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, 22nd July 2022, the Crest of the Wave

Yes, it seems the current COVID wave has peaked, but if wave jumping is your thing never fear, another one should be along in the autumn. Woohoo. Or should that be boohoo? Apparently one in twenty people in Northern Ireland is estimated to be infected at the moment. I’m looking at NI’s figures as, if trains and planes allow, I shall fly into Belfast in ten days. It has started to feel imminent as I have had a message from one of my cousins, not the one I am staying with, about meeting up and seeing Uncle Bill. There was no mention of a party, but I’m hoping one is on the cards, just a small one, but he enjoyed his actual 100th birthday party a lot, and was keen to repeat the experience come the summer. Not that the temperatures in NI are suggesting a relaxed occasion in the garden under blue skies. It’s going to be quite a shock to the system, especially after the heat we have had in London.

Michele’s text made me realise I need to start getting myself organised. At the moment I am far more focused on work than on what I need to do before I go away. I was trying to complete a podcast recording today, but managed to delete part of it, the part I was happy with of course, so it’s back to the beginning with that task tomorrow. Still, I am happy with the script which I have edited. I did get to the bank to pay in a cheques and some cash, and to the Oxfam bookshop to drop off the latest pile of books I have managed to cull. I also thought I’d check out some Chaco sandals, but it seems there’s only one shop in London stocking them, and it’s not in the neighbourhood I was in. Maybe there’s a stockist in Belfast. Fingers crossed.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th July 2022: Some Like it Hot

It’s cooler tonight and the breeze, unlike yesterday’s warm winds, is refreshing. I hung out some washing yesterday, went to the shop, came back less than half an hour later and everything, including bath towels, was dry. Still, for some reason I found the very high temperatures easier to deal with than the day before when it was a degree or two less, maybe because I wasn’t working.

We have strange attitudes to sweat. We know we sweat to keep our bodies cool, but the Ring of Shame is something featured in celeb magazines as though those who have achieved fame and success are somehow letting themselves down by perspiring. I am hoping Prince Andrew’s inability to sweat is going to turn sweating, or glowing as us ladies do, into a Ring of Pride.

Anyway I have glowed a fair amount these last few days. The cat’s cool mat and a tiny desk fan that plugs into my power bank via a USB have somewhat remarkably meant I have slept well. There was one night, Sunday, when I had murderous thoughts towards a woman on a roof terrace nearby who I should guess had had a fair amount of alcohol. At regular intervals of around ten minutes she shouted “hello?” and then shouted it again several times. Had I already been asleep I doubt if it would have bothered me. As it was her “hello?”s repeatedly coincided with the moment I was just dropping off. In the end I turned the light back on, opened my book and read until all was quiet. I don’t know why she stopped her shouting. Maybe someone finally answered her call, or perhaps she simply passed put in an alcoholic haze. I admit my concerns were more for myself than for her.

More disturbing were yesterday’s wild fires. The worst fires the fire service has had to deal with since the Second World War. Johnson tweeted his thanks to the fire service, conveniently ignoring the fact that he closed fire stations and reduced the number of firefighters during his time as a memorably lamentable Mayor of London.

He continued today at his last PMQs to crow about achievements which are about as real as the Emperor’s New Clothes. Like Trump, he operates on the premise that a lie repeated endlessly acquires the patina of truth. This works in part because there are so many lies that are repeated so often, serious journalists ignore them to deal with the day’s lies. It’s a case of volume: screen time and column inches are not infinite. It also works because people who should know better but either have no shame, no conscience or no backbone and those who own right wing papers repeat the same lies.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th July 2022, Heatwave

The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health warning from three to four, a level described as a national emergency. So what do you do when the country is put on amber alert, rising in the next days to red for the first time as temperatures continue to pass what we think of as normal? Obviously we will all have different priorities and strategies. Imagine you are Prime Minster and there’s a Cobra meeting to discuss this emergency but you have already planned a party at the grace and favour home you are still entitled to use for the next couple of months. What choice do you make as leader? I hope most Prime Ministers would issue apologies to the guests, and do what they are paid to do. This is not the choice the Liar in Chief has opted for. Not surprising, but still somehow shocking.

Meanwhile some of the hopefuls, or probably more accurately hopeless, in the contest to be the new leader of the Conservatives are prevaricating about the commitment to achieve net zero by 2050. I suspect they will not be prevaricating about their commitment to curb immigration, somehow conveniently ignoring the fact that as parts of the world become unsustainable due to climate crisis a surge in immigration is inevitable. If they really wanted to curb immigration and not just pander to the Little Englanders they would be ardently committed to net zero before 2050, and looking at ways to alleviate climate crisis globally. We are all linked, all equally responsible, equally damned.

