The Coronavirus Diaries, 26th September 2020

I’m going to let photos do most of the work tonight. I had my first proper, boots on, train to the start point, walk for months today. If we are locked down again it may be my last for a while too. At the last minute my friend Nicola decided to join me and we met yup at Waterloo Station. The walk is the the one Celia and I did at Easter 2019, and it was wonderful to do it in a different season. We stopped at the Watts Gallery for lunch, checked out the shop, spent some precious moments at the Chapel and revelled in the views of the countryside, the boot against the path, the blackberries in the hedgerows and the sweet chestnuts bursting from their spiny shells.

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Guildford Cathedral

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th September 2020.

This will be a post in two parts as in a very few minutes I am going to join Octavia, her mother and her cousin Humphrey for dinner in Octavia’s garden. So far as I know, there won’t be chips. I shall be taking my almost alcohol free gin alternative for a non-intoxicating aperitif if there are any takers. Actually I have already had an alcoholic aperitif in the shape of half a pint of medium dry cider on the return leg of a walk with Celia. It’s been a beautiful day, and I feel nicely mellow. I was working this morning with a very pleasant group of people which started the day off on a good footing. Lunch at home, a cursory read of today’s papers, and a more thoughtful read of a short story. I should have vacuumed, but that can wait until tomorrow. I have given MasterB his supper and fed the boys. Joe returns tomorrow so my garden cat feeding duties have come to an end. I intend to go to das Boot on Wednesday, so it’s just as well.

Before our walk, Celia and I sat in the garden with B&J. And Hartley. Of course. Hartley loves human company and made sure he was near us. It was only when I went inside briefly that I realised Romeo was lying in the grass at the far end of the garden. He is much less needy than Hartley. We are promised two days of hot weather, so Hartley may find some of the residents who are working from home joining him for garden breaks throughout the days. I am glad it’s going to drop to low twenties for my sojourn on das Boot, though I anticipate chilly mornings and evenings as autumn establishes itself. I am also hoping it’s not too late for blackberries. I love coming home with containers full of blackberries. There are actually quite a lot of blackberry bushes near the flat, but picking them in the country, at the edge of a field is more my thing.

Celia and I were talking about how objects take you back to places and people. We all know about Proust’s Madeleine, but he was not the first person to have memories stirred by the sight, smell or feel of something. We all have dozens of madeleine moments. So picking blackberries by a field’s edge takes me back to childhood and the excitement of food for free, fingers and mouths stained purple. Celia was saying how when she looks at the cacti in their willow pattern continuers on her kitchen window sill, she is momentarily in Coventry. It’s almost a year since we were there in the flesh, and we’d planned to return in the spring. who knows when we’ll get there now? Continue reading

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, 19th August 2020

A wet, wet day, but somehow whenever I needed to go out there was a pause in the rain and I stayed dry. Last night’s walk and drink with Cynthia was fun. At our pub of choice there was a sign telling us to wait to be seated, so we did. Then we were asked if we had made a reservation. We hadn’t, but there were places at a shared table outside which was perfect. The evening was warm, we were in shirt sleeves. I imagine a lot of pubs will be hiring those outside heaters as the days cool down.

My tasks today were mainly work related, or return-to-paid-work related as I am dipping my toe in the water on Saturday and reading up the rules and regulations, the advice, the precautions, and trying on my face shield for the first time. I was disappointed to find it already had some dents in it despite the padded envelope it arrived in. However Carol tells me they are being sold in our local market now so I may get another. at this rate I am going to need a drawer for masks and face shields. I have a new bottle of hand sanitiser to take with me, and goodness only knows what. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th August 2020

Hot again. The promised rain did come but just not in the quantities expected, I woke to the welcome sound of it at seven, but by eight it had stopped and the ground was dry. The forecast said it would start again at eleven. It didn’t. I carried on taking books of the shelves and was rewarded by finding I still have my copy of Clive James’ Unreliable Memoirs. Hallelujah!

