The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th January 2023, Quiet Times

Unplanned, I seem to have started January dry. Octavia does Dry January which is not quite the same thing. The Nozeco opened on Christmas Day morning is still in the fridge. Yes, there’s very little alcohol in Nozeco, very little in Becks Blue, and I have several bottles of that, I just don’t fancy anything alcoholic or even approaching the idea of alcoholic. Benilyn continues to be my tipple of choice, which is odd because it tastes disgusting. I couldn’t get Benilyn original, so have Benilyn Non-Drowsy after the pharmacist assured me it didn’t contain any ingredients which would keep me awake. It’s also red, but a brighter red than Original. Just as unpalatable though.

Still my cough has definitely lessened. It’s not yet gone, but it’s in departure. hanging around the duty free section perhaps, or in the bookshop, flicking through books it has no intention of buying. I hope its flight is called soon. I feel as though I have been coughing for ever. Work continued all last week and then into the weekend. I was up in the morning, out and about, doing my stuff, home and eating good healthy food washed down by water, and then to bed with a Lemsip around half past eight.

I’ve not worked today, and the diary is gloriously empty until next week. That’s how I feel now, but by Saturday I shall probably be fretting and worrying about my income. Well, being freelance and self employed was my choice. It can be precarious, but I don’t have many extravagances, so I get through. Also January and February are always quiet and a chance to recharge batteries, and as I didn’t do a jigsaw over Christmas this may be my chance.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 10th December 2022: Love and Friendship

I stumbled upon a delightful film on Film4 this evening. Finding Your Feet. I missed the first fifteen minutes or so, but the story was fairly undemanding and I think I filled in all the gaps. It’s an unassuming film, probably low budget, featuring places I recognise close to where I live, and with a gentle talented cast including Tim Spall, Celia Imrie, the late John Sessions in a minor part, and Imelda Staunton. I loved it. It was kind. Just what I needed. No car chases, no hugely dramatic showdowns, high body count or spilled blood, and somehow all the more precious and life enhancing for that. Tim Spall at the helm of a narrowboat which I know he has done many many times in his own life, particularly after his recovery from cancer.

I am finding life in this country hard. We seem to have turned into a horrible parody of ourselves; a divided divisive society, people on the edge of destitution because those elected to govern simply don’t seem to count swathes of the population as important. Horrible hateful comments about Harry and Meghan, even from people I usually respect. Maybe it was always like this. That there was a civilised veneer which was ripped away by Brexit to reveal the hideous truth beneath.

I am lucky. I have good friends who are enormously important to me. I have a beautiful, gentle cat who I love and who I dare to say loves me. Though he may love biscuits more. These are the things which make life good.

It’s suddenly Christmas. December has a habit of arriving calmly and then rushing into a mad frenzy. There are increasing numbers of people – men mostly – walking or riding bicycles dressed in Father Christmas hats or even the whole outfit -in central London. Christmas trees have been appearing for several weeks, though bizarrely not in Westminster Abbey, while in St Paul’s both Samuel Johnson and John Howard have had their statues hidden by Sandringham’s best.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th November 2022, the Miss Scarlett Letters

I’ve just deleted fifty-four spam messages. Fifty-four! That’s what happens when you don’t post for a while. So what’s my excuse? Nothing special, just the usual, busy with this and that, cat wrangling and I have started reading Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace. I’m not sure where I picked up this copy. I had a vague idea I had read it, but a few pages in and I realised I hadn’t. It’s over 500 pages long, and it says something about how much I’m enjoying it, that I have taken it on the bus and carried it around while I’ve been working on at least two days. I seem to have a lt of reading material all of a sudden. I mean extra to the ear present pile of books by my bed. Charlie has passed me copies of the Economist, J gave me an article about Noel Fitzpatrick to read, the Guardian online is my first thing in the morning go to while I have breakfast. I’m listening to Vesper Flights by Helen McDonald which is superb. It makes me dust much more thoroughly when I have something so absorbing and enlightening to listen to.

