Covid Diaries March

Clifton March 18th

Feeling very weird this week: jumpy, twitchy, unable to find joy in the world. Doesn’t normally last for a whole week but this time it has.

Been Covid testing the kids for 2 days and did 3 days last week. 7 bays created by portable ‘no nonsense’ screens. Inside each bay a table with a bottle of hand sanitizer and detergent spray and a huge roll of tissue. Behind each bay are the testing stations with lots of timers and vials which contain the samples. It takes 25-30 mins to test each sample.

They arrive in their year groups, most of them apprehensive, some really anxious but showing it in different ways. They try and rush it or some just laugh when they’re trying to open their mouths or as they put the swab in. Two girls from year 11 have Tourette’s. One bobs her head and repeats ‘wow!’ in a high pitched voice over and over again. The other does a strange crouching motion. Again repeated – I guess – as a result of heightened anxiety.

My job was to reassure and allay fears repeating the same thing over and over again ‘Hi, are you OK? If you could blow your nose for me. That’s it. And now sanitise your hands and once you’ve done that take your barcode to miss and grab a swab and then come back here. Ok you know what to do? 3 times on each tonsil, then gently up one nostril until you meet some resistance and then turn it 4 times. Well done..etc’ I don’t know if it helps much especially as I look like an alien…

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Covid Diaries Feb 2021

Clifton, February 20th

Back home after 2 nights at the cottage. Mixed tunes and got wrecked last night. Yesterday went to Luppitt, a really remote little village in The Blackdown Hills to try to track down Mary Wright who famously was running The Luppitt Inn when she was 98 (the last article about it was in 2019). It was a stormy, wet day and the pub sign was swinging and creaking as I pulled into the farmyard which is next to the pub. The pub is really a house with a room for drinking. This is how all pubs were once. I tried coming here before on just the same sort of day probably about a year ago and the whole place was equally quiet then.

After knocking on the pub’s door and the cottage behind’s door I tried a neighbour. He could tell me that Mrs Wright had died before Christmas. 10 minutes later a middle aged woman was walking down the hill with her dog and a wreath.

‘Excuse me, I don’t suppose you’re related to Mrs Wright?’ Once again – like with many of my journalistic efforts recently – I was in luck.

‘I’m her granddaughter.’ He name is Caroline Smith. She’ll attempt to keep the pub going once they’re allowed to reopen.

‘We just need to tart it up a bit first.’

I want to interview her about the story of the pub and surviving Covid.

Pubs seem to be the theme at the moment. Yesterday The Bristol Cable published my article about Dawkins Ales, a Bristol brewery which owns some of the most characterful pubs in Bristol: The Miner’s Arms, The Hillgrove, The Green Man, The Victoria, The Portcullis. They have lost 90% of their revenue and yesterday launched a crowdfunding campaign to try to save the business.

I met Hank at The Green Man in the Summer and he told me about Dawkins Ales owning the pubs. But I took it upon myself to contact them guessing that they might be struggling. I got nowhere when I first tried to contact them but this time the timing was perfect: It was a week ago and they were planning their crowdfunding campaign to be launched a week later. It goes to show that hopefully I can be quite perceptive about finding newsworthy stories. I love it.

Earlier I walked up to the bridge and thought about how I’ve done that walk several times feeling unhappy and realised how this time I will look back on as a happy time like those holidays which we look back on with soft focus nostalgia. This is where I’m at. In a way I don’t want the lockdowns and pandemic craziness to end. I’ve been living in a bubble – literally and figuratively. I love living with Jade. I’ve never lived with anyone that it’s been so easy to live with. And we have a great laugh and Charlie is lovely too.

On my walk I bumped into Colin who I met on Canynge Square last week when I was enquiring about the great big hole that appeared in the middle of the square. Later on I also bumped into Pete – my old tennis coach – and we’re going to go for a walk so that I can be a ‘client’ for him as he’s retraining as a psychotherapist. Again I thought about how much better things are: I feel like I’m part of the community.

