- 17 March 2020
Yesterday the UK government completely changed its coronavirus strategy on the realization they’d messed up the modeling. They used viral pneumonia rather than the novel coronavirus to model its ‘herd immunity’ strategy and the two diseases are not alike. So they’ve completely changed tactics, perhaps too little too late. And they’ve strongly advised against public gatherings without actually ordering anything to shut. Meaning that restaurants, pubs and theatres won’t have any income but can’t claim any insurance either. I’m furious and sad for my friends in those industries. And selfishly annoyed because where am I going to go when this is over if all those places are closed? People keep saying “this might change everything–it won’t go back to the way it was” and I can believe that for office work but humans are social creatures–perhaps the most social species that ever existed — and we won’t be able to sustain long term quarantine conditions no matter how risky getting together is. We need each other.
- 20 March 2020
It’s just the end of my first week back in the office from vacation and it’s not at all unusual that I would work from home all that time and yet I’m having trouble putting the phone down when it’s time to sleep and waking when it’s time to wake. Though I have plenty of food I’m regretting using any of my canned goods to make dinner because it’s going to be a while before more is available. I feel like the advice I gave with [my boss] Dan is completely wrong–crisis times call for different measures than ordinary working from home–and I’m anxious about supporting workers as best I can through this. And it’s only going to get worse for a while: more deaths. More draconian measures. Will people keep panic-buying into week 2, 3, 4 of this crisis? We’re lucky that supply chains are not yet interrupted. Much.
- 21 Mar 2020
As the news about the coronavirus gets ever more stringent I decided the best thing I can do is make my home as nice as possible, if we’re going to be confined indoors for up to 12 weeks. Mild sore throat yesterday and today–trying to decide if it’s “the ‘rona” as everyone’s been calling it, or just allergies. No fever so far, mild feeling of some kind of coating on the back of my throat, so probably just sinus-whatsit. Surprising amount of night traffic on the Highway, especially motorcycles. I wonder if people feel cooped up so they’re going out at hours when they think no one else will be around. I’m planning a virtual tea party for next weekend, assuming I’m not ill and can host! We’re going to need more of these virtual events going forward. I wish the tech were a little bit better. Should probably go for a walk but it’s hard to keep 6 feet apart on these narrow paths. And some people really don’t seem to care, aren’t making an effort at all. Sore throat feels worse. Illness or imagination?
- 24 March 2020
Finally caved and bought a TV licence so I could watch Boris’s evening pronouncement–as expected all told to stay indoors with exceptions only for food shopping, exercise once a day, getting medicines, or caring for someone vulnerable. These measures to stay in place for three weeks. Trouble getting to bed in a timely fashion–keep finding myself awake in that fidgety way at or after midnight. Perhaps no surprise yesterday. Should have known something was coming when the Thames Pathway gates next to the Prospect of Whitby and the Trafalgar Court apartment complex were locked yesterday. The bit where that wooden semicircular walkway extends out over the water. And the steps down to the Thames foreshore. I find walking on the sand soothing and grounding so I was very disappointed not to be able to do so yesterday. I wonder how long it will take for people–and businesses–to fully comply with these orders. And I’ve got so many what-ifs: sudden plumbing emergency? Would that be considered enough of a reason for a business to stay open? Broken window…other minor non-medical emergencies…I wonder.
- 25 March 2020
I was distressed to see things proceeding just as usual yesterday with everyone out on the path around Shadwell Basin just as normal. I suppose because we face a pedestrian area we see the bulk of people’s exercise resolutions. Perhaps I should go for a walk now while nobody’s out? Or will it be full of runners out there? Sore throat continues. Psychological, allergies, reflux, or THE DISEASE? Hard to know. I took a bath last night just to get a break from the endless screen viewing. My eyes are tired which is making me tired even though my body isn’t getting enough movement.
- 26 March 2020
I dreamed we were organizing a book launch for me so I tried to think of a good place but it was all tiny bookshops like LRB and some other imaginary one with two tiny tables. And when I woke up I realized even if I had a book to launch we wouldn’t be doing it in person like that. Maybe never again.
- 27 March 2020
Yesterday at 8 PM there was an organized effort to get everyone outside to applaud for the NHS and care workers. I thought there would be a poor showing and I’d seen some doctors and nurses saying they didn’t want applause, they wanted more PPI so they could do their jobs more safely. But at 8 PM I heard a noise–through my noise-cancelling headphones–and when I went out every single balcony in Newlands Quay, Maynards Quay, and all the other surrounding housing units had someone one it making a joyful noise. It was really stunningly moving. We could hear fireworks and air horns in the distance. Really beautiful. I felt connected to the neighbourhood in ways I hadn’t before. The next few weeks are going to be difficult and grim but now I feel we can do it together.
- 28 March 2020
Grocery shopping yesterday. Took an hour all told which isn’t too bad. Still no flour, tomatoes, ratatouille on shelves. Was going to try to get enough that I could cancel my Tesco order this week but it’s too hard to carry all those cans and things. Heavy. Hopefully they can sort out the supply chains soon as I’d hate to be caught out if I need to go full self-isolating. Brought the Kellens a bunch of flowers. Thought they might be feeling a bit cabin fever-esque. Glad to have cheered them up a bit.
- 29 March 2020
Classic trouble sleeping: procrastinating bedtime through more screen time or reading, then mind racing and racing. Last night the other hallmarks of disturbed sleep: physical restlessness, feeling like I can’t get comfortable, leg twitches, many sensations of itching or irritating fabric or whatever, then a stress dream. Not a full on nightmare but definitely uncomfortable and annoying. Procrastinating getting OUT of bed too, as per my embarrassing moment on Friday when I slept in/lazed about with my phone not realizing there was a 9 AM meeting. Sleep is so important, need to do better. But even thinking about imposing “rules” like one phone-free or screen-free evening a week or no phone after 10 PM makes me feel anxious. I think Mom and Dad are taking unnecessary risks by continuing to go for walks with friends and go to the coffee shop but they know my opinion already. They’re keeping up with the news as much as I am, I already sent them my misinfo kit and I cannot make their decisions for them. I love them and I just have to keep telling them that.
- 31 March 2020
Waiting for further news on ‘do not travel’ and ‘do not go out’ orders. Still haven’t cancelled end of April trip but should really get on it. Has Holland closed the borders? That would make it easier.
- 2 April 2020
Had a little cry at the 6 o’clock news which had a segment on people not being allowed to see one’s dying relatives, or even attend their funerals. I was overwhelmed with a sense of not wanting to die alone. But when I got on the phone with my parents they said they were talking about what they’d do if I got sick and I really need to make clear to them that they wouldn’t be allowed to see me. Plus they might not be able to fly home.
- 4 April 2020
Rather morbid task of making my will before me. I hate to leave Mom and Dad without any guidance, particularly on electronic things. Weather looks beautiful–people will be out in droves. Very glad of the balcony to have outdoor space without worrying about those who are incapable of social distancing.
- 5 April 2020
Dreamed my work colleagues and I were sequestered together on a small farm for the duration of this thing. I got caught on the sofa as my workstation between two of them. Pointed out we had two farm buildings and perhaps some of us could move to the other house for more room. Then a very vivid dream about my bedroom on the farm: ground floor with a floor-to-ceiling window in one corner through which I spied the most beautiful black swan with iridescent feathers. Strange sex dream about the swan (isn’t there a Greek myth about Zeus turning into a swan?) Regret not getting an early walk in but nothing to do for it now. Busy day ahead if I want to finish all my planning, cooking, and plant potting before craft time. Torsten and the Interlocken folks hosted a sing along virtually on Friday. I couldn’t make it as it was 8 PM US time (1 AM over here!) but I loved seeing the recording. So special. I haven’t felt that close to camp in years. I miss it so.
- 7 April 2020
I feel close to tears, I can’t concentrate, my writing isn’t up to scratch and people keep booking seemingly interminable prep calls into my diary. How will I ever write that other paper? And I am so TIRED of ‘feedback’. I don’t care anymore. Just getting dressed and showing up is barely all I can do. And I don’t have children or an underlying health condition or anything. Many others have more troubles than me–but I still feel completely bowled over. At least today. How can anyone want to be doing all this STUFF? Can’t we just stop? Made banana bread, sat in the sun looking at my tulips. Trying to be present and calm. But I just want to switch off the computer and sleep.
