The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th July 2021

I can’t say I am comforted by the news about the numbers of people contracting Covid in the U.K.. Right now it seems Northern Ireland has the highest number of cases per capita. That said, I feel very safe here in the country. The rain came as promised today. My shoes are not waterproof, so the dogs had to make do with a game of football in the garden. They are keener on possession than passing, so we had two footballs, two games really. Westie Boy became rather excited, maybe it was the joy of having had his stitches removed. He grabbed my jeans when I moved to play with Poppy, something he has never done before. We played until the next shower and then came in. The vet was impressed with the striped pyjamas Westie Boy is wearing to keep his healing wounds clean. She said he should continue wearing them. Right now he is asleep on a cushion beside me. I am not keen on dressing up cats and dogs, but I have to admit he looks very sweet, and he certainly isn’t bothered by them. Nor does he look like a dog who would actively ran after a bigger dog to pick a fight. Appearances can be deceptive.

Cousin decided I should have a fire, so she lit the wood burning stove, and for much of today I have been feeding it, then retreating to the sofa to watch yet another episode of Baptiste, a series Cousin has got me hooked on. I have the window open, but it’s all rather a contrast with the hot weather of just two days ago. Poppy’s walks have been going well, and Westie Boy has now been given leave to join us. But it was when I was with Poppy alone a few nights ago that I saw the badgers. There were three of them, playing in the driveway leading up to a neighbours house. I think they were probably young. I have looked for them each time I have passed the house since, but no sign.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th July 2021

One of the dogs has lots of stitches, the other has put on so much weight since I was here two years ago she looks like a sideboard. You could lay an array of dishes on her back, it’s now so broad.

It’s Westie Boy who has been in the wars. He feels very sorry for himself, but before you start feeling sorry for him too, it was all his fault. He rushed out of the garden a week ago to assault a large dog he has taken a dislike to and came off worst. Apparently the two dogs have been eyeing each other with some hostility for some time, but usually there’s a barrier between them. Westie Boy can’t currently wear a harness or a collar so no walking for him for the moment.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th May 2021

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?

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th May 2021

I’m guessing quite a few of the readers of this page have also read about Dominic Cummings performance where he dished the dirt on Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson among others, admitted he lied, and confirmed much of what we already knew or suspected, that this government is rotten to the core. I find it bizarre that so many reporters refer to Cummings as Dom, as though he is their best mate. Dom and Boris, two first name first class shits, a double act from hell. I’m not sure which was more disgusting, Cummings dishing the dirt as though he believes he is now a knight in shining armour, or backbench Tories smirking and sniggering when Keir Starmer questioned Boris Johnson during PMQs about the tens of thousands of avoidable deaths caused by the casual incompetence of said Johnson and his pals of yes men in cabinet. Actually the most disgusting thing is the way this will slide off our Teflon coated PM like so many other things which have should have sunk him and people will continue to vote for him. I saw a headline in one of the red tops, I think it was the Express, on the lines of ‘ok the government made mistakes, but the Cummings’ show was pure revenge’, as though we should feel sorry for our sorry mess of a government and simply spurn Cummings. Spurn the lot of them. and check what is going into our drinking water while you’re at it. Something surely must be going on to make the public so supine and apathetic.

Other things. On Wednesday at the hospital I had the dressing on my leg changed. The wound was cleaned, examined, and acquired semi celebrity status. I’m half expecting it to be invited into Graham Norton’s show, my healing wound with me as chaperone. The nurse, Caroline this time, originally from Jamaica, fetched Sergei, the surgeon, so he could examine his handiwork. He was pleased. He summoned his boss, whose name I did not catch, who was also pleased. there was a lot of smiling and nodding. Then the chief nurse popped in, more approval, more smiling, more nodding.

