THE GREEN DIARY : To Mask or Not to Mask…………………..?

Worzel Gummidge – aka Bojo the Clown – and his Shudder of Ministers, have succeeded in further bewildering us all with the great “Freedom Day” last week which seems only to have sown more confusion, information flying at us from every quarter. Friends, best keep wearing your masks – not material ones apparently – and hope that the massive experiment now being conducted here will really lead to the sunny uplands outlined in Professor Neil Ferguson’s latest communiqués.

Fingers crossed!

It’s all Staycation! Staycation! Staycation! Following the success of the North Norfolk meander, it was touchy-touchy, feely-feely the following week and the blessed relief of actually seeing so many friends and clasping them (in my case) to ample bosoms.

So to London for our first extended stay – a week – in sixteen months. Extraordinary feeling. How small our world has become and how timid it makes us feel.

80th birthdays in Kent; Haute Cuisine at The Ivy City Garden: Yay! Someone else is cooking; at Daquise, our favourite Polish haunt in South Kensington, Golonka & Golubki recommended; moving to Primrose Hill and Lemonia for Greek cuisine and more friends, not visited for years. Parliament Hill Cafè on the Heath for breakfast. 

Golonka & Golubki at Daquise

Daquise is at the bottom of Exhibition Road and we decided to walk off lunch visiting the new Pavilion at the Serpentine and the fascinating James Barnor Photographic exhibition at the Sackler next door.

Lets have a cultural breather : fitting in The Noël Coward Exhibition at The Guildhall Gallery – a must – and the Football Final in front of a vast TV screen in Redcliffe Gardens, Turkish meