Locked-down And Out In London

May 15th

 

After a cold, grey week of watching the wind bully the trees, we’re back to beautiful mornings. Cool in the shadows but warm in the sun. Disaster is coming. Or it isn’t. Like a fox on a country road, frozen under the full-beam of an on-coming car in an otherwise black night, I don’t know which way to turn.

Forwards or backwards?

The decision is made for me. I have to go for a (routine) blood test— this is the furthest I’ve ventured in 6 weeks. I wear brightly coloured trousers to ward off evil spirits. And in case that doesn’t work, I’ve got the Dr. Death leather jacket back on so the virus will know to back the fuck up.

I listen to Ella Fitzgerald’s Manhattan while walking through dirty London streets still creaking with the weight of a pandemic, and it feels rather smug. Billy Holiday’s more the vibe. Civilisation as we know it has been put into question, as have our individual identities, which means men in white vans demonstrate their virility by using anyone attempting to cross the road as target practice. Paying them no mind, a man with a mask cycles with no hands up the empty street. I much prefer these kind of cyclists to the mid-life Lycra set who bellow “watch out” as they scream round a blind corner twice as fast as the speed limit.

The ice cream van’s been out for about a month, and the local cemeteries have been open for a couple of weeks, presumably for anyone who wants to save themselves the trouble and just launch themselves into an early grave now.

Apparently, you can get that bored.

The ravens and rooks hobble around like boys in baggy trousers. Flame licked iris are out and pink, purple, and white rhododendrons have burst onto the scene; beyond their haze of colour twisted roots and branches loop each other like a mangrove swap. Magpies skim along the ground like stones across the water.

When I go for a run the air by the lake is filled with glowing pollen blowing off the reeds that rustle reassurances on the wind. The haze makes the scene look like the summers when everything was golden. Already the earth is dry and cracked in places like my hands.

Continuing my cottage industry, I’ve sold some black stilettos on eBay now. Maybe whoever bought them’s going to the cemetery.

I dig at a kiwi with a spoon and its seeded flesh oozes out like frog spawn. It’s not ripe yet and makes my mouth water. I ripen hard plums in a chipped white bowl in the sun. The tomato plant I grew from seed has been indoors and survived the winter; it now thrives in the sitting room and droops like a willow under its green fruit.

Nothing is ripe yet.

Nothing is ready.

It’s all too soon.

But the sun is shining and there’s weed on the wind. As the evacuated stay in their second homes, gardens run wild and buttercups stand tall, begging for chins to glow up. The dust-covered cars are on the move again. Walking home laden with shopping, I listen to Bob Dylan and make a decision to serve no one but the ones I love.

We put on Rambo for some easy watching and are surprised to discover that it’s a masterpiece. It starts with a small incident and explodes into this epic psychological breakdown. Stallone is practically silent throughout the film, and only in the last five minutes does he really talk, and when he does, it floors me. The trauma. It floors me.

“Nobody would help! No one helped! He said, I want to go home, Johnny, I wanna drive my Chevy…”

An opera shrieks from the radio while I’m in the bath. It’s von Suppé’s The Devil on Earth, and what I gather is that in von Suppe’s future everyone is eccentric, but at a party two brothers are unable to elicit either any mischief or any romance. They conclude that in the future the devil has distributed himself evenly among everyone, so is everywhere but impossible to find.

It’s been a long time coming: face masks are fashionable, and they aren’t called face masks, they’re face coverings. I see a female politician wearing a coordinated mauve outfit and mauve face “covering” and find it infinitely more terrifying than the clinical alternative. I’m all about reusing masks and making them out of whatever fabric you want but… it’s the coordination. The consideration. This is our new reality and it’s unsettling how quickly something so sinister is assimilated into fashion.

May joy be unconfined, our downstairs neighbour’s taken up the bongos. Occasionally, the bongos are accompanied by some vigorous throat singing, which when it catches you off guard can be quite alarming, but I appreciate it’s certainly more musical than just screaming into a pillow.

