Happy birthday Celia! I hope it was a good day.
We saw each other this morning when Celia came to collect her birthday presents. One of them she knew about: a piece of wood from our cherry tree which has sprouted fungi, one of her passions. The others were a surprise. No sports car this year, instead a bird feeder and a gadget for opening cans, bottles, jars.
We also saw each other this evening in her garden. We were a group of five with nibbles and three bottles of fizz. It was great. The crows, magpies and wrens entertained us, the chat was good, the company, it goes without saying, was excellent.
I spent much of the day drafting a reply to some aggressive emails from my bossy neighbour, but by the end of the day I think I probably shan’t send it. Why engage? She is writing nonsense and writing it in her usual illiterate, incoherent style. I have already made my mind up to sell up and move, my energies are required for other things.
Saturday night but I am not at the movies. I have been working at my computer and feeling virtuous. Some more to do on this particular project tomorrow, but then it should be good to go.
After warm days and sitting in the parks, the weather is cold. So cold that I thought for a moment it was snowing today. Not quite true. My thought when I saw white flakes swirling outside my window was it wasn’t cold enough for snow. I was right. The white flakes were petals from the hawthorn trees in the road.
MasterB is on the sofa beside me, curled up with his eyes closed, but there is something about his posture that suggests he is not entirely happy. I may be projecting. He has just had an encounter with Hartley outside. I should say at once that no paws were raised, and Hartley looked quite confused at coming face to face (twice) with His Gingerness. The first time, they were either side of the garden gate. MasterB strolled along the pavement, caught sight of Hartley and shrank back, flattening his ears against his head. But he didn’t run away. I was between the two of them on MasterB’s side of the gate. I made to rub Hartley’s nose through the bars, trying to demonstrate to my boy that Hartley was not being aggressive. Hartley obligingly rolled over on his back at once, then, when I went to open the gate, skipped gaily into the garden; an invitation for me to follow. Against his will, but to keep him safe as a van was coming along the street, I popped MasterB into the garden and followed Hartley round the corner.
He led me to the bench. Of course he did. As I said, it was cold. I had been expecting MasterB to go into the garden and that I would return immediately to the warmth of the flat. I was not wearing a coat. Still, I know where my duty lies. So I sat down and cuddled Hartley for a few minutes to comfort him and give MasterB the opportunity to have an alfresco pee, find himself a concealed spot in the bushes, or head over the wall to neighbouring gardens. But it was cold, so soon I stood up. Hartley reached out a paw and tapped me on the leg; a gentle message that he would like more.
What a lovely day: sunshine; surprising encounters with interesting, friendly people; scrambled tofu with lots of veg and sourdough toast for lunch; Thai green curry for dinner. Does that sound as though food is a high priority? Well, yeah, that would be about right. But the other things are also important. It’s not an either or.
I am moving slowly from sceptical about the end of lockdown and a gradual move to more freedom to feeling contained excitement. The idea that as the days warm up we will be able to meet outside in groups of up to six people seems wonderful. I already have pencilled in my diary an apératif with Michèle and a Sunday evening meal with Octavia. In fact April looks surprisingly busy after weeks and months of blank pages, I have all sorts of engagements. Admittedly these include visits to the hospital to check on my wrist and to see the physiotherapist, but still. It’s good practice for my later years when hospital appointments are likely to make up a good percentage of my social life.
Having decided the autumn was not after all the right time to move, I am back to thinking about it again. annoyingly our little syndicate has not yet won the lottery allowing me to keep a flat in London and buy a house in the Home Counties.
Back in the day people talked about ley lines. Well, when I say people I mean men, young men. They would adopt serious faces and explain how places were linked by these lines of incredible force. If they had beards, they would stroke them. As teenage girls, we were the audience. We might talk about ley lines among ourselves but in mixed company it was clear our role was to listen. I am glad things have moved on, though obviously not far or fast enough.
I am also glad that the only ley lines we’ve talked about recently is the one that links three households. J realised she could look from her basement kitchen through H&J’s ground floor sitting room straight to my first floor bedroom. Our three households are also linked by friendship and membership of a lottery syndicate. It’d be nice if the ley line theory would hold good and deliver us millions but so far my bank balance has not been miraculously inflated. So much for beard stroking.
After days of warm weather and sunshine we have cashed in the warmth for a return to cooler temperatures. The sun has lingered though, and that makes all the difference. Sunny days, increased hours of daylight, spring springing, the possibility of release from lockdown in the not too distant future. Things are looking up.
I have never given someone a trifle as a birthday present until today. Trifle as in a dessert of fruit, cream and custard. But that is what I was advised by J that B would like, and her face did light up when she removed the wrapping paper so I know J was right. We celebrated tonight, as has become the custom, by Zoom and with chips. The audio on my Zoom was not working very well, but I have also realised that I am often much quieter at Zoom meetings than in real life where, in common with most of my family, I am generally a talker. I think it’s because I associate screens with passive activity, watching television and seeing a film, not conversing. So I am happy attending online talks, that sort of thing. That said, I did enjoy my one to one conversation by Zoom with my cousin Russell a week or so ago. When there are just two of you it’s easier to know whose turn it is to speak. I miss those social signals in an online chat.
