The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd May 2021

I am very much enjoying my birthday weekend. It has been more sedentary than I imagined as I had a procedure on my leg on Friday, and due to the site of the wound, the chances of it breaking open and becoming infected are high if I move around too much. That gave me the perfect excuse to lie on the sofa (leg raised) and watch Local Hero yesterday afternoon. What a lovely film it is.

Plans were so fluid in the morning as to be next to non-existent. We are still limited to meeting outside in groups no larger than six, and after a very dry April, scattered showers were forecast. However, the skies were blue, and on Friday night I had been talking to Celia on the ‘phone. We thought elevenses would work. So I bought croissants, some vegan, and some with butter, then pains au chocolat (butter), orange juice and clementine juice. Cynthia arrived with a bottle of champagne and glasses. So organised. Charlie had gone to Notting Hill to spend the day with his friend Chris watching cricket, so Celia was unaccompanied. Michèle met me at one gate, and B&J arrived at another. It was very jolly and as well as cards I was given perfect presents, including a new doormat with silhouettes of cats on it. It’s very handsome. I am not sure what it says about my stage of life that I can spend so much time admiring my door mat, but there it is. Books, a picture, fudge which I ate watching the film, some hand cream Celia and I had found and tried out a few weeks ago, and that most necessary accessory for summer, a wine cooling sleeve.

Naturally Hartley joined us. J has started giving him treats and has made him a toy. He stayed close to her, rolling over and offering her his tummy. That cat just thrives on love and affection.

That might have been it, but the forecast was showing less chance of rain for the evening, so we decided on a takeaway from the Vietnamese restaurant, to be eaten in Celia’s garden. Mid afternoon I had an invitation from Reinhild and Mark to join them in their garden for drinks and nibbles. I had asked if they wanted to join our al fresco dinner, Michèle and Cynthia having other engagements, but Reinhild was chilled having met friends for lunch outside the café in Russell Square, so they politely declined.

It wasn’t a late evening, and I enjoyed some time at home with MasterB and let him outside for a while before bedtime.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 26th April 2021

Happy birthday Celia! I hope it was a good day.

We saw each other this morning when Celia came to collect her birthday presents. One of them she knew about: a piece of wood from our cherry tree which has sprouted fungi, one of her passions. The others were a surprise. No sports car this year, instead a bird feeder and a gadget for opening cans, bottles, jars.

We also saw each other this evening in her garden. We were a group of five with nibbles and three bottles of fizz. It was great. The crows, magpies and wrens entertained us, the chat was good, the company, it goes without saying, was excellent.

I spent much of the day drafting a reply to some aggressive emails from my bossy neighbour, but by the end of the day I think I probably shan’t send it. Why engage? She is writing nonsense and writing it in her usual illiterate, incoherent style. I have already made my mind up to sell up and move, my energies are required for other things.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd April 2021

Easter weekend which means it’s two years since Celia and I did the Guildford circular walk via Watts gallery. I am cold. I have been sitting outside with B&J having an al fresco meal. I didn’t feel cold then, but coming in I suddenly want to wrap a blanket around myself, convince MasterB he wants to sit on my lap (he doesn’t, he’s sitting across from me, on the chair, having a wash), snuggle into the sofa cushions.

The meal was delicious, from a Vietnamese takeaway close to the Elephant which I have known was there for years, but never tried. The exterior does not invite. The interior is plain, there are no takeaway menus to take away. J had heard about it, then read reviews, all of which were full of praise to the point of ecstasy. There is no website, it’s cash only in these cash less times; it’s very much old Elephant rather than the new shiny, sanitised, any place model being promoted by the developers. I’d say its days are numbered.

There are plans to put a penthouse storey on top of the council flats where I used to live. I am affronted. We called our flat the penthouse suite as it was on the top (seventh) floor with views to die for. We also called it Seventh Heaven, though that was usually ironic and when the lift wasn’t working; or the Centipede With a Wooden Leg, because of the joke and we lived at number 99. Now it seems the joke was on us.

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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, 27th March 2021

What a lovely day: sunshine; surprising encounters with interesting, friendly people; scrambled tofu with lots of veg and sourdough toast for lunch; Thai green curry for dinner. Does that sound as though food is a high priority? Well, yeah, that would be about right. But the other things are also important. It’s not an either or.

I am moving slowly from sceptical about the end of lockdown and a gradual move to more freedom to feeling contained excitement. The idea that as the days warm up we will be able to meet outside in groups of up to six people seems wonderful. I already have pencilled in my diary an apératif with Michèle and a Sunday evening meal with Octavia. In fact April looks surprisingly busy after weeks and months of blank pages, I have all sorts of engagements. Admittedly these include visits to the hospital to check on my wrist and to see the physiotherapist, but still. It’s good practice for my later years when hospital appointments are likely to make up a good percentage of my social life.

Having decided the autumn was not after all the right time to move, I am back to thinking about it again. annoyingly our little syndicate has not yet won the lottery allowing me to keep a flat in London and buy a house in the Home Counties.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st March 2021

Census Day. I completed mine online, though now I rather regret not asking for a paper form. I have looked at old census returns in the course of research for my work, and also when digging into family history. There is something of a thrill at seeing a handwritten form, even if at times I have struggled to read it.

