Self Isolation Week Five

Day Thirty-five: After hearing about the selling off of Bob Dylan handwritten lyric sheet containing the songs ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’’, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ and ‘Lay Lady Lay’ going up for auction: starting price if you’ve got any spare cash a cool $2.2 million, I picked Jody McKenna as my morning music.

Singer-songwriter Jody rose to fame after appearing on that giving show Secret Millionaire in the noughties and shining a light on the work The Warren did for young people. Soon after he was described by local media as Hull’s answer to Dylan. Despite being a devotee – on the show he was gifted tickets to go see Dylan play live in London – I don’t think he particularly cared for the constant comparison. The North Wind is a fine album you might go hunt it out for yourselves.

IMG_6809This week’s posts will all be written with a sense of underlying panic, as I wait anxiously for the delivery of the meds, that stop my hands, arms, elbows and any other joints that care to join in the fun, from totally seizing up. Two weeks ago the delivery company, when I rang them voicing my concerns about my delivery, said that the prescription was no longer live. That would have been fine if the prescription for the old dose had been cancelled, and the new prescription with the increased dosage was instated. It had not been. I then rang the hospital, who told me to ring the delivery company, who told me to ring the hospital, who told me that the person who dealt with deliveries was off sick, and could I ring back in a week. Fair dos medical staff, frontline or otherwise, have to look after their health. I rang today to be told that I had to ring the delivery company again, I then got a call back saying that I should call another number and leave a message and that they would get back to me within ten days.

Lastly I received a call saying that it had been sorted out and that the delivery co. would be contacting me with a delivery slot. Let me explain the delivery is for the injectibles that have to be refrigerated until just before you use them. I have little faith in the delivery co. in the past year they have made me wait in all day for a no-show delivery; have said they would be half an hour and then not turned up until three hours later, and once delivered the completely wrong medicine, then refused to take it back.

If by some miracle they manage to get it right, you will immediately know because the blog posts won’t suddenly diminish by eighty percent: typing when you can’t raise your arms becomes increasingly arduous after about the third line. So fingers crossed… you know I can’t do that. Why write it then? Fingers crossed..? Might have known it was religion, how many times, it is always Latin or the bible, and when it is not either of them it’s usually always Greek. Apparently crossing the fingers derives from old Christianity and the cross, the instrument of crucifixion – cheery lot weren’t they? Good fortune or blessing from God, was more likely to be obtained if followers made the sign of the cross.

IMG_6810All that being said, I am in a far better mood, still buzzing over my diorama for Roden Bear, and I’m pretty sure I saw him smiling as we tucked into Durban chicken last night. I have put my yellow roses, which smell so fresh and alive, in two vases and placed them either side of my picture of Bowie.

Keep on rocking! 


Day Thirty-four: Thanks for sticking with it and me. Definitely had a few sketchy days this week. What I have learned from these down days is to accept that they are going to happen and like all slumps in mood and attitude they will pass. I will see this week as a victory over adversity, rather than a reminder that psyches are so precarious. 

Today was Sunday and by now you will know what that means: Bluebeany Art Club by the ever-giving Anna Bean, what a ray of sunlight she is for our shadowy lives. The prompt this week was La Vie En Rose and people were invited to interpret the phrase however they wished.

Definition: “Life in happy hues”, “Life seen through happy lenses”, or “Life in rosy hues”; its literal meaning is “Life in Pink” 

I chose to focus on the thing that is getting me through this. It came to me this morning, after waking up just as I have done for the past two weeks, still clutching my bear. From there it was a short step to the idea of depicting myself in lockdown in the guise of Roden Bear. Read Week One (day three) and Week Two (day eight) for more about Roden in lockdown.

Roden gets his name from my grandfather, on my mother’s side. His middle name was Roden after the Trade Unionist and member of the radical British Liberal Party Charles Roden Buxton (1875 – 1942) That reminds me, I must look further into the life and work of this man who spoke politics of peace: he and his wife Dorothy Frances Webb appear to have connections to all manner of movements working for social justice.

I am pleasantly surprised by the results, and am so glad I hoarded those stickers for all these years. Building the model, hunting and building things to go in the scene was good fun and filled another Sunday. Later in the afternoon I had a special food drop of some home-baked goodies. and some flowers which have brightened up the room in which I spend the majority of the time.

