Bristol July 13th

Feeling woozy from Pregabalin and Tramadol. Everything feels up in the air but not altogether in a bad way. Every day I have to check the date. I keep forgetting. I’ve spent one day in school in the last 3 and a half months. And the Summer term ends this Thursday. Who would have thought it? I’m trying to find that feeling of excitement – the tingles I’ve always had but I suppose I’ve been immersed in a long Summer holiday already.

I became fixated with someone but I can’t see it working. As always it’s complicated. Through the medium of phone messaging I can trace our dialogue all the way back to March. All the time some hope on my part but reticence from her.

We got drunk and chatted for 5 hours at her house.

We went swimming together in the River Avon and chatted all day. When I dropped her off an elderly neighbour asked if I was ‘the replacement’ to her husband.

A pause and then with great reluctance ‘No, I’m just a friend.’ And I think that’s what she thought until I came clean about my feelings a week later. The last time we were going to meet she changed her mind and went to see her family. And she’s been dating 2 other men. I think she’s confused. She says she wants to meet and play tennis but – forgive me – the ball is firmly in her court. I must wait on the baseline as calmly as a Borg or Federer.

In fact as a way of negating the feelings, of protecting myself from the inevitable rejection I’m throwing myself into dating other women, desperate for distraction.

I’m also throwing myself into writing. I want to be continually throwing out thoughts and feelings and descriptions of people and places and fantastic stories that are carrying on as I write this under my nose. To do this could be one of the best achievements of my life. I’ll be 46 in 2 weeks time. I want to be like an athlete, all the time getting fitter, tighter, improving what I do. Practice. Practice. By the time I’m 50 I want to be able to look back on a portfolio. Bit by bit. Word by word. Paragraph after paragraph.

This is MORE important than anything.

Don’t let those intense feelings that I wake up with and return to countless times a day take over. It is like a match. Investing my energy into me not her. Change the balance.

Now I write this, I’m starting to think having a relationship now is not what I need. I must focus. We will be friends not lovers. So difficult to love me but I’m finding it. Now I must allow myself and practise at praising myself. Be proud. This is something I’ve never had. ‘Revel in your time’. This time could be incredible.

Bristol June 3rd

My thoughts are stumbling in the same way my feet are. My mind is like a storm. I had forgotten the sickness that comes when falling, falling. Happy pain. The nerves that I can remember from walking on stage in front of a hundred parents or giving that reading, that speech.

Stand up and be counted old boy.

Just as I’m falling for C, L has been given the all clear today. It was a cyst in her breast but she has worried about it to the point that she couldn’t sleep last night, imagining chemotherapy or radiography or the worst possible scenario. Meanwhile I have loyally, lyingly tried to bolster her although she can feel i’m getting fainter.

‘Whoo is in Bristol, James?!’ She asks in that wonderful hoarse, Greek accent. Oh how I’ll miss it. How I’ll miss that sensuality.

I said tomorrow I’d arrange to come to Exeter into her arms, into her warm bosom. But I know I can’t.

How obvious it is. Where with L I want to talk about psychology and have sex, with her I am in pieces and we haven’t even started. We’ve hardly even touched each other.

On Sunday evening I sat smoking in her garden watching her. She had her mother’s skirt on and a cut off white top. She talked as she glided around her garden watering the flowers in their thirsty beds, each stride a shadowy leg glimpsed and then gone.

Two metres apart by law. Covid restrictions adhered to. And we chatted. Nervously at first and then slowly finding a rhythm, tentatively asking each other ‘would you like more wine?’ ‘Is it OK for me to stay?’

‘Yes, of course unless you want to go?’

‘No. Of course not.’

The moon crossed the garden and behind the house. We put on more clothes. And we talked. It was like this..do you remember?…with others…how many moons since?

This is it. There are no defences. Let the swell grow, let the wave grow. Let its back rear up like a giant bull. Crashing towards me as old and unknown as the stars. Break the levees. Pick me up. Bowl me over. Spit me out.

