The Coronavirus diaries, 4th July 2020

A very grey day, but dry and with a brisk wind, so having changed the bed linen and washed it it all dried on the line, and I was able to iron it and leave it to air. Always feels good. The dusting and vacuuming got done too, a bit of shopping, newspaper reading, a crossword. All very Saturday. All very local. More shops reopened today. Some pubs are back in business. Boris Johnson is calling it Super Saturday. Super Saturday was the day back in 2012 when team GB and NI won a clutch of gold medals at the Olympics. The country was united, the sun shone, we waved a flag that belonged to all of us. One of our most loved athletes was mixed race, another was born in Somalia. Our country is now fractured, the union is brittle, the far right has hijacked the flag, and nationalism not patriotism is in the ascent. Some of the media crowing Super Saturday because we can go to the pub when there have been thousands of unnecessary deaths, government ineptitude on a mind boggling scale, a prime minister whose casual approach to truth and responsibility has been glaringly on show with prevarications and lies a regular occurrence, and now the revelation of a trail of contracts to pay millions of pounds to buy PPE from companies with no apparent connection to the products required, but plenty of connections to key government figures, strikes a very sour note.

When we had our Zoom dinner date we discussed who might be Prime Minister when the Tories ditch Johnson, as they surely will before long. Neither of the names we came up with, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove, would make me sleep better at night. Like so many others here I wonder how we came from where we were in 2012 to where we are now so quickly. I can only hope that somehow we find our way back to a being a country I can be proud of again. Continue reading

The Coronavirus Diaries, 24th April 2020

I spent much of today on the ‘phone, not chats with friends, though all the calls were amicable, chats about car insurance. Mine expires next Saturday. My current insurers sent a renewal notice. The cost had risen by £70 from last year for no discernable reason. I rang, it was reduced by £20. I rang other insurers. The cost was more or less the same. If I had to choose just one word to describe it, that word would be high. Two words – too high. I’ll mull it over this weekend and decide if it is worth switching to save £12.

I don’t use my car much. I keep it mainly so I can get to das Boot. But my boat, has not been relaunched because of coronavirus, after being out of the water for its/her insurance valuation inspection all winter. Lockdown looks set to continue. I have already paid for my river licence, for my mooring fees, the boat insurance is due in July, the car tax, now the car insurance, all for something I can’t access, let alone enjoy. It’s a bit surreal. Or maddening. Choose your own adjective. Actually expensive would probably be the most accurate.

So. Is this going to be the moment I decide to sell das Boot, to give up the car? Maybe the moment, but those two things will have to wait until a) I can get to das Boot and remove her to a mooring where boats are sold b) a prospective buyer can take it/her for a water trial. Until the boat is no longer mine, I need the car. Do you see a circularity? a roundabout with no current exit?

One of the insurers I called, once he had my address, said I didn’t sound like a south Londoner. I wasn’t sure if it was a judgement or what. I said, “Don’t I? I have lived in Se17 most of my life.” This is true. It turned out theta he had lived in Greenwich, though his accent suggested his origins were a couple of hundred miles north of the Thames. I resisted saying it isn’t where you are born that matters, it where you make your home. My friend Patou was born in Argenteuil. Sh has lived longer in London than anywhere. London, she used to say proudly, is my city. Then Brexit. She won’t be here much longer. I have promised to call her this evening. Time is getting on. This post will have to be curtailed.

So, briefly: Celia and I walked over to Vauxhall. I took some photos. Celia announced a) she wanted to have a drink of cider in a pub and b) as the pubs were closed she wanted cake at the Vauxhall Tea House Theatre – which is also closed. We compromised by going to the latter and staring in through the windows. I took some photos.

