The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd July 2021

I think the weather is going to break tomorrow or Sunday. Yesterday I did virtually nothing other than sit in the shade drinking mint tea or water, read and just enjoy being. Today seems to hold much of the same. Last night Poppy the overweight Labrador decided it was still too hot at 8.30 to walk, so after just a few hundred yards we turned back. I thought I’d walk her this morning, but by 9.00 the sun was already beating down. There’s little shelter from the sun for much of our walk, so exercise is again deferred.

Next week I’m hoping to see Uncle Bill on Monday, meet up with Fiona one day and see my friend Jo on Friday. Rain is forecast for the latter part of the week, but only light rain, so I think we’ll cope. I’m sure to be back in Belfast anyway.

ideally I’d like to revisit the exhibition on La Belle Époque with Charlotte McReynolds, it’s curator, but
as the pandemic rolls on, and numbers continue to rise while our freedom to spread and contract it remains uncurtailed, curators tours are unlikely to happen. In place of government leadership requiring us to exercise caution, individual businesses and venues are having to step up to the plate.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th July 2021

It’s odd, or perhaps interesting is the word I want, the things that give you street cred. In my case it’s never going to be my clothes or anything else about my appearance, though in my defence I can claim to have been a precursor of several clothing trends: Levi shrink to fit straight leg jeans when everyone else was in flares, a tweedy jacket several seasons before they featured on catwalks, and Adidas Stan Smiths decades before they became the in footwear. All of these were accidental, driven by economy and thrift.

Today was different. I was walking home from MCQ, a wonderful treasure trove of a shop owned by Clyde, and Mary Portus’ idea of a vision from hell. I was carrying my newly repaired amp. A man sitting outside a café on the Walworth Road beamed a huge smile at me and made continuous eye-contact. “NAD,” he said, “A 3020. Nice. Very nice.” I was beaming myself as I continued my journey home.

Some simple interactions like this can do so much to lift the spirits. I don’t think I’d recognise the man if I met him tomorrow, and I reckon unless I was again carrying my amp, he wouldn’t even notice me.

My MCQ collection was just one of the things of my to do list. I was working via Zoom in the morning so at home, tied to phone and internet. The flat needed cleaning. With the windows open these past weeks the amount of dust is startling. I am very glad I do not have asthma. I took some fabric to Rocket Van. They are going to photograph it for me to include in the virtual yard sales. They have turned down my Tourlet Lulu. I am realising people are prissy about second hand portable toilets, however little they have been used and however much they have been cleaned and disinfected. I’d hate it to end up in landfill, so I shall have to keep trying. Anyone here who goes camping/glamping/champing or makes long car journeys where public toilets may not be available, or whose toilet is unusable thanks to building work, or if you are just having problems with an on-board toilet on your boat, please get in touch. I can share pictures.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th June 2021

Octavia is going to a party tonight. There may be thirty people. I am finding this difficult to imagine. Yesterday I gave a talk to a room, admittedly a large one, where there were around 150 people. two years ago this would not have seemed unusual. Maybe it’s how the pandemic has changed our attitudes and expectations in subtle ways which is going to affect how we behave in the coming months.

Astonishingly a member of the government has resigned after being caught on camera kissing someone. The someone is married to someone else. The kissing also breached socially distanced rules. Matt Hancock has been our Health Secretary. He has had links to deals that reek of cronyism, indeed the kissee was a friend he appointed who had benefitted from these deals, as did her brother. He of course did not resign for such things. Corruption and lies in our present government are such every day occurrences we have learned to accept them as the norm.

Boris Johnson, our unesteemed Prime Minister, is the Liar in Chief. He is also the Adulterer in Chief, so Matt Hancock may have been following his example, believing that casual acts of adultery were not only acceptable but part of the job description. Unfortunately for Hancock he is thoroughly disliked at the Department of Health, and someone appears to have leaked the CCTV footage to The Sun newspaper. I use newspaper in the loosest sense of the word. It is red top, a tabloid to avoid if what you really want is to learn what the news is, as are all the red tops.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th June 2021

It seems ages since I posted. Blogging is so last decade, or maybe that should be last century, but it does help to clear my head, to clarify what I’m thinking, what’s on my mind.

After a few days of cold turkey (surely there must be a vegan version of that?) from spiralised courgette and carrot I am back on it as of tonight. Is there a three step programme, and if there is, is it necessary? I do not understand how these two simple vegetables, spiralised and then mixed with spinach or lettuce, with olives and dressing, with butterbeans or chickpeas taste so good. Oh I forgot to add wholemeal bread or wholemeal pitta.