- 8 April 2020
Sat and watched the supermoon yesterday–it was so bright the streetlight by my balcony didn’t turn on. I normally don’t sit outside at night because of it (and it’s usually very noisy when it’s warm enough to sit outside.) But connecting with the big beautiful moon helped calm my shattered nerves from yesterday.
- 11 April 2020
Might need to make a double batch of Neighbour Cookies–18 takers so far and I want to make sure they all get a decent amount! The Highway remains inexplicably busy outside. Perhaps the traffic has eased but the noise has barely abated at all. The first night after the stay at home order was quiet but since then it seems like the same as always. I keep waiting for the lockdown extension to be announced. But they did say they’d review it in 3 weeks, which should be just when the Prime Minister is getting well again. If he makes it–out of the ICU but many accounts of people who’ve been through it talk about waves of relapses, of doing better and worse in intervals. News headlines also talking about people who thought they were well and truly over it getting ill again many weeks later. But scaremongering or real danger? It could be poor testing or incomplete info, or this virus could be like herpes or verrucas or something where you never really get over it, they just flare up at regular intervals and live dormant the rest of the time. I can hear a delivery person blipping packages outside. I heard a helicopter earlier (normal one, not military one) and now a plane–such banal sounds but all unusual now. Weather continues to be beautiful and sunny. Rain would help people stay off the streets. But though I still see a lot of exercisers (including sweaty and heavy breathing joggers exuding droplets everywhere) no swimmers which there normally would be on hot days like these flouting all the rules and signage, most of which has been blown to tatters by the wind. And the fishing tents have disappeared again, thank goodness. Perhaps last weekend was some kind of farewell party. Turner’s Old Star has been dobbed in for opening against lockdown orders–when I walked by last Sunday their sign said “We ask patrons not to enter if showing signs of illness” not that they were totally shut–which is BS because it can live undetected for up to 14 days. So finally our local busybody blogger posted a photo and tagged in Tower Hamlets police. I expect that will put an end to that. I’ll walk by and see if they’ve updated the sign.
- 12 April 2020
I was going to wear my nice Easter clothes to deliver the cookies to my neighbours today but realized I don’t want them contaminated so I’ll do it in the yoga pants I’ve been wearing out walking the last couple of days. My shoulders & arms hurt from so much baking & cooking: grating and stirring. But clearly not enough physical exertion to help me sleep.
- 13 April 2020
Can hear neighbour playing piano–normally can only hear it in the living room but can hear it clearly from bed today. Traditional–he’s always classical. Or jazz, played the Maple Leaf Rag the other day, one of my favourites.
- 14 April 2020
Haven’t left the house since Saturday. Didn’t walk Sunday after the marathon open house, didn’t walk yesterday. The fear and fuss of going outside and time consuming shower when returning. But I must go out today. Told myself to wake and go for an early walk for a change but that has yet to happen. First ever video date yesterday. Sweet guy–but I felt I was carrying the conversation. Shy. Wittier in writing than in person. Or rather on video since we won’t be meeting in person for some weeks if at all.
- 15 April 2020
Yesterday when I turned the computer on I noticed the date was 14 April, not 12 April as I expected from heading my journal that morning. Only this morning did I notice I’d headed the entry as 12 April for 3 days in a row. Isolation perhaps taking a greater toll than I’d like to admit. My online dating experiment goes poorly. Turns out most people are still boring. Unable to take interesting photos of themselves or write anything that invites a question, a conversation. Am I lonely? Occasionally but I still largely prefer my own company it turns out.
- 16 April 2020
I’m getting a little agoraphobia I think–I often had commuting anxiety before and I’d put off going on the tube until the last possible minute because I found it so stressful. Now I have the same feeling about errands or my daily walk–I avoid it and avoid it and then it’s dark and I don’t want to go. It’ll get very claustrophobic very fast if I don’t make the effort though.
- 18 April 2020
Virtual Apero with Adi & Emma and Mona & Greg again. Lana, as usual, became rambunctious and had to be taken off by Greg. I seem to have more laundry than ever–I’ve been doing the sheets weekly instead of every two weeks plus rotating the hand towels more frequently. Hours and hours and hours of laundry. I washed all the refrigerator shelves. Should really sweep and mop but can’t yet bring myself. I’ve discovered that the wine Bert & Chiara sent me before emigrating to New Zealand has gone missing–I can’t tell if it was misdelivered to Maynard’s Quay by mistake or if someone took it from our building vestibule. Or else it arrived and I’ve unpacked it somewhere and totally forgotten about it? I could believe the bottles of their wedding wine getting mixed up with whatever’s lying around but where are their bottles of home-brewed rhubarb wine and plum wine? Surely, surely I wouldn’t lose track of those?
- 20 April 2020
My mind keeps coming back to my weekly conversation with my parents where Saturday my mother calmly announced her intention of not wanting to be on a ventilator if she gets sick. It’s important to have these conversations now but still very painful. Could I bear the thought of losing them? I should call more often and read all Dad’s articles that he sends me. I stopped at the Kellens on my way back from my daily walk because I could see Pete sitting outside with Rohan and James. They showed me the cardboard box robot costumes they’d made, with much wriggling protestation by James and loud showing off by Rohan. Helen came to the door as well. I departed quickly after 10 minutes as Rohan inclined towards running up to say hello and I didn’t want him to get in trouble with his parents. Rohan apparently finding the lockdown difficult as I suppose many smaller children are, insisting that they’d been to Five Guys over the weekend for a burger, though they hadn’t. Pete explained that they’d had Rohan write down what he missed and that was on the list.
- 23 April 2020
I know I’m not the only one to feel that time has become confusing. I thought I was doing pretty well marking the days off until I discovered I’d first led my journal with the same three dates last week. On Twitter I saw several people sharing my thought that yesterday being only Wednesday seemed unbelievable. But we did have back to back four-day workweeks before that because of Easter so perhaps that’s adding to the confusion. 5:30 PM – 8 PM busiest time for exercising outside. Just before at 4 or even 5 is still fairly sparse. Yesterday a cyclist went past around 4:30 shouting in an affected voice rather like a parrot “CoronaVIRus” over and over. The same person, I think, who was shouting and swimming last week. Not enough attention as a child perhaps. Or they’re young, maybe a teenager. Haven’t seen them yet. The fishing tents have reappeared across the basin. Two teenagers had a small fire there yesterday and seemed to struggle to put it out, so I don’t wonder that the fishing club wishes to reassert its dominance in the space. But I’ll be surprised if they last long as we are still having police patrols on foot and bicycle (though so far in the middle of the day, not at peak busy times.)
- 24 April 2020
Extra big ‘clap for carers’ last night as it was a featured part of Red Nose Day. I find it a disturbing pseudo-nationalist ritual now. The first evening was really surprising and moving but now it’s like the pledge of allegiance or any of those acts of public ritual. I keep thinking of George Orwell’s ‘two minutes of hate’ from 1984. Just because this is two minutes of loving celebration doesn’t make it less forced–or undermining to the NHS who actually need raises, not applause. Neighbour Janie from number 27 left me a piece of cake–her birthday today and she tried to borrow a cup of sugar off me but managed to get it from another neighbour before I managed to bring it to her. I had a recipe book of cakes which I never ever cook from so I popped that through her door with a card.
- 25 April 2020
Thirsty. Erotically charged dream but no time to attend to that now.
- 26 April 2020
I can hear a small child outside with a whistle or a recorder–foolish instrument when we’re all at home. Harassed in the street by a toothless old man yesterday on my daily walk. Harmless enough. “I wish I had a camera–you’re so beautiful–will you take a picture for me?” Then randomly trying to get me in conversation about how it’s not beach weather but I was on the beach (Thames foreshore). If there’s one thing I thought the stay at home order might stop, it’s men in the street who think they deserve my attention. He didn’t approach but ignoring him and saying “no” to all his inquiries didn’t make him go away either. He must live around Wapping (though I’d guess of no fixed address) as I’ve seen him before. Harmless enough really, but unwelcome. Which I will say more explicitly should he instigate another encounter: do what you want and say what you want as long as you stay two metres back, but your attention is unwelcome.
