Lounging Around

In a Heathrow hotel conference room the tables were scattered with a host of battery operated furry creatures; this apparently was to ‘break the ice’. British Airways was paying for our catering company to attend a course of several events on passenger service, quite amusing as British Airways needed to learn about passenger service, not us – in my opinion. It was we who had to soothe the troubled brows of passengers by the time they had made it to the business class or first class lounges.

We didn’t need the ice broken as we were already relaxed and chatting to friends and fellow staff we hadn’t met before; a good chance for a natter without being interrupted by passengers. Being paid to have a day off with coffee and lunch instead of being at work, what was there not to like?

My first job as a lounge hostess had ended when the Qantas Lounge ceased to exist and Qantas moved over to Terminal Four. The lounge was now British Airways, used for flights to the USA and unless you noticed the kangaroos on the glass screens you would never know. The first class lounge became the quiet area and first class passengers had their own little lounge downstairs – at least they didn’t have to cope with the awful lift. We now worked for a much larger catering company who were subcontracted to work for a variety of airlines. Our new uniform consisted of a comfortable blouse and elasticated skirt which adapted itself to any figure, the fabric design was a multi coloured jigsaw pattern which also hid a multitude of sins. The navy jacket made it look quite smart, but my younger son was horrified and said ‘You’re not going wear that on the bus are you!’ On the bus and anywhere on the airport, we could easily spot who else worked for the same company, though the chaps wore white shirt and grey trousers with just a tie in the zingy pattern.

A cleaning company was also contracted to work alongside us, ‘Airspeed,’ a contradiction in terms for some of their staff, such as the lugubrious Raymond who became a permanent fixture. On the front desk a variety of British Airways staff rotated, some very efficient and passenger orientated, others not quite so; they provided us with great amusement, but probably not the passengers. One was an alcoholic who had easy access to the two bars and liked ‘orange juice’. His announcements when he called the flight were most entertaining; his exhortations not to leave anything behind and have passport and ticket ready came with colourful warnings of what might happen if you did not. Another staff member was always on the phone and her easily heard telephone conversations were interesting, with the added frisson of worrying if the passengers were listening. One morning I heard her say within easy earshot of passengers ‘We’ve got a right load of trailer trash in here today.’

The passengers were lovely friendly, polite Americans who said ‘Thankyou Maam’ plus an assortment of Brits and others.

The first manager we met said he was ‘running eighty per cent Pilipino’ and without the hardworking Pilipinos I imagine the lounges wouldn’t have run at all. We didn’t see this manager often and he hardly spoke to me until he discovered it was my husband who was the licensing officer for Heathrow and he needed to be interviewed by him to get the licence for the lounge to serve alcohol.

Our immediate manager was an Indian bundle of energy who had his own unorthodox way of running things, which worked with our wonderfully mixed staff. He was never without his large diary and mobile phone; if anyone was off sick, or needed to change shifts he was on the phone and in seconds had a replacement. There were always people happy to do overtime or do him a favour because he would help them out in turn. Some of the Philipinos worked every day without a break and saved all their holidays and days off to go ‘back home’ for three months each year, often investing their savings in property in the Philippines. Some staff were supporting all sorts of family members and needed the extra money, while others obviously preferred being at work to being at home. Heathrow airside and no doubt any big airport, is a world of its own, cut off from the rest of the world.

I started off with no intention of doing overtime or being whisked off to other lounges and terminals, but gradually I found myself doing just that and discovering that each lounge and airline could be very different… but that’s for another blog.

And what of our passenger service course? We also enjoyed a dinner out at another hotel where we had to rate the service and one to one coffee, cake and chats. They were asking us for our opinions, taking down all our suggestions for improving life for us and the passengers. None of our suggestions were ever acted on , but at least we had had fun.

The House of Windsor

We never lived in Windsor, but the town, in the Royal County of Berkshire, was one of our favourite days out when we lived by Heathrow Airport. As the American tourist said ‘Why did they build a royal castle so close to the airport?’ – old joke. Along with many tourists and local families we enjoyed all it has to offer. ‘Long Walks in the Great Park’ – From the Castle gate to the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse) The Long Walk measures 2.64 miles in length. But the Windsor Great Park extends far beyond what you can see from the castle.

