The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th September 2021

And suddenly it’s autumn. Mask wearing is increasingly erratic. Even I have forgotten to mask up on a couple of occasions. I am hoping this new feeling of relaxation is not heading for trouble. I have been comforting myself seeing figures locally dropping, the warm weather meaning we are outside a good deal and on the buses the windows are generally open. So the sudden drop in temperature is a bit worrying.

Sunday was lovely, which was great as Celia and headed off, booted and with packed lunches for Haslemere on the Surrey Sussex borders. We had each bought our tickets on Saturday though at different London stations. I had the better deal at Charing Cross with my ticket for some reason being £2 less. However, a couple of hours later the likelihood of my going anywhere was remote. I had sat down on the floor to do something necessary at the computer. When I finished and stood up my left ankle felt as though it had gone to sleep. I expected it to wear off in a few minutes, but instead it became increasingly sore and I hobbled painfully down to the neighbourhood gathering that was the annual Sausage Sizzle. Unsurprisingly I didn’t have sausages. I took a butterbean and pesto salad.

After breakfast I had managed to drop my ‘phone on my foot and it seems this ankle pain was a delayed reaction to the trauma. Anyway, after sitting for a while on the sofa with bag of frozen peas wrapped round my ankle I had an early night, swapping the peas for Ibuprofen gel. It worked. In the morning my walking skills were restored. Hurrah!

The walk instructions warned at places it could be muddy, but we hadn’t had rain for weeks (a situation that has changed this week with a dramatic downpour yesterday morning that included bouncing hail, and several heavy showers today) so we were quietly confident.

When we left London, the only hint that it was autumn was the mist. With sunrise now happening just before seven, it takes a while for the day to wake up. I have done several walks around Haslemere, it’s a lovely town surrounded by great countryside; the perfect combination. You may well recognise the first place if you have followed this page for some years as I am pretty sure I have posted a very similar picture, with a robin in it, or maybe just a reference to a robin. Obviously any walk with Celia at this time of year is going to feature fungi.

The trees were still green. We actually got almost excited when we saw a few brown leaves. Blackberries worth picking were in short supply, but I got enough to add to the crumble I shared with Octavia later. There was a fair amount of up. The walk notes used the word steep more often than I like, but it was nice steep, through woodland and on paths that twisted rather than heading up in an unrelenting slog. I kept checking the treeline to see how much further we had to climb.

I do love a fingerpost, and there were quite a few. The first three quarters of the walk were well way marked, so combined with the instructions we had no problems finding our route.

Why this footpath over a stream is described as shuttered I do not know. Can anyone explain please?

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th September 2021

I woke up with a sore throat. It didn’t go away. I took two paracetamol and considered my slightly stuffed nose. Cold? Covid 19? A couple of hours later my nose was clear and my sore throat was sore no more. A slight cold maybe. Nothing more serious. On the bus the other day there were five of us on the upper deck. I was the only one masked. On the lower deck all five had masks, but two were wearing theirs under their chins. There are lots of tweets about Covid 19 being over. But the evidence says otherwise. I don’t want us to return to lockdowns, I don’t want us to live sequestered lives, but it does seem we can learn to socialise safely, with masks, and some people don’t want to do that. I don’t have a solution, but I think I shall probably be steering clear of crowded venues for some time to come. Maybe for ever.

Tonight we enjoyed a neighbourly game of Cluedo. Last Sunday four of us convened to play Equaliteas, a game devised to raise awareness about women’s enfranchisement in the UK. We enjoyed it so much we made another date for tonight. So six of us sat down around Celia’s table. It was my game in the sense that I brought the board and pieces. There are new versions of Cluedo. Mine dates from the 1960s. We began by rubbing out the pencil marks on our Detective Notes. Quite a few bore my childish handwriting. It was fun. Usually Michele and I are otherwise engaged on Sunday evenings, and we are already wondering which night of the week can be our games night this winter. Cluedo is a less chatty game than Equaliteas. I have never played it with the full complement of six players before. It was a novel and interesting experience. When I was a child I usually played it with my friend Marion. Charlie struggled with the idea that his character could be the murderer yet he would not know until the crime was solved. Reinhild got a pad of paper and a pen and worked at the solution. Next time we may have to go the whole Line of Duty hog and have a whiteboard, photos and coloured markers.

I have Scrabble, Ludo, Monopoly as well as Cluedo. Celia has Carcassonne which I have never played. I saw a game called Shakespeare the Bard in a charity shop. I may need to return and buy it. I also have decks of cards, and Lexicon which I haven’t played in decades. My father and I used to play cribbage, but I have forgotten how to play. The winter is suddenly full of possibilities.

So now for the first walk of Celia and my series of three. No walk this weekend as Celia was away until last night and I have been working.