I’m reading Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived In The Castle this week. As well as being a surprisingly enjoyable read about a poisoning, it is a book about a type of isolation that makes what many of us are experiencing seem almost communal. I suppose all stories are stories of isolation if you look at them right.

 

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Got Time To Watch Plums Ripen In A White Chipped Bowl

 

 

 

Locked-down And Out In London

May 8th

 

“Pandemic! Got that pandemic.”

We can continue with The Wire as someone is feeling a bit stronger this week – less overwhelmed and more outraged. Eerily, season four’s first episode opens with the kids on the corner selling their wares, previously given names such as “WMD”, “Bin Laden”, and “Red Top”. Today shouting, “Pandemic! Got that pandemic!”

It rings out through the empty streets of the episode. And the next, and the next. Possibly through the whole series.

“Pandemic! Got that pandemic.”

The children’s play area in the local park is covered by metal grating to stop the kids passing the virus on to each other as they play, to their mothers and their fathers; the reality of dystopia is much more subtle than it has been portrayed in books and films, and that’s all the more unsettling.

Old men sit solo on their benches, catching the rays two meters apart, as if the park was designed with this very future in mind.

On an empty bench, there’s a plastic bottle filled with stagnant water and red carnations to remember the dead. She was called Clara and she died in 1998, when this future was still a twinkle.

I watch Graham Brady, the Tory MP who thinks people like staying at home during a pandemic too much, in disbelief. As his foul utterances limp off his tongue, his mouth becomes dry and cloying, his body so ashamed of the words coming out of it that it tries to shut his mouth in any means possible, directing all moisture away from this orifice and towards his armpits. But his self-assurance is a fiercer force and it keeps him talking, pushing for lockdown to be eased before it’s safe. People are “too willing” to stay at home and not go to the jobs they’ve hated their whole lives in order to save their lives, and their loved ones lives, and possibly even this guy’s life.

I think of a time earlier this year when a friend and I were walking back through Soho, only to find Old Compton Street closed off by police, then Wardour, Greek, Frith… everywhere rushed to be closed off by a large number of police. It must be serious; this is literally the whole of Soho. I ask a policeman what’s going on, he is busy and, unanswering, he shoos me along. Up at Soho Square, I ask another.

“Bomb threat,” he says.

Oh shit.

Behind him, his colleague is trying to stop, and physically block, a man desperately trying to return to work. Having informed the man there is a bomb threat, he’s trying to shield this man from something that could kill him, and the man is pushing and saying, “I don’t care! I have to get back to work! It’s just over there, just let me through!”

The desperation to get back to his job, the fear at being late back from lunch, the complete disregard for his own life for want of his job was very sad. My friend and I agreed that surely, in any sane country, you’d just leave for an hour or two and then return. Or, should the bomb go off, just clock off for the day.

On the news later, it turns out they had discovered an unexplored WW2 bomb. So don’t tell me people don’t cling to their jobs. I just think people like Bradbury have found it a surprise that most people cling to their lives more dearly.

And so, there is hope.

I hear the first scree of a swift: summer has arrived on May 6th – at exactly the same time as it arrived with my sister, it turns out. And the swift and the summer is more welcome than ever. With the swift’s forked tail trails every summer that has come before this one, good and bad, happy and sad, every future summer, every blue sky and setting sun. And we long for it. We long for them all.

The plane trees that were pollarded within an inch of their lives are thick with green leaves that wave like a celebration.

I miss the charity shops, the displays in their windows have been the same for two months now and they used to take such pride in changing them every week. I miss going in and saying how overpriced everything was: “£65 for a pair of Miss Sixty sunglasses?! Fuck off.” Only to find an absolute score hiding on the rails.

I miss my family.

The whistling sound of pigeon wings haunts us like an angel of death. Except it’s the angel of shit.

