The I’m No Longer Sure What to Call These Diaries, 21st June 2022

The summer solstice. The longest day of the year. After tonight autumn beckons. Still, we have a few more weeks of long light evenings to enjoy before the Christmas merchandise appears in the shops. Tonight we celebrated with Celia and Charlie in their garden. In fact they are probably still celebrating, with various neighbours and friends dropping by, enjoying a glass or several, plunge into the nibbles and relax in good company and chat. A friendly neighbourhood is a wonderful, wondrous thing. Like a good woman, or indeed a good man, it is above rubies.

I’d put a good cat above rubies too. MasterB is out in the garden. I left him rolling luxuriously on the paving stones. He has at last decided that my neighbour Simon is not the devil incarnate, but a perfectly nice human being, and has stopped shrinking to the floor or running away when they meet and instead approaches Simon with his tail held high. It’s good to see the boys bond. What MasterB has not understood is that Simon’s heart belongs to Hartley. I understand it’s the first time he has ever really got to know a cat, and it’s love. ❤️💕💖💕❤️. I was the same with Cat when he marched into my life. Taken by surprise, amazed, enchanted and fascinated, completely enthralled, smitten. Animals, when they choose to interact with you, to befriend you, have an extraordinary effect. They can unsettle you; tip you over, change the way you view the world. Four paws and a tail is all it takes.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th June 2022

It might be time to drop the coronavirus bit from the titles of these posts. Fewer people wearing masks, and that includes me, less fear of being with people indoors or on public transport. I hope it’s not all a false dawn.

Toady was one of those fairly dull days. I don’t mean the weather, it was sunny with blue skies, windows open, bare feet warm. I had tasks to complete, none particularly thrilling, and I was looking for some notes I know I made about a decade ago. I couldn’t find them. But after breakfast I had decided to have my first interaction with Too Good to Go, an app that aims to reduce food waste. I had a look at what was available in my area, and plumped for a vegan magic bag form an outlet on the Brixton Road I didn’t know. I paid my £3.59 online and wondered what I’d get.

The walk there in the early evening through Kennington Park before I reached the busy Brixton Road was an antidote to my day. It was dog walking time. I watched a young golden retriever enjoying a walk with her owner, bounding towards a canine friend for some racing and tumbling. Tails waving and ears cocked, they played on the grass. I had hoped I might see Tracey with her ageing Staff cross, but there was no sign of them.

Halfway down the Brixton Road, I felt a sharp pain in my right ankle. Strange. I hadn’t done anything. I walked on and the pain reoccurred. I stopped, flexed my foot a few times. That seemed to fix it. Good. At Pipoca people were enjoying coffees and eating snacks. I approached the counter, unsure of the protocol. I had Brough containers as instructed, but as I had no idea what I was going to get, I wasn’t sure if they were suitable. A friendly member of staff took me through the ropes and took my containers. I looked about me. What a nice place. The soup looked great, so I was really pleased when that turned out to be one of the things in my magic bag. That’ll do nicely for lunch tomorrow. I also got a wholemeal chocolate muffin which I ate for pudding, a pain au chocolat which I’ll have for breakfast, and little carton of milk alternative, a make I don’t know. All of it vegan. What an adventure!

Nice though the food is, the thrill was discovering Pipoca. Next to the café is a shop. a great shop. You can refill your bottles, buy food, ethical cleaning products, great soap. I found a soap bag. I only learned of them the other day, and the only place I saw them for sale was online where the postage and packing costs were more than double the price of the bag. I’ll definitely return, and I suspect Celia will be coming too.

Pipoca

On the way home I chose a different route. The sharp pain returned to my ankle. I loosened my shoelaces. Perhaps I had tied them too tightly. I limped for a bit, and suddenly the distance home seemed a very long way. More ankle flexing, more ankle rotation, more putting my foot gingerly to the ground. Gradually I was able to walk almost normally. I could still feel discomfort, but the sharp pain had eased. I enjoyed my walk home. I went by the end of the street where Celia and I met a woman called Michelle who gave us a bag of cherries in exchange for deadheading our roses. Her roses are blooming beautifully again. That was in 2020, during one of the lockdowns. Today I met a man with a beautiful Pomeranian who made friends with me through the fence. A pug being walked by a woman a little further along the path showed no desire to get to know me, and the woman didn’t smile or say hello. Oh well, not everyone is friendly, even when they have a dog.

Closer to home I admired Kenon’s garden. He has turned a limited space at the front of the house into a delight.

Kenon’s patch

The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th June 2022

I got home late on Friday night. The train was delayed because of a trespasser on the line. At first we were told there were trespassers, and I imagined it was some kids who’d got onto or near the track. Later we learned it was a man with mental health issues. He had a razor, so it sounds as though he was threatening to kill himself. It took a while for the emergency services to do whatever they had to do, talking and listening I imagine, before he was taken away in an ambulance. I hope he is receiving the help and support he needs now. Our health service, run down by a cynical government who would like to see it in private hands, is on its knees. Make it fail, then open the door to the highest bidder and say goodbye to arguably this country’s greatest ever achievement.

I was very tired, and though I slept well, yesterday I felt jet lagged. Still, I got the washing done, stocked up on groceries and caught up with Celia. Today I feel more like myself. I have my barometer back. It’s shiny and beautiful, but it doesn’t work. Gareth, the man repairing it, could not find anyone who could supply the needed mercury. In fact neither of us could find anyone who is licensed to have mercury. There’s a list apparently of people who are so licensed, but finding this list is a something both Gareth and I failed at. If you know, please do tell.

