The Coronavirus Diaries, 6th September 2020

Last night we had a social gathering in the garden here. By we, I mean B&J, H&J, Celia and Charlie. Hartley and Romeo naturally assumed they were invited too, and a young fox gatecrashed, at one point running off with a bag I had used to bring the olives etc outside, and my iPhone fell to the floor.

We had chips. Not the cats, and not the fox either. Chips in the garden are somehow wonderful. And they work very well instead of nibbles. Celia has investigated a newish chip shop we noticed during lockdown and gives it a good report. I shall find out if they deliver. If we are allowed to socialise this Christmas in each others’ homes I think it will be drinks and chips in at least two of them.

The young fox was very sweet, watching us with hopeful, curious eyes, close to us but far enough away for his safety. He’s not tame, which is just as well. He decided to approach Hartley and got a hiss for his pains. I think he’s the one I saw the other night waiting for the cats to finish eating so that he could have any leftovers.

This afternoon I went for a walk on my own. Celia had been swimming and that was enough exercise for her. I ended up in Ruskin Park and the streets to the west of it. It reminded me of lockdown, as this was a favourite destination when the highlight of each day was our permitted walk. The park is at Denmark Hill and the views across to the City and Westminster are great. Local residents stand at the top of the hill, south of the park to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Looking towards Westminster

Looking towards the City

On one of the trees beside the pond I found this notice. There didn’t seem to be any others. It’s probably true, but I was a bit puzzled by it.

Birkenstocks

I love the streets to the west of Ruskin Park. This afternoon they were very quiet which enhanced the lockdown feeling. We are used to seeing fake flowers decorating shops and restaurants. It’s become something of a tend the last year or so. But this is the first time I have seen a private house given the same treatment.

Unusual

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th August 2020

More sunshine today so I was glad I had the excuse to be out and about. A bag of books (and one jigsaw) went to the Oxfam Bookshop in Westminster, then off to the City where I wanted to check something out. Lots of opportunity to walk on sunny streets.

If I do move from London I should miss walking around the capital I think. There is so much variety, and living as I do fairly near the centre, places like the Cities of Westminster and London are in easy reach. Then there was the walk to Camberwell and the pub with Cynthia the there night. From which it might sound as though I have decided to stay put, but in fact it’s still possible I may up sticks. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 31st July-1st August

Yesterday was hot, and the evening was designed for sitting outside. Hence no post. I joined Celia and Charlie in their garden and we had pre dinner gin and tonics. Very civilised. Then they went inside to eat a fish pie and I came home for my chickpea scramble. Celia had suggested I return to sit in the garden with her and drink some wine after dinner. It sounded like a good plan. In the street two households were sitting on their steps and on garden chairs, chatting and drinking. They started doing this in lockdown, and it’s become a weekend fixture.

By the time I had eaten my dinner and washed up the light was fading. Celia and I sat in the gathering gloom. It was balmy. After a day where tasks including shopping required wearing a mask while that became increasingly uncomfortable in the heat, it was very good to feel air on my skin. Particularly on my chin which I fear will soon be a mass of spots unless I can get the right mask for hot days. A very young fox came into the garden, showed no fear of us until it had almost touched Celia’s leg with its nose, then it loped away. It returned later and again came near us. We talked about the encounter this afternoon and both agreed it was special.

Today has been cooler, mostly blue skies, but intermittently dark grey threatening ones, and at times quite muggy. I met Celia again and we went for a walk to Vauxhall. Every outside space in front of bars and cafés was busy. There were no free tables. Londoners may be eschewing the shops of the West End but they certainly want to meet up and socialise. There was one venue where people could go to eat, drink and watch the FA Cup Final on a big screen. It looked rather crowded around the entrance and ironic that people can’t go to Wembley stadium to see the match. Also strange that it was played today as it’s usually in May. Having walked this area several times in lockdown and met almost no one it felt very strange. We wandered down to the Embassy Quarter, where new blocks of flats continue to rise. Whether we had passed the mosaic of Edward Snowden before and simply missed it I don’t know. The site was obviously chosen for its proximity to the US Embassy. I can’t show it to you tonight as the internet seems to be playing up and uploading photos could take until midnight or beyond. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th July 2020