This walk was the one we have done before. Several times. It’s a good one. Guildford circular via Compton. Last autumn I did it with Nicola. Here are some pictures.

There were blackberries as we had hoped. But we didn’t want to pick in the morning and carry all day, so we picked and ate. Had I been living in Guildford or anywhere along this circular route during lockdown it would have been. walk I should have been happy to do every day.

We met the man with the aged Labrador as we left. Coco was back in the boot of the car and raised her head when she heard her master speaking to us.

I had been hoping for apples for sale at the farm table, but it was bare. At the fingerpost I wasn’t’t sure if this was a lost boot or a memorial. As a teenager, The Withies Inn was considered quite classy. I don’t even know if it still exists.

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The Coronavirus Diaries 16th September 2021

So onto, or I think that should be back to, the walk Celia and I took 4th September. It was a shorter walk, closer to home. Celia’s daughter and her family were staying. We had a window of five hours. I found a choice of walks locally. Celia picked the one which included One Tree Hill. After taking the bus, we started at Nunhead Cemetery which was enjoying an open day.

The cemetery was humming. The dead may have been pretty quiet, but there were stalls, animals from Surrey Docks City Farm, alternative Morris dancers who brought a goth vibe to the usual bell ringing and handkerchief waving. We walked by the memorial to the boys from our neighbourhood who drowned when they had been anticipating a holiday in Leysdown. There’s a not very good novel about it by Stella Duffy who also lives or lived locally.

It appeared Peckham Rye was also having a Day. Their’s featured dogs and a rather snazzy poster. As I have mentioned the Stella Duffy I’m going to remind you that there is a very good novel by Muriel Spark called The Ballad of Peckham Rye. It even mentions the Walworth Road, and has one of my all time favourite lines: There are classes within classes in Peckham. I read it years before I came to live in sunny south London. Does that mean anything? Probably not, though that sentence has stayed with me since I was a teenager.

Out of the cemetery and a tiny detour to stare at the house where my great grandmother lived with one of her married daughters. My father loathed his grandmother. He had to kiss her through her veil. She loved cats, so my father loathed them too.

We met a man walking a very pretty miniature Pinscher. the dog was called Moses, he was a rescue and came with a basket. I don’t know the man’s name. He told us he understood how the Duke of Edinburgh felt. I don’t know about Celia, but I felt I had missed something. Fortunately the man explained. If he draws level with Moses, the little dog is not amused. The man has to remain several steps behind. I have a not very good picture of Moses. We were on a very shady path. As you’ll see, One Tree Hill is a misleading name.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd September 2021

Friday again already. Unbelievable. The week has flown by. The opera was great last Saturday, both music and venue, both of which got good reviews in The Guardian. And that’s not even starting on the good company. Celia and I hatched a last minute plan to go walking on Sunday. We plumped for a walk we have done several times which takes in the cemetery where my great grandmother and Lewis Carol are buried, views across to Guildford cathedral, farmland, woodland, Watts Gallery, uphills and downhills, horses in fields, a country pile, a lake, the river Wey, and, most importantly for this time of year, blackberries.

We ended at a pub which used to be called the Jolly Farmer and is now I think called The Weyside, drank our half pints of cider, shared a packet of crisps, and got the train back to London. It was good. Monday, being a bank holiday, was grey and dull. I felt no regrets about getting on with paperwork. Work on Tuesday, and suddenly it’s Friday again. Michèle lent me a book called The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell. It was published in 1938 and has been republished as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. After Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, the change of style took a few chapters for me to find the rhythm. There was quite a lot of ‘ere, and, laarst, to conjure the accents of the Rotherhithe community. At first this grated, but I got over it and would happily read more by her. However, although Michèle lent me two further books from the series they are both by different writers, both new to me. I am just embarking on Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert. For fans of detective fiction, this series is a goldmine.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 1st August 2021

One more breakfast in Northern Ireland before I go home. Today was beautiful, bright sunshine and cool winds. Pretty perfect. We walked around Lough Beg this afternoon, admired the carvings of fox, badger and stoat, watched a calf digging in a sandpit – a first for all of us – gazed at the view of Church Island, and read the extracts from Seamus Heaney’s poems.

A couple of weeks ago, my cousin Mary’s son Richard was doing the same walk with his wife. They saw two women who they took to be mother and daughter taking picnic of each other in front of the view. Richard asked if they would like him to take a picture of both them. They did. Afterwards the four chatted. The older woman was Marie Heaney, Seamus’ widow, and the younger their daughter Catherine.

