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, 14th May 2021

When I was called to room ten and the staff member introduced herself as the skin oncology nurse my stomach did a little lurch. I have been doing a very good job of telling myself this appointment would be just to tell me everything was fine, or at worst that they wanted to check on it again in a while. Then I found out it might well have been, as the results only came through this morning.

So it was a melanoma. Not good, but not so bad either. It was in the early stages, they believe everything has been removed, but they will want to remove a larger area just in case. It sounded more inconvenient than anything else. The site is of course the same only bigger, so rest and minimal walking, certainly no cycling. I am going to be as fat as butter. More showering with clingfilm wrapped round my lower leg. Horrors. So I have just ordered one of those pricey limb protectors from Limbo. Is this a sign of a new direction in my retail habits? I remember when the attractions of Miss Selfridge palled in comparison to those of Blacks and Cotswold Outdoor, am I now going to be browsing the aisles of John Bell and Croyden on Wigmore Street or browsing surgical aids online when I want a shopping kicks?

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th April 2021

It’s our anniversary: ten years since I brought MasterB, then called Facebook, home. He was young, less than a year at a guess, infested with fleas. He didn’t want to be removed from the students who had rescued him from the mean streets of Brighton, and I didn’t want a timid cat who hid behind the curtain. It wasn’t the most promising start. But against the odds it has been a success. We are a team, cat and human. An already close team which has become closer in lockdown. Not that MasterB knows about the pandemic. But he has become very used to having me around most of the time, has realised that I generally have three meals each day, not the two he was formerly acquainted with, and he now wants three meals a day too. He has given me an emotional support of which he is quite unaware in this time. Watching him has brought me pleasure.

Ten years ago I didn’t really want him. Now I think he’s the best cat in the world.

But for our anniversary we were mainly apart. Gorgeous weather, with blue skies, sunshine and warmth. We have been getting used to blue skies, sunshine and cold cold winds. Celia and I set off to Stratford to walk The Line, a sculpture trail that starts north of the river then ends in Greenwich. The map on the app was rubbish. But the sun shone, we saw two herons in flight, and before we even started our walk Celia got a new strap for her Swatch in the Westfield Shopping Centre. There were serious shoppers. The queue outside Primark was lengthy. Shorter queues, but still impressive, outside shoe shops and mobile phone shops. If I were a shop owner I would be heaving a huge sigh of relief.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th December 2020

In the 2020 Christmas card writing challenge, Celia scooped gold in the local heat. I am claiming silver, and Helen downstairs was hoping for bronze, but she may have lost to Viv as there was a delivered-by-hand card from her when I got home. Maybe there’s another few categories; not only written but posted or popped through the recipients’ letterboxes. I have posted all those requiring stamps, sent or scheduled the ecards, but I thought I’d wait a week before delivering the ones by hand.

Also underway is the present wrapping. MasterB enjoys this. He particularly enjoys sitting on the wrapping paper and customising it with his claws. I see he has customised Charlie’s wrapped present too. I am learning to be sneaky, to wait until he is asleep under the bed, for a more productive wrapping session. I think I have bought all the gifts I need to buy. Gradually the list has got shorter as mutual agreements are made with friends that we shall bypass this particular ritual. These are mainly friends who live at a distance requiring trips to the post office for the dispatch of parcels. As the price of postage has gone up and up it was becoming as expensive as some of the gifts. The gifts have also gradually become more modest. At one point we seemed to be exchanging higher and higher costing presents. Nothing was said, but by some silent accord we have drawn back. Now it’s a book, a bar of good soap, a scented candle, a pretty notebook. Something on those lines.

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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

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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

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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

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