Blue, white and black face masks litter the streets. They are like all things left on the street, a sorry sight. When I lived in Dalston it was strands of weaves that tumbled and drifted along the roads. Saturday and Sunday morning it was like walking through a Sergio Leone set. I preferred the weaves.

A friend sends me a poetry exchange that I don’t take part in in any orthodox manner, I “break the rules”. And because I broke the rules, they break the rules and don’t send me a poem, but a song by a Brazilian man called Caetano Veloso:

I walk down Portobello road to the sound of reggae
I’m alive
The age of gold, yes the age of old
The age of gold
 
The age of music is past
I hear them talk as I walk yes I hear them talk
I hear they say
“Expect the final blast”
 
I walk down Portobello road to the sound of reggae
I’m alive
I’m alive, vivo muito vivo feel the sound of music
Banging in my belly
Know that one day I must die
I’m alive
 
And I know that one day I must die
I’m alive
Yes I know that one day I must die
I’m alive vivo muito vivo
In the eletric cinema or on the telly
Nine out of ten movie stars make me cry
 
I’m alive
And nine out of ten movie stars make me cry
I’m alive
 

A few days later I think of this song as a man drives with his top down smiling and listening to loud reggae. And as the sun pats my cheeks and the reggae drifts in to the distance, I think, this is living

 

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“Baby Hats! Got them Baby Sun Hats!”

Locked-Down And Out In London

 

May 1st

 

“Like ghosts, adders are something I have always wanted to but never seen,” I note down while intoxicated. White wine is a new addition to my diet, and it’s going down well. Later that evening I dream a ghost for the first time.

The woman next door not only does an excellent impression of a whale trapped in the bath, but in recent weeks she also does battle with the flush mechanism of her toilet. It is pumped as if the flush were billows and she is desperately trying to start a fire. Or possibly she is hoping to take off, and who can blame her under the circumstances. But something is deeply, darkly wrong in there and has been for some time. It, or she, may be possessed. Soon I will have to say something, it’s just a bit… What do you say?

“Excuse me, burly neighbour who could certainly do me some damage, what in God’s name are you doing to your toilet? Do either of you need an exorcist?”

Having done a week in bed like an unproductive Edith Sitwell, a fresh start is in order. I get up one morning and pull up the daisies planted with the wildflowers last summer; that lasted all autumn, all winter, all spring. They had taken on a sickly colour and smell, like rotting honey.

George Elliot’s The Lifted Veil proves a perfect companion to the melancholy and hard-done by mood I experienced this last week. I am a misunderstood clairvoyant. A fragile poet muddling my way through life in Italy and a bucolic rural estate on my father’s money, waiting to be poisoned in quite a passive aggressive manner.

The first part’s accurate and anyway, it doesn’t matter now, the mood’s passed.

Over the last couple of weeks a large number of people have become fixated with lockdown ending, aggressively so. It’s a bit like saying: well we burnt all the bottom half of the rice but since we put a lid on it we can’t smell the smoke so might as well turn the heat back up.

The problem with stupid is not that stupid gets angry, but that stupid acts on it.

Meanwhile in South Africa, people queue for over two and a half miles for food parcels.

The vista has flashed parakeet green, with the occasional blood blister of red and pink. It seems likely all, or at least the pioneers of Impressionism had myopia. The rest just copied, like when your friend breaks their arm at school and you’re jealous of their signed cast. So maybe you pretend to have an accident too.

My bi-weekly runs are filled with beauty and poetry, albeit fantasised sometimes. Having admired two paired swans in the lake, I am on my way home again. I pass two teenage boys on bikes dressed in Adidas tracksuits and hoodies, who are loitering dodgily outside the park. I must have misheard their conversation because in parting one calls to the other, “Seventh in line to reign, my love!”

This week I have learned that chess is not a game of instinct; it requires a lot of thought. And having played it as a game of instinct three times, I have lost three times.

