circle. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th May 2020

It’s my cousin Russell’s birthday today. I hope he’s having a good one. We are planning to meet up, walk and enjoy a pub lunch when that becomes an option. Perhaps it’s appropriate that I should have a highly sociable socially-distanced evening ahead of me. First there’s the non-alcoholic drinks and nibbles with Michèle, then back home to use the loo, been MasterB and get ready for a socially distanced, Zoom enabled dinner with two lots of neighbours, B&J, and H,J&I. B&J are the hosts, they have invited the rest of us to say thank-you for our shopping trips. It’s a lovely idea, and it’ll be even lovelier when I can ask them to come here for some non-socially-distanced drinks.

I seem to have on the go a lot today, but I can’t say I have achieved a great deal. My efforts at recording my podcast have failed for a variety of reasons – the ‘phone ringing mid recording, Podbean freezing when i tried to upload and then my achieved recording vanishing, my tongue tying itself in knots, and that old mistake of forgetting to cancel the pause button. Maybe tomorrow. I was out in my car briefly and noticed much more traffic.

I see we are allowed to meet in groups of six from Monday, so presumably we can have conversations with more of our friends about the Cummings fiasco. Perhaps we’ll even be singing this song which I found last night on Twitter. I see it has it’s own GoFundMe page. I think I’ll have to fork out a few quid. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 14th May 2020

Thursday has come round again. It’s the night of the Great Clap. There seemed less noise tonight though I and my neighbours were out as usual making as much noise as we could. I presume the Prime Minister was on the steps of Number 10. Or maybe not, since it has been leaked that the government intends the impose a pay freeze for frontline workers. It seems an odd way to show appreciation, especially when there seem no plans to impose higher taxes on the wealthy. Rainbows in windows are all very well, but practical, financial rewards would show more of the appropriate recognition promised by government.


Continue reading

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

Plate licking good food

I like my food. Make that I love my food. There’s a television series at the moment with Jamie Oliver making vegetarian and vegan food without compromising on flavour.
The words in italics aren’t mine, they are used in the trailer by an anonymous voice. They are enough to stop me watching what may be a good programme with great recipes. The implied message is that vegetarian and vegan food is tasteless. What nonsense. They also suggest that these programmes are aimed at meat eaters. Wouldn’t it be nice if us vegetarians and vegans had a cookery programme aimed just at us, presented by reputable vegetarian and vegan chefs who don’t deal in analogue (fake) meats. One day.

Last Monday I went with my neighbour Helena to Broadway market where she was investigating a shop, normally a butcher’s, that was holding a vegan meat day. At the door a very nice woman offered me a vegan chicken nugget. Um, I said, I don’t eat chicken. Don’t worry, it’s vegan, she said. I tried it. It had a meaty texture and I wouldn’t want it again, but the dip was nice. Do you think it tastes like chicken? she asked. Um,again. I haven’t eaten meat for fifty years. I really couldn’t say. We had a chat. I explained that for me fake meat is an anathema. I can understand its purpose for people who struggle to give up meat, but that’s not me. Why on earth would I want to eat a fake version of something I didn’t like and don’t miss in the first place? She saw my point.

As autumn has tipped from being very Keatsian into something cooler, greyer and wetter, so my menus have undergone subtle changes. It’s still the season of mellow fruitfulness with a wonderful cornucopia of fresh produce to choose from, and quinoa salad has yet to pack its bags and settle under the duvet for winter, but soups, risottos and so on are suddenly more attractive.
I’ve been tucking into lentil and celeriac shepherd’s pie with lots of kale and leeks. Crumble (apple, blackberry, rhubarb) has become the pudding of choice. The other night I had said shepherd’s pie with kale, roast beetroot and onion gravy. It was heaven. I made my first celeriac risotto with a lemon oil and sage leaves. Delicious. I’ll be making that again. I have eaten quantities of noodles with green veg, tomatoes, mushrooms, spring onions and tofu. Fresh figs make the perfect snack.

Finger-licking good? How meagre, how half-hearted. This food is plate-licking good.

What’s the beef?

That was a long post last night, so I am aiming for something shorter tonight, if only so that I have some time to read my book, Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, before I go to sleep.

Despite the dangers to my mental health when politicians totally lacking in probity repeat nonsense like a religious mantra, I continue, most days, to watch Channel 4 News. I missed the start of the piece about climate crisis and a new report that urges us to move to a plant based diet and away from meat. I joined in as Cathy Newman interviewed George Monbiot and a beef farmer called Stuart. I didn’t get his last name. Stauart was big and smiled a lot. He smiled most when George spoke and shook his head a lot as he smiled. It’s a way of dismissing someone else’s cogent arguments by suggesting they are talking nonsense without actually having the means to refute them.