Walking at Windsor Great Park | Windsor Great Parkhttps://www.windsorgreatpark.co.uk/en/activities/walking

Windsor also has a theatre, a swimming pool, good shopping and the River Thames. A foot bridge takes you over the river to Eton where the famous school is spread out as part of the little town. You can also take a peaceful walk along the riverside very different from the bustle on the Windsor side.

You can go by train from Waterloo and arrive at Windsor and Eton Riverside station, or take the little line built for Queen Victoria, a one stop ride from Slough station  ( direct line from Paddington ) which takes you into the heart of the designer shopping centre and exits opposite the castle.

Tourists the weekend after the wedding of Harry and Megan!

Windsor Castle | Windsor Castle Tours and Tickets

Before the terrible castle fire in 1992 more of the castle grounds were free to the public to wander. We used to take our young children for a walk and show Australian visitors around. Under the archway, past the chapel, stroll up the hill. Our two year old once dashed into the guard room and was chased out by the guards. One side of the castle faces the town, but walk downhill to the river and the castle is high above you on a steep bank. When our daughter was a toddler she nearly gave a Japanese tourist a heart attack; he gasped in horror as she raced towards the turreted wall on the steep side of the grounds. She didn’t topple over, it was a safe height. Another time we peered through a gate and saw Princess Diana bring her two little boys out to watch the soldiers parading.

When we moved away from Heathrow we still visited Windsor on mini breaks to see our friends, usually staying at The Windsor Trooper, a great little old pub with bed and breakfast; bedrooms slightly crooked with sloping floors. 

‘In 1917, the name of the royal house was changed from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor because of anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during World War I. There have been four British monarchs of the House of Windsor since then: George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II.’

Windsor Castle made the perfect setting for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, especially for the many of us who know Windsor well. The Duke apparently did not want a fuss and got his wish as the long miles of procession and crowd lined streets had to be scaled down to a ceremony within the castle precincts; a dignified walk down the hill with socially distanced military bands lined up with precision on the immaculate green.

The Band of the Grenadier Guards led the funeral procession and family members followed, Princess Anne in a long black coat and the men in morning suits. Following a coffin on foot seems dignified and respectful and it’s always good to see men smartly dressed. The Queen followed in her limousine.

I get nervous when I see The Queen walking unsteadily by herself, especially that day as she stepped out of her car and I wondered why she could not have formed a new bubble. Any other very elderly lady with strapping sons and grandsons would surely have been offered a strong arm to lean on. The Duke was her bubble, but she still has HMS Bubble, the loyal staff who have been on duty three weeks on three weeks off at the castle looking after the royal couple. Dog lovers will be glad to hear that The Queen, despite deciding a while ago not to breed or acquire any more dogs, has done what lots of people have in covid lockdown and acquired two puppies, a corgi and a dorgie, which she enjoys walking.

Inside the chapel were the regulation thirty guests and the emptiness perhaps enhanced the beautiful singing of the choir of four and the playing of the trumpeters. The royal family stuck by all the current funeral rules; we cannot compare their splendidly choregraphed event with bleak funerals at the local crem., livestreamed from one camera, but like other grieving widows The Queen sat by herself. After the service the family all strolled up the hill in the sunshine, ignoring the unnecessary fleet of cars lined up for them, though of course The Queen returned in her limousine. I like to think that once back in the royal apartments they all ripped off their masks and didn’t bother with social distancing!

Whether you watched the funeral avidly live on television and followed the highlights in the news later, or avoided all mention of it, there was more to the Duke of Edinburgh than most of us realised. The blanket comprehensive coverage of his life revealed a refugee from a broken home who saw real active service in the second world war. A life that did become privileged, but how many of us would want their whole life mapped out? Unlike lots of rich people he used his position to make a difference. He highlighted the plight of wildlife long before others were interested and created the Duke of Edinburgh Award to give ordinary teenagers the chance to take on all sorts of challenges. Those from a variety of countries who have spoken about meeting The Duke and how the award changed their lives will remember him and not the many politicians and world leaders who come and go.

Did you watch the funeral? Have you visited Windsor? Have you met any of the royal family?

