The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th September 2021

I woke up with a sore throat. It didn’t go away. I took two paracetamol and considered my slightly stuffed nose. Cold? Covid 19? A couple of hours later my nose was clear and my sore throat was sore no more. A slight cold maybe. Nothing more serious. On the bus the other day there were five of us on the upper deck. I was the only one masked. On the lower deck all five had masks, but two were wearing theirs under their chins. There are lots of tweets about Covid 19 being over. But the evidence says otherwise. I don’t want us to return to lockdowns, I don’t want us to live sequestered lives, but it does seem we can learn to socialise safely, with masks, and some people don’t want to do that. I don’t have a solution, but I think I shall probably be steering clear of crowded venues for some time to come. Maybe for ever.

Tonight we enjoyed a neighbourly game of Cluedo. Last Sunday four of us convened to play Equaliteas, a game devised to raise awareness about women’s enfranchisement in the UK. We enjoyed it so much we made another date for tonight. So six of us sat down around Celia’s table. It was my game in the sense that I brought the board and pieces. There are new versions of Cluedo. Mine dates from the 1960s. We began by rubbing out the pencil marks on our Detective Notes. Quite a few bore my childish handwriting. It was fun. Usually Michele and I are otherwise engaged on Sunday evenings, and we are already wondering which night of the week can be our games night this winter. Cluedo is a less chatty game than Equaliteas. I have never played it with the full complement of six players before. It was a novel and interesting experience. When I was a child I usually played it with my friend Marion. Charlie struggled with the idea that his character could be the murderer yet he would not know until the crime was solved. Reinhild got a pad of paper and a pen and worked at the solution. Next time we may have to go the whole Line of Duty hog and have a whiteboard, photos and coloured markers.

I have Scrabble, Ludo, Monopoly as well as Cluedo. Celia has Carcassonne which I have never played. I saw a game called Shakespeare the Bard in a charity shop. I may need to return and buy it. I also have decks of cards, and Lexicon which I haven’t played in decades. My father and I used to play cribbage, but I have forgotten how to play. The winter is suddenly full of possibilities.

So now for the first walk of Celia and my series of three. No walk this weekend as Celia was away until last night and I have been working.

This walk was the one we have done before. Several times. It’s a good one. Guildford circular via Compton. Last autumn I did it with Nicola. Here are some pictures.

There were blackberries as we had hoped. But we didn’t want to pick in the morning and carry all day, so we picked and ate. Had I been living in Guildford or anywhere along this circular route during lockdown it would have been. walk I should have been happy to do every day.

We met the man with the aged Labrador as we left. Coco was back in the boot of the car and raised her head when she heard her master speaking to us.

I had been hoping for apples for sale at the farm table, but it was bare. At the fingerpost I wasn’t’t sure if this was a lost boot or a memorial. As a teenager, The Withies Inn was considered quite classy. I don’t even know if it still exists.

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Under Fen Skies

Another lovely day at das Boot. And not at it. MasterB went back to bed straight after breakfast. 41C78D41-7634-4E54-BEFC-526D138054EBFor bed, read under the rug in the fore cabin. I had a couple of things to do at Burwell, filling the car with petrol the most important. So post shower off I went, returning via Reach and picking more blackberries for the crumble that is ready to go in the oven shortly. That’ll be pudding after I have eaten the lentil shepherd’s pie that’s also ready to go in the oven. There’ll be holey spinach as an accompanying vegetable.ED2E81A0-D01A-47D2-AAA7-7B73F2A45E33

I’m getting good at do the washing up in cold water. It’s not that there’s no hot water in the tank, it’s that the taps are sucking in air rather than water when the pump is on, and so they splutter and spit, sometimes sneeze, instead of flow.

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Of Cooler Days, Poetic Blackberries, and Sunshine Yellow Flowers

Celia remarked yesterday that the long weeks of relentlessly high temperatures and continuous sunshine seem like a distant dream. She’s right, though it’s still been warm, there is a definite end of summer feel. This evening it’s been raining with a determination which is doubly annoying as I forgot to take something out of the car earlier. Also I closed my windows to keep the rain out and I felt rather too warm, so the sounds of rain fizzling to a stop has been most welcome.

Maybe if it cools down there may still be blackberries when I eventually get to das Boot. I picked lots in NI to have with my breakfast and to add to yoghurt, which was all very geographically appropriate as it is what the Tourist Board likes to call Heaney country.

