With the situation in India worsening by the hour, the title of these posts is not changing yet awhile. I watched the news tonight and Matt Hancock’s response seemed repulsive. He showed no evidence of empathy or understanding that while Covid is actively killing people anywhere in the world we are all at risk. He didn’t sound interested or concerned.
I don’t mean to suggest that Hancock is a colder fish than other members of this government. Boris Johnson’s dismissal of concerns about who paid for the redecoration of the Downing Street flat with an airy comment that the public isn’t interested illustrates how out of touch he is. The cost of the redecoration has also raised eyebrows and dropped jaws. Yet another example of how the poor are expected to exist on very little but someone who is already very entitled feels he should have more.
I happened to be Westminster at lunchtime today and saw these banners. They pack quite a punch. There were more police officers about than usual.
Seeing me looking and taking photos, one of them spoke to me, and smiled. Is there a demo? I asked. No, he replied, PMQs, these are here every week. Now I live not far from Parliament Square but I am not generally there on a Wednesday lunchtime, so I had never seen these before. But isn’t it the role of the press to show us things like this? Or is this just another example of how these events are excluded so that we don’t get to see the peaceful protests about the state of our democracy?
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.
It’s our anniversary: ten years since I brought MasterB, then called Facebook, home. He was young, less than a year at a guess, infested with fleas. He didn’t want to be removed from the students who had rescued him from the mean streets of Brighton, and I didn’t want a timid cat who hid behind the curtain. It wasn’t the most promising start. But against the odds it has been a success. We are a team, cat and human. An already close team which has become closer in lockdown. Not that MasterB knows about the pandemic. But he has become very used to having me around most of the time, has realised that I generally have three meals each day, not the two he was formerly acquainted with, and he now wants three meals a day too. He has given me an emotional support of which he is quite unaware in this time. Watching him has brought me pleasure.
Ten years ago I didn’t really want him. Now I think he’s the best cat in the world.
But for our anniversary we were mainly apart. Gorgeous weather, with blue skies, sunshine and warmth. We have been getting used to blue skies, sunshine and cold cold winds. Celia and I set off to Stratford to walk The Line, a sculpture trail that starts north of the river then ends in Greenwich. The map on the app was rubbish. But the sun shone, we saw two herons in flight, and before we even started our walk Celia got a new strap for her Swatch in the Westfield Shopping Centre. There were serious shoppers. The queue outside Primark was lengthy. Shorter queues, but still impressive, outside shoe shops and mobile phone shops. If I were a shop owner I would be heaving a huge sigh of relief.
Easter weekend which means it’s two years since Celia and I did the Guildford circular walk via Watts gallery. I am cold. I have been sitting outside with B&J having an al fresco meal. I didn’t feel cold then, but coming in I suddenly want to wrap a blanket around myself, convince MasterB he wants to sit on my lap (he doesn’t, he’s sitting across from me, on the chair, having a wash), snuggle into the sofa cushions.
The meal was delicious, from a Vietnamese takeaway close to the Elephant which I have known was there for years, but never tried. The exterior does not invite. The interior is plain, there are no takeaway menus to take away. J had heard about it, then read reviews, all of which were full of praise to the point of ecstasy. There is no website, it’s cash only in these cash less times; it’s very much old Elephant rather than the new shiny, sanitised, any place model being promoted by the developers. I’d say its days are numbered.
There are plans to put a penthouse storey on top of the council flats where I used to live. I am affronted. We called our flat the penthouse suite as it was on the top (seventh) floor with views to die for. We also called it Seventh Heaven, though that was usually ironic and when the lift wasn’t working; or the Centipede With a Wooden Leg, because of the joke and we lived at number 99. Now it seems the joke was on us.
Glorious glorious weather for the first days of this week, though apparently on Friday it’s all change. We are now allowed to meet outside in groups of two households or up to eight people. When I was out and about today I’d say no one needed to be told twice.
However, thanks the marvel of Zoom, this evening I was chatting with people in Berlin, Vancouver and Berkeley, California, and was reminded that some people are heading into a stronger lockdown as we start thinking we’re free. It could all start up again. So I am not counting on being able to do anything yet.
A year on we know the ropes. What was strange last year is now familiar. It’s also different. In those heady days of the first lockdown we did not understand it would last so long. Like now, spring sprung and held us in a blossomed embrace. People rediscovered the joys of cycling as the streets emptied of cars. It was in some ways an adventure. If we were going to live a curtailed existence for a limited period of time we were going to find ways to enjoy it.
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.
Census Day. I completed mine online, though now I rather regret not asking for a paper form. I have looked at old census returns in the course of research for my work, and also when digging into family history. There is something of a thrill at seeing a handwritten form, even if at times I have struggled to read it.
I waited until today to fill in my form. I understood that was the idea: a snapshot of the country on a particular day. But towards the end of last week I heard a number of people saying they had completed theirs already. I reread the letter today. It states that ‘all households should complete the census on Sunday 21 March 2021 or as soon as possible after.’ Nothing about completing it in advance, yet as people have completed it online on the government site that has evidently been permissible. It feels like cheating to me and quite takes away some of the romance, if I dare call it that, and the excitement. I know civil servants, functionaries will be able to read the census returns, but for the rest of us they are like burying a time capsule. They are only open to public readership after a hundred years.
I am fairly sure this is the first online one I have completed. Maybe even the ones completed by hand will simply be copied onto some form and the original destroyed. No signatures, no misspellings.
I am strangely tired, and I don’t think that has anything to do with the demands of the census. Maybe fresh air. I had a short walk with Michèle this morning when we caught up, and scoped out the availability of geranium plants for B&J. At the Nunhead Gardener (the branch we visited was at the upper end of the Walworth Road, very near the Elephant, though M had initially demurred thinking I was suggesting we walked to Nunhead), I bought some lemon thyme, and M treated herself to a couple of plants and fell in love with green candles. Green is her colour. I have always thought of blue and green as being mine, but I realise I am green amateur compared to M. It was sunny, though there was a cool wind, and in the shade slightly chilly. I was glad I had my warm scarf.
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.
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.
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.