Had a second date with Carolina last Sunday and we walked from Failand to Portbury. Halfway there I kissed her. It felt good kissing in the wind (not pissing in the wind!). Then she came back for dinner with Jade and Charlie and stayed for hours. She is a psychologist who counsels family members of murder victims. She is a good listener and a good advisor about my insomnia (she has had the same). Maybe she will become a girlfriend who can help me with this oldest and most complicated of problems. We shall see.

Let this ride keep going. I don’t want to get off. Keep it going. Keep it going. Keep it going.

Covid Diaries Feb

Clifton, Feb 8th

Icy winds and freezing temperatures today. They’ve had half a foot of snow in Suffolk. Nothing here, unfortunately.

Last day of online teaching for a while. Friday would be my next teaching day but we’ll have inset and then it’s half term.

It’ll be a strange half term this year. I’ve been pretty good so far but think I’ll do a night at the cottage. Go rinse some tunes and catch up with Sam. I think I’ll also do a trip to The Cotswolds Way to continue my walking, which I had to put on hold before Christmas.

Had Jade’s birthday on Saturday night. Had a good bonding with her and Charlie and we agreed how lucky we were to get on at such a difficult time. I wish we could live together for longer but I think Charlie and her want to move in with each other and take it to the next level which is fair enough. Didn’t feel too rubbish today amazingly.

Went for a walk on Saturday with Carolina from Colombia. We walked around the Downs, into the valley with the goats (although no goats) and then back throigh Clifton, past the zoo and onto the Downs to her car. 2 and a half hours. Pretty good going for a first proper date. There was something about it. The sun was out and was just noticeably stronger. People were everywhere: walking, shopping, cycling, queueing for pastries outside pop up bakeries and not much else. Remember how limited we are? It felt like we hadn’t had a proper sunny day for weeks. It has been that long.

I wasn’t sure to start with but by the time we got to her car there was an urge to reach out to her. I kissed her on both cheeks and reached my hand out. She half reached out too but I had already let my arm drop and so I had to say goodbye and walk away. Yet there I had a real skip as I walked down Whiteladies.

Now I’m confused. Walked in The Cotswolds with Joanna. It was cold and she started to say how bad her circulation was. I rubbed her middle finger to get the blood flowing again as we paused in a muddy little gully and as I did so her finger nail gashed my hand and I had to wrap a handkerchief round my thumb to stop the bleeding.

When we got back to our cars we leaned over a wall side by side and laughed about being fans of the National Trust. It was a moment where our faces were close and I could have reached across to her but I didn’t really want to. Instead I felt bad and invited her back from tea. Oh well. I think deep down I don’t really want to have a relationship at the moment. I know I don’t.

Covid Diaries Jan

Clifton, January 30th

In bed. It’s 7.45 in the morning. It’s a Saturday. These are dream days. It’s silent apart from the low hum of the wind and the rain nonchalantly clicking against the panes. Everyone is indoors. Hidden.

We’ll remember this as a dream time. A surreal time when our movements are limited and we prowled around our own patch like animals in a zoo.

Lying in the dark I feel the warmth of an old feeling of the luxury of bed. Softness. Stillness. And dreams. Real dreams. A child in our family. A girl. Only 2 or 3. Smiling and us recognising her as one of us. Who was she? My brother’s? He and his wife are expecting one. Or mine?

After waking I am still in the dark imagining. So precious to ENJOY being in bed.

The moon appearing slowly, ghostlike from behind a cloud. Then an eye. Clear and open and bright.

Things are starting to stir. Seagulls with their high pitched, urgent squawking somewhere near. For the first time this year. They’ll soon be my neighbours. In April or May a pair will come and nest with one egg nestled between the chimney pots outside the window to the bathroom. We look at each other when I’m having a shower. Last year they arrived early.

A pigeon is cooing and a magpie us in the garden. One car rolls slowly past at the end of the road and a siren wails sadly somewhere on the distance.

Sure, it’ll be busier down in the city proper but still a holding of breath.

I’ve said this before. There’s drama in the silence: the awareness of people’s once presence heightened by their absence.

Like Dad. When I’m at home the silence at night is amplified by his absence. More powerful than any great noise anyone could make.

All Saints Church is ringing 8 times. And now it’s quiet again. The wind is a silent roar and the rain still tocks on the window pane. I will walk later but now I must sleep.

