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.
Glorious glorious weather for the first days of this week, though apparently on Friday it’s all change. We are now allowed to meet outside in groups of two households or up to eight people. When I was out and about today I’d say no one needed to be told twice.
However, thanks the marvel of Zoom, this evening I was chatting with people in Berlin, Vancouver and Berkeley, California, and was reminded that some people are heading into a stronger lockdown as we start thinking we’re free. It could all start up again. So I am not counting on being able to do anything yet.
A year on we know the ropes. What was strange last year is now familiar. It’s also different. In those heady days of the first lockdown we did not understand it would last so long. Like now, spring sprung and held us in a blossomed embrace. People rediscovered the joys of cycling as the streets emptied of cars. It was in some ways an adventure. If we were going to live a curtailed existence for a limited period of time we were going to find ways to enjoy it.
Census Day. I completed mine online, though now I rather regret not asking for a paper form. I have looked at old census returns in the course of research for my work, and also when digging into family history. There is something of a thrill at seeing a handwritten form, even if at times I have struggled to read it.
I waited until today to fill in my form. I understood that was the idea: a snapshot of the country on a particular day. But towards the end of last week I heard a number of people saying they had completed theirs already. I reread the letter today. It states that ‘all households should complete the census on Sunday 21 March 2021 or as soon as possible after.’ Nothing about completing it in advance, yet as people have completed it online on the government site that has evidently been permissible. It feels like cheating to me and quite takes away some of the romance, if I dare call it that, and the excitement. I know civil servants, functionaries will be able to read the census returns, but for the rest of us they are like burying a time capsule. They are only open to public readership after a hundred years.
I am fairly sure this is the first online one I have completed. Maybe even the ones completed by hand will simply be copied onto some form and the original destroyed. No signatures, no misspellings.
I am strangely tired, and I don’t think that has anything to do with the demands of the census. Maybe fresh air. I had a short walk with Michèle this morning when we caught up, and scoped out the availability of geranium plants for B&J. At the Nunhead Gardener (the branch we visited was at the upper end of the Walworth Road, very near the Elephant, though M had initially demurred thinking I was suggesting we walked to Nunhead), I bought some lemon thyme, and M treated herself to a couple of plants and fell in love with green candles. Green is her colour. I have always thought of blue and green as being mine, but I realise I am green amateur compared to M. It was sunny, though there was a cool wind, and in the shade slightly chilly. I was glad I had my warm scarf.
Just typed the heading of this post and wondered when one will start without those three words. I felt an unexpected surge of hope this morning about the future. Maybe it was the spring. Maybe the unexpected blue skies when rain had been forecast. Maybe it was a headline now forgotten.
Yesterday I received an unanticipated letter. I’m not going to say what it was, but it first puzzled me then unsettled me. I wasn’t sure of the protocol of how to respond, and I didn’t understand why it had been sent. My first reaction was that although it was an odd way to communicate with me, that wasn’t my problem. But as time wore on I wondered what the motivation had been and if I should be worried; if there was an implied threat. I told Celia about it and then B&J. I was confused and uncertain as to how I should respond. To be honest I still am. But as they say, a problem shared is a problem halved, and moral support counts for a lot.
I have been doing my physio exercises religiously. When I broke my right wrist I found the hand therapy class wonderful. I worked and worked at my exercises and was rewarded by almost complete use of my wrist. This recent break is not in the same league, thank goodness ,as the other one, so although I find myself gritting my teeth as I try to squeeze a ball, or bend my wrist up or down, I know that gradually these exercises will make a difference and restore the movement to what it was. I am trying beyond exercises to tread the fine line between being over protective and gungho. Gungho sometimes wins simply because I don’t think. Returning form a walk with Celia this afternoon we passed an empty children’s playground. Earlier we had seen another empty, and much more exciting one.
St David’s day. Appropriately I have daffodils, two bunches, two different varieties, in two separate vases. One vase is in the bedroom, the other in the living room. There may be more daffodils in the garden but I’ve not been out much since Friday.
Friday was glorious, warm and sunny as early April, and the weekend and today have continued in the same vein. B and I strolled down to Loughborough Junction admiring this and that on the way, until I realised our admiring, look-at-that-ing risked my late arrival for the appointment with my Covid vaccination, so the last few minutes were more a brisk walk.
It was all very streamlined. I was back outside in the sunshine with B in a few minutes. I had the Astra Zeneca vaccine. B was there in case I had a bad reaction. I so didn’t have a bad reaction we almost forgot that I might have done until we were nearly back.
So much good stuff today. I am quite excited. So it seems appropriate to have a Pointer Sisters moment now.
My friend Chris told me she and her partner have both had their first vaccinations. What? I was jealous. She told me to look online and see if I could book one. I was sceptical, but guess what? tomorrow I am booked in for the jab. Woohoo! B is going to be my vaccination buddy, so we shall walk the mean streets in February sunshine tomorrow morning. Is it going to be Pfizer? I don’t know. Watch this space.