Stuart said if we in the UK stopped producing beef we would be simply exporting the problem as we would import it from elsewhere with lower standards. That is about all he said, but he said it over and over again, as though it was such a self evident fact that nothing else needed to be said. I got frustrated with George and Cathy for failing to point out to him that the idea is we all reduce our meat intake, and that should mean not importing meat. Maybe I had missed a vital exchange at the start of the interview that might have explained the lack of this point being made.

George remained remarkably calm and polite as he explained the impact of beef farming on the environment and Stuart continued smiling and shaking his head, and then repeating what he had said earlier. I had to admire George’s good humour and patience. In his place I should have wanted to slap Stuart. I suppose George has been banging the environmental drum for long enough to realise that the drip drip effect may work better than violence.

Out to lunch

I can see that if I am to keep my posts up to date on this holiday I shall have to work a bit harder. Today has been grey but still warm. We are promised rain tonight and tomorrow. So Cousin and I took the dogs out for a walk around five after I got home from a day of social activity. Good dogs both, walking well on their respective leads, allowed to stop and sniff, but not to eat any finds in the verges. As so often in the countryside some of the locals are unappreciative of the beauty of their surroundings. Meals from fast food joints are discarded, probably from car windows, and litter the verges and hedgerows. There are empty cans, polystyrene boxes, greasy paper bags. Hideous to you and me, but to Poppy a positive cornucopia of gourmet possibility. She is, after all, a Labrador, a breed not known for persnickety appetites. One of these mornings I mean to time how long it takes her to eat her meal. I would put it at something less than thirty seconds.
Poppy and Cousin stopped at the fungi, and Westie Boy and I continued up the last and steepest hill. Our goal, before we turned round was Angela’s blue hydrangea bush, but as passed along the road a volley of barks came from a white dog on the doorstep. The dog looked very much like Angela’s daughter’s Akita. The daughter lives next door to Angela, and every time we pass without this dog throwing itself against the door snarling and baring its teeth against the glass is a welcome moment. Maybe it wasn’t the Akita. Westie Boy and I didn’t stay around to find out. We quietly turned round and made our way back whence we had come. When the barking ceased and there was no sound of dog claws on the road behind us, I breathed easily once more.
We caught up with Cousin and Poppy near Cousin’s son’s house. The moment Westie Boy spotted her on the road ahead of us his ears pricked up and he increased his pace so the distance between us and Cousin narrowed in a trice. Continue reading

Dandelion Days

I’m watching the news where we keep switching back to the Commons chamber where a series of votes are taking place. So far the House has voted against a No Deal Brexit, which is fine, but if the EU, understandably frustrated by the situation, decides it does not want to engage with this pantomime anymore we shall leave with a no deal.
I don’t want to leave at all.
However, it is all too likely that a month from now I shall be living in a country unmoored. Prices will go up but income will go down. We are warned of empty shelves in the shops. I can buy lentils and so on, but what of green veg? Well, the answer maybe dandelion leaves. I was doing a spot of weeding on Monday, and as I dug out some dandelion plants I noted their young green leaves. So I separated them from the other weeds, chopped off their roots, brought them indoors, washed them and popped them in the fridge. Continue reading

Eat vegan, eat tasty

I really should have known better, but sometimes a bargain seems a bargain, even though as I put it in my basket I calculate how many meals I could make from scratch for the same price. So when I visited a branch of Tesco hoping to buy some spring greens I should have looked at the vegan macaroni cheese Reduced in p[rice), noted that it exists, and left it on the shelf. Maybe had I found those spring greens I might have done. I can buy spring greens in my local branch of Morrison’s, but the ones Tesco and Sainsbury’s sell are much greener, fresher, younger. But there were no spring greens and I was curious, I admit it, about the vegan macaroni cheese, or mac and cheese as it is increasingly called in supermarkets. (I was confused by this name for some time, wrongly assuming it was something to do with the hamburger chain, but it seems a passing fad to sex up a old, familiar, and much loved supper standby).
Well, I shan’t be buying it again. There’s bland, and then several degrees down the scale is Tesco’s vegan macaroni cheese. Fortunately I had some whole grain mustard at the ready and a tasty (home assembled) salad of watercress, spinach, pomegranate seeds, tomatoes, black olives, spring onion and avocado. Continue reading