Covid Diaries Jan

Clifton Jan 27th

Yes, I was full of life in my little bubble last week, still enjoying the strangeness and newness of the situation.

We’re halfway through this week, yet I don’t feel like I’ve achieved much but as always I am grossly unfair on myself. If only I could be kinder.

I always teach on a Monday and that seemed to go well enough. Strange how quick we are to adapt. Teaching whole classes of children from my bedroom. One of these days it’ll seem nothing more than a dream.

Today Boris Johnson announced in PMQs that the present lockdown would have to last at least until February 22nd which is when the next review will be. He also said that schools wouldn’t go back at least until March 8th and promised he would give a 2 week notice period before schools would reopen.

The UK death toll has now passed 100,000. In March last year Patrick Vallance from SAGE said that without acting to prevent the spread of the disease we might expect to have up to 20,000 deaths.

There have been lots of things started this week but not completed but I keep telling myself it really doesn’t matter. Trying to invest some money to help me make enough so that I can afford the flat I want at the end of the year, but not quite sure how to get started. Maybe tomorrow.

Started an action plan for how I want to progress with my journalism yesterday but a lot of it meant looking back over the course much of which I couldn’t remember. Oh, my memory!

Today started my tax return 2019-20 which is always a boring but necessary January task. Do I include my earnings from private tuition? I should and it’ll allow me to borrow more when it comes to buying a flat. And then do I sell the flat in London? If I do my earnings will be pretty meagre. I know, first world problems.

To add to the sense of inertia the weather is completely unchanging. Grey English rain. Every day. Writing must be the only way out of this grey straitjacket.

Went to see Nick the neighbour today. We have such a funny relationship. I like him a lot. He is a true English eccentric but sometimes not a great landlord because of his unwillingness to put his hand in his pocket. I thought today I would go down and see him and have a proper chat and say nothing of recycling boxes, or replacing heaters or other MORE boring things that consume our waking hours.

Instead we drank tea and talked politics. He always veering to the right and me to the left. Him talking about how the NHS is unsustainable and the biggest employer in the UK, apparently employing 1.4 m people. Him how having part time GPs has made matters worse. Him also saying that we should allow old people to die. Me saying that no leader could agree to that and what if it was someone close to him?

He also shared his secret for winning the heart of a girl. Cooking. I agreed. Although he said his guaranteed formula was to cook a shepherd’s pie but when he came to score a fork through the mashed potato on top so that it will crisp under the grill he would write his dinner date’s name in the mash. Apparently the first person he did this for swooned and was completely bowled over. He then went on to do it TWICE more, apparently with similar results, before he started to feel a bit guilty and realised it was probably decent to stop!

After that I interviewed Imilia’s bro, Catraz, who is a talented rapper who is trying to restart his career. It went OK but it’ll take another interview to be able to write something interesting. Haven’t done an interview with a musician before and don’t know if it’s as interesting as other stuff I could write about but I’m really all about trying everything at the moment although it’s not like I’ve done much so far this year.

Imilia also knows Miles Chambers, Bristol’s first poet laureate (as declared by Bristol mayor, Marvin Rees). He would make another good interview. Maybe a new idea ‘Lockdown interviews’. It’s a good idea.

Went on a date with Joanna on Saturday. In fact that was a nice day. We walked twice around her local park in Redfield and then I asked her if she wanted to go for a drink. A takeaway drink?

‘I don’t know anywhere’, she replied. We walked back to my car and we said our goodbyes. I’ll see her again this Sunday for another walk. It feels OK. Not life-changing. Not incredible. But good. We get on. And that counts for a lot right now.

Covid Diaries January

Jan 20th, Clifton.

Trump has gone. What a relief. A tumultuous 4 years come to an end and he’s still behaving in the most ungracious, uncivilised manner to the bitter end, today refusing to attend Joe Biden’s inauguration (the first since Nixon), having his own ‘departure’ ceremony in Maryland and demanding to take Air Force One to Mar-a-Lago, his private resort in Florida. And none of this is a patch on his refusal to accept the democratic decision of the American people to vote him out and, worse, him inciting the mob to attack Congress on January 6th. He is the first president ever to be impeached twice and surely will go down in history as one of or if not the absolute worst.

