The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th April 2020

I spent much of today on the ‘phone, not chats with friends, though all the calls were amicable, chats about car insurance. Mine expires next Saturday. My current insurers sent a renewal notice. The cost had risen by £70 from last year for no discernable reason. I rang, it was reduced by £20. I rang other insurers. The cost was more or less the same. If I had to choose just one word to describe it, that word would be high. Two words – too high. I’ll mull it over this weekend and decide if it is worth switching to save £12.

I don’t use my car much. I keep it mainly so I can get to das Boot. But my boat, has not been relaunched because of coronavirus, after being out of the water for its/her insurance valuation inspection all winter. Lockdown looks set to continue. I have already paid for my river licence, for my mooring fees, the boat insurance is due in July, the car tax, now the car insurance, all for something I can’t access, let alone enjoy. It’s a bit surreal. Or maddening. Choose your own adjective. Actually expensive would probably be the most accurate.

So. Is this going to be the moment I decide to sell das Boot, to give up the car? Maybe the moment, but those two things will have to wait until a) I can get to das Boot and remove her to a mooring where boats are sold b) a prospective buyer can take it/her for a water trial. Until the boat is no longer mine, I need the car. Do you see a circularity? a roundabout with no current exit?

One of the insurers I called, once he had my address, said I didn’t sound like a south Londoner. I wasn’t sure if it was a judgement or what. I said, “Don’t I? I have lived in Se17 most of my life.” This is true. It turned out theta he had lived in Greenwich, though his accent suggested his origins were a couple of hundred miles north of the Thames. I resisted saying it isn’t where you are born that matters, it where you make your home. My friend Patou was born in Argenteuil. Sh has lived longer in London than anywhere. London, she used to say proudly, is my city. Then Brexit. She won’t be here much longer. I have promised to call her this evening. Time is getting on. This post will have to be curtailed.

So, briefly: Celia and I walked over to Vauxhall. I took some photos. Celia announced a) she wanted to have a drink of cider in a pub and b) as the pubs were closed she wanted cake at the Vauxhall Tea House Theatre – which is also closed. We compromised by going to the latter and staring in through the windows. I took some photos.

Maggie the Cat

Muddy Boots and Dogs Welcome

I am a bit concerned about Maggie and the dogs. Continue reading

Across the World to Camberwell

At home, I live not far from Camberwell. It's where generations of my family lived, and where my father was born. For that reason, and is there a better one? I wanted to visit Camberwell, Melbourne before I leave.

After yesterday's heat there was a night of heavy rain, followed by a grey cold day with intermittent drizzle. Perfect for suburb touring.

As it turns out, the two Camberwells, while being topographically dissimilar, have things in common. Both are suburbs which would have been homes to market gardens, and homes for the well to do middle classes. Both saw their status tumble and have been reclassified as downmarket, and both are again on the rise. The Main Street of Melbourne's Camberwell is home to a jumble of shops, testimony to the transition status they enjoy. There are chic cafés and cheap take aways; two great shops selling plants within doors of each other; unsympathetic alterations made to shop fronts and structures; chichi shops selling items to aspirational home owners; buildings of changed usage.

We reckoned this bar was once a bank.

These terraces caught my eye fom the car. You'll see it was still raining. I particularly liked the windows.

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A Summer Outing

If you are going to deface somewhere with graffiti, include the date. After a century or so people cease censuring you and find your marks historical and fascinating.

I really wanted to see the carved noughts and crosses game in the north aisle, but it was hidden by an art display. However, this splendid cockerel consoled me.

We were in Winchester for the day. It’s a town I rarely visit, and every time I do, I think I shall return again soon. The reason today was it was the destination of the Annual Outing of a local archaeological group of which I am not a member. Last year Celia and I joined them for the trip to Ramsgate and had such a good time we were among the first to sign up for today.

Our visit coincided with the town fair. The city thronged with people enjoying themselves in the sunshine. Joy was spread by unicyclists and others. We had the cathedral almost to ourselves.

It’s where Jane Austen is buried. She died aged just forty-one. I don’t think any member of our group had clocked up less than half a century. Our combined ages would make a pretty sum.

But I have seen Jane Austen’s headstone and memorial on previous visits. Today my eye was caught by other things. To be anyone in Winchester it seems to helpful to be called William.

William Walker was the diver who worked for years at the start of the twentieth century to clear the peat floor under the cathedral, and by so doing, he saved the building. We ate cake and drank coffee in a pub named after him.

He has a deservedly splendid memorial in the cathedral gardens.

And our afternoon cake in another pub celebrating Hyde’s most famous buried king, Alfred, was not short of photographs commemorating him either. And the references to Alfred were many, though no sign of his recipe book. We looked at where he is said to be buried.
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