Then they all left and Caroline got on with the job in hand, or on leg if you prefer. I think it’s going to be a fairly impressive scar and there are bunches of skin at either end so my leg she will be different. I’m not sure who is more keen to see this scar, me or Celia, We are expecting it to be the twin of Celia’s scar as she had a melanoma removed a decade ago from the same place on her left leg. Snaps! Last week I had promised Sergei and nurse Sonia my business card after we had bonded over our cats. So it was natural that the pet conversation continued with Caroline. I learned all about her dog Fluffy, how much she had loved him, how he had been beaten to death by burglars who broke into their home, how she had never been able to bring herself to have another pet because it felt like a betrayal of Fluffy. How long ago was this? I asked, expecting this death to have occurred in the last ten years or so. But no, she had been a teenager at the time, and Fluffy had been her close companion. MasterB features on one of my business cards, so I gave her that one. Oh, she said, her eyes widening and her mouth curving into a smile, he’s beautiful. Maybe she’s one step closer to giving a needy animal a home where it will be loved.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th April 2021

Saturday night but I am not at the movies. I have been working at my computer and feeling virtuous. Some more to do on this particular project tomorrow, but then it should be good to go.

After warm days and sitting in the parks, the weather is cold. So cold that I thought for a moment it was snowing today. Not quite true. My thought when I saw white flakes swirling outside my window was it wasn’t cold enough for snow. I was right. The white flakes were petals from the hawthorn trees in the road.

MasterB is on the sofa beside me, curled up with his eyes closed, but there is something about his posture that suggests he is not entirely happy. I may be projecting. He has just had an encounter with Hartley outside. I should say at once that no paws were raised, and Hartley looked quite confused at coming face to face (twice) with His Gingerness. The first time, they were either side of the garden gate. MasterB strolled along the pavement, caught sight of Hartley and shrank back, flattening his ears against his head. But he didn’t run away. I was between the two of them on MasterB’s side of the gate. I made to rub Hartley’s nose through the bars, trying to demonstrate to my boy that Hartley was not being aggressive. Hartley obligingly rolled over on his back at once, then, when I went to open the gate, skipped gaily into the garden; an invitation for me to follow. Against his will, but to keep him safe as a van was coming along the street, I popped MasterB into the garden and followed Hartley round the corner.

He led me to the bench. Of course he did. As I said, it was cold. I had been expecting MasterB to go into the garden and that I would return immediately to the warmth of the flat. I was not wearing a coat. Still, I know where my duty lies. So I sat down and cuddled Hartley for a few minutes to comfort him and give MasterB the opportunity to have an alfresco pee, find himself a concealed spot in the bushes, or head over the wall to neighbouring gardens. But it was cold, so soon I stood up. Hartley reached out a paw and tapped me on the leg; a gentle message that he would like more.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th December 2020

It’s been a day of seesawing emotions. We went into a new tier, tier four, at midnight, with only a few hours notice. I can understand why, and it wasn’t exactly unexpected, but it was still a blow. Work I was due to do this morning was cancelled. All work for the immediate future and for goodness knows how much longer cancelled. Meeting friends outside for a chat, a drink, nibbles over Christmas, cancelled. Life cancelled. That’s over dramatic, but having obeyed the rules, worked out how to socialise distantly and safely, I cannot pretend I was able to just shrug my shoulders and accept this stoically. But this morning, with the sun shining, I felt a determination to find my way through.

I was doing pretty well I thought. Until a letter from Secret World set me off. I was only a few sentences in and my eyes filled with tears. As for so many charities this year has been a hard one for them. Come the new year and the horror that is Brexit, combined with the horror which is Covid, the charities will struggle more, the objects of their charity will go unaided; children, animals, you name it. The world seems a harsh unhopeful place. I know I am writing this, thinking this, through the added prism of tier four and the prospect of weeks, months maybe, of life suspended, but we know the levels of domestic violence, of abuse, have soared during the pandemic, with victims unable to escape their abusers, and the new restrictions are simply going to make that worse.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd December 2020

I cannot say how good it feels to be out of lockdown, to be able to meet friends outside in the cold, to drink Prosecco and eat chips in their company while wrapped up in numerous layers, each of us cuddling a hot water bottle on a dark December evening. It feels good enough to have survived a day of almost constant rain which I have spent largely indoors, working at some notes, sitting at the table. It’s not raining now and MasterB has gone outside, so I am writing this before I fetch him in and we make tracks for bed. I didn’t watch the news tonight and I have hardly looked at Twitter, so am not rolling my eyes at ridiculous claims by members of the government regarding the vaccine and Brexit. Playground stuff, and playground stuff of which we have had four years. It gets draining listening to the nonsense and then hearing it repeated in the sycophantic portions of the press. Enough.