Wednesday Wonderings

Have you had the jab yet – whoops sorry, those who have a phobia about needles do not like to hear that word and certainly do not like seeing the constant images on the news of smiling pensioners being vaccinated against Covid. But this is the biggest programme of vaccination in The World ever, so there is plenty to talk about; have you had it, why hasn’t my ninety year old aunt had it yet, which one did you have, should I have it…

I had the phone call on Friday to turn up at 4.30pm on Sunday for AstraZeneca; all weekend  the news was about the effectiveness of AstraZenica, would it resist the South African variant etc.   Who do you trust? There is a sizeable group of people, in every country, who do not trust any Covid vaccination, ranging from those who have a genuine medical reason and have been told not to have it, those worrying if animal products or alcohol are used to make it, through to CIA involvement. I don’t know if those with a needle phobia will also be avoiding vaccination.

This is another issue to divide people, as if we hadn’t enough already. It’s not compulsory in the United Kingdom, but the big picture is to get as many people as quickly as possible vaccinated for any chance of life returning to normal and to save as many lives as possible. Anthony Fauci is one of the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases and now chief medical advisor to US President Joe Biden, who no doubt listens to him more carefully than his predecessor. I heard him on the radio saying if people ask which vaccine they should have he tells them to have whatever is offered as soon as possible, because we can get vaccinated again. Other experts say similar things; my lay reading of all this information flooding into our brains is This is just the Start. Most of us have absolutely no idea what goes on in laboratories, except it involves microscopes and tiny glass droppers. Viruses mutate and in the same way that different flu vaccines are offered each winter, Covid vaccination could need to be updated and offered every year.

Meanwhile back in Southbourne-on-Sea, the fact I was called so soon, when I am not vulnerable, is nothing to do with my age, but the rattling rate at which the NHS are getting the vaccines done! Procuring vaccines in the first place involved a huge operation and cooperation between government and private concerns. This was followed by a great deal of organisation and commandeering of buildings from leisure centres to fire stations.  Regular NHS staff have been joined by retired doctors and nurses and army medics, plus an army of volunteers to herd people safely.

But I did not have to go anywhere adventurous or blogworthy, our local GP surgery was doing jabs with seven rooms open. We all lined up safely spaced and after a couple of minutes outside, it was only ten minutes from going in the front door to going out the back door. As there was a bitter easterly wind, the ten minutes included divesting several layers of clothes and scarves to have an arm ready and putting it all back on again. We filed to desks to get a sticky label with name, date of birth and a mystery number, which was stuck to our information sheet. The advantage of having the NHS is we’re all on the computer; all that has to be done is print out millions upon millions of sticky labels… When I arrived at the needle point there was a doctor to jab and a person tapping into the computer. We get a tiny card to bring back for the second jab, no date, but in 10 to 12 weeks. Of course I am bound to forget where I put the card, so remind me it’s in the top drawer left hand side…

Friday Flash Fiction – Digital Dialogue – Gone

Gone, what do you mean, Gone?

As in lost.

As in Can’t Be Found?

As in Not Found Yet.

Considering you were not to let him out of your sight, let us clarify how long you think he has been missing.

I’m not exactly sure.

And are you sure he is definitely missing, hasn’t just wandered into the garden or gone after the cat?

I… we’ve checked everywhere, not in the flat or the offices.

Not popped next door?

No they have not seen him, we have double checked everywhere.

What about the dog?

He’s not missing, he’s gone with her and the baby to her mother’s.

I’m not worried about that mongrel; so we know he hasn’t gone out with the dog… Bicycle still there?

Where?

Where he keeps it locked up of course, I know it’s your first day on the job, but you did do the induction and familiarisation, Sergeant?

Of course Sir and now you come to mention it, his bike has gone …and his rucksack and the keys to the cabinet…

WHAT! We now have only thirty minutes till the press briefing and we don’t want to call a major security alert.

I don’t think the press conference is our main worry Sir, they can delay it, won’t be the first time, or get that expert chap or one of the ministers? Not really our problem is it Sir, we’re just pro..

Precisely… remind me why you wanted to be a protection officer?

I wanted to do Royal protection duties, but they wouldn’t have me.

