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, 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, 22nd October 2022: in Belfast

Well, things have been moving since I last posted. Whether they are going to improve soon looks very doubtful. I am beginning to think there’s an effective bunch of Fifth Columnists in the Tory party, intent on fomenting revolution in the country sine. That seems the most likely outcome of the current direction of travel as people reach the ends of their collective tether and storm the capital. I’d say we are only a few matchsticks away from major civil unrest in parts of the country. This is the country as a whole not the country some politicians talk about which seems to be made up of a tiny number of their friends. Anyway, without going into all, I would just say that I think Graham Norton got it completely right last night at the start of his programme.

I met Fiona today. She was wearing a very lovely cherry red coat. We caught up with important and less important matters over a late lunch at Dera, a Lebanese café close to Craft NI where I had already left a copy of MasterB’s calendar for Sue Cathcart, whose alter ego Mr Horace Papers has so entranced me. She has some work in their temporary exhibition space along with other artists working with paper. Sue had left two 2022 Mr Papers calendars for us. Fiona is looking forward to “I’ve found my marbles” day next month. Aren’t we all.

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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 10th September 2022, Coverage Fatigue

When Graham made a comment on my last post about the sycophantic remarks we could expect over the next days I thought it was a little harsh. Now I can’t bear to turn on the television or listen to the radio. Even The Guardian is stuffed with royal stories. At least there I can choose what to read.

When I was on the Mall yesterday I saw people, taking selfies with the Palace as a backdrop. Many people were clearly there to witness history, to read the notice on the gates, to marvel at the crowds. Yet television commentary described all of them as mourners. Am I mourning the Queen? I don’t know. I am still shocked at her death. It seemed so sudden. We saw her on our screens on Tuesday, physically frail, but still alert, no apparent cause to think that in forty eight hours she’d be dead. What happened? Was it just a simple case of old age like my cousin Alec’s dog who climbed into the car for a five minute drive to the place where he was going to have a walk, only to be found dead on arrival, eyes closed, curled up as though in sleep? That suddenness is what I am struggling with most. That and adjusting to understanding that when someone talks about the Queen today, they are talking about Camilla, not her mother-in-law.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th September 2022; The Queen is Dead

A cousin sent me a truly terrible poem someone had rushed out when the news of ERII’s death broke. I protested. She said I was harsh. I said no, I like poetry and if you want to honour Her Maj poetically cut out the mawkish, the glib, the trite, the Queen was none of those things. Don’t worry, I shan’t inflict it on you though I imagine if you are curious you could find it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Hopefully Simon Armitage will come up with something more thought provoking.

I am no fan of monarchy, and I know despite all the dithyrambs on tonight’s news the Queen had her faults. She interfered with legislation which might affect her finances; she only started paying tax very late in her reign; but like many in this country I had a reluctant admiration for her, and I loved her performances in the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, and her appearance with Paddington earlier this year in her Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

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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, Still Basking in the Sperrins

The weather continues to defy expectations. I am under a tree with Westie Boy asleep at my side. I have spent much of the day reading, watching the birds at the feeders, admiring the garden and the scenery beyond. Smudge is asleep on an unmade up bed in the second bedroom of the annex where I am staying. Poppy is asleep inside. I haven’t seen Dizzy since first thing this morning, so I imagine he is visiting one of the neighbours and has a cool spot.

This morning Cecilia came to visit. We had planned to walk with or without dogs depending on the heat. She managed to miss the house and spent fruitless minutes driving up and down the road. My mobile phone reception here is hopeless, so although she tried ringing me we could not speak while I was in the house. Texts worked though so I told her I’d walk to the entrance of the driveway where she’d be able to see me. Reception was better there and we managed to speak. She told me where she was and I told her where I was. As she rang off I saw her car leave the parking space opposite the chapel and come down the hill, as she turned into the road I was able to stand in her path waving both arms.

The dogs mobbed her. She dealt extremely well with an excited Westie and an exuberant Labrador. We decided it was too hot for us to walk even without dogs, so I made coffee and we sat at the back of the house. Westie Boy let the house down by jumping up and snatching her biscuit from her hand. I had warned her they are a pair of thugs. Poppy captured her heart and sat as close to her as she could manage. Westie Boy went off to play with his ball, and then barked at us to gain our attention. Male Look-at-Me syndrome.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th August 2022, Basking in the Sperrins

I am feeling quite smug sitting in warm sunshine under a tree in the garden, a gentle breeze blowing, and a view of the hills in the distance. I see the temperatures are rising in London again, while here it’s hovering around the mid twenties centigrade for the next few days. Perfect.

I came down on Sunday evening. All bus timetables worked out, but I was collected from the house and travelled in ease and comfort in Cousin’s car. I got a great welcome from the dogs. Dizzy the cat took over my knee, and his fellow feline Smudge, curled up on my bed.


I took the dogs out for a walk before it got too dark. I say walk, but for the first half mile it was more stop and sniff.

Westie Boy was hopeful we’d see Poppy Junior, and sniffed and whined at her gate, but no joy. Poppy was similarly disappointed when there was no sign of her Labrador friend Sam and stared hopefully through the fence for a while. Tom has some very assertive sheep in the field next to my favourite tree who instead of running away as we went by, advanced on the gate to stare at us boldly.

There are young bullocks who all look like entrants to the knobbly knees competition. I’d have awarded first prize to a little white bullock who trotted over to us. I say us, but it was Poppy he wanted to see. What is it about Poppy that bullocks find so intriguing? They cluster up to the gate like eager autograph hunters. Poppy is very relaxed about their attentions, even allowing them to lick her muzzle.

A trip to see Uncle Bill on Friday is coming together. Tomorrow we’ll have a little pilgrimage to Upperlands, and on Thursday I hope to meet Cecilia, the best Airbnb landlady in Ireland, and go for a walk. I did take the dogs out this morning, but Poppy found it too warm, so we turned back after only a short distance. I reckon seven this evening would be a good time to try again. It will still be light, but cooler, the returning workers in their cars should be home and not hurtling along the lane. Maybe even Poppy Junior and Jake will be about.