And then do it again.

We were taking about Italy and she was at my shoulder. There is a sense of touch when someone is close but apart but I can feel her.

‘You’re getting too close’, I say. She stays. I look at the photos.

I breathe.

Suffolk May 21st

Tuesday May 5th was queasily unpleasant. The carer had left the day before. Her time was well over due and there was nothing more for her to do. He wasn’t eating. Drugs were being administered by a syringe driver. Mum was hoovering. Ivy barked at the Hoover. I was getting angry with my computer, unable to complete the assignment that I was working on. Instead I’d gone outside to try to pump up the tyres on his bike. Puncture.

As I walked into the kitchen, Mum simply said ‘I think he’s gone.’ And so he had. Where his chest had been rising and falling intermittently, now there was no movement. His face was turned towards the window, his skin pale and soft like candle wax. The pallor of the dead.

I couldn’t get it. Dad. Dead. Dad still there in front of me, but not.

We were grateful in the end that there was no one else here. Grace the carer had left the day before. The sibs arrived and we had a day of waiting: for the doctor to register his death, and the undertakers who came after tea. The sun continued to shine and Dad stayed where he was. ‘Why shouldn’t he?’ I thought.

None of us wanted to see him leave and the undertaker told us to wait elsewhere while they got him ready. We waited outside at the other end of the house. Eventually the man from the undertakers came round to see us and a couple of minutes later we heard him leave for the last time.

My brother had already gone and my sister left soon after. When I walked back in to the room there was a perfect hollow in the middle of the pillow. The last impression of him. I stared at it blankly and then smoothed it out.

Today it is baking hot at his house. The deckchairs are out. Butterflies flit about the garden. The bees buzz noisily around the cat mint that he and mum allowed to grow freely out of the cracks in the patio. It’s as if nothing has changed. Jack the window cleaner arrived and wandered around the house chatting to his girlfriend on his phone as he squirted and squeaked the brush up and down the glass.

Mum is making the smoked salmon sandwiches to go with the champagne this afternoon. She said it feels like he’s just out at the office. ‘We need to be ready for 2.30.’ She had thought to say to him.

I keep on seeing him. In the bar under the stairs every evening, noisily fixing a drink and shouting to my Mum: ‘You OK RosiePosy?!’

At the sink in the backhouse where he was always messing around with something or in the greenhouse pottering about sowing, cutting, planting. None of us really knew what he did out there. Not specifically. It was his private space. He left no intstructions.

In fact he made no plans for anything after. He left it all to Mum. I guess it’s how he lived his life – at full tilt – and then when it’s done, it’s done.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on. And our little life is rounded with a sleep.’

Every day is like a dream. I’m here but not. I feel like I’m living in a memory of a Summer from my childhood.

Perhaps it might seem more real today. We lay him to rest at 2.30. It’ll be here in the church next to his beloved house and garden. It feels right. I know it’s strange but I quite like the fact that it’ll only be 6 of us – no kids – outside and the birds and the bees and the butterflies. The bell will be rung by the lay reader as he arrives. There will be readings, prayers and no singing. We will start with Psalm 121: ‘I will lift up mine eyes into the hills: from whence cometh my help.’

We will have to stand 2 metres apart due to Covid restrictions. Mum has sent the order of service to people who would normally be able to come but will follow from home and then they will raise a glass to him afterwards. And so will we.

 

80 years

I woke up with that dry feeling in the mouth, the sudden expectation of something momentous happening today. Like waking up on your own wedding day. But not.

Dad is 80. He made it but only just. Last night, like most nights, I couldn’t sleep. At 2.30 I heard Mum softly calling Grace at the bottom of the stairs. She sleeps in my sister’s old room below mine; I am at the top of the house next to the attic. The grandfather clock’s ticking is loud in the dead of night.

Having been peaceful for days, his breathing yesterday had become congested, rattly like the sound of heavy snoring.

