DAY 95: Tues 16 June

Diary fatigue is setting in but a grandson brings my inner robot to life.

I am tired today. Not enough sleep. Very late to bed; woke twice in the night so heavy-limbed this morning – and I am expecting visitors before lunchtime. I hope a shower perks me up. I was reluctantly conceding that I need to get back into exercise before my muscles atrophy but that is not going to happen, yet. 

This diary is taking over my life. It was somethingI always feared. How do people have time for diaries, if they are going to have a life to write about that is (not to mention getting some sleep)? Luckily I have a lifetime of memories to call upon, but it means I am neglecting all the things I said I was going to read and write at the start of this lockdown. Right here I should perhaps do a Tristram Shandy and refer you back to Day 2 Sunday 15 March, in case you have forgotten my list.  

By the way dear reader, if reader there is, I lied at the close of yesterday’s entry. It was inadvertently economical with the actuality, so methinks no apology is required. I discovered that we still have TWO toilet rolls in the upstairs bathroom, as well as the ‘last’ one in the downstairs loo. So we really should be up for a world record -15 rolls in 120 days must say something (about bowel movements if nothing else)!

Is it me or is there a pervasive pong of chicken excrement about the place? It is probably on my garden shoes or drifting in from the desecrated patio, but it is most disconcerting.

I received an email from a young journalist workigon The Bristol Cable this morning. She is from an Indian family and she described the assaults, name calling and threats she had received from the so-called ‘Cenotaph defenders’ in Bristol last Saturday. She was drenched in beer, and one neanderthal tried to pull off her mask. She was brave to face these nasty racist hoodlums, but her experience shows we must do more to protect journalists when they are at work.

My morning was brightened up considerably when a friend turned up in the front garden for coffee, and no sooner had we settled down for an appropriately distanced natter than the sound of a pushchair and familiar voice came up the Back Lane. My son and his two children had come to join us, and they were soon ensconced on the bench outside the front gate. The only problem was that grandson No 3, all kitted out as Buzz Lightyear, had come determined to meet a robot. And that was an order. I had no idea how to respond, and a packet of chocolate buttons made no difference to his demands. I went off to look for a robot.

Changing into black track suit bottoms and a black winter hooded coat and with a grabber for one arm and a roll of cardboard for the other, I donned a V for Vendetta mask adopted a robot voice and made my way robot-like back into the garden. I am not sure who was more surprised, my grandson, his dad or my visitor. I managed to keep it up for several minutes before turning on my heel and heading back inside. When I returned in my normal garb I explained that I had chased the robot out into the back garden and away from the chickens. It had clambered over the wall, I said, and run off down the road,. My grandson was bitterly disappointed. He wanted the robot to come back. Cue, distraction technique.”Anybody hungry?” For a moment I thought that I had lost the game, when grandson No 3. insisted that he wanted white bread – of which I had none. But his dad reminded him that he always ate brown bread – so a cheese sandwich on homemade brown it was. Problem solved. 

My front garden and the Black Lane are covered in tiny green apples discarded by what I believe to be the oldest surviving apple tree in what was once an old orchard. Grandsons 1 and 3 enjoyed collecting them up with a grabber, but I now suggested that Buzz Lightyear add all the ones in the Lane to the bucket his cousins had half filled. He as on at once – but somehow it suddenly turned into a catching and then a throwing game. I found myself under attack from a determined apple artillery man. I could do but one thing – fire back. And so it continued until we had all had enough. By then it was time for the young lad and his equally tired little sister to make their way home. I bet they were both asleep in the double buggy long before they got there.

Yesterday Grandson No 1 had read Limericks to me on Skype and I had promised to make one up about him, his brother and his parents – but not yet. On Skype today I spent ages discussing the relative merits of poly-tunnels and polycarbonate greenhouses with his dad. Operating Skype and Google at the same time was quite a struggle, but what we learned was that the ‘start up ‘ versions of both are completely out of stock – a sign that more and more people have taken refuge in gardening and growing their own. Perhaps one of the most positive things to have come out of lockdown.

The rest of the afternoon I spent beginning to knock the old chicken run back into shape as a garden. Or rather trying to. It is going to take some heavy digging, sieving, and thought, but at least the soil should be very fertile. Rumbles of thunder and intimations of rain drove me indoors. Then, perversely, the sun came back out. I transferred to the front garden and watched the fish while syphoning the content of a water butt into the pond to make up for a lot of evaporation. Then I peeled vegetables al fresco to make a vegetable curry to go with the really tasty sun-dried tomato bread I made this morning.

In doing so I missed Johnson’s No. 10 briefing, but from what I can gather I did not miss much. Once again he made a fool of himself, this time by pretending he knew nothing about footballer Marcus Rashford’s campaign to ensure the government pays for children living in poverty to receive free ‘school meals’ over the summer. Does he really take us for fools? Either his sudden reversal of policy was the result of pressure because of the support Rashford was gaining from within Tory ranks or he had had a coincidental light-bulb moment that to do so might earn him much need brownie points. Either way it says little for this self-confidence or our confidence in him. He has taken to calling himself ‘a leader’. To prove it he has come u with a cunning wheeze – merged the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development (DFID), and devolving control of development programmes to ambassadors and in-country diplomats, if I understood him correctly, that is. Who knows with him?

I finished my evening watching the final part of David Olusoga’s brilliantly informative A House Though Time, craning my neck to see if I might recognise anyone in the wartime photographs of the Bristol Blitz. My mother told stories of shocking the family by arriving home in Hlll Street, (now Merrywood Close) Bedminster covered in what looked like blood, but she had fallen in the red soil typical of the area which had been turned into sludge by fire hoses, making the street treacherous in the aftermath of an air raid.

So now I am off to bed much earlier than usual, in the hope I can catch up on lost sleep from last night. 

Mike J

Journalist, trainer, editor; storyteller; amateur historian.

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