It’s odd, or perhaps interesting is the word I want, the things that give you street cred. In my case it’s never going to be my clothes or anything else about my appearance, though in my defence I can claim to have been a precursor of several clothing trends: Levi shrink to fit straight leg jeans when everyone else was in flares, a tweedy jacket several seasons before they featured on catwalks, and Adidas Stan Smiths decades before they became the in footwear. All of these were accidental, driven by economy and thrift.
Today was different. I was walking home from MCQ, a wonderful treasure trove of a shop owned by Clyde, and Mary Portus’ idea of a vision from hell. I was carrying my newly repaired amp. A man sitting outside a café on the Walworth Road beamed a huge smile at me and made continuous eye-contact. “NAD,” he said, “A 3020. Nice. Very nice.” I was beaming myself as I continued my journey home.
Some simple interactions like this can do so much to lift the spirits. I don’t think I’d recognise the man if I met him tomorrow, and I reckon unless I was again carrying my amp, he wouldn’t even notice me.
My MCQ collection was just one of the things of my to do list. I was working via Zoom in the morning so at home, tied to phone and internet. The flat needed cleaning. With the windows open these past weeks the amount of dust is startling. I am very glad I do not have asthma. I took some fabric to Rocket Van. They are going to photograph it for me to include in the virtual yard sales. They have turned down my Tourlet Lulu. I am realising people are prissy about second hand portable toilets, however little they have been used and however much they have been cleaned and disinfected. I’d hate it to end up in landfill, so I shall have to keep trying. Anyone here who goes camping/glamping/champing or makes long car journeys where public toilets may not be available, or whose toilet is unusable thanks to building work, or if you are just having problems with an on-board toilet on your boat, please get in touch. I can share pictures.
Nearly midsummer, and the humidity has been building steadily this week. It was the upper twenties centigrade today but it felt oppressive rather than hot. Celia and I walked round to the book group’s alfresco poetry evening at a slow slow pace. The first drops of rain fell as we started, but they were pleasant and occasional. Then the rain got going. Umbrellas appeared, I put on my waterproof poncho and hid my books underneath it. The water pooled in my lap. After two rounds we called it a night and returned the chairs and cushions to the TRA House. Maybe a rerun in a couple of weeks. Already the air feels fresher, and there is no wind so the windows are wide open and no rain is coming in. Storms are forecast for tonight and more rain tomorrow. I realise I should have rescued a couple of plant pots which are in wall planter with no drain holes. By morning the seedlings may have drowned.
It’s a week for exhibitions. I don’t know that I’ll get to Alice at the V&A, but tomorrow I shall be at the BM for Becket. Celia, Charlie and I shall travel together on the 68 bus, but my entry ticket is half an hour before theirs, so we shall tour separately. The last time I was at an exhibition with Charlie he was round it in half the time it took me. We are warned a third wave is either imminent or with us, so how long we can enjoy these cultural pursuits is questionable.
A month or so ago I hadn’t read anything by Maggie O’Farrell. Now I have read three of her novels and I am hungry for more. Today I finished The Vanishing act of Esme Lennox. It’s not as good as Hamnet, which is luminous, but it’s still a damn good read, and one which made me think.
I’m on a bit of a reading jag. Celia lent me me Never Leave the Dog Behind by Helen Mort, which I devoured in three sittings. As well as the Maggie O’Farrell I have started on Dog’s Best Friend by Simon Garfield – you may see a canine theme going on here, and I have dipped into the first few pages of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. A year ago I was struggling to read fiction. Right now it feels like an escape.
Toady I had to go to Mayfair. It was busy. The sun has finally got its act together and was shining merrily in blue, cloudless skies. On the buses the signs telling you to leave certain seats free have been removed. I was horrified when a young maskless women perched on the edge of the seat next to mine. There were quite a few young and youngish women, dressed to the nines, with fake tanned bodies, no masks, both on the bus and in Regent Street. Where were they off to at ten o’clock on a Saturday morning?
There’s a slender silver sliver of moon in the skies tonight. It’s beautiful. I saw it a moment ago when I went out to retrieve the Boys’ dishes. The Boys are of course Hartley and Romeo. Tomorrow is Sunday, so it’s the day I am on breakfast and dinner duty. Romeo missed his breakfast with Joe this morning. Sleeping in was Joe’s verdict, and when he, Romeo, saw me mid morning he was hopeful I was bearing food. I wasn’t. I was bearing a stack of clean dishes to return to Joe, so I told him (Joe) about Romeo and the next thing Romeo got his breakfast. Or maybe that should be brunch. Hartley’s brother Smudge approached me while I was talking to J by her front door. I have a mission to get Smudge to trust me so I can start work on the dreadful knots he has in his fur. The trusting and the removing may take many months.
April was dry. There’s a rhyme about spring weather: March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers. I used to take comfort from it when I was a child as most of the cousins on my father’s side of the family, that is the cousins who I saw on a weekly basis as opposed to the Irish cousins who I saw every other summer, had March birthdays. Mine is in May. I felt a bit left out. But this year April was windy and May is showery with temperatures see-sawing. I was working today and got caught in a couple of showers. They were short but effective. The damp has brought the slugs and snails out in the garden. I avoided them when fetching the dishes, and was relieved no slug was actually in either dish. I know Celia will pick up slugs, but I am more prissy.
Work was good for several reasons, one being it involved walking. I mean to pack a decent walk in every day until Wednesday, and shall probably walk to the hospital before my movements are curtailed for the next few weeks. Mother used to say she wanted to keep her mobility. I know what she meant. Being able to get out and around on your own two feet is a freedom beyond price.
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.