The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th May 2020

Shall I write about Dominic Cummings, how alone in the UK under government guidance it is acceptable for, nay heroic of him to drive 250 miles to his parents and then visit beauty spots with his wife and son? How key members of the said government are queuing up to say it as absolutely fine and no story at all? I don’t think I’m going to insult your or my intelligence. We know he shouldn’t have done it, we know this is a hypocritical cover up, we know certain parts of the press will condone it, we know anyone else would have been forced to resign. I say anyone else but of course Johnson seems to have a special power that allows him to move between Downing Street, Chequers and perhaps a couple of dozen other addresses unknown to me.

It makes it very hard to maintain a Pollyanna view of the world.

So instead I am going to write about my day which unsurprisingly did not include a 250 mile trip to my parents. As my parents are both dead it would have been beyond my power anyway, even if I had felt like flouting the government’s advice. I didn’t go more than about a mile and half from home but I still had an enjoyable, varied day.

I started well, outdoor and indoor plants watered, seedlings unwrapped from their clingfilm cocoon and placed in a sunny spot, Romeo fed with a sachet of cat food. MasterB had breakfasted earlier. The bathroom surfaces sparkled, I swept the communal stairs which were very dusty, and restored the kitchen surfaces to pristine models of hygiene. Lunch. Then I turned to the jigsaw. About three hours passed. I am enjoying and not enjoying this puzzle. The cardboard pieces are flimsy and move very easily but the image, of the coats of arms of 102 its livery companies with panels of text about their collective history and the Lord Mayor’s show is interesting. I have a fair familiarity with the livery companies so their names and a number of their coats of arms are known to me. If I can prevent MasterB from sitting on it and dislodging pieces or skidding across it and destroying the whole thing, I should finish it in a day or so.

MasterB asked to go out. This is not unusual. However, between asking and actually leave ng the premises he often changes his mind. We do a lot of standing on the front door step. I hold the door open, he decides if out is really where he wants to be. The sight of Romeo immediately causes him to decide in is preferable, as does a motor bike, a scooter, a loud child, a group of loud adults, a car travelling too fast. Sometime I cannot see what it is that had decide him against the outside, but he runs and I walk back up the stairs and into the flat. Today was different. Hardly had I opened the door than he was outside and striding confidently towards the garden gate. I left him to it and went for my own walk.

Celia had thought she might join me, but another neighbour was with her in the garden so off I went on my own. On a whim I turned down beside a row of newly refurbished railway arches.

Red is the colour

To let

I imagine that a few months ago the business prospects for these arches were good, and whoever is leasing them was anticipating a tidy return. Not so today. There was a cut through and I could hear voices, laughter, and smell a barbecue. A Latin American family and maybe their friends was having a bit of a party. Whether they had any right to be there I have no idea, but they were definitely enjoying themselves. A bit further down the road I saw these railway arches, unrefurbished but with businesses in operation. And a dog. There must be a moral in that somewhere.

Old style arches

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd April 2020

Fortunately no pre-eight in the morning power tools this morning. Not that MasterB allows sleep beyond seven. His breakfast is a fixed star in his day. He had woke me around half past three. The unmistakable sound of a cat about to empty his stomach. He was on the bed at the time. I was up in a trice, had picked him up gently and made it to the bathroom where there is a floor that is easy to clean before anything left his mouth. I was expecting a hairball, but this looked like biscuits. As his appetite was in no way impaired at breakfast time, nor for the rest of the day, I think biscuits eaten too quickly would be my diagnosis.

After breakfast he seemed to think we should get on with the latest jigsaw.

Let’s do this!

But I had other tasks in mind.

Use of washing machines is embargoed in these flats until eight, so I was ready with my finger on the button. White towels, bed linen, bath mat, face flannels, blouses and tee shirts all drying in the sunshine felt good. I don’t know why getting the washing out on the line, blowing about and drying in sunshine should be so pleasing to me but it is. Simple pleasures. I had other work to do in the garden. My friend Michèle kindly gave me some cuttings that have rooted, and I found geraniums at Sainsbury’s. It took a while, and Celia came round with the cat food which had been delivered to her address, and some very lovely bread. We talked and mooched a bit and then she left and I continued with my raking, trimming and planting. Fingers crossed everything takes. We are due continued fine weather, so at this rate even the tomato plants should be outside before long.

Celia reckons the skies are bluer now than usual for April in London. I may have to dig out some photos from last year to see. I reminded her of the Guildford circular walk we did on Easter Sunday in glorious weather last year. She was dismissive – you’d expect bluer skies in Compton, she said.

