The Coronavirus diaries, 5th July 2020

When I was a child I had a friend called Marion. It’s her birthday today. It’s decades since we were in touch and I have no idea where she is, but tonight I find myself thinking about the treasure hunts we used to make around our gardens, and the winter afternoon her grandparents taught us to play clock patience and solitaire. So happy birthday Marion and thanks for the memories of our childhood friendship.

I shouldn’t have laughed when I saw this in the Observer today, but really I could no help myself. I sent the link to Octavia with a comment asking the lines of “who would have guessed?”. When I saw Celia this evening she had had a similar reaction when she heard the police on Radio 4. It was a cynical kind of laughter I know, but these are cynical times. The economy is evidently more important to the government than people’s health, so we get the green light to get pissed but track and trace is still ineffective and a vaccine is a distant dream. Continue reading


The Coronavirus Diaries, 16th May 2020

Have I missed an announcement today? Are the rules on social distancing being relaxed so that we can receive visitors in our homes? I am pretty sure my ground floor neighbour has a visitor, and I am quite unsettled by it. I had just come in after a very pleasant walk and was struggling with my shoe laces (why do laces always form a knot when you are in a hurry?) when I heard the street door open and Ground Floor Neighbour come in talking to someone, then her flat door being opened and the voices vanished inside. Up until now when I have come through that street door I have felt safe. There are only four of us using the communal hallway at the moment so it’s easy enough to maintain distance and wipe surfaces, but if all of a sudden there are going to be more people coming in and out it feels less safe.

My friend Maria in Barcelona says she has heard that tomorrow will be the last time residents stand on their balconies to applaud key workers. There are so many many more cars on the roads. Last night when I went to bed, for the first time in weeks, I could hear traffic. Celia pointed out that more planes are flying. We aren’t the only ones to be avoiding parks on our constitutionals, but we are probably still in a minority. London is being punished for not using public transport to keep safe by being told there will be a hike in fares, and that free travel for children will be suspended, as it will also be for the over 60s during peak hours. I can’t help but think that if we had a Conservative mayor of London the government might en a bit more helpful, but this is a chance to make life difficult for Sadiq Khan, who took over the post from Boris Johnson and has been, by and large, a good mayor. The mayoral elections are next May, delayed for a year due to Covid 19. 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

Water, Wind and Exploration

It's windy; ropes are creaking and there's a definite rock to das Boot. The wind always affects the Internet connection here, so tonight I have none. Nor do I have a 'phone signal, which is slightly unnerving. Still, das Boot is securely tied to the pontoon, the pontoon itself is secure, unlike the rickety one I saw this afternoon, and I feel in good health.

Aunt was pleased to see me. It turns out Uncle Bill made a surprise visit to see her at the beginning of the week. I think that probably explained why Aunt was looking so upbeat. Swallowing is becoming more difficult. Now everything has to be sieved, but she has a good colour and a bright eye.

The rain that was forecast held off and the sun shone fitfully. After a lunch of pea and mint soup Aunt agreed to an outing in the car. Our goal was the caravan shop so I could buy a new light fitting for das Boot, and then we thought we might see if we could find Jude's Ferry, one of the pubs Aunt wants to go to.

Jude's Ferry was a favourite destination of my parents when they first moved East, and I was surprised Aunt had never been there with them. But maybe she was a bit more strait laced about pubs in those days.

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A Day Off

It was a late late lunch. My friends had initially planned to be here for half past eleven, but it was a good two hours later when they arrived. I had vacuumed das Boot and was catching up on yesterday’s Guardian. Giles Fraser’s Loose Canon column hit a particular chord. I have been thinking about Mother’s last months and days, the way she has had to accept care. She was a very independent woman and the helplessness she experienced would have been the opposite of everything she would have desired. Yet in a strange way, I believe it healed something in her. As I mentioned before, her own mother died when Mother was just seven. It was a tough, insecure childhood. She and her siblings were a close gang, but their trust in adults was small. Experience taught them young that adults were unreliable. They looked after themselves and each other. So finding herself cared for by people who were kind to her, who looked after her when she could not care for herself, who wanted her comfort and happiness, may have done something to help the damaged child inside. I hope so.
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