The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th October 2020

Unusually I am writing a post in the middle of the afternoon. I shall be going out shortly and then later meeting B&J for some socially distanced socialising outside. Which reminds me I need to put some Becks Blue in the fridge now.

Yesterday’s jaunt to Wivenhoe was both delightful and depressing. Delightful because each time I go there convinces me this is a place I could live. Depressing because the properties I looked at did not suit. I’ll do the depressing stuff first. I saw a very pretty cottage in a good location. As I had feared the living room was very small, but the garden was great, there were all sorts of quirky and interesting storage places, original features and cleverly adapted ones, but the real decider was the staircase which was vertiginous. The second property, also in a good location, in many ways suited me, but did not suit MasterB as there was a long balcony, but nowhere I could fit a catflap to give him access to the real outdoors. I haven’t completely ruled it out, but as it will probably be snapped up quickly it may rule me out. The third property was lovely, perfect in every way bar the location. It looked ok on the map but I tried the walk to the station and it was around twenty minutes. As my working day involves a lot of walking, the idea of struggling up the hill and into a housing estate in all weathers reduced my enthusiasm. It was also in a housing estate and I couldn’t see myself there.

Parts of Wivenhoe are surprisingly enthusiastic about hallowe’en. I mean it was 15th yesterday, so the decorations are going to be up for a while. I’m not a fan of hallowe’en, but I do like the neighbourhood witch sign. I think I’d keep that the year round.

A skull on the table

Continue reading

The Coronavirus diaries, 5th July 2020

When I was a child I had a friend called Marion. It’s her birthday today. It’s decades since we were in touch and I have no idea where she is, but tonight I find myself thinking about the treasure hunts we used to make around our gardens, and the winter afternoon her grandparents taught us to play clock patience and solitaire. So happy birthday Marion and thanks for the memories of our childhood friendship.

I shouldn’t have laughed when I saw this in the Observer today, but really I could no help myself. I sent the link to Octavia with a comment asking the lines of “who would have guessed?”. When I saw Celia this evening she had had a similar reaction when she heard the police on Radio 4. It was a cynical kind of laughter I know, but these are cynical times. The economy is evidently more important to the government than people’s health, so we get the green light to get pissed but track and trace is still ineffective and a vaccine is a distant dream. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th June 2020

Having established the London Camera Exchange had reopened I had planned to go there today. I have two cameras I no longer use, and although I attach great sentimental value to them, I really have no excuse for keeping them. I want to know what they might fetch. However, the footage of eager shoppers queuing rather dampened my enthusiasm for venturing to the West End. True, there’s no branch of Primark near the LCE, which seemed the goal for an astonishing number of young women, but I decided another day or two wouldn’t hurt. Unlike those who have spent lockdown clearing their cupboards, my cupboards remain alarmingly full. I have identified a few items and a small bag of very old clothes for textile recycling that will go to the charity shops when they reopen, and some kind neighbours are taking some defunct small electrical to the local big recycling facility for me tomorrow, but other than that no real change.

Mind I am not buying new stuff either. I really have enough stuff to last me my lifetime. Aunt used to talk about things seeing her out, I am starting to understand what she meant. I know people routinely change towels and whatnot, but my towels, which must now be in their teens, are still in good shape and show no obvious signs of wear. I am wearing a shirt today which I do not expect to last beyond the summer. I have a trio of such shirts. They are too worn to go for sale in the charity shop, so when they fall apart they’ll go in the textile recycling bag. The trousers I was wearing at the weekend are ones I think of as new, but they are in their fourth summer. This lack of need is welcome as I still don’t know if or when my income will return.

I suppose I am also surprised at the eagerness of people to shop when we have had warning after warning that there will be a recession the like of which we have never seen. I am not the only person facing an uncertain future. In my case, fear of debt makes a financial caution come into play. Part of the reason for my mental health day trip was to consider possible courses of action if my income does not return, because if it doesn’t, this might be the moment when I leave London and choose a life even simpler than the one I have now. It would be goodbye to das Boot, probably goodbye to the car. Lots to think about, but I feel as though I am doing something, not just waiting for disaster to overtake me. Views like these certainly made the prospect appealing. And with a protected garden MasterB could enjoy so much more freedom than he has now.

Boats at low tide

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th June 2020

I watched the news and there was footage of people queuing outside shops. Not the spread out queues of people in search of groceries we have become used to over the last weeks, but great long snaking queues of people wanting to buy handbags, to browse, maybe buy perfume. I felt like I was watching scenes from another planet. I have never understood the great allure of shopping anyway, but right now I can’t think of anything worse.

So it seems not everyone has (re)discovered a love of nature; not everyone has found themselves reassessing how they have lived their lives pre-pandemic and decided on a new course. I understand that the pressure to return to old habits is huge, but I didn’t think the return would be this fast. Another item on the news was, to me, more positive. It was about how more areas of more towns are to be given over to cyclists and pedestrians, with goods being delivered only between certain hours. That should help lower pollution in our streets.

