The Coronavirus Diaries, 14th January 2022, Party On

Parties eh, they are not always such a great idea, are they? A friend introduces you to a girl, no sweat, you might think, though she seems to think you do sweat, that you sweat a lot. We won’t go into the details of what happened, you can read about it in the newspapers I’m sure, but things apparently got intimate. And then it turned out the girl might not have been quite such a free agent as you might have thought, though of course, silly me, I’d forgotten, you don’t remember meeting her at all, let alone having sex with her.

Years pass. Whispers about the teenaged girl you don’t recall having sex with become shouts. Turns out she was trafficked by your friends, one of whom has committed suicide in jail, the other is now a convicted sex trafficker. How could you have known? You never read, thought Lolita was quite a jolly name, maybe you could have given it to one of your girls if you’d thought of it at the time. Now the girl wants to take you to court. You! Unbelievable. She doesn’t give up despite the brush offs you and your lawyers give out. She doesn’t seem to realise you are her better, one of the upper privileged classes, and if you did have sex with her, which you absolutely don’t remember, she should count herself privileged that someone of your standing, someone with your lineage – William the Conqueror no less, yes we know he was also known as William the Bastard for the obvious and other reasons, but all the same – should even touch her hand, let alone get naked and unsweaty with her. Those damned American courts don’t seem to understand who they are dealing with. Christmas was at least isolated so you didn’t have to be with a bunch of family members who had all been discussing you and were now intent on disowning you. You’ll understand, won’t you? It’s to protect the family. Mummy. But what are you without your titles? Without your vast wardrobe of uniforms and dressing up clothes? Without your entitlement and automatic access to the best of everything? A shallow, stupid man. A man full of self-pity and indeed pitiful in many ways, yet hard to pity.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th December 2021, Countdown to 2022

It’s that slightly strange period between Christmas and New Year. This time last week people were buying last minute cards and wrapping paper. Today I saw those items on sale at half the price. I was hoping for fresh mushrooms but was not lucky.

A couple of weeks ago Octavia was telling me she has been trying to eat thirty different types of fruit and vegetables a week. She thought I probably already did. I was and remain more doubtful. I do eat a lot of fruit and veg, but I gravitate towards the same ones, so I have started noting my intake this week. I’m starting my list from Christmas Day. I haven’t totted things up before this minute, and I haven’t been trying to eat anything I don’t normally eat, so this list will be as much an eye opener for me as it is for you.:

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 27th December 2021 Boxing Day Plus One

I thought today was Boxing Day as it’s a Bank Holiday and the day after Christmas Day is called Boxing Day and is usually a Bank Holiday but this year it was a Sunday, so the Bank Holiday is today, but Boxing Day was still yesterday. Confused? Join the club.

I was working yesterday. It was outside and first thing in the morning the rain was pelting down. I was wondering how my clients would react if I turned up in waterproof over trousers but fortunately, as promised by the weather forecast, the rain eased off.

Some people are lucky and they love their work. On days like yesterday I am one of those people. I just enjoyed the whole day. Then at home I read the paper. Finally it appears people are waking up to the reality of Boris Johnson, liar in chief and total disaster for this country. Maybe I should be happier that the truth is dawning on so many who have chosen to follow his lies, but the fact that they have so eagerly believed his nonsense makes me wonder what sort of country I am living in. And heaven help us, there are still some who think he’s doing a good job and that Jacob Rees-Mogg is a gentleman. The future does not look good. Also if BJ goes, who is in line for the job? Liz Truss perhaps, Dominic Raab, Rishi Sunak, or maybe Michael Gove who has recently been very silent, suspiciously silent in my opinion. None are examples of politicians who put country ahead of personal ambition.

I strongly believe no one should be able to be a representative, elected to the Commons, or nominated as in the Lords, who does not pay their full share of taxes to the treasury, has offshore investments, hedge funds, owns or has shares in companies who practise tax avoidance, has money left in trust funds to make sure their funds remain intact, or at least very lightly taxed, for future generations of their family while the playing field for others becomes less and less level. If you are in position to make decisions on how taxes are spent you need to pay them. Actually, even if you aren’t in that position you need to pay them. We need our roads, our hospitals, our schools.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, Christmas Eve 2021

I can hear rain against the windows, but the shutters are closed, candles lit, MasterB asleep on the chair, his nose tucked into his tail. We are cosy and warm. I am listening to A Mediaeval Carol Service from St Bartholomew the Great. It took place a few days ago, but is available to listen to and watch online courtesy of YouTube. I recommend it. Earlier I went for a walk before seeing Michèle for a glass of wine in her flat. She’s been home for over a week now, her ankle getting stronger daily, and she’s obviously loving being back in her own territory.

While I walked I was thinking about Christmas, this year and last, both shadowed by COVID but feeling very different. In 2020 we were making the best of things, not allowed to travel, so nearly all the neighbours were around. We were in it together. It was cold but dry and bright. We could meet outside, observe social distancing, exchange cards and gifts over a glass of something bubbly. But COVID has become a virus of attrition and it feels this year we are wearier, less inclined to find ways to be imaginative in our celebrations, more inward looking.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th September 2021

I had my winter ‘flu vaccination yesterday. I went to the local pharmacy to book an appointment and was fitted in then and there. By late evening my arm was sore and by this morning most of my upper arm was covered in an angry red rash. I felt, still feel, somewhat under the weather though probably by tomorrow I’ll be fine. Why my body should react so strongly to vaccinations I do not know.

