The Coronavirus Diaries, 28th September 2020

It’s been a busy day and I have read snatches of a newspaper and seen a bit of tonight’s news, but if I have followed what I read and heard correctly Donald Trump’s tax returns have been causing a bit of a stir, mainly because he has paid so little tax, and in some years none at all.

Tax avoidance and tax evasion are different things, and tax avoidance costs the UK more money than I could ever dream of, and it’s all legal. I am in favour of people paying taxes. Avoiding paying taxes is to my mind immoral, just as tax evasion is. Taxes pay for the things that benefit us as a society. Schools, roads, hospitals, social services, the armed services are all paid for by taxes. Avoid paying and you put yourself outside society. Yet many people seem to feel fiddling their taxes is justifiable, even clever, and those who can afford the services of tax havens and offshore bank accounts appear to believe it is their right to do so while all too often berating and criminalising those who commit minor infringements of the benefit system.

So I shouldn’t really have been surprised to learn that in the US some of Trump’s supporters are gleeful that he has avoided paying tax, and just wish they could do the same. They admire him for withholding money from the treasury that could enrich the public purse. Quite how Trump squares his love of big public projects like wall building or increasing the military with not paying tax is something his therapist might be able to untangle. I cannot.

It’s only recently that the history of taxation has started to interest me. I wrongly assumed that it was something rich and poor alike had had to pay for a long time. Not so. Much of the money raised in taxes was through indirect taxation, and continues to be so. Things like food, which meant that the lower your income the higher proportion of it you paid in tax. It strikes me that the whole anti tax narrative that I have heard all my life has been driven by those who have money and want to hold onto it while being quite happy for those with less to pay more than their share. A narrative written and broadcast by those in power, as they have had the wealth, but one to which we are all susceptible. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 26th September 2020

I’m going to let photos do most of the work tonight. I had my first proper, boots on, train to the start point, walk for months today. If we are locked down again it may be my last for a while too. At the last minute my friend Nicola decided to join me and we met yup at Waterloo Station. The walk is the the one Celia and I did at Easter 2019, and it was wonderful to do it in a different season. We stopped at the Watts Gallery for lunch, checked out the shop, spent some precious moments at the Chapel and revelled in the views of the countryside, the boot against the path, the blackberries in the hedgerows and the sweet chestnuts bursting from their spiny shells.

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Guildford Cathedral

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th September 2020

It’s hard to believe that two days ago we were enjoying warm sunshine. Today the temperature suddenly dropped mid afternoon and tonight I have put on an extra layer and started thinking about making soups. I’m watching the Grayson Perry programme. The first was on last night and I watched it earlier this evening on catch up, but I see the other programmes in the series are also available, so when I finish writing this I am going to settle back and watch the second one.

He made the programmes last year, travelling to different parts of the US by motorbike. The episode I have seen was about his visit to Atlanta and the main focus was on race. He’s a good listener. Maybe he has learned from his psychotherapist wife Philippa, and he says back to people what he has understood them to be saying which allows for further clarity if he has got it wrong. There was a performance poet whose name I didn’t get, but whose work I should like to know more of. Some of the conversations have a greater urgency about them now due to events this year – George Floyd’s killing, the BLM protests, the news today about the acquittal of the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Trump’s intention to replace her with a judge who supports him, the increasing threats by Trump to disrupt democracy at the election. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd September 2020

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

The Coronavirus Diaries, 19th September 2020

I should sleep well tonight. This morning I scrubbed the foredeck and then parts of the port gunwale until my spine ached from nape to lower back. I have no doubt I shifted a lot of dirt, the water in my bucket turned a muddy brown and there was great deal of sluicing to be done to see the results. They were good, but not as good as I’d wanted. My mop decided this was all too much and fell apart. After washing down the top and sides of the boat I did the windows inside and out again, inexpertly as I could see later, but a job that needs repeating often. My neighbours, who had spent a relaxing morning as the day warmed up, set off for Waterbeach and I walked crab like to the tap to rinse my waterproof trousers and my cleaning cloths. Then a hot shower. That did much to restore me and I realised I was hungry, too hungry to drive to Reach, order food and wait for it to be served. I had a lovely lunch on das Boot, and was just finishing when I noticed a kingfisher had landed just by the boat. I sat mesmerised by its closeness and compact perfection, then it flew away. I didn’t see where it went, but maybe if I’m lucky I’ll see it again before I leave tomorrow.

