DAY 9: Sun 22 Mar

Little Michael and his struggle against the chickens (and his swanky sauna)

A Mothers’ Day full of more anguish than anyone can remember. My  mother died 50 years ago, but there are still plenty of mothers in our family. One sister was particularly upset not to be able spend Mothers’ Day with her daughter who has just become a mother for the first time. Another had the bright idea of a tea party with social distance. Her daughter brought a picnic tea in her garden, so they could see and talk to each other but without physical contact.

Back out in my garden, the ‘Mother Hen’ among my little flock (?) of five seems to have gone all broody on us. I imagine that will be a relief to the new batch who are fed up with being reminded of the pecking order. (She can be quite a harridan at times.)

My house guest is looking like a ghost this morning, this partly because he had been up all night alternating between grim news items and fun videos, anxious about what is happening here and back home, and allowing himself to be convinced by every sign that solutions are around the corner (that bastard Trump and all the other idiots out there have a lot to answer for). The other reason is that the front door bell suddenly went off while he was having breakfast but he could see through the window that there was no-one at the door. “Maybe it the virus checking whether we are in,” he giggled nervously, as I went out to wipe the door handles.

Throughout the morning reviews are coming in from my sisters about the quality of live-streamed Masses in their localities. It felt almost as if there was a competition on to find out which parish priest has best mastered the technology. 

News comes in from a niece who is working with the air ambulance service that the virus may well be spreading from the handles at petrol pumps. And advises everyone to spread the word that gloves or paper towels should be used when filling up their cars.

Then a friend texts to ask if I have a spare bottle of Sauvignon, perhaps feeling embarrassed about ordering booze for home delivery. I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘spare’ but, seeing as how it’s Mother’s Day, I gift wrapped a nice one from Naked Wines and left it out beside the empty milk bottles. She collected while delivering leaflets from one of her neighbours offering help with errands.

Having gone to great lengths to net off my potato bed, I suppose it should come as no surprise that the chickens sneaked in by going under a bush I thought was a sufficient barrier. It’s a sunny spot so they settled into make dust baths where I had just planted a year’s supply of spuds. Greater lengths will have be gone to than those that protect them from the foxes in their coop – already known as Guantanamo Bay.

For today I decided to ignore them while constructing a framework for all the nets and fencing I hope will keep them off the other vegetables I plan to grow. In between times there were quick bursts on social media, including a revamp of the health communications blog set up by World Health Communication Associates (WHCA). A new edition goes up on Monday.

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I spent a long day in the garden, which is beginning to look as if it has had some attention at long last. The weather has been so dire for months tat ever little has been done over the winter.

After getting my hands well and truly dirty, I switched on the sauna for a well deserved relaxation session. Oh, didn’t I tell you. I have a neat little sauna cabin outside my back door.  (Swank) 

Some years ago I landed an unexpected and unexpectedly lucrative contract. Faced with temporary riches and with no outstanding commitments at the time, I decided to treat myself to the unheard of luxury of an infrared sauna. Zoki, the Birmingham firm who made the recovery saunas for the paralympics, made and installed it. I try to have 40 minute in it most weeks. It is said to be good for aching old bodies, at leats that is m,y excuse.

Sometimes, but not nearly enough, friends and family make use of it, but usually its just me and a good (case-bound hardback) book (paperbacks and perfect-bound books can’t take the heat and quickly disintegrate). There used it be a CD player too, but SOMEONE left the heating on for several days and it melted. It happened to a replacement too. So now I just set and read. Today I made a start fo George Alagiah’s ‘The Burning Land’, a thinly disguised parable about what is happening in post-apartheid South Africa.  

But before that I had another reading session with my grandsons who seem quite excited about starting their home schooling tomorrow. Unfortunately I missed a call from my other grandchildren, and by the time I called back they were abed.

My gesture with the wine evidently went down well. My friendly neighbour dropped off a leak and cauliflower cheese concoction this evening. She claims she has bought and cooked too much food as she is used to feeding grandchildren who cannot now come round to eat with granny. Very tasty.

There are many generous spirits about, unlike the cretins who have spent the day crammed into supermarkets or socialising as if there were no good reasons to observe physical distancing. And they are the ones who no doubt wonder why the fatalities still mount. Things will certainly get worse before they get better.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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