In a thrilling twist of fate, I sell a (clean) top for £5 on eBay to a charmless woman called Ann. This may prove to be divisive, but I’m afraid I firmly believe you should never fraternise with an Ann without an ‘e’ at the end of her name, it suggests a lack of levity and this woman is confirmation of this. I regret the extra, unnecessary 6p spent on the postage of the top. What’s it called? Nominal determinism, where the name dictates the fate of the person. But Fate also has a twisted sense of irony, so watch what you call your offspring.

It’s gone from Animals of Farthing Wood to Animal Farm here. The pigeons and squirrels I welcomed St Francis-like last year, have gone from friends to pest to nemeses, and no longer respect me just because I am human. They’ve heard on the winds of change a rumour. The bastards.

There is a long queue of people outside Tesco that I join. We wait in line and step forward our allocated two meters, then stop, forward two meters, then stop, timed as if in procession down the aisle of a church rather than the supermarket.

There’s a rainbow and then it’s blown away, leaving half the sky blue and half the sky dark with a shroud of black cloud. Seagulls appear from nowhere and drift and wheel on the wind, it’s like I’m back in Barnstaple again, by the estuary, the wrecked ships and the wading birds.

I miss home not in the sense of a house, that went a long time ago, but the landscape of home.

 

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Finding Quartz Down In Devon One Summer (pic: Alexandra Waespi)

 

Locked-down And Out In London

17th April

 

“Another day in paradise.” I hear a neighbour say.

It’s no longer worth noting what makes me cry. But I do wish Diego Maradona could’ve had a better second half to his life.

I haven’t been working quite so hard this week, which means the fear starts creeping in.  I have to be treated like a baby for large portions of the day, stroked and told “everything’s going to be ok” over and over again.

Large portions of spaghetti also help.

Having been forced to seriously consider, I now know my five essential items that I simply cannot live without: spaghetti, olive oil, candles, garlic and salt. But then this means I don’t have coffee on my essential items, and I really need coffee. So it turns out I need less that I thought, but more than I would hope, to survive contentedly.

I wear a shirt my father gave me. He stopped wearing shirts a long time ago.

I go for a run and see a total of three guys jogging topless. My first thought is: this virus is spread by bodily fluids and yours are leaking out all over the fucking place. My second is that it is April, in England. It’s really not that hot…

This week, I’ve mostly been reading articles in a Rolling Stone anthology and Orwell’s Books v. Cigarettes. I read a lot of Hunter S Thompson when I was a teenager and therefore figured I’d sort of “done” it. But I just re read the Fear and Loathing piece and you don’t see it any more. I certainly don’t. That madness. Features have become so dry, for the most part. Everything seems so dry and mediocre.

It all rings out like a bum note that everyone can palate.

Last summer we went to a talk at our local bookshop —£5 including a free glass of wine, cheap night — with the grandson of the original Faber, who was flogging his new book. He had some good stories. And he went on talking about all these luminaries and the lives they had and the parties, and not once did he mention any of his experiences at the place… I think he worked in the marketing department or something. I never usually ask questions for fear of so many things, but there was an agent there who kept asking questions about rights and royalties that she should’ve known, and he was getting quite irritable. So I put my hand up and asked him if he thought it used to be more fun being a writer and a publisher? Whether people were wilder and had better parties?

He didn’t think so, and said he loved working in an office with people who loved books so much.

I mean, we all like books, mate, that’s why we’re here. But it’s all got rather clinical, hasn’t it? Let’s be honest. But he wasn’t. I guess it would’ve been a sad thing to admit to himself; but we would’ve all shared in that sadness. We are the generation of The Numb But Productive. For which, I blame rent and house prices. You can only be a drifter for so long before you become homeless. It’s a thin line and in my time I’ve trodden it bare.

Maybe we’ll have great parties again when this is all over? When will this all be over?