To Make Your Own Bear Diorama You Will Need 

One bear with sunglasses, rock t-shirt (a gift from Leeds Fest 2003) a gentleman’s flat cap.

Cardboard boxes of various sizes, an empty chocolate box, a teatowel, a piece of fabric to cover the back of the cardboard box plus additional scraps of fabric

One mug tree, an ornamental owl, retro eighties stickers, drawing pin, hair grip and paper clips

A mirrored badge, scraps of paper,a napkin, a prop cigarette, a tube lid, a shot glass a candle, a cork. 

Roden Bear

At home with Roden ‘the Lockdown’ Bear

Happy Building!

Day Thirty-three: I need to pull this back and fast otherwise day thirty-three will be my undoing. I will go back to the window, try a little visualisation exercise: well, if ya can’t beat ’em… However, if you catch me hunting for my chakras and singing kumbaya, I’ll consider it a kindness if you would quietly take me out on the doorstep.


The wire bird feeder sways with the weight of two early visitors busily pecking nuts and seeds, feathers flitting and flapping sending grain showers on to the pock-marked lawn. The tree in the neighbour’s yard pollarded to within an inch of its life, bereft and embarrassed: the coronet of green, a long lost memory.  A hawthorn hedge glows ruby and emerald as the pink orange sun, picks out tufts of unruly grass sprayed with wild flowers. Swallows swoop and dive, turning on a sixpence, to catch insects in the dawn light. From nowhere a fat pigeon dive bombs the picture perfect scene, crashing headlong into the feeder, scattering goldfinches and bird seed, hither and thither. Self- important toes find purchase jammed into fine mesh squares as the wire bird feeder sways out of control. Fat pigeon upsets the water dish, spilling the feeder, as bowl and seeds come crashing down. Fat pigeon cocks his head and ungainly flaps away, marking down this dawn raid, as a success if anyone should ask.

Whatever you do look out for fat pigeons!

Day Thirty-two: Today began well but by tonight I had slumped. So I am going to take another large step back in time and go to a much happier place and tell you about a week living on a game reserve in northeastern Zimbabwe.

Early morning at the start of the summer holidays, I joined groups of children from schools across Harare, in the back of a canvas covered truck. I had a rucksack that weighed a ton, containing everything I might need for a week away from home: clean clothes, waterproof jacket, wash kit and utensils bag with tin plate, bowl and mug, plus knife, fork and spoon. Vellies (Veldskoene – a tough leather lightweight boot suitable for walking in the bush) and a hat, not a peaked cap, but one with a wide brim that would offer some protection from the sun. the temperature can rise over forty degrees celsius in the middle of the day.


Nyanga (mountainous region to the east of Imire) landscape by artist Chrystall Wynn

Imire is a medium-sized reserve, currently 10,000 acres, run by the Travers family, with zebra, rhino, leopard, giraffe, buffalo, zebra and lion. A dedicated team of rangers manage a conservation programme, supporting the health and welfare of the animal populations, and protecting from poachers.

We kids slept in simple rondavels, the so-called mud hut. Upon the hard earth floor we lay our blow up mattresses and sleeping bags. The roof thatched with grasses and reeds, keeps the rain off and the open entrance allows the cool night air in, and all the insect sounds of the bush at night.

Waking up earlier than the others I reached over for my boots, checked them for scorpions by tapping them out, outside the door, before slipping them on and wandering over to the cooking area. A fire had already been lit and a pan of water was steadily bubbling for morning tea. I ran back for my tin mug and grinned as the steaming hot mug was passed back to me filled with sweet tea. The air quickly shifting from cool morning to the customary dry heat is suddenly filled with the smell of bacon cooking in a pan on the fire. Breakfast would be red hot bacon sarnies, and more hot sweet tea.

I was on pot washing duty but there was no soap, after trying to scrub the pan with my fingers, I was shown how to use mud to clean your pots in the bush. The grainy mud acts like an abrasive to strip away the fat and food remnants. A bit more water to rinse out the mud and stones and the pan was clean. I’ve never forgotten that lesson.

During our first walk in the bush, we learned about different flora and fauna, plant bark that you could turn into a strong string by taking the strands and rolling them on your leg, twisting them together. Another plant that was good to chew to stave of thirst and how to find water under the earth, where it looked like there was none, and how to make a natural straw to drink it.

