I cannot say how good it feels to be out of lockdown, to be able to meet friends outside in the cold, to drink Prosecco and eat chips in their company while wrapped up in numerous layers, each of us cuddling a hot water bottle on a dark December evening. It feels good enough to have survived a day of almost constant rain which I have spent largely indoors, working at some notes, sitting at the table. It’s not raining now and MasterB has gone outside, so I am writing this before I fetch him in and we make tracks for bed. I didn’t watch the news tonight and I have hardly looked at Twitter, so am not rolling my eyes at ridiculous claims by members of the government regarding the vaccine and Brexit. Playground stuff, and playground stuff of which we have had four years. It gets draining listening to the nonsense and then hearing it repeated in the sycophantic portions of the press. Enough.
I watched Twelve Puppies and Us. Delightful. I want to know if the St Bernard succeeds as a companion dog to the little boy living with cerebral palsy and no speech. I want to know if the two spaniels learn to love each other, if Leia continues to be the apple of her family’s eye.
If it weren’t for the pandemic I very much doubt if we should have been sitting outside in the garden at half past eight eating chips. Is this something we will look back on fondly in years to come as we reminisce about the ways we reacted to and coped with the restrictions in our lives?
Tonight’s chips were from Shishlique. Up until now we have been patronising The Best Kebab, but we are starting to experiment. Shishlique is a new business, replacing the unlamented fried chicken shop. It is mainly take away, but a notch more upmarket than The Best Kebab. The staff were friendly, polite efficient. But Shishlique lost points immediately by serving the chips in polystyrene containers instead of wrapping them up in paper. The portions were definitely smaller which was not a bad thing, and the chips themselves were halfway between traditional fat chips of floury potato and French fries.
It’s nice to know we can choose between not just different establishments but different types of chips.
Hartley and the Curious Fox joined us in the garden.The fox played with an old shoe and a discarded face mask which she, or possibly another fox, had found and brought onto the premises. She repeatedly threw them in the air. I am guessing this is a play version of a hunting technique. She also had her eye on J’s Waitrose bag, and would have nabbed it and run off with it had J not picked the bag up and tucked it on the chair. There is something very endearing and innocent about this fox, but I fear her interest in human beings may be her undoing. Not everyone will be content to watch her play. There are some cruel people about. Continue reading
Like many people I should have liked to see Keir Starmer demolish Johnson at PMQs yesterday over the EU Withdrawal Agreement fiasco. But I think John Crace is right and Starmer was correct in sticking to the Coronavirus fiasco instead. Read what he has to say here. Fiascos are officially now what the government does best, it is world beating in this area, and if Armando Iannucci or Andy Hamilton had written all this as a satirical programme for television I should be laughing my socks off (or laughing them on perhaps, as we are still at the barefoot part of the year). Unfortunately the government is supposed to be governing, and, call me naive if you like, some honesty, compassion and integrity would really not go amiss.
On to other things, by which I mean chips. I have eaten chips (fries to you across the pond) twice this week, both times in the company of neighbours. We are becoming Chip Eaters. I don’t think I could manage any more for a while, but there is something very satisfying about eating chips out of paper sitting outside in the garden. Mark seemed to enjoy it particularly. He remarked several times that it was an age since he’d had chips. He asked where I had bought them. That tickled Celia as the chip shop is right beside the bus stop and Mark takes the bus regularly. Surely he must have noticed it?
A further chip related conversation with B&J, also part of the chip eating group, ended with a vague plan to get chips from the chippy near Camberwell New road, and bring them back in insulated bags. Some may even have fish with their chips. Cynthia had seen us from her windows and seemed positive about chips too. Continue reading
Last night we had a social gathering in the garden here. By we, I mean B&J, H&J, Celia and Charlie. Hartley and Romeo naturally assumed they were invited too, and a young fox gatecrashed, at one point running off with a bag I had used to bring the olives etc outside, and my iPhone fell to the floor.
We had chips. Not the cats, and not the fox either. Chips in the garden are somehow wonderful. And they work very well instead of nibbles. Celia has investigated a newish chip shop we noticed during lockdown and gives it a good report. I shall find out if they deliver. If we are allowed to socialise this Christmas in each others’ homes I think it will be drinks and chips in at least two of them.
The young fox was very sweet, watching us with hopeful, curious eyes, close to us but far enough away for his safety. He’s not tame, which is just as well. He decided to approach Hartley and got a hiss for his pains. I think he’s the one I saw the other night waiting for the cats to finish eating so that he could have any leftovers.
This afternoon I went for a walk on my own. Celia had been swimming and that was enough exercise for her. I ended up in Ruskin Park and the streets to the west of it. It reminded me of lockdown, as this was a favourite destination when the highlight of each day was our permitted walk. The park is at Denmark Hill and the views across to the City and Westminster are great. Local residents stand at the top of the hill, south of the park to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
Looking towards Westminster
Looking towards the City
On one of the trees beside the pond I found this notice. There didn’t seem to be any others. It’s probably true, but I was a bit puzzled by it.
I love the streets to the west of Ruskin Park. This afternoon they were very quiet which enhanced the lockdown feeling. We are used to seeing fake flowers decorating shops and restaurants. It’s become something of a tend the last year or so. But this is the first time I have seen a private house given the same treatment.
What a splendid place Walton-on-the-Naze is to spend time on a fine day outside the high season. The train conductor on the second train thought it should be fine for me to come home later so I am hoping that confidence is borne out when someone comes to check the tickets.
There’s not a lot doing by the station at Thorpe-le-Soken and I didn’t have enough time to explore, but there was evidence of decayed grandeur and Google informed me that Eduardo Paolozzi lived there. Google also informed me that beautiful properties for the price of my London flat are available.
Having spilt my snack down my front, I followed up by dropping avocado onto my jumper. Fortunately the sun was shining brightly when I reached WotN so I stuffed said jumper in my bag and presented a clean shirt to the world.
Out of the station and a walk beside a sparkling sea. I’m guessing most of the people I saw walking their dogs, or pushing young children in pushchairs are locals. The schools are back, many of the ice cream sellers and chip shops seemed to have shut up, maybe to allow staff to go on their own holidays. Continue reading