- 29 April 2020
Have gone off internet dating; nobody seems to interest me more than reading or baking or TV or other solo pursuits–or my friends and family. They have to be at least that compelling to make me want to make room for them in my life, no? Yet everyone seems so banal. We were told yesterday that regardless of the outcome of the lockdown review on 7 May that we wouldn’t be returning to the office until at least mid-July. I need to get in touch with Cathy about our rental agreement–I’m proposing continuing as we are until the stay-at-home order is lifted, since the official government guidance is to avoid moving house. Realistically I need to face facts and think about a different life, cheaper, but the thought of dealing with trying to register at a new NHS practice and change all my addresses and everything…I hate it! But it really might be time to leave London for somewhere less densely populated if we’re going to have rolling lockdowns permanently, or if I’m not travelling for work but always focused on remote delivery, I might as well live somewhere else. But where?
- 30 April 2020
China is returning children to school–they have ‘social distancing hats’ to keep them apart. I wonder if this will work or if the worst is yet ahead of us.
- 1 May 2020
Nice catch up call with Ana & Seb & Adi & Emma. Revealing moment when they were all bragging about their robot vacuums and Adi said “You can’t do without a real vacuum entirely,” and Seb said, “We seem to be doing fine,” and Adi said “What about the stairs?” and Ana said, “I’ve vacuumed the stairs twice in the past three weeks, and Seb said, “You vacuum the stairs?” and Ana said, “Who do you think has been doing it?” Then later as we were ending the call they all asked “But Cait, are you really okay on your own, don’t you wish you had someone for company?” Honestly. Big rainstorm yesterday afternoon: glad I got out for my walk in the morning. Slightly hairy moment on the path when I thought a large German shepherd was going to be aggressive with me on the narrow bit by the old power station but his owner kept him to heel and though he wanted to lunge forward to see what was happening he didn’t bark. I left a drawing (“take care <3”) on the Thames foreshore. I thought of it getting washed away later when the rain started. Sat outside briefly with a cup of tea enjoying the quiet between video calls.
- 2 May 2020
I decided to use my fountain pen to write my journal because why not. Might improve my handwriting if I work at it. I sometimes wonder if I’ve seen my parents in person for the last time; if airlines are going bankrupt and cancelling flights. Will other forms of long distance travel emerge or are we a stay-at-home planet now?
- 3 May 2020
Midsummer approaches–sunset not until later and later. Seems a shame to waste the long evenings by the TV. I walked along Pennington Street yesterday to avoid the crowds along the canal–certainly far less foot traffic that way & no bicycles inconsiderately whizzing past too close (already thought that before the pandemic) but I missed the beautiful chestnut trees–now is the best time when they’re in bloom & the sweet smell floats down, then the blossoms fall beneath the trees like a carpet. Maybe if I go today at dusk.
- 4 May 2020
I did see the blooming chestnut trees yesterday, smelling so sweet after the rain–my favourite time, so beautiful. The blossoms won’t last long. I lingered a bit. Not as busy on the path because of the rain and then settled clouds.
- 6 May 2020
I do not feel that my work achieves meaning for people who are suffering. I think it reinforces the dynamic of a ruling elite propped up by the suffering–and certainly I am one of the former even if I’m a 99% instead of a 1%. What can I say of use? And whatever I try to say gets twisted into something boring and corporate or overwritten by my colleagues. I’m tired and afraid and not feeling particularly prescient. I long for a small house by the sea with a fireplace and a garden and a quiet life but what would life look like in a few years? How would I support myself? I don’t have the capital for a life like that. And do I want, really want, to leave London for a life of fewer services and options? Less infrastructure? And where? The clock ticks on, my work beckons. So tired. Can I say anything meaningful about this pandemic? Must I? It’s so all-consuming, must it swallow my professional voice as well?
- 9 May 2020
Gearing myself up for the Post Office–general anxiety at going outdoors in the day, crowds, insufficient distancing, etc, and embarrassment that I haven’t shaved my legs in weeks and I feel like wearing a dress. I’m trying to decide if I should pick up the razor again on my next go in the shower or continue my brazen flauting of convention. After all, who’s around to see (when I’m not going to a shop, that is, or in my leggings so no one can see.)
- 11 May 2020
A restless night of disturbed sleep, unsurprising after yesterday’s disturbing announcements about sending more people back to work. Unsafe, unsafe. The jobs might be safe but getting there: bad at the best of times. The Tube is going to be operating at capacity again, I just know it, all breathing on each other.
- 12 May 2020
Dad’s birthday yesterday. Nice call with him. Poor guy, he does love a party so lockdown will be getting to him. But Mom made him a lovely–really beautiful–pineapple upside down cake and they had a chicken to roast. I miss them. Not like I’d be seeing them before Christmas anyway but with the airline industry on the rocks I don’t know when I will see them in person next: Christmas might not even be possible this year. Mom’s uncle died, and Aunt May is in hospice now. So mortality is on all our minds. But it’s only May, and a songbird is trilling outside my window. Look to today, rather than an imagined future.
- 13 May 2020
Hard day. Hard day yesterday. Aunt May died. I hope her suffering was brief. I know she’d felt for a long, long time that she had no more desire to be on this earth, that she was tired of waiting for death. But I’m still sad, especially for Mom who wanted to go see her in the hospice home but who wasn’t able to get there. Nigel called and in the nicest possible way ripped my ‘rituals’ piece of writing to shreds. Confronting your own mediocrity is always hard, especially for something you hoped would open new doors.
- 14 May 2020
My heart feels heavy. I had been coping with the stay at home order but now, this week, feels difficult. I feel unworthy, undeserving, unsuccessful: I feel like a child who wants cared for by a higher authority, overexposed and underresourced. Perhaps time to look at my own coaching resources about how to move back into adult state. But perhaps recognizing it’s there when I need it (at work, when I need to be “on”) and taking extra recovery time right now is part of being okay–is okay.
- 16 May 2020
Oh, I am so tired all the way in my bones. Earlier sleep would be more consistent for working days but it’s okay, right now, to not be at my best in all areas of life. Let “be perfect” slip a little.
- 17 May 2020
Eurovision party with strawberry scones, cucumber sandwiches, popcorn, martinis & manhattans. Drank enough for a headache this morning–not great, but it felt like a real party! Doing the background of my British Literature tea towel and props left over from my citizenship drinks made it extra festive. I was reminded that we need to give ourselves things to look forward to, not just get through coping day to day. We need occasions to create memory & community spirit. My head might hurt but I feel restored. I spent a couple of hours reading Defoe’s ‘Journal of the Plague Year’ for these troubling times & surprisingly similar in terms of false prophets (fake news), agonies of decision-making about where to ride out the storm & disruption to everyday life. Also using excess deaths rather than reported cases as the true measure of impact. Supply chain disruption–no horses.
- 19 May 2020
My usual chaotic start to the morning after a helicopter hovered overhead for what seemed like hours but what was probably only 40 minutes or so around midnight. They seemed to be over Whitechapel and they weren’t moving around enough to be the air ambulance. I thought maybe they were looking for a drowning in Shadwell Basin but they weren’t close enough. When I went to check I saw the fishermen of Shadwell basin having a fire on the far shore where the trees are. They’ve been out there ceaselessly since Sunday when some of the restrictions lifted. Those fish must be disgusting so they can’t be catching them for food. I often think they must be running from something, these men eternally at the basin side. Probably better for their wives and children that they’re here, squabbling like gulls, rather than home, where I can only imagine their excess energy gets used more destructively. Is it unfair to assume that of them? They just seem so unconcerned with how much they’re blocking the path when they venture out of from their small wooded area, with how their voices carry, with the litter they leave. They have that very masculine capacity for taking up all the space. I welcomed the lockdown order for sending them away and I can’t say I’m delighted to see them back again. I think the helicopter is back–perhaps a fire? They can’t be shooting a movie. I wonder. Today’s going to be a long day. Nice note from my old boss. I don’t know how to answer his question about how work is going–well and badly at the same time but I don’t want to bore him with a long story. Definitely still a helicopter. This can’t be good.
- 20 May 2020
My employer’s marketing team has forbidden us from using the word ‘pandemic’ even in our social media handles and I’m fuming. Using metaphorical language and allusions to speak about the plain bare facts helps no one be accurate or form the right size of the problem. And they’re really overstepping by encompassing our private writing as well–who do they think they are? They own my time but not myself.
- 21 May 2020
Yesterday was hot–Shadwell Basin collected its usual round of swimmers. Tower Hamlets Police have been more active patrolling the pathways and telling off swimmers and barbecue people but they can’t stop the inevitable tide of summer. I keep cooking and cooking to feel a sense of control and accomplishment but I can’t eat everything I make–it’s too much. Need better balance. How will I find it?