This is a most important press briefing, have you seen how many are outside? All we can do now is make sure this doesn’t get out, so before I suspend you from your duties as second in command of the Prime Minister’s protection team, could you contrive to leak some kind of cover up story to Laura Kuenssberg and the BBC.

Covid?

No, we’ve already done that story, think of something else credible that she wont see through…

Wednesday When, Why, What???

…and Which, Wonder, Winter, Widowhood, Worries, Will???

In French the Questions will be  Quand, Quoi, pourQuoi…

Most of the world is asking when the pandemic will end and a further multitude of questions about variants and mutations, with no straightforward answers. Ironically, while England is still deciding whether to quarantine people in hotels, Perth, Western Australia detected its first case of coronavirus in almost 10 months; a quarantine hotel security guard. Nearly two million residents were placed into a five day lockdown on Sunday.

One thing most of us in lockdown don’t have to worry about is summer bushfires. Thousands were told yesterday and today to ignore the Covid stay-home order and evacuate their homes, as a bushfire in the hills on Perth’s outskirts gained pace. But the most chilling warning is  It’s now too late to leave, you must stay in your home. The blaze, which is the largest the Western Australian city has seen in years, has already burnt through more than 9,000 hectares, destroying at least 71 homes.

Perth spotted one little weak spot in its robust Covid protection status, while many of us see great gaping holes in our countries’ defences. Hindsight is a great thing, but I think medical experts and even ordinary folk had enough foresight to see more should have been done earlier. There are people who have isolated completely for nearly a year, but most of us, every time government advice eased off, have had visitors or been on a little outing; some people have been jetting all round the world.

 If you listen to the news too often you will drown in numbers and go round in circles. But one positive thing is the vaccination programme in the United Kingdom, which is rattling along at a great pace. With little new to talk about in lockdown, the gossip is who has been immunised lately.

What is everyday life like now after months of Tier systems, November Lockdown 2 and a month in Lockdown 3? Grandparents have been unable to see new grandchildren; weddings, moving home and plans to have babies have been put on hold all round the country.  I have been widowed for five months now and half of me is still happy for normal life to be suspended, but the other half is missing family and friends and being able to visit and get out and about. Then there are the not so regular events that can’t take place; luckily Cyberspouse said he didn’t care what we did with his ashes, so he wouldn’t mind that they are still in the cupboard with all his camera equipment…  

Going for walks is now the national occupation. I don’t drive, so I am used to walking to get places. Then there is the traditional going for a walk with your partner, family, friends or by yourself to recover from a stressful week at work. Whether locally or on a day out, The Walk used to involve stopping for coffee at a beach front café, lunch in ‘The Stables’ at a National Trust property or popping into interesting shops in that nice town by the river…

In lockdown you may get a takeaway coffee when you meet up with the one person from another household for exercise if you are living on your own. I am too dyspraxic to walk, talk, avoid tripping over dogs and drink out of a hot cardboard cup at the same time. But it is good to be out seeing  people. The cliff tops and promenades are full of folk and plenty of those are also taking brisk walks by themselves, though I am the only one in a bright pink coat. Most of us are managing to adhere to social distancing and I think it is safe out in the fresh air or gale force winds.

A walk around residential streets as it’s getting dark is also quite fun; lights are on but curtains and blinds are still open. I have always enjoyed looking in people’s windows, all the different decors and cosy interiors and life going on. Some people still have Christmas lights in the front garden or Christmas trees indoors, it all helps brighten up this strange winter.

When we are not out, many of us are on line. Those of you working from home or trying to teach home schooled pupils are probably heartily sick of Zoom, but it’s still a novelty for me. We could all be in space ships or in a space colony. Is this the future?  At the weekly Saturday evening quiz I see people I would never meet in real life. I have started going to our camera club Zoom meetings and members can put their pictures on the screen  – not me obviously, my technical skills only stretch as far as typing in the meeting code – but it is nice to chat and see both familiar and new faces. Lounging on the sofa with my ipad instead of sitting on a plastic chair in the church hall, what’s not to like? Will people want to go out on dark winter evenings when they could just stay home? Those who are not on the internet or are nervous of technology could miss out, but the disabled, those who can’t leave children and those without easy transport would all be on an equal footing in Zoomland. Will this be what we wish for?