Tonight it’s raining. Again. Where is all this water coming from? I know people think it rains all the time in England, but our rain is usually of the drizzly half hearted sort. This rain seems to have been working out in the gym. I’m working outside tomorrow, and more rain is forecast. Which is not to say it has rained all day. It was raining when I woke up, and while I had breakfast. Then the skies cleared and I went out to the City to do one or two things. At the bus stop I had to shield my eyes against the bright sunshine. When I got home there were domestic chores to tackle and lunch to make. So Vesper Flights took my mind off the mundane. I put the washing out on the line. Most of it was dry when the skies darkened again and I prudently decided to bring it indoors. I managed a good hour of Alias Grace with MasterB curled up beside me before he stirred and asked for his dinner. I started to prep my supper. It felt like the right sort of night for a curry.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 29th October 2022

Uncle Bill had a good birthday do. We were a smallish group. It looked for a while as though it might be smaller as we could not find the rear entrance to Tom and Meta’s house where we had agreed to meet them. It made us late, and Michele, who began to worry, sent me a message to check we had the day right.

Tom has had a couple of strokes, and is not so steady on his feet, but there’s nothing wrong with his memory or his story relating skills. Uncle Bill was soon smiling and chuckling as some of the exploits of his cousins were recounted. Our generation seems a sober, unadventurous lot in comparison.

I gave him a Master Bo’sun calendar as I always do, and a Mr Horace Papers card about Stormont. I thought it would entertain him, but for a few short moments I had misgivings as he wore a very serious expression as he studied it. Then his face broke into a wide smile and he started to laugh. Phew.

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The Coronavirus Diaries 26th September 2022, What Now?

My nose has, thank goodness stopped running like a tap, but as of yesterday evening I am very tired. I slept for ten hours last night. This is a worry as I have a ticket for Outspoken on Thursday evening and I want to be there. I shall test on Thursday morning and hope for no second thin pink line.

The weather, suddenly autumnal, has been achingly perfect for long country walks which of course I can’t take. Celia has brought me my shopping, Octavia called round with a risotto and side salad yesterday. I can’t say I am struggling. Both cats have been perfect companions. A&M return on Thursday, so my duties will end after breakfast. I shall miss the ever demanding Lola. MasterB is a pushover in comparison.

A short time ago I went out to break up a four way cat fight. Stumpy, Hartley, Romeo and Smudge were all embroiled in fisticuffs. My guess is that Stumpy picked on Hartley, who is in general fight averse, Hartley’s brother Smudge and Romeo both piled in. It made quite a noise. MasterB watched from the bedroom window and seems to have decided on an evening indoors.

I finished selecting photos for MasterB’s 2023 calendar today and have despatched them to the printer. There’s a limited print run, and I hope to keep the price to £8.50 again, plus postage and packing which I need to check out. Let me know if you are interested. Some will go to Belfast, some to Melbourne Australia, at least two to the US, one to Italy, one to France. It’s an international though exclusive club!

The news from Italy is not great. A neo fascist set to be prime minister. People here on twitter saying they agree with her views. Our new Prime Minister probably does too. As neither she nor the chancellor are stupid, I am struggling to understand why they are acting as they are. Simple greed? Have they decided the best thing to do is to milk this country for all it has, sharing the spoils with their pals while the rest of us starve, before rushing off somewhere else on the planet with their cash? If they intend to remain here, trashing the country doesn’t seem a great approach. Or maybe they like raw sewage in the waterways, people living in tents on any stretch of land, overburdened hospitals and collapsing infrastructure.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th September 2022: Out and About

Celia and I met up after lunch yesterday. She’s been away, visiting family in various parts of the country. We went to Sydenham Woods, enjoying the cool of the shaded paths on yet another warm day.

We weren’t alone. There were families, quite a few with dogs, but it didn’t feel crowded. Partks are all very well, but walking in the woods is better somehow. When we emerged at the top of a hill there was a convenient pub called the Wood House. In we went for some cider. Very nice. We couldn’t decide if this was the same pub where Celia’s cousin Sally had a surprise birthday party some years ago.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th August 2022. Crisis Bullet Points

The trouble with not posting for a while is you – by which of course I mean I – have too much to say so where to start, where to end, which rant to prioritise, which magic moment to celebrate, becomes the barrier to any post at all.

