I can announce that in a very real way, there is light at the end of this very long, dark, isolated tunnel. The end is indeed nigher. I received my first Covid vaccination this week and it was quite an emotional experience. I floated out of the centre singing about my invincibility! Well, not really, but I am a very happy and grateful bunny.
This event took place on the 42nd anniversary of the day Sarah and I married in Headcorn. And, as if to remind me just how cold it was on that February day, I had to scrape ice and snow off the car before driving to the vaccination centre. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Not because the weather’s been really warm of course, but because we just haven’t been anywhere.
My appointment was at exactly the right time too. As I sat down, one of the volunteers brought in hot chocolate and biscuits for the staff. ‘Perfect timing’, I uttered. She gave me a biscuit and then said ‘You might as well have one of these as well’.
‘Don’t flash them about, otherwise they’ll all want one!’ So please don’t tell anybody.
Liesel and I went out for our first litter picking walk this week, too. We didn’t go too far from home, but did we collect much? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
It was chilly but thankfully the cold east wind wasn’t too strong today.
We watched some more online entertainment this week, of a political nature, unusual for us, but fascinating just the same.
Christopher Eccleston read a story about the 1984 miners’ strike which was very moving, about how one family had fallen apart. There followed a discussion which reminded me of a lot of the goings-on at the time.
The following evening, we watched the always delightful Maxine Peake read a story about the night cleaners’ strike of 1972. The ensuing discussion included Maggie Gee, an author whom I met several years ago at Kingston Readers’ Festival.
These two events were hosted by Housmans bookshop in London. Won’t it be lovely when we can visit in real life? Any bookshop. Anywhere, really.
Despite the baltic conditions, Liesel and I did venture out for a wander by the river, which has receded to its previous, low, safe levels. And here’s an early sign of Spring.
On the other hand, here’s a sign that really, we’re still in the depths of Winter.
This is the field where we sometimes have a chat with the horses, but they were out of sight today, hopefully indoors, sitting round a nice warm fire, watching daytime TV.
Liesel spotted a block of ice on top of a fence post.
Well, not really on top. It looks like the pole filled with water which then froze, and as it expanded the ice escaped through the top. I haven’t seen anything like this since the really olden days when we had milk delivered in bottles. The milk and cream would freeze, expand, push the top off the bottle, and reach for the sky.
We didn’t see our heron today, but we did see this happy couple gliding by.
You can win a bonus point by telling us what these birds really are.
There was a slight smell of smoke in the air and we finally tracked down the culprits. They were burning some wood on the golf course which, a couple of weeks ago, had been the flood relief plain.
When you see that much wood deposited, you realise just how powerful the river must have been during those few days.
One of the funniest things we saw was this dog.
It was down by the river, hiding form its owners who were delighted to be playing the game.
The island has been revealed for the first time in a while. And, with the grim inevitablity of Paul McCartney performing Hey Jude with far too much audience participation at one of his concerts, there is already a car tyre lying there.
Northenden is proud to announce that it has become the new headquarters for NATO.
I don’t want to breach their security or anything, but this compass is on the pavement outside Boho Tanning and Beauty and Himalayas Tea in Palatine Road. And yet I don’t think I’ve noticed it before.
Something else new to Northenden (well, new to me in Northenden):
He didn’t mind me taking his picture, even though I had no cash on me to put in the hat that he didn’t take off. I offered him a coffee instead but he declined, saying it was too cold for this game and that he was going home. I next saw him at the bus stop.
On a palindromic date, 12/2/21 or 12022021, I presented a show on Radio Northenden posing the question, What is Love? Two hours of silly love songs. This is in honour of my 42nd anniversary with Sarah, mentioned above, my 15th with Liesel next Tuesday and it being Valentine’s Day on Sunday. Love is in the air, everywhere I look around. Love is in the air, every sight and every sound. Oh, I just realised, I didn’t actually play that particular song. But please listen if you want some of that love thang.
Slightly further afield, there was excitement on Mars too. The first ever spacecraft from a middle eastern country, the United Arab Emirates, has gone into orbit around the red planet. And this is quite a coincidence because also this week, I started reading my first ever book of Palestinian science fiction! Who knew there was such a thing? It’s a collection of short stories, looking forward to 2048, a hundred years after the Nakba, when hundreds of thousands of Palestians fled or were expelled from their homes. Thought-provoking to say the least.
The most recent book I finished was Salena Godden’s Mrs Death Misses Death. I wrote a review, not as eloquent as all the others I’ve seen, but it’s from the heart:
This book turned up on my Kindle on the day of publication, and I started reading it straightaway. I’ve been a fan of Salena and her poetry for a long time so I knew this would be good. And it really was. It’s happy and sad and funny and thought-provoking all the way through, not at all maudlin as you might expect from a book about Death. I was torn between reading it quickly to see how it ends and reading it slowly to soak up and appreciate the whole story. I know film and TV rights have been acquired and I am intrigued to see how that develops. But I also know I’ll be re-reading this book very soon, and I very rarely do that. I can’t get over how clever some of the sections (chapters?) are, with their use of language.
Highly recommended! Mrs Death Misses Death published by Canongate.
Here’s a blast from the past, probably about eleven years ago. And another coincidence: remember the UAE spacecraft is named ‘Hope’.
We were in a small town in Alaska called Hope, with some friends. The plan was to go for a walk, or hike, through the woods.
The trail was very pleasant, it meandered and undulated a bit and after a while, I was offered a pair of walking poles, to ‘help’. Why would I need them, I can trip over my own feet quite well, thank you.
‘Try just one then’, someone suggested. Oh all right.
So now I had three things to guide safely to ground level: two feet and a stick. And, inevitably, I put the pole down just off the edge of the path, expecting it to meet a solid surface, but it didn’t: it was like finding an extra step when you think you’ve reached the bottom of the stairs. Yes, of course I tripped and fell over. I was aware of being close to the edge of a bluff, a drop of several dozen feet.
Well, I wasn’t worried for myself. I was more concerned about 3-year old Neha to whom I was giving a piggy-back at the time. I successfully rolled over to protect her, blamed the stupid stick that I didn’t want in the first place and couldn’t apologise enough to Neha’s Mom*.
Walking poles? Portable trip hazards if you ask me.
*We are still friends.