Gareth left with the station clock from the sitting room which needs cleaning and some minor attention. It will be good to hear its sombre tick again. I have dead headed the roses, repotted the basil, collected up the stray bits of litter that were scattered about the garden, washed out the cutlery drawer (a much overdue chore), done some accounts, and prepped supper. So a day of small, necessary tasks.

The last view I had before leaving Ray’s house was of cow so close to the haha that separates field from garden she looked like she was in the garden.

Cow by the haha.

It felt a suitably bucolic image to end my stay. In the afternoon, Ray had chosen to remain at the house while Octavia and I went to Burton Agnes Hall. The hall is beautiful, but it is the art collection it houses which is jaw dropping. Marcus Wickham-Boynton, a younger son, inherited the estate last century. He restored the house and hung its walls with an astonishingly varied, superb array of paintings: Corot, Utrillo, Lely, Kneller and many many more. There are also modern sculptures, including one of Marcus, tapestries, including one by Kaffe Fassett, and the gardens are as lovely as the house. Here’s a glimpse.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th April 2022: In Which a Sachet of Cat Food saves MasterB’s Dignity

Actually, dignity is probably not the right word. Anyone acquainted with the Boy knows that dignity is not one of his attributes. Saved him from being stuck under a car with Floyd for hours would be more accurate.

Floyd is a cat, as indeed is MasterB. Floyd, and he may go by other names, this is what I call him, has been an occasional visitor to our garden over the last few weeks. I suspect he is a street cat. He was in the garden when I went out to collect the cat dishes. MasterB accompanied me. I knew Romeo and Hartley were also outside, so drew them off to the end of the garden to allow MasterB some mooching time. I hadn’t counted on Floyd. I saw he was there, but I carefully ignored him. Hartley sat on my lap and I began the work of teasing out a new clump of knotted fur on his neck. I could see Floyd out of the corner of my eye. I could also see Romeo under a car watching Floyd. Floyd wandered off.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th December 2021, Omicron Christmas

Today has had all the grey tones of a wartime film. Brief Encounter perhaps. We have just over twenty four hours to go before the days creepingly get longer again. In the meantime I would welcome some blue skies, even if it means colder weather. I have candles and fairy lights in self-defence. Or maybe that should be protection. Those cards I send are all written and posted, the ones delivered by hand all pushed through letterboxes; a rare few parcels to addresses beyond walking or meeting distance went weeks ago, and the others have been wrapped, all with MasterB’s help – unroll wrapping paper and he sits on it – and passed into others’ hands. All except the one for my six-year-old neighbour who I shall see on Christmas Day morning. The flat has suddenly started to look festive. The sideboard is covered with cards and gifts. It’s weird how one moment it seems too early to be thinking about Christmas, the next a mad dash to get everything done.

Omicron has slimmed down the actual festivities. Drinks and nibbles are off again for the second Christmas running. I did a jigsaw at the weekend instead. I expect to do another, maybe a third. I bought a Radio Times, but the Christmas television schedules fail to inspire so far. We have lots of channels now, some of which I can access, but lots of channels seems to mean lots of dross. Why people want to sit and watch a bunch of celebs doing everything from building snowmen to buying antiques mystifies me. There must be the odd nugget in there somewhere, indeed I know there is as I have started watching Outlaws which is streamed on BBC i-player, but I am hardly spoiled for choice.

Last night was live music. Octavia and I went to St Bart the Great’s for the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols which was sublime. Again I wished I had belief. The Christmas story is heartbreaking in its simplicity, in its promise of a better world, of redemption, a world saved by the innocence of a baby born in a stable. Peace on earth and goodwill to all people.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th August 2021

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, which is a reminder that there are worse things than Covid 19. I remember the date as it was also our wire haired dachshund’s birthday. Obviously she was born much later. The fact that we continue to manufacture and stockpile nuclear weapons, and some regimes have made it clear they are happy to deploy them, is also a reminder how callous and cruel human beings can be. Much of the time animals are much better company. Not that our dachshund was angelic. Like most of her breed she was stubborn and opinionated. A big dog in a small disguise.

Yesterday I rang the vet practice to make an appointment for MasterB’s boosters and annual check up. The receptionist exclaimed that she loved his name, and then referred to him as an older animal. Older? MasterB? No one has told him. He may be in his eleventh year but he still thinks he’s a youngster, a rather large kitten. But her words made me blink and wonder how many more years I have with him. Last year the vet pronounced him to be in perfect shape, perfect health, to have a perfect coat, to be simply perfect in every way. I had to agree. Now I just want him to stay that way.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th August 2021

There’s something about dusting and vacuuming up two weeks worth of shed cat fur that is grounding. I’d say I am more or less back home mentally tonight as well as physically, though there is still a slight sense of dislocation. Maybe a trip to an exhibition, a play, something of that sort will reconnect me properly with London.

My dreams on Monday night were very muddled, switching between Ireland and home. MasterB was asleep at my feet, a comforting, constant presence. He has been very cuddly, very purry, very affectionate. I’m hoping Cousin is walking Westie Boy and Poppy now I have left. If she is, perhaps she has met Poppy Junior, the gorgeous young retriever at the bottom of the first hill. She, Poppy and Westie Boy have made overtures of friendship, mostly through the fence.

Poppy Junior
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading