The Coronavirus Diaries, 1st March 2021

St David’s day. Appropriately I have daffodils, two bunches, two different varieties, in two separate vases. One vase is in the bedroom, the other in the living room. There may be more daffodils in the garden but I’ve not been out much since Friday.

Friday was glorious, warm and sunny as early April, and the weekend and today have continued in the same vein. B and I strolled down to Loughborough Junction admiring this and that on the way, until I realised our admiring, look-at-that-ing risked my late arrival for the appointment with my Covid vaccination, so the last few minutes were more a brisk walk.

It was all very streamlined. I was back outside in the sunshine with B in a few minutes. I had the Astra Zeneca vaccine. B was there in case I had a bad reaction. I so didn’t have a bad reaction we almost forgot that I might have done until we were nearly back.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th February 2021

A short walk today with Celia. We have both been busy with other things though the fine weather was calling at least one of us. It was hard to turn away, sit down at the computer and spend the hours inside. MasterB sunbathed on the sitting room carpet. But we had the consolation of yesterday’s walk which was a good one. We met in the middle of the afternoon and, at Celia’s suggestion, walked up to St James’ Park via Lambeth Bridge. We were obviously not the only people who thought it would be great place to go. For those of you who are unfamiliar with London, this is the park that flanks the Mall (pronounced to rhyme with gal) which leads up to Buckingham Palace. It’s a bird sanctuary, has has wonderful flowerbeds, crocuses in the grass, and wildish areas for the birds, bats, and whatever other creatures make their home there. I know there’s at least one fox.

The geese were convinced we must have something for them. They came over to us, talked to us eloquently and energetically, but to no avail. Our pockets were empty. A squirrel was even more determined and climbed up Celia’s leg. If I were a St James’ Park goose I would be muttering about the parakeets. Parvenus: loud, aggressive, confident, they were the ones most people were offering food to. I’m guessing if a goose tried emulating their behaviour and landing winsomely onto an outstretched hand it wouldn’t go down too well. Again there were signs asking people not to feed the wildlife. Ignored signs by and large. People had come armed with tubs of bird seed. The joy we humans get from feeding wildlife is fascinating to witness. A heron seemed to be following us. Then we realised it was watching someone else: a litter picker who when his work is done stays on to offer feed the birds. He offered us fish to give to the heron and Celia accepted without hesitation.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st February 2021

Oh my what a weekend of lovely weather. Spring pushing away the cold of winter, filling longer days with light and promise, and filling the parks with flowers and buds, and filling our heads with giddy thoughts of post lockdown socialising.

There have been hints that we may soon be allowed to meet up with friends. Hints that have been taken by some as permission to jump the gun. I really don’t want another lockdown when this one ends so I am torn. The feeling of excitement and anticipation that the rule of six might be restored is making my heart leap. Today I sat in the garden with Hartley on my knee and thought how much he’ll love it if our drinks and nibbles routine starts up again.

But I am moving too fast. Millions have had the vaccine but I haven’t. I don’t think it will be long now, but seeing groups of twenty somethings sitting in a circle on the grass yesterday, older people going maskless into shops, some people strolling in groups of three or four down the centre of the pavement worried me. Don’t get me wrong, in the same hours that I saw these things I also saw people standing patiently in socially distanced queues, people wearing masks o the street, assiduous application of hand gel inside shops. I should hate to have got this far Covid free only to succumb the virus in the next few weeks or months.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th February 2021

So fifty years since the UK switched from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency. It was my cousin Georgina’s birthday, so the date fixed in my memory. I don’t know if there were any commemorative events today. If there were, I missed them. Until that day your purse would be a history lesson with coins from Victoria’s reign onwards. We knew what the young Victoria looked like with the *bun* pennies, and then how her jawline dropped as the reign went on. As Elizabeth II has reigned throughout the last fifty years there are coins which show her ageing, but the idea of a coin with someone else’s head on it seems quite odd.

Tomorrow I have my appointment at the fracture clinic. I am excited to learn if my wrist is fractured or not. It probably won’t make much difference, if any, to the treatment I’ll receive, but anyway I am curious. I have been spreading the rumour that my fall was due to Celia shoving me. I’m not sure the two children I told that tale to this afternoon believed me, but they were very keen and interested in the metal in my right wrist. More interested I’d say than in anything else I have ever told them. There’s a moral in there somewhere.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th February 2021

I have successfully recruited Celia and Charlie to the millet gang. Woohoo! I made a vat of the red bean stew last night, had some myself with millet and leeks and today took portions of stew plus uncooked millet and instructions for how to prepare it to B&J and to C&C. I’ve not heard from B&J yet, but C&C had theirs for lunch and I received a very positive text from Celia afterwards. Not only that but when we met up later for a walk she gave me a bag for millet she wants me to buy for her on my next visit to Fare Shares, our local co-operative shop.

