The Coronavirus Diaries, 14th June 2020

My mental health day was a success. I have returned home feeling  stronger and happier. The world seems a bigger, better place with more possibilities. There were more people on the train than I had anticipated, but it was still easy to keep apart. The bus only accepts twenty passengers, and fortunately for me that number had not been reached when I boarded the bus this morning or the one this evening.

I heard a cuckoo calling in the woods, met several friendly dogs, one friendly cat who bore more than a passing resemblance to MasterB, though with very short whiskers, and lots of very friendly people. My faith in human nature went a long way to being restored.

Short whiskered MasterB lookalike

It helped that the weather was gorgeous, warm without being hot. I ate chips while I sat on a bench looking at a river and no gull bothered me. I chose streets where I’d like to live. I had a chat with a talkative toddler. Continue reading


The Coronavirus Diaries 26th March 2020

I’m just back inside after joining my neighbours (at a safe distance) for the Big Clap to say thank-you to everyone in the NHS. We were on our doorsteps, at windows, in my case and with two others, one of whom works for the NHS, from the block of flats where I live, on the pavement by the car park gates. There were whoops and fireworks. From all the streets around us we could hear the sound of applause. Magical, wonderful, heartwarming and heartbreaking.

The Ginger Ninja remains in good health

This crisis has brought out the best and worst of us. I know of a nurse who is doing thirteen hour shifts on an ICU. Her thirty minute lunch break becomes twenty by the time she has climbed out of her protective clothing and when it is time to climb back into it again. She and all the others working in these conditions are heroes, but had successive governments not run down the NHS so cynically, their task might be more manageable, more hopeful. For years now the NHS has warned it is near to breaking point. Johnson said three weeks ago that “our NHS will cope” now he needs to show strong, practical support, leadership, except leadership is not something any of us expect from Johnson, and reward not just with words. The NHS should not be coping, it should be properly funded, able to step up with confidence when a crisis happens, knowing the government is at its back. Continue reading

Love London

The new layout at the airport confused me. I could see the shuttle bus I needed to take to the railway station, but not how to get to it. So I wasted several minutes going in the wrong direction and the bus I had seen departed. Fortunately another arrived almost immediately. It was nearly empty, as was the train to London. Until we reached St Pancras. I looked up from my book and saw a sea of faces on the platform. Not all those people boarded the train, but as travelled through Farringdon and City Thameslink stations the train filled up. I got off at Blackfriars and made it to the bus stop just in time to see my bus pull away. Joggers dodged the pedestrians; commuters talked earnestly into mobile phones; the Thames flowed sweetly under the bridge. It was a beautiful evening.
After being the countryside I was struck, as I always am when I return home from less populated areas, by the hustle; the sheer number of people; the energy. I couldn’t decide whether I was pleased to be there or not, though I was increasingly impatient to see MasterB.
He was more interested in going into the garden. Within seconds I realised his pleasure at seeing me was more that I could let him out of the flat and into the big wide world than in an emotional reunion. Ah well, he made up for it later, and this evening. Continue reading

Janet Eggs

Once clear of London en route for das Boot I generally stop at a supermarket for supplies, things I think I’ll need afloat – beers, coffee and so on. But not eggs. No, those I buy on the road that leads to the marina. Just a quick text to Janet Eggs to let her know I am on my way, and provided the hens are laying, half a dozen eggs are hidden in the mailbox attached to her gate.

Eggs for sale

I don’t know how many hens Janet keeps, nor do I know her real surname, though it definitely isn’t Eggs. I do know the hens are free range and that any money collected from the sale of their eggs goes to support local good causes – someone in financial straits due to illness, the victim of a hit and run accident. Janet is a farmer’s wife. Before you accuse me of sexism, it’s only her husband I seen on the big machinery, his ears shrouded in the big protectors. I know she refers to him as Daddy when talking to her dogs. She has several dogs; golden retrievers, a Jack Russell who escapes under the gate to scamper around my feet, a standard poodle. Janet has never met MasterB, but that doesn’t stop her asking if he is with me and how he is. Continue reading


Oh my. What a lovely evening.

It was the first night of a new community film club. In the same place where we go to Book Club in SE5. The book club Celia and I joined after peering at an indistinct poster behind glass that was covered in condensation.

Michèle happened to be passing. Oh do join our book club, she said. But we don't live here, we said. We are from further up the road; part of the SE17 tribe. No matter, said Michėle (or words to that effect), you are still welcome.

So the SE5 tribe opened its doors to us, and communication between two neighbourhoods opened up.


The opposite of those stories people tell you about people in cities living lonely lives surrounded by millions. Continue reading

Lost and Found: An Evening of Poetry

Our poetry group has blossomed. At the end of 2013 it was an endangered species. The library, where it began under the protective eye of David, a library assistant who is also a published poet, has been closed for over a year due to a devastating fire in the building next door.
We were moved to a library some distance way. Numbers fell. To be honest, they had already fallen when David was moved to a different library and a new library assistant was assigned to us. Celia and I, with our dying mothers, had other preoccupations. In November, the local authority decided that if only a couple of people were going to attend, it was no longer viable. The group would close. Perhaps, when our library reopens sometime in the distant and unspecified future, it might start again.
Could we, we suggested, run it ourselves in the interim? Suspend it rather than close it, let it loose in the community until new stabling is found?
So we sat in the pub and discussed how we would do it. We needed a venue. The pub landlady, asked for her opinion, was happy for us to meet there. In January we marked our new group with an outing to the TS Eliot Prize readings by the ten short-listed poets. In February we were at the pub. It was the same night as a Labour party fundraising quiz night, and pretty noisy. But there were three of us, and later Reuben and Emily came to find out what we were up to.
This was a lucky moment, as they have a gallery space nearby, and said they would be happy to host us. We had already arranged that March would be at the poetry library, so on a chilly night in April, five of us sat at a round table at Hotel Elephant with our poems and some lager. Ronnie, Reuben and Emily’s new puppy, was so delighted to see us he peed on the floor. Continue reading


I’m reading my first Stella Rimington novel, so it’s appropriate I should have snapped MI6’s building on Sunday. Stella, as Director General of MI5, worked across the river at Thames House.

MI6 Building

I’m only a short way into the novel, which is entertaining and readable, and Vauxhall has had a few mentions. I wouldn’t have bought it were it not for the author, and even then, only because it was one of those ridiculously cheap Kindle book offers.

Vauxhall is a funny place. The heart of it was torn down and replaced by the huge traffic junction and accident black spot that is Vauxhall Cross. Photographs of it before redevelopment show a thriving shopping street, completely at variance with today’s multi-laned highway. In earlier times still, it was the site of one of the most famous of London’s pleasure gardens. This scruffy piece of land on the other side of the railway is part of those gardens.

Spring Gardens

Continue reading