The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th September 2021

I had my winter ‘flu vaccination yesterday. I went to the local pharmacy to book an appointment and was fitted in then and there. By late evening my arm was sore and by this morning most of my upper arm was covered in an angry red rash. I felt, still feel, somewhat under the weather though probably by tomorrow I’ll be fine. Why my body should react so strongly to vaccinations I do not know.

Consequently it has been a rather lazy day. I have read a book, made some notes for a job I am doing in ten days, read emails and replied to them. I could quite happily go to bed now, but as it’s not yet five o’clock, I shall stay up a while longer. The day has been grey, windy, not cold enough to put the heating on, but cold enough to close windows and wear socks and a jumper. It’s soup weather. Soup and crusty bread, except I am deliberately buying boring bread as when I have good bread I keep eating it. Boring bread does not exercise the same appeal.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th September 2021

And suddenly it’s autumn. Mask wearing is increasingly erratic. Even I have forgotten to mask up on a couple of occasions. I am hoping this new feeling of relaxation is not heading for trouble. I have been comforting myself seeing figures locally dropping, the warm weather meaning we are outside a good deal and on the buses the windows are generally open. So the sudden drop in temperature is a bit worrying.

Sunday was lovely, which was great as Celia and headed off, booted and with packed lunches for Haslemere on the Surrey Sussex borders. We had each bought our tickets on Saturday though at different London stations. I had the better deal at Charing Cross with my ticket for some reason being £2 less. However, a couple of hours later the likelihood of my going anywhere was remote. I had sat down on the floor to do something necessary at the computer. When I finished and stood up my left ankle felt as though it had gone to sleep. I expected it to wear off in a few minutes, but instead it became increasingly sore and I hobbled painfully down to the neighbourhood gathering that was the annual Sausage Sizzle. Unsurprisingly I didn’t have sausages. I took a butterbean and pesto salad.

After breakfast I had managed to drop my ‘phone on my foot and it seems this ankle pain was a delayed reaction to the trauma. Anyway, after sitting for a while on the sofa with bag of frozen peas wrapped round my ankle I had an early night, swapping the peas for Ibuprofen gel. It worked. In the morning my walking skills were restored. Hurrah!

The walk instructions warned at places it could be muddy, but we hadn’t had rain for weeks (a situation that has changed this week with a dramatic downpour yesterday morning that included bouncing hail, and several heavy showers today) so we were quietly confident.

When we left London, the only hint that it was autumn was the mist. With sunrise now happening just before seven, it takes a while for the day to wake up. I have done several walks around Haslemere, it’s a lovely town surrounded by great countryside; the perfect combination. You may well recognise the first place if you have followed this page for some years as I am pretty sure I have posted a very similar picture, with a robin in it, or maybe just a reference to a robin. Obviously any walk with Celia at this time of year is going to feature fungi.

The trees were still green. We actually got almost excited when we saw a few brown leaves. Blackberries worth picking were in short supply, but I got enough to add to the crumble I shared with Octavia later. There was a fair amount of up. The walk notes used the word steep more often than I like, but it was nice steep, through woodland and on paths that twisted rather than heading up in an unrelenting slog. I kept checking the treeline to see how much further we had to climb.

I do love a fingerpost, and there were quite a few. The first three quarters of the walk were well way marked, so combined with the instructions we had no problems finding our route.

Why this footpath over a stream is described as shuttered I do not know. Can anyone explain please?

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th September 2021

Days have passed, maybe a week, maybe more, since I posted. I have not been ill, not been lying in a darkened room. I have been stressed, but I have still been active. There’s been work for starters, so no staring at a blank wall emptying my mind.

And Celia and I have resumed our out of town walking. So three Saturdays, three walks. The middle walk was fairly close to home, but one I will gladly do again. I had thought I might write and post photos of all three tonight. Then I downloaded thirty-one pictures from yesterday’s walk. The other two will either have to wait or not get written about. That would be a pity as this blog is essentially my diary, albeit with bits of my life expurgated to protect myself and others.

The first thing to say is that we didn’t get lost. Celia and I have such a track record of getting lost (and thus finding unexpected delights before we find our way again) I feel that needs to be said. The second is this not the first walk, or even the second we planned to do yesterday morning. The first was discarded because of transport problems. The second I printed out and helpfully left on the window sill at home. It started from Otford and finished at Eynsford. Celia was keen to see Shoreham. On the train we found an Otford circular via Shoreham. Bingo.

The forecast said it would be cloudy all day, and that is how it started. having climbed a steepish hill we looked at the view and saw a white cross on the opposite hillside at Shoreham.

But soon we were shading our eyes and grateful to walk through woods filled with filtered sunlight. Celia is a bit of fungi fan, so this specimen, glowing in isolation caught and held our attention for several minutes. What is is it?

