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

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, 4th August 2020

I’ve never used marrow, vegetable marrow that is (obviously given my tastes bone marrow would never be on the menu chez IsobelandCat, though I remember my black Labrador Tessa used to have tins of a product called Pal which claimed it was enriched with marrowbone jelly) in curry before tonight. It was good, very good. Marrow is a bland vegetable which soaked up the curry flavours like a sponge and shared them nicely with its fellow vegetables. I had seconds, but then exerted my self-control and the rest is in a plastic container which will go into the freezer once it’s cooled down enough. The rest of the marrow will come with me to das Boot tomorrow and probably form part of another curry, maybe a green one this time. It’s a smallish chunk. I gave half the marrow to B&J and used half the remainder tonight. The mathematicians among you will have worked out that leaves a quarter.

I love curry. Like soup it’s a great chance to use up vegetables that are kicking around the fridge – squishy tomatoes, mushrooms that have passed their best, those last bits of cauliflower, the forgotten potato, the last of the carrots, a stick of celery that would otherwise go into the compost. Fresh ginger, a mix of spices, lentils, chilli flakes and hey presto you have a wonderful and fragrantly delicious meal. I added a large handful of fresh spinach tonight when it was nearly done. Yum and cheap as chips. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 25th-26th July 2020

It was a late night and I didn’t post yesterday. The plan had been to have socially distanced cocktails outside but it rained, so it turned into socially distanced cocktails via Zoom. And it went on until midnight. Fortunately there were snacks as well as cocktails so hangovers were averted. The rest of the day had been shopping, cooking, reading a hard copy of The Guardian for the first time in weeks, playing with MasterB. I found a bouncy ball he used to love, and he enjoyed it very much, though today he seems to have lost interest in it.

I made the chickpea scramble and it has shot to a high place in my favourite quick and easy and very tasty light meals. I liked it so much I had it for lunch again today. Yesterday I had it with spinach, today with spring greens. Both were good, but the spinach was a better meal. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th July 2020

Celia says I don’t need to keep calling these posts The Coronavirus Diaries. I need to ask her for more detail. But I was hungry and we were on our way to our separate homes after a jolly evening reading poetry outside in a socially distanced circle. I still am hungry. The Thai Green Curry I prepped earlier is still cooking. It’s going to be a late night.

To my mind these posts are still very much Coronavirus Diary entries. Life is still very Covid 19 influenced and directed. The CPD I did this week came about entirely due to the situation the pandemic has put us into; our outdoor poetry reading similarly a result of the virus. It is the new normal, but it is a normal underpinned by Covid 19 and how we respond to it. What we do, how we do it, if we do it, is dictated by our response to the virus. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd July 2020

Another day spent largely in front of the computer screen with the usual desire to walk away and outside into the sunshine. However, I think I made some progress, but tomorrow looks like I’ll be back in the same seat. Why does being at a computer make me drink so much water? I’ve had nearly three litres today and I’m not done by a long chalk.

Last night was lovely. It was a warm evening and perfect to be in Michèle’s garden. It’s small, and absolutely bursting with plants. The table is in the middle, so it’s a bit like being in a bower. The roses were my favourite.

Roses in Michèle’s garden

Pink seemed a theme, as well as lots of lovely shades of green.

Floral display, Michèle’s garden

Continue reading