DAY 41: Thurs 23 April

Early morning madness, and a puzzled squirrel.

Just after 8 this morning my phone started bleeping. First of all there was an offer of shopping from a neighbour, then it was my sisters who started the day with a chorus of quotes and catchphrases which revealed our comedy and cinema favourites (as well as our age). It was so addictive that it was still going 2 hours later!

And then, before 9, I had two more offers of help with shopping. I was so obliged to them I almost felt obliged to come up with a shopping list. 

These two phenomena are an indication both of how generous people can be, and how crazy some of us have become!

And before I had time to head out to the garden (again), I got a message to say DHL would be delivering something later – the problem is I have no idea what it’s supposed to be. I must have ordered it weeks ago. When it arrived at tea time it turned out to be 5 kilos of pond fish food, enough to feed all the pond fish in Bristol for five years! And the local pet shop had delivered enough for a couple of months a few weeks back. Checking back it looks like I clicked on the wrong size on Ebay! See what I mean about going crazy. I shall have to flog it to the pet shop.

What a hot day, and what day to double-dig my bird-proof vegetable and soft fruit patch. I have now used up most of the home-made compost I have amassed over the last year. I look forward to some tasty veg, so long as the weather holds out long enough for me to do some transplanting and seed sowing. While I worked on it, the neighbourhood squirrel ran along the garden fence on one of its marauding raids. It saw me and stopped, looking more perplexed than frightened. It scampered back whence it had come and then returned as if trying to work out how to get to the bird tables as I was in the way. With a metaphorical shrug it turned on its tail and gave up for now. Oftimes it bounds over the roof of the downstairs loo to get at the bird food in the front garden. 

Speaking of birds, I notice that a blue tit has taken over the nesting hole in the back wall of a neighbour’s house. It was once the nesting place of a family of wrens.

Back in the greenhouse the artichoke I planted last year has produced three amazing crowns already! I do a final watering, and give up for the day, ready for a cuppa, a shower, and story time with the grandsons. 

But first it’s the No. 10 press conference which, for once, is full of useful detail about the plans to expand testing. It has taken them an awful long time to appreciate the value of the internet as a means of organising tests for those who need them. It is pity the sort of detail they came out with today wasn’t available a lot earlier. No doubt they hope we will now forget about their failings over PPE…

Nothing was said about the discomforting news that Johnson and Trump have agreed a co-ordinated approach (whatever that means). However Britain’s Muslims can enter Ramadan comforted by the fact that the British government is with them (so long as they stay at home). I can almost hear the gnashing of teeth among the racists and Islamophobes when Health Minister Hancock wished them “Ramadan Mubarak” on St Georges Day!

It always amuses me that the English ‘patriots’ who revere St George don’t seem in the least discomfited by the fact that their patron saint never visited England, never met a dragon, and wasn’t even a knight. He was born in what is now Turkey, died a Christian martyr in Palestine, ad was canonised by the Roman Catholic Church. So his popular image is simply a bag of myths – rather like the idea that there is any such creature as a pure bred English person.

Once online Grandson No. 1 tells me he has a gift for me that the family have been working on all day. A large box comes into view, and when No.1  pulls open the box which once contained a sink unit, he reveals what looks like a curled up monkey – all I can see is its ear! What the? Then it unfurls and it is grandson No.2 who leaps out. I discover they have recorded the whole transaction as they wanted to see how I would react. I hope I was surprised enough…

Then we go back to The Master where the debate this evening is all about how and why to kill him! Shooting? Poisoning? And who will do it before he takes over the world? Strange stuff for a children’s book, but the boys are engrossed. 

A great 8pm I Clap For The NHS with my neighbours. Both ends of the cul-de-sacs that share the same name here are planning post-Lockdown parties it turns out. And ‘my end’ has got a WhatsApp group going which I joined tonight. Turns out childhood friends of my children live up the far end and remember with affection the tree house I had constructed across three trees at the end of the family  garden. 

So a happy end to a tiring day as I knock up a quick Thai vegetable curry, and contemplate an early night. But first I must send off an extract from the book I am writing about the private madhouses of Fishponds. The unique Glenside Hospital Museum, which focuses on mental health and is where I began my research, has had to close for the time being. But it is putting up pieces written by its regular volunteers and researchers. Check it out

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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