I read tonight that social distancing may have to continue until the end of the year. So that sounds like no blackberry picking walk, and no visit to family in Northern Ireland (and therefore no lunches at the divine falafel place by the museum in Belfast). I got a message from my cousin-in-law Michele to say Uncle Bill was well and had been out in the garden. That’s good news. I had seen a postcard of Ballynahinch where he lived before Aunt Ella died and he moved in with his older son. It was from the early twentieth century, posted I think by the Linen Hall Library, with the caption ‘social distancing Ballynahinch style’. I should see if I can find it to post here. Aha, I have it! Click here to see it.  Continue reading

Rest Day

All this culture and sightseeing is hard work, so today I had a rest day. Nadia was working in the garden. She hasn’t lived in this house for long, and it’s a bit of a project. She has lots of plans for when time and money allow, and as it was yet another glorious day, she was keen to get into her gardening gear and get on with it.
I hung out the washing, and performed a few indoor chores, prepared some food for tonight, and once the sun had dropped a little, set off to explore Upper Hutt, a ten minute walk away and a chance to look at the neighbours’ houses.

Garden furniture

So far my knowledge of this neighbourhood has been confined to the walk from the station to the supermarket and then home.
I was surprised to find how big it is. There is lots I didn’t see, but I homed in on a shop selling eco friendly products and second hand vinyl. Then I found the Turkish restaurant. I was hoping for a deli attached too, but it wasn’t to be. However, a few doors down I found the Indian shop which is where I shall head if I run out of lentils. The independent book shop was frankly disappointing, but at the chain store I found an A-Z of London in convenient size for just $5. Bargain.
Not sure about the gun shop though.
The cycle racks are well designed, there is far more street sculpture and art than I photographed on this tour.

Walk this way

Cool bin

Monsters go this way

Spaghetti bike rack

Cool bike rack

Not sure about this one

I shall have to go back. Continue reading

The Neighbourhood and Billie

Today has been fairly quiet. We went out to a farmers’ market this morning, but actually it’s not until next Sunday, so we had a café breakfast and a slow wander down the street to buy fruit and veg in a shop.

Back at the house, a further shopping list was drawn up, and we set off on foot, Billie, the elderly dog leading the way. Vicki had told me Billie was not a cuddlesome dog, but last night she decided I was her new BFF and spent much of the evening with her head in my lap. She was equally attentive as I dressed this morning, commandeering the space between door and bed, so I had to step round and over her to get to anything.

Walking with an elderly dog demands frequent stops, bowls of fresh water, time to gather the muscles and energy to go the next hundred yards. The local shop owners know her, and she knows them. She seemed keen to join us as we chose a bottle of wine for later.

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Return of the Cat Woman

When I saw Octavia on Sunday I mentioned how strange I found it that I have become a go-to person about cats in the neighbourhood. I’m sure I don’t know more than the average cat owner, though my addiction to the various pet programmes on the television has taught me a lot, and living with Cat was an education in itself. When the penny finally dropped that Cat was a permanent fixture rather than a temporary self-invited guest, I borrowed books about cats from the local library, books that are no longer in the collection, read about nutrition, and general cat care. That’s about it.

Octavia reckoned it was because I have been involved in a few cat rescues locally. Funnily enough I had been thinking about Trevor earlier in the day. Then there was Odysseus, Izzy and, of course, Cookie.

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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

Fecund Friday

It was the wisteria that did it. Another grey day in London. Honestly, you could count the moments of sunshine on the fingers of one hand.


Anyway, there it was tumbling all over the neighbours’ house. It must have been blooming for days, but some reason I only noticed it this morning. The weather doesn’t prepare me for the way the plants have flowered. So, I opened my eyes and saw wondrous things. Huge huge tulips, roses, weeds; a cornucopia of colour to which I have been blind. No camera alas.

So this evening, I decided to stroll my local turf and see what I could see.

First NotCat in the tree, with a red rose behind him.

Red Rose and Ginger Ninja

Then roses everywhere. These pinkish white ones looking like notes on a scale.

A Scale of Roses

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A River of Stones, Day Twenty-Five: Discovery

I assumed the eighteenth century house was the venue for the talk about its chequered history, but when I checked the details, I saw it was in a library I have never visited in an area I know only slightly. It wasn’t that far away from home, but an awkward journey by public transport, and too many busy main roads during rush hour for me to feel happy about the bike. I decided to walk. A slight tussle with Not Cat who thought he should be allowed out made me slightly late, so I set off at a good pace, practising the new techniques I am learning.
The first part of the walk was familiar territory, but when I turned off the main road into a street I have driven down but never walked before, I found an unsuspected neighbourhood of gracious houses either side of a generous street. The lights were on in most, but few had drawn their curtains. The rooms looked comfortable, there were high ceilings and works of art. There was a pub on the corner, and musicians were tuning mandolins and fiddles around a table inside. Early Victorian gave way to the details the later Victorians loved to include in brickwork above doors and windows. There were almshouses on one side of the road next to a park, locked against the dark. Another main road, and after some bleak, surely soon to be demolished buildings, there were cosy bars and restaurants, their names telling me of a local Portuguese community.
The flyer had advertised refreshments with the talk, and I anticipated cups of tea, which I don’t drink, plus a plate of biscuits. What delight then when I arrived at the threatened Victorian library to find wine, red and white! and nibbles. I walked home the same route. The next time, I’m going to do it in daylight.