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 April 2022, Birthday Surprise

Celia’s birthday today and the countdown to our trip to Bellaghy and Belfast via the glamour that is Luton Airport begins. Celia is out tonight with her husband and daughter but we met up this afternoon. Not perhaps the most obvious birthday celebratory gig, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

I have two small stools with seagrass woven seats. They were gifts from my godparents to my sister and myself back when the world and we were young. I presume my sister didn’t want hers and so it was left with my parents who handed it, along with the one that was mine, to me when I moved to this flat. The years have left their mark. The seagrass is broken in parts, the legs are looking scruffy. I thought I should like to get them repaired and spruced up, maybe to pass to the great nieces. The first price I was quoted was exorbitant, but the second was more reasonable.

A deal was agreed, and today it was time to hand over the first of the stools to John at his allotment which just happens to be at a site both Celia and I have peered at through the wire fence. We walked the short route in April sunshine and began a half hour of magic.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th January 2022: Birthdays and Poetry

Today is B’s birthday. She got lots of jolly cards and she and J were off to a pub for lunch when I saw her earlier. They had also been to her native Bedfordshire yesterday for a catch up with school chums which was postponed from December.

Coincidentally, Celia and I have been planning a birthday treat. Celia’s birthday is 26th April, mine 1st May. We met and became friends through the poetry group which was a monthly affair at our local library. It was, as I have written before, cemented in 2013 by the awareness of other mothers’ increasing fragility, and then by their deaths. Before the summer had ended we were both orphans. In the autumn we went on a Dead Mothers Walk, a few miles of time out and blackberrying picking. We got lost, of course we did, but it was refreshing and we picked a lot of blackberries. It remains a stand out moment in my memory of that year: sitting on the ground, eating as many blackberries as we put into the containers we brought with us, often silent, being. I don’t actually remember much about that year at all. Death is like that. It is so consuming that when you look back things are a blur. So I am pleased my memory has hung onto that day.

Back to our birthdays. When I was in NI for Uncle Bill’s 100th at the end of October I was also able to attend the John Hewitt Birthday readings in Belfast. All three poets were great, and one knocked my socks off. Gail McConnell reading from her book length poem, The Sun is Open. Several of my friends received it as a Christmas present. I’m on the Heaney Homeplace mailing list, having been, in my small way a regular, if distant and sporadic supporter since it opened a few years ago. I saw that Gail McConnell was going to be there 30th April, talking to Jeannette Winterson.

Several years ago, again with Celia, I went to hear Winterson talking about her then new novel The Gap of Time. For those of you who don’t know Winterson, she’s not one of those shy violet types. The event started with incredibly loud music. I don’t recall what it was, but it signalled this was to be as much rock show as literary evening. We were hyped up before she walked down the aisle, a diminutive figure in jeans and a white shirt, a huge smile on her face and owned the podium.

Oh my, I wanted to be at the Homeplace 30th April. Snag. It’s close to where I stay with Cousin, but she will be just returning from Australia after visiting two of her children and their children – including a new granddaughter – for the first time since the start of the pandemic. So not possible to claim her hospitality this time.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 4th May 2020

A lovely sunny day, but despite getting two lots of washing on the line, my mood was low. I was hoping to get the latest podcast organised, but my thoughts turned to my bank account and how I am going to live. I had a conversation on the phone about my pension which didn’t do a lot to cheer me up. Though afterwards I could see there were possibilities. I employ an accountant to do my tax return on my inconsiderable earnings as I am so scared of getting it wrong and being in trouble with HMRC. This is obviously an area where I need his advice and expertise. I sent him an email and he replied promptly asking if I could call him next week.

With my heart a little lighter I set off for a walk with Celia. Walks are free I reminded myself and her. I took a number of photos which I have yet to download, but they can wait. Today I want to share some other photos.

At the start of lockdown, 24th March to be precise, Celia and I went for a walk in and around Vauxhall. We didn’t have a goal, we wandered. In one street we saw a pale blue Triumph Spitfire Mark IV. Up to that point, had you asked me if Celia were interested in cars, I should have given you an unhesitating no for an answer. But this car, this Triumph Spitfire, was different. I saw the light of lust and covetousness in her eye. We looked at it. It was in a short driveway and was almost on the pavement where we stood. I suggested a photograph.

Celia fell in love with this car which we saw as we walked around Vauxhall

As you see, it involved little or no trespassing. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 25th April 2020

I was very dopey this morning, and clicked on the news pages while I drank my coffee and began to engage with the world. There were a number of headlines about Dominic Cummings attending SAGE meetings. I don’t like Cummings, I feel his influence is malign, he overestimates his intelligence, underestimates everyone else’s and I agree he should not be attending these meetings which are for scientists who are eminent in their field and which give independent advice. Whether we like it or not, the Prime Minister’s chief advisor’s presence will have affected the quality of the meeting. It is not his lack of scientific knowledge I object to if he was a silent observer, but the fact that he and a data scientist were present suddenly polticises something which should not be political.

For all I know, Cummings is a closet science nerd. I don’t agree with headlines that scream he shouldn’t be there because he’s a historian. Believe it or not there are people who are knowledgeable in a number of fields. You don’t necessarily have to be a polymath to have a valid point of view about something in which you have no official, academic qualification. I get very cross when say Emma Thompson speaks out about climate crisis and people shout her down on the grounds that she’s an actor and say she should stick to that. When I started teaching several millennia ago, I was amazed by children aged eleven who would tell me I knew nothing about maths/history/geography(that was in fact true)/art etc because I was a French teacher. Apart from the very obvious fact that French is a language and you use language for everything, even maths/history/geography/art etc, it seemed to presume my whole education had only been about learning regular and irregular French verbs, verbs which took whichever preposition and useful phrases at the post office. Er, no.

So I reserve judgement on Mr Cummings’ scientific knowledge. He just should not have been at the meetings.

On lighter things: I have been slowly working on a new (to me) jigsaw. MasterN]B has ‘helped”.

That missing edge piece must be in here somewhere

It’ll appear while I wash

Might need a longer wash

I think I see it

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Happy Birthday Mum

Mother is ninety-seven years old today. I was looking at photographs of her on her eightieth birthday. Laughing, drinking a glass of champagne, opening presents, talking with my sister. Good pictures and good memories.
I don’t know when this picture was taken. I was given a copy and it lives in a frame in my sitting room.


Isn’t she gorgeous?