Another hopeful item was the interview with Patrick Hutchinson and his companions. Hutchinson was photographed carrying a white counter protester, a member of the far right, to safety when things got nasty on Saturday. He is dignified, calm and coherent; a natural spokesman. I’d have preferred it if his companions weren’t all manspreading in their seats, but that was a minor distraction. Maybe we’ll still be living in a society which is crazy about shopping but starts to be more equal. And men will learn to sit with their knees closer together. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th June 2020

I am still thinking about George Floyd and all the issues his murder raises. Thank-you to the people who made such interesting comments. They have given me much to think about. So tonight I am going to let those thoughts percolate, and write about other things.

Jeckells, the firm who made the original upholstery covers, has been in touch and Mr Jeckell no less is going to come to das Boot so he can give me a quote on Thursday. Jeckells are a very well know firm, and I am expecting the quote to be high, so I was grateful to Stuart for giving me the name of someone else I have now contacted so I shall have prices to compare. If Jeckells can’t supply the same material as before, and I am guessing it won’t, then a cheaper source will be my preference. I have been wondering if Impala can be used on boats. Maybe the London Upholsterers are back at work and I can ask them.

Slowly slowly the ticks are growing on my to do list. Stuart is doing much of it – new light in the galley tonight and the opportunity for me to meet his lovely dog Rio. Rio sat on me and I sat on the grass. MasterB his from Stuart under the pillows. Rio is only nine months old so very much a puppy still. He spent quite a while studying the bees.

The ducks seem to have decided I am a dead loss as a food source, so maybe no more pictures like these.

Who’s that on the gunwale?

Listening to ducks above his head

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 5th May 2020

Today was a Shopping Day. I went to the big Sainsbury’s at Nine Elms by car with shopping lists for four households. Thats sounds more impressive than it was, as one of the households was mine, and the other three didn’t give me long long lists of things to get. But all together it made for a pretty full trolley. As usual I did a fair amount of muttering as I searched for unfamiliar items, and had to send messages asking about alternatives to specific things requested. Some got the thumbs up, some didn’t. There is still a total absence of Pears soap. They don’t even have the new fangled green one now. looking for a certain brand and flavour of rice cakes for a neighbour I found Sainsbury’s does corn cakes covered in dark chocolate. Straight into the trolley for me.

This shop has become my favourite during lockdown. It’s spacious, the staff are helpful, most customers observe the two mettre rule and I can get a a pack of fifteen bottles of Becks Blue, my low alcohol lager of choice, and carry it home in the car. Once the shopping is done the deliveries begin. I have become quite good at packing items for different households in separate bags as they sweep before me at the checkout. I arrange them by household on the belt, and it’s only if the assistant reaches for something that belongs in another group that it may go wrong.

B&J had the heaviest bag, but fortunately live just over the road, so I staggered across the street with that delivery straight away. Celia is down the road, so I put her shopping on top of Michèle’s in the bag on wheels and kept the whole thing cool while I stowed my own shopping, which included ice lollies, and ate a quick lunch.

All deliveries were complete by two. Then it was time to go through the bill and tell each household how much they owed me. You wouldn’t think doing the shopping could take up so much of the day, but it can, at least the way I do it. And ten thousand steps walked. I had a short to do list after that. All done. Tomorrow There’s more urgent things to see to. But tonight I want to watch the second half of Farnkenstein which is this week’s National Theatre free screening on YouTube. I don’t know if Jonny Lee Miller won awards for his portrayal of the monster, but he deserves to.

I didn’t go for a proper walk today, so these photos are from yesterday. It doesn’t matter how many times you pass the same house, walk the same street, visit the same park, there are always things you haven’t noticed before. Maybe you’ll enjoy one or two of these.

This bright door with matching nasturtiums made me smile.

Bright door


With matching nasturtiums

Nearby, this little train balanced on some railings.

Train on the railings

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th April 2020

When Celia and I were walking in a rainy Burgess Park this afternoon, a man walking towards us said, “Hello, my name is Corona Virus”. He was smiling, as if it were a joke, he didn’t stop, he just walked on. Celia and I looked at each other. I said something like “unfortunate name” and then, “why would anyone say that?” Under her umbrella, Celia shrugged.

Rain was forecast for today so it was hardly a surprise. It hadn’t started when I woke up, but the temperature had definitely dropped and the skies were that exhausted greyish white. Rather like someone who has been badly ill now I think of it. When the rain came it was serious. Your average London rain is a desultory drizzle or an intense shower that drenches you immediately and then stops. This was the real deal. I found it rather exotic after days and days of blue skies and sunshine.

My intention was start my tax return several months earlier than usual. I opened up a file, sorted out headings and stopped. You’d have thought a rainy day ideal for starting a tax return, but something in me was refusing. I read some of The Mirror and the Light, stripped the bed ready for when the rain stops and I do the weekly linen wash, finished Saturday’s Guardian. I bought a hard copy for the first time in weeks. The thin Guide was a startling reminder of how all entertainment venues are closed.