Maggie the Cat

Muddy Boots and Dogs Welcome

I am a bit concerned about Maggie and the dogs. 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

And Another Thing

When I wrote my last blog post I did not know of Theresa May’s announcement that more money, a lot more money, but still not enough, was to be forthcoming for our wonderful NHS. when I finally heard the speech my blood pressure, normally on the low side, soared. It was so full of caveats; the NHS must do this, it must prove that, it must meet the government’s requirements. So, a government that has consistently and cynically starved the NHS, made working conditions in many hospitals and GP practices almost impossible, has relied on the goodwill of staff but never ever rewarded or praised them, now, instead of owning up to the fact it has jeopardised one of the greatest achievements of this country in its entire history, make that the greatest achievement, apologising, holding its hands up and admitting it was wrong – something which would have earned them my respect for a rare moment of honesty in government – it wants to set hurdles. WTF? As for the Brexit bonanza, I don’t believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden and I don’t believe that if we leave the EU we will suddenly receive a substantial windfall of millions.

I have been a teacher. I have been through Ofsted several times, and yes I was rated as an outstanding teacher delivering an outstanding lesson. Ofsted is stressful. You know you are under the microscope. Everything you have written, everything you say, everything you do, is under scrutiny. If this current government were to undergo an equivalent scrutiny I have no doubt it would be in special measures. Continue reading

Delphiniums and Chrysanthemums

I haven’t blogged for days; no, make that weeks. I’ve been busy with lots of work and quite a lot of play. That should be plural, quite a lot of plays, including Matilda, 42nd Street, Translations. I had complimentary tix to the first two. I loved Matilda. The children were amazing. Some looked as though they could have barely started school, but these were professionals giving fine performances and looking as though they were enjoying very minute. I saw 42nd Street with my friend Julia. We were a bit nonplussed by it. As a spectacle it is everything you could ask for and more, the dancers tap their socks off and the set pieces are stunning. But the story. Why would you revive that now? I wanted to stick #metoo hashtags all over it.

Which brings me to Translations at the National which I saw with my friend and colleague Tony. His family is from Mayo, and we often go together to events with an Irish connection, despite digging with different feet as you might say. Tony had see a production of Translations, also at the National, in 1981 and brought the programme along with him. He also bought a programme for the current production and it became very clear the same sources were consulted when the notes were written in 1981 and 2018.

But my goodness, what a production. It was fabulous. Ciaran Hinds has cornered the market for roles as Irishmen of a certain age. To my ear, his delivery owed something to the declamatory style of the late Ian Paisley. It’s part of the Travelex season, meaning we got to watch it in the Olivier for £15 per seat. Good seats, there are no bad seats in any of ten National’s three theatres. The Olivier is based on the theatre at Epidaurus so you can feel yourself a part of a theatre tradition stretching back centuries while sitting on cushioned seats. That last comment is because Octavia and I saw As You Like It at the Globe last weekend. We had seats, and hired the cushions, but it makes you appreciate small creature comforts like seat backs and arm rests.

Octavia and Celia are both away at the moment, which means my two close friends who live close by are absent. MasterB is having to listen to me a lot as I process my days. He’s given me the excuse I needed to write this post by sitting half on me and having a wash. Truly, no one ever lived with a sweeter cat.

The NHS is about to turn 70. There are some in government who would like this to be its last birthday. People who say things like “we can’t afford it” and “people need to be responsible for their own health insurance”. They are either wilfully ignorant or wilfully misleading. Maybe both. Mark Haddon, one of several people writing in the Guardian about why he values the NHS has hit the nail on the head with his piece which you can read here – and please do, especially if you are from the US or another of those countries where private health companies would have you believe the NHS is an unmitigated disaster and you are so much luckier to receive itemised bills for everything anyone does for you from helping you onto a bedpan to heart surgery. Continue reading

A Not Uneventful Day

The trouble with not posting on a blog for while is that I have too much to say, too much to record, and sometimes, make that often, it's easier to draw a line under the passed days and start from wherever I am now.