I’ve started sorting my books into categories with the idea that I may that way decide to streamline them. I am astonished how many copies of plays I have. Mainly Shakespeare, but still. I had a quick flick through some history books to see how well slavery was covered. Badly. Like women’s history it barely gets a page, if that. Yet trade, empire, industrial revolution all get covered. As though these things didn’t happen without the profits in trading slaves and slave labour. L’Oréal (because I’m worth it) claims it does not soil its hands with animal testing, yet it sells its products to China in the full knowledge they will be tested in animals there. That is rather like British history’s attitude to slavery.

I truly hope the BLM movement will lead to a more informed understanding of history. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 11th August 2020

It’s hot. Sitting still is hot. Walking is hot. Lying down is hot. As hot as Africa, says Celia; as hot as Turkey, says Viv; as hot as Greece, say I. All of us referencing places we have been in the height of summer where it has been, well, hot. Hotter than the dutch Antibes, says Ross who is painting my hallway on Friday. I am guessing he has been there, but I don’t know.

Wearing a face mask in the heat is hellish. Except if you are in Marks and Spencer where the fridges are wonderfully cool and three of us admitted to loitering today.

Octavia, back from France, is off to Croatia in the morning. She had bought a big box of disposable masks. I was surprised. It turns out when she flew out of London she was wearing her good cloth mask. No problem. No problem arriving at Nice with same face mask. But when she went to board the ‘plane for the return flight she was told paper masks only. The kindness off a fellow passenger saved the day for herself and other passengers in the same situation. For obvious reasons Octavia does not want to be caught out going to or coming from Croatia. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th August 2020

So home. It was glorious this morning at the marina, warm but not hot, the promise of a new day held in the palm of the sky. I vacuumed, stripped the bed, carried things to the car while MasterB slept. He had a short stroll after breakfast.

We left around lunchtime.

Our route took us over a bridge above a dual carriageway where I could see lots of cars. Decision made, we’d take the back roads as far as we could. I started taking these roads years ago as there is more shade, and in warm weather, with a car minus air con, I didn’t want Cat to overheat. Now I often choose them as the route home to get that last good hit of countryside.

There were very few cars. It was a loveLy drive. Inevitably as we got closer to London the traffic increased. A hundred yards from home I looked at all the people on the street and reflected that I hadn’t seen half as many the whole week while I was away.

Washing dried ridiculously quickly. Even at seven this evening the temperature was over 30C. Actually it’s over 30C now but only just. 30.1C according to my thermometer. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th August 2020

The forecast when I looked on Saturday was for today to be warm and tomorrow cooler. Now tomorrow is going to be warm as well. I need to get home, so shall try to complete the journey after rush hour and before it gets too hot. First thing today I thought it was going to be a much cooler day than yesterday, but the sun soon burned off any hope of that. there was however a welcome breeze, so I took my walk before lunch, heading over to Burwell Fen. These pictures are from yesterday. I have managed to upload them, but the internet connection keeps dropping so I shall leave today’s until I am home.

Bullrushes

There was a horse tethered on a track parallel to te path. It had water but no company, no possibility of shade. I went to say hello to it. Its eyes and muzzle were plagued by flies. I waved them away, stroked its nose, spoke to it. It seemed defeated by its circumstances. I wanted to pull the tether and take the horse away, but where? In the end I sent a text to the RSPCA, but as it was bot in danger from traffic, had water and grazing, there was little hope anything could or would be done for it. Poor animal.

Please identify

The other animals I saw were wild, a muntjac deer trotting carefully through tall grasses, a bird, probably a kestrel, sitting on a gate, a goose, strangely solitary, enjoying a swim, ducks and swans.

The ridge path

While I was watching the deer, a man on his bike pulled up and watched it with me. There were lots of cyclists. I wished I had access to one here as well.

Greenery

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th August 2020

Fortunately this afternoon the breeze became stronger and the air in consequence fresher, free of the clinging humidity of the last two days.I put my book aside and went for a walk. There’s a ridge, I presume manmade, that protects the fields beyond from flooding, and it allows views across the flat farmland. This is fertile country and everywhere you look is green and growth. I took some pictures, but it seems the internet connection keeps dropping so I may not be able to upload them.