Consequently it has been a rather lazy day. I have read a book, made some notes for a job I am doing in ten days, read emails and replied to them. I could quite happily go to bed now, but as it’s not yet five o’clock, I shall stay up a while longer. The day has been grey, windy, not cold enough to put the heating on, but cold enough to close windows and wear socks and a jumper. It’s soup weather. Soup and crusty bread, except I am deliberately buying boring bread as when I have good bread I keep eating it. Boring bread does not exercise the same appeal.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th September 2021

And suddenly it’s autumn. Mask wearing is increasingly erratic. Even I have forgotten to mask up on a couple of occasions. I am hoping this new feeling of relaxation is not heading for trouble. I have been comforting myself seeing figures locally dropping, the warm weather meaning we are outside a good deal and on the buses the windows are generally open. So the sudden drop in temperature is a bit worrying.

Sunday was lovely, which was great as Celia and headed off, booted and with packed lunches for Haslemere on the Surrey Sussex borders. We had each bought our tickets on Saturday though at different London stations. I had the better deal at Charing Cross with my ticket for some reason being £2 less. However, a couple of hours later the likelihood of my going anywhere was remote. I had sat down on the floor to do something necessary at the computer. When I finished and stood up my left ankle felt as though it had gone to sleep. I expected it to wear off in a few minutes, but instead it became increasingly sore and I hobbled painfully down to the neighbourhood gathering that was the annual Sausage Sizzle. Unsurprisingly I didn’t have sausages. I took a butterbean and pesto salad.

After breakfast I had managed to drop my ‘phone on my foot and it seems this ankle pain was a delayed reaction to the trauma. Anyway, after sitting for a while on the sofa with bag of frozen peas wrapped round my ankle I had an early night, swapping the peas for Ibuprofen gel. It worked. In the morning my walking skills were restored. Hurrah!

The walk instructions warned at places it could be muddy, but we hadn’t had rain for weeks (a situation that has changed this week with a dramatic downpour yesterday morning that included bouncing hail, and several heavy showers today) so we were quietly confident.

When we left London, the only hint that it was autumn was the mist. With sunrise now happening just before seven, it takes a while for the day to wake up. I have done several walks around Haslemere, it’s a lovely town surrounded by great countryside; the perfect combination. You may well recognise the first place if you have followed this page for some years as I am pretty sure I have posted a very similar picture, with a robin in it, or maybe just a reference to a robin. Obviously any walk with Celia at this time of year is going to feature fungi.

The trees were still green. We actually got almost excited when we saw a few brown leaves. Blackberries worth picking were in short supply, but I got enough to add to the crumble I shared with Octavia later. There was a fair amount of up. The walk notes used the word steep more often than I like, but it was nice steep, through woodland and on paths that twisted rather than heading up in an unrelenting slog. I kept checking the treeline to see how much further we had to climb.

I do love a fingerpost, and there were quite a few. The first three quarters of the walk were well way marked, so combined with the instructions we had no problems finding our route.

Why this footpath over a stream is described as shuttered I do not know. Can anyone explain please?

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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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The Coronavirus Diaries 16th September 2021

So onto, or I think that should be back to, the walk Celia and I took 4th September. It was a shorter walk, closer to home. Celia’s daughter and her family were staying. We had a window of five hours. I found a choice of walks locally. Celia picked the one which included One Tree Hill. After taking the bus, we started at Nunhead Cemetery which was enjoying an open day.

The cemetery was humming. The dead may have been pretty quiet, but there were stalls, animals from Surrey Docks City Farm, alternative Morris dancers who brought a goth vibe to the usual bell ringing and handkerchief waving. We walked by the memorial to the boys from our neighbourhood who drowned when they had been anticipating a holiday in Leysdown. There’s a not very good novel about it by Stella Duffy who also lives or lived locally.

It appeared Peckham Rye was also having a Day. Their’s featured dogs and a rather snazzy poster. As I have mentioned the Stella Duffy I’m going to remind you that there is a very good novel by Muriel Spark called The Ballad of Peckham Rye. It even mentions the Walworth Road, and has one of my all time favourite lines: There are classes within classes in Peckham. I read it years before I came to live in sunny south London. Does that mean anything? Probably not, though that sentence has stayed with me since I was a teenager.

Out of the cemetery and a tiny detour to stare at the house where my great grandmother lived with one of her married daughters. My father loathed his grandmother. He had to kiss her through her veil. She loved cats, so my father loathed them too.

We met a man walking a very pretty miniature Pinscher. the dog was called Moses, he was a rescue and came with a basket. I don’t know the man’s name. He told us he understood how the Duke of Edinburgh felt. I don’t know about Celia, but I felt I had missed something. Fortunately the man explained. If he draws level with Moses, the little dog is not amused. The man has to remain several steps behind. I have a not very good picture of Moses. We were on a very shady path. As you’ll see, One Tree Hill is a misleading name.

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