At eleven, I joined Celia and Charlie at the end of the square where we observed a minute’s silence for the key workers who have died in the UK so far during this pandemic. Celia had directed me while I was still drinking my morning coffee to John Crace’s piece in ten Guardian. She is kinder to/about Johnson than I am, and felt Crace had made the point while still respecting Johnson is recovering. Make up your own minds. You can read it herehere.

I used to merely despise Johnson. As Mayor of London he was a disaster. Now I loathe him. I didn’t want him to die when he fell ill, but I should like to see him retire and do something harmless. However his return to work, or rather the office, since work and Johnson are not well acquainted, was apparently desired by senior Tories who felt his charm was needed to get us, or at least the government, through this crisis. Johnson’s charm eludes me. He must have it or why would people vote for him? They certainly don’t vote for his coherent policies and strategic planning because he doesn’t have any. I suppose it’s like fox pee. Some people can smell it. Some people can’t. I can, and I infinitely prefer it to Johnson. I do however feel if he needs to convalesce he should be allowed to do so.

Anyway, that’s enough about him for the moment, or possibly for ever. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th April 2020

My cunning plan to get my loose covers washed and on the line and get a stock of fresh vegetables before the breakfast washing up was done was only partially successful. I can’t say how many others thought the fine weather a perfect opportunity to to freshen up the upholstery, but I can say an awful lot had decide to shop early. There were queues outside shops that aren’t opening until nine at half past eight. So I did the washing up and got the second batch of loose covers on the line.

Then I joined the queue outside M&S. My top requirements were baby spinach and daffodils. It is easter weekend. Any weekend where a bank holiday is attached always makes people react by buying enough to see out a siege. Coronavirus has intensified that to the power of n. I called B&J and celia from the queue. If this was how the weekend was going to play out I wanted this morning to be my only contact with shops. Unfortunately at that point I hadn’t taken stock of how little tonic water I have left to add to my real or non-alcoholic gin. That was a discovery I only made this evening. Ho hum.

The shop was fairly successful in that I got everything on their very short lists, and my daffodils. No spinach. Try at ten or ten thirty the nice man filling shelves suggested. He had already fetched daffodils from the store room for me. Somehow the idea of rejoining the queue mid-morning didn’t have a great appeal. Deliveries made, home again, daffs in the vase, I considered my option and decided to go to Sainsbury’s at the Elephant. I could avoid the main roads, cross through some green spaces, and if the queues were dire there I would at have least been for a walk.

I walked past what used to be a old boozer and which is n ow a self-consciously hip pub. A closed pub, as all our pubs are. And as with many of closed food and drink outlets now offering alternative services.

Proper wine

Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th April 2020

Beautiful weather today, and the barbecues have been going since lunchtime. Not chez IsobelandCat you understand. The one who does the cooking being vegan and not wild about barbecued veg, and the other, being a cat, has his own tinned food and weighed biscuits. It’s also been a lot louder. I am guessing some people are going to have bad headaches tomorrow.

Mind, having written that I realise it is not quite ten thirty and the music seems to be turned dow. There was disco coming from one address at half past one.

So maybe people have stayed home and been sensible. It’s so hard when the temperature rises and we throw open our windows properly for the first time this year to think there is a virus that can kill under our sunny skies. How do you explain to children that they have to stay in? Every muscle, every nerve, every instinct is telling us to get outside after a winter spent mainly indoors. My get of jail free card came in the shape of shopping for neighbours. It unfortunately does not also come with guaranteed immunity, and for the first time in days I had to ask someone to move away from me.

I queued outside M&S, all very orderly, then forgot to buy the milk B&J wanted, and managed to pay for the tomatoes twice on the self serve. I am hoping I can get a refund tomorrow. Celia wanted broccoli and there wasn’t any. I reminded her that Louisa who runs a local café which she has turned into afresh food shop for the duration had tweeted to say she had broccoli. Celia rang and placed an order. I thought I’d also check out what was available at the Farmer’s Market at Kennington Oval, behind St Mark’s church, so I took my bike and a rucksack. What I didn’t realise was that Celia had ordered more than broccoli. Louisa presented me with a crate. I didn’t have any bungees, but Lousia kindly offered to cycle with me to Celia’s with the crate on the capacious carrier she has on the front of her bike. My half kilo of new potatoes went into the rucksack.

I ditched the Kennington market plan and headed for Borough Market. Since breaking my wrist badly in a cycling accident six years ago i have become a nervous cyclist, and therefore a less than occasional one. Also my work often starts in one place and ends in another, cycling to work is no longer practical. But the roads are so much quieter have been itching to cycle, and my neighbourhood ride yesterday only whetted my appetite.
It was wonderful, liberating, to able to get so much further so much more quickly. It was like having wings.

My first impression was that the market was very quiet. There were the notices we have quickly become used to telling us to stay at home, to wash our hands, to keep our distance. Part of me longs to explore empty streets and take pictures, to witness and document. Another part of me hugs the safety of my home. That part wins.

Now familiar notices (2)

Now familiar notices (1)

Empty

Empty

Continue reading