The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th January 2023, Cicero 💙 NHS

Well, never say we don’t know how to have a good time here in sunny south London. Not just one, but two consecutive days with visits to A&E at King’s, an accident and emergency department that has achieved national, maybe even international fame due to the series 24 Hours in A&E. Not that there were any tv cameras while we were there, though quite a few notices telling us staff wear body cams.

I didn’t do the whole shifts, just joined in for a while with Octavia as she sat in the waiting area feeling sick and poorly bad. She spent a greater deal longer there than I did. She developed a bad pain under her ribs yesterday morning. It travelled round to her back and left her feeling extremely unwell. She called 111 when it didn’t get better and the next thing she was off to Kings in an ambulance. Tests, scans, samples ensued but no definitive diagnosis. I received a text from her and joined her mid evening.

The waiting room was full. Staff came in and went out, calling names. We waited. Octavia’s pain grew worse. I went through the double doors to request pain relief and to ask how long she might need to wait before being seen again. Standing at the desk I watched as the staff continued working, calmly but ceaselessly. They were like bees, in constant motion. Computer screens were studied, colleagues consulted. Every now and then there was an urgent call for someone to go to resuss.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th January 2023, Socks Ain’t What They Used to Be

I really I would know someone who makes sock puppets. I have quite a few pairs of socks. Some are in better repair than others. I am trying to wear the ones which are either older or which I like less rather than shove them to the back of the drawer and wear the ones I prefer. Chief among my targeted socks are some black ones, five pairs actually, all bought together. I like black socks, and these are cotton, and initially very comfortable. However these are socks which are fine in some shoes, but in others, and always in slippers, slide down to bunch around my toes. When I was little we used to say this was our socks going to sleep. I don’t know if anyone understands that phrase today. These socks don’t just go to sleep, they hibernate. I was looking at one pair I had worn and washed to see if there was any sign of them wearing out. Maybe. But it was another sock, one from one of my newer pairs, and indeed a favourite pair, that has developed a hole. I was shocked. Darning socks is a skill I never learned. I mend them badly. I have some socks which are literally years old, undarned and still going strong. The socks I buy now seem to have a very short life, unless I actually want them to wear out.

Yesterday evening we had a neighbourly game of Cluedo. Just four of us. Andrew, Marcelo (who hardly swore at all), Celia and me. The Lovely Lola was also present but didn’t play, though Marcelo drew her chair up to the table. We ate lots of nibbles, Marcelo had mulled some wine and then we shred a bottle of red. It was fun. I have had a very restful, quiet weekend. Just what I needed. On Friday evening I met Cynthia, and that is when my alcohol abstinence ended. We were in a pub near Brough which was comfortably populated but not heaving. At first conversation was easy, but the pub filled up a bit, some of our fellow customers were evidently more serious drinkers than we were and the volume grew. So not a late night, a good one.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th December 2022, Make Mine a Benylin

When I went to buy cough medicine, something I haven’t bought for years, I couldn’t find the Benylin Original I have had before. I asked the pharmacist if he had any, and he explained that the current demand for cough medicine far outstrips the supply. After two years of keeping our distance, the trains and buses are now packed. People ignore the notices asking us to keep the windows open, and as a result cold viruses are having a field day. It seems our, or at least my, immunity has weakened too, because although the cold may only last a few days, the after effects go on and on.

I feel as though someone I don’t like, and didn’t invite, turned up for Christmas, muscled his way in, took up residence and is now settling in for New Year. An unwelcome but constant companion. Only when I am asleep am I free of this companion. I have a chesty cough and runny nose. I sound at times like someone who smokes twenty cigarettes a day. My paper handkerchief consumption is outrageous, an entire box most days. I am drinking lots of water laced with lemon juice and ginger cordial, hot pear juice (recommended by the acupuncturist) avoiding alcohol, eating mounds of fruit and vegetables, having hot steamy baths and going to bed early. Rock and Roll.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st December 2022, Lutz

There are good and bad things about staying at the same address for a long time. One of the good things is that friends with whom you have lost touch for one reason or another can, should they wish, still find you.

Several years ago my friend Sue who had disappeared from my life sent me a long letter explaining the ups and downs she had gone through, and hoping I was still where she could reach me. We have been in touch ever since. Yesterday evening the ‘phone rang and a voice announced itself as Sophie, daughter of Krystyna and Lutz. I was/am an honorary aunt to Sophie and her younger sister Nadine. When both Krystyna’s parents died and the girls had grown up, Lutz and Krystyna left London and moved to Poland which Krystyna’s parents had left in the Second World War, one as a refugee, the other as a member of the Polish Air Force. I received cards from them saying they would love to hear from me. The problem was they didn’t give their address and I didn’t have either Sophie or Nadine’s contact details. So the years passed, and I always thought they must have felt I had abandoned them. I did not know they had returned to the UK at the start of the pandemic.