His farewell speech was typical Trump: self-congratulatory, arrogant and factually incorrect or skewed. He promised (or threatened) that we would be back ‘in some form’ but I really can’t see that happening. Even with 75 million votes in the last election, the Republican Party have finally started to distance themselves from him and surely the people of America must want some stability now, not the divisive, hate-filled politics that he represents.

Biden got sworn in at about 5pm GMT and his tone and style and words were such a blessed relief after the bullshit rhetoric of the last 4 years. As my sister put it the other day ‘at last it feels like there’s an adult back in the room.’

Biden took a conciliatory tone, clearly seeking to unite a totally divided nation. ‘Unity’ and ‘democracy’ were key words emphasised as ex-presidents, dignatories, etc behind him in masks nodded. There were some great moments and it suddenly reinforced how much we’ve missed good, sensible rhetoric.

‘We must end this uncivil war’.

On the elections ‘That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably.’

What a job he now has before him and let’s hope nothing horrendous happens in the next week as was predicted by a senior member on the World at One, who warned of a very real threat of homegrown terrorism.

More rain. More nothingness but I seem to love it. The strangeness of it. I seem to be in a little bubble, my mind intoxicated by the strangeness like being stoned in a new place or walking out in snow, I have a real genuine sense of joy in my daily life and surroundings. Definitely helped by Jade too. I think she’ll leave in March but I hope later. She said The Summer, at which point I must look for a one bed flat. In the meantime, carpe diem…

Covid Diaries January

January 19th 2021

Found it difficult getting up this morning. Sore back and sweated a lot in the night. Pills? Possibly. Took a fair few over the weekend and drank a lot. No sleeping pills last night but probably still feeling residual effects from the weekend. Let’s see how I get on tonight.

Once I’m showered I always feel better. In fact I think I’ve always been like this. Never any good in the morning – much preferring the night. Even then I don’t feel happy until something has been accomplished.

First renew the tenancy agreement with Agnes – my tenant – who wants to stay another 6 months at the flat in Acton. This is good news – can’t afford to have someone baling out now. I expect she feels the same. This isn’t satisfactory enough to make me feel like the day is started.

My friend, Imilia’s brother Alex wrote to me yesterday because I said I’d help him with promotion for his music. He is talented. He creates good and funny hip hop with an old skool flavour. Happy to help him because I like it so wrote him a long email with advice on how to write his website and how to use his social media presence. What do I know? I hate social media. I do know, though. I hope he makes it (whatever that means) or gets what he wants from it. The rest of the time he’s a Sainsbury’s delivery driver. It helps me because it’s another idea for an article – an interview which the local news outlets might take. Let’s see.

Then I started the penultimate assessment in my freelance journalism course. It’s embarrassing how long it’s taken now. I’ve just left it. Must get on and finish it. In fact had a really good idea for a radio broadcast – something which makes a positive from the rule where we can meet one person for a walk in our ‘local’ area. It’s like a spin-off of Ramblings, the R4 programme, where Clare Balding walks with a known person and they talk. This would be a meet-up with interesting people from my local area (Clifton) then an interview about their story, association with the area and also taking a point of interest in that one of us would not know about already. Having written the treatment for this I started to feel like my day was getting started. Why do I feel like I have to achieve something to feel happy every day? I suppose it’s not a bad thing.

Lunch.

Met Imilia at 2 and this would be a good test – a live pilot for the first show. We met at Canynge Square, a beautiful Georgian Square hidden in the back streets of Clifton. She’s just moved there. It’s a long thing triangle, more than a square. At one end a huge sinkhole suddenly appeared on Decemeber 26th and a big oak tree has dropped a good 20 to 30 feet into what looks like a medieval cellar underground. Apparently, the cellar was known about and wasn’t connected to any of the houses around the square although they do have their own more recent cellars.

Anyway, I broached the idea and she said she’d be up for doing it. A talk about Canynge Square and the sinkhole? Sounds good. Probably need a bit more info from a local about the history of Canynge Square.