- 22 May 2020
Helicopters galore last night: two Chinooks while we were playing board games, one ordinary copter, one later at night circling and circling and circling.
- 23 May 2020
Irene invited me to meet her and Philias on the South Bank but I’m anxious about people not following social distancing rules on narrow pathways. I’ve started extending an arm when people run past me too close or when people are approaching from the opposite direction on a narrow walkway. That makes me feel more in control but also likelier to spur conflict. Village life seems more and more appealing. But only if I can continue virtual socials with distant pals–if everyone else goes back to in-person gatherings and I’m out there on my own I will be really lonely. I could just take up online gaming and make friends that way. Or stay in the city and give up on distancing. But that still leaves The Highway (fixable by moving to another part of London) and the helicopters (no fix in London.)
- 24 May 2020
Helicopters. Helicopters after midnight again. Has it been every night this week or does it just feel like it? I’ll check the Helicopter Circling map. That Twitter bot has at least saved my sanity as I look at where the helicopters are even if we have no idea what they’re doing. Citymapper’s traffic dashboard tells me the amount of people moving around has increased steadily, we’re at 15% of last year’s capacity at this time compared to 13% last week and 9% the week before. Now that a second minister has flouted the lockdown rules it’s only going to get worse. They’re going to need all the spare hospital capacity they shut down.
- 25 May 2020
Picnic yesterday was a success! Really felt like a picnic. I set up a little nest of pillows and blankets on the balcony and had my cheap roseé and my chicken salad and bean dip with veg and brownies… Really festive. Cora complimented me on coming up with innovative hosting formats that don’t feel like sitting around talking like a work meeting. That felt nice. A little more research on the Edinburgh front–I can’t tell if we’d be allowed to move or not. The guidance is unclear. I haven’t really properly looked at outside London either. Commuter belt. But I want to be far enough away not to commute. I don’t want to get back on the tube until there’s a vaccine, which is at least a year away. Christmas is going to be hard–I don’t feel I can go to my parents’ house because I don’t want to endanger them and I don’t know if I could get back. I wonder how many people on repatriation flights have gotten ill. International travel isn’t going to be the same until there’s a vaccine, I think.
- 26 May 2020
Watched “Contagion.” They got a lot right but a lot wrong also–they missed the volunteers and helpers and people rallying together. It’s not all mobs looting the stores. There was also an assumption that once a supply chain was broken it couldn’t come back, which so far has been false. So busy out yesterday I decided not to go to South Bank–looked lovely in the photos Irene sent but there was no way to get there safely. They’re going to start reopening things in June–I think this is a terrible idea. I think they’re heading for a second wave. But it’s the autumn I’m worried about.
- 27 May 2020
Turned out my early meeting was THIS morning, not yesterday. I’m sleepy and feeling trapped in the house–I didn’t go for a walk until 10 PM because it was so busy earlier in the day and evening and even then it was still crowded around Wapping. The narrow pathway towards King Edward Memorial Park was full of other walkers and cyclists even in the dark. A group of youths were congregating around a motorbike on the pathway around Shadwell Basin in the corner where those little houses are and there wasn’t nearly enough room to pass them. I started down the alley for Pelican Stairs to have a walk on the shore but it was too dark and I was afraid of getting trapped down there by someone.
- 30 May 2020
Total sleep failure last night: scrolled and scrolled and fed my outrage and pain until 3 AM instead of reserving my strength to fight, to fight hard, in the ways that I can. Destroying my peace of mind does not end the struggles of those currently protesting. I need a better plan. Oh dear–sore throat? I hope from allergies and exhaustion. A strange hope but here we are. I’m full of anger at the government here going against its own scientific advice, let alone what the WHO says. The USA is no longer a country I recognize–or rather I do and this is exactly where I thought this would end up going all along. Terrifying and awful for everyone. And it’s going to be worse than anything they’ve planned or imagined and the rigidity about going ahead with Brexit despite the offers of yet another extension due to exceptional circumstances are, I believe, in the end not even going to profit the wealthy all that much. They’ve built fortresses of money but the systems they rely on are falling apart without people to run them. I hated reading ‘Atlas Shrugged’ but those scenes where even the rich couldn’t find restaurants or clubs to meet in because the world is grinding to a halt, that’s where we’re going. I remember the once-great mansions of Cairo and the concrete roads they built right next to them, their faded glory with the light blocked by the hulking monstrosity mere inches from the windows. Thoughtless growth, and descent from a locus of power to a once-great city fuelled by nostalgia. I can picture the same highway running along the Strand, choking the Palace of Justice and all the old newspaper offices. Hemming in the church and swallowing up Bush House and India House and Australia House. Fading, fading. All because we were not able to incorporate many voices and live pluralistically. To lift all up equally. Today has tasks in it but first and foremost must be doing the right thing: donating. A renewal of spirit is important today. I need resilience for the coming weeks and months.
- 31 May 2020
Yesterday I donated over half my stimulus check to support the protestors, refreshed my memory about things to do not on the frontlines, wrote my MP, and felt a little better. I can’t do much but I did something.
- 2 June 2020
The news from America continues to be very, very, very difficult to watch. I told myself I couldn’t look at my phone after 11 but found myself at 1 AM scrolling through news that the current occupant of the White House has threatened to use military force on its own citizens. Very hard to sleep after that. Yesterday Reg asked me how I was and I responded saying my cousin works for the TV news station in Louisville where a reporter was shot by the police. His response was to say how annoyed he is with teachers because they’re all being lazy by not going back to school. So callous and dismissive. Was he trying to empathize? “We’ve all got problems?” Or minimise? “Your problems are comparable to this minor annoyance I have?” So unclear. In any case: shocking and very hurtful. I certainly won’t really tell him how I’m doing again but my god the callousness…I don’t know whether to say something or to say nothing. I feel very unsettled by this. I want someone to talk to. I really am torn about whether to say something to Reg but I certainly can’t do that until I know how I want that encounter to go. Everything feels very out of control and I don’t want to exacerbate things. Oh, my heart. How will I get through the day?
- 3 June 2020
Unsatisfying call with Irene yesterday, who’s decided she’s just done with social distancing & because the London case numbers are dropping the risk must be over. I tried to explain why I’m so afraid for America & her reaction was “but people always call him a fascist” which is true because we always knew where this was going, but now it’s actually happening. She’s just too jaded to it all to really empathize right now. But other people are there with me donating and so on. I can see that people are unlikely to continue virtual socializing once they can be together physically, with the possible exception of my Swiss crowd. This makes a difference for my “move out of London” plans. Because I’d have to get a whole new community, exactly when I’m trying to avoid people. Daphne keeps suggesting a giant house in the country but what I really want is a more hacienda-style dwelling where we all have our own side of the house but there’s a central courtyard for parties and general hanging out. Several small cottages in the same place would do. But as things are I have to be content with friends scattered around a big city: I feel hemmed in and lonely at the same time. Urban alienation wasn’t really a big part of my life before but it’s noticeable now.
- 5 June 2020
Yesterday had a kerfuffle as heard a man in Shadwell basin yelling for help–he was in one of the orange dinghies from the sailing club and I thought I saw a black line dangling over into the water–I thought somebody might be in distress under the water. I called an ambulance and we all rushed towards the scene but by the time I got there nobody was on the water anymore. I found the ambulance and we started to look for the boat but then one of the other ambulance staff flagged us down and said a man had caught a fishhook in his hand and now everything was fine, he’d put the boat away. Meanwhile: two fire trucks had arrived and police were making a running circuit of the basin looking for trouble…I sidled off home. I was embarrassed to have caused such fuss but it was too far away to see and there have been so, so many drownings and injuries in the basin… better safe than sorry.
