DAY 78: Sat 30 May

Riots in Minnesota, wrens in my passageway, and a spaceman pays a call.

Great start to the morning. Loud noises off from the chickens meant I was up by 7, though my body craved a lie in.

Overnight the lunatic Trump has announced a divorce with the World Health Organisation at the height of a global pandemic, and then made a carefully scripted attack on China just to add to further instability to our world. 

Meanwhile there is horrendous news from the county he is supposed to lead. Post-lockdown riots over the killing of George Floyd have led to arson, looting and shootings. There’s understandable anger at the apparently never-ending catalogue of fatal assaults by the police on black (mostly) men. And all the country’s President can do is pour oil on the flames by threatening violence on protesters and further revealing his own racism. The biggest danger to the USA is sitting in the White House (when he is not on the golf course or at his other vulgar private hangouts).  

A relative writes from Minneapolis: ‘The city is in a great deal of pain and in need of healing.  Given the current leadership, or lack there of, at the national level this was bound to happen. He has allowed racism and hate to become acceptable.  We are lucky to have a great governor and the mayors of both Minneapolis and St Paul, they are sister cities, are also doing great.  We don’t need Trump sending in the army and  constitutionally he doesn’t have that authority.  I know he thinks the constitution doesn’t apply to him.  I just pray that some good comes out of this.’

I got a call this morning from a man claiming to be bionic and so he cannot die. ”I tried to suffocate myself last night, and I didn’t die’ he announced, hoping this was a great story. I respectfully suggested there were other people he should talk to about this.

I feel quite ‘weepie’ today. Not quite sure why. So many things happening out in the big, bad world, and so many things I’d like to get involved with; but here I am looking after chicken, trying to keep the garden tidy, and writing a solipsistic diary. I try to keep in touch with family and friends and neighbours but it feels as if I am under house arrest just for being ‘old’. Mind you a friend sent me a sound-test which is supposed to identity your age bracket by the time you cease to hear the sound. According to that I am 20 years younger than my ’actual’ age. A mixed message in current circumstances.

The water supply to my kids’ neighbourhoods is off, and there is nothing I can do but offer them to come over with empty bottles. Can’t get them on the phone. Apparently there are now long queues at a sports field near them where water tankers have been parked up. Perhaps they are stuck in the queues and their phones have lost charge. How quickly communication can break down. 

I console myself by actually finishing off Go Went Gone, which I hope other readers will find transformative. it is a slow read but should help some in the West to think again about just how privileged their lives are compared with those struggling to survive here having made perilous journeys from equally precarious living conditions ‘back home’. Arrogantly I think I did not need the lesson, since I have been hearing and researching the stories of refugees for 20 years, and helping some find a new life. But there is no harm in being reminded of just how lucky I am, despite the lockdown.

Sitting around feeling sorry for myself is utterly unproductive. There are things to be done in the garden and the sun is belting down. I start by cleaning the chickens’ hutch, laying some more rat poisons (I don’t believe they wont come back) and think about what I need to finish the new chicken coop. I need two 2.5 metre 3” x 2” timbers before I can proceed much further; kind of difficult in lockdown. The local timber recycling project is shut and when I check with B&Q I discover they will cost only £14 BUT they only come in bulk deliveries which costs £30 AND require a minimum purchase of £100. Stymied. Revert to Plan D. (Sit quietly in a darkened room and dream up Plan D).

My sojourn in the chicken run (predictive text keeps turning ‘chicken’ into ‘children’ – is it trying to tell me something?) reveals that the pretty little wrens that keep flitting about have build a nest in a cavity under the covered passageway at the side of my house. That cheered me up. But the discovery of a dead field mouse in my pond was a bit of a downer. 

I clear the patio for some serious woodwork (bodger style) and make a crude door for the new chicken coop. It shows what state I am that I find it intellectually stimulating to work in both metric and old money (inches) at the same time. I am surprised at how successful my efforts are, using off-cuts of timber that I have been storing for years in the firm belief that one day they will come in handy. However my labours are cut short by the arrival of a spaceman!

My son has ridden over with his son operating his own cardboard space craft, complete with silver wings, in the child seat. Grandson No.3. has a brightly coloured control panel (or is that a console?) on his lap. He tests the green ‘Freeze’ with me, and I can assure you, dear readers, it works! Luckily he unfroze me quite quickly, but power had gone to his head and he kept pressing it! I was so pleased when he came back down to earth and announced, in a tiny voice, that he was hungry. My son muttered, sotto voce, that I had made a rod for my own back by always offering him treats, but I explained that this was a burden all grandparents are glad to carry.

I offered the space man some ’space juice’ but he said he didn’t like space juice, so I made him some ice cool chocolate milk with peanut butter on brown bread. While the spaceman consumed his rations his father, noticing the ice cubes in his drink contained frozen grapes, warned his son that “Whenever you eat with Grumps you have to watch out for unusual ingredients.” He has never been happy about my imaginative reinterpretation of conventional recipes. He was spoiled by my maternal grandmother’s more conventional approach to cuisine.

The spaceman is wearing glasses (he had play ones on a while back, to prepare him for this moment). It turns out he requires exactly the same corrective treatment as his dad had at a similar age. I shall have to restrain myself from turning the little chap on to bow ties. His dad developed an obsession with them just as he started school, and would refuse to go to school without one. I don’t think we ever worked out where that came from as I had never worn one.

I am well cheered up by their visits and get back to work with a vengeance, coating the door frame in two layers of chicken wire. In the process my arms and hands were pricked so much that when my house guest emerges at tea time he expresses concern about the amount of dried blood peppering my body. So immersed was I in my task in the baking sun that I did not hear my phone announce the arrival of my daughter at my door step. Sipping some mint tea I notice the missed calls, but she is long gone.

When I call her, the water in her neck of the woods has just come back on. Her family have been keeping cool indoors all day to conserve what liquids they have and avoid getting sweaty and thirsty in the sun.

I hear from the politicians that the ‘shielders’ can go out from Monday when some kids can go back to school and horses can get the bookies back in business. We cannot trust this government, even when they tell the truth – there is always some ulterior motive. The virus is alive and well; people have already broken ranks on social isolation; there are thousands of new cases every day; the test and trace regime is a shambles; and there is no vaccine. I shall stay put and I hope others will too.

I am cheered up by a chat with my aged godmother, still safely isolated in her care home in Yorkshire. She doesn’t really understand why her hairdresser could not come in again today; her weekly hairdo is a really important moment in her weekly schedule, but she seems happy enough, and pleased all my family are well. 

My working day is done. I make pasta with left-over game roast, pour myself a large red, and sink down into the sofa to watch a movie and more episodes of Shtisel. That is me finished for the day. I am too tired even to edit this entry. It will have to wait to the morrow.

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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