Lockdown Three

Lockdown Three has none of the drama of Lockdown One, though it is more cutting edge than Lockdown Two when schools were open and we thought we still had Christmas to look forward to. In an echo of the brilliant dramatic twist twixt lockdowns when Christmas was cancelled at the last moment, because Covid 19 reneged on its promise to give us five days off, the director instituted a brilliant scene from Downing Street in which the PM closes all schools, not the day before, but the very day after they started the new term ( a sentence nearly as long as lockdown ).

Lockdown Three promises to be longer than Lockdown Two, but with the same advantage of covering winter months, so people will be glad to huddle indoors. Are we prepared? I think it would have been more dramatic if we could be like the French and fill in forms to produce to show we have a good reason to be out. We are allowed out for exercise, to get immunised and to buy food and some people might actually have to go out to work… My freezer now has one drawer full of sliced apple from the tree in my garden; it thrived during last spring and summer’s sunny lockdowns, with no desire to leave home. Another drawer is devoted to the Christmas feast postponed till Chreastersummermas. I still have enough room for regular rations.

As my first winter being a widow it seems apt for normal life to be suspended, not that I would wish a pandemic on the rest of the world merely to take the pressure off me deciding anything. While half the population, from politicians to front line services, are busier than ever, the other half may be shielding or out of work, life curtailed to the banal or at least a gentler pace. There are plenty of positives; new hobbies, putting your CD collection in alphabetical order, having cooking fun. Gardening may have taken a back seat, but you can fill your home with pot plants and cut flowers; perhaps your family will not be able to find you in the jungle when at last they can visit.

There are new experiences for most of us. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra tomorrow starts its second series of digital, livestreamed concerts. You can buy tickets for individual concerts or the whole season on line. We had a camera club zoom party and I won the Bingo; no need to go out on a cold night with plates of food, or clear up afterwards. Every Saturday night I join in a Zoom quiz; a window on the outside world.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (bsolive.com)https://bsolive.com/

If you get bored you can always order yourself more presents from Amazon ( yes I know we shouldn’t, but we all use them because you can find what you want, or even things you didn’t know you wanted, and it always arrives ). Nearly everyone in my family from four to forties is obsessed with Lego ( Lego is certainly not just for children ) and after many hints I was given my first Lego set – Lego Architecture mini London. It was tiny, fiddly, fun and addictive; a total change from blogging and writing. I have ordered myself a big box of Lego bricks and bits so I can make my own creations.

My little real Christmas tree in the front garden has been undecorated, but today I had a Glastonburyish idea; I am going to leave it there and tie a ribbon on every day till we’re out of lockdown.

Christmas Real Time Tales – part 3 – New Year’s Eve 2020

Cassie felt deflated, empty, tired. She tried to summon up the positivity that had kept her going since March, but a new year was not going to bring a new start for anyone. It was no consolation that more of England had joined them in Tier 4, lockdown in all but name. She knew she was lucky to have a job and a home, didn’t have to do home schooling or shop for elderly parents, but the positives she had nurtured this year seemed to be fading away.

Christmas Day had been good, as if her presence had made it easier for Sam and his long lost son to talk, telling her things about their lives that they hadn’t told each other. She had found herself smiling several times; Christmas 2019 spent alone and this Christmas spent with a homeless man and a runaway teenager. Now her little house seemed too quiet, though she had been glad enough of the peace on Christmas night after the two of them and the dog had clumped off on their way.

She would be more than happy to have them as regular visitors, but Christmas had been one day of freedom for Britons; now it was back to having no visitors, no visiting.  Even her regular walks with Sam and his dog had ceased; the new rule was meet only one person outside your household, outside and Sam’s long walks were now with his son. Though James had done well getting the MPJ building as suitable as possible for his clients, it was a roof over their heads, not a home for a father and son. Sam was keeping Lucas out and about as much as possible, desperate to keep him from getting bored or depressed and doing a reverse runaway back to Scotland and the comforts of his step father’s highland estate.

Cassie could no longer visit the MPJ homeless project, even with the careful Covid regime James had set up. He was all too aware, as he never ceased to point out, how vulnerable some of his little group of homeless were, nor did he want any possibility of the project being blamed for an increase in cases in the town.

