The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th January 2020

Last night I took down the cards, the various decorations and the lights that I only have at Christmas. I have left the flamingo lights, one set of white lights in the hall, and I am still burning candles, though a reduced number. Then I turned on the television to watch the news. It wasn’t quite what I expected. Like much of the world I suspect, I was slack jawed in amazed disbelief at the scenes from Washington. It was like some dystopian film. A mob, really I cannot bring myself to dignify them by calling them protesters, swarming around, threatening, breaking and intimidating; braggarts, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, while inside the building elected representatives were told to reach for their gas masks. Trump, from the safety of the White House egged on his followers, repeating over and over the lies about the election being stolen from him, about voter fraud. It was fascism in action. Ugly, dangerous, deluded.

Where were the police? Apparently close by, the lights of their cars flashing, but as so many have commented already their softly softly approach was markedly different to the one they took against a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in the summer.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th November 2020

I’ve just finished watching another episode of the Brokenwood Mysteries, an episode I wanted to watch last night, but UKTV wouldn’t play, saying I needed an HDMI connection. I checked it out today, was pleased I had the said equipment in my random assortment of leads etc and thought I was good to go, only to discover no HDMI socket on the back of the television set.

A search inline suggested solutions, but as I read on they seemed less and less likely to succeed. I am a user of technology rather than someone who understands how it works. I gave up. The iPad wouldn’t play either giving me a thumbs down message when I tried to watch the programme (series 6, episode 4 if you’re interested, and actually even if you’re not). Fortunately the laptop was more compliant. I am mystified as to why suddenly the HDMI cable is needed when it hasn’t been before. A mystery I am unlikely to solve.

I am also unlikely to solve the mystery in Passenger to Frankfurt, an Agatha Christie novel I picked up. Unlikely because I don’t think I’ll be finishing it. It’s a book which makes me want to clean windows, wash floors, tidy cupboards. In other words, it fails to grip. I take it Ms Christie disapproved of trades unions, the Labour party, the Beatles and many other aspects of life in the sixties.

I have never been a big fan of her novels, although I enjoy the tv and film adaptations. She had a habit of withholding clues until Poirot did his great reveals which irritated me. So I thought her books fine to pass the time on a train ride, but that was about all.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th November 2020

I have been suffering from lockdown/coronavirus blues. So the fact that the end is in sight is a huge relief and mood lifter. Poor folk in tier 3 and people in Leicester in particular. Leicester has been in almost continuous lockdown for months. But bad though the lockdown blues are, I prefer them to the terrifying prospect of the virus rampaging through the population to ‘protect the economy’ as some argue, the MP for Romford, Andrew Rosindell being one. A compelling reason not to move to Romford if ever I heard one.

His interview on the tv news was a study in opinion over fact. Most statements were prefaced by the words “It seems to me..” and he clinched his ‘arguments’ by saying he had spoken to many of his constituents and they felt the measures were unnecessary and had gone too far. Even Boris Johnson, a man who cannot resist jollying up information with confusing imagery, scores higher on the talking sense scale than Rosindell. Not that it’s a high bar. The evidence is that countries who have taken controlling infection seriously have made the best economic recovery. It’s not a binary choice 0f letting people die or saving the economy, the two go hand in hand.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th October 2020

There are some advantages to being disconnected from the internet. I have no idea what Trump has said or done in the last few days, and Boris Johnson may have exploded for all I know. I nearly said or care, but some poor soul would doubtless have to clear up the mess and I doubt if it would be Patel, Gove or Cummings.

I took fright at the idea of a virtual tour of my home after reading the email from the company outsourced to do it. ‘Viewers will be able to see into every corner’ they said breezily, then some stuff about putting away works of art and personal things. Where? I wanted to ask. If there is a big store cupboard I haven’t found in thirty-four years of living here I should like to know about it. And what about the patches on the walls and the empty picture hooks, or holes where they have been? So it’s photos only. I am engaged in clearing away bits of paper and reorganising files. It is quite enjoyable, and a task I have been meaning to tackle for a while. I often move furniture around, and that is when the clear outs happen. This time I am moving furniture out. A chair has gone temporarily to Celia’s. Another is off to be reupholstered. B&J have taken in two of my boxes while my Great Aunt Eve’s bone china is also with Celia. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 14th October 2020

Each time I elect to write a new post I see the new block editor again and my heart sinks. I know readers can’t see it, but I do not find it an improvement at all. I still haven’t worked out where I need to go to choose the size of any picture I want to post. Anyway.

The Ginger Ninja calendar is with the printer and we are discussing the finer details. The price should be the same as last year unless I have miscalculated the VAT. I do need to check out the post costs though. But do register your interest if you have any, and I shall I put your name on the list. I am only having twenty printed this year. The printer called me today and said he thought I could sell far more. I said if he could find me a buyer ready to order hundreds I’d happily do it. Alas he couldn’t. I think MasterB may have a new fan, and maybe there will be an extra copy of his calendar finding its way into the printer’s home.

Tonight we have candles burning in our windows to remember H&J’s fathers, both of whom have died recently. It was H’s father’s funeral today. She says it went well with good music and memories. Usually we light candles in our windows for pets, and I was a bit cautious about suggesting it for a parent, but fortunately it didn’t offend. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th September 2020

A chipless evening last night, but one spent outside in the garden in a social gathering. Two social gatherings actually, each of three people, but from time to time we linked up and even shared olives. The curious fox came back. We decided collectively it’s a female. I still didn’t have my camera with me, but B took some photos which she may share. It was all very jolly, though as the light went it was a lot cooler.