Finally, had a nice date last night. In my bedroom (of course). That sounds mad doesn’t it? Both of us got dressed up and then I video called her and we chatted over our phones. Weird bit becoming quite normal now. As I said to her afterwards ‘How are we supposed to hold our phones?’

We were on the line for an hour and she seems cool. Her name is Joanna and she is a teacher. She lives in Redfield. Next time we’ll try a real meet-up! A walk of course! Hopefully on the weekend….

Covid Diaries January

Jan 14th Clifton

Been raining for the last 3 days and now just starting to clear. Subtle alternations in the light keep taking my surprise. I feel a bit like I’m hallucinating. I didn’t sleep much last night. The old enemy within. I have allowed myself to slip into a near constant routine of taking sleeping pills to get to sleep. I seem to have tried everything and this is the only thing that really works. It’s so much easier.

Yet I now realise I’ve reached a point where I seem to take one thing or another pretty much every night. Never the same thing all the time. I don’t know why that should make a difference. Perhaps I think I’m less likely to become addicted if I do it this way..Red and white capsules. Blue pills. White pills (two of those). White oval pills. The notorious ‘bars’ that street dealers now sell (Xanax). I don’t know why I’m not more worried about it. Perhaps because that the experience of not sleeping just seems so much worse than any other negative impact that I might be (invisibly) experiencing and because it has gone on for so long.

The first time I remember it happening in the way that I experienced it last night was over 20 years ago when I had to do a VTR Operating Course that I didn’t really understand. Thinking back on it, it seems like the last job in the world that I would enjoy or be any good at. I still managed to do it for a few years before chucking it in to go travelling in 2001.

At that stage it only reared its ugly head when I had quite significant levels of anxiety about doing something the following day – an exam, job interview, etc – but then of course I decide to do training in a job that would push this level of anxiety up the scale but also ensure that this anxiety was always there as I struggled to plan, deliver and evaluate lessons while also keeping track of all the paperwork you need to do when training to be a teacher and the multiple other roles and skills that I was trying to get good at. The result was a kind of system overload, a constant flooding of adrenaline through the system. I think this came from a long routed fear of forgetting something important like I used to get accused of a lot at school. I have always been slow and I don’t have a great memory (an even worse memory now) so I was asking for it I suppose.

I don’t want this to be a sob story. It’s supposed to be self healing! The irony is I’m a great teacher – I have the empathy, tone, knowhow, creativity, rapport, character, etc to do a great job and I do, but it made me ill and somehow I have got myself into a pattern of behaviour that I can’t seem to get out of.

Anyway, I must be more determined and find another way. I have made breakthroughs. I established long ago that cigarettes are an absolute nightmare for creating that jangling feeling especially a couple of days after that and too much alocohol. I gave up a couple of months ago now and got a vape instead but still smoke a couple of joints on the weekend. Clearly some habits are dying but there are some that still need to be addressed. Alcohol. Cannabis. Pills.

Wow, that was my introduction to saying that last night was my first night without a sleeping aid in a while, I think. I went to sleep at 11. Read a bit of PLF by Artemis Cooper at about 1ish. Got up about 45 mins after that to have tea and toast and watch a bit of telly. Then back to bed..2,3,4…5 and finally nodded off at about 5.30….only to wake up again half an hour later. I can just about put up with the staying up all night and starting to feel irritable but it’s really demoralising that my brain or body or both won’t allow me to stay asleep once I’ve finally got there.

It all seems much worse at the time. Tonight I know I will take a blue one because I’m teaching tomorrow but I must try and do without if I’m not….

Covid Diaries Pt 1

Jan 9th

At the cottage in Curry Rivel. Lived here throughout my first years as a school teacher. Lived here alone for most of it. How long was it? 2008 until I met V in when? 2012?

Sitting beside the woodburner. There is still frost on the little leaves in the bed outside the window but snowdrops are out next to them, their pure white cones swaying gently in the wind.

Arrived here illegally – I think – last night. Sadiq Khan has called the situation in London a ‘major incident’ as hospitals are reaching capacity and the NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed.

