The Coronavirus Diaries, 13th April 2020

There was a man sitting at a table outside a closed pub writing in a notebook. He had a can of beer in front of him. It brought a whole new meaning to BYO.

My bike ride today was to try to gee myself up. Some days I seem very lethargic. The hours pass and I do very little. I was thinking a lot about my friend Vicki in Melbourne. She emailed me to say her father had died. Not of coronavirus, at least she didn’t say so, and she did say the family had been able to spend time with him before he died. It’s so hard when you lose a parent. Given that happens to everybody we are unaccountably bad at looking after others when it happens to them. In many workplaces you are allowed one day off to attend the funeral of a close relative. One day. It’s ridiculous. It’s unkind. It’s dangerous. Would you want to be operated on by a surgeon who had just been bereaved? flown by a pilot who had had one day off when her mother died? I wouldn’t. You are vulnerable when you are bereaved, fragile. It’s like an altered state.

So fresh air on a noticeably cooler day than we have for some time sounded like what I needed. My goal was Westminster. I reckoned it would be quiet, which was what I wanted. The ride to St Thomas’ was uneventful, though one speeding driver of a 4×4 on a narrow road might have ended my existence had I not heard her coming and pulled over. Her shouted “sorry’ out of the window as she sped on did little to appease. I wonder if she observes social distancing. Probably not.

Opposite the hospital and right where I parked my bike was this sign.

Thank-you

I realise I did not include another photo yesterday from outside Guy’s Hospital.

Free to key workers

The windows of the school opposite the hospital were covered with children’s drawings, all of them to thank the NHS.

This outpouring of thanks is wonderful, and I should love to see it translated into greater investment in the NHS, better pay for NHS workers. But I fear that when we are over coronavirus it will be the rich who remain rich and the poor who become poorer. The rich are good at lobbying, and using influence to get what they want. That Philip Green and Richard Branson, neither of whom are UK taxpayers, expect the rest to bail them out while they keep their billions, says it all. Amazon must be making a fortune from coronavirus, all those deliveries. Does it contribute millions to the UK treasury? No. Tesco accepted a government hand out to pay its workers and then paid out more to its shareholders.

Some of my neighbours are saying that when this is over we shall all have learned what really matters and the world will change. I’d love them to be right, but I can’t see it. As China gets over the virus it’s a return to business as usual and the clean air people have enjoyed is already polluted.

I walked to Westminster Bridge and took another picture.

I ❤️ NHS

It was still very quiet, hardly any traffic other than buses and some cyclists. One or two people on foot. I could see hospital staff enjoying their breaks by the fountain where the geese swam. I walked onto the bridge. I was about halfway across when I saw around ten people coming towards me. I was surprised. They filed by. Then a group of cyclists who looked very much as though they were out together. I was more surprised.

But that was nothing. When I reached the far side of the bridge by the Palace of Westminster which I had expected to be deserted there were families and couples evidently doing a bit of serious sightseeing. I revised my plans and returned to my bike. I rode through Archbishop’s Park. I wish these signs were everywhere.

Keep Your Distance

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Aunt Kath 1916-2015

I got the news when I woke up; an email to say my father’s elder sister, the last of his siblings, had died in the early hours.

It wasn’t altogether a surprise. My cousin Helen contacted me on Sunday to say her mother was very unwell and receiving palliative care. I don’t yet know the details. At Christmas the news was that she was in great shape and the family was confident she would reach her hundredth birthday in March next year. I was thinking of going to see her. She lived these last dozen years or in Gozo where both her daughters had moved with their husbands.

So it’s a while since I saw her, and she hasn’t been able to write for some time. I am not sure she would have known who I was, but I am sure the connection would still have been there. She was the dearest and loveliest of aunts. I spent many hours in her company. We watched Diana Rigg in the Avengers on Friday evenings, walked her dogs across the common and down by the river.

She had a foray into dog breeding – wire haired Dachshunds, great little dogs with big personalities. Her Saluki, Penny, aka The Duchess, disapproved of their rough and tumble ways and how they would commandeer her bed. Continue reading

Saturday

Yesterday evening today stretched like a blank canvas of possibility. Even better when I woke to sunshine and blue sky after an afternoon of persistent rain and dribbly skies all evening.
I thought about going to IKEA and looking at the kitchens. Maybe a visit to the newly refurbed IWM, or even the Cabinet War Rooms. But in the end, I had a largely domestic day with MasterB. One appointment before lunchtime; washing drying on the line; a visit to the bank to pay a bill and to pay in a cheque.
I was daydreaming in the short queue, aware that someone a couple of places behind me was talking, and assuming it was a mobile phone conversation. Then the woman after me in the queue stepped really close and I was jolted into the present. Very clearly, I heard a man muttering, “I hate you. You are disgusting.”
Oh-oh, one of those mobile phone conversations. Well at least he wasn’t shouting. Once tuned in, I couldn’t help hearing more: a long stream of hatred and invective. A monologue. I glanced round. The man did not have a mobile phone. He was queuing quietly with everyone else on a sunny Saturday morning with his hatred of the world spewing out of his mouth. By now, the woman behind me was virtually standing on my heels.
Is it better someone this disturbed is speaking aloud than those words just spin silently in his own head where no one else can hear them? I don’t know.
Back at home, MasterB wanted indoor play. String was the thing. I put my paper aside and picked up my camera.

The Love Cat

The Love Cat

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Return to das Boot

MasterB and I are settling down for the night on das Boot. It’s the first time we have come here since Mother died, and perhaps predictably, I shed quite a few tears on the journey East in the car. Last time I drove up here it was to sit by her bedside for five days as she died.
I want to do something tomorrow to honour Mother, but I don’t know what. We have no grave to visit. Her bungalow has tenants. The chapel where her funeral was held is usually locked. I could ask the minister to let me go there, but he would probably want to be there too, or i would have to say how long I want to be there, and I just want a bit of time with Mum on my own and no complications. There’s the nursing home. Perhaps the church where she worshipped, and where my father’s funeral took place, might be open. I could slip inside, sit down and remember them both.
Or maybe I could go for a walk with my camera. Bear witness to the countryside, to the fields of poppies she enjoyed; walk around the cricket field with dog biscuits in my pockets; see if there are bargains in the charity shops. See her in every corner and turning of the town she and my father retired to.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: In the Background

If you follow my blog regularly, this’ll probably make sense. If you don’t, let me explain. This is a photograph of my mother. She is very young. Not yet twenty I’d guess.
She is working as an assistant nurse, or whatever title they were given then, at Forster Green Hospital just outside Belfast. While there she witnessed the Belfast Blitz. She said that the matron had called her to go up onto the roof so that they could deal with fire damage. Mother was none too keen.
Young Anne Continue reading