Washing up done, MasterB asleep under the rug in the fore cabin, I went to Reach to pick blackberries and sloes. Then onto the farm shop where (hurrah!) they had salad. Just one bag so I bought it and then went slightly wild buying fresh chard, a bunch of azaleas, a bag of new potatoes as well as some mammoth beetroot and a delicate thyme plant for B&J. Driving back to das Boot I was aware how much I had slowed down and was enjoying the rhythm of the day. On the road, I passed teenage girls riding their ponies, any number of cyclists, mainly adult and in twos and threes. It seemed a good way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon in September.

Cherry, from the neighbouring boat, and I had been wondering about Mr Handsome as we hadn’t seen him. He turned up this evening. I am so glad he’s not on anyone’s plate, though I suppose that is his inevitable fate. It won’t be my plate, but that’s not much of a comfort. Unusually he did not come over to say hello. Maybe he has learned the horrid truth about human beings. He is just as handsome as ever, and, I think, quite a big bigger.

Mr Handsome and Friend having a paddle

Mr Handsome gets up while his lady friend remains in the water

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 18th September 2020

There were watermelons at the organic farm today so I bought one. I haven’t cut into it. It’s in the boot of the car and I shall take it home intact. The fridge on das Boot is not much bigger than a sheet of A3 paper, and I already have quite a lot of fresh food in it. Making sure it doesn’t go off means I have been eating very well, though having established that the pub at Reach is now properly open for business I am tempted to go there for lunch tomorrow before I start my sloe and blackberry picking in the afternoon.

I had a short stroll around the marina, admiring some boats and noting the absence of others who have either been sold or moved to new moorings elsewhere.

Jolly yellow boat

The countryside around is flat. It’s one of the things the fens are famous for.

Flat as far as the eye can see

Bare fields

MasterB has had two walks ashore. The first this morning as the day warmed up, the second this evening. Given that the weather is gorgeous though autumnal, I expected lots of people to arrive this evening. They didn’t. So tonight’s walk was an unexpected bonus, and achieved just in time as, having had a very long pee (yes!!) and spent almost as long covering it up, MasterB looked about, evidently considering his options and a car turned into the marina. I watched it drive the length of the track and guessed correctly it was our neighbours who have the boat the other side of the pontoon.

Boats

MasterB has been gradually become braver about people and cars at the marina, but the likelihood of him having a panic when he saw people walking towards him was high, so I made the choice for him, lifted him up and popped him through the window of das Boot. He was quite calm while I took his harness off, but when the footsteps crunched on the shingle close by and the pontoon began to rock he displayed his disquiet by growling and sinking his belly to the floor. He didn’t rush to hide though, and that in itself is progress. The light was already fading while we were ashore, so there has been no socialising between our two vessels, and I am guessing they will set off somewhere early in the morning. I needed to cook my supper,* so I drew curtains, popped a CD into the player and poured a glass of wine. MasterB remained crouched on the floor until I lifted him onto the bed. He looks pretty relaxed now. Maybe he’ll join me in the fore cabin in a while. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th September 2020

So what have I done today? The military aircraft continued their fly overs much later than I expected, so my early night didn’t happen. I was in my pyjamas, but the noise kept me awake, so I read and MasterB slept on my feet.

During the night I woke briefly several times, mainly because I needed to change position which isn’t always easy with a cat who has decided to sleep on or as close to one as possible. Around six he came under the quilt, curled up by my chest and we slept companionably until half past seven. The morning wasn’t as cool as I was expecting, but the windows in the rear cabin where we’d slept were covered in condensation. Even so, it was obvious it was going to be a beautiful day. The light was gorgeous. I emerged from the boat in time to see a swan flying low over the river. It’s moments like this when it feels unthinkable to give the boat up.