Writing these daily diary entries brings home to me just how many days are spent in the pursuit of minor tasks, sometimes bringing minor triumphs – hurrah the washing dried on the line before the rain came down – but mainly very ordinary stuff that needs to be repeated a few days later; things like dusting, changing bed linen, cleaning the fridge, buying toilet roll. Today was another such day where my greatest triumph was a charity shop accepting a bag of very old clothes for textile recycling. I failed to understand the council’s website and still don’t know if I need to book if I walk over to the recycling centre with a small bag of defunct small electricals or not. As they don’t weigh much I may just try it. If I am turned away I’ll know I need to book. But not tomorrow. I need to go to the City to take photographs for an online presentation. I would have gone today, but the skies were once more grey and tomorrow it’s supposed to be sunny.

I am getting impatient to return to das Boot. Monday I hope. So some discipline regarding work to be done at home before then where I can usually rely on the internet.

It was nearer five than four when Celia and I went for our walk. There had been no call from the hospital and so the next time I see Celia she will have had her haircut. She’s going to say she wants an inch off, knowing a hairdresser’s inch is greater. We went to Burgess Park which I have mainly avoided as it gets very crowded. The advantage of a dull day is fewer people venture out. You wouldn’t have described it as deserted though. We met two very lovely dogs, both female both very young, both playful, both accompanied by young women. The flowers looked beautiful in a wild sort of way, and the lingering raindrops balanced on their petals only enhanced their beauty.

Wildly beautiful blue

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Made more beautiful by drops of rain

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th June 2020

Had you said to me back in March when I first began the Coronvirus Diaries that I’d still be writing them three months later with every expectation of continuing for the foreseeable future I should have stared at you. I thought maybe a few weeks, but then quite quickly I started thinking six months. Now, who knows. A year seems optimistic. At some point I shall stop the daily posts. I don’t know when, but I’d say it’s bound to happen. I am glad I did begin writing them though. This is an extraordinary time, made ordinary by how long it is continuing. Even the bargain shops are selling disposable face masks these days.

Celia and I walked up to the City this afternoon. There were some points, such as at the north end of London Bridge, by the Monument, where had I taken a photograph I don’t think there would have been anything in it to suggest it was during lockdown. We had already passed Waitrose, scene of one of our earliest lockdown shops, where Celia stood outside and I brought various items to the door to see if she wanted me to get them for her or not. Oh the nostalgia.

At Bank Junction we looked towards the Royal Exchange and it seemed to be open. We decided to investigate and found ourselves the only visitors. After availing ourselves of the hand sanitiser and chatting with security we looked around. I have never gone up to have a good look at the bar as I am pretty sure the prices would make me blench. But it was closed, so I could gawp to my heart’s content. Reon and Malik, the security guys, were amused by our evident enjoyment and we had another chat with them after we had used the loos. They have been working in the empty building for the last three months, keeping an eye on things. Now it is slowly coming back to life, and next time we call in there may well be people having coffees or a glass of something sparkling. I’m glad we saw it empty. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 31st May 2020

Another month ends. Today has been one of my up and down days during this virus. A walk this afternoon did much to help. Celia was otherwise engaged so I walked down to Ruskin Park, following our now established route via the eastern tip of Myatts Fields and Loughborough Junction. It has been a beautiful day; warm and sunny with blue skies and a cooling breeze. It would have been perfect for a country walk. The three goslings are still alive and getting bigger. I reckon they are safe from gulls and crows now, but a fox could take them. Their parents seemed to want to shield them from the public gaze and kept them in the reeds and long grasses. The moorhens’ babies, I am guessing they are called chicks but I don’t know s do correct me if I am wrong, were on the water with their parents. Two tiny ducklings seemed to be swimming about on their own. Then their parents paddled over, gave one of them a nudge and left them to it. It looked pretty negligent to me. Another pair of ducks also had two ducklings. I am used to seeing ducks with a great brood of ducklings. These seem very small families. Admittedly the large families get smaller and smaller as the days pass with various predators picking off the wee ones. Maybe some family planning involved here for a manageable brood. I just hope they all survive.