I offer help to several people this week, albeit a compromise between their needs and wants, and am surprised that every one of them has told me the help I offer is not good enough. I mean, we love mankind, we surly do, but I have to say I have been surprised by people’s inability to compromise during a pandemic. We have got so used to being able to get what we want whenever we want it that anything less than that is…not good enough.

Personally, I find that attitude not good enough but I’m probably lost up my own arse as well.

A man skips all afternoon in the communal gardens. When someone starts skipping you know it’s bad. Butterflies float around; they seem lost, like they’ve turned up to a party and everyone’s left. The insects know that something dark is going down, they’ve seen it all before.

Apparently I only continue to spread misinformation about barbed penises. My sister informs me that foxes indeed do not have barbed penises, but some other terrible mechanism I won’t be googling. Where did I get all this misinformation? I didn’t just make it up and believe it for ten or twelves years, did I?

Never hold on too tightly to your beliefs, they might be a barbed penis.

 

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Still Smiling (Sometimes) In My Father’s Shirt

Locked-down And Out In London

 

April 12th

 

It’s black outside. As black as it gets in London. Orange-black. When the clouds pass through the sky like factory smoke. Nightly, there is the noise of torture below. It’s mating season. The foxes are at it, and we are party to this abysmal orgy. This means I am reminded on a nightly basis that foxes have barbed penises. Like there weren’t enough fucking horrors in this world.

Day and night, there is the background noise of sirens; Verdi’s Requiem plays and feels wholly befitting.

We did an unpleasant shop for a neighbour last week (rammed supermarkets, queues round the block, dirtiness, people sidling up next to me in the aisles – stinking, drunk men, they seem particularly liable to forget social distancing is a thing). This week, in return for that shop, we were given some rhubarb from our neighbour’s allotment. I’ve never bought or cooked rhubarb. But that night I stewed it and have been eating it on porridge all week.

This is the thing: only give what we can. You cannot be all things to all people all of the time. Sometimes you won’t be there for someone. Of course, we are each the centre of our own universe, so it seems unjust that someone should choose to look at the moon instead of tending to the sun. But I’ve been looking at the moon all week.

I don’t know many people who haven’t lost work because of the pandemic, but I envy the people who complain of boredom, who have no one to shop for, no one to look after but themselves. Too much navel gazing is never a good thing, so if you are that bored, maybe you could be doing more to help?  This is that much discussed hour of need. It was not before and it is not after, it is now.

What are you safely (physically and mentally) able to contribute? It does not need to be the world, which is what key workers are currently giving us all. It might be your skills. It might be understanding. It might just be a bunch of rhubarb. That’s enough for now.

I am afraid to say, the translation of my copy of Beowulf is infuriating. The dude cannot stop hyphenating. And, although I enjoyed the overall story, reading it was mostly boring. It largely consists of very long speeches in mead halls about fifty glorious people whose names all begin with ‘H’. However, there were a total of three (!) monsters, to my delight. There was also this quote, which stuck out:

“Both bad and good, and much of both, must be borne in a lifetime spent on this earth in these anxious days.”

Now, all this talk of barbed penises reminds me that, many years ago, I read a piece about how early humans had barbed penises, or I thought I did. I happened to mention it in a blog post – these were the early days of my writing career, when I posted with whimsy and without stringent (or any) regulation of the facts. About a year or so later, I attended I gathering of hip, young intellectuals. How it came up I do not know, but a discussion about barbed penises in animals ensued. I thought, this is my moment. And, having been unsure of my intellect among such esteemed (loud) people, I decided to break my silence.

“Ancient humans had barbed penises,” I announce.

Suddenly, the whole party’s attention is on me. Everyone is laughing.

“No, really. I read about it, in the paper…”

There is much dispute over my anatomical knowledge of our early ancestors.

“Ok, I’ll look it up!”

I search frantically on my phone for proof. The internet, in its infinite curve of fact and bullshit, only pulled up one reference to this.

“Oh, that’s weird. It seems the only reference to it is on my blog…”

I dare not Google it again.