Last night was different. The breathing was suddenly shallow like his windpipe was closing up. The breathing sounded strangled. Although there’s limited facial expressions anymore he strained his head and neck and winced. We wondered if he would make it to 80.

Again, I felt like a character in a painting. The soft light from the bedside lamp lit up the paleness of his face and the pillows. Our own faces looked on watchfully in the half light while the rest of the room recedes into darkness. There is a bearded face carved out of wood in the beam over the door. It’s a relic taken from the church next door many years ago. I’ve always imagined it’s Jesus. He looks on implacably.

Time slows.

There’s something touching about it. All of us in our pyjamas and dressing gowns, faces concentrated, expectant. Grace – big, Namibian and so calm. Mum: greying, so English and proper calming him like she did to me when I was a child. Me with a pair of shorts and T shirt thrown on. I notice they’re both black.

Mum strokes that shock of white hair which was always so neat soothing him with her voice: ‘It’s ok, Peeka. It’s OK.’ As he coughs and gurgles.

The magic of opium. Amazing how something can be so lethal but also so beneficial in desperate times. Morphine sulfate in a bottle. But he’s losing the ability to swallow. Grace manages to put a teaspoon into the side of his mouth and then holds his nose forcing him to take it down.

Within minutes he is calmer. His breathing softens. He becomes still. We start to move ourselves like we’re coming out of a trance. I go back to my bedroom but don’t sleep. I walk between the bed and the window to slow myself down.

Today we had to celebrate his birthday. It’s such a milestone. I’m not sure if he was aware of any of it.

There was a great busyness about the house. Cards were piling up on the hall table. A bottle of champagne was left in a bag on the gate. A big box of flowers is delivered. Mum is icing his cake with bright green letters:

‘PEEKA 80’

There is also a flurry of medical activity. Nurses are coming and going. Always kitted out with face masks and plastic aprons, the widely known about PPE that the media have been saying there is shortages of.

One woman arrives with a huge blue storage box full of medication. Another comes an hour later with the syringe driver. We or really mum has witnessed so many phases of his illness. This is the latest. He is now ‘nil by mouth’ so all his drugs must be given to him intravenously.

We’re losing him – we can all feel it but we want to celebrate this day, this achievement, his life.

The sibs arrive at 4 with their families. The 10. The 10 who appear in those family photos that were shot in August and now adorn our houses. It became 10 two years ago on April 29th with the arrival of little Benjamin. His birthday is the day before Dad’s. It was 9 of us and now 10 and soon to be 9 again.

I need to be proactive and get us back into double figures! One day old love. Don’t you worry.

Everyone congregates outside the conservatory at the end of the house in that cautious, spatially aware manner that we all have now.

My sister’s family go in the conservatory, my brother’s in the sitting room. ‘Just avoid Mum’ I hear myself saying. For her safety.

We stand around the bed 6 feet apart. The families watching on from the sitting room, the dining room door open. Dad is fast asleep. We sing happy birthday and mum blows out the candles. The smoke stings our eyes.

‘Out, out brief candle’. But it hasn’t been brief. What a life. Lived with such vivacity, energy, wit, grace, interest, eccentricity, fun and love.

My sister in law hasn’t seen him for weeks. She wants to say good goodbye. ‘I don’t know what to say’. Just say thank you I say. I don’t know if that’s good advice or not. But for me that’s what I feel like we’re here for today, to thank him.

I walked in earlier. It was silent. I felt like I was praying. Maybe I was. I thanked him for making me, for making me like him. I am like him. I thanked him for all the fun, the love. I simply wouldn’t be the person who I am without everything he’s done for me. In a way he made me. I have an idea of the power of being a good parent. It’s only implicit this idea but I feel like I’m being let in on a big and important secret.

I catch my brother saying goodbye to him too. I think I hear ‘I love you’.