Then the ‘phone call. I’d love to say it was a happy reunion, but Sophie, presumably trawling through old address books, had found my number and called to say Lutz died last week. It was sudden after an illness which had caused him a lot of pain. He had been hospitalised, survived, against the odds, an operation, and was to be discharged from hospital. He was looking forward to Christmas. His first free from pain for several years. So on the morning of his discharge, he was in good spirits and cleaning his teeth when he collapsed. He did not get home.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th December 2022: Love and Friendship

I stumbled upon a delightful film on Film4 this evening. Finding Your Feet. I missed the first fifteen minutes or so, but the story was fairly undemanding and I think I filled in all the gaps. It’s an unassuming film, probably low budget, featuring places I recognise close to where I live, and with a gentle talented cast including Tim Spall, Celia Imrie, the late John Sessions in a minor part, and Imelda Staunton. I loved it. It was kind. Just what I needed. No car chases, no hugely dramatic showdowns, high body count or spilled blood, and somehow all the more precious and life enhancing for that. Tim Spall at the helm of a narrowboat which I know he has done many many times in his own life, particularly after his recovery from cancer.

I am finding life in this country hard. We seem to have turned into a horrible parody of ourselves; a divided divisive society, people on the edge of destitution because those elected to govern simply don’t seem to count swathes of the population as important. Horrible hateful comments about Harry and Meghan, even from people I usually respect. Maybe it was always like this. That there was a civilised veneer which was ripped away by Brexit to reveal the hideous truth beneath.

I am lucky. I have good friends who are enormously important to me. I have a beautiful, gentle cat who I love and who I dare to say loves me. Though he may love biscuits more. These are the things which make life good.

It’s suddenly Christmas. December has a habit of arriving calmly and then rushing into a mad frenzy. There are increasing numbers of people – men mostly – walking or riding bicycles dressed in Father Christmas hats or even the whole outfit -in central London. Christmas trees have been appearing for several weeks, though bizarrely not in Westminster Abbey, while in St Paul’s both Samuel Johnson and John Howard have had their statues hidden by Sandringham’s best.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th November 2022, Brunch, Board Games, and Big Houses

But I don’t think I can bear to do any politics, it’s too darned depressing.

Today Celia and I returned to Pipoca for lunch, the menu calls what we ate brunch, but we’d both had breakfast. I opted for the Mexican Brunch, apparently their best seller, Celia went for the Brixton Brunch. Next time I’ll follow her example unless I have the spinach and mushroom galette again. The Mexican Brunch was fine, but the Brixton one looked better: more greens, black beans rather than red kidney ones, mushrooms. Mine included tofu scramble which I often make at home. My tofu scramble is better.

We were both quite full by the time we left, so a wander about the back streets between the Brixton and Clapham Roads helped our digestion. From the Brixton Road you can see a park, and a church spire framed by trees. We started with the park. More street art. Or should that be park art?

There were people playing football, a young dog racing around the dog exercise area with a toy in its mouth while another dog sat sedately watching it. There were lovely trees, a children’s play area with an attractive train, an adventure playground, and sunshine.

Across the road the exit stood the church. A service was going on onside. The congregation was sparse. A small group of people engaged in a private ritual which meant something to them. We walked quietly away. Opposite the church there was an amazing house. It made us look at the other houses, some divided into flats, some still apparently single family dwellings. They were evidently built for the well to do. Tradespeople rather than gentry. The rising middle classes of the nineteenth century. Servants must have lived in.

We turned onto Stockwell Park Road. A blue plaque. Lilian Baylis! if you live in south London and love theatre Baylis, manager of the Old Vic and Sadlers Wells. is a legend. She was also a character. There are lots of stories about her. One of the best known is when staff asked for a pay rise they were told that Baylis would have to ask God. God’s response was always the same: ‘Sorry, dear, God says No.’ And her favourite prayer was said to be ‘Dear God, send me good actors but send them cheap.’

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th November 2022, the Miss Scarlett Letters

I’ve just deleted fifty-four spam messages. Fifty-four! That’s what happens when you don’t post for a while. So what’s my excuse? Nothing special, just the usual, busy with this and that, cat wrangling and I have started reading Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace. I’m not sure where I picked up this copy. I had a vague idea I had read it, but a few pages in and I realised I hadn’t. It’s over 500 pages long, and it says something about how much I’m enjoying it, that I have taken it on the bus and carried it around while I’ve been working on at least two days. I seem to have a lt of reading material all of a sudden. I mean extra to the ear present pile of books by my bed. Charlie has passed me copies of the Economist, J gave me an article about Noel Fitzpatrick to read, the Guardian online is my first thing in the morning go to while I have breakfast. I’m listening to Vesper Flights by Helen McDonald which is superb. It makes me dust much more thoroughly when I have something so absorbing and enlightening to listen to.

