The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th – 13th November 2020

I started reading Brendan Cox’ book about his wife, the murdered MP Jo Cox. It is not a good book to read at bedtime, not just as I weep buckets over every chapter, but it also stirs up all those feelings around the referendum again as we lurch towards a no deal Brexit with no safety net, and while we are still dealing with the pandemic. However, Dominic Cummings has now resigned, so cause for a glass of red wine this evening, and I got all my washing dry on the line yesterday.

As relief from tearful reading I picked out an unread novel from my shelves, How to Measure a Cow by Margaret Forster. The title’s great, but if this were the first novel I’d read by her it would almost certainly be the last. Clunky, unsatisfying, but I shall finish it and it can go into the bag with other offerings for Oxfam Books when the charity shops reopen. I also have a bag of objects, two bags now for the charity shops near home. In my on/off moving mood actually looking at objects, particularly things I have been given and would not have chosen for myself, leads me to thinking that I do not want to take them with me if/when I do finally move. So that has made me decide they can leave me now. Except they can’t yet, so the bags are sitting on the bedroom floor. I may weaken.

We are only a week into this second lockdown but it feels much longer. I don’t know why I am finding it so difficult. I wonder if it’s because in many ways it seems very much like when we had eased out of lockdown1. Most businesses are open, the streets are busy, there’s lots of traffic. But we can’t socialise. Numbers of deaths have risen and numbers of confirmed cases.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th November 2020

Celia and I saw our first full on Christmas decorated balcony today. I think I need to go back and take pictures one evening when night has fallen. It was quite a sight and made us gasp then laugh. We were out for our first constitutional since learning that Trump had lost the election. Well that’s a relief.

Obviously there are still some 72 million people who voted for him which suggests something extremely worrying, but at least the Toxin in Chief will soon be gone. I have no doubt he will attempt all sorts of tedious and potentially dangerous things to overturn the result and to make things difficult for Biden, but it was amazing how in the space of a few minutes he became yesterday’s man, an annoying and loud irrelevance. We drank champagne to welcome the change.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th October 2020

Wow, I am reconnected: television, internet and landline. Will it last? I do hope so. It meant however that I had the dubious pleasure of watching some of the news and seeing news from Wisconsin where quite normal looking people said they intended to vote for Trump because they ‘don’t trust Biden’. I felt this needed more explanation. especially what they trust Trump with that don’t trust Biden with, though I have a feeling that would probably worry me quite a lot.

Toady has been busier than anticipated. I think I have said that before. I eventually cleared the sitting room floor of paper, but the papers weren’t as ordered as I had hoped. Still, it’s a start. Michèle gave me an old hand made quilt. I am not sure where she got it, but it was a bit damaged and rather grubby. I asked Carol’s advice about putting t in the washing machine. Yes, she said, but I’d need to repair it first. So sewing was added to my to do list. I can’t say my repairs were professional, and I think they are more temporary than permanent, but hopefully sufficient to stop it falling apart in the machine. I used the sewing machine and MasterB was intrigued by the moving needle. Not a good idea.

Parsley soup was on the menu for lunch, and I took a break from papers to make it. I had some squash to use up, so I popped that in too. Usually parsley soup is a lovely deep green colour. I can tell you that adding squash makes it look like a swamp. Tasted ok though. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th September 2020

A chipless evening last night, but one spent outside in the garden in a social gathering. Two social gatherings actually, each of three people, but from time to time we linked up and even shared olives. The curious fox came back. We decided collectively it’s a female. I still didn’t have my camera with me, but B took some photos which she may share. It was all very jolly, though as the light went it was a lot cooler.

For most of lockdown I found it impossible to concentrate well enough to sustain reading what I would classify as a good book. My attention kept wandering. I was ok with light reading, undemanding stuff, but something stopped me from losing myself in a book the way I usually do. So it’s good to be reading again. I attended my first book group by Zoom to discuss our summer long read, Homeland by Fernando Aramburu. I enjoyed the novel, but my reservations about Zoom as a medium for book group continue. Michèle wasn’t there, her computer won’t do Zoom, so it may have been that which left me feeling less than satisfied with the whole thing. I always enjoy book group more when she is there with her extensive knowledge of literature and her insights.