Geese concealed

Ducklings too young to be alone

Moorhen family

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th May 2020

Shall I write about Dominic Cummings, how alone in the UK under government guidance it is acceptable for, nay heroic of him to drive 250 miles to his parents and then visit beauty spots with his wife and son? How key members of the said government are queuing up to say it as absolutely fine and no story at all? I don’t think I’m going to insult your or my intelligence. We know he shouldn’t have done it, we know this is a hypocritical cover up, we know certain parts of the press will condone it, we know anyone else would have been forced to resign. I say anyone else but of course Johnson seems to have a special power that allows him to move between Downing Street, Chequers and perhaps a couple of dozen other addresses unknown to me.

It makes it very hard to maintain a Pollyanna view of the world.

So instead I am going to write about my day which unsurprisingly did not include a 250 mile trip to my parents. As my parents are both dead it would have been beyond my power anyway, even if I had felt like flouting the government’s advice. I didn’t go more than about a mile and half from home but I still had an enjoyable, varied day.

I started well, outdoor and indoor plants watered, seedlings unwrapped from their clingfilm cocoon and placed in a sunny spot, Romeo fed with a sachet of cat food. MasterB had breakfasted earlier. The bathroom surfaces sparkled, I swept the communal stairs which were very dusty, and restored the kitchen surfaces to pristine models of hygiene. Lunch. Then I turned to the jigsaw. About three hours passed. I am enjoying and not enjoying this puzzle. The cardboard pieces are flimsy and move very easily but the image, of the coats of arms of 102 its livery companies with panels of text about their collective history and the Lord Mayor’s show is interesting. I have a fair familiarity with the livery companies so their names and a number of their coats of arms are known to me. If I can prevent MasterB from sitting on it and dislodging pieces or skidding across it and destroying the whole thing, I should finish it in a day or so.

MasterB asked to go out. This is not unusual. However, between asking and actually leave ng the premises he often changes his mind. We do a lot of standing on the front door step. I hold the door open, he decides if out is really where he wants to be. The sight of Romeo immediately causes him to decide in is preferable, as does a motor bike, a scooter, a loud child, a group of loud adults, a car travelling too fast. Sometime I cannot see what it is that had decide him against the outside, but he runs and I walk back up the stairs and into the flat. Today was different. Hardly had I opened the door than he was outside and striding confidently towards the garden gate. I left him to it and went for my own walk.

Celia had thought she might join me, but another neighbour was with her in the garden so off I went on my own. On a whim I turned down beside a row of newly refurbished railway arches.

Red is the colour

To let

I imagine that a few months ago the business prospects for these arches were good, and whoever is leasing them was anticipating a tidy return. Not so today. There was a cut through and I could hear voices, laughter, and smell a barbecue. A Latin American family and maybe their friends was having a bit of a party. Whether they had any right to be there I have no idea, but they were definitely enjoying themselves. A bit further down the road I saw these railway arches, unrefurbished but with businesses in operation. And a dog. There must be a moral in that somewhere.

Old style arches

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th May 2020

If a genie were suddenly to emerge out of say, my ginger cordial bottle, and offer me one wish from a choice of a) a walk in the country that included a drink, cider or grapefruit and soda, at a country pub, b) the chance to sit down with a group of friends inside someone’s house and enjoy a good meal and good chat, or c) a haircut, I think I might well go for the haircut. A woman walked by me the other day and I thought, nice haircut, and two paces later, haircut? It was a short haircut too, so unless she had a buzzcut pre lockdown, she has access to haircutting skills denied to most of us.

But so far no sign of a genie, so every day is a Bad Hair Day, and when the hair salons do reopen I imagine the rush for appointments will mean those Bad Hair Days are set to continue for quite a while yet. At least I have photos of walks taken stored on my computer.