I have always failed at keeping a paper diary for the same reason. Somehow a blog feels more forgiving. If this survives beyond me, and future family historians try to understand what great-to-the-power-of n Aunt Isobel's life was like, they may well suspect that the silent days were ones where I had nothing more to say than that I got up, had breakfast, fed the cat and frittered away the hours. If so, they will be wrong. In my head, walking along, on the bus, queuing in shops, I compose posts that are never written; posts where I muse on life's beauties and inequities, posts where I opine that the NHS could probably save a small fortune in anti depression medication if only IDS and Michael Gove were barred from speaking in public, or preferably at all, posts where I rail against cruelty to all animals, human and otherwise, posts when I realise that true happiness lies in the perfect poached egg.

Also posts about the Daily Mail, a paper I would go a long way not to read, but whose outrages are often reported elsewhere. A paper from which one might catch something nasty ending in ism. Does it have a purpose in the grand scheme of thing? Perhaps just to remind us of what hell might be like. I suppose Paul Dacre must have his uses, but so far I have not devined what they are. Apparently his staff have suggested his shoes never wear out as he goes from carpeted office to chauffeured car to home with barely any contact with the pavement, or reality. I'd like to think he pays enormous taxes that go towards funding the NHS, but I have a hunch he will have his money stashed in some offshore enterprise that means the exchequer sees little of what he is paid.

The Tory party has not learned from the Strong and Stable backlash, and is still in love with repeating alliterative phrases. The current fave seems to be stability and certainty, though for variety they are happy to use the words singly, then join them like cymbals for effect. I don't know how this goes down with other listeners, but I find I cannot remember a single word of what they have said other than the alliterative pairings, and those I translate as blah blah blah, a cover up for not really knowing what they are talking about. If they can't be bothered to make proper arguments why on earth should the electorate be bothered to listen to them, far less take them seriously?

Continue reading

The Health of the People – the Highest Law?

I missed the article in the Guardian by Harry Leslie Smith, but fortunately these letters in yesterday’s edition led me back to it.

Maybe you missed it too. If so, I urge you to read both the article and the letters.

Yesterday, a few of us were discussing how regeneration is affecting our neighbourhood; how untruths, half truths and downright lies, damned some buildings to demolition. It reminded me of the behaviour of a certain London council in the 80s. Residents, all of them council tenants with secure tenancies, were told that there was danger from asbestos, and evacuated from the homes. People were rehoused in housing stock that was often inferior, in different parts of the borough. They thought this was a temporary measure before they could move back to their homes. Continue reading

Health Bulletin

Things are slipping, it is quite obvious. I was at Buckingham Palace this afternoon, outside, not in with ER, though the flag showed she was in residence. There was no bulletin about MasterB on the gate. So I shall have to do one here.
We slept well. That’s not the royal we, I mean the residents chez IsobelandCat. For all MasterB’s protestations, and there have been more this evening, I think he is tired. He took himself back to bed after breakfast and, to all appearances, stayed there until I reached home this evening. He was pleased to see me, and we had a cuddle. He lay down by my feet. He was less pleased when I bathed his wounds, but it was fairly quick. He has had some food, sat in the hall with his left paw in the air, and gazed out of the bedroom window. Now he is having some zzzzs on my bed.
I took some photos of him, so if you are squeamish, skip this next bit. Continue reading

The Naked Arm

I could show you a picture of my newly naked arm. The consultant pronounced my healing stitches beautiful, which was enough to let me know I wouldn’t be asking him for art exhibition recommendations. I hope and expect it’ll look more pleasant in time. I scar fairly easily, so I anticipate a visible line down my arm for the rest of my days.
So instead, here’s a photo of tulips and ceanothus from the hospital grounds.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

London has moved on from cherry blossom to ceanothus and lilac. The shrubs and trees in their glorious blues, mauves and white obtrude prolifically across pavements and brighten the dullest corners.It is incredible how, in such a short space of time, leafless trees are thickly green and abundant; roses have burst into bloom; the cherries are already forming as the blossom petals still carpet the grass. Spring is my favourite season; the embodiment of hope and possibility. Funny to say so when the first anniversary of Mother’s death is only a week away, and I hope it presages a new acceptance, and a shift to good memories infusing the future. Continue reading