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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The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd September 2022: Positive

Well it finally happened. After two and a half years of resisting COVID I finally succumbed. Wednesday’s head cold symptoms turned out to be something else. I had lots of vivid dreams on Wednesday night which is something that often happens when I am running a temperature. This time the Queen’s funeral cortege featured strongly. It was quite exhausting even asleep and clarified for me how the choreography of the funeral was excessive.

So yesterday morning, feeling a little shaky, and having to blow my nose almost constantly, it was time for a lateral flow test while MasterB tucked into his breakfast. A second red line appeared with almost startling rapidity. I called work to say I would not be able to do the job I’d been booked for in the afternoon.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st September 2022: the Rest of the Walk in Pictures

To continue. From Feering we walked on. The directions we had printed off were somewhat scant, and we quickly realised that it would have been helpful had distances been mentioned. There was also an instruction that told us to do something just before reaching somewhere. As the notes said, this is a walk popular with local walking groups, and it seemed local knowledge was required too.

As usual Celia was in charge of the notes while my job was to take photographs. There were several moments where we were not sure if we were in the right place, so to find the Plank Bridge and cross it was a relief. Fortunately the terrain was mainly easy and pleasant. The sun came and went. Likewise a stiff breeze. At one point it looked like it might rain. We were fairly sure we had missed a turning to Skye Green only to find a rather overgrown sign announcing it just after this finger post.

We never did find Lees farm, but emerged in more or less the right place opposite a thatched house. It had a bench in the garden where we were tempted to eat our packed lunches, but the plastic flowers put us off, though I liked the thatcher’s sign of ducks and ducklings on the roof. Soon we were walking into Coggeshall town and getting our first sights of solid, attractive houses.

I think I may have mentioned it already, but Coggeshall has, we learned, some three hundred listed buildings. We must have walked by most of them as we eventually found our way to the centre of town after the longest 0.7km ever recorded. There were very few indications of distance in the instructions and it would have been helpful if this one had been accurate. Once again we assumed we had missed our turning, or that it had been built over. But no, suddenly there was the Recreation Ground and a walled passage on the other side we walked through to the town centre.

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The Coronavirus Diaries 19th September 2022: Some Photos

I did watch the funeral today, or at least parts of it. I missed the arrival of the heads of state and the ex Prime Ministers, turning on the television as the coffin reached the abbey. MasterB was confused. I never watch television in the daytime and he evidently could not get his head around this strange occurrence. He kept checking in with me, needing reassurance in the form of cuddles and affection, so I missed other bits too. He is now outside which is why I’m at the keyboard.

The music, as you’d expect, was sublime. The shots of the abbey breathtaking. Only rare and narrow glimpses of David Hockney’s window. Why was that? There didn’t seem to be camera shots from that angle. Did someone decide it was too modern? It is the Queen’s window, one celebrating spring, her favourite season. Nearly all the women wore heels of staggering height and slenderness. I cannot imagine how they stood it. They probably have their feet soaking in warm water tonight.

By one o’clock I was funeraled out. there was a lot more to come, but I switched off and had lunch. I did catch some of the Windsor part and can only marvel at Charles’ stamina. Suddenly a half hour slot at the crematorium followed by tea and sandwiches seems a much better deal.

So to photos. Not of the funeral, of yesterday’s walk. I have a lot, so maybe some tonight, some later.

We started at Kelvedon which impressed us. One attractive building after another, though some seemed neglected.

Essex is famously Tory, so I was surprised and pleased to see Kelvedon’s councillors are Greens. The bench was a nice touch too. There were grand houses, not so grand houses and expensive cars. I don’t recall seeing any reference to food banks.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th September 2022: Walking, Not Queueing

While some chose to spend the day queueing along the Thames to pay their respects at Westminster Hall where the Queen in her coffin lies in state, Celia and I headed to Essex. We took the train to from Liverpool Street which meant first taking a bus which crossed London Bridge where we saw the queue snaking along. We also saw it when we returned this evening, just before eight, when an announcement on the bus reminded us that we were due to observe a one minute’s silence.

Ironically much of our day had been pretty silent as we walked paths and met very few other walkers. Liverpool Street Station this evening was a bit of a culture shock, with hoards of people milling around and the usual crowds at the bus stops, noise and a very lovely young dog with his homeless owner. He doesn’t like big bags and barked loudly each time someone passed with one. I went to speak to his owner, a young woman and give her some money. The barking dog turned into a love hound, just wanting to make friends with me and have a cuddle. Still, if I were living on the streets I’d want a dog with a loud bark like his too.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th September 2022: Out and About

Celia and I met up after lunch yesterday. She’s been away, visiting family in various parts of the country. We went to Sydenham Woods, enjoying the cool of the shaded paths on yet another warm day.

We weren’t alone. There were families, quite a few with dogs, but it didn’t feel crowded. Partks are all very well, but walking in the woods is better somehow. When we emerged at the top of a hill there was a convenient pub called the Wood House. In we went for some cider. Very nice. We couldn’t decide if this was the same pub where Celia’s cousin Sally had a surprise birthday party some years ago.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd September 2022 Hidden Bullet Points

Celia and I went to the Small is Beautiful exhibition today in South Ken. The ads for it looked good, but it was even better than we’d hoped, housed in a space which seemed to unfold as we made our way round. An exhibition can be made or spoiled by how it is laid out. This one felt like a journey of discovery and exploration. Engaging, stimulating, exciting and in the true sense of the word, wonderful.

