The Coronavirus Diaries, 1st November 2020

It’s my half birthday and the universe seems to be telling me to leave things alone. I repeatedly forget to buy a lottery ticket in a shop, when I try to buy one online it doesn’t work; I make the decision to put my flat on the market and I turn down the virtual tour option, a second lockdown is announced immediately. Return to Go, go back two spaces, miss a turn, or whatever board game cliché you like.

I’m not sure how I feel about the flat, certainly some relief, but whether that is simply to do with knowing I can duck out of the stress of selling and buying for a while, or if I don’t really want to move, I don’t know.

I do love London in the autumn. With the dark streets lit by the lights of cafés, bars and restaurants I almost certainly shan’t go to, even the wettest night – and we’ve had a fair few of those this past week – takes on a fairy land look. Riding on the top deck of an almost empty bus, looking out at the capital is a pleasure. Then Celia and I came across a vegan café not far away with outdoor space where, when we can socialise again, we should be able to meet, and my world seems complete.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th October 2020

A bit of change of subject today. I spent a fair amount of time travelling backwards and forwards to the West End. I can’t say it was an entirely successful use of my time, but I did get stuck into The Nickel Boys by Colston Whitehead, a book that has been on my to read list, as opposed to the pile by my bed, for some time. I found it and Margaret Attwood’s The Testaments in the Barbican Library yesterday.

Celia and I walked uo to City. Both of us were somewhat overdressed. Not in the sartorial sense, though Celia was undoubtedly smarter than I was, more in anticipation of rain which did not come (at least in the quantities expected), and temperatures lower than they actually were. Celia has a pair of waterproof trousers which are very smart. Much smarter than my over trousers. I have waterproof trouser envy, something I have never before experienced.

We ate our packed lunches under cover. There were an awful lot of cigarette butts about. I thought of the City’s campaign to get people to dispose of chewing gum and cigarette ends responsibly and realised it had failed.

After the library, which really I shouldn’t gloss over because the Barbican library is a joy, we went to the conservatory. Celia was ahead of me as I was looking at Which? reports of cordless vacuum cleaners. If anyone reading this has a Halo Capsule (with bag), a Tineco A10 Hero, a Vax Blade 4 bagless, or a Jashen cordless, please get in touch.

Since finding Billy Mann and his blog every time I am near the Barbican I wonder if unknowingly I shall see him. Maybe I did.

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th September 2020

The month comes to an end with a wet evening, although this morning was dry and warm. Last night we sat in a group of six in the dusk then dark drinking and talking, nibbling on crips, or in my case water melon. Actually we were seven, but before your outrage and rule breaking surges, the seventh was feline. Not MasterB who was snoozing indoors, and took his constitutional later, but Hartley.

Hartley had a lovely evening. He found B&J before they even had time to sit down. He made sure he acknowledged each member of our little group, and checked out Celia’s bag in case it had anything for him. J groomed him and his face expressed his bliss. Later Celia groomed him as well, so if he keeps a diary I suspect yesterday would have been a five star day.

Celia had returned from Wales earlier in the day and rescued me from the computer screen by suggesting a walk in Burgess Park. It was another beautiful afternoon. And very autumnal. There were swathes of michaelmas daisies.

Michaelmas daisies en masse

Michaelmas daisy close up

The South London Botanical Institute is not offering fungi identification at the moment, though I notice it has an open day tomorrow to visit its garden. Celia’s interest in fungi has not waned and we spotted a wonderful specimen at the base of a tree.

Not everyone was interested in fungal growths. The park wore an air of contentment.

By the lake

By the lake

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 26th September 2020

I’m going to let photos do most of the work tonight. I had my first proper, boots on, train to the start point, walk for months today. If we are locked down again it may be my last for a while too. At the last minute my friend Nicola decided to join me and we met yup at Waterloo Station. The walk is the the one Celia and I did at Easter 2019, and it was wonderful to do it in a different season. We stopped at the Watts Gallery for lunch, checked out the shop, spent some precious moments at the Chapel and revelled in the views of the countryside, the boot against the path, the blackberries in the hedgerows and the sweet chestnuts bursting from their spiny shells.

View

Guildford Cathedral

View

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th September 2020

I should sleep well tonight. This morning I scrubbed the foredeck and then parts of the port gunwale until my spine ached from nape to lower back. I have no doubt I shifted a lot of dirt, the water in my bucket turned a muddy brown and there was great deal of sluicing to be done to see the results. They were good, but not as good as I’d wanted. My mop decided this was all too much and fell apart. After washing down the top and sides of the boat I did the windows inside and out again, inexpertly as I could see later, but a job that needs repeating often. My neighbours, who had spent a relaxing morning as the day warmed up, set off for Waterbeach and I walked crab like to the tap to rinse my waterproof trousers and my cleaning cloths. Then a hot shower. That did much to restore me and I realised I was hungry, too hungry to drive to Reach, order food and wait for it to be served. I had a lovely lunch on das Boot, and was just finishing when I noticed a kingfisher had landed just by the boat. I sat mesmerised by its closeness and compact perfection, then it flew away. I didn’t see where it went, but maybe if I’m lucky I’ll see it again before I leave tomorrow.

