The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th January 2020

A stunningly beautiful day: cold, but with bright blue skies and when you in it the sun was warm. Octavia and I met and went for a walk. There has been a short series on BBC4 this week called Winter Walks. Five well known figures have gone for a walk alone but with a camera recording a 360° view of what they saw. I have seen three of the five programmes. Don’t think car chases, or indeed anything fast, though one farmer had a fine collection of old tractors he was happy to talk about with Lemn Sissay. In some ways it reminded me of those short filler pieces between programmes back when all television was in black and white, things lies a pot being thrown. Slow, mesmeric, and somehow deeply pleasing. the filming has been edited down to thirty minutes per programme. when I have finished writing this post, I shall probably watch the two remaining episodes. The fact that the words Series 1 follow the title means, I hope that there will be more. I was struck by how in the three I have seen (Lemn Sissay, Simon Armitage and Richard Coles) at some point each muses on the power of walking and landscape to soothe, to heal, to inspire and to calm. I shall be shocked if Selina Scott and Sayeeda Warsi say anything to the contrary. The programmes made me more than ever want to get my boots on and get out into the country, but with strict instructions to stay local, Cynthia and I are planning an urban walk from our front doors to Norwood cemetery next week. we need to plot a route. The most direct way is along main roads, but they will be the most polluted, so we would be better sticking to side streets, housing estates and parks. It’s going to be an adventure.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 3rd December 2020

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.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 12th – 13th November 2020

I started reading Brendan Cox’ book about his wife, the murdered MP Jo Cox. It is not a good book to read at bedtime, not just as I weep buckets over every chapter, but it also stirs up all those feelings around the referendum again as we lurch towards a no deal Brexit with no safety net, and while we are still dealing with the pandemic. However, Dominic Cummings has now resigned, so cause for a glass of red wine this evening, and I got all my washing dry on the line yesterday.

As relief from tearful reading I picked out an unread novel from my shelves, How to Measure a Cow by Margaret Forster. The title’s great, but if this were the first novel I’d read by her it would almost certainly be the last. Clunky, unsatisfying, but I shall finish it and it can go into the bag with other offerings for Oxfam Books when the charity shops reopen. I also have a bag of objects, two bags now for the charity shops near home. In my on/off moving mood actually looking at objects, particularly things I have been given and would not have chosen for myself, leads me to thinking that I do not want to take them with me if/when I do finally move. So that has made me decide they can leave me now. Except they can’t yet, so the bags are sitting on the bedroom floor. I may weaken.

We are only a week into this second lockdown but it feels much longer. I don’t know why I am finding it so difficult. I wonder if it’s because in many ways it seems very much like when we had eased out of lockdown1. Most businesses are open, the streets are busy, there’s lots of traffic. But we can’t socialise. Numbers of deaths have risen and numbers of confirmed cases.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 1st November 2020

It’s my half birthday and the universe seems to be telling me to leave things alone. I repeatedly forget to buy a lottery ticket in a shop, when I try to buy one online it doesn’t work; I make the decision to put my flat on the market and I turn down the virtual tour option, a second lockdown is announced immediately. Return to Go, go back two spaces, miss a turn, or whatever board game cliché you like.

I’m not sure how I feel about the flat, certainly some relief, but whether that is simply to do with knowing I can duck out of the stress of selling and buying for a while, or if I don’t really want to move, I don’t know.

I do love London in the autumn. With the dark streets lit by the lights of cafés, bars and restaurants I almost certainly shan’t go to, even the wettest night – and we’ve had a fair few of those this past week – takes on a fairy land look. Riding on the top deck of an almost empty bus, looking out at the capital is a pleasure. Then Celia and I came across a vegan café not far away with outdoor space where, when we can socialise again, we should be able to meet, and my world seems complete.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th-18th August

I am hoping to meet my neighbour Cynthia in an hour or so for a walk with a pub as our goal. Our local pub closed at the start of the lockdown and has not reopened. It may have been sold, the owners tried to get permission for it to be converted into flats some years ago. Since then it has been listed as a community asset, and that listing is up for renewal. Some parts of London are rich in lovely pubs, Camberwell for instance. Walworth has few pubs I want to enter, so if our local does close, it would be a blow.

I have been working through tasks work related and domestic today and feeling pretty pleased with my progress. The bossy neighbour has been out which always makes for a more relaxed atmosphere. Her unshakeable belief that we are all accountable to her is somewhat wearing as well as wrong. So I have swept up leaves, hung washing out, planted some bulbs, put fat balls in the bird feeder. Romeo had a good sleep on my car. He seems to approve the new cover. I don’t like it as much as my last one, it’s much harder to do up the ties, and will be harder still in bad weather. I need it to protect the paint work from the cats and foxes.

I tried out the television from the boat and got it working, though the DVD/CD player seems to have had it. I do quite enjoy watching television on das Boot when the evenings draw in, so this is timely. The one thing I really miss about buying a hard copy of the Saturday Guardian is the the tv and entertainment guide. I switched to an online subscription shortly after lockdown began. I like not having piles of newspaper about, but I know I miss lots of articles. On the odd occasion I buy a hard copy and it’s much more satisfying. Still, the subscription means I can read the Guardian six days a week, and The Observer on Sunday. Swings and roundabouts.

