The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th April 2020

As the cherry blossom gives way to the ceanothus, I walked down the street where last year I saw the most magnificent display. The tree was dark blue, petals had fallen to the floor so there was a slick of colour on the pavement. I rounded the corner. No tree. It was in someone’s garden, and since last spring that someone has removed the tree. I imagine they had no idea of the pleasure it gave passers by, or the anticipation of those like myself of its beauty this year.

Last week I was worried I had given the impression her that I do not value the arts. I do. When times are hard I believe the arts are things we need even more than ever. I don’t know if other species look at flowers and sunsets and sigh at their beauty, whether storytelling is something practised though generations of say tigers for example. I rather hope it is. We have seen elephants with paint brushes and can only begin to guess what the experience means to them.

This week’s worry is about what happens when we start to exit from lockdown, when we start to see how many businesses have gone bust, how many people are losing their jobs, their homes, their hopes. I keep reading dire warnings, that what we shall experience will make the Great Depression look like a picnic. Does that mean we shall be pushing wheelbarrows full of our life savings to the shop to buy a loaf of bread? I find it all the more frightening because I have no idea how to prepare myself, if I can prepare myself. Continue reading


I spoke to Aunt this afternoon. She sounded well, cheerful, very together. We talked about the weather, the gradually lengthening days, hyacinth bulbs, the promise of spring. We wished each other a happy new year.

We didn’t talk about the fall she had a couple of days ago and the bruise on her head. We didn’t talk about the phone calls she made to my mobile and my landline from half past four this morning until the noise of the ringing phone finally woke me up to listen to a series of scared and disorientated messages. I’m glad I heard the messages before she called me again, as disturbing though they were, they gave me some insight into what was going on in her mind.

I know she knows about the fall, because she talked about it with Linda this morning. I am less convinced she remembers the ‘phone calls and her fear that she ‘had spoiled everything’, that she had lost me and could not find me, however much she searched.

I wonder if her belief that I had been with her and then had unaccountably disappeared was triggered by yesterday’s conversation when I said I should be visiting just as soon as I get three days off together. So today I said nothing about looking at the possibility of coming up by coach one evening and going home the next.

Linda and I talked for a long time tonight. Aunt called Linda when she fell and Linda, still in her pyjamas, raced to be by her side, to dial 111 and get paramedics out to see her, staying with her from midnight until four in the morning. Aunt doesn’t want me, or anyone to know she fell, but the bruise on her head is apparently very obvious, so I will notice. She told Linda it was to be their secret. This makes me very uncomfortable. I am glad Linda tells me, because these ‘secrets’ help no one, and I could almost be cross with Aunt for leaning on Linda in this way. It’s not fair. Continue reading


I had lunch around five o’clock, courtesy of Celia who has furnished me with keys to her flat and given me the run of the kitchen.

The fitters arrived twenty heartstopping minutes late; traffic. I asked Danny to text me if they are delayed again. My nerves won’t take this. Mother was an inveterate worrier, a champion worrier, a worrier of awe-inspiring breadth and depth. Had there been an Olympic sport in worrying she would have brought home gold time and time again. I don’t think I’m in her league, at least I sincerely hope I am not, but something of her dedicating worrying seems to have rubbed off, and comes to light at times like these.

So once the fitters, Danny and his brother Nico, had arrived, I turned my worrying energy in the direction of the floor tiles; would they arrive early enough for Danny and Nico to lay them today? had the driver got Danny’s number if I was out?

Then when those two worries were allayed, I went onto tomorrow’s delivery. Then I had to put that worry aside when Danny pointed out, a trifle sourly I thought, that there was only one bag of tile adhesive. I had ordered two. A phone call to the suppliers (Tile Giant in case you’re interested) resulted in them admitting the fault but saying they couldn’t get another bag to us before tomorrow.

I am so glad I decided to take these days off and loiter while the work is being done. I made a mercy dash to the branch on the Old Kent Road – yes that’s the cheapest property on the London version of Monopoly and in my ‘hood’ as chaps and chapesses say these days – and brought home the goods. Thank goodness I am not living in the west coast of Scotland. On the other hand, if I were, I should probably be living in a larger property where I could have stored everything and so had the tiles, adhesive and grout delivered some days in advance of the project. Continue reading

Healing Plants

Nature is very healing. Even when it’s cultivated.

Mother used to spend hours in the garden.

She always maintained it helped her clear her thoughts. She weeded and planted. Looked out at her garden from the kitchen and dining room windows and smiled.

Our dachshund used to weed with her; dutifully digging small holes next to where Mother was working. Mother would fill them in and they’d move on to the next patch.

It was their private time.

The honeysuckle which disguised the washing line post was always an overgrown tangle because the blackbirds nested in it.

I don’t do much gardening these days as I have a shared garden. But I am in it frequently, chaperoning Not Cat.

2011 hasn’t been my favourite year so far, as those of you who follow this blog regularly will understand. Mother’s increasing frailty, her current hospitalisation and the uncertainty around her future, Cat’s death, don’t add up to a time of smiles and joy.

But there have been, and are, good things. Cat’s twelve days at Mother’s as she hovered between life and death when he charmed and comforted, all unknowingly, everyone at the scheme; the arrival of Not Cat and my gradual falling in love with him; Nephew and Niece-Out-Law’s engagement; hollyhocks. Continue reading