Tonight it’s raining. Again. Where is all this water coming from? I know people think it rains all the time in England, but our rain is usually of the drizzly half hearted sort. This rain seems to have been working out in the gym. I’m working outside tomorrow, and more rain is forecast. Which is not to say it has rained all day. It was raining when I woke up, and while I had breakfast. Then the skies cleared and I went out to the City to do one or two things. At the bus stop I had to shield my eyes against the bright sunshine. When I got home there were domestic chores to tackle and lunch to make. So Vesper Flights took my mind off the mundane. I put the washing out on the line. Most of it was dry when the skies darkened again and I prudently decided to bring it indoors. I managed a good hour of Alias Grace with MasterB curled up beside me before he stirred and asked for his dinner. I started to prep my supper. It felt like the right sort of night for a curry.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th November 2022, Bonfire Night

No, I’m not doing any fireworks tonight. I quite like the colourful displays, but I thoroughly dislike the increasingly loud fireworks. The effect on pets, domestic animals and wildlife is appalling. So tonight I shall be mainly sitting on the sofa, watching television or reading, giving reassurance to MasterB that he is safe. To do this, I shall ignore all bangs and flashes, behave in a way that I hope convinces him there is nothing to be afraid of. It seems to work pretty well. I wish I could say the same technique is effective when it comes to storms, but sadly it’s not. Storms terrify him.

This morning was definitely cooler. Like many, I have not got my heating on. Actually I haven’t needed it, the weather has been so mild, but over breakfast I thought this might be the time when I succumb. However, as the day wore on, I realised I was perfectly warm. Yes I am wearing slippers and a thick jumper (sweater to those of you across the pond) so perhaps I’ll manage a few more days, maybe weeks, before I give in. Some people are saying they are not going have the heating on at all this winter. I don’t think I am hardy enough for that, though my first energy bill may change my mind. I’ll look out the thick socks.

UK politics continue to dismay. We have a Home Secretary and assorted underlings who seem entirely devoid of imagination, compassion or empathy. Anyone seeking asylum here is regarded with extreme hostility, housed in what are effectively internment camps. Chris Philp, a man whose smooth appearance inadequately disguises a soul so callous it seems as though he’s trying to get to the number one position in the list of Most Coldhearted Living People, most of whom are members of his own party and include Jonathan Gullis who really makes you wonder about the selection process for Tory candidates, thinks asylum seekers complaining about the dreadful conditions where they are housed is a bit of a cheek. The Daily Mail, whose long and shameful record of xenophobia is well documented, had a headline this week One in Six of Us Born Abroad. No I didn’t read the piece, but I am pretty confident it was meant to outrage (a favourite Daily Mail word) his readers. Some on Twitter pointed out King Charles III’s father, Rishi Sunak’s father, Winston Churchill’s mother, the captain of the men’s England football team’s father were all born abroad.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th October 2022

Uncle Bill had a good birthday do. We were a smallish group. It looked for a while as though it might be smaller as we could not find the rear entrance to Tom and Meta’s house where we had agreed to meet them. It made us late, and Michele, who began to worry, sent me a message to check we had the day right.

Tom has had a couple of strokes, and is not so steady on his feet, but there’s nothing wrong with his memory or his story relating skills. Uncle Bill was soon smiling and chuckling as some of the exploits of his cousins were recounted. Our generation seems a sober, unadventurous lot in comparison.

I gave him a Master Bo’sun calendar as I always do, and a Mr Horace Papers card about Stormont. I thought it would entertain him, but for a few short moments I had misgivings as he wore a very serious expression as he studied it. Then his face broke into a wide smile and he started to laugh. Phew.

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The Coronavirus Diaries 26th September 2022, What Now?

My nose has, thank goodness stopped running like a tap, but as of yesterday evening I am very tired. I slept for ten hours last night. This is a worry as I have a ticket for Outspoken on Thursday evening and I want to be there. I shall test on Thursday morning and hope for no second thin pink line.

The weather, suddenly autumnal, has been achingly perfect for long country walks which of course I can’t take. Celia has brought me my shopping, Octavia called round with a risotto and side salad yesterday. I can’t say I am struggling. Both cats have been perfect companions. A&M return on Thursday, so my duties will end after breakfast. I shall miss the ever demanding Lola. MasterB is a pushover in comparison.

A short time ago I went out to break up a four way cat fight. Stumpy, Hartley, Romeo and Smudge were all embroiled in fisticuffs. My guess is that Stumpy picked on Hartley, who is in general fight averse, Hartley’s brother Smudge and Romeo both piled in. It made quite a noise. MasterB watched from the bedroom window and seems to have decided on an evening indoors.

I finished selecting photos for MasterB’s 2023 calendar today and have despatched them to the printer. There’s a limited print run, and I hope to keep the price to £8.50 again, plus postage and packing which I need to check out. Let me know if you are interested. Some will go to Belfast, some to Melbourne Australia, at least two to the US, one to Italy, one to France. It’s an international though exclusive club!

The news from Italy is not great. A neo fascist set to be prime minister. People here on twitter saying they agree with her views. Our new Prime Minister probably does too. As neither she nor the chancellor are stupid, I am struggling to understand why they are acting as they are. Simple greed? Have they decided the best thing to do is to milk this country for all it has, sharing the spoils with their pals while the rest of us starve, before rushing off somewhere else on the planet with their cash? If they intend to remain here, trashing the country doesn’t seem a great approach. Or maybe they like raw sewage in the waterways, people living in tents on any stretch of land, overburdened hospitals and collapsing infrastructure.

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