- 6 June 2020
Adi and Emma’s thank you card with a link to their wedding photos arrived. Bittersweet: so lovely to see everyone together, gathered in such happiness. At the same time, wondering when we’ll be able to have such a gathering again. The future looks so…sparse and distant. For everyone who wants to get married, waiting for a visa or a citizenship ceremony, memorial services…All the fun of ordinary life is gone but so are the special things, the occasions we look forward to. I realized if I move to Edinburgh now I wouldn’t have a support network in place. Moving between peaks would be good but if I got ill up there I’d only have Lexie and that’s a lot to ask. Here I have the Kellens and Cora nearby and other friends a little further off. Much as I hate the thought of paying through the nose for a smaller, darker and less beautiful/spaciously viewed place to live, I have to bite the bullet in the short term, I think, to feel like I have people to turn to. So the best option might be another flat in Newlands Quay except I have to mentally tack on another £200 for the service fee to the rent each month. The price of rent hasn’t really gone down much. A little but I expected a bigger drop. But if I stay to the end of the year we’ll be Brexiting while I’m in London instead of a firmly established Scottish resident. What’s more important, immediate sense of security and community, or longer term bets (and safety net with more savings)? The future is always uncertain but it feels like the world is crossing a rubicon right now. I know that (for now at least) my position is secure and my personal suffering will be minimal. But I feel so many things: guilt, anger, despair at times, hope at times. Occasionally joy. But I’m so tired. I mean soul-tired. Can’t focus. My soul yearns for a role that lets me fight for more justice. But my pragmatic mind tells me to “put on my own airbag first” (i.e. secure my own material situation and meet my financial obligations) first before accepting lower pay and more precarious work. That helps no one. But I feel like a participant and perpetrator of an unjust system when I put my material comfort first. I am not ready to renounce all material comfort and live in a religious community (and which would I choose anyway?) But also the sacrifices of the gods of commerce are great indeed. Let’s see…in fact I have no choice…let’s see where the future takes us.
- 7 June 2020
Early walk today? Best check the weather. As usual didn’t finish all the stuff I planned yesterday–did get a lot of cooking done though. Long call with Mom and Dad. Mom looked alarmed when I started talking about looking for a new job–surprising as I’ve mentioned the idea several times in the past few weeks. Have to live my life my way, though, regardless of the approval of others. The world is a different place than when Mom and Dad were corporates. By the time I’m 65 it’ll be 2049–a long way off, impossible to know what the world will look like then. Rising seas? Rising inequality? Migration, starvation? Impossible to bet my current life on a future that might look nothing like it. What will I do to make a better one? These are the questions now, not how to return to status quo. But I feel too dull to make any decisions at all: I just want to retreat into my little life of baking, writing, small handmade arts, and leave the confrontational sweep of the world to pass by. But it will seek me out anyway, that’s the point, you can’t hide from the monsters forever, they find you. Work is wearing me, not bearing me up. But perhaps no work is energy-giving, perhaps that’s the point. I believe in better, I just need to know where to look for it.
- 8 June 2020
I could have stopped and put my creative project yesterday down earlier and gone to bed at a reasonable hour: I can’t run on adrenaline forever. I also intended to finish the emergency documents for my parents: another undone project. What DID I do yesterday? Caught up with Tim. Read a little of “Hustle and Flow.” Read a little of “The Souls of Black Folk.” Did my monthly passion planner and my weekly passion planner. Caught up with the Kellens. Went for a longish walk. Repotted the cactus. Saw the news about an old slaver’s statue being torn down in Bristol. Is that all? I thought I did more on the computer but perhaps it’s all blending in with the day before. I sat on the balcony in the rain with a cup of tea for a bit also enjoying the quiet and remembering when Dad and I used to sit on the porch in Magnolia. Not every day has to have an accomplishment.
- 10 June 2020
Went for a walk yesterday and to my annoyance a group of children and mothers had spread themselves at the bottom of the Thames foreshore steps meaning it was impossible to pass without getting within 2 meters. But I felt they were being thoughtless so I decided to press on and go around them very close to the wall but I didn’t want to go back through the group a second time. So I decided to walk over to the other staircase on the side of the Prospect of Whitby but it was intensely muddy with that concrete-like muck that sometimes collects on the shore so I had a rough go of it.
- 11 June 2020
The usual rigmarole with falling back asleep after my alarm. I promised myself I’d stop scrolling my phone at bedtime and go to sleep at a decent hour. 12:15 not too bad. And my scrolling showed me Amazon is pausing their facial recognition tech for a year and Nascar has banned the confederate flag. My goodness. What rapid changes. Will they last? The speed and vehemence makes me wonder if they’ll return to the mean as quietly as they arose. But then, it felt like this when Trump was getting elected: it felt like an inevitable, shocking, unbelievable sweeping tide. And Brexit. It feels…it feels like we’re snapping back to the timeline we lost? So what now for Brexit, I wonder? Can we delay further? I do hope so. Can we get out of this utter, utter mess? Redistribution–that would be the ultimate change. Dismantling the billionaire’s club. Great, lads. You accrued wealth like a black hole. Well done you. You did it. Now throw it all back. No point keeping it all to yourself: gameplay just stops then.
- 13 June 2020
Could I run away with the circus and write movies? Or would it feel boring if it were my job? Do jobs by nature of being jobs become boring? And could I write like that? Or am I too boring? Who wants to hear another middle class white lady telling her earnest story of self-discovery? Haven’t we enough of those already? Maybe I am where I belong: boring.
- 21 June 2020
My “ordinary life” alarm has just gone off. Thirsty. Sleep so elusive at night, seeks me now in the morning when I should be bright eyed and bushy tailed. Another week. Yesterday’s unfinished chores. Many intentions uncompleted: no tray of muffins. No writing of a fictional scene in my newly started commonplace book. Laundry unfolded. Did watch TV when I said I wouldn’t. Stayed up past midnight. Did not pleasure self. I did get my sewing done, and showered, and was in touch with a few old friends. I did my mid-year passion planner and looked up grave costs and finished my note about looking for a new job. I read in my hammock, and brewed tea. I repotted some of the plants and called my parents. In short, it was a very full day. No need to overstuff it with the unaccomplished. Yesterday Siobhan mentioned something I had no memory of happening, me larking about with a harp bag pretending to be a humpbacked shark when we were in graduate school–10 years ago. And it occurred to me my life has changed so much that those memories now take up a very narrow band of life’s whole frequency, but perhaps for her and for the others it’s a much bigger part of who they still are. Maybe not. But perhaps so many of the attention-getting and emotion-driving factors of my life right now will similarly recede into curious relics in another 10 years. Occasionally I imagine myself older and I’m flooded with an image of kindness and calmness I don’t yet feel I’ve achieved. This fills me with hope and with a kind of satisfaction or a sense of completion–but I know too that this kindly older self isn’t automatic, I must create the conditions for her: I must work to be kind and calm, and self-accepting. But the clarity of the vision gives me hope.
- 24 June 2020
Evening walk yesterday. An inconsiderate young couple sitting on the Pelican Stairs, refused to go down on to the sand to let me pass. The distancing rules are still two metres, as it happens. Just because we’ve gotten blase about it doesn’t mean things are normal. I dread the day I can’t avoid the Tube anymore. God help us. That was why I wanted to move to Edinburgh in the first place.
- 25 June 2020
My sense of time has been slipping: I keep turning my alarm off and dozing until 8:30 which doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing these pages or the morning routine before making my way to the desk. More and more reopening: July 4 is the big day. New rules, less strict. Everything can open up except a few places including theatres. I don’t like it. My agoraphobia has become pretty high. I don’t like being outside in crowds. But a move is a big thought. A very big thought.
- 26 June 2020
Weather continues sticky and sultry. Hard to concentrate in the day, hard to sleep at night. Evening walk yesterday. Still crowded when I went out, as for the past three nights. Again people stopped on Pelican Stairs but they were just temporarily paused. It seems my solitary sanctuary isn’t so solitary anymore. This time there was a family playing in the dusk under the terrace as well as on the sand. Couples seem to like it–they tend to sit on the steps themselves with drinks (inconsiderate!) And the occasional gang of youths is down there throwing rocks at cans or skulking. My blue and white pottery finds are continuing–I should get a display box. Need to figure out how to mount them non-destructively. My archaeologist friends might know. My body is fatter–rolls of fat visible above my hips, pronounced paunch, uneven breasts (for some reason the right one puts on weight a lot faster than the left). It was inevitable with more eating and less movement. I’m trying to think of it as seeking abundance putting on reserves, in a disruptive time. When I went for a walk a bag of co-op shopping was on the ground floor in the vestibule. I wonder if it was misdelivered. I hope there’s no dairy in there. If It’s still there today I’ll check the receipt, no point in letting the food go to waste.
