Wake up to the smell of cat pee in the house somewhere. Husband and I both go on a sniffing mission to try to identify its location so we can get busy with the vinegar spray. We finally identify it as under the coffee table in the dining room. We normally shut the dining room door at night specifically because sometimes strange cats come in, but last night we didn’t, and last night was the first visit from a strange cat for some months. (We know it’s a strange cat; our old man is too well brought up to do this.) I’m now anxious about this cat coming back and ‘decorating‘ our Christmas tree.
I find myself shouting at the radio at lunchtime because someone from the government was on talking about how the EU has to accede to the UK’s trade demands because we’re a sovereign nation now, and we make our own rules. This particular person used to be an MEP so they should have a basic understanding of how trade with the European Union works, but it seems they don’t, so I have to assume they are actually very stupid. In the end I decided shouting at the radio and jumping up and down in rage was not healthy so I switched the radio off.
The introduction of Tier 3 restrictions for London was confirmed in the afternoon. It feels like quite a blow but in fact lots of things are still open – non-essential shops, gyms and hair salons. It’s only the interpersonal gatherings that are limited, and restaurants and pubs have to close except for takeaways. But I can join thousands of other people in pre-Christmas frenzied shopping crowd on Oxford Street with no mask or social distancing or contact tracing. And schools are staying open. Although I understood that schools are where most of the infection transmission is happening. This whole thing is a shit show and it gives me a headache.
I was half-listening to the news and there was some mention about the band, Little Mix. The news report said they had had more hits than any other female group – 27 of them. Husband and I were surprised by this because between us we could not name any song by Little Mix.
Tonight was the second of three Red Imp comedy nights – Jen Brister and Zoe Lyons. They both apologised for being rusty in their delivery. I gather from their material that this may be the first time they’ve been face-to-face with an audience in many months. (Face-to-face, albeit with the audience behind masks to stop our expectorative laughter potentially infecting someone). The MC, Walthamstow Local Susan Murray, expressed her delight at having re-scheduled this particular gig from its original proposed date of the 22nd to the 14th, even before there was a whisper of Tier 3. Meanwhile, I’m working my way through the various flavoured gins available at the Trades Hall. So far I’ve had Sevilla Orange, Blackcurrant, and Rose.
Watched a webinar interview with Catlin Moran talking about her new book, More than a Woman. Some interesting points came up:
- How to reprogramme that voice in your head that tells you you’re crap / you’re useless / you’re a bad mother/wife/daughter: “I just imagined the voice of Lorraine Kelly,” she said. “Lorraine Kelly would never say horrible things to me.”
- To avoid mid-life, mid-career struggles where you’re doing too much for everyone, her advice was: “Don’t marry a c**t.”
- To avoid that martyrdom dialogue where you think, “Why am I the only one who notices that the stairs need sweeping / we need to make an appointment for the cat at the vet / the bathroom door handle is loose?” Catlin suggests getting a whiteboard and calling it “Everything that is in Mum’s Head” and putting these things on there. Everyone in the house is then responsible for doing three of these things every week. She said this changed her life because suddenly she wasn’t responsible for doing EVERYTHING.
From the webinar, we went straight out to go to our final comedy gig for the year. (Having finally worked my way through all the gins at the Trades Hall, my favourites in order were Violet, Rose, Sevillanas and Blackcurrant last, due to the hint of cough medicine about it.) It took the main comedian a while to get off the stage. There was a feeling in the room that we wanted him to stay there, to keep us laughing, to keep us entertained, because when he was gone, we were going out into the reality of going home and acknowledging Tier 3 was kicking in.
Reasons I shouldn’t listen to the radio in the morning – gloomy news. Today’s news was the story that residents in buildings with unsafe cladding are paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds a year for night watchmen whose job is to keep an eye on the building and raise the alarm in case of fire. The developers who built these buildings and clad them in what seems to be the insulation equivalent of petrol-soaked newspaper don’t seem to be liable for having built something unsafe. Instead the costs are being passed onto leaseholders – people who don’t have the capacity to pay for huge and sudden increases in property costs. People who also now can’t sell their apartment and move (no financial institution will grant a mortgage on a building without fire safety confirmation). I don’t have an answer to this; it’s one of those things I hear, and I get angry about, but don’t know what I can do to help.
Another week, another play at commuting. I had a doctor’s appointment and an eye test today, and since both of these are in The City (it was much handier when I worked there all the time), I decided to go in to the office to work until my appointments. I carried with me a huge bag with all my equipment – laptop, keyboard, mouse, work phone, personal phone, earbuds with speaker for phone, headset for calls on the computer, earphones for personal music – plus all the chargers – charger for laptop, for personal phone, for work phone. Plus a water bottle. Plus a small tea flask. Plus my two library books I was going to drop back after the optician appointment. (Which I didn’t get to, so I carried them for nothing). No wonder I was exhausted when I got home after carrying this load across London.