I’m pretty sure these kind of freedoms wouldn’t be allowed today, these were largely kids of white families, affluent families who could afford to send their kids on adventure weeks away. Behind our home when we first moved to Harare, there had been a maize field, with snakes and rodents where we would regularly play. In this patch of wilderness we once found an old metal ammunition box, with spent shells inside, leftovers from the end of the war of independence a few years before. We’d spent a year in Sudan, Harare with its wide roads, supermarkets, a university, international airport and all modern amenities was like paradise. Back to Imire.

Early morning game walks were the order of the day, every day.  The wildlife, like the humans, don’t want to be out in the heat of the day, so the best time to go out is early morning and early evening. Walking for what seemed like miles through the bush, water bottles clipped on belts or nestled in deep pockets in a day sack. A  line of khaki-clad kids snaking through the tall orange yellow grasses, all hoping to be the first to spot the rhino, the elephant, the zebra…

I was desperate to see a leopard in the wild, the closest I came was seeing the tell-tale cat-like pug mark, with the four slender toe pads indicating a female. Just a few prints on a dirt track, evidence enough she’d passed that way, no more than an hour before, hunting at first light. By now she was most probably resting somewhere, the kill likely to be an impala or other antelope, safely hidden from scavengers.

It’s late now I’ve been trying to find the little couplet I wrote inspired by this near encounter…. I’ll find it in the morning.

Good Hunting

Day Thirty-one. There was much cause for excitement in the Self Iso House this morning. I bathed as usual, before breakfasting on two slices of toast and two cups of coffee, all to the sound of today’s musical inspiration: beauty and fragility entwined and made manifest in the songs of Nick Drake. Ready to submit to another pastoral masterpiece from the singer songwriter with the poet’s mind and the eye of a painter, I shook myself to and looked to my tasks of the day.


Print of Sunderland Point: artist’s name illegible [my reflection can be seen in the glass]

The focus of today was always going to be my few moments of escape. I had contemplated my route; either direct to save time, or more meandering with less chance of coming into contact with people, in confined spaces. This indecision reminded me of stormy years gone by, when my every journey would be scrutinised to the last, for potential conflict or confrontation.

In recent days people have remarked upon the absurdity of zig-zagging their way down the pavement, as they journey to the shop or take their hour of govt. sanctioned exercise. It feels like like an awkward improv exercise in an intermediates dance class, a s you desperately try to keep two metres distance from the other.

In those fearful years described earlier, I would scan the pavements and avoid the side of the road, with most groups of people, making an arbitrary decision that less people would almost certainly be safer. As each figure approached the heart rate would quicken, as I tried not to catch their eye, fearful of anything more than a cursory glance either way. Hands clenched, heart pounding until the moment they had passed behind me, and then a snatched breath or two, before the whole process would start again, with person number two now coming into view. It was an exhausting way to live, and almost certainly resulted in my shoulder pain in later life being as I was forever so tense during time spent outdoors. 

Today as I carefully picked out my path, masked and scarfed, hands firmly pocketed, eyes, shielded by sunglasses, darting left and right, that familiar feeling of heightened awareness returned once more. I made the short walk to the surgery without incident, but it was I doing the majority of the waiting for safe gaps, and wide berthing.

In order to guard against anyone who is symptomatic, from entering the surgery without first notifying the staff, the receptionist had rung the day before to check if I had any of following: cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing or temperature. I did not, so I sat in the waiting room, the usual rows of chairs now repositioned facing each other in a C shape, with a wide open space in the middle.

The consultation was quick, it was after all just a blood test, a regular occurrence for anyone taking immunosuppressants. It crossed my mind that the only human contact I will have during this lockdown period. will be people sticking needles into me. I wonder what the behavioural psychologists studying effects of deprivation, would make of that?

I’m lucky, I get on with my nurse, she has an infectious smile and a sparkle in her eyes. Despite the reason behind seeing seeing her each month she never fails to lift my spirits. She asked how I was getting on with self-isolation, adding that I would be receiving another letter outlining what I was required to do, and more importantly required Not to do.