I waited until today to fill in my form. I understood that was the idea: a snapshot of the country on a particular day. But towards the end of last week I heard a number of people saying they had completed theirs already. I reread the letter today. It states that ‘all households should complete the census on Sunday 21 March 2021 or as soon as possible after.’ Nothing about completing it in advance, yet as people have completed it online on the government site that has evidently been permissible. It feels like cheating to me and quite takes away some of the romance, if I dare call it that, and the excitement. I know civil servants, functionaries will be able to read the census returns, but for the rest of us they are like burying a time capsule. They are only open to public readership after a hundred years.

I am fairly sure this is the first online one I have completed. Maybe even the ones completed by hand will simply be copied onto some form and the original destroyed. No signatures, no misspellings.

I am strangely tired, and I don’t think that has anything to do with the demands of the census. Maybe fresh air. I had a short walk with Michèle this morning when we caught up, and scoped out the availability of geranium plants for B&J. At the Nunhead Gardener (the branch we visited was at the upper end of the Walworth Road, very near the Elephant, though M had initially demurred thinking I was suggesting we walked to Nunhead), I bought some lemon thyme, and M treated herself to a couple of plants and fell in love with green candles. Green is her colour. I have always thought of blue and green as being mine, but I realise I am green amateur compared to M. It was sunny, though there was a cool wind, and in the shade slightly chilly. I was glad I had my warm scarf.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th March 2021

Toady I was glum. Not entirely sure why. I can point the finger at one or two things, but these days of lows have been a feature of the last year and, I imagine, a natural side effect of lockdown. Not that lockdown has left me lonely. I have great friends, some of whom are my neighbours. This has been enormously important over the last year.

We approach the anniversary of the start of our first lockdown. Innocent times. Although the government was talking about weeks, more cautious voices were suggesting months. I am rather glad I didn’t read anything about a year. I really hope it’s not going to be years. But who knows?

We have also been warned that the recurrence of pandemics is likely to be more frequent, a consequence of human activity and disregard for the natural world and its balanced ecology. We have, through advanced technology, brain power, ingenuity, achieved amazing things. Things that come at a cost, a very high one, to the planet and to ourselves. While we have known for years about the effects of climate change, how we are destroying habitats, rendering the lives of animals impossible to the point of extinction, most human beings have been able to ignore what we have been doing.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th March 2021

We’re Zooming again tonight but this time everyone is self-catering. I am having scrambled tofu with mushrooms, leeks, spinach, garlic and brown rice. Pudding will be blueberries and plain, unsweetened soya yoghurt. I’d like to have eaten before we meet up, but I was reading the last John le Carré lent to me by Michèle and I didn’t realise it was so late.

The new veganism is still bothering me. I am the only vegan among my friends. I cook them vegan food that doesn’t pretend to be anything else and they like it. I remain unconvinced their reaction would be positive if I were to present them with fake meat, even if I liked it. I do have some fake cheese at the moment. I quite like the fake smoked cheese, and I definitely like the soft cheeses. Except I don’t really think of them as cheese. The current cheese is different. Fake Red Leicester. It is, I have discovered, just perfect in a toasted sandwich. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 11th March 2021

Just typed the heading of this post and wondered when one will start without those three words. I felt an unexpected surge of hope this morning about the future. Maybe it was the spring. Maybe the unexpected blue skies when rain had been forecast. Maybe it was a headline now forgotten.

Yesterday I received an unanticipated letter. I’m not going to say what it was, but it first puzzled me then unsettled me. I wasn’t sure of the protocol of how to respond, and I didn’t understand why it had been sent. My first reaction was that although it was an odd way to communicate with me, that wasn’t my problem. But as time wore on I wondered what the motivation had been and if I should be worried; if there was an implied threat. I told Celia about it and then B&J. I was confused and uncertain as to how I should respond. To be honest I still am. But as they say, a problem shared is a problem halved, and moral support counts for a lot.

I have been doing my physio exercises religiously. When I broke my right wrist I found the hand therapy class wonderful. I worked and worked at my exercises and was rewarded by almost complete use of my wrist. This recent break is not in the same league, thank goodness ,as the other one, so although I find myself gritting my teeth as I try to squeeze a ball, or bend my wrist up or down, I know that gradually these exercises will make a difference and restore the movement to what it was. I am trying beyond exercises to tread the fine line between being over protective and gungho. Gungho sometimes wins simply because I don’t think. Returning form a walk with Celia this afternoon we passed an empty children’s playground. Earlier we had seen another empty, and much more exciting one.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th March 2021

I am counting down the hours to my appointment at the fracture clinic. Please please please may I be cast free by Tuesday lunchtime. This is such a different experience to the fracture of my right wrist. This one was not a bad break, and over the past few days I have felt irritated by my cast, as though it is an unnecessary encumbrance. When I broke my right wrist I was almost frightened of losing the security of the cast. Though I was delighted in other ways to be rid of it as frankly it smelled. So if I am wrapped up again on Tuesday I shall not be happy. Fingers crossed.

Quite a lot has been written about lockdown puppies and how they are going to cope if and when their humans return to their places of work. In the last few weeks when friends have called round with chopped onions and carrots, gifts of flowers and snacks I have realised that MasterB has lost the habit of socialising with anyone other than myself. It has taken several visits from Celia for him to relax and go out to greet her and then spend time with her. I know they say cats don’t have long memories, but I have seen MasterB react with delight to people he hasn’t seen for a more than a year. I fear the effects of this last year may take some undoing.

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