The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd July 2021

I think the weather is going to break tomorrow or Sunday. Yesterday I did virtually nothing other than sit in the shade drinking mint tea or water, read and just enjoy being. Today seems to hold much of the same. Last night Poppy the overweight Labrador decided it was still too hot at 8.30 to walk, so after just a few hundred yards we turned back. I thought I’d walk her this morning, but by 9.00 the sun was already beating down. There’s little shelter from the sun for much of our walk, so exercise is again deferred.

Next week I’m hoping to see Uncle Bill on Monday, meet up with Fiona one day and see my friend Jo on Friday. Rain is forecast for the latter part of the week, but only light rain, so I think we’ll cope. I’m sure to be back in Belfast anyway.

ideally I’d like to revisit the exhibition on La Belle Époque with Charlotte McReynolds, it’s curator, but
as the pandemic rolls on, and numbers continue to rise while our freedom to spread and contract it remains uncurtailed, curators tours are unlikely to happen. In place of government leadership requiring us to exercise caution, individual businesses and venues are having to step up to the plate.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th July 2021

One of the dogs has lots of stitches, the other has put on so much weight since I was here two years ago she looks like a sideboard. You could lay an array of dishes on her back, it’s now so broad.

It’s Westie Boy who has been in the wars. He feels very sorry for himself, but before you start feeling sorry for him too, it was all his fault. He rushed out of the garden a week ago to assault a large dog he has taken a dislike to and came off worst. Apparently the two dogs have been eyeing each other with some hostility for some time, but usually there’s a barrier between them. Westie Boy can’t currently wear a harness or a collar so no walking for him for the moment.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th June 2021

Nearly midsummer, and the humidity has been building steadily this week. It was the upper twenties centigrade today but it felt oppressive rather than hot. Celia and I walked round to the book group’s alfresco poetry evening at a slow slow pace. The first drops of rain fell as we started, but they were pleasant and occasional. Then the rain got going. Umbrellas appeared, I put on my waterproof poncho and hid my books underneath it. The water pooled in my lap. After two rounds we called it a night and returned the chairs and cushions to the TRA House. Maybe a rerun in a couple of weeks. Already the air feels fresher, and there is no wind so the windows are wide open and no rain is coming in. Storms are forecast for tonight and more rain tomorrow. I realise I should have rescued a couple of plant pots which are in wall planter with no drain holes. By morning the seedlings may have drowned.

It’s a week for exhibitions. I don’t know that I’ll get to Alice at the V&A, but tomorrow I shall be at the BM for Becket. Celia, Charlie and I shall travel together on the 68 bus, but my entry ticket is half an hour before theirs, so we shall tour separately. The last time I was at an exhibition with Charlie he was round it in half the time it took me. We are warned a third wave is either imminent or with us, so how long we can enjoy these cultural pursuits is questionable.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th June 2021

We’re enjoying fabulous weather with temperatures in the mid twenties centigrade; warm without being enervatingly hot. I should be quite happy if the mercury rose no higher. I’m eating lots of salad and fresh fruit. My current addiction is spiralised courgette and carrot with chickpeas or butterbeans in a mustard vinaigrette. I eat it almost every day, along with lettuce or raw baby spinach. It’s tasty and really satisfying. Today there was added excitement of freshly cooked beetroot. My other current addiction is miniature gherkins. I keep meaning to look up what nutritional value the have.

An ad for an Audible book keeps flashing on my ‘phone. It’s called Food is Not Medicine. Maybe not, but surely a good diet is in some way medicinal. I should probably get the dictionary out to check the meaning of medicine. I am thinking about this because my wound is healing marvellously well. There’s one crusty looking bit at the edge, and the whole thing is rather pink, but I am both reassured and relieved. I do have the suggestion of a dart or pleat at either end, but I can live with that. The rate of healing seems quick, and at the hospital nurses and doctors have commented on it. Has my diet contributed to this? Answers on a postcard or in the comments box please.

