The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th April 2020

There was a man sitting at a table outside a closed pub writing in a notebook. He had a can of beer in front of him. It brought a whole new meaning to BYO.

My bike ride today was to try to gee myself up. Some days I seem very lethargic. The hours pass and I do very little. I was thinking a lot about my friend Vicki in Melbourne. She emailed me to say her father had died. Not of coronavirus, at least she didn’t say so, and she did say the family had been able to spend time with him before he died. It’s so hard when you lose a parent. Given that happens to everybody we are unaccountably bad at looking after others when it happens to them. In many workplaces you are allowed one day off to attend the funeral of a close relative. One day. It’s ridiculous. It’s unkind. It’s dangerous. Would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who had just been bereaved? flown by a pilot who had had one day off when her mother died? I wouldn’t. You are vulnerable when you are bereaved, fragile. It’s like an altered state.

So fresh air on a noticeably cooler day than we have for some time sounded like what I needed. My goal was Westminster. I reckoned it would be quiet, which was what I wanted. The ride to St Thomas’ was uneventful, though one speeding driver of a 4×4 on a narrow road might have ended my existence had I not heard her coming and pulled over. Her shouted “sorry’ out of the window as she sped on did little to appease. I wonder if she observes social distancing. Probably not.

Opposite the hospital and right where I parked my bike was this sign.

Thank-you

I realise I did not include another photo yesterday from outside Guy’s Hospital.

Free to key workers

The windows of the school opposite the hospital were covered with children’s drawings, all of them to thank the NHS.

This outpouring of thanks is wonderful, and I should love to see it translated into greater investment in the NHS, better pay for NHS workers. But I fear that when we are over coronavirus it will be the rich who remain rich and the poor who become poorer. The rich are good at lobbying, and using influence to get what they want. That Philip Green and Richard Branson, neither of whom are UK taxpayers, expect the rest to bail them out while they keep their billions, says it all. Amazon must be making a fortune from coronavirus, all those deliveries. Does it contribute millions to the UK treasury? No. Tesco accepted a government hand out to pay its workers and then paid out more to its shareholders.

Some of my neighbours are saying that when this is over we shall all have learned what really matters and the world will change. I’d love them to be right, but I can’t see it. As China gets over the virus it’s a return to business as usual and the clean air people have enjoyed is already polluted.

I walked to Westminster Bridge and took another picture.

I ❤️ NHS

It was still very quiet, hardly any traffic other than buses and some cyclists. One or two people on foot. I could see hospital staff enjoying their breaks by the fountain where the geese swam. I walked onto the bridge. I was about halfway across when I saw around ten people coming towards me. I was surprised. They filed by. Then a group of cyclists who looked very much as though they were out together. I was more surprised.

But that was nothing. When I reached the far side of the bridge by the Palace of Westminster which I had expected to be deserted there were families and couples evidently doing a bit of serious sightseeing. I revised my plans and returned to my bike. I rode through Archbishop’s Park. I wish these signs were everywhere.

Keep Your Distance

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th April 2020

Up betimes, and the plants watered before the day warmed up. According to Celia this si the end of pur sunny spell, and having reached 26C the temperature is due to drop to 12C. Presumably that means there will be fewer people in the parks. After my experience yesterday I decided to return to the City for my constitutional today. I rode my bike as far as Guy’s Hospital, then left it to walk over London Bridge and up to Leadenhall Market. You never see Leadenhall Market like this. It’s busy during the week with City workers, busy at the weekend with visitors.

Empty Leadenhall

Equally empty Leadenhall

This shop window felt quite poignant. They must had had the Easter display up weeks ago.

Easter display

All Hallows Barking by the Tower looked very fine. It’s a church that survived the Great Fire, and Pepys knew it. The year before the Great Fire there was the Great Plague. People have drawn parallels between then and our current situation. We owe much of our understanding of those events to Pepys and his fellow diarist Evelyn. If WordPress is still going in for hundred years time, maybe scholars will be picking over this and other online diaries.

All Hallows Barking by the Tower

The Tower itself was quiet.

Quiet Tower

Obviously it’s closed to visitors. When Celia and I ventured into the City two weeks ago there was hardly anyone about. There were more today, mainly cyclists, perhaps like myself opting to take their exercise somewhere other than a crowded park. Strangely I met one of my regular clients there. We chatted and I told her about my podcasts. I hope she’s going to listen. I was surprised to see two Yeoman Warders in their work uniforms by the closed gate. I had a chat with one of them. It turns out he’d love to visit the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. Do it, I advised, it’s excellent.

Yeoman Warder

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C is for Coventry

Regular readers of this page will know that I love Coventry. Celia and I visited on Friday. She hasn’t been there since her teens, so her memories were hazy. My enthusiasm for the place had, I hope, inspired her, but it was mainly because we had seen and enjoyed Where Light Falls, in London, and knew there was a sister event in Coventry,  that we got our acts together and bought train tickets.