She was still working from home, management were pleased with her team, but would they all keep their jobs in the long term with the double blow of Covid and Brexit? Work was hard, not at all the easy lounging in pyjamas outsiders might imagine. Supervising her team was difficult; she was propping some of them up, carrying them. The continual ups and downs of what she assumed was normal busy parenthood, doubled in stress with parents worried every time a child coughed or felt a bit hot; Covid tests, waiting for results, keeping children home in isolation, whole classes being sent home because one child had a positive test, schools closed with teachers ill…  

She was jolted out of her glum mood when her mobile buzzed, she was surprised to see it was James calling, wanting to Facetime and get some advice. How long since they had chatted on line? She was never sure if he had been disappointed that their spring on line friendship had not developed into anything more, when they got the chance to meet up for real.  But now she was pathetically grateful for the chance to have a chat on this lonely New Year’s Eve.

March seems so long ago now, but we first met Cassie in a queue for the chemist…

Sunday Short Story 720 – The Queue | Times and Tides of a Beachwriter (wordpress.com)https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/sunday-short-story-720-the-queue/

Christmas Real Time Tales – part one – It Will All End In Tiers

Cassie though it ironic that she had spent last Christmas Day alone and now when everyone else was facing Christmas alone she was having two guests for Christmas lunch, three if you counted the dog. When she had invited Sam the rule had been three households for five days, but Boris had changed all that on Saturday. They were still in Tier 2 so she didn’t think they were breaking any rules; Christmas Day only and no overnight stays, but she hadn’t bargained for Sam’s long lost son turning up. Even in pre Covid days this would have been quite a drama. But there was no question of him being sent back to Scotland, would he even be allowed back in? Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister, did not want anyone entering or leaving Scotland. Sam had insisted Lucas ring his mother, so she could call off the frantic search round their huge highland estate, but more to ensure future prospects for cooperation.

Sam was thrilled with the turn of events, he felt he had a connection already with his sixteen year old son. Cassie could not see things in such a positive light, Sam was a long way from being able to provide a stable home for a teenager who still had two years of school ahead, but it was not her place to say anything. Of more immediate concern was meeting Lucas. As an only child brought up by her aunt and sent to a girls’ school she knew nothing about teenage boys. Doris next door had reassured her all she had to do was treat him like a normal human being and perhaps he would be interested in her geckos.

Now as she looked at the time and checked the oven she wondered if Sam had heard the latest news; at one minute past midnight on Boxing Day they were going to enter Tier 4. Any positivity she had felt about the pandemic or her own little life seemed to be fast fading in recent weeks, a new strain of Covid, worrying statistics…

The doorbell rang and as she opened it she was taken aback to see a broad shouldered young man taller than Sam, standing behind him.

‘Cassie, this is Lucas.’

For some reason she had imagined a smaller version of Sam, pale, quiet and nervous, an unhappy runaway; so she was further surprised when he greeted her enthusiastically in a booming baritone Scottish accent.

‘Lunch smells nice.’

‘It’s just a little pork joint,’ Cassie apologised ‘I’ve never cooked a turkey in my life.’

‘That’s okay, didn’t Sa…. my father tell you I am vegetarian?’

Advent Calendar – Monday Twenty First of December

Today’s window opens into Vivienne’s living room, where we can eavesdrop as she chats on the phone.  Restricted lives leave those living alone searching for nuggets of news in their now restricted lives. Tit bits gleaned from family and friends, polished and enhanced until they bear little resemblance to the original.

Tier 4, I didn’t even know there was a Tier 4 till yesterday and all that food. The experts have been saying this for weeks and Boris waits till yesterday… Julia had already had a big shop delivered here, no I paid for half of it, which considering there are four of them… salmon en what, I thought she was vegetarian… oh piscetarian. Well I would be happy with that, wish I was coming to yours. No luckily James is going to take it for his homeless lot … I mean I would be quite happy to go to MPJ and help with the cooking, but of course I am not allowed… yes, still Tier 2, looks like it will be lunch at Sonia’s…. I know, I was trying to avoid being in her bubble, but I can hardly pretend I have other plans when we all know we are all staying at home…

That chap across the road, no mask? Did the bus driver say anything… I got on the bus the other day and forgot about the screen, there was one tiny hole to put your hand in and swipe your bus pass… the whole class? I know, Julia said Jacintha’s is the only class that hasn’t had to isolate.