On Friday morning I got up at 5am. It was before the sun had risen and there was only light coming from an invisible source in the left-hand corner of the sky. To my right, the luminous yellowish moon loomed over the buildings in a light blue sky, slowly sinking behind the trees that have blossomed white. As I stood in the middle of these two orbs, exhausted, it felt like something fundamental was coming into balance. If not in the world at large, then at least something in my world. And I am pestered by a near-constant desire for champagne.

 

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The White Blossom.  (This weekend I have returned to my most time-consuming hobby: taking pictures of things through binoculars.)

 

Locked-down And Out In London

 

April 3rd

 

It smells like smouldering embers. Someone nearby has had a fire going overnight. Strange thing to be doing in London but we’ll all be lighting fires in bins soon. The smell is of wood smoke and it is comforting, anything elemental is comforting. Give us further reminders of our place. Render me small again.

The mornings are frequently beautiful. Then, as if mirroring our collective intake of news throughout the day, the weather turns. Usually by lunch. This morning, however, is different. It’s milder than it has been but there is thick cloud cover, reminding me of mornings in Spain before the sun heats up and melts the white blanket below it.

Our dystopian laundry sways on the line; face masks twitch in the gentle breeze.

I’m reading Beowulf now. Turns out he’s not a wolf, which was a little disappointing, but there is at least a monster in it. So that’s good.

The woman next door has a bath. I don’t know how one person can make so much noise in there. It is as if a whale has squeezed through the plughole and beached in the bath, and having realised the mistake it has made, is frantically trying to escape. Squeaking and creaking and splashing for its release. I would forgive it every now and again, but she does this every morning. A very sad thing to take the grace out of bathing.

I go for my bi-weekly jog. As a walker most of the time I have become aware of manic joggers getting very sweaty and out of breath, and then being very sweaty and breathing heavily very close to me, very close to everyone. I hold my breath a lot when I walk.

So as not to be one of these super spreaders when I do jog (which apparently is now something I do–jogging, not super spreading), I make sure I keep my distance and keep breathing at a minimum. I am also fortunate that, like Prince Andrew, I have had military training and therefore do not sweat.

The fact I walk for around three quarters of my jog probably helps with the sweating thing. But the training is also important.

However, I do have to breath a little, but I do not want to be frowned upon, so keeping my distance is paramount. This has its hazards. Today, I jog daintily around the lake, admiring the light on the water and smiling to myself in a moment of wild, endorphin-induced positivity. Suddenly, a very, incredibly old man appears out of nowhere. Why is he lurking by the reeds? Why is he even out of the house?! I don’t have time to question this ancient health-risk’s motives. Instead, I launch myself away from him and almost into the water so as not to contaminate him with my breath particles.

He laughs. I do too, but not because I think it’s funny.

Old superstitions passed down by my mother resurface. Whatever happens, however weird this all gets, regardless of my military training, I will only ever salute birds. Magpies are my master now.

I see a dead magpie lying on some ivy on one of my walks and raise my hand to the fallen. Three other magpies are bouncing around the trees above it, cackling as they do, but they seem distressed.

I don’t know about all this “great equaliser” talk surrounding the virus. I had thought it might be true, but now I’m not so sure. I appreciate all of us could die (no change there then), in the mean time it seems to me like everyone who was poor before is still poor now. Anyone more likely to die before is still more likely to die now.

Anyone rich before is rich now. Anyone doing ok before is still doing ok.

Everyone picking up the pieces before is still picking up the pieces.

Everyone at the bottom of the pile is still at the bottom of the pile.

Everyone who fell through the cracks is still falling.

I speak to a friend about her time in Cuba, because I want to go there one day, and ask her to remind me why she didn’t like it. She reminds me. I wonder if those calling for communism here will let us share their second homes and healthy salaries? I’m all for it, baby. I got nothing to loose. See you in the bread queues.

I take refuge in the past. Even bad memories seem attractive now.