We both expressed a longing to hug our loved ones, and be hugged in return… She asked whether I lived alone; whether I had a pet as she did. I said I had no pet that it wouldn’t be fair in an upstairs flat. How about a goldfish she said to me as a last ditch attempt to find me a substitute companion. “I want a hug and my nurse offers me a goldfish,” I tossed back at her laughing, then we set a date for our next meet up.  

Keep Swimming!

Day Thirty: Anybody else started having conversations with themselves yet? I was thinking about baths this morning. i’m having a lot more baths lately and it prompted this:

hot-water-runs-out-quickly_06cc71I tek more baths these days, I said.

You should have shower, save water she said.

Yer allus moaning about the bills, she said.

I can’t cos shower’s too hot, I said.

Turn it down then, she said.

No, not water, the shower ,it’s hot,

and there’s a funny smell in hallway, I said.

That’s probably you, she said.

no, it’s switch on wall outside, I said.

It’s going a sort of brown colour.

Mi father raised his head from behind his paper where he’d been listening in.

That’s not right, he said.

Don’t use the shower, he said

Don’t use the  shower and I’ll come over and have a look at it, he said.

And he did he took one look at it and

I’m gonna be here for two hours that alright? he said.

Fine, I said.

I’m off out to buy a new switch, he said.

Fine, I said.

He come back with new switch and turned electrics off

and started teeing old one off the wall.

Look at this, he said.

It’s all burnt, I said.

It’s reet dangerous, he said

Could have killed yer, he said.

Killed me, I said.

Killed yer, he said.

It’s all carbonised and melted plastic, look at them wires, he said.

He put new one on but I don’t trust it anymore, shower’s still too hot.

This is how I recited the conversation aloud this morning FOR NO REASON AT ALL!

Now this conversation is partly based in reality, but far less northern. I can claim northernness being born in ‘Boro, but my father is a true cockney, born within the sound of Bow Bells. He doesn’t sound like an Eastender he lost most of his London twang but there’s still a lilt in his voice with an air of soft danger. My mum is from Swindon.

You know that feeling when you run a deep bath with bubbles and you get in and you realise it’s too hot just beneath the foam. You sit there not moving, not wanting too scald yourself anymore than you are doing, not wanting to add any cold because you know you’ll regret it in a few minutes. You tentatively move an arm, feeling the heat spread from elbows to shoulder, as you slowly ever so slowly begin to lay back, wondering trying to second guess yourself as you test the temperature. That’s where we are at: in hot water.

Happy Bathing World.

Day Twenty-nine: It is almost a month since I started this blog on 17 March – Don’t write in eagle-eyed readers will have read about the month marker last week, it’s not easy keeping track. I think the full extent of my self isolation hit me a bit today.

If we take the date of the start of self isolation, for older members of community or those deemed vulnerable with underlying health conditions, as beginning 29 March, that means I am not getting out until 21 June. (I do get to for a blood test this thursday, straight there, straight back and no lolly-gagging)

DATE BANNERThat would be the full twelve weeks!

In order to process this information I slept fitfully during the afternoon, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open at all. Time has a way of passing without you noticing when you sleep during the day, it upsets your circadian rhythms and will put stress on your physical and mental health.  Many people have suggested that they keep losing days without their usual routine.

Keeping track of the days can be tricky because we have a very slippery calendar system. If anyone said to you we are going to have a mechanism to delineate time, but it won’t be a uniform mechanism. Far to sensible. Wouldn’t you rather a whimsical system, whereby some months will have an extra day added on and others will continually flux between two positions, neither of which will match the rest of the months that don’t match either…? Those Gregorians must have seen us coming. How many times do you have to repeat the rhyme in your head just to make sure?

30 days hath September, April, June and November, All the rest have 31, Excepting February alone. Which has but 28 days clear. And 29 in each leap year.  traditional oral mnemonic

Not to be mistaken for the other rhyme with months in… that one won’t get you very far but maybe, just maybe we will all be out by Bonfire Night.

Remember, remember the fifth of November, Gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason. Why gunpowder treason. Should ever be forgot! derived from  John Milton poem.

I’ll mark the start of Week Five with a posh frothy coffee tomorrow morning, I’ve been saving them to celebrate the milestones, since this all started. Not a particularly cohesive post today, but it is a post, one amongst many behind it, and many more ahead.

Thanks for listening and goodnight. 

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