We walked across fields, past barns, were warned, were objects of curiosity, saw views down valleys. I think my favourite bit, and there were so many good bits it’s hard to choose, was when we entered a wooded paddock where a notice warned of us of hardy animals kept there to help with the bio culture. I was expecting sheep, maybe ponies, perhaps highland cattle or llamas. But we had barely walked a few yards into the paddock when there was the noise of hooves and animals coming down the path and three very healthy looking bullocks came to check us out. They were curious, not aggressive, but I wondered if their curiosity might put us in danger. We stopped. They stopped. Hello, I said, we’ve come in friendship. We don’t want to harm you. I’m vegan. Celia isn’t.

Celia may hold that against me to the end of my days.

One of the bullocks mooed. It was like a summons. More crashing through the greenery and a lot more cattle appeared. They stared at us then made up the hill. It seemed for a while they were tracking us along a higher path that ran parallel to ours. I’d love to be one of the volunteers who checks on them. What fun, what a privilege, to get to know them as individuals. Just before we left the paddock there was another long loud moo. It sounded like the all clear.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd September 2021

Friday again already. Unbelievable. The week has flown by. The opera was great last Saturday, both music and venue, both of which got good reviews in The Guardian. And that’s not even starting on the good company. Celia and I hatched a last minute plan to go walking on Sunday. We plumped for a walk we have done several times which takes in the cemetery where my great grandmother and Lewis Carol are buried, views across to Guildford cathedral, farmland, woodland, Watts Gallery, uphills and downhills, horses in fields, a country pile, a lake, the river Wey, and, most importantly for this time of year, blackberries.

We ended at a pub which used to be called the Jolly Farmer and is now I think called The Weyside, drank our half pints of cider, shared a packet of crisps, and got the train back to London. It was good. Monday, being a bank holiday, was grey and dull. I felt no regrets about getting on with paperwork. Work on Tuesday, and suddenly it’s Friday again. Michèle lent me a book called The Port of London Murders by Josephine Bell. It was published in 1938 and has been republished as part of the British Library Crime Classics series. After Barbara Kingsolver’s The Bean Trees, the change of style took a few chapters for me to find the rhythm. There was quite a lot of ‘ere, and, laarst, to conjure the accents of the Rotherhithe community. At first this grated, but I got over it and would happily read more by her. However, although Michèle lent me two further books from the series they are both by different writers, both new to me. I am just embarking on Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert. For fans of detective fiction, this series is a goldmine.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th August 2021

Celia is back from Wales.

B&J, Celia, Mr Celia, Hartley, Romeo and I convened in the garden this evening over a bottle or two of wine.

There was more than a suggestion of autumn in the air.

Actually this was useful as tomorrow evening we are all, save Mr Celia who’ll be at the Cricket, off to an outdoor event, listening to Octavia’s niece singing in a Handel opera. Celia found her layers wanting within minutes, and although Hartley was doing his best to warm her by sitting on her knee, one of my fleeces was needed. I was trying out a combo of jumper (US sweater) and body warmer, which worked for the most part but there was a bit of a cool patch between the bottom of the warmer and the waistband of my jeans. B&J were rugged up. So it was something of a warmth dress rehearsal. I plan to take a blanket with me, possibly a flask, a quilt might be going too far. Maybe not.

It was lovely to have the gang reunited. Pre-Covid, Celia and Mr Celia hardly knew B&J. Now Celia says she can’t imagine life without them. They have all been wonderful carers of MasterB when I have been away in Ireland or more recently at das Boot. There are moments when the look in MasterB’s eye suggests he is wondering when I shall be away again so he can have the love and attention he deserves. Nothing in the diary at the moment, but there is Uncle Bill’s 100th in October.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th July 2021

I can’t say I am comforted by the news about the numbers of people contracting Covid in the U.K.. Right now it seems Northern Ireland has the highest number of cases per capita. That said, I feel very safe here in the country. The rain came as promised today. My shoes are not waterproof, so the dogs had to make do with a game of football in the garden. They are keener on possession than passing, so we had two footballs, two games really. Westie Boy became rather excited, maybe it was the joy of having had his stitches removed. He grabbed my jeans when I moved to play with Poppy, something he has never done before. We played until the next shower and then came in. The vet was impressed with the striped pyjamas Westie Boy is wearing to keep his healing wounds clean. She said he should continue wearing them. Right now he is asleep on a cushion beside me. I am not keen on dressing up cats and dogs, but I have to admit he looks very sweet, and he certainly isn’t bothered by them. Nor does he look like a dog who would actively ran after a bigger dog to pick a fight. Appearances can be deceptive.

Cousin decided I should have a fire, so she lit the wood burning stove, and for much of today I have been feeding it, then retreating to the sofa to watch yet another episode of Baptiste, a series Cousin has got me hooked on. I have the window open, but it’s all rather a contrast with the hot weather of just two days ago. Poppy’s walks have been going well, and Westie Boy has now been given leave to join us. But it was when I was with Poppy alone a few nights ago that I saw the badgers. There were three of them, playing in the driveway leading up to a neighbours house. I think they were probably young. I have looked for them each time I have passed the house since, but no sign.

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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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