I am evangelical about Coventry since it entered my consciousness a a few short years ago, thanks to Sarah Moss’ wonderful novel, The Tidal Zone. Why the city isn’t more widely celebrated I don’t know. I somehow doubt it is in the top ten places visitors to the UK have on their Must See lists. That may of course change in 2021 when it becomes the City of Culture.

Power Up Coventry

The light show was not due to start until five in the evening, but we arrived shortly after eleven in the morning. Somehow, I imagined we’d have loads of the to explore.

Our first goal was the Pod Café which I had read about in a magazine called Be Kind I picked up at VegFest in September. We strode through the town, knowing that on Fridays the Pod closed early. I fully expected that we would be back, meandering and wandering the area near the station before we went home. But the day flew by.

The Pod was great. There was only one choice for lunch so we had that; a vegan pancake stuffed with a variety of vegetables and spices. delicious. I had a hot chocolate made with almond milk and Celia had a latte made with another milk alternative. We browsed the bookshelves; admired the pottery; agreed with the board that talked about the importance of mothers.

The Pod Shelves

The Pod Bookshelf

The Pod – Lunch

Mothering

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Cemetery Days

Imposing


London is almost fifty per cent green, an astounding statistic for a city that is home to some nine million people (or the metropolitan élite if you prefer). we have an abundance of parks, small public gardens, private gardens, churchyards and cemeteries. The cemetery Celia and I visited on Sunday was not one of the Magnificent Seven. It was Camberwell New Cemetery. Situated next door to Camberwell Old Cemetery. Since generations of my father’s side of the family lived in Camberwell, I half expected to spot the name of one of my ancestors on a grave stone.

I didn’t.

But I did see a lot of graves. Hardly surprising. There are obviously fashions in monumental masonry as in everything else. When I was making arrangements for Aunt’s headstone I wanted something made from local stone. I was thrilled to find the monumental mason was of the same mind, and we spent a happy quarter of an hour agreeing that black marble headstones are an abomination in this country. Evidently not everyone shares our sensibilities. But despite the fact that I was supposed to be looking at plants, I couldn’t help but wonder what the story was behind this grave with its VW ornament.

Camper Van Grave

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A Walk in the Cemetery

I like a cemetery, so when Celia provided me with the excuse to leave my chores and go out to one on a beautiful autumn afternoon I wasn’t going to say no.

We were headed for a plant identification walk. Admittedly I thought it was going to be fungi, and planned to photograph it, leaving the identification to others. Most of the plants held up to the surprisingly large group were tiny, and my attention and photography soon turned in other directions. Celia remained at the front, looking keen. I hoped she’d enlighten me later.

It was warm and sunny when the walk began. Walk is rather an overblown word for the gentle stroll, though the uneven terrain at times could have turned an ankle, and long wet grass played havoc with my less than waterproof shoes.

However, it was the trees and the graves that really got my attention. Actually not just the graves, but people’s names. I have never heard of anyone called Nind before. It could make a rather nice gender neutral first name. Better, in my view, than Farqueson which one person had been saddled with. Imagine trying to get your tongue round that as a toddler. I called myself Ogg. Most small children call me a variation of Lisobel.

I spotted this grave from a distance and broke ranks to take a closer look.

Clifford

Poor Clifford. I hope his parents’ derived some comfort from this sculpture, though it doesn’t look a lot like his photo.

We veered off into a strange little area almost, it seemed, devoid of graves. I happened to be beside one of the cemetery’s Friends, and she explained this was for public graves. I raised my eyebrows in enquiry. Graves where you can have only a very small marker stone, or none at all; cheaper. Like a green burial! I exclaimed, that’s what I want. Untended graves and gravestones get cleared aside, and after one hundred years the grave is reused. Discarded marker stones made a strange sight.

Mary

Jumbled

Another Mary

This grave dates from 1934, but the inked details suggest someone is still remembering.

Remembered

I found these more poignant than some Celia and I saw when we explored further after the plant identification had come to an end. We wondered at first if this was a famous boxer of whom we had never heard,

The Boxer


But when we found this one, we concluded it was a way of recording something the departed was fond of.

Footballer

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Captain’s Log 4th October 2018

The forecast for today was good, so when I woke up to a morning where the thick mist muted the birdsong, I assumed it would burn off in an hour or so and the sun would shine down on das Boot. Breakfast, shower, washing up all accomplished and still no sun, MasterB had retreated to under the rug in the forecabin, placed on the seating to protect the upholstery from cats’ claws. So I kept my layers on, turned on the car heater and set off on my travels.
Nial and Jan met me at the cemetery. We were all armed with gardening tools, and I had a selection of bulbs. The chrysanthemum I had planted on my father’s grave had vanished, but at Aunt’s more extensive plot (Dad was cremated, so it’s just a small marker stone showing where his ashes were buried) we were pleasantly surprised to find quite a few plants were flourishing. So many in fact that quite a few of the bulbs will be coming back to London with me, even after planting a clutch of them on Dad’s grave.
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Captain’s Log 3rd October 2018

I am at das Boot with the First Mate (MasterB has been promoted). We are both  in the rear cabin, I’m on the director’s chair looking out at the quiet marina, MasterB is purring on the pink fleecy blanket at the end of the bed.