I have started looking at flights to and from Belfast after first Celia, then B&J said they thought between them they could cover my absence. Helena also said she might be able to help. All are people MasterB knows and likes. Before I actually make the booking I need to double check with all of them as it would obviously never do if they all had commitments elsewhere at the same time. I fully expect Celia to be away a great deal, catching up on missed time with grandchildren.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th June 2021

I’m on the sofa, MasterB is asleep in drawer under the bed, outside it’s raining steadily. I had my stitches out this morning and have been told to be careful, rest today, walk tomorrow and then in a week I should be all systems go. I haven’t had the results from the further excision but the hospital staff seem pretty confident they will be negative. All good. My next health issue will be making an appointment about the numbness in my left hand. It’s the old carpal tunnel problem, but it is so much worse since I broke my wrist. I am reluctant to have it fixed just yet because it means weeks of being one handed again, and for the moment I’d rather like use of all four limbs. I need to get to das Boot before the season is over to get on with the cleaning, and then see about putting it up for sale. Ideally I’ll be in the position to do that by July.

I managed to speak to Cousin and she is happy for me to come to stay. Now it’s a question, a big one, of seeing about cat care for MasterB and then the availability of flights. I read that there’s a company working on airships for shorter greener flights, such as the one between London and Belfast. I don’t think they’re going to be available for a couple of years, but it’s an encouraging development.

Yesterday I met my cousin Russell in Richmond. Ali Clarke, a friend of his, has an exhibition the One Paved Court gallery. You can see some of the exhibits by clicking here. I had looked online and was expecting large pieces but in reality they are are domestic in scale. I liked the arrangements of bits and pieces from her studio the best. Russell and I were going to the Private View, and we met several hours earlier, enjoyed a stroll through Richmond to the river, then went to the same pub Celia and I had enjoyed a couple of years ago. Sitting under a shady umbrella in the pub’s walled garden, pints of cool cider in front of us, the time passed quickly. B&J had also spent the afternoon in Richmond, but in another part of the wood, and they joined us at the gallery. Then it was another pub, more cider which we drank sitting on a bench overlooking Richmond Green. Very pleasant.

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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, 23rd May 2021

Oh technology, a blessing and a curse. For some reason I cannot post from my laptop. I have sent an email to WordPress, but if anyone here has any idea what I need to do, please do tell.

Another day of erratic weather, ending in a rainy night. I stayed in most of the time and got on with work. But it’s Sunday which means Joe isn’t here and I am on cat feeding duty for Romeo and Hartley. There was no sign of Romeo when I went outside, so I put some food down for Hartley, and took my recycling round to the bin shed. Romeo materialised beside me. So back we went and I filled a second dish only for Hartley, who had by now almost finished his breakfast, to commandeer it. It’s funny, of the two cats in most circumstances Romeo is the bolder, the more feisty, but Hartley seems to have first dibs when it’s a question of food. I lifted Hartley up, put him back by his dish and popped Romeo in front of the full one. In less time than it takes to tell Hartley had changed places again. Poor Romeo. Fortunately both boys were there tonight and Romeo tucked in with gusto.

MasterB is also a cat who likes his meals. This morning, as I slept beyond seven, he became impatient for breakfast and started his bouncy castle routine. Usually it disturbs my sleep but doesn’t hurt me. Today he bounced on my wound. You know that feeling where the pain is so intense that it feels like a black hole swallowing you up? That’s what I felt. It took several minutes of deep breathing and repeated ows before I could bring myself to sit up.

MasterB and I have spent most of the day together. Celia went over to Notting Hill, and although B&J and I had planned to convene this evening in the garden we decided it was too cold, and rain looked imminent.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 21st May 2021

My vaccine reaction has, thank goodness, passed, just a slight headache when I first woke. My leg, though still sore, feels a bit better this evening, as though my body is putting the trauma behind it and concentrating on mending. Maybe that was what was going on this morning when it felt as though there was some sort of electrical show inspired by stinging nettles going on around the wound. Good or bad I didn’t know but it was somewhat alarming.