Pony on the fens

Tree

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th May 2020

On the way back from our walk in the City today a woman ran by us. Celia, I said, why is that woman wearing a wig and a false moustache? Celia didn’t know, but she hadn’t noticed either. Lockdown does strange things to us. Earlier I had become somewhat over excited at the sight of a lone canoeist on the Thames at Bankside. Yesterday we saw two canoeists as we crossed Vauxhall Bridge. If we hadn’t stopped to gaze at their wonderful, perfectly socially distanced paddling, we might not have encountered Frederick.

Yesterday’s canoeists

He had leant his bike against the barricade that protects the cycle path from the cars and was climbing over to the main carriageway. He wasn’t finding it easy. What is he doing? said Celia as we stared at him. He held up his hand as cars hurtled towards him and Celia and I gasped for his safety. Perhaps I should mention Frederick (he introduced himself later) was a man not in the first flush of youth and his appearance was a little eccentric. I’d mention wild hair, but my hair was probably looking fairly wild at the time, so I’ll skip that bit. There was a jacket on the ground, Frederick wanted to pick it up.

Amazing what you find in the road, he announced cheerfully, still the car side of the barricade. He was pleased with his find, a waxed jacket. Celia and I were now firmly in the role of audience and Frederick was playing to us. Let’s see if it’s a good make, he said and spread the jacket over the barricade to check the label. Marks and Spencer, he announced, not bad.

Still the wrong side of the barricade he engaged us in conversation, asking if we liked music, and inviting us to join the Choir With No Name, which in normal times meets on Shaftesbury Avenue, assuring Celia that her avowed inability to hold a note was no impediment. A further inducement was offered with the news that a meal, usually with a vegetarian option, was served afterwards. Some of what he said was lost to the sound of the traffic, but he told us to watch something which we think was titled The Trouble With Mother on Vimeo.

Today, as yesterday we saw people wandering along the foreshore while the tide was out.

Foreshore walking

though we didn’t notice any ducks today.

Ducks

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th May 2020

We may have missed the fly past at eleven o-clock, although we observed a two minute silence in Celia’s garden, but we did see two herons in flight in St James’ Park. Birds always make St James’ special, and today was no exception. The Mall belonged to cyclists, families, individuals, couples all enjoying the sunshine and the lack of cars.

I’ve started following someone local on Instagram who had been to St James’ earlier in the week and said it was less busy than Burgess Park, so Celia and I decided to make it our goal today. We walked there via the Imperial War Museum gardens where some veterans we could not identify were holding flags by the Soviet memorial, then onto and over Lambeth Bridge, round the back streets of Westminster where it seemed no one, and definitely not the Rees-Moggs, were at home, round to Westminster Abbey and across the road, where miracle of miracles the toilets were open and free. I only discovered the second fact after checking I had a 50p coin to get in. The taps were ones you push, there were good hand dryers. The difference it made to my day was immeasurable. We were out for around four hours. There is no way I could have managed that without this loo stop. Thank you City of Westminster.

There were quite a few people in the park, but it was all very manageable. The second surprise was finding the benches were available for use. After enjoying watching more geese and goslings, various ducks, coots, moorhens, swans black and white and a heron not in flight, we availed ourselves of one in the shade and ate snacks and drank water.

The flowers and borders were gorgeous too. P1240973
P1240961Last night I caught up with the second Grayson Perry programme about art in lockdown and Maggi Hambling was on it, interviewed at a distance of rather more more than two metres in her Suffolk studio. She showed the painting she has been working on that shows the strange contradiction we are experiencing of seeing spring all around us while thousands of people die from Covd 19. It’s a contradiction we feel every day when we enjoy ourselves, when we see nature bloom and blossom, when the evidence of life is all around us.

After the war, did people start noticing more birds when there were less aircraft? Did the birds move away from cities during the Blitz? Someone, somewhere must have looked into this. The Queen was away at Windsor, leaving the Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace to represent royalty. Two mounted police officers patrolled the park in a relaxed sort of way.

Relaxed police officers and horses

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