This evening’s walk was also lovely, though for half of it I had the company of Joshua, Cousin’s twelve-year-old grandson, or the Incredible Whinge, as I was calling him by the time Cousin came to take him away from me and leave me and the dogs to enjoy our walk without constant complaints about how far we were walking and how long it was taking. I hadn’t made him come, and when we were barely out of sight of the house and he talked of turning back I should willingly have accompanied him and then resumed the walk on my own. I’ll know next time he says he’ll walk with me to run out of the house before he has his shoes on.

We met Poppy Junior, the gorgeous young retriever, on the way back. All dogs were excited. Westie Boy so far forgot his manners he tried to mount her. Fortunately he is neutered and she seemed to have no idea what he was attempting. Poppy the Labrador wagged her tail, greeted Poppy Junior’s young mistress. If we had had somewhere we could have let all three dogs off the lead to play it could have been wonderful. As it was there were a series of frustrated play bows.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th July 2021

Some pictures from last week at the das Boot.

I love the cows. Some are very friendly, others are shy. One young bullock couldn’t get enough of me. He licked my arm, nuzzled my shirt, wanted head scratches, raised his nose to my face. If we had been on the same side of the fence I reckon he’d have sat on my lap.

When the bull approached I thought he was going to tell me to keep away from his herd, but no, he wanted head scratches too. No sign of Mr Handsome from last year. I fear he has been slaughtered, butchered and eaten. A sad end for any animal, but especially for one who loved humans as much as Mr Handsome did.

The cows in the field next to the marina. This bullock would like some attention
This younger chap was up for a face rub and chat

The ducks turned up and stayed around. One has very orange feet, one has muddy orange feet. They work singly as and as a pair. They woke me early on Thursday morning doing some sort of duck flamenco outside the window. My neighbours across the pontoon feed them, so I am guessing the ducks thought the café was open. they were remarkably persistent. One even flew onto the roof of the boot and peered over the edge to watch me. They quack softly and plaintively, tap imperiously on the windows with their beaks, march up and down the gunwale (they are surprisingly heavy footed) and do a good job of staring at me beadily eyed.

The one with muddy orange feet

The one with orange feet

The swans also turned up. One young swan, last year’s cygnet by his feathers, was alone and so excited when I came out of the door on das Boot I thought he was going to climb aboard. This pair, swimming off the Portside, were more self-contained.

On Friday morning I was about to open the door at the back of das Boot when something caught my eye. I paused. A kingfisher. I took a picture with my little camera through the glass. Obligingly the kingfisher then flew to another boat to prt of my galley window, which I opened very gently and slowly. My little camera does not have a strong zoom, so I ma quite pleased I can see the bird at all in these pictures. I was feeling a bit blue, and this encounter, followed by the ducks visiting while I had breakfast, and then some affectionate bullocks, did a lot to lift my mood.

Swans off the portside
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The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th June 2021

Much to my surprise I have been dancing around the forecabin this evening.The sound system at das Boot is great, but I was barely able to lift myself off the cushions to eat a short while ago. Maybe it was the power of Nanci Griffith, or maybe the fact that after a day of rain and drizzle it’s approaching a fine evening. Maybe it was the power of curry. Maybe it was the adolescent swan who appeared at the rear of das Boot as I was preparing to head over to the shower. It was so excited when I hung my wet trousers on the grab rail it almost climbed aboard.

I didn’t have high expectations of dinner. I prepped a curry while it rained this morning, Fortunately there were chilli flakes and ground ginger in the cupboard because the amount of curry powder was less than meagre.But it was plate licking good. Yes I did lick the plate. And tomorrow I’ll have seconds. curry is always better a day or two later.For pudding I had soya yoghurt with mandarin oranges. A can that came from Mother’s so is at least a decade old.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th June 2021

I’m at das Boot. Alone. MasterB has stayed at home and is being looked after by Celia and B&J. It’s odd to be here without him, but I am going to be busy cleaning and doing noisy things he doesn’t like, so probably just as well. He wouldn’t have liked the journey much either. There were several diversions. I saw more of Leytonstone than I have ever before. I was quite worried about being totally lost. I did learn that there is an Alfred Hitchcock Hotel in Leytonstone. I wonder what it’s like. Leytonstone is his birthplace and I am acquainted with the mosaics which honour him at the tube station, but the hotel was a bit of a surprise.

it’s coming up to 10pm and the light is fading, but you certainly couldn’t call it dark. A duck, maybe the same one that visited last year just came onto the gunwale, and then round to the foredeck and tried to get my attention, tapping on the window glaring at me fixedly. I was rather glad I had closed the windows to keep the insects out a few minutes earlier.

Das Boot is very grubby. I spent the first hours removing the worst of the dirt from the interior, discovered a half pint of very off semi skimmed milk in the fridge. Who put that there? Not me, I don’t drink milk. Maybe Stuart when he was working on the boat earlier in the year.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th March 2021

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.

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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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