Lockdown Memories

Meeting Hank, Is and Nina on Downs

Packing FSMs at Blue for delivery

Thursday at Blue looking after 3 kids in an otherwise empty school

Last night in Bristol w Nick. Everyone out exercising

Driving the next day to Westleigh. Evacuating to the countryside

Sunny days like Summer adding to the surrealist feel

Gardening w Tracey. Mornings in the sunshine reading atop the landing and running

Walks across the moors

The walk up through Heale and discovering the top of the village

It’s been 5 weeks today since lockdown started. How long ago it seems. How experience of ‘the new’ can stretch time.

For all the uncertainty and limitations and boredom and death and anxiety and any other word we associate with the crisis, I know I’ll look back on this as a strange and rather wonderful dream.

A dream is the best comparison I can think of. There has been a sense of the surreal to the last 5 weeks. A revised sense of what is normal. ‘The new normal’ as people keep referring to it. Oh, and how I do like novelty in my life. I’m already looking ahead to the sepia tones or the Polaroid haziness of the memories that will exist – when? A year from now? More?

Of course I wouldn’t be in this state of mind if I was holed up in Hackney or Hulme or any other cityscape. The situation appeals to my longing for the pastoral. A sense I always try to indulge every May half term when I am moved to walk and wallow amidst the newness of nature.

I have felt this for years now – since I was really young. It’s entirely visceral. When I’m out in sunshine, alone, wind in my face and a view of the unbelievably green world – newly reborn – it’s like opium rushing through me. It makes me dream.

To be forced into this situation is pure luck.

The weirdness and wonder has been amplified by an extraordinary period of good weather: weeks of sunshine, temperatures well into the twenties. Little traffic, few planes. A heightened sense of a return to nature. Reminiscent of disaster movies where the protagonists run away to the countryside and everything is normal, natural even but where are the people? Or books like William Morris’s ‘News from Nowhere’ where the writer imagines a utopian agrarian society where there are no cities and people have a renewed sense of joy inspired by their relationship with nature.

I need to chart this time somehow. Feel like I have a record of it.

Lockdown started on March 24th but we started to feel restrictions the week before. On March 17th Boris had started to discourage mass meetings like in pubs and clubs but didn’t ban it until a few days later. Schools were still partially open. We had year 10 in on Wednesday 18th but already lots of kids and staff were staying at home.

By Thursday March 19th – in fact earlier that week – many of the students at Bristol Uni seemed to have gone home. On Friday I had been planning to go home to Suffolk as part of my fortnightly visit to Mum and Dad. I hadn’t thought it through properly. Both my brother and brother-in-law discouraged me.

Thursday 19th was the first time I clapped the carers and could see a few others on Pembroke Road doing the same while typically out on Buckingham Vale I couldn’t see anyone.

Woke up on Friday 20th and told Mum I couldn’t risk it. Went to my local pharmacy where already people were social distancing and the pharmacist was wearing a mask.

The week before the sun had been shining and everyone had been jammed into The Penny pub on Whiteladies watching Cheltenham Festival. Should it have been called off?

That afternoon I cycled up to the Downs and met Hank, Is and Nina all on bikes and kept 2 metres apart and discussed the newness of everything.

March 21st was a Saturday and I went down to Westleigh. I can’t remember anything about that day. I know I had been rinsing it the night before.

I had for the first time the feeling of escaping to a rural retreat. Running away. Evacuating. There was already negative news of others running away from big cities to second homes in Devon and Cornwall. At least I planned to stay.

This was the start of the extended period of sunny weather which lasted virtually uninterrupted for a month.

On Sunday March 22nd I drove up to Burrow Hill. Soft light. Empty space. I watched the sun move slowly down the sky into the West.

That week I’d decided to stay in Somerset realising quickly that the countryside would be a much better option. Imagining

Suffolk April 17th

The days seem to melt into each other. I can’t remember the date. We are in the 4th week of lockdown. Three and a half weeks. Yesterday Dominic Raab (Boris Johnson is recovering from Covid) announced it will last another three weeks with the same rules: we can only leave our houses for one essential piece of shopping, once a day to exercise. We haven’t reached the peak yet – the time when the most amount of recorded deaths has been reached.