After some hesitation I called the number the oncology nurse had given me and left a message with the very helpful person who answered. An astonishingly short amount of time later I received a call back. The NHS is extraordinary. It’s continually run down by a government who would like to privatise it. NHS staff are overworked and underpaid, and yet the vast majority continues to work with dedication and professionalism. The nurse was approachable, a good listener and told me to call any time if worried or had questions. I felt not only reassured but somehow better.

The weather is helping me to accept my restricted mobility which is good as I have looming deadline and I am going to have get my skates on. I want it all ready with at least thirty six hours spare so I can review and edit. It’s a useful distraction from the leg, and the somewhat unsettling word cancer that floats across my mind periodically. I don’t think much further than the surgeon telling me I was lucky the melanoma had been found in the early stages. I started to read the info they gave me on the different stages of skin cancer, but at the moment, until I know I am clear, it is something I think can wait.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th May 2021

There’s a slender silver sliver of moon in the skies tonight. It’s beautiful. I saw it a moment ago when I went out to retrieve the Boys’ dishes. The Boys are of course Hartley and Romeo. Tomorrow is Sunday, so it’s the day I am on breakfast and dinner duty. Romeo missed his breakfast with Joe this morning. Sleeping in was Joe’s verdict, and when he, Romeo, saw me mid morning he was hopeful I was bearing food. I wasn’t. I was bearing a stack of clean dishes to return to Joe, so I told him (Joe) about Romeo and the next thing Romeo got his breakfast. Or maybe that should be brunch. Hartley’s brother Smudge approached me while I was talking to J by her front door. I have a mission to get Smudge to trust me so I can start work on the dreadful knots he has in his fur. The trusting and the removing may take many months.

April was dry. There’s a rhyme about spring weather: March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers. I used to take comfort from it when I was a child as most of the cousins on my father’s side of the family, that is the cousins who I saw on a weekly basis as opposed to the Irish cousins who I saw every other summer, had March birthdays. Mine is in May. I felt a bit left out. But this year April was windy and May is showery with temperatures see-sawing. I was working today and got caught in a couple of showers. They were short but effective. The damp has brought the slugs and snails out in the garden. I avoided them when fetching the dishes, and was relieved no slug was actually in either dish. I know Celia will pick up slugs, but I am more prissy.

Work was good for several reasons, one being it involved walking. I mean to pack a decent walk in every day until Wednesday, and shall probably walk to the hospital before my movements are curtailed for the next few weeks. Mother used to say she wanted to keep her mobility. I know what she meant. Being able to get out and around on your own two feet is a freedom beyond price.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th May 2021

I woke up thinking it was Monday. I have spent most off the day working, so in a way, if I had a regular nine to five job, it makes some sort of sense. The work was satisfying. but I was also treading water as I had an arrangement with a colleague to go through something we are working on together. I worked all. morning and heard nothing. Time for an early lunch. I sent a text, how about 1.30? It was a lovely day and I wanted to get out and especially to get away from the computer for a while. I hate waiting in without a definite time to meet; it feels like having one foot nailed to the floor.

A message came back, she was meeting someone for lunch. How long? I asked. Hours! came the jaunty reply. Ok, I thought, threeish at the latest. I went for a walk. Home by half past four. No message. Had past five came and went. No message.

As is our habit I was eating with Octavia tonight. My turn to cook, and unlike our usual practice, instead of cooking everything bar the veg at home, I was going to cook everything from scratch when I got there.

Finally, just before half past six I got a message to say my friend was home, and suggesting we talk tomorrow. I have things to do tomorrow. I really wanted this sorted today. How about now? I said.

It turned out she hadn’t done any more work on the project. You know I was going out for lunch, she said. Somehow, I didn’t find that excuse convincing. We had had an agreement. I’d kept it, she hadn’t. Lunch, for me at least, doesn’t generally last six hours, especially when I have agreed to do something. So I agreed to ten tomorrow morning, but I am underwhelmed.

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