Washing up done, MasterB asleep under the rug in the fore cabin, I went to Reach to pick blackberries and sloes. Then onto the farm shop where (hurrah!) they had salad. Just one bag so I bought it and then went slightly wild buying fresh chard, a bunch of azaleas, a bag of new potatoes as well as some mammoth beetroot and a delicate thyme plant for B&J. Driving back to das Boot I was aware how much I had slowed down and was enjoying the rhythm of the day. On the road, I passed teenage girls riding their ponies, any number of cyclists, mainly adult and in twos and threes. It seemed a good way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon in September.

Cherry, from the neighbouring boat, and I had been wondering about Mr Handsome as we hadn’t seen him. He turned up this evening. I am so glad he’s not on anyone’s plate, though I suppose that is his inevitable fate. It won’t be my plate, but that’s not much of a comfort. Unusually he did not come over to say hello. Maybe he has learned the horrid truth about human beings. He is just as handsome as ever, and, I think, quite a big bigger.

Mr Handsome and Friend having a paddle

Mr Handsome gets up while his lady friend remains in the water

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 31st August 2020

Another month comes to an end, and another season. When lockdown began I recall reading somewhere that we should still be coping with restrictions in September. It seemed an impossibly long time in the future, but here we are with September less than a day away.

I had a walk with B&J this afternoon. We chose quiet streets and they even risked going into the same shop where Celia broke her shopping fast. We were the only customers there. I’m wondering if a review saying how safe shielding people feel shopping there would be welcome. A double edged sword probably.

There were sunflowers to admire, some with bees and some without.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red sunflower, no bee

Red sunflower, with bee

Nature wasn’t the only thing that gave us things to admire. This Roma home called Deirdre attracted our attention.

Deirdre

I think this is the best Black Lives Matter sign I’ve seen.

Black Lives Matter

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th August 2020

The forecast when I looked on Saturday was for today to be warm and tomorrow cooler. Now tomorrow is going to be warm as well. I need to get home, so shall try to complete the journey after rush hour and before it gets too hot. First thing today I thought it was going to be a much cooler day than yesterday, but the sun soon burned off any hope of that. there was however a welcome breeze, so I took my walk before lunch, heading over to Burwell Fen. These pictures are from yesterday. I have managed to upload them, but the internet connection keeps dropping so I shall leave today’s until I am home.

Bullrushes

There was a horse tethered on a track parallel to te path. It had water but no company, no possibility of shade. I went to say hello to it. Its eyes and muzzle were plagued by flies. I waved them away, stroked its nose, spoke to it. It seemed defeated by its circumstances. I wanted to pull the tether and take the horse away, but where? In the end I sent a text to the RSPCA, but as it was bot in danger from traffic, had water and grazing, there was little hope anything could or would be done for it. Poor animal.

Please identify

The other animals I saw were wild, a muntjac deer trotting carefully through tall grasses, a bird, probably a kestrel, sitting on a gate, a goose, strangely solitary, enjoying a swim, ducks and swans.

The ridge path

While I was watching the deer, a man on his bike pulled up and watched it with me. There were lots of cyclists. I wished I had access to one here as well.

Greenery

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th August 2020

Fortunately this afternoon the breeze became stronger and the air in consequence fresher, free of the clinging humidity of the last two days.I put my book aside and went for a walk. There’s a ridge, I presume manmade, that protects the fields beyond from flooding, and it allows views across the flat farmland. This is fertile country and everywhere you look is green and growth. I took some pictures, but it seems the internet connection keeps dropping so I may not be able to upload them.

I haven’t seen the cows all day. Where are they? A moment ago I heard a cow mooing and looked up, hoping to see the herd in the field beyond the fence but nothing. The cow I heard was probably across the river. In the other direction there is another farm, or rather a farm house with a couple of fields. The last people to live there were very unfriendly and bred dogs which barked a great deal and which I used to pity. The current owners keep hens, horses, some rare breed sheep, and two llamas. I hadn’t noticed the llamas until this afternoon. I haven’t met the owners, but like their predecessors they have roped off a path which when I first came here people were free to use, so maybe they don’t want to meet the neighbours either.