It’s been. busy week. Computer problems and then when computer up and running more hours in from t of it than I care to admit. There are days, quite a few days, when the memory of those simple times of pen and paper, books and buildings housing reference libraries seem enormously attractive.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th June 2021

Nearly midsummer, and the humidity has been building steadily this week. It was the upper twenties centigrade today but it felt oppressive rather than hot. Celia and I walked round to the book group’s alfresco poetry evening at a slow slow pace. The first drops of rain fell as we started, but they were pleasant and occasional. Then the rain got going. Umbrellas appeared, I put on my waterproof poncho and hid my books underneath it. The water pooled in my lap. After two rounds we called it a night and returned the chairs and cushions to the TRA House. Maybe a rerun in a couple of weeks. Already the air feels fresher, and there is no wind so the windows are wide open and no rain is coming in. Storms are forecast for tonight and more rain tomorrow. I realise I should have rescued a couple of plant pots which are in wall planter with no drain holes. By morning the seedlings may have drowned.

It’s a week for exhibitions. I don’t know that I’ll get to Alice at the V&A, but tomorrow I shall be at the BM for Becket. Celia, Charlie and I shall travel together on the 68 bus, but my entry ticket is half an hour before theirs, so we shall tour separately. The last time I was at an exhibition with Charlie he was round it in half the time it took me. We are warned a third wave is either imminent or with us, so how long we can enjoy these cultural pursuits is questionable.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th June 2021

We’re enjoying fabulous weather with temperatures in the mid twenties centigrade; warm without being enervatingly hot. I should be quite happy if the mercury rose no higher. I’m eating lots of salad and fresh fruit. My current addiction is spiralised courgette and carrot with chickpeas or butterbeans in a mustard vinaigrette. I eat it almost every day, along with lettuce or raw baby spinach. It’s tasty and really satisfying. Today there was added excitement of freshly cooked beetroot. My other current addiction is miniature gherkins. I keep meaning to look up what nutritional value the have.

An ad for an Audible book keeps flashing on my ‘phone. It’s called Food is Not Medicine. Maybe not, but surely a good diet is in some way medicinal. I should probably get the dictionary out to check the meaning of medicine. I am thinking about this because my wound is healing marvellously well. There’s one crusty looking bit at the edge, and the whole thing is rather pink, but I am both reassured and relieved. I do have the suggestion of a dart or pleat at either end, but I can live with that. The rate of healing seems quick, and at the hospital nurses and doctors have commented on it. Has my diet contributed to this? Answers on a postcard or in the comments box please.

I have started looking at flights to and from Belfast after first Celia, then B&J said they thought between them they could cover my absence. Helena also said she might be able to help. All are people MasterB knows and likes. Before I actually make the booking I need to double check with all of them as it would obviously never do if they all had commitments elsewhere at the same time. I fully expect Celia to be away a great deal, catching up on missed time with grandchildren.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th June 2021

I’m on the sofa, MasterB is asleep in drawer under the bed, outside it’s raining steadily. I had my stitches out this morning and have been told to be careful, rest today, walk tomorrow and then in a week I should be all systems go. I haven’t had the results from the further excision but the hospital staff seem pretty confident they will be negative. All good. My next health issue will be making an appointment about the numbness in my left hand. It’s the old carpal tunnel problem, but it is so much worse since I broke my wrist. I am reluctant to have it fixed just yet because it means weeks of being one handed again, and for the moment I’d rather like use of all four limbs. I need to get to das Boot before the season is over to get on with the cleaning, and then see about putting it up for sale. Ideally I’ll be in the position to do that by July.

I managed to speak to Cousin and she is happy for me to come to stay. Now it’s a question, a big one, of seeing about cat care for MasterB and then the availability of flights. I read that there’s a company working on airships for shorter greener flights, such as the one between London and Belfast. I don’t think they’re going to be available for a couple of years, but it’s an encouraging development.

Yesterday I met my cousin Russell in Richmond. Ali Clarke, a friend of his, has an exhibition the One Paved Court gallery. You can see some of the exhibits by clicking here. I had looked online and was expecting large pieces but in reality they are are domestic in scale. I liked the arrangements of bits and pieces from her studio the best. Russell and I were going to the Private View, and we met several hours earlier, enjoyed a stroll through Richmond to the river, then went to the same pub Celia and I had enjoyed a couple of years ago. Sitting under a shady umbrella in the pub’s walled garden, pints of cool cider in front of us, the time passed quickly. B&J had also spent the afternoon in Richmond, but in another part of the wood, and they joined us at the gallery. Then it was another pub, more cider which we drank sitting on a bench overlooking Richmond Green. Very pleasant.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th May 2021

I’m guessing quite a few of the readers of this page have also read about Dominic Cummings performance where he dished the dirt on Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson among others, admitted he lied, and confirmed much of what we already knew or suspected, that this government is rotten to the core. I find it bizarre that so many reporters refer to Cummings as Dom, as though he is their best mate. Dom and Boris, two first name first class shits, a double act from hell. I’m not sure which was more disgusting, Cummings dishing the dirt as though he believes he is now a knight in shining armour, or backbench Tories smirking and sniggering when Keir Starmer questioned Boris Johnson during PMQs about the tens of thousands of avoidable deaths caused by the casual incompetence of said Johnson and his pals of yes men in cabinet. Actually the most disgusting thing is the way this will slide off our Teflon coated PM like so many other things which have should have sunk him and people will continue to vote for him. I saw a headline in one of the red tops, I think it was the Express, on the lines of ‘ok the government made mistakes, but the Cummings’ show was pure revenge’, as though we should feel sorry for our sorry mess of a government and simply spurn Cummings. Spurn the lot of them. and check what is going into our drinking water while you’re at it. Something surely must be going on to make the public so supine and apathetic.