- 27 June 2020
Yesterday the heat wave continued, with predictable results on the Shadwell Basin crowd. A sudden downpour around 7 PM scattered many of them, leaving a relatively quiet evening. Though the fishermen were being rather rowdy as far as they go. Pelican Stairs deserted for a change though I did go later than usual. Night: a dangerous time to be skulking down a dark alley towards slippery riverside steps? Maybe the danger is part of why I like it. But I admit the two extremely drunk men with a bulldog, unable to walk in a straight line, earlier on my walk gave me pause for thought: what if they’d been at the mouth of the alley when I emerged? There is no way out. You could get trapped down there. But who wants to live their life believing everyone’s after them?
- 28 June 2020
It’s 11:30 now, too late for a walk before the groceries at 1. But if I wait until the afternoon it’ll be crowded. And if I don’t walk I’ll become old before my time. The pandem-paunch is bothering me but only I have the power to change it. Walked to the ATM at Shadwell yesterday to change all the PINs on all my cards. Apparently no regard for distancing, not that it’s possible up there given how the road and sidewalks are configured. No, I won’t be going anywhere I can’t reach on foot any time soon. My emergency savings, I worked out, is only good for 3 months. Need to be more diligent. But I keep buying “pandemic soothers”: weighted blanket, cover for weighted blanket, new plant pots, special guacamole keeper pot, bralettes… my spending on unnecessaries hasn’t been great. But I still find the idea of moving from Newlands Quay hard to stomach. At least if I’m staying in London. I think I’ll give myself until September to decide.
- 29 June 2020
Yesterday evening I was watching the dramatic clouds at intervals: sunshine broken up by heavy bands of rain. At one point the basin was being splashed so hard it looked like diamonds rippling across the surface of the water. And we had a lovely rainbow. I’m getting more used to my new pudgy love handles, the Rubenesque body.
- 30 June 2020
On yesterday’s walk I ran into a young singer and a photographer clearly planning a photo or video shoot on the shoreline. They chose what I thought a rather odd place for it: rather than the dramatic backdrop of the bulwarks under the terrace next to Pelican Stairs they were on the sandy bit of shore by the steps behind the apartments I can never remember the names of. I could hear the singer saying he wanted to do some things close to his roots but he didn’t want to do any Afro-beats. He wanted to do trance music. Then I walked off. Wapping is very yuppie-white. A few Indian and Pakistani families, though I think most of the young urban teens I see walking by are actually from Shadwell. It was exciting to see a young Black artist sharing the space I use to collect shards of pottery and stare at boats. Tried to get to bed earlier last night. Managed 11:15 but read until just past midnight. I can feel my body alive and wanting the attention of pleasure but I can never seem to settle on a fantasy that feels right: they take odd turns or develop plot lines that don’t lead towards sex. Maybe I’m starting too far back: I usually try to start from why they’d be in the room with me–a chance encounter, a series of flirtations leading up to the intimacy I crave. But I’m either asleep or my mind has wandered on a different tangent by the time we get to the undressing bit. I haven’t felt very lonely in lockdown, for the most part–I rather like my quiet secluded life, it feels natural to me. And honestly not very different to the normal pace of my existence. But yesterday I felt it. The quiet repetition of a thousand evenings just like it. Tied to my computers, multiple, unable to switch work off at the end of the day because of trying to get the approval for my research paper to go through hto the conference. Instead of truly settling in to my free time I was tied to the desk, shuffling over to the work laptop occasionally to check progress. It made my world feel small. For me, the loneliness isn’t about lack of contact with others: I have a rich and vibrant network of friends and family. It’s more about feeling unable to connect with myself or others because of the intrusion of work–or rather because of the choice that I make to prioritise work over other important parts of myself. And then filling in the waiting with “junk attention”– scrolling on social media with no intention to engage fully, just for something to do. Watching a TV show I’ve watched a dozen times already to fill a background space. Checking my phone while eating. But what’s in the foreground on an evening like that? It feels thin–lonely.
- 4 July 2020
Pubs, restaurants and other venues allowed to open today. Boris Johnson has churlishly designated this “independence day” which I find crass and opportunistic. I think all the sensible people will take a “wait and see” approach, meaning only the truly foolhardy are venturing out this weekend. Good reason to stay inside.
- 5 July 2020
If I only have 18 or 20 years left on the planet and they look different to now, how will I live my life differently (if at all?) Mostly what I feel is that I miss the sea: exploring the Thames at low tide has reacquainted me with those missed rhythms. But it’s not the same.
- 9 July 2020
Is moving out of the city a good or terrible idea for Brexit Britain? Bloody tax avoiders–I wish we could stop this awful farce. We’re going to be a nation of smuggling and money laundering. We’ve already made ourselves a place nobody wants to bother living in. I could look for jobs in Europe but the thought of emigrating yet again wearies me to the bone. And climate change-wise I need to be thinking north not south. I feel anxious and unable to make choices of such magnitude. No wonder the days spin past with no choices made.
- 10 July 2020
Collected three bits of pottery from shore yesterday–must have been a good day for it as I saw a methodical man combing through the shoreline with a trowel. My approach is of course much more haphazard, but I’m also not looking for anything other than bright colours and interesting shapes.
- 11 July 2020
A few good Thames foreshore finds yesterday. My collection grows. I really need a display case for it all. I could mount it myself but I’m afraid of damaging something valuable. A coin collection box seems like the way to go until I can research safe pottery display techniques or get something custom built. Fluffy cotton-wool clouds today. My calendar as usual is full of Important Tasks but I kind of just want to bask in the hammock. Bit chilly for it though. I intended to repot some of my big plants but I don’t think I got enough soil for it. Need some gravel as well, so say my parents.
- 14 July 2020
Two walks yesterday–noon to visit the foreshore, where I picked up trash from the beach & felt virtuous, and again at 9 after finishing “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Wasn’t ready for bed & didn’t want to watch TV. Walked as far as The Grapes in a drizzle. Not too busy out but still plenty of folks for our narrow streets. As I passed The Grapes an employee emerged wearing a face mask and one of those plastic sneeze shields that have become so popular. I crossed over and peeked in–just one customer that I could see. Other staff behind the bar not masked. Must have got a sharp piece of gravel or a little glass in my sandal because when I got home shreds of skin were peeling off painfully, though no blood, thank goodness. Walking through the tiny wilderness area in King Edward Memorial Park smelling the rain in the surprisingly lingering late evening light I was reminded of summer evenings of my childhood, that fresh vegetation smell like the world has just bathed. I expected the cedar trees to give off their spicy scent as I walked under them home but there was just a hint of it–I wonder if the sap runs more at different times of day, or whether the sunny heat, as I’ve definitely been there when the cedar fragrance is all-encompassing.
- 16 July 2020
Please God help me stay calm and steady through this next period of change. Help me decide WHEN to move, and WHERE, and manage the money and the packing and logistics, and finding a new doctor’s and all of it. Help me figure out all the Stuff. Suddenly everything becomes trash: all the half-used bottles of cleaner and unfinished packets of spices. My 3 weeks’ worth of dinners in the freezer. Sauces: mustard, mango, soy. The occasional fridge stuff, that’s the killer. Anything that can’t easily come on a journey needs to be thrown out or given away. Booooooooooks. So many, many books. Too many things. Edinburgh in winter–maybe 6 hours of daylight? Is this a good idea? But if we really are proceeding to exit the EU in…five months’ time then Folkestone won’t be where I want to live. Too close to the import/export waiting centres. Every kind of human misery will be coming that way. Dear God can no one save us from this act of national insanity?
- 18 July 2020
Work finally confirmed I can move anywhere in the UK without trouble from HR. Now the option is truly unfettered on the table do I really want to move to Edinburgh? Am I ready for a change of that magnitude? I don’t know, I don’t know. I always thought when I left London I’d take the time to do and see all the things I keep saying I’ll get round to and never do, lots of goodbye parties, visits to obscure museums, etc. But this would be me sneaking out like a thief in the night. Do I really want to move or am I just running away? I really won’t miss the Tube. Or planes, helicopters, and the Highway behind my bedroom. The coal-black dust that seeps in at the windows. But there are plenty of things I will miss: my friends. The light in this flat. My bigger-than-normal fridge. The view of Shadwell Basin. My hammock. Bookshelves.