I haven’t seen the cows all day. Where are they? A moment ago I heard a cow mooing and looked up, hoping to see the herd in the field beyond the fence but nothing. The cow I heard was probably across the river. In the other direction there is another farm, or rather a farm house with a couple of fields. The last people to live there were very unfriendly and bred dogs which barked a great deal and which I used to pity. The current owners keep hens, horses, some rare breed sheep, and two llamas. I hadn’t noticed the llamas until this afternoon. I haven’t met the owners, but like their predecessors they have roped off a path which when I first came here people were free to use, so maybe they don’t want to meet the neighbours either.

I had a conversation with the Dan, son of the couple who own the marina, and another with a woman who has a boat here with her husband. Until now the woman and I have only smiled and said hello. Today we talked about Coronavirus and the uncertainty of the future. It was a similar story with Dan. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 7th August 2020

I am sitting at the back of the boat enjoying the very slight breeze around my neck and face.It’s been a hot day with temperatures above 35C. Not only hot but humid, so not a day for strenuous activity. I have done a fair amount of reading, drunk pints and pints of water, swept dead flying ants from the boat’s exterior and otherwise moved as little as possible. MasterB has slept in various positions and places around the boat. He had a walk after breakfast, his breakfast, not mine. While he ate I went to the shower block, and when I returned he was at the door. It was already warm, but no one else seemed to be up, so we had a pleasant stroll, both of us for different reasons watching the thrush with interest. We nearly had another stroll just now, but a boat entered the marina as MasterB was about to go ashore and he had a change of heart.

I had a conversation with Stuart as I was finishing my own breakfast and so decided to get out the battery charger and see if the battery could be revived. It turned out the fuse had gone in the charger, so I wasn’t able to carry out this plan until I had been to the shops. I forgot to take my mask, but fortunately had a small towel in the car which I tied round my face. It worked surprisingly well and was more comfortable than some of the masks I have bought. On the track from the marina a pine marten carrying a dead mouse in its mouth ran across the path. On the road there were numerous spilled beetroot. I stopped and gathered some up. Some beets have been mulched and are in piles in the fields. Their distinctive sweetly earthy smell hangs in the air, overpowering the leeks which are in neighbouring fields. Are mulched beets good fertiliser, or is there just a glut the farmers can’t sell?

I could have tried the engine earlier than I did, but MasterB was asleep near it and I didn’t want to upset him. He woke up and moved to a new location and I primed the engine for a minute, turned the key and it sprang to life. I’ve removed the charger and will try the engine again tomorrow to see if the battery has held the charge. Older Nephew and partner are coming here at the weekend, so when I leave I’ll leave it on trickle charge just in case.

The book I am reading is Homeland by Fernando Aramburu. It’s very well written and I am involved in the story, but worrying that the person who lent it to me will want it back before I have finished it. It’s a our book group’s summer read and nearly 600 pages long. I am on page 133.

The ants started swarming again tonight and my heart sank. It was still over 30C and the prospect of sweltering inside the boat behind closed windows did not appeal. Fortunately it seems to have been a much less extensive occasion than yesterday, and they have all gone.

The sunset is spectacular. If the red sky at night saying is true, we are in for a glorious day tomorrow.

Red Sky at Nigh

Shepherd’s Delight

Behind me I can the swans nibbling at the weed. They are doing an excellent job. This morning the cows were in the field, and one cow was watching me. I slowly approached the fence talking to her. She came a bit nearer. I kept on talking to her. The flies were bothering her and she kept shaking her head to get them away from her eyes. She could do with one of those shields horses wear. The farmer doesn’t seem to have any water troughs for the cattle. They must have to drink from the river. The cow finally came right up to me and allowed me to stroke her face. Emboldened, others who had been watching started to walk towards us and soon there was a good crowd, including Mr Handsome who gently nudged his way through the others for a neck scratch and rub. Two young calves were watching, one shied away from me when I stretched out my hand, but the other, which was black with a white face, was braver and had a good sniff at my arm. It made me want to read The Secret Life of Cows all over again. Maybe I can suggest it for book group.

Stay safe. Keep well. Be kind.