It’s a strange time. The situation makes many of us anxious. We all have become spacially aware. We have to stay 2 metres apart. Another person is a potential threat.

It is also liberating this period of stasis. Travel has become impossible so our worlds have become smaller – we have become used to our ‘near worlds’. It is like a return to the past, when life was slower, simpler and more silent: very little traffic. Fewer cars, fewer planes overhead. These sounds have receded and birdsong is the primary sound, amplified by the start of Spring.

And here I am. Back with my devoted mother and dying father. Waiting. Waiting.

On Easter Day he started to vomit and was coughing uncontrollably. His feet and hands were cold. His breathing became intermittent. One breath, 2nd breath. Then nothing. Beat. Then the breathing starts again.

Grace – our live in carer – said he seems much weaker now. The signs seemed to show that he was about to ‘reach his terminus’ as Clive James once said.

He died earlier this year.

Mum called me home. A strange day. Driving fast along the A303, M3, M25, A12. No one about. Something dystopian about it. Like a film where there has been some sort of disaster. Always the feeling that humans and the world they have created are somehow in retreat and the force of nature is returning.

It was like a Summer’s day. Hot. As I got closer to home huge black clouds appeared. Storm clouds which would give their rain in a sudden burst. Windscreen wipers frantically flipping from one side to the other.

When I got here it was raining slowly and warmly. Moody weather. As my sister said – you couldn’t make it up.

Dad looked so pallid. His skin grey like putty. He was wearing a T shirt of my brother’s noise rock band. He used to wear it when he was gardening. And propped up and surrounded by pillows – the same pillows we had when we were children, each one with our name on.

The one nearest to me was faded green. It has greenery, a woodland scene and an owl and the name James in the middle of it. I remember it. I breathe hard and walk out of the room into his study across the hall. This is where I let it out. On my own.

Then a feeling of relief, elation almost. Then my brother and sister sit or stand in the room keeping 2 metres apart from each other yet wanting to be close to him. All of us in silence, our eyes shining, watching him with our own thoughts, memories and prayers.

That was Sunday. Today is Friday. And again he’s pulled himself back from the cliff edge. Does he feel he’s getting closer and decides to resist it, to fight it. Who knows? There is no communication anymore. It’s amazing but it’s tiring, especially for mum. She’s admitted she wants to move on. For his sake and for our’s.

Every day feels like a weekend. Wake up and think what will I do today? The slowing of time. The sound of the bees. The sound of the wind in the lime trees. The slants of sunlight coming through the window creating big blocks of pale gold on the floor.

Waiting.

Somerset April 8th

11.45 PM

Silence. Stillness. Back on my ledge at the top of the stairs on the landing with the window open watching the ancient, repetitive journey of our satellite in the South West sky. An incredibly powerful fragrance of viburnum flower wafts in with the gentlest of breezes. A promise of Spring.

It was like Summer today. Twenty degrees or more and suddenly everywhere life is appearing en masse. It makes the lockdown more manageable.

Wrote an article today about walking from home and discovering the world on our doorsteps. It’s ok.

Been watching Alex Tolstoy on TV, first in a programme called ‘Horse People’ and second in a tragic documentary about her recent life and her acrimonious separation from her billionaire Russian ex husband.

We were at school together. Was she in the year above? I think so. I remember then she was already a bit of a star – people were talking about her – I guess her name preceded her and that amazing blonde hair and complexion. In fact she has probably become more attractive with age.

Also been reading diaries of mine from 5 years ago from my break up with V then the aftermath in Somerset followed by the move to Bristol. Many mentions of how directionless I felt, how low. How different I feel now. Lots of self aware comments about time and how worried I was about age.

Here I am, older but feeling younger and realising it’s just a state of mind.

Midnight

Goodbye great day. April 8th. I wrote. I listened to the first day of the epic 3rd test against Australia from last Summer. They’re rerunning the whole game on TMS. It was the first day of the county cricket season today. I ran. I walked several miles from Midelney to Thorney and then across West Moor to Hambridge and then back along the Westport Canal to Midelney.

