DAY 8: Sat 21 Mar

On which I stand corrected and get news from everywhere

The first tulip bloomed this morning, bright red in the early morning sun, and the sparrows and tits were up early and devouring excitedly the goodies in their pristine bird feeders. So, despite a waking resolve to get stuck in to some serious exercising, one glance at the sun-streaked garden convinced me that my activities would be strictly alfresco today. 

But first I put-on a wash to make the make the most of the sun and breezes. Sheets, duvet covers, pillowcases and towels. Changing bed linen is a chore, but one you know will brighten up bedtime.

Today was supposed to be the BS16 XR group’s Climate Change Family Fun Day at the Hillfields Hub. It would have been good day for it. I have prepared seedlings and eucalyptus oil from the tree in my garden, and Chiltern Seeds have donated free packs for salad and pollinator plants – but distribution will have to wait now for happier times. XR activists have turned their attention to community activism of a different sort, setting up support networks across the city to ensure that no-one need go without in their isolation.

In my letterbox I find a card from neighbours, prettily decorated by their daughter, offering help if I get sick. It is the second such offer I have received and it makes me feel both grateful and sad – because it reminds me that I am (regarded as) old, and potentially vulnerable. I feel that it is I who should be offering others help. 

But there is plenty to do the garden; some transplanting; levelling and reseeding the sunken bits of the lawn when the badgers sett (sic) up home temporarily; getting my potatoes in and devising barriers to prevent the chickens from wrecking the crop. And yes, the lawn could do with a quick short back and sides.

At each loo or coffee break I find fresh messages from friends. A journalist and crime-writer from Latvia tell me she has been laid up with the coronavirus but is now back in action. The country’s lockdown is nothing new to her, she been through that movie before. A judge attests that he has been categorised as a key worker. A Dominican friar explains that he is now live streaming Mass. An accountant tell me his native Albania acted quickly to protect its ageing population; all those young people who had decanted to Italy over the years are bringing the virus home with them. 

An hilarious WhatsApp conversation erupts among my siblings which might best be described as ‘toilet humour’ – loo rolls have a lot to answer for. A brief WhatApp chat with my youngest grandson includes an hilarious attempt to play the ‘Yes/No’ game, one to which we shall have to return when he’s got a handle on the rules. Mind you he delighted in telling me “You’re out,  Grumps!” when I said “No”.

In the course of the day it was also brought to my attention that the line I quoted on Day 7 from O’Casey’s ‘Juno and the Paycock’ – “Th’ whole worl’s in a terrible state o’ chassis” -0 was said not by Joxer Daly but to Joxer by his friend the drunkard Captain Jack Boyle. Indeed it is the last line of the play. I stand corrected. 

As I finish my garden chores I discover the chickens have eaten the entire planter full of parsley I had carefully cultivated in the greenhouse over the winter. Why oh why did I put it out on the patio while the blessed birds were at their liberty?

Before I had time to shower there came a Skype from Tanzania where the schools and business are shut down, but no-one know how much of a hold the virus has taken there. This is largely because few believe anything the government of John Magafuli says these days. It is such a pity since the Tanzania of Nyerere was the great hope of Africa, but now petty corruption is rife and journalists re jailed or disappeared.

Then it was time for the next chapter of Salman Rushdie’s children’s book for my older grandsons, over Skype. Today Haroun arrives at the Dull Lake in ‘Kache-Mer’. I encourage the boys to ask their mum about her adventures in Kashmir and on the lake when she ignored my warning to steer clear of the beautiful but troubled Srinagar on her travels.

An odd supper of tarted up leftover rice alongside a steak and kidney pie and a salad of hot leaves from the greenhouse. Nothing much to watch on TV apart from distressing news, so I settled for Claire Denis’ rather tortuous sci-fi (not such a) thriller ‘High Life’ on MUBI. And so to bed with a dark rum and some dark chocolate.

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