We are in lockdown 03. The government hummed and hahed over Christmas and then they announced on Sunday that we would all be locked down again on Monday. They were still saying on Sunday that schools were ‘safe’ (Boris’s word). Secondaries were told they wouldn’t return until the 18th but they were still telling parents that primaries would go back on Monday and however million kids did go to school on Monday only for them to do another u-turn and tell them to stay at home on Tuesday.

It’s been a crazy week. For the first time in years I felt the old fear bubbling to the surface. The fizziness, the rapid heartbeat, the thinking too fast, the thinking too dark. The weather got cold and a fog descended on Bristol which never really lifted. On Thursday it just sat on us and never really left.

Jan 13th Clifton

Why the fear? It was fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of letting the side down. These things are embedded within me – I believe – from childhood. Or is that just an erroneous thought?

Anyway, whatever the case, it came back in abundance to bite me in the arse last week. It was the return to work but returning to a new type of working which up til now I had never done before. It probably didn’t help that I started the week high on a combo of opiates and sleeping pills which dissolved my self-esteem and made me a shell of my normal self. Why?? I had only seen a couple of tutorials on how to use Google Meet and so wasn’t feeling confident. What about enforcing mics and cameras off? What if I was trolled? What about the organisation? What about the order of the lesson? How do I complete the register? Etc..etc..

And then when I did have my first day last Friday it was…..fine. Of course. The kids were great. Responsive. Polite. Grateful. The only time there was a blunder was when I hadn’t allowed them to see the link so that they couldn’t sign in to the classroom. For 10 minutes I looked at myself on my laptop saying ‘Hello year 8. Are you there? Year 8??’ When I finally saw what I had done and turned on the camera icon the chat was lit up by a sudden deluge of ‘Hi Sir’, ‘Hi Sir’, ‘Hi Sir’,’Hi Sir’, ‘Hi Sir’, etc. Bless em for being patient. I’m learning by the day!

Just finished a tuition lesson with Theo. He’s only 11 and gets hyper and distracted quite easily especially I think at the moment because he has so much online learning to do. I think it’s stretching his retention span when it’s just him looking at a laptop every day. Think I probably need to be more creative with him next week rather than improve on his online teaching that he was doing yesterday.

Feeling a bit fizzy again now. Forcibly feel tremors in my face and neck and back like I’m shaking with cold. Shiver and shake. Shiver and shake.

Checked my blog about walking the Suffolk Coast Path and dealing with Dad’s death and wonder if I’ve finished it. I finished the walk on August 20th and up til now I’ve been editing it. As I heard someone say the other day about being successful at writing. ‘Just finish it.’ And then move on. A continuing thing for me is to try and stick at one thing. Between this sentence and the one 3 before I spent 10 minutes looking at my website, school emails, etc. If I get distracted and try to cover too much ground then I get less far with what I’m trying to do. It’s maintaining concentration and keeping at the same thing an not giving up that is a great lesson to learn.

Anyway, I think the wander blog might be done. And I think I should just leave it a while and then look at it. Do I add the entry for Shingle Street which I never wrote? It was in October last year. Amazing how Patrick Leigh Fermor (PLF) recounted all of his crazy adventure as an 18/19 year old when he was in his forties. My memory isn’t good enough but I do find that using photographs is a great way to remind me and can be used for helping with description and structuring the journey in a similar way, I guess, to how painters use them.

I want to see if the US Senate have decided to impeach Donald Trump fpr a second time today. It will be on C4 news in just over an hour. I’m cooking lamb chops for me and Jade tonight so must get them in beforehand so that I can concentrate.

Oh yes – that’s the third factor that contributed to my fear last Thursday. Trump had a rally in DC and encouraged his followers to ‘stop the steal’, still maintaining that he won the election when the courts have declared that Biden won it. He is accused of inciting violence last Thursday when a hardcore of Trump supporters broke into Congress resulting in the death of 5 people. Here are some of the quotes from that day:

Trump Jnr:

“The people who did nothing to stop the steal. This gathering should send a message to them: This isn’t their Republican party any more. This is Donald Trump’s.”

“If you’re gonna be the zero and not the hero, we’re coming for you and we’re going to have a good time doing it!”