A short walk today with Celia. We have both been busy with other things though the fine weather was calling at least one of us. It was hard to turn away, sit down at the computer and spend the hours inside. MasterB sunbathed on the sitting room carpet. But we had the consolation of yesterday’s walk which was a good one. We met in the middle of the afternoon and, at Celia’s suggestion, walked up to St James’ Park via Lambeth Bridge. We were obviously not the only people who thought it would be great place to go. For those of you who are unfamiliar with London, this is the park that flanks the Mall (pronounced to rhyme with gal) which leads up to Buckingham Palace. It’s a bird sanctuary, has has wonderful flowerbeds, crocuses in the grass, and wildish areas for the birds, bats, and whatever other creatures make their home there. I know there’s at least one fox.
The geese were convinced we must have something for them. They came over to us, talked to us eloquently and energetically, but to no avail. Our pockets were empty. A squirrel was even more determined and climbed up Celia’s leg. If I were a St James’ Park goose I would be muttering about the parakeets. Parvenus: loud, aggressive, confident, they were the ones most people were offering food to. I’m guessing if a goose tried emulating their behaviour and landing winsomely onto an outstretched hand it wouldn’t go down too well. Again there were signs asking people not to feed the wildlife. Ignored signs by and large. People had come armed with tubs of bird seed. The joy we humans get from feeding wildlife is fascinating to witness. A heron seemed to be following us. Then we realised it was watching someone else: a litter picker who when his work is done stays on to offer feed the birds. He offered us fish to give to the heron and Celia accepted without hesitation.
Oh my what a weekend of lovely weather. Spring pushing away the cold of winter, filling longer days with light and promise, and filling the parks with flowers and buds, and filling our heads with giddy thoughts of post lockdown socialising.
There have been hints that we may soon be allowed to meet up with friends. Hints that have been taken by some as permission to jump the gun. I really don’t want another lockdown when this one ends so I am torn. The feeling of excitement and anticipation that the rule of six might be restored is making my heart leap. Today I sat in the garden with Hartley on my knee and thought how much he’ll love it if our drinks and nibbles routine starts up again.
But I am moving too fast. Millions have had the vaccine but I haven’t. I don’t think it will be long now, but seeing groups of twenty somethings sitting in a circle on the grass yesterday, older people going maskless into shops, some people strolling in groups of three or four down the centre of the pavement worried me. Don’t get me wrong, in the same hours that I saw these things I also saw people standing patiently in socially distanced queues, people wearing masks o the street, assiduous application of hand gel inside shops. I should hate to have got this far Covid free only to succumb the virus in the next few weeks or months.
So fifty years since the UK switched from pounds, shillings and pence to decimal currency. It was my cousin Georgina’s birthday, so the date fixed in my memory. I don’t know if there were any commemorative events today. If there were, I missed them. Until that day your purse would be a history lesson with coins from Victoria’s reign onwards. We knew what the young Victoria looked like with the *bun* pennies, and then how her jawline dropped as the reign went on. As Elizabeth II has reigned throughout the last fifty years there are coins which show her ageing, but the idea of a coin with someone else’s head on it seems quite odd.
Tomorrow I have my appointment at the fracture clinic. I am excited to learn if my wrist is fractured or not. It probably won’t make much difference, if any, to the treatment I’ll receive, but anyway I am curious. I have been spreading the rumour that my fall was due to Celia shoving me. I’m not sure the two children I told that tale to this afternoon believed me, but they were very keen and interested in the metal in my right wrist. More interested I’d say than in anything else I have ever told them. There’s a moral in there somewhere.
A few months ago I had never tasted millet, this morning I pulled Foods for Health by James Hewitt, a book off the shelf that was Mother’s, and read this:
“‘Millet is rightfully the king of all cereals,’ says Dr Paavo Airola.”
Naturally I read on. I had looked on the internet, but although there were lots of sites which mentioned millet, none looked very reliable. Later I thought of trying the Vegan and Vegetarian Societies websites and they endorse Dr Airola. So.
Maybe I am turning into my mother. Oscar Wilde said that was a woman’s tragedy. Maybe. Or maybe I just grew up with a parent who was interested in nutrition and cooking and some of it rubbed off on me. So I am rather excited to learn about millet’s amazing properties, high in protein (though not as high as quinoa), low in starch, contains more iron than other grains, digests easily and does not cause flatulence (!); it contains lecithin, and if I had known it was gluten free when Mother was alive I might have added it to the meals I made for her as she had Coeliac disease, was gluten intolerant.
I’m sure there’ll be another ingredient I’ll go mad for in a while, but right now I am Millet Woman. My fifteen-year-old self would be disappointed in the way I have turned out.