I called mum from Midelney. She was low. It’s going on so long. This waiting for Dad to pass and his gradual decline. So slow. So slow. He hasn’t said anything for a month. He sleeps a lot. And meanwhile we can’t go to see her.

Someday soon it’ll be a strange memory and life will just carry on as normal. We have the ability to forget so easily.

Both of us hadn’t even registered it was going to be Easter this weekend. For most people it won’t seem like the Easter break. Who knows what I’ll do or if it’ll be much different from any other of the last 2 weeks I’ve been here. Maybe I’ll see Sam.

This time last year I was in Romania and flew back just in time to celebrate Mum and Dad’s Golden Wedding on April 12th. How much has changed.

The moon is a little higher and silence reigns supreme over the village. The breeze and scent are still constant and fill me with hope. Spring is here at last.

Somerset April 8th

12.15am April 8th

Watching the ‘pink moon’ – the April full moon through the landing window above the old roof of my neighbours house.

Mostly obscured by clouds but frequently the unmistakable sphere is present behind what looks like slow moving black smoke.

It is absolutely silent. Probably would be anyway but silence amplified by lockdown. It is eerie. I strain my ears to hear something but there is nothing. The moon whose sorrowful face has witnessed many a human tragedy like the one we live through now. Nature carries on regardless.

I can hear a solitary and distant sheep calling to its lamb, the first a constant low sound, the second a higher more urgent cry. The needy cry of an infant for its mother.

Now the moonlight is backlighting the clouds like the sun does during the day allowing me to imagine a separate world in the heavens. It’s like a film set. And now the grey has covered all.

Somerset April 6th

Another week has passed and being in the cottage is now normal. Today there have been 51,608 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK. Out of those 5373 have died. Cuzzie replied to an email I sent earlier saying a friend of her’s in London died from it over the weekend. He was only in his fifties.

In New York they have had just over 123000 cases and 4159 deaths. The total death toll in America is under 10000. NYC is experiencing a major crisis with one council man tweeting a few hours ago that the morgues, including makeshift morgues made from frozen lorry trailers are now at full capacity, which means they might have to start burying the dead in the parks. It’s medieval.

Here Boris Johnson has had it over a week and, after self-isolating for a week, has now been admitted to hospital. Every day throws up new crazy and unbelievable stories. Everyday I’m reminded of something from a sci-fi movie.

My work rate has gone down, there’s no doubt. Tomorrow I must get back to writing. I am exactly halfway through my online course (what a happy accident it was that I decided to do that). 6 assignments done. 6 to go. And it’s been going well.

The Tablet Education Supplement have reduced what they are publishing so the Roger article is on the back burner. I had an idea for ‘walking from home’ during the pandemic and the positives of this. I must continue that tomorrow.

It has been a slow start to the week because, against all the national advice, I broke curfew on Friday evening and drove to Exeter to see Lamprini. It was another surreal experience. A beautiful Spring evening. Trees, shrubs and flowers bursting into life. Birds piping, warbling, cooing. Butterflies and bees flitting and buzzing.

And on the roads, nothing.

I had a reminder of stories of liaisons during the blitz. Had it come from ‘The End of the Affair’, Graham Greene’s wartime novel about obsession and jealousy? Who knows.

Whichever way you look at it it was a transgression. On all news outlets the message is patently clear ‘Stay at home’. Anyone caught engaging in non-essential travel can be stopped and fined.

Joining the M5 near Taunton, the three lanes curved away to the horizon while the odd lorry would come past me in the opposite direction. How many times had I been on this road packed with traffic: caravans, motorhomes, groups of motorcyclists, etc. This is the route to the West – the holidaymakers’ trail. Everyone is at home. But not me.