While out shopping for an old gentleman, I catch my reflection in the shop window: face mask, latex gloves, leather trench coat. The look is very ‘Dr. Death will see you now’. And I think, If I have one regret, it’s that I didn’t buy more leather coats.

 

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The Leather Coat In Simpler Times

Locked-down And Out In London

March 27th

 

There’s the familiar, mechanical Predator cackle of a magpie in a tree. It is another beautiful day. A distant hum of traffic, or is it just my ears buzzing from the silence?

I wake early, every day. Today, my back hurts so I watch the birds on the feeder from bed. Little brings me such uncomplicated joy as this.

One blue tit is on the feeder and two are hopping about on this gigantic yellow flowering thing that has grown in one of our pots over the last few months. I let it grow out of curiosity. At first I thought it might be kale from seeds in the compost, then as it grew, I became sure it was tender stem broccoli and we were going to eat it when it got back from Devon. But in that time it started flowering bright yellow flowers. Now I’m pretty sure it’s poisonous.

(If anyone knows what it is…?)

The daisies I planted last summer along with the all the other now-dead wild flowers kept flowering all winter, and are still going strong, bobbing obediently in the breeze. Some of the seeds planted last month finally have tiny shoots coming up from the dark earth.

Nature is slow. That’s how it keeps its magic.

I’m reading Wide Sargasso Sea. It’s brilliant but it’s sinister. A lot of heavy overtones to deal with. A lot heavy undertones to deal with also.

I swing from feeling everything far too much to not feeling anything at all. Not sure which is more healthy at this point in time. The combination certainly isn’t. Last night we watched Aussie Gold Hunters and I cried at anything even remotely emotional—happy or sad, which meant I cried through most of the programme.

Someone got shot in The Wire and we had to turn it off.

Apparently you carry anxiety in your lower back. It would explain why mine’s been playing up again the last couple of weeks. I thought I was pretty calm compared to some people, but then denial is a river and it flows to my heart.

I painted my nails red and it made me feel better. I listen exclusively to reggae and soul. And ok, I admit, some madrigals and cantatas. I’ve lost all my paid work in the last couple of weeks. Instead, I work hard on my own writing. Yesterday I worked hard, got up too early, and was asleep by 8.30pm. I now consider that a very good day.

This virus has brought some enlightening things with it, especially via Twitter and Facebook. Lesley, who you were sure had a life-long career as an estate agent, is actually an immunologist, it turns out. She has been reading The Guardian’s Coronavirus Live Feed for two weeks now, so she knows exactly what she’s talking about. Terrence— who you’ve never been entirely sure what he does— announces he is not only a qualified immunologist, having read the many NYT pieces Belinda sent him, but he’s also been on a Preppers4Life forum and now he’s a professional chef – he can make a sourdough starter out of the skin of an onion and a sprinkle potash. When you next log on: everyone has become an expert on everything. You however, are a failure. You have not become an expert on anything in the last two weeks. Or, so you think. In fact, you have become an expert at watching other people miraculously become experts on things they previously knew nothing about. Congratulations!

Why not make something just for you, Terrence?

But, you know, whatever gets you through the day, Terrence. You too, Lesley. Keep on keeping on. I’m with you.

Last night we leant over the balcony railings and listened as the whole city clapped in darkness for the NHS workers. It meant something. What would mean more is if those who voted Conservative hereby make the decision never to do anything so destructive again.

It hits when you least expect it. Walking back one night from doing a shop for someone, it was dark and the streets were silent, except for a group of boys on bikes circling the area. “This is what it’s like to be in a pandemic then,” I thought.

But there are things to be grateful for: I have – after phone calls, emails and innumerable failed attempts – finally got my mum’s food delivery sorted and, without a shadow of a doubt, I have certainly become an expert on that.

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Mystery Plant

 

(And thank you, Sainsbury’s, for prioritising the elderly and vulnerable!)