I am imagining a near future where millet becomes the in thing (and probably quadruples in price) featuring on menus in all the hippest restaurants and recipes. C&C and I will be saying things like, “Millet? Oh yes, we’ve been eating it for years. Have you tried it in a pilaff?” I’m going to be a tad deflated if B&J turn round and say, “Nah, not for us.”

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th January 2021

I finished watching It’s a Sin. I think I wept through at rest 50% of the final episode and a fair amount of the others too, so it may seem perverse to recommend it. There is humour, The acting and writing are uniformly excellent. The 80s soundtrack is wonderful. In case you hadn’t realised, the series title comes from a Pet Shop Boys’ song.

Back in the day when I did my postgrad journalist training it was in an outpost of the London College of Printing (later the London College of Communication, now part of the University of Applied Arts; sometimes it’s hard to keep up), in an old building that had once housed the Daily Mirror in Back Hill, Clerkenwell. On the other side of the road was another building which had been repurposed as we’d say now. Neil Tennant lived there. That’s before Clerkenwell was trendy. I know he was a journalist before a pop star, did he have an affiliation with the LCP? Perhaps, or maybe it was the proximity to the Guardian offices, or just a quiet part of town to live in away from the starry folk in more obvious locations. I don’t think I ever saw Tennant while I was there, but as I started to write that sentence I thought perhaps I had, but Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian at the time, was someone we saw frequently. Also Rebekah Wade, who had studied at the LCP and swept in to give a guest interview: a mass of red hair, a confident stride and an intimidating stare. The room was packed, but I don’t recall a word of what she said. Nothing about getting your scoops through phone hacking anyway.

Anyway, back to the tv programme. I’d love a Q&A with Russell T Davies about some of the characters and how they develop. I never watched Queer as Folk, so I have some catching up to do there.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th January 2020

As I was clearing up after breakfast I was thinking that this year I really should sell first the boat then the car. The car at least seems to be on the same page, though determined to cause me unplanned expense first. As for the boat, I have a feeling that however great my resolve is ona cold wet day in January, one lovely weekend in May will soften it.

I had booked a slot at the local recycling place to leave my defunct towel rail and some other bits and pieces including a ex-toaster of Celia’s. Off I went. All well until I was half a mile from home and there was a sudden bumpy feeling, a funny noise and I recognised the sign of a severely flat tyre. A puncture as it turned out. I don’t have home start as the garage is just across the road, but I should have read the small print, as home start means within a mile from home. It’s a long and tedious story, but it looks more than likely I shall need a new wheel. Ho hum.

I have been following the live updates re Trump’s impeachment fairly obsessively. On the news tonight several Republican senators answered the reporter’s polite enquiries with almost identical words along the lines of this is a stunt by the Democrats at a time when we need unity. My guess is it was a format of words they were advised to say, but some were clearly angry. It sounds reasonable until you think about what it means, which is that somehow by drawing a veil over those people who attacked the capitol, encouraged, urged by Trump, and over the President‘s words too will heal wounds. No it won’t. It would send a message to all those other people who have demonstrated peacefully that Trump and his supporters are given leeway and not held to account. As indeed they are. Remember Black Lives Matter? That’s all about how black people do not enjoy the same freedoms, the same respect, the same treatment by the police and the law as white people.

Uncomfortable truths have to be faced. Not just in the US, everywhere. We have our own deniers here. People who cannot see that white privilege exists. People who say we shouldn’t worry about who got rich due to the slave trade and whose descendants still grow fat on the exploitation of human beings. It’s long ago, they say, as though that had anything to do with it when the effects are still felt today. Try saying that to a Scot who hates you for being English because of Culloden, never mind that your family hadn’t even arrived here when that battle happened. It’s an inherited guilt.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 11th January 2021

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.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th January 2020

A stunningly beautiful day: cold, but with bright blue skies and when you in it the sun was warm. Octavia and I met and went for a walk. There has been a short series on BBC4 this week called Winter Walks. Five well known figures have gone for a walk alone but with a camera recording a 360° view of what they saw. I have seen three of the five programmes. Don’t think car chases, or indeed anything fast, though one farmer had a fine collection of old tractors he was happy to talk about with Lemn Sissay. In some ways it reminded me of those short filler pieces between programmes back when all television was in black and white, things lies a pot being thrown. Slow, mesmeric, and somehow deeply pleasing. the filming has been edited down to thirty minutes per programme. when I have finished writing this post, I shall probably watch the two remaining episodes. The fact that the words Series 1 follow the title means, I hope that there will be more. I was struck by how in the three I have seen (Lemn Sissay, Simon Armitage and Richard Coles) at some point each muses on the power of walking and landscape to soothe, to heal, to inspire and to calm. I shall be shocked if Selina Scott and Sayeeda Warsi say anything to the contrary. The programmes made me more than ever want to get my boots on and get out into the country, but with strict instructions to stay local, Cynthia and I are planning an urban walk from our front doors to Norwood cemetery next week. we need to plot a route. The most direct way is along main roads, but they will be the most polluted, so we would be better sticking to side streets, housing estates and parks. It’s going to be an adventure.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th January 2020

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.

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