I‘ve been puzzled by a bit of broken ceramic, tonight I got the answer when the bathroom shelf fell off the wall and I could see where the piece fitted on the back. Since it was fine on my last stay and Older Nephew and his partner were the last people to use das Boot, I assumed they had had a mishap with the shelf. He says not. Strange. The shelf didn’t get back on the wall on its own.

Anyway, MasterB and I enjoyed our respective breakfasts and then I read for a while, feeling rather contented and lazy. But there was shopping to be done at Reach. I wanted carrots, salad and a marrow. I didn’t find any of them, I ended up with squash and fresh walnuts. There weren’t any water melons either. I wasn’t expecting them. They are not the sort of fruit I expect to find on an organic farm in Cambridgeshire, but a woman who was there at the same time as I was waxed lyrical about them and was very disappointed not to get one today.

I turned down the lane and picked blackberries for a crumble I have made this evening. I had half feared there would be no blackberries, that I’d be too late, but I think these were on a north facing hedgerow. I’ll go back and pick more before I go home and I have two orders for sloes, both I think for gin. I may try sloe chutney. I have only had sloe gin once,  an ex neighbour made it and it was so strong I thought I’d go blind.  Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th September 2020

It wasn’t the most auspicious start to our few days away. I got caught up with some stuff this morning and MasterB stubbornly refused to have a pee before I put him in the car. Instead, just about a mile from home, he began to cry and then had a pee in his basket, immediately followed by a poo. He then cried a lot more, distressed at having to share his space with his own waste.

Fortunately I was able to pull over into a car park for customers at a group of shops on the Old Kent Road. For those of you only familiar with the district via the British version of the board game Monopoly, I should tell you it is a busy road with several lanes of traffic. MasterB showed a worrying desire to get out of the car. For obvious reasons I had lifted him out of his basket. I then had to use the basket, still with pee and poo, to block his exit. I am not sure which of us was the most stressed by this. Basket emptied, I then had to get it into the car again without my cat getting out. I ended up holding him firmly round his middle and shutting him into the basket, now equipped with clean newspaper, before closing the door and getting his seat belt round the basket again.

I don’t know if anyone watched this performance. I was much too concerned to get it done to look out for onlookers. After that he settled and slept for most of the journey, which was just as well as I think we hit every red light on the route and ended up travelling through school traffic. Never a good idea, though it did give me the chance to study the truly hideous uniforms girls have to wear at some schools in Bishops Stortford.  Is this an infringement of their human rights, or their rights as children not to be made to look ridiculous? There seemed a lot of school children about well before three thirty. Are schools finishing earlier? Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 15th September 2020

We had another (chipless) evening in the garden. Hartley is definitely bonding with J. The aloof fox came and ignored us. It’s been a hot day, and the evening is still very warm. MasterB is out. I am pleased, as when we go to das Boot tomorrow he’ll spend most of his time afloat. It gets dark so early now, and unless the light by the pontoon has been fixed – I’m not holding my breath – I am reluctant to step off the boat where I cannot see. It’s still going to be warm, but not as warm. I have put some bits and pieces in the car including the older great niece’s birthday presents as her parents are hoping to make a flying visit on Friday. I have bought her a range of art materials, and the not-plasticine-but-something-akin-to-it is very heavy. Too heavy to post in my opinion.

I was in the City and in Westminster this morning. Both were pretty quiet, though people started to emerge from their offices at lunchtime. I found a message on my ‘phone from B&J asking if I was going to the shops. I replied that having eaten my lunch I was thinking about the vegan Magnums I had seen but not bought in Morrison’s the other day. I ended up buying them for both of us. Yummy. Perfect on a hot afternoon. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 14th September 2020

Time for some cat pictures I think. Just the one cat, MasterB, though I seem to be spending a great deal of time with Hartley and slightly less with Romeo. Hartley is a human seeking missile. B&J came over to the garden this evening and Hartley found them within seconds.

On the landing window sill

Carpet lounging

Teatime nap

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