DAY 3: Mon 16 Mar

Spent mostly in the garden

Woke this morning feeling rough and shivery, only to find this the duvet had fallen off the bed! Must have had a disturbed night, maybe in response to the disturbing Greek film ‘The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea’ I watched on MUBI.

Dealt with emails etc. lounging in bed overlong while the sun shone through the trees daring me to get up and get out there. Suddenly realised I have no Guinness or Jamesons in for a lonely St Patrick’s Day celebration tomorrow. How tough can life get!

Chickens out. Don’t know what do to about their coop. It has become a smelly swamp, perhaps because of the clay beneath the topsoil. They seem unconcerned. Perhaps they’ll turn into ducks if it keeps raining. However it is good to see that the three new arrivals that replaced the foxes’ latest victims now seem to have found peace with the two older birds who have been giving them a hard time thus far.

Got a wash on to take advantage of today’s sun. Then set about assembling, for the third time, the Parkside Cold Frame I bought from Lidl last week. To say it is flimsy is an understatement. It is about as easy to put together as an IKEA wardrobe with the wrong instructions, and falls apart under the least pressure. Can’t take it back ‘cos I’m locked in. And, of course, I’ve lost the receipt.

Dot delivers washing powder, tins of tomatoes and chickpeas, plus frozen green veg, honey and some yoghourt (eugh!) – the latter for tomorrow’s soda bread (that and certain curries are the only reasons I will allow the devil’s spawn in my house – my aversion stems from childhood when yoghourt did not exist other than in the form of milk that had gone off but which still had to be consumed). Recently back from Sierra Leome, she also leaves me copies of ‘Awoko’ and ‘Standard Times’ newspaper from that benighted country.

Another neighbour drops in some paracetamol (just in case) on her way back form collecting prescriptions. We had chatted on the phone earlier about her children nd their partners who are all losing work as freelances and don’t know what compensation will be offered by Johnson’s cabal. One of my son’s has had all his music contracts cancelled. They will all be hoping that Universal Credit will go some way to rescuing their predicament.

As I gathered up the emptied recycling bins strewn about the Back Lane outside my quirky old cottage, my new neighbour stops, by at an appropriate distance, and we chew the fat about the extraordinary circumstances we now find ourselves in.

Meanwhile I learn that local XR activists have transformed themselves into community support groups and are busy utilising their skills and contacts to engage with the problems facing Bristol folk. From now on all meetings will be on something called Zoom. 

Then brief spell online subbing copy for ‘Coronavirus- Connecting Communities’ a new blog being set up by World Health Communication Associates to propagate useful information about coping with the crisis internationally. A colleague from Lithuania emails to say she is in London awaiting a flight home after her contract in Morocco had been cancelled. 

Spent part of the afternoon trying to devise ways of keeping the chickens, local cats, and the foxes and badgers off this year’s vegetable crops when they are ready to plant out. Not sorted yet, but more netting will be needed.

Got in just time for the tail end of Johnson’s apocalyptic press conference bringing an end to social life as we know. I almost felt sorry for the buffoon. Cannot imagine even his mate Cummings would ever have foreseen this crisis. The big worry is that it affords them every opportunity tear up what remains of the democracy rule book. Apparently refusing to comply with self-isolation may eventually become a criminal offence. Will their plans for new prisons take precedence over the new hospitals we were promised? I think we should be told. 

To lighten the mood I had early evening WhatsApp video contact with my two youngest grandchildren. It was interrupted several times by BT’s dodgy internet connection, but later I was able to join the Bristol Branch NUJ meeting on Skype. It would normally be held at Tony Benn House in the city centre, but this way we all caught a glimpse of the inside of each other’s homes. The main topic of discussion was the final agenda for the union’s Delegate Meeting in Stockport next month. That is bound be postponed but it was useful to go through the motions (no pun originally intended). 

I had to break off for half an hour as I had promised to read a bedtime story to my other two grandchildren. I chose Dick King Smith’s ‘The Finger Eater’ which went down well (sic).

The Branch meeting done I constructed a pizza with anchovies, ham, and home grown mushrooms for a TV supper watching ‘Miss World 1970: Beauty Queens and Bedlam’ on BBC2 which brought back some memories. And to think that  ‘pageant’ was family viewing for 28 million people back then.

Have come across a movie called ‘The Professor and the Madman’ with Mel Gibson and Sean Bean about the compiling of the Oxford English Dictionary. Slightly odd cast for such a quintessentially English theme. If it was designed to attract an American audience it failed miserably; having cost $25m to make it raked in a miserable $5m. I’ll give it a go before bed (Steve Coogan is in it too).

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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