- 21 July 2020
Went for my daily walk around 8:30 PM yesterday, forgetting I was wearing a light summer dress & hadn’t shaved my legs in 5 months. I normally slip on some leggings or tights to spare the blushes of passersby when it’s cool enough (I certainly have gone out hairy legged before) but I’d forgotten to do so before leaving the house yesterday night. Doubtless the effect of my pickle martini after dinner. Tried to see comet Neowise last night but as far as I can tell it’s over a very light-polluted part of the city. Rising early to see it might be a better bet–but for me unlikely.
- 23 July 2020
Visited the Waterman Way apartment yesterday. Thought it would be a small self-contained house but the corner it transpires is a block of flats. Too tiny to live and work in. No. None of the other Wapping flats I’ve seen remotely appeal–need to move. Edinburgh it is. My God, what work there is before me. I hate moving. And I fear for the future result of this decision. But it’s time, time for a change.
- 24 July 2020
I feel…languid and unable to concentrate on things. I feel time is slipping away and my creative contributions are little or none. Sometimes I feel like a passive couch potato. But I think also that my job is hard and I need a brain break, and right now the news everywhere is overwhelming. Pandemic. Political corruption. Climate change. Unmarked federal agents arresting US citizens and bundling them in unmarked vans. Economic inequality on the rise; economic collapse pretty imminent. All creative fodder yes but also…too much. All too much to coherently let my voice be heard. What do I have to say that anyone wants to listen to anyway?
- 27 July 2020
I’m not active enough in the day–physically–to make sleep come easily at night. Bad cycle: stay up late, sleep in, go to bed not tired, active on phone or reading, turn out light late, brain still active so don’t sleep right away, tired when waking…continues. There’s too much crisis news out there even now–and we’re certainly going to get more in the coming weeks–to feel like we’re getting back to normal. We can’t all operate in crisis mode forever: something has to give. And the world needs to look different than it did before, not the same. I want a slower and less demanding world. I want a green recovery. I want less worry, more time for exercise and cooking. More creative writing. Fewer PowerPoints. I want the northern lights over the sea. Can it be possible to only exchange the bad things I don’t want (competitiveness, status seeking, insecurity, manipulativeness, inequality) for those things? I don’t know.
- 30 July 2020
Thrown into a fit of nostalgia by being reminded of Trogdor the Dragon from Homestar Runner. The world was a simpler and more fun place back then–at least my world was. One of the distinguishing features of now is recognizing whose safety and comfort is sacrificed for me to feel safe, comfortable and entertained. The world wasn’t simpler for everyone back then. (I suppose technically it was, what with the current rise of fascism–Trump now openly saying he wants to delay the election. But I imagine for some communities the struggle was just as hard back then as it is now.)
- 1 August 2020
Picnic with Kellens yesterday in the grassy area in front of their house: Helen unable to settle because James kept running into the road. Spiky thorns everywhere and fruit from the thorn tree dropped on us. James stepped in, then rolled a ball over, his mother’s plate. Wind blew an empty toilet roll onto us. Pete stepped on one of the spiny branches and failed to catch James running into the street to Helen’s dismay. Rohan became enthralled with a ‘tame’ fox who’s been visiting their neighbourhood and apparently stole some shoes from inside the house. The neighbour child Holly has been feeding it, evidently. Not a very relaxing experience but they seemed delighted for me about Edinburgh. Helen said she’d consider it as one of the few places outside London she’d be willing to live.
- 2 August 2020
Found my first piece of green-glazed pottery on the Thames foreshore. Forgot I had a pocketful from my walk to Limehouse the other night. Meeting Daphne for picnic today. Hopefully not too crowded to walk out there. Local lockdowns starting again in Birmingham–announced just before Eid. Many people think this stemmed from racism rather than data-led policy. And now we’re all wondering “where next?”
- 3 August 2020
Nice to see Daphne yesterday though I feel awkward about meeting people in person nowadays–it’s too intensive–takes all one’s energy and concentration. I’m so used to short bursts of video calling or having time between written messages to reply. Found it hard to concentrate and respond properly. Or to give her a proper turn when speaking: I found myself doing the conversational sin of waiting for her to stop talking to reply.
- 4 August 2020
Full moon last night. Stayed up to watch it emerge from some persistently slow moving storm clouds just before 11. Went for a late walk after the conference and all the mudlarks were out combing the shore with headlamps. Full moon low tide must draw them. I was upset when I tried to see the moon and it was behind the clouds: I didn’t want to sit up too long because of this stupid early meeting for a client and I was feeling very resentful of work’s intrusion into my life, my natural inclination to want to watch the moon, resentful of the intrusion of this early start and these stretched out days and my stuff getting spiked and our work getting mangled. Everything feels like a big black cloud between me and my real goals for myself. I feel obscured–it feels obscured from me by all this STUFF. But then I thought, the moon is still there–the cloud can’t take that away. And I did sit up for a bit and wait for the cloud to pass. And then I felt better.
- 7 August 2020
In continuing “Oh God, what now?” 2020 news, a giant shipment of ammonium nitrate has basically destroyed the city of Beirut. Apparently it’s been sitting there for years but despite repeated warnings nobody did anything about it. And now Beirut is destroyed. There’s a WWII munitions ship in the Thames estuary with a similar history. And they just leave it there because a controlled demolition would be too unsafe. But an uncontrolled one is surely inevitable?
- 11 August 2020
It’s so hot that I haven’t been for a walk since, I think, Thursday night. Starting to go a little cabin feverish with nothing to do but watch TV in the evening. I feel empty, deflated, like a hot air balloon out of use (or perhaps more aptly for the weather, a pool float.)
- 15 August 2020
My favourite moment yesterday was in the late afternoon when the rain was softly falling in the basin and there was no wind so I could sit in the hammock enjoying the quiet. I will miss moments like that in this little place. I should get out for a walk: I’ve barely left the house in over a week because it’s been so hot, then rainy. Have set aside today for creative stuff but I really want to keep focused on moving. I don’t feel like I have room for more than one idea right now. But on the other hand, when I watch TV all day like a slightly sentient potato it’s no surprise my brain doesn’t feel like it’s firing on all cylinders.
- 17 August 2020
Rain finally arrived in a mighty thunderstorm last night. I’d been waiting to see that all weekend. Epic. Finally went for a walk yesterday around noon. Air was so sticky I felt like a gasping fish. Didn’t take any photos. The river police were out practicing maneuvers on their fast open sided boat and they waved as they passed by us, a little knot of people on the walkway behind Prospect Wharf. Hadn’t checked the tide times before I went out–too high to do any mudlarking.
- 18 August 2020
First Shedinburgh performance last night–a series of one-person shows in sheds broadcast live, for one night only. Nice to see a little of the Edinburgh madness even if we can’t be packed in like sardines into a metal scaffold seating under a pub somewhere. Went for a late afternoon walk yesterday, got down by the sand. No new pottery fragments. I haven’t been as diligent about snapping photos each time I go out. But the smell of summer–green growing things, fried fish, a sudden breath of jasmine or woodbine–all very strong.
- 19 August 2020
The A-level fiasco continues to burble over but with more limited political effect–no resignations, a few policy changes that are too little, too late, for the affected cohort of students. Britain’s pretence at meritocracy and social mobility has been undermined. And nobody who is currently in power seems to care: “I’m alright, Jack” is the mood of the day. Meanwhile, migrants continue to be targeted as scapegoats at the very same time when businesspeople holidaying in France, Spain and other European countries are chartering fishing boats to get home to the UK before quarantine measures were brought in for travellers to those countries. Some UK cities including Aberdeen are under renewed lockdown for outbreaks–Stella thinks it’s a political decision as much as a practical one because of Aberdeen’s Tory council. She pointed out Glasgow also had outbreaks but no quarantine there. I just hope end of Sept doesn’t bring renewed quarantine to me & interrupt my move. But we must all hope for the best–lives saved is more important than personal inconveniences.
- 20 August 2020
Emotional day all around: I got word on Tuesday night that my beloved Arabic teacher had passed away. Yesterday I forwarded the note to a few Simon’s Rock folks–classmates or other teachers I keep in touch with. He had lived a long life and touched the lives of so many students–he was and is so beloved. I am sad, but I feel lucky to have known him. I don’t often feel lonely even in these strange times because I have a strong community around the world, but yesterday I felt sad that there was no collective conversation I could join. I missed being with people who knew him and knew how wonderful he was.
