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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
A very short post tonight, but even so I am over the midnight hour and therefore into 12th June.
I have come back to London. I love the space I have in my flat after the very restricted space on das Boot, but am already thinking about when I shall return to the space of the fens. MasterB may think otherwise. He was delighted to be in the garden, even though both Romeo and Hartley were there. Continue reading
I am still disturbed by the conversation I had with with the man about George Floyd. He dismissed the killing saying it was no worse than any other murder, so why were people so upset. He said Floyd had been a criminal, that black men are killed by other black men and no one starts marching. The idea that a policeman, a white policeman, murdering a black man while his colleagues looked on and did nothing, did not seem to him to make the murder more significant. The fact that black men and women in both the US and the UK are more likely to be stopped by the police when going about their business did not trouble him. It reminded me of a sketch on Not the Nine O’Clock News. But it also made me wonder if this man has formed these views on his own, or if they have been shaped by what he is read or heard. On my visits to the Co-op I didn’t look at the newspapers’ front pages. Is this the line some editorials are taking? If so, it is deeply irresponsible, deeply divisive. We live in societies that value white lives over black ones, where we have a Prime Minister in this country who talks about picaninnies and watermelon smiles, then wonders why people of all colours take offence. The pandemic has shown how black and minority ethic groups have suffered most, not because they have less immunity, but because they are more exposed, are more often to live in poorer housing. The pandemic has laid bare the inequalities of our society we have been ignoring for years.
Is it any wonder a moment comes that ignites all the frustration? When people take to the streets to protest? The vast majority of the protests are peaceful. The bursts of violence and looting are the ones that get the most coverage. Easier to condemn such behaviour than look at the fundamental injustices in our democracy that have led to it.
During our constitutional walks in London Celia and I have spent time enjoying and admiring the new estate in Myatts Fields. The old estate was a warren, and a place dominated by gangs and violence. The new one is human scale, the design has been carefully thought out to encourage openness and interaction. Our neighbour Cynthia describes it as a piece of Scandinavia in south London. It’s all the more impressive as it was built after austerity began. The council must have taken the decision to pursue its plans despite budget cuts. Yet in the short term, building high rises would have seemed the sensible financial solution. Continue reading
Saturday but less shopping than usual. Rather nice actually, especially as there is definitely a more relaxed attitude to social distancing, so keeping away from the main road and the shops made sense. Last night I was kept awake but a thumping bass somewhere near. A party I reckon. Also much more noise from the streets, people talking, some shouting, police helicopters. I love that people are feeling safer, but I fear it’s all too premature. The weather is fabulous and of course people want to be out and enjoying themselves. Tomorrow the temperature is due to drop, so I hope that makes people stay indoors, stop and think a minute.
The other day I started wondering where my bus pass was. I haven’t used it for more than a month. I found it in my duffel coat pocket. It was like a trip down memory lane. When we were out yesterday, had there not been an open loo at Westminster I thought I might rush home by bus. Bizarrely although we are told avoid public transport it looks safe because we are avoiding it so buses are empty, rarely do you see more than two or three people on one. I couldn’t see a single passenger on a train that hurtled past us yesterday. It’s oxymoronic. If we started using them because they are empty and therefore safe, they become unsafe. But oh the temptation to take a train to the Surrey Hills and walk. Boots and backpack might be a bit of a give-away that travel was not essential. And then there would be the guilt.
Returning via parks and back streets from Elephant Sainsbury’s the only people I spoke to had dogs. I have noticed that if you smile at someone’s pet, that person smiles at you. Nice. Continue reading
Supper with Octavia tonight for the first time in a while, so some catching up on how the Grey Ninja coped, first with a house full of people at Octavia’s mother’s over Christmas, then the return home to the smells of three Labrador retrievers who had been there in her absence. Fine. She has come a long long way from the cat who needed to urinate over anything and everything to mark her presence and assert her right to be. For which Octavia must take the credit. The best thing you can give an animal is the feeling of safety, to establish trust which then, if you are lucky, leads too love. The Grey Ninja, and her ginger counterpart MasterB, have decided they are safe, they trust they love. Yes, I am blowing my own trumpet too, because I know Himself has confidence in me which I have earned. It’s not that different with humans.
Last week I clicked on an Instagram picture posted by Steve of https://outwardhounds.wordpress.com. It was of Miles, one of The Pack. The photo was in black and white, which was probably a clue. A clue I missed. Miles has died. Like Terry Jones, he has gone to meet his maker and join the choir invisible. I never met Miles, or Terry Jones, although for many years the latter lived not far from me, and I learned this week went to the boy’ grammar school in the town where later I went to the girls’, but I shed a tear for both dog and man. Both have enriched my life. Continue reading