Today has been wet and windy. Apart from trips out on errands it has been an indoor day. A grey day. That meant I got a certain amount of work done which feels good. I was domestically occupied too, cleaning the kitchen and the bathroom, washing out the cat litter tray. plumping up cushions. Dull in its way, but it wasn’t a day when I wanted excitement. My work was interesting and lead me to read and reread things which caught my imagination and stimulated my curiosity. I often find mundane tasks are conducive to new thought; as I dust or wash up I may go over things I have read, just as I do when I go for a walk or a cycle ride. New thoughts occur, new questions I want answers to. I am not saying I should like to be cleaning all day long, but it does surprise me how random and useful thoughts often arrive when I am thus engaged. There’s also the satisfaction of a tidy room, a vacuumed floor, additions to the bag destined for the charity shop when it reopens.
I can’t say I am complete convert to millet, but having used it in Red Bean Stew with Millet Pilaff tonight I am certainly going to be using it again. Or at least using up what I have still in the cupboard. Watch this space.
I have continued to be gripped by events in the US and Trump’s impeachment. Listening to and reading reports and analysis, especially about how senators are wearing body armour, employing bodyguards, fearing for their own and their families’ safety, made me think about some parallel events here. When the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Gina Miller after she took the UK government to court in 2016 over its authority to trigger article 50 without parliamentary approval she became a hate figure, received death threats, and had to have 24 hour security installed in her home. The Mail described the judges as enemies of the people, when they were exercising their independence and protecting our democracy. Ironic as The Mail tends to see itself as upholders of law and order. This headline was not just wrong, it was an attack on the judiciary, it undermined the judiciary and that is a dangerous thing to do. It is important for the judiciary to be independent and that government actions can be challenged through the courts.
Monday. It’s traditionally a day to do the washing and so it was chez IsobeletChat. It was dry, much milder than the last few days and, best of all, windy. I actually woke in the night because I was too warm. Chris called me just after breakfast, and it was only later in the day I realised I hadn’t read the paper, realised too that without being aware my morning routine is now to get stuck into The Guardian (online edition) while I drink my coffee.
There was nothing exciting about my day. It was one of domestic chores and waiting for the ONS person to turn up so I could take swabs which will go to the Covid study. The news regarding the pandemic is fairly unrelenting in its grimness. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed, numbers of people infected are still dying, the young as well as the old are dying, there are temporary mortuaries in Surrey and NW London. There may be light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still a long tunnel.
We are told to stay local. Boris Johnson was seen cycling seven miles from his home in Downing Street. OK it’s not that far, and a bike ride of seven miles is not great, but it does make you remember Dominic Cummings and his interpretation of stay home involving a very long car ride followed by another car ride to a famous beauty spot in order, he claimed, to check his eyesight. Johnson’s cycling suggests a tin ear at the very least. Government has to be seen to be practising what it preaches. Most of us interpret stay local as staying in an area less than seven miles from our homes. The Cummings fiasco did untold damage. The Prime Minister telling reporters that more vaccinations have been given here in the UK than in any other country as though we are in some strange international vaccination race (and it’s GB going for Gooooooold) is as bizarre as it is irrelevant. Yes we want the vaccines, and we want them as fast we can have them, but I am really not going to be dismayed if another country administers them more quickly than we do. This is a global pandemic. We want everyone, everywhere to be vaccinated.
postscript 12th January. I just read this piece in today’s paper on the subject of bending the lockdown rules. Food for thought.
In some ways I was disappointed when Celia didn’t carry out her threat to scream. Maybe it was because we were pounding the streets, not in the field which was where she said she needed to be to make loud her frustration about being once more in lockdown. Is it the third or fourth lockdown? I’m losing count. It’s supposed to be like the first lockdown, except of course it’s not because now we are much more familiar with the whole thing; our habits established back in March have for many of us remained largely unchanged. The shops have got their one way systems, sanitiser gel, perspex shields in place; the lines on the pavement which began to disappear at the end of autumn reminding us to keep two metres apart have been renewed.
In anticipation of the news I began a jigsaw. Whatever gene those who felt the first lockdown was not only the perfect opportunity to sort out their cupboards but actually did sort them have, I am missing it. Lockdown induces a kind of paralysis in me. I can walk, shop for neighbours, do jigsaws, cook, take photographs, keep this online diary, but it has a time standing still quality I struggle to get over. I was relieved when Reinhild, who I met by chance today, said her cupboards have remained similarly unsorted, but Mark, aka Mr Reinhild, was busy disposing of their Christmas tree.
Celia and went for a walk this afternoon. Our goal was the Southbank where we had seen lights and signs of festivities a few weeks ago. There were still lights and a fair number of stalls selling food and drink, but most people seemed to be enjoying the view of the river and a walk as the afternoon turned into evening.
It would appear that with the restrictions on what we can do and where we can do it, more and more people are strolling the streets. There are an enormous number of beguiling puppies. Covid has made much of the last twelve months pretty bleak, but people discovering the joys of walking has to be a positive. Those who have acquired canine companions will obviously be out pounding the pavements and parks, will the rest retire to bars and restaurants? We saw a few runners. This is the time of year when those running the London marathon start taking their training seriously. There was no marathon in 2020. What are the chances in 2021? Continue reading
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.