DAY 26: Wed 8 April

When a Tory MP trended on Twitter and The Master shocked.

It’s happened again, woke before 7 to listen to the news, turned over in bed and seconds later it’s 8:40! Time is such a strange concept.

I felt happy this morning because my grandsons had visited. They also  helped fix labels to the bottles eucalyptus oil I made some weeks ago for the aborted Climate Change Family Fun Day planned for 21 March. But of course as soon as I got downstairs I realised it had only been dream – but at least it was pleasurable.

There was another shock waiting for me the kitchen. My house guest was up, and baking baguettes! Since he joined the lockdown he has become a real night owl, sleeping all day and appearing in the early evening to have breakfast while I make supper. It has become a bit of a worry for him. However much he has tried to break the pattern it has not worked. So this latest effort is all the more remarkable. He has agreed to help in the garden today, to help wear himself out so that he will be physically tired when night falls. 

For him the lockdown is especially difficult, it keeps him apart from his social life among other refugees now in isolation locally, and he worries about his family back home who are also in lockdown but in a country with more limited health service capacity than here. The miracle of modern technology means at least he can keep in direct contact much of the time. When he is up they are almost constantly with him via Skype or WhatsApp. They have met my chickens remotely almost as well he does. And I have ‘met’ some of his relatives too, though I do not speak Arabic.

We are all suffering from separation at the moment, but it cannot measure up to the stress felt by those who have left homes and families to seek sanctuary thousands of miles away, and now subsist in doubly hostile environments trapped by faulty asylum systems and now the coronavirus.  I am lucky to have him as a companion in my so-called ‘self-isolation’ but that can be of little compensation to him.

On a lighter note I came across the #NadineStories hashtags on Twitter. I have to be honest and admit that clapping was heard in my bit of Brook Road last evening, so some people were indeed clapping for the PM. This house was silent, our claps are reserved for NHS workers. But Tory MP Nadine Dorries’ claim to have heard clapping has stimulated an hilarious thread of counter-narratives which had her trending. Worth checking out. 

Among the news items from family I learn that one of my nephews who has volunteered finds himself on a team working on a temporary mortuary. This must be a tough ask at time like these, but especially problematic when several members of family are already coping with COVID19. 

News also comes in of a young Muslim refugee who is desperate to get married so he can sleep with his girlfriend during Ramadan, but he can’t find an imam to to conduct the neckar, and any way where will he find two witnesses at a time when we are all in lockdown… Is there an online solution perhaps?

We have a long day dealing with some ‘heavy lifting’ in the garden. My house guest spent some time thoroughly watering the garden only for us to realise that two huge water butts beside the ill-fated eucalyptus need to be emptied if they are not to risk being crushed when the tree surgeon operates on Friday. Now the garden is utterly sodden.

But the rose bed is done, and the roses are in – they better do well after all the effort I have put in. Dahlias likewise. The chickens are loving the disruption in the garden, lots of opportunities to check out the worm population – and scatter any pile of leaves, weeds or stones we assemble, and to poke around in the neat flower garden.

Muddy and full of scratches I make some tea while my house guest collapses on the sofa. While he dozes I learn that in the last 24 hours more people have died of the virus than ever before. It is distressing and makes me want not to watch the news tonight. Messages come in from two friends to say that the virus has got some of their relatives too. No fatalities, thank goodness, but it all adds to the anxiety. 

I get my mind off things by reading the opening chapters of T. H. White’s The Master. It must be 60 years since read it, and I must now read it to them via a facsimile copy online – not easy when using Skpye at the same time. 

It doesn’t start too well with lots of nuggets of historical whimsy about Rockall that need to be skipped to keep the boys on track – but then suddenly we are confronted by the ‘yellow hands with long fingernails’ of a Chinaman. And then ‘a gigantic coal-black negro’ who is next referred to as a ‘blackamoor’. Luckily I am able to make appropriate adjustments to the text which was first published in 1957. I remember enjoying the adventure as a kid, but had no recollection of the language, which no doubt seemed unremarkable at the time. I shall read ahead to avoid any more awkward moments.

Then I prepared a healthy beef stew with lots of root vegetables for supper, and enjoyed it while watching the concluding episode of The Trouble with Maggie Cole. It has felt more like the sort of confection they put on TV during the summer months, but it has been an ideal diversion during these gloomy times. 

And now it is (almost) time for bed.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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