I had a conversation with the Dan, son of the couple who own the marina, and another with a woman who has a boat here with her husband. Until now the woman and I have only smiled and said hello. Today we talked about Coronavirus and the uncertainty of the future. It was a similar story with Dan. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th August 2020

I am sitting at the back of the boat enjoying the very slight breeze around my neck and face.It’s been a hot day with temperatures above 35C. Not only hot but humid, so not a day for strenuous activity. I have done a fair amount of reading, drunk pints and pints of water, swept dead flying ants from the boat’s exterior and otherwise moved as little as possible. MasterB has slept in various positions and places around the boat. He had a walk after breakfast, his breakfast, not mine. While he ate I went to the shower block, and when I returned he was at the door. It was already warm, but no one else seemed to be up, so we had a pleasant stroll, both of us for different reasons watching the thrush with interest. We nearly had another stroll just now, but a boat entered the marina as MasterB was about to go ashore and he had a change of heart.

I had a conversation with Stuart as I was finishing my own breakfast and so decided to get out the battery charger and see if the battery could be revived. It turned out the fuse had gone in the charger, so I wasn’t able to carry out this plan until I had been to the shops. I forgot to take my mask, but fortunately had a small towel in the car which I tied round my face. It worked surprisingly well and was more comfortable than some of the masks I have bought. On the track from the marina a pine marten carrying a dead mouse in its mouth ran across the path. On the road there were numerous spilled beetroot. I stopped and gathered some up. Some beets have been mulched and are in piles in the fields. Their distinctive sweetly earthy smell hangs in the air, overpowering the leeks which are in neighbouring fields. Are mulched beets good fertiliser, or is there just a glut the farmers can’t sell?

I could have tried the engine earlier than I did, but MasterB was asleep near it and I didn’t want to upset him. He woke up and moved to a new location and I primed the engine for a minute, turned the key and it sprang to life. I’ve removed the charger and will try the engine again tomorrow to see if the battery has held the charge. Older Nephew and partner are coming here at the weekend, so when I leave I’ll leave it on trickle charge just in case.

The book I am reading is Homeland by Fernando Aramburu. It’s very well written and I am involved in the story, but worrying that the person who lent it to me will want it back before I have finished it. It’s a our book group’s summer read and nearly 600 pages long. I am on page 133.

The ants started swarming again tonight and my heart sank. It was still over 30C and the prospect of sweltering inside the boat behind closed windows did not appeal. Fortunately it seems to have been a much less extensive occasion than yesterday, and they have all gone.

The sunset is spectacular. If the red sky at night saying is true, we are in for a glorious day tomorrow.

Red Sky at Nigh

Shepherd’s Delight

Behind me I can the swans nibbling at the weed. They are doing an excellent job. This morning the cows were in the field, and one cow was watching me. I slowly approached the fence talking to her. She came a bit nearer. I kept on talking to her. The flies were bothering her and she kept shaking her head to get them away from her eyes. She could do with one of those shields horses wear. The farmer doesn’t seem to have any water troughs for the cattle. They must have to drink from the river. The cow finally came right up to me and allowed me to stroke her face. Emboldened, others who had been watching started to walk towards us and soon there was a good crowd, including Mr Handsome who gently nudged his way through the others for a neck scratch and rub. Two young calves were watching, one shied away from me when I stretched out my hand, but the other, which was black with a white face, was braver and had a good sniff at my arm. It made me want to read The Secret Life of Cows all over again. Maybe I can suggest it for book group.

Stay safe. Keep well. Be kind.

The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th August 2020

The spiders will eat well tonight. There’s an ants’ nest near this mooring and tonight the exterior of das Boot and the neighbours’ boat is covered with winged ants expelled from the family home. I have closed the windows, cancelled all shore leave and am preparing to sweat it out. It is warm and muggy after a day of intermittent cloud and hot sunshine. Apart from a brief excursion to Reach to get onions and to check on the progress of the blackberries, I have been at the marina all day.

When I came here yesterday I was thinking of peace and quiet, rest and relaxation. This morning I realised I had a tight knot of anxiety in my chest. I poked at it, was it the unplanned but necessary expenditure for the boat? A mild reaction. Not that then. Was I worried about a possible workless future? A stronger reaction. Moving? Stronger still. So I spent much of the day trying to untangle my feelings. Not moving also brought a feeling of anxiety, so it was good that I had arranged to speak to my friend Nicola this evening. We have known each other for twenty-six years, we’ve witnessed each other go through difficult times, make difficult decisions. She has a few of her own to make right now too and one of them involves the possibility of moving.

I can’t say when we finished talking, she to attend her online meditation class, I to cook my supper, that my feelings of anxiety were wholly resolved but I did feel better, and my thoughts were clearer. I hope she felt the same way. It is astounding how much energy anxiety uses up. I imagine these flying ants aren’t feeling too zen either. Continue reading