Blackberries in Heaney Country

In the East, I was planning to do my usual afternoon of blackberry picking in Reach and then freeze most of them to enjoy in the winter. Continue reading

Petersfield Circular

You might think, having been unable to take photographs during the Three Generations Boat Ride as I had not checked that my camera battery was charged, that I might learn from my mistake. But no. Same error different day, different camera.

My cousin Russell and I had agreed to meet up on 25th August for a walk. Initially we were thinking of Dungeness, but it’s a pig to get to by public transport from London (though why I should bad mouth pigs I don’t know; I am pretty fond of them as farm animals as it goes) and equally awkward from where Russell lives in Hampshire.

Rather late in the day, i.e. just before bedtime 24th, we spoke, and R proposed a circular walk from Petersfield. The train journey suited and so it was agreed with R assuring me there was a pub for lunch en route.

Now back in my pre-teen days I did my first ever sponsored walk for Shelter, or possibly Oxfam, between Petersfield and Godalming. I stopped two miles short of the twenty mile goal with feet covered in blisters. I am not sure I have ever returned to Petersfield.

It’s very couth. When you leave the station the first building in front of you is a business catering for equine and country interests. There’s a book swap/exchange in the station. A station which consists of just two platforms but has toilets.

Russell was there to meet me, and the texts we had exchanged when I was on the train suggested he was less confident about the pub, so had double rations with him for our lunch. I had a bottle of water and a small bag of salted popcorn. In Petersfield I added a couple of bananas, three gorgeous apples and a peach to these, but the peach and one of the apples I had eaten before we even got to the starting point.

Starting Point, Petersfield.

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Out of Reach

It's a rule of fruit picking that the best fruit is either too high or protected by nettles and brambles. Still, it's that time of year when the blackberries are ripening and high on my list for this morning was to go a-gathering in Reach.

I've written about Reach before. It's a village near das Boot with a perfect pub and a perfect organic farm. Most of my blackberry gathering over the last four summers has taken place there. Not all the berries were ripe. Some were still at the flowering stage, so should I get back within the next month or so there's a good chance I shall get a second crop.

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A Walk in Kent, Part One

It all went very well until the lunch stop. The sun shone; the blackberries we intended to gather in the afternoon were abundant; the path was clear. Fab.

Two year ago, Celia and I did this same walk. In my mind at least, it is the Dead Mothers Walk, as for both of us it had been the summer when our mothers died, and this walk was our day away from normal life and its demands.

Roydon Hall, where once the Maharishi held sway, is still for sale, and had very tasty blackberries we could reach through the fence.

 Roydon Hall with Blackberries


Roydon Hall with Blackberries

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A Blast of Summer and Some Bites

On and off throughout the day I remembered I hadn’t yet brushed my hair. Each time I was nowhere near my hairbrush. I remembered again on my way back to das Boot from blackberry picking and buying tomatoes. My fingernails were stained a gory red, I had blackberry juice stains on my shirt (I still have) and my face was flushed from the sudden return of heat to August. Well you have to let your standards drop so times. No laughing there at the back, you who know me.

Summer’s end of term report this year is unlikely to feature any A*s. There will be comments exhorting her to try harder, remarks about inconsistency and lack of concentration. Maybe she is in love. Certainly for much of the time it has felt as though her attention were elsewhere. We have lurched from cool days and grey skies to scorching heat and back again. Even coming away for this weekend I packed for three seasons.

Being British, the weather is of course a main staple of my conversation, and certainly this summer has not failed to give variety to the theme. But for this weekend she has it right. This morning I rather doubted the forecasters who predicted sunny skies and rising degrees this afternoon, culminating in one full day of heat and sunshine tomorrow before rain on Sunday evening.

In other words, the perfect weekend to be away from London and afloat. No doubt at this very minute some of my near neighbours at home are drinking too much after their barbecues, talking loudly, and preparing to open a few more bottles. Tomorrow will be an amplified version of the same, and tough if you want to get to sleep before the braying laughter and sudden shouts have ceased in the pre dawn. Continue reading

Normal Service is Being Resumed

He’s not the full ninja yet, but it won’t be long.
He was alone all day, shut in the flat, so that must have meant a good lot of sleep. The toys weren’t displaced as they often are, so it seems he didn’t do a lot. No nasty surprises in the litter tray or elsewhere, but he didn’t want to go out.

Long Arm

Long Arm


Eventually I persauded him. Tough love. But I sat outside too, and he lay beside my feet, then came to greet my friend Celia who joined me. We’re going to walk in Kent on Saturday. Walk and collect, we hope, lots and lots of lovely blackberries. Continue reading