- 21 August 2020
Just, too many things going on at once. My Arabic teacher’s funeral yesterday, my first virtual funeral. Nice eulogy from one of his former students. They sang one of my favourite hymns, “How Great Thou Art” but the microphone kept cutting out–not great sound quality for the singing. Gonna be interesting to see if religious institutions and funeral homes up their digital skills. Should have gone straight to bed when I was tired but instead pushed through to fill out forms for one of the estate agents, email two of the removals firms with questions, and do a lot of scrolling new flats to look at on Rightmove, news (Steve Bannon was arrested yesterday), allowing myself to worry and worry and worry. Pap smear today–dreaded, dreaded. Nerves about the pain. Nerves about using the doctor’s office (will I get sick??) Nerves about cleaning for tomorrow. Nerves about work. No wonder my mind races when it’s time to sleep.
- 22 August 2020
Pap smear yesterday. Best nurse ever, it’s never gone so quickly. Visiting the office was terrifying, though. People weren’t distancing as much as I would have liked and both staff and patients were laissez-faire about masks. I have five viewings lined up for next Friday. I only hope at least three are still available when Friday rolls around. I hate this, it’s so time consuming and agencies are difficult to work with. And further lockdown looms. Terrifying. But I can’t dwell on what-ifs, I just have to keep moving forward. And hoping.
- 7 September 2020
My cousin and his fiancée seem determined to go ahead with their wedding plans in January. I had their save the date card on Friday. I’ll have to tell them I can’t make it, which is sad because I was looking forward to seeing all those people again. But it’s simply not safe to travel. And if they were doing the right thing they’d postpone the party or just have a very small ceremony and keep the big celebration until later. Too many health conditions. There was an outbreak caused by a wedding in Maine where none of the people who died actually went to the wedding, so it seems heartless of them to proceed with their plans. Why don’t they get legally married and defer the party for a year or until after a vaccine exists? I feel bad but I simply can’t go. But my heart is heavy because I can’t go home for Christmas, not the way things are. And I don’t see that changing before December. I sometimes worry that I’ve seen my parents for the last time. But we talk regularly and share always. I miss them, but I know it’s not the right thing to travel to see them right now.
- 8 September 2020
New laws announced to prevent more than 6 people congregating except in specific situations. Case numbers continuing to rocket up: government of course blaming people’s “selfishness” for having gatherings at their houses rather than, say, the huge push to kickstart the economy with the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme, the ‘visit London’ and ‘visit Scotland’ campaigns, & reopening schools & offices. No, of course the coronavirus isn’t transmitting in any of those settings, it’s only at private gatherings where people are being selfish. Utter, utter madness. I’m tired and scared and overwhelmed. I want a break.
- 10 September 2020
Very, very adrenaline rush and crash week. Anxiety about trying to move early which was nixed by the estate agents so now I just have to hope we don’t have further lockdown soon. Or that I don’t get ill or…anxiety very high…going to be an exhausting few weeks. In the wide world, pictures of San Francisco & Oregon looking strangely orange because of the wildfires. The UK has threatened to essentially renege on the withdrawal agreement and even though that should really be the biggest news of the week, somehow other stories are taking precedence (currently the rise in cases.) And I feel so wrapped up in myself I’m forgetting basic social duties towards others: Dad’s got a skin cancer removal either next week or on my moving day the following week. There’s a lot going on and I feel very much like I’d like to stay in bed and hide. At least that’s an option I have–avoiding precarity, living in a stable situation with food, water, electricity, internet…it’s so easy in my cushioned life to forget how difficult the lives of others are.
- 14 September 2020
Cases on the rise, doubling every 8 days at the moment. Sultry heatwave in London–meant to be 83 degrees today. Even the fun things: Tim wants to go out for dinner to say goodbye and I’m dreading it because cases are rising exponentially again. But the UK government being weak (morally) and focused primarily on protecting the economic interests of the powerful, they won’t move to return to full lockdown for at least another 2 weeks when the deaths begin. Right when I’m moving. I feel sick thinking about it. And cases will go up as people are carefree in the unexpected summer weather. Outdoor transmission is low but I think people are getting lax with gathering–and even if outdoor transmission is low restaurants are still attracting lots of people into one place. Offices & schools. Everything. They’re going to have to shut everything again, sooner than they bargained for. But too late for many. At least I had a nice (if slightly disconcerting) walk yesterday and a good catch up with Daphne. On the less fortunate side, upstairs neighbours have gone increasingly amorous. Maybe this is a different couple than before? Here’s hoping the new flat is well insulated for sound.
- 16 September 2020
Dinner with Tim was good after I got over my spikiness about being out and about. Same for Christie’s visit–nice to see her, though she’s as ditzy as ever: tried to take all the cutlery and plates and I had to remind her that I am in fact still living here. She talked about coming back next week and I’m going to have to remind her that I’m still living here and need those things at least until the 26th.
- 21 September 2020
Picnic with Irene yesterday. Stung on the inside of the lip by a bee that had gotten inside my can of g&t…Not cool. Managed to get the stinger out straight away and Irene ran off to find me some ice. Thankfully only a little swollen–looks like I had bad plastic surgery. This morning it still seems a bit puffy. Well, goodbye to you too, London!
- 23 September 2020
New restrictions announced, I think, but I was too annoyed by Monday’s shambolic performance to watch the news. I’ll check again tomorrow and Sunday before I leave. Weather turned suddenly yesterday–went out at noon for a walk and it was sunny and sultry; wanted to do some hammock time after work but the weather turned suddenly and big clouds rolled in. It was like someone turned the “autumn” switch.
- 25 September 2020
Mom tells me, to my utter lack of surprise, that Aunt Sarah & Uncle Pete have tested positive for Covid-19 after their vacation to Alabama with five other couples. They’re not taking this seriously, and I doubt they’ll get really sick, meaning they’ll take it even less seriously. It was only a matter of time before someone we knew had it and I’m not surprised it’s them, given everything. A small and selfish part of me hopes they do learn to understand the magnitude of the illness, but of course I don’t want them in danger–not really.
- 27 September 2020
Final day. 12 hours from now I should be enjoying dinner with Daphne before heading to the overnight train. My mind is swirling with what-ifs. But I just have to trust all will be well. The house has that empty echoey feeling of not being lived-in–it’s not my place any more! Just a little last-day packing & cleaning and that’s it. What of the wider world? A few days ago the supreme court of Kentucky refused to indict Breonna Taylor’s shooters for her death. I sent £500 to the Louisville community bail fund and the Louisville mutual aid fund. Dad’s Biden lawn sign got knocked over so he put it up again with rebar. Cases continue to rocket up here in the UK, with university dorms particularly hard hit & very little support for these young barely-adults. Awful. Right now everyone in England and Wales is being smug about Scotland’s failings but it’s only a matter of time before a similar situation elsewhere–though an optimist might say they would learn the lessons of the other unis & do better. An optimist. Better get moving.
- 28 September 2020
5:45 AM and it is DARK on this train. I’m going to regret waking so early when I want to get to bed at 8 and my groceries arrive at 9 PM but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. First hurdle: arrive at flat & keys & let the mover in. The guy completely refused to wear a mask and I normally would have insisted for someone working in my home but I didn’t feel I could refuse because it’s not like I could have ordered another truck. Hopefully the combined efforts of me and the estate agent will be enough to make him wear one this morning. If the bloody estate agents even arrive on time: I got a call at 2:30 PM yesterday asking if I could do “any other time that day” for key handover and I was like “Uh, no, that’s what we agreed and that’s when the truck is arriving…” but perhaps I should have pressed more firmly to say the truck charges £50 for every half hour they’re kept waiting. I will certainly be asking Anthea to explain why when they had 3 weeks to work this out with me they waited until the afternoon of the day before, when I’d already made arrangements with the removals firm. Not cool. As usual, no toothpaste in my overnight kit, meaning my mouth feels like cotton wool soaked in brine after last night’s drinks with Daphne. Very sweet of her to see me off. Sunrise not for another hour! Just before we roll into Edinburgh.
- 29 September 2020
First morning in the new flat. So far I’ve learned the walls & ceiling are very thin, the pipes bang, and I am a little freaked out by the spare room that’s locked. What if someone’s secretly living there like that girl who was living under someone’s wardrobe? Still so much to do–shoulders sore from lugging stuff. Plus had to go on a Sheets Quest to buy new ones that fit and make sure I could make my bed! And the estate agents didn’t fix any of the stuff they said they would, which they used as a reason for not letting me move in early when I asked. But honestly it didn’t go too badly. Better get up & going.