In the field beside us the calves are grazing with their mothers. I got off to photograph some of them. They are so very pretty. One or two were curious but shy. I like to think their mothers recognise me as the woman who uproots sticky weed from my side of the barbed wire fence to give them. Certainly they seem unconcerned by my presence, and do nothing to warn their calves not to speak to me.


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New Calendar, Feeling Better, and Heading Boatwards

It was around supper time last night when I realised the lurgy was leaving me and health once more was returning. Today, if not completely rebooted, my energy levels are up and I’ve cracking through my to do list. So the Walworth falafels are prepared. some are in the freezer, some are cooked and cooling down, ready to go in the car tomorrow when the plan is to head to das Boot. The forecast isn’t all that, but I’ve said no to work at this end of the week, and Older Nephew is able to join me for a day and return my keys.

High up on the to do list is MasterB’s 2019 calendar. It always takes far longer than I anticipate. I’ve made PDFs of two versions so far, but there has been a lot of swapping of photos, and I’ve sent copies to two people for their constructive criticism. A few days break from it will probably be a good thing.

I caught up with Celia this morning and we had a constitutional over to the Old Kent Road so I could recycle my electric blanket at the municipal site. Gentrification has not yet caught up with most of the Old Kent Road, which is the eastern boundary of Sunny Walworth, and it is dominated by large business properties designed more for practicality than aesthetics.

Still, there are gems in between. The Livesey, once a library, then a museum, now a place for children who cannot for one reason or another attend main stream school, is one of them. The Royal London Friendly Society building is another, though at ground floor level it is an ugly display of corporate bookmaking. Neither Celia nor I knew what the RLFS was, but thankfully the internet has enlightened at least one of us. If you want to be similarly enlightened, click here.

There’s a building that has a municipal air which houses a church. There are many churches of various hues along the Old Kent Road. This one has a very fine artwork on the outside giving a pictorial history of the area. the Romans, Chaucer’s pilgrims, Henry V all feature.

Chaucer’s pilgrims

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No Wiser

It was hot today, with very little breeze. The streets were hot, the air was hot, the buses were baking. I was only working in the morning, and fortunately in a fairly cool (in all senses of the word) building so tucked my little TG3 into my bag and when I finished working trekked off to the West End and the camera shop where I bought it four years ago. I’m not going to name and shame that shop, but after today, it is not likely to receive more custom from me. I shall return to the London Camera Exchange on the Strand.

I’m not being entirely fair I know, but I was disappointed in the whole thing.

So. I trotted into the shop and was met with smiles. I got the camera out of my bag and explained that I was trying to work out what the problem was: a battery that had run its course; a poor connection with the charger; something more serious. I also explained that when plugged into the charger it lit up as though charging but didn’t.

I was therefore somewhat disappointed when the assistant plugged the camera into the charger and turned to me with a slightly triumphant look when the orange light comes on.

I was blunt, there’s no other way to describe it, but it was a long time since breakfast and I was hoping to get this sorted and have some lunch soon. “That proves nothing,” I said, “it’s doing what I told you, but either the battery isn’t charging or the problem lies somewhere else.” He looked more irritated than crestfallen. This continued as he searched for a charger case that the battery would sit in. “I didn’t get one of those with this camera,” I said, channeling Job quite successfully, “there was only the lead.” His irritation was now apparent.

I made an effort. “Do you have a charged battery we can put into the camera to see if it works, as if you do we can isolate that the problem is with the battery or the charger rather than the camera itself.”

He told me he couldn’t unwrap a new battery unless I was going to buy it. My smile became more fixed. “How about taking a charged battery out of the display camera?” I suggested, through not-quite-gritted-teeth. Continue reading

Oh Olympus TG3, Thou Art Sick

MasterB is fully recovered from his anaesthetic, and the fur on his throat is beginning to grow back.

Bare throat

He’s not so keen on the return of the hot weather. We enjoyed two days of lower temperatures and I assumed wrongly that summer would resume a more reasonable temperate course. The humidity builds up, and you think there’s going to be a storm, but then the winds come along and blow the humidity away leaving us with more temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s. Too hot for central London, and a country where we are ill equipped for extremes of weather.

I am starting to fantasise about rain; proper rain, though a good long shower to soak the earth and freshen the air would do. We haven’t had rain here since 28th May. And it would be really nice to have day off from watering the plants.

Guarding a watering can

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