The next book is Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. I’ve only read ten pages and my first impression wasn’t favourable, not because of the quality of the writing, but she opens with an all too accurate description of a smear test, which is something most women do not anticipate with any enthusiasm. So that’s my fictional for the next while. I am reading another memoir, this one by Margaret Drabble, and my respect for her grows with every chapter. I read her novels a long time ago, and although I enjoyed them, I don’t remember anything about them other than the titles. This memoir has made me warm to Drabble. It is scholarly and never pompous. She comes across as an interested and interesting person, a kind person who is unshowy and reflective. Michèle, who knows her, says I should write to her to tell her I am enjoying the book. Maybe I shall. I also have Diary of a Teenage Naturalist which I bagged at the library the other day. I am guessing others will reserve it, so I should get a move on and read it. There was an extract in the Guardian some months ago and the writing was extraordinary. Luminous, and lyrical while also scientific. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th August 2020

A wet, wet day, but somehow whenever I needed to go out there was a pause in the rain and I stayed dry. Last night’s walk and drink with Cynthia was fun. At our pub of choice there was a sign telling us to wait to be seated, so we did. Then we were asked if we had made a reservation. We hadn’t, but there were places at a shared table outside which was perfect. The evening was warm, we were in shirt sleeves. I imagine a lot of pubs will be hiring those outside heaters as the days cool down.

My tasks today were mainly work related, or return-to-paid-work related as I am dipping my toe in the water on Saturday and reading up the rules and regulations, the advice, the precautions, and trying on my face shield for the first time. I was disappointed to find it already had some dents in it despite the padded envelope it arrived in. However Carol tells me they are being sold in our local market now so I may get another. at this rate I am going to need a drawer for masks and face shields. I have a new bottle of hand sanitiser to take with me, and goodness only knows what. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th August 2020

Hot again. The promised rain did come but just not in the quantities expected, I woke to the welcome sound of it at seven, but by eight it had stopped and the ground was dry. The forecast said it would start again at eleven. It didn’t. I carried on taking books of the shelves and was rewarded by finding I still have my copy of Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs. Hallelujah!

I’ve started sorting my books into categories with the idea that I may that way decide to streamline them. I am astonished how many copies of plays I have. Mainly Shakespeare, but still. I had a quick flick through some history books to see how well slavery was covered. Badly. Like women’s history it barely gets a page, if that. Yet trade, empire, industrial revolution all get covered. As though these things didn’t happen without the profits in trading slaves and slave labour. L’Oréal (because I’m worth it) claims it does not soil its hands with animal testing, yet it sells its products to China in the full knowledge they will be tested in animals there. That is rather like British history’s attitude to slavery.

I truly hope the BLM movement will lead to a more informed understanding of history. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd August 2020

To be honest I haven’t done a great deal today, and unless you are interested in my dusting technique, or how I move MasterB from one from one room to the other so he does not have to face the monster that is the vacuum cleaner, it wouldn’t be much of a read. You might sympathise with the evidence of more moth activity of course. During the first weeks of lockdown clearing cupboards turned into a national obsession. An obsession I did not share. I was focused on jigsaws, but I suppose it’s the same desire to create a sense of order when all around you is uncertainty and chaos. I did pack a few things up ready for when the charity shops reopened, but lack of storage space for packed bags was a big disincentive to do more. I am by nature a keeper. I tend to look at objects and think they might come in handy where others would immediately discard them. When I am in a discarding mood it’s best to strike while the iron is hot, because I know it will cool soon. The mood was on me today. I took a bag full of items to the charity shop today, and bagged up some of MasterB’s ignored toys for cats currently in the care of the RSPCA. When I was a child Aunt ran children’s homes. Mother, a clearer-outer par excellence, was very skilled at persuading us to part with toys and clothes to give to children in those homes. Later she was less subtle; I’d return from university to find favourite jumpers missing, books vanished. As a result I blame Mother for my own hoarding instincts. By this evening the discarding zeal had waned, and a couple of things I had put aside for the next charity shop run went back on the shelves. Maybe next time.

B&J came over and we had socially distanced G&Ts in the garden before I joined Octavia for supper in her garden. Hartley was very present during the G&Ts but mainly because he wanted me to give him more food. I obliged before I went to Octavia’s. Our meal was good and the chat thought-provoking and entertaining. The wine was also very good. I told Octavia about the house on Colenso Parade I drool over, and said I’d send her the details. Home I see that the sale has been agreed. But see for yourself here what a lovely house it is, overlooking the Botanic Gardens, right by the museum and by the university quarter. If I were ever to move to Belfast this is where I’d want to be.

