My beloved’s journal continues, though how long we’ll keep up these weekly posts is uncertain. It’s a difficult time to catch the mood of. On the one hand, we are enjoying long country walks with our son and his new bubble but, on the other, friends trapped abroad and older relatives cut off from everything that defines their normal lives are all struggling. And she continues (rightly as it turns out) to worry about what winter will bring.

Sunday 14 June 2020

Just as I was finishing yesterday’s entry, I got a call from Mike. His plans had changed. Why didn’t we come over for a long walk/picnic/BBQ? So I rushed home, made cream cheese bagels and dragged Tom through the shower. We were there by 1pm, to meet Mike, Morley, G and S, leaving the house, clutching an OS map.

Mike had mentioned a footpath through meadows a few minutes walk from his door, but I hadn’t believed him. This is London – within the M25. Surely, if there was open space, people would know about it? The secret was a horrible entrance – right by the A40 roundabout – which looked like a track to a fly tip. But 100 yards later, around the corner, the meadows of Middlesex opened up. Long grass, buttercups, clover, the lot, with a very excited Morley, leaping up like a little puppy. Eventually we were balancing over a lock on the Fray, admiring long boats. S was keen to make elderflower champagne, so we picked elderflowers along the towpath, and decided which boat we would buy in a possible alternative universe.

G talked about her family. Her sister is struggling with three children at home, including a teenager chaffing at the restraints. Her stepfather is still shielding and getting get fed up. How much more of the time left to him can be spent in not singing in the choir or seeing friends? S is now installed for the duration with M & G  — be careful of house guests these days because once they are in they can never leave. She talked about the good old days working in adventure training for kids (obviously not happening now) and her new job in the Post Office sorting office.

At 3.30 Mike relented to Tom’s increasingly pointed remarks about lunch, and we sat on the green in Uxbridge eating his pasta salad and my bagels. And back by more streams and reed beds and ponds, looking increasingly like Wind in the Willows, with water lilies and flag irises and a terrapin sunning itself on a rock. When we returned after 5 hours and 10 miles, I didn’t want to admit how much my legs didn’t work.

We sat in the garden eating the (melted, gooey) chocolate biscuits I had brought, while Mike made pizzas to cook in his new expensive BBQ contraption. In the end we had 3 pizzas (one burnt, one underdone and one perfect) huddled under a tarpaulin Mike had fixed to the drainpipe and windowsill, while rain poured down and lightening appeared in the sky. I stayed warm under a blanket as we got closer and closer, and life felt better and better. Truly a night to remember.

Dining al fresco in the English summer

Friday 19 June 2020

After Saturday’s excitement, it’s been a quiet week.  I’ve been trying to help with V with her employment problems. V has been unable to return from India, though her manager keeps looking at Sky Scanners, to find possible fights to bring her home, routed via Delhi, Dubai, Istanbul etc. Most of these are aspirations, or phantoms. Reports in the Indian press say that no commercial flights have taken off from India. There are only been repatriation flights, organised by Governments and, because V is not a UK citizen, she has been at the very bottom of the priority list.

But it is difficult to prove that they are all phantoms. Eventually V snapped that she wasn’t going to consider a flight through Delhi, with multiple stopovers, taking up to 44 hours and liable to dump her in random airports. The risk was too great.  

The manager pointed to V’s official risk assessment, which put her in the “low risk” category. The NHS (her employer) required her to consider alternative routes. And if she was not considering these (probably non-existent) alternatives, her pay would be stopped. V has now booked a place on an Air India repatriation flight and is due back next week. She faces a three-person panel to consider recouping her pay for April and May, even though she has been working from India.  

Low risk? V is older than she looks. If the latest research is true, as someone with a South Asian background she has an equivalent Covid risk profile as a white woman in her eighties. How can an NHS trust assess her as low risk? I’ve been practising my employment lawyer skills and trying to write “reasonable and not really legalistic” emails on her behalf.

I stopped work at 4pm on Wednesday to wander into Richmond to re-engage with the shopping experience. There were a lot of sales, at huge discounts, for products that no-one wants any more. No worry about queues outside – the places were empty. I wandered into H&M, which had a few people, and bought a black T shirt for £5. Was this the T shirt that would make me look slim and beautiful? When I got home and tried it on, I realised it wasn’t, but it hardly seems worth the hassle of taking it back.  I’ve now got the urge to splurge out of my system.

I’m now working on the basis that coronavirus goes away in the summer when everyone is outside. I shall spend the next three months having as much fun as possible. The second wave seems scheduled for October.  In November, we will all be back indoors, cowering, as the economy collapses.

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