So I thought to try a few bullet points. Here goes, in no particular order:

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 25th July 2022, Masked Up

It feels as though the net is drawing tighter and it’s only a matter of time until I am caught in it. Almost every day I hear of someone new who I know catching COVID. All have been vaccinated, all have escaped the virus until now. I am in a group of diminishing size. So I’m back in masks, still opening windows and sitting beside them where possible when I am on the bus, restricting my social life, washing my hands, trying to keep my distance and mainly seeing people outside, which is not hard at this time of year.

Next week, should trains and planes allow, I shall be off to NI for a fortnight, and I really don’t COVID to put a stop to that or to strike me down while I am there. Octavia was telling me of her friend Loris who has flown in from Australia, but far from enjoying a holiday she is laid up in bed feeling dreadful. Allegra went to the US to attend a family wedding. A good friend who accompanied her for the relaxing break they intended to enjoy afterwards, has also tested positive and is very unwell. Jimmy returned from a festival in Croatia , and, well you have probably guessed the rest. My neighbours across the landing succumbed last week. Celia tested positive at the weekend. Mary, who I work with tested positive yesterday.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th July 2022: Some Like it Hot

It’s cooler tonight and the breeze, unlike yesterday’s warm winds, is refreshing. I hung out some washing yesterday, went to the shop, came back less than half an hour later and everything, including bath towels, was dry. Still, for some reason I found the very high temperatures easier to deal with than the day before when it was a degree or two less, maybe because I wasn’t working.

We have strange attitudes to sweat. We know we sweat to keep our bodies cool, but the Ring of Shame is something featured in celeb magazines as though those who have achieved fame and success are somehow letting themselves down by perspiring. I am hoping Prince Andrew’s inability to sweat is going to turn sweating, or glowing as us ladies do, into a Ring of Pride.

Anyway I have glowed a fair amount these last few days. The cat’s cool mat and a tiny desk fan that plugs into my power bank via a USB have somewhat remarkably meant I have slept well. There was one night, Sunday, when I had murderous thoughts towards a woman on a roof terrace nearby who I should guess had had a fair amount of alcohol. At regular intervals of around ten minutes she shouted “hello?” and then shouted it again several times. Had I already been asleep I doubt if it would have bothered me. As it was her “hello?”s repeatedly coincided with the moment I was just dropping off. In the end I turned the light back on, opened my book and read until all was quiet. I don’t know why she stopped her shouting. Maybe someone finally answered her call, or perhaps she simply passed put in an alcoholic haze. I admit my concerns were more for myself than for her.

More disturbing were yesterday’s wild fires. The worst fires the fire service has had to deal with since the Second World War. Johnson tweeted his thanks to the fire service, conveniently ignoring the fact that he closed fire stations and reduced the number of firefighters during his time as a memorably lamentable Mayor of London.

He continued today at his last PMQs to crow about achievements which are about as real as the Emperor’s New Clothes. Like Trump, he operates on the premise that a lie repeated endlessly acquires the patina of truth. This works in part because there are so many lies that are repeated so often, serious journalists ignore them to deal with the day’s lies. It’s a case of volume: screen time and column inches are not infinite. It also works because people who should know better but either have no shame, no conscience or no backbone and those who own right wing papers repeat the same lies.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th July 2022, Heatwave

The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health warning from three to four, a level described as a national emergency. So what do you do when the country is put on amber alert, rising in the next days to red for the first time as temperatures continue to pass what we think of as normal? Obviously we will all have different priorities and strategies. Imagine you are Prime Minster and there’s a Cobra meeting to discuss this emergency but you have already planned a party at the grace and favour home you are still entitled to use for the next couple of months. What choice do you make as leader? I hope most Prime Ministers would issue apologies to the guests, and do what they are paid to do. This is not the choice the Liar in Chief has opted for. Not surprising, but still somehow shocking.

Meanwhile some of the hopefuls, or probably more accurately hopeless, in the contest to be the new leader of the Conservatives are prevaricating about the commitment to achieve net zero by 2050. I suspect they will not be prevaricating about their commitment to curb immigration, somehow conveniently ignoring the fact that as parts of the world become unsustainable due to climate crisis a surge in immigration is inevitable. If they really wanted to curb immigration and not just pander to the Little Englanders they would be ardently committed to net zero before 2050, and looking at ways to alleviate climate crisis globally. We are all linked, all equally responsible, equally damned.

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