Nine pounds, did she have to have stiches… so nobody can go round, how many great nieces is that now? goodness… No, they’re still just friends… what are the chances of James marrying again, let alone finding a wife young enough to have babies… They won’t have any more, Julia said he’s had the snip, two children quite enough.

Next door-but-one you mean, well that was a bit of drama, how many police cars? There’s going to be more of that with people shut indoors. There are some advantages to living alone. No, James won’t even come indoors now, says it’s not safe for me when he’s been mixing with… yes they are very careful, I have been sewing more masks for them.

Did you, how is she? I’m not surprised, shut indoors with him, she must be going round the bend, bit of a come down hey, three cruises a year and now her greatest excitement is going to the CoOp.  That couple down the road, I don’t think they have been out at all since March, what with him and his lungs and heart and her with her, not sure what, but I was walking by and she had left a bunch of Xmas cards on the garden wall with a note, asking someone to post them, so that was my Brownie good deed for the day. So do I ..  to do my duty to God and The Queen and help other people every day…  yes, Jacintha had just joined when Covid struck.

No, at least we’re not trying to get to France…  not with all this food I’ve got… we might not get lettuces, no great loss.

Which planets? What the actual Bethlehem star, how do they know? I’m not going to see it from my garden, it’s just started pouring with rain…    Yes you too.

Home Alone Two

We’re in tears over tiers; only the Isle of Wight, The Scilly Isles and Cornwall are in Tier 1. From next Tuesday or is it Wednesday… many of us will continue being home alone. Four fifths of my family will be in Tier 3, including the new puppy, but as he’s not allowed beyond the back garden yet he probably is not bothered. For those of us in Tier Two the only difference from Lockdown Two is that all the shops are open, I think… In some ways it is a sort of Covid comfort blanket, no pressure to decide what to do or where to go next.

Christmas is still going to be a five day bubble of fun with three households allowed to meet as long as they keep all the windows open, don’t play board games and don’t hug Granny, but all that could change...

Theoretically it would have been better if everyone had stayed home for ever back in February and worn masks, even in the shower and if flights all over the world had been cancelled… We would have ended up with no food in the shops and worse still, no Amazon deliveries, but at least our leaders could not have been accused of being indecisive.

But what is life like in our new reality? My elderly next-door-but-one neighbour rang up the other evening; earlier when I walked past her house she was sitting in her porch with her granddaughter perched on a chair in the front garden, baby on her lap. I stopped to say hello at a safe distance, but her dog started barking ( the tiny dachshund barks at everyone that goes by ) , frightening the baby, who started crying… I waved apologetically and moved on.  She was on the phone for over two hours, I was a bit punch drunk, but can’t complain I have no one to talk to and she makes me laugh. She was widowed when she was my age; half her family are nurses at our local hospitals and one of her sons works at the crematorium. Whatever the latest instructions  Boris declares, her family have put her under lockdown. Her other son controls her central heating from his home in Malta.

On Tuesday my friend and I met at the beach hut in glorious sunshine. I can go to the shops ( the ones that are open ) or the cliff top and look at the horizon any time; I don’t feel closed in. On the promenade or up on Hengistbury Head it is like a permanent weekend or holiday time, everyone is out walking, jogging, cycling with dogs and children. Mostly they smile as they pass at a safe distance, glad to see people’s faces. Later in the afternoon when it is dark it is quite festive on the sea front; our resident four or five redundant ocean liners are fully lit up and circles of coloured light whiz past as invisible dogs run around with their flashing collars. Back at the shops the Christmas lights are up and windows are brightly lit with displays of what we cannot buy till next week.   

But everywhere there will be people in tears over tiers, most of us confused with the constant changing of rules and information. Folk overworked and folk out of work. Parents going on social media to insist that though Johnny was off school sick, he tested negative for Covid and he wasn’t the cause of the whole of year seven having to stay home and isolate…