Grocery shopping day! We got to the store with our grocery list in our hot little hands; we got the things on our list and then… and then… we may have got a little bit lost in the Christmas aisle. I’m not saying we’re suckers for Christmas sweetmeats, but actually we are. We now have a drawer in the pantry rapidly filling up with high-fat sugary treats that are “for Christmas”. I think “for Christmas” includes any day from December 23rd through to 31st of January.
I read an article about Australia losing one of its major coal export markets – China. As someone who works in climate finance, I find the Australian government’s head-in-the-sand, fingers-in-ears attitude to climate change quite shocking. Australia has coal to sell, and it’s going to sell that coal, and it doesn’t care about the climate crisis. (I’m from Australia remember, so I am allowed to diss the place.) So for Australia to suddenly be shut out of the Chinese market (yes, even the Chinese are looking to decarbonise their economy) may be the wake up call that is needed to loosen Big Coal’s hands from the neck of the government. I particularly liked this quote: “Australia is like the party boy that is still living like a 20-year-old in its 40s and 50s,” said Mr. Merzian at the Australia Institute. “Everyone is taking it seriously because their health depends on it and they know better, but Australia is still trying to rage on.”
(Rage on. I haven’t heard that expression for years. Raging was very popular in my teenage years. Whenever a teacher didn’t show up for class – something that happened with more regularity than it should have – my diary would indicate that my classmates and I “had a rage”. But I don’t mean that we were angry about the lack of a teacher. I’m not actually sure anymore what we did when we had a rage was but it was probably the mid-80s equivalent to “mucking up”.)
This article reminded me of some presentations I’ve seen at work in the past few years, which say that the smart money is going to move out of polluting and carbon creating industries, because that’s how the world is headed (and needs to keep heading if we plan on having a world left fit to live on) and anyone left holding onto these industries is going to end up out of pocket. So maybe this is the kick in the pants Australia needs; and maybe one day I can look at moving back and have some hope of finding a job that relates to what I’m doing now.
One of those days when it seems impossible to get any work done because there are calls and meetings happening constantly. Today is the last day of work for a lot of people which means if things don’t get done today. they won’t get done this year. I manage to push some things through, prioritising deadline tasks between calls, and I get a surprising amount of things done. Sometimes having less time means you get more done, and today feels like one of those days.
Christmas cards finally get in the post today. Some might still get there in time. Some will not. This is one of those years I didn’t get organised with the Christmas cards. If you’re sending things overseas, you really need to be ready and organised on 1 December and this year, birthday happenings took priority, and I never got that momentum back. Next year…
Time for my day out on my own catching up with people – and just in time as it’s this afternoon the government announces Tier 4 Covid measures will apply in London through until December 30th. Tier 4 didn’t even exist until today so the government for once is taking rapid response action to the news of a new, more infectious mutation of Covid taking off in the capital.
I jotted down some impressions of things I saw while I was out:
- Two people carrying home a netted up Christmas tree on their shoulders full of hope and possibility.
- The cloister of the Greek church looking like something from the Middle Ages.
- The bland new apartment building whose windows are differentiated by their residents chosen decor: ornate gold net curtains, plain net curtains, crooked Venetian blinds.
- A farmer’s market where the well groomed burghers buy organic vegetables, handmade soap, and munch on vegan hot dogs.
- Brown brick Art Deco buildings hulking like flat faced dogs facing into each other across a small green space
- The silvery shine of sun on a winter wet road
- The joy of seeing friends face to face, spending time together chatting and walking, in the pale winter sunshine, enjoying London’s green open spaces.
- The shock of uncrowded spaces – Piccadilly Circus without the throngs of tourists; Christmas lights in side streets twinkling for no-one; enticing Christmas displays in the windows of closed shops.
- A sudden stream of people on skateboards rolling through the city like a wave of strong youthful rebellious energy that makes everyone stop and watch and feel pinpricks of envy. Bright like a spark, and then they were gone.
A sunny day. Ironic that today is the day the ‘stay-at-home’ order comes into effect. Still, we need some groceries, and we are allowed to take ‘unlimited’ exercise, so we go out to buy some vegetables. Our plans for a 6-person Christmas have gone out the window. We’re now under Tier 4 restrictions (which didn’t exist yesterday). I’m getting that sad feeling in my chest that things are spinning out of control. So practical action is needed. When life give you beetroot, make borscht. And that’s how we spent our afternoon, making a huge pot of beetroot soup, deliciously, gloriously pink and tasty. And if that’s as good as it gets today, I’ll be happy with that.
For anyone also going into Tier 4, hold on. We’re at the winter solstice – the shortest day leading into the longest night. The days get longer from here on in and the world’s energy should change – or at least that’s what I’m choosing to believe. Good luck to all of us.