I am loving A Suitable Boy. It is so well done. I caught up with Mrs America which friends have been raving about, and I enjoyed that too, but A Suitable Boy is one of my favourite novels and this tv adaptation is excellent. Andrew Davies has not lost his touch. I can see me watching the whole thing again when it ends. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 9th June 2020

I am still thinking about George Floyd and all the issues his murder raises. Thank-you to the people who made such interesting comments. They have given me much to think about. So tonight I am going to let those thoughts percolate, and write about other things.

Jeckells, the firm who made the original upholstery covers, has been in touch and Mr Jeckell no less is going to come to das Boot so he can give me a quote on Thursday. Jeckells are a very well know firm, and I am expecting the quote to be high, so I was grateful to Stuart for giving me the name of someone else I have now contacted so I shall have prices to compare. If Jeckells can’t supply the same material as before, and I am guessing it won’t, then a cheaper source will be my preference. I have been wondering if Impala can be used on boats. Maybe the London Upholsterers are back at work and I can ask them.

Slowly slowly the ticks are growing on my to do list. Stuart is doing much of it – new light in the galley tonight and the opportunity for me to meet his lovely dog Rio. Rio sat on me and I sat on the grass. MasterB his from Stuart under the pillows. Rio is only nine months old so very much a puppy still. He spent quite a while studying the bees.

The ducks seem to have decided I am a dead loss as a food source, so maybe no more pictures like these.

Who’s that on the gunwale?

Listening to ducks above his head

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 30th May 2020

It was a wonderful evening; great company, great food, more alcohol than was good for me. A late night, a very late night in fact as I was preparing for bed and MasterB asked to go out. The positive from that was that I drank lots of water which staved off what would have doubtless been a headache in the morning. But I woke with a very blocked nose, and continued blowing it for some time. I think the blocked nose is also due to alcohol, and it is a good deterrent. MasterB is outside now, but as both Hartley and Romeo are also in the garden he is not exactly strolling his demesne. I think he’s lurking in a flowerbed waiting for them to move on so he can enjoy himself.

I have had a fairly lazy day. Late nights mean late mornings, but I still didn’t get my full quota of sleep. I did a little shopping, including buying the paper and some milk for last night’s hosts, B&J, and biscuits for Celia. She didn’t specify what kind of biscuits, other than saying (by text) she did not want chocolate ones. That still left a fairly wide choice, and faced with that choice in M&S I called. Just as well I did, because otherwise I should probably have bought the pistachio and almond ones, forgetting Charlie’s aversion to almonds.

Naturally some of last night’s chat was about Cummings. I mentioned the interview I had seen with his father-in-law. If you missed it, click here, but I do advise you to take care of your jaw or you may find it crashing painfully to the floor. It is scarcely credible that someone could hold these views, but it seems his father had an equally abhorrent attitude to those outside his circle. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 23rd May 2020

When all those weeks ago we had our first Clap for Carers it was great. Those of us who were suddenly living more sequestered, less social lives, our work and income gone, felt like we were doing something. We might be spending our days at home, catching up on long neglected tasks, clearing cupboards, or in my case doing jigsaws, but we knew in the hospitals staff whether medical or other were working hard. Delivery drivers came to the rescue of those who could not leave their homes; post became erratic, but still came; paramedics, fire officers, police, street cleaners, bus and train drivers have been working. So it was a shout of recognition that we knew and appreciated that often their health was compromised by going to work while we stayed safe. It was also a great chance to see neighbours, to wave at friends who stayed firmly behind closed windows. It was unexpectedly sociable. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 17th May 2020

On the way back from our walk in the City today a woman ran by us. Celia, I said, why is that woman wearing a wig and a false moustache? Celia didn’t know, but she hadn’t noticed either. Lockdown does strange things to us. Earlier I had become somewhat over excited at the sight of a lone canoeist on the Thames at Bankside. Yesterday we saw two canoeists as we crossed Vauxhall Bridge. If we hadn’t stopped to gaze at their wonderful, perfectly socially distanced paddling, we might not have encountered Frederick.

Yesterday’s canoeists

He had leant his bike against the barricade that protects the cycle path from the cars and was climbing over to the main carriageway. He wasn’t finding it easy. What is he doing? said Celia as we stared at him. He held up his hand as cars hurtled towards him and Celia and I gasped for his safety. Perhaps I should mention Frederick (he introduced himself later) was a man not in the first flush of youth and his appearance was a little eccentric. I’d mention wild hair, but my hair was probably looking fairly wild at the time, so I’ll skip that bit. There was a jacket on the ground, Frederick wanted to pick it up.

Amazing what you find in the road, he announced cheerfully, still the car side of the barricade. He was pleased with his find, a waxed jacket. Celia and I were now firmly in the role of audience and Frederick was playing to us. Let’s see if it’s a good make, he said and spread the jacket over the barricade to check the label. Marks and Spencer, he announced, not bad.

Still the wrong side of the barricade he engaged us in conversation, asking if we liked music, and inviting us to join the Choir With No Name, which in normal times meets on Shaftesbury Avenue, assuring Celia that her avowed inability to hold a note was no impediment. A further inducement was offered with the news that a meal, usually with a vegetarian option, was served afterwards. Some of what he said was lost to the sound of the traffic, but he told us to watch something which we think was titled The Trouble With Mother on Vimeo.

Today, as yesterday we saw people wandering along the foreshore while the tide was out.

Foreshore walking

though we didn’t notice any ducks today.

Ducks

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