I watched Twelve Puppies and Us. Delightful. I want to know if the St Bernard succeeds as a companion dog to the little boy living with cerebral palsy and no speech. I want to know if the two spaniels learn to love each other, if Leia continues to be the apple of her family’s eye.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th September 2020

It’s hard to believe that two days ago we were enjoying warm sunshine. Today the temperature suddenly dropped mid afternoon and tonight I have put on an extra layer and started thinking about making soups. I’m watching the Grayson Perry programme. The first was on last night and I watched it earlier this evening on catch up, but I see the other programmes in the series are also available, so when I finish writing this I am going to settle back and watch the second one.

He made the programmes last year, travelling to different parts of the US by motorbike. The episode I have seen was about his visit to Atlanta and the main focus was on race. He’s a good listener. Maybe he has learned from his psychotherapist wife Philippa, and he says back to people what he has understood them to be saying which allows for further clarity if he has got it wrong. There was a performance poet whose name I didn’t get, but whose work I should like to know more of. Some of the conversations have a greater urgency about them now due to events this year – George Floyd’s killing, the BLM protests, the news today about the acquittal of the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Trump’s intention to replace her with a judge who supports him, the increasing threats by Trump to disrupt democracy at the election. Continue reading

The Coronavirus diaries, 30th July 2020

Gosh I was thirsty by the time I reached home. I had finished my bottle of water thirty minutes into an hour long train ride, then there was another half an hour before I walked through the front door. The bus fortunately came quickly or it could have been longer. I drank a litre of water, glass after glass. I am back on the water now, though I did have some grapefruit juice too. The train was very warm (it’s a warm day and although the train this morning was air conditioned, this evening’s was older rolling stock and the breeze through the window didn’t seem to do a lot. Wearing a mask didn’t help. I really don’t understand how women wear hijabs and niqabs and still manage to look cool, comfortable and even elegant. Don’t get me started on how hot a burkah must be.

I spent a happy couple of hours in Colchester. There are two stations at either end of the town. One called Colchester, which is fairly self explanatory, the other Colchester Town. That one used to be called St Botolph’s as a church dedicated to the Lincolnshire saint stands close by.

St Botolph’s tower

Last time I arrived at the latter station. This time the former. The first couple of hundred yards of my walk into town did not impress. Then I noticed plaques in the pavement giving snippets of information and history. I found the first one just after gazing across the road at this building.

The Railway Mission

Information plaque: Railway Mission

So I trailed happily up the hill reading plaques and dodging other pedestrians. I soon began to recognise sights I had seen before, and to appreciate again what a hotbed of history Colchester is. It’s main claim to fame is that it was the first Roman capital of Britain. But it also has fine Saxon buildings, including Holy Trinity church, a Norman castle, Georgian arcades, and a a whole array of structures to please the most exacting eye.

Holy Trinity tower

But I admit today I was more focused on the shopping. If I were to move to Wivenhoe Colchester would be the nearest large town. Did it have places I could buy the jars of tahini, the olives, the fresh tofu that I’d want. In short, yes. So thumbs up. It also has a large Marks and Spencer, every chain store of note and a host of eating places and open spaces. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th June 2020

Just a few photos tonight from the boat. I have not been in great spirits today, and I’m going to have an early night and hope that dos the trick. Michèle thinks the period we are now is putting us all under great strain, with lockdown easing but not over, the prospect of an imminent recession of biblical proportions, a future which seems precarious. She’s right I think. Lockdown is ending not with a bang but a whimper and the messages are very confused. I can hope that it’s this strain which is making my bossy neighbour behave as she does, it is probably what is amplifying my anxieties in response; feeling trapped, not sure in which direction we are headed. I shall be glad to get back to the boat next week to take delivery of my repaired seating cushion and find a balm in nature.

MasterB will be able to renew his acquaintance with the ducks.

Who’s that on the gunwale?

Listening to ducks above his head

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