For most of lockdown I found it impossible to concentrate well enough to sustain reading what I would classify as a good book. My attention kept wandering. I was ok with light reading, undemanding stuff, but something stopped me from losing myself in a book the way I usually do. So it’s good to be reading again. I attended my first book group by Zoom to discuss our summer long read, Homeland by Fernando Aramburu. I enjoyed the novel, but my reservations about Zoom as a medium for book group continue. Michèle wasn’t there, her computer won’t do Zoom, so it may have been that which left me feeling less than satisfied with the whole thing. I always enjoy book group more when she is there with her extensive knowledge of literature and her insights.

The next book is Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. I’ve only read ten pages and my first impression wasn’t favourable, not because of the quality of the writing, but she opens with an all too accurate description of a smear test, which is something most women do not anticipate with any enthusiasm. So that’s my fictional for the next while. I am reading another memoir, this one by Margaret Drabble, and my respect for her grows with every chapter. I read her novels a long time ago, and although I enjoyed them, I don’t remember anything about them other than the titles. This memoir has made me warm to Drabble. It is scholarly and never pompous. She comes across as an interested and interesting person, a kind person who is unshowy and reflective. Michèle, who knows her, says I should write to her to tell her I am enjoying the book. Maybe I shall. I also have Diary of a Teenage Naturalist which I bagged at the library the other day. I am guessing others will reserve it, so I should get a move on and read it. There was an extract in the Guardian some months ago and the writing was extraordinary. Luminous, and lyrical while also scientific. 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

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Books, glorious books

I am supposed to be reading Under the Wire by Iris Murdoch, and in fits and starts I am. It’s our book group choice for this month, and we meet again next week. I am just under halfway through and it’s a slim volume, so in theory there wouldn’t be any difficulty.

However, this week sees publication of Hilary Mantel’s new novel, the third and final part of her Thomas Cromwell trilogy. It began with Wolf Hall, continued with Bring up the Bodies, and concludes with The Mirror and the Light. The excerpts and reviews I have read confirm that this is going to be wonderful. Not even knowing how it all ends badly for Cromwell, a man who prior to reading Wolf Hall I thought of with an inward shudder, but who now, thanks to Mantel’s sympathetic, human portrayal, I feel a great sympathy, even affection for, will stop me from reading it.

I preordered my copy last May, but now it turns out I shall have two, as Celia and I have booked seats to hear Mantel on Friday at the RFH and our expensive tickets include a copy of the novel. In Under the Wire‘s favour, The Mirror and the Light is not a slim volume, and so I shall be unlikely to be tempted to carry it with me to and from work. But then Coronavirus is affecting my work. I haven’t caught it, but I am freelance and much of my work is with people from abroad. The cancellations are rolling in.

I returned another wonderful book to the library on Tuesday – Rose Elliot’s Complete Vegan. I have renewed it five times, but now finally ordered my own copy. I didn’t intend to borrow anything, but these two books caught my eye. I borrowed them both.

Front covers

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Christmas is Coming

Crumbs. We’re already a third of the way through December. Funny to think that tomorrow it’ll be two weeks since I left New Zealand for home. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago; in others I still feel in my head that I am there. A sort of bicultural existence. I think it’s called processing. Most days I find myself thinking about Lyn and Malcolm, about Nadia. Nadia and I exchanged a few WhatsApps about a book I gave her; Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. Nadia and I became friends when we attended the same mosaics class, but there is more than mosaics to our friendship. Nadia writes. One of these days I am going to be crowing about her novel, which will be published after she has edited it for the millionth time. OK I exaggerate, but the draft I read years ago was pretty polished in my opinion, and I am getting impatient too see it in Waterstome’s. We share an interest in literature. Good books inform our lives, improve our lives. There was a moment on the train into Wellington when I was telling her about the book group I belong to. Nadia has resisted book groups. Like me, she has felt they are not necessarily A Good Thing. I explained how our book group works, and told her it is particularly good when M, a respected novelist, attends.She is extremely knowledgeable, never patronising, and keeps us on task. Nadia’s eyes widened. It turned out that M is one of her favourite writers. If only she still lived in London she could join us. On the other hand, I shouldn’t have seen Wellington with her and through, to some extent, her eyes.

I am still percolating my New Zealand holiday. Odd things come to mind to be examined and considered from a distance in time and place. Nadia introduced me to a police drama series that one of her friends writes for. It’s called Brokenshaw. It’s dry, well written, funny, but not comical. I loved it. It turns out it’s on here too, on the Drama Channel, a channel I have never watched. So I settled down to enjoy an episode, only to find it was one I had seen in Wellington. It doesn’t seem I can watch others on catch up. Darn. Lyn and Malcolm like a programme called The Chase. It turns out that it’s a British programme, broadcast here on daytime tv. Since coming home I have seen several trailers for it. Funny I had never heard of it before visiting NZ. Continue reading

Of Margaret Atwood, the Arts, and Why Both are Vital

Margaret Atwood is often described as a difficult interviewee; an intimidating writer of great intellect who can be openly disdainful of a luckless interviewer. She doesn’t play the game, the game that most play when invited onto chat shows or whatever when they have something to promote. I can only think she likes Alan Yentob. He evidently likes her. The result was a fabulous interview broadcast on Monday night but only watched by me this evening.

I’m not sure how I came across Atwood. I know it was in the 80s, and it wasn’t because of The Handmaid’s Tale, though I read that later. I think it was probably that she was published by Virago. Feminism and feminist literature were (and still are) very important to me for a mixture of reasons, one of which being a relationship that fortunately ended with a man with whom I am now mystified why I spent more than five minutes. Make that seconds. Or nano-seconds. So authors published by Virago, or the Woman’s Press – motto: Steaming ahead! complete with a sketch of a steam iron – had a particular attraction. Continue reading