It closes on Sunday so you haven’t got much time to see it in London, but then it’s off to New York. Might be a good excuse for a hop across the pond. There were people of all ages. Young children were both mesmerised and audibly thrilled by the whole thing. We went in the morning. We were actually the first people through the door and we spent nearly two hours there. Time flew by. Some of the pieces amused, some provoked, amazed the skill of all the artists amazed. My favourites were Simon Laveuve whose pieces I loved, and Slinkachu whose pieces I recognised, though I don’t recall from where. Anyway, check out the links.

A couple of days ago I had acupuncture for my shoulder and neck pain. I went back to Luke who I last saw four years ago. It has only just dawned me that this is now chronic pain as I have had it for months. The session has definitely helped, and I feel more positive that this is not something I am going to have to live with for ever. I go back fr more needles in ten days. Watch this space.

I’ve always been a reader, but at the moment I am never happier then when I have my nose in a book. A trip to the Barbican library netted booty: four novels to enjoy. The Barbican library is the best lending library I know. Unlike so many, it hasn’t been disemboweled and turned into a café with a few books around and a lot of computers. I think there are even still librarians working there, as opposed to library assistants. In the various lockdowns while our local libraries closed, the Barbican did all it could to make sure us borrowers could keep borrowing. We reserved our books online, then collected them from the library’s back door. It worked perfectly and gave our walks to the City real purpose.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th August 2022. Crisis Bullet Points

The trouble with not posting for a while is you – by which of course I mean I – have too much to say so where to start, where to end, which rant to prioritise, which magic moment to celebrate, becomes the barrier to any post at all.

So I thought to try a few bullet points. Here goes, in no particular order:

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th August 2022. Take me to the Sperrins!

My short stay in Belfast comes to an end in around three hours. It’s been great. I have walked and walked. Mostly I have walked alone, but yesterday I spent with Petra who I met through my work, which happens to be the same line as hers, when she was visiting London. I felt quite proud to introduce her to a neighbourhood she didn’t know, and to Falafel, my favourite restaurant which I had thought had closed permanently due to the pandemic.

There are several Lebanese restaurants on Botanic Avenue. Before we got there, Petra asked if I really wanted to eat at the particular restaurant. I did. I wanted to make sure it was under the same management and the food was as good as in 2019. The answer to both concerns is yes.

When our food arrived Petra needed no further encouragement, and by the time we had finished eating she had noted the meals being served to other diners and announced her intention to return. If you like the look of it too, the address is 9 Botanic Avenue.

Lunch at Falafel

From the bus I kept seeing an intriguing sculpture. Petra told me it is of the Blackbird of Belfast Lough, and took me to see it. Did you see the one outside the library? she asked. I hadn’t noticed it tucked under the tree, so two refs to the blackbird just yards apart, and both lovely.

We strolled around, admiring the details on modest Victorian houses, watching dogs at play and cats on doorsteps. And talking.

We had met up at Two Sisters, the very lovely coffee shop Celia and I had stumbled upon in the spring.Petra had a coffee. I had a cake. We both bought bread.

All around the centre there are currently decorated elephants raising awareness and funds for hospices. I live close to the Elephant and Castle in London and we have the same style elephants, also decorated around the regenerated area. Whoever came up with the original design has found a goldmine. This one appealed more than most.

Flax flower elephant

The political murals of Belfast are famous, but there is also a tremendous amount of street art. Perhaps I’m squeamish, but the murals with their uncompromising messages to anyone who disagrees with them disturb me. Give me the street art any day. Strictly speaking the Monopoly board is advertising for Douglas Huston’s estate agency, but it’s so cleverly done I had to admire it. References in others go over my head, but I can still enjoy them.

Then there’s this one close by the main library which was the police station in Line of Duty:

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th August 2022: Belfast

My friend Fiona who I met through the pages of WordPress has succumbed to COVID. We met in her garden yesterday after she had tested positive. I met one of her daughters which was lovely. I have read about her so often and seen so many photos it was delightful to meet her in person. Also met Harry, the dog. Again lovely, big ears, more bark than bite. We got on. Fiona was feeling perky. Not so today. But perky or not she would not have been able to come with me as planned to the Ulster Museum to see the small but perfectly formed Bloomsbury Group exhibition, or the larger and completely wondrous Light from the West exhibition which had me lusting after a Paul Henry painting of a sunrise. Annoyingly the museum has a very small postcard selection for sale, a selection which does not include this painting. Maybe she’ll get to both before they finish.

In 2019 Fiona and I had lunch at a place called Falafel at 9 Botanic Avenue. It was great. Last year, my first time back since the pandemic I took myself there anticipating a good lunch, only to find it very closed. I assumed it was a victim of COVID and lunched at a good, but not as good as Falafel, place a few doors up the road. Going along Botanic Avenue today on the bus I nearly had whiplash when I realised the restaurant was open. I am meeting Petra for lunch tomorrow, and suggested this is where we could eat. She’s agreed, so I am hoping it’s the same management and as good as before.

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