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.

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Guildford Cathedral

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd July 2020

Another day spent largely in front of the computer screen with the usual desire to walk away and outside into the sunshine. However, I think I made some progress, but tomorrow looks like I’ll be back in the same seat. Why does being at a computer make me drink so much water? I’ve had nearly three litres today and I’m not done by a long chalk.

Last night was lovely. It was a warm evening and perfect to be in Michèle’s garden. It’s small, and absolutely bursting with plants. The table is in the middle, so it’s a bit like being in a bower. The roses were my favourite.

Roses in Michèle’s garden

Pink seemed a theme, as well as lots of lovely shades of green.

Floral display, Michèle’s garden

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th July 2020

I woke up coughing while it was still dark. My own coughing entered my dreams and then propelled me from sleep. Lockdown may be easing but my first thoughts as I gulped water and then dug out a Strepsil were that I had succumbed to Covid 19. I wasn’t truly reassured until I woke to sunlight with no cough or any other symptoms.

A gorgeous day, but one where das Boot has been plagued by tiny flies. They are very annoying. I have a glass of wine and it has a coaster on top of it not underneath as I don’t want wine with drowned fly. I went to Soham, a town I have driven through but never stopped in. My first impressions were positive. An array of attractive buildings in the High Street, though closer inspection revealed they were mostly cafés and take aways. I wandered down a side street and realised there has been a lot of building in recent years. Not all the new homes are what I would describe as sympathetic. A glance in an estate agent’s window revealed the house prices were so far below those in London as to seem to belong to another planet. I read noticeboards and learned that the railway station which closed years ago is to reopen in 2022. As it is on a branch line I doubt if it will push house prices up enormously, but it was interesting. Briefly Soham featured on my Places I Could Move to if I Left London list. Briefly, because only one person said hello to me. It wasn’t exactly welcoming. I had gone there to see the church where Olaudah Equiano had married Susanna Cullen in 1792. Here it is, a rather wonderful Norman building.

St Andrew’s Soham

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The Coronavirus Diaries, le 14 juillet 2020

It seems only right to have some French in the heading tonight as, quiet though it is here on the fens, across France there will be feux d’artifice in front of crowds much thinner than usual.

This again will be a quick, short post. It is passed my bedtime, but the neighbours and I had a good old chat and then MasterB went ashore. I was there too at the other end of his lead. We were out for about and hour. There was a lot of sitting. Also a fair amount of grass eating which I hope is not followed in the small hours by fur ball production. Right now he is climbing behind me to look out at the night. Bats were flying about, lots of birdsong, and a bird of prey which may or may not have been an owl, but I’m going to hope it was. Earlier I saw a marsh harrier.
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