Other things. On Wednesday at the hospital I had the dressing on my leg changed. The wound was cleaned, examined, and acquired semi celebrity status. I’m half expecting it to be invited into Graham Norton’s show, my healing wound with me as chaperone. The nurse, Caroline this time, originally from Jamaica, fetched Sergei, the surgeon, so he could examine his handiwork. He was pleased. He summoned his boss, whose name I did not catch, who was also pleased. there was a lot of smiling and nodding. Then the chief nurse popped in, more approval, more smiling, more nodding.

Then they all left and Caroline got on with the job in hand, or on leg if you prefer. I think it’s going to be a fairly impressive scar and there are bunches of skin at either end so my leg she will be different. I’m not sure who is more keen to see this scar, me or Celia, We are expecting it to be the twin of Celia’s scar as she had a melanoma removed a decade ago from the same place on her left leg. Snaps! Last week I had promised Sergei and nurse Sonia my business card after we had bonded over our cats. So it was natural that the pet conversation continued with Caroline. I learned all about her dog Fluffy, how much she had loved him, how he had been beaten to death by burglars who broke into their home, how she had never been able to bring herself to have another pet because it felt like a betrayal of Fluffy. How long ago was this? I asked, expecting this death to have occurred in the last ten years or so. But no, she had been a teenager at the time, and Fluffy had been her close companion. MasterB features on one of my business cards, so I gave her that one. Oh, she said, her eyes widening and her mouth curving into a smile, he’s beautiful. Maybe she’s one step closer to giving a needy animal a home where it will be loved.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd May 2021

Oh technology, a blessing and a curse. For some reason I cannot post from my laptop. I have sent an email to WordPress, but if anyone here has any idea what I need to do, please do tell.

Another day of erratic weather, ending in a rainy night. I stayed in most of the time and got on with work. But it’s Sunday which means Joe isn’t here and I am on cat feeding duty for Romeo and Hartley. There was no sign of Romeo when I went outside, so I put some food down for Hartley, and took my recycling round to the bin shed. Romeo materialised beside me. So back we went and I filled a second dish only for Hartley, who had by now almost finished his breakfast, to commandeer it. It’s funny, of the two cats in most circumstances Romeo is the bolder, the more feisty, but Hartley seems to have first dibs when it’s a question of food. I lifted Hartley up, put him back by his dish and popped Romeo in front of the full one. In less time than it takes to tell Hartley had changed places again. Poor Romeo. Fortunately both boys were there tonight and Romeo tucked in with gusto.

MasterB is also a cat who likes his meals. This morning, as I slept beyond seven, he became impatient for breakfast and started his bouncy castle routine. Usually it disturbs my sleep but doesn’t hurt me. Today he bounced on my wound. You know that feeling where the pain is so intense that it feels like a black hole swallowing you up? That’s what I felt. It took several minutes of deep breathing and repeated ows before I could bring myself to sit up.

MasterB and I have spent most of the day together. Celia went over to Notting Hill, and although B&J and I had planned to convene this evening in the garden we decided it was too cold, and rain looked imminent.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st May 2021

My vaccine reaction has, thank goodness, passed, just a slight headache when I first woke. My leg, though still sore, feels a bit better this evening, as though my body is putting the trauma behind it and concentrating on mending. Maybe that was what was going on this morning when it felt as though there was some sort of electrical show inspired by stinging nettles going on around the wound. Good or bad I didn’t know but it was somewhat alarming.

After some hesitation I called the number the oncology nurse had given me and left a message with the very helpful person who answered. An astonishingly short amount of time later I received a call back. The NHS is extraordinary. It’s continually run down by a government who would like to privatise it. NHS staff are overworked and underpaid, and yet the vast majority continues to work with dedication and professionalism. The nurse was approachable, a good listener and told me to call any time if worried or had questions. I felt not only reassured but somehow better.

The weather is helping me to accept my restricted mobility which is good as I have looming deadline and I am going to have get my skates on. I want it all ready with at least thirty six hours spare so I can review and edit. It’s a useful distraction from the leg, and the somewhat unsettling word cancer that floats across my mind periodically. I don’t think much further than the surgeon telling me I was lucky the melanoma had been found in the early stages. I started to read the info they gave me on the different stages of skin cancer, but at the moment, until I know I am clear, it is something I think can wait.

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