Last night I couldn’t load photos, so I am going to try now. Here goes. First the Edward Snowden mosaic.

Thank-you Edward Snowden

Can someone please explain to me what the signs mean on this rainbow? I feel I am missing the message.

Curious rainbow

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th July 2020

I’m starting this post early just in case the evening runs away as it did yesterday. The couple on the neighbouring boat left this morning, but a few more people have arrived and everyone seems very chatty. When I looked at today’s forecast last night it showed 0% chance of rain here today. Something obviously changed as, although I woke to blue skies and sunshine, dark clouds began to gather and there was a deal of light rain this morning. Undeterred I set off with the aim of seeing the water buffalo. Google maps was my guide. However, as I drove down a very familiar road with no signs to anything the voice announced I had reached my destination. I was evidently near, but no cigar as the saying goes. I drove around for a bit, enjoying the views of fields and seeing villages I haven’t driven through since I last went through them with Aunt in 2015.

I returned to base via the farm shop where I got some spinach and tomatoes. I certainly get my fill of fresh fruit and veg when I am here. Keith had arrived. Hs boat is being lifted out tomorrow as he has to do some repairs due an super abundance of weed on the Old West which has clogged up his engines. we talked about my boat covers as he had seen me cleaning the front one when I was here last. Yesterday Dan, son of the marina owners, had suggested steam cleaning them before I reproof them. I was worried they might shrink. Keith thought that was a likely possibility. He disappeared onto his boat which is a very smart one with all accoutrements, and reappeared with a spray bottle of proofer. You can have this, he said. A few minutes later he went back onto his boat and came back with some boat cover cleaner. Try this, he said, apply it undiluted to the most stained patches. So that is what I shall do. But not this afternoon, as it has rained several times and the calf muscle in my left leg is painful. I am sitting with my legs stretched out in front of me, my calves resting on a hot water bottle. Keith’s kindness and generosity have warmed me in other ways.

While Keith and I were talking a group of young calves gathered to watch us. Curious but shy. Two, slightly bolder, approached when we stood at the fence and stopped about a yard from us but became skittish if we moved. Both were very pretty but one had an unfortunate cap of cow manure on his head. Maybe it’s a bovine beauty treatment but somehow I doubt it. They eventually came close enough to sniff my outstretched hand, and one even gave my hand a quick lick. Then they backed away.
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The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd July 2020

I bought the laptop. Now I am finding my way around it. It may take me some time I feel. Today I tried to use it for a Zoom event. It all seemed fine, then I realised I had no sound. Nor could I understand how to get sound. It was a quick switch to the iPad. Now I need to use it to try to join other Zoom meetings while I work out what to do. Or is there another way?

This was after enjoying a cycle ride with Octavia. She has been cycling a great deal during lockdown, far far more than I have, and she has become more adventurous, more confident. It was great to go out with her. She’s off to Yorkshire and her mother in a couple of days, so I shall have to wait until she returns for the next spin. We went to places I have walked with Celia, just to the south of where we live. It was fun. It reminded me of my helming with Stuart, how being with someone who is calm, confident helps give you confidence. It’s a good feeling. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th June 2020

It was a sudden decision to return home; the spur was the weather forecast. It has been windy since Saturday, and I really wonder why I have bothered to comb my hair, but when I saw that the wind speed of around 20mph was likely to increase to 40mph I decided to pack my bags and leave as quickly as I could. I had been planning to wash the rear cover, but it seemed likely it would end up being blown into the river if not the next county. Next time.

Last night MasterB was absolutely determined to march around the marina, albeit in his harness. The trees thrashed about above us and one very young calf was totally intrigued by my boy. He could not stop looking and came closer and closer to the fence for a better look. What he made of what was probably his first view of a feline I should love to know. The large black bullock didn’t care about MasterB, he wanted a head scratch and probably to lick a human arm too. It is shocking to think he’ll end up on someone’s plate. This is an animal who loves people and should be a companion bullock. He could probably have a whole career visiting care homes lapping up love and affection from entranced residents. He’s certainly a hit at the marina.

Thrashing willow

MasterB also made it clear he wanted some shore leave this morning, but when I did strap his harness on and liftEd him from the boat he was suddenly less sure, and most certainly disgusted to find this was a short outing ending in his travel carrier in the car. Continue reading