Rudy Giuliani:

“If we’re wrong, we will be made fools of,” he said. “But if we’re right, a lot of them will go to jail. So let’s have trial by combat.”

Trump:

“We will not take it any more,” he said.

“You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong … I know everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building. To peacefully, patriotically make your voices heard.”

I note here that he actually does use the word ‘peacefully’ but the message is there and the blame for what happened afterwards. We’re all sick of the constant lies, the accusations, the lack of self responsibility, the conspiracy theories that are clearly and deliberately getting everyone razzed up into a fury which didn’t need to have happened. Why don’t they get it? Because social media allows for fake news. Those platforms now have more power and wealth than anyone has ever held before in business and surely therefore they now need to take editorial responsibility and culpability.

Enough of my pontificating and let’s get on with the lamb chops..

Suffolk January 1st

What a way to start the New Year.

Feeling the residual, dreamy effects of Pregabalin last night I take a spontaneous trip to Bawdsey.

The UK has been put back on high alert as the new strain of Covid has lead to a surge in cases: more than 50,000 new cases per day at the moment. Schools won’t be going back. Primary schools were going to but it looks like there’ll be another government u-turn about this to try and keep the spread of infections down. This variant of the virus is 3 times more virulent, apparently. I don’t mind it. It’s unusual, historic, interesting. It is also an opportunity for someone like me with no ties. I will volunteer next week to help with the mass testing of students at school. There is the opportunity for so much storytelling and for walking. What else?

I left the car at Bawdsey Quay and headed back along the road towards Alderton. A slight change in the light in the sky made me spin round trying to absorb the spirit of the near world, the present as much as is possible. Never quite able to get close enough. Like wanting to fly.

Turned off the road East towards the sea along yet another muddy track (I seem to have inhabited a world of muddy paths and tracks for the last few months). Approaching the sea I was totally caught off guard: an optical illusion, a confusion in the mind. Where did the sky meet the sea? I had been looking ahead used to seeing the sky and then realised I was looking at the sea and sky together. Just a 2 tone grey. Like a Rothko painting.

It was a beautiful trick. How I love the norm to be upset, unbalanced. The camera on my phone is better at picking it up. In reality it was far more indistinct and greyer.

Into the grey

Of course I have done this walk before when I was at home looking after Dad and walking the coast path. This little line of Suffolk coastline is particularly bonkers. It borders Bawdsey Manor, once a stately home and then taken over by the RAF during WW2 and where radar was invented and used to track down enemy ships, planes, etc. It was also used during the Cold War and had Bloodhound missiles in case of attack from the East. Always and forever – so it seems – the threat of invasion.

The path ends at a sand cliff and like at countless other points on this coastline there is land slippage. Always invasion and also erosion – in fact the worst in the UK. Instead of the path leading to the beach, it just stops and you make your way down a landfall. It just seems to be normal here in the same way you see old sea defences sunk into the beach or manmade structures teetering on the side of the cliffs.

Here is the old, fucked pill box sunk into the sand, its one small square hole creating a little mini view of the beach stretching away to the South. A young couple wander around it smoking a spliff. People are everywhere right now. What else do we do but walk?

Starting just beyond this the beach is filled with the broken teeth remains of wooden groynes stretching for at least half a mile towards the manor. There is something freakish about these jagged shapes so incongruous with the flatness of the beach and sea.

There is something post apocalyptic about this scene, perhaps heightened in my mind by the present situation. There are hints of the trenches of World War 1 or is it the final scene of a dystopian film like Planst of the Apes. Spooky. Inspiring. As I tread over the slimy, blackened boards dug into the sand I feel a huge rush of a familiar pleasure, one which I have felt over many years. The pleasure being lost and alone. I so want to inhabit this moment, be a part of this world, feel the interconnectedness that I know exists between person and place. To feel everything and quieten that ever present voice distracting me in my head.

Alone and bliss

Feel don’t think

The day is ending

Gloom descending

Everyone has gone home

I can hear their echoes

And I am alone

In a wilderness of nothingness

Grey sky and sea

And the ageless lapping of the waves

Alone and bliss