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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.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 26th April 2022, Birthday Surprise

Celia’s birthday today and the countdown to our trip to Bellaghy and Belfast via the glamour that is Luton Airport begins. Celia is out tonight with her husband and daughter but we met up this afternoon. Not perhaps the most obvious birthday celebratory gig, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

I have two small stools with seagrass woven seats. They were gifts from my godparents to my sister and myself back when the world and we were young. I presume my sister didn’t want hers and so it was left with my parents who handed it, along with the one that was mine, to me when I moved to this flat. The years have left their mark. The seagrass is broken in parts, the legs are looking scruffy. I thought I should like to get them repaired and spruced up, maybe to pass to the great nieces. The first price I was quoted was exorbitant, but the second was more reasonable.

A deal was agreed, and today it was time to hand over the first of the stools to John at his allotment which just happens to be at a site both Celia and I have peered at through the wire fence. We walked the short route in April sunshine and began a half hour of magic.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, Christmas Eve 2021

I can hear rain against the windows, but the shutters are closed, candles lit, MasterB asleep on the chair, his nose tucked into his tail. We are cosy and warm. I am listening to A Mediaeval Carol Service from St Bartholomew the Great. It took place a few days ago, but is available to listen to and watch online courtesy of YouTube. I recommend it. Earlier I went for a walk before seeing Michèle for a glass of wine in her flat. She’s been home for over a week now, her ankle getting stronger daily, and she’s obviously loving being back in her own territory.

While I walked I was thinking about Christmas, this year and last, both shadowed by COVID but feeling very different. In 2020 we were making the best of things, not allowed to travel, so nearly all the neighbours were around. We were in it together. It was cold but dry and bright. We could meet outside, observe social distancing, exchange cards and gifts over a glass of something bubbly. But COVID has become a virus of attrition and it feels this year we are wearier, less inclined to find ways to be imaginative in our celebrations, more inward looking.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th December 2021

We’re getting good at this, and into something of a rhythm. I know it will be broken in a couple of weeks when the whole Christmas thing is at its height, but today Celia and I again headed out with boots, packed lunches, backpacks and waterproofs to a neighbourhood in London unlike our own.

Celia is the Walks Directions Chief, and today we did the walk backwards. I would have struggled with this, so fortunately my part was simply printing the route and putting it inside a plastic folder. While I was breakfasting the rain was hammering against the windows, and the wind was shaking the trees. A walk seemed unlikely. Then miraculously it stopped raining, the wind dropped and I changed my nightwear for leggings, several top layers and two pairs of socks.

A few weeks ago we were surprised to find ourselves watching a German Shepherd having a hydrotherapy session in a building we had thought was selling wine. Today we met a standard poodle called Lily who is having hydrotherapy at another facility following amputation of a hind leg due to cancer.

Lily

She wasn’t the only dog we saw. Along the river path there were lots of mucky, wet dogs. Dogs running with their owners, dogs rushing down to the water to chase the ducks, dogs sniffing at interesting things in the grass. Some of the owners smiled, a couple said hello. Others looked straight ahead as though we didn’t exist. Lily’s owner was the friendliest and chatted for several minutes about her pet’s ordeal, courage and the benefits of hydrotherapy. Her leg was amputated just fourteen short weeks ago. She’s nine, a sweetheart, a hero and her owners obviously love her to bits.

We set off from Hammersmith station, crossed Hammersmith Bridge, and spent a fair few minutes hearing coxes shouting at teams of rowers through loud hailers. Some of the crews were flying along, aided by the flow of the tide. The path was neither one thing nor the other, semi asphalt and quite tiring to walk along. The little fungi we saw was huge, as though to make up for lack of variety. It was a relief to leave it and walk on fallen leaves at the edge of the nature reserve we had managed to largely miss. Swans and geese gathered at the edge of the water. Why there, and in such numbers Celia wondered. Maybe that’s where people feed them. A flat had a model of a cow on the balcony. A goose sat sentinel on a tree.

It began to rain. Rain was not forecast. We grumbled a little, but not much, which was fortunate as it soon stopped, started again later, stopped again. We read plaques on benches, looked at door knockers, read information boards, admired Gustav Holst’s and Ninette De Valois’s houses, recrossed the river at Barnes, and had lunch in a shelter looking at an empty bandstand.

The notes told us to look for a sculpture of storks on a nest. It didn’t say why the sculpture was there. Anyway, we found it; then a sign to a food market where I bought some biscuits, Celia bought some radishes, Celia used the loo and I met Lily. To my mind, this was the point where the walk picked up and became more interesting.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 2nd December 2021

My work took me out into the cold of the day. I didn’t make any money, today was prep, taking photographs, making the most of the blue skies. Rain is forecast tomorrow. I walked between Park Lane and Bayswater, traversing Hyde Park. London is rich in parks, and although I have visited Hyde Park many times, I can’t truly say I know it. It is vast. I walked through bits I knew, then bits I didn’t recognise to more bits I knew. It was lovely.

After Bayswater it was back through the park to Belgravia, a part of London I don’t like much. It’s all big white houses which look alike to me. A bit of luck as I left the park, the Horseguards, Lifeguards in their red, were making their way back to their barracks and stables. These are sights I missed during lockdown. The daily panoply of pomp with beautiful beautiful horses.

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