Police cars were waiting on the roadside and on road bridges. I have my lanyard and school teacher ID hanging from the rear view mirror. I am alone. And there are other motorists. Also alone. I wonder if this is what the traffic police have been told to look out for. I think it is illegal for groups of 2 or more to be driving anywhere.

I wasn’t stopped. I didn’t see any more police in Exeter. Not the whole weekend. And only one police car on the way back today. Lucky.

And how lovely to be allowed a break from home. And company. Lamprini is a rare creature: little, intelligent, introverted, sensitive, sensual, determined and brave. She has moments of intensity when she is lost in thought and then from nowhere she laughs with great gusto, a real explosion of joy while her dark eyes twinkle.

Like I said before, how lucky to have found her before the wave of virus rolled over us and changed everything. We can hide from the world while we self isolate.

Tomorrow I must return to my routine. Run and read and write in the morning. Walk and write some more in the afternoon. There is a temptation to mix and get wasted in the evenings but that’ll have to wait.

Somerset March 30th 2020

It’s Buddy’s birthday today. He’s 38. It’s day 6 of lockdown. The message is clear from the government: ‘Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.’ I’m holed up at the cottage. With movement limited, I thought it best to get here and stay here. There’s less chance of me contracting the virus (I was worrying less about me being ill and more about giving it to mum) and there’s more to do here: walks, creating mixes and writing.

The latest advice has warned that we can expect to observe social distancing for anything from 3 to 6 months. This is going to be hard. For all of us. For those living with others. For those of us living on our own. We will develop new ways of thinking. People will fall out. People will get lonely. There will be more domestic abuse. Yet hopefully it will stop the spread.

Last week I felt a sense of de-mob happiness. I was off school and the weather suddenly got lovely. I got into a routine of running in the morning and then reading ‘Underland’ by Robert Macfarlane on the landing at the top of the stairs which gets the morning sunlight.

I started to plan a new walk. I’m still doing the South West Coast Path (started 3 years ago). I then started the Suffolk Coast Path when Dad got ill and I couldn’t make it to Cornwall. Now I can’t make it to Suffolk I was going to follow the Liberty Trail and Wessex Ridgeway from Crewkerne to the coast at Bridport or Lyme Regis. Last week the police put a stop to that by stopping people who were driving to go for a walk. In Derbyshire, the local police posted footage of walkers in the Peak District in an attempt to ‘name and shame’. On the World at One today Jonathan Sumption was criticising this act as similar to the actions of a police state.

Now I can’t drive half an hour I’m going to walk from the cottage South along the River Parrett Trail and see how far I get. Looks like there’s going to be plenty of time. I still feel the walking thing is very low risk and as long as I am sensible it should be fine (the only risk I can see is touching stiles and gates and transmitting Covid-19 that way). Whenever I have been walking I have been deliberately practising what is being referred to as ‘social distancing’ anyway. That is the point.

There are other moments where I am tempted to push the restrictions. Lamprini lives in Exeter and we’re both in isolation. I could do with her company, both physically and mentally. The plan is to go and stay with her on Thursday. Let’s hope I make it! I feel it would be cheeky to pull the critical worker letter out as an excuse but who knows how desperate I might get.

I was just listening to Professor Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist again on WatO, explaining the importance of touch in primates. Apparently the way parents play with their children’s hair is just the same as how other primates do the same thing. A gentle stroking releases endorphins and allows bonds to build between two partners.

When asked about how a lack of touch would affect humans he said there would be a certain lack of connection. We rely on touch much more than we admit. However, he said eye contact and making each other laugh were sure fire ways of maintaining good relationships with our loved ones. So I can look, I can laugh and hopefully I might be able to cuddle. Love in the time of Corona.

This brings me to Dad. I am apparently allowed to travel to see him if he is about to die. The worry then is passing on the virus to Mum. The guidelines on funerals are another reminder of the seriousness of what we’re living through. No more than 12 people and still observing the 2 metre distancing from each other. Tears but no hugs. It’ll be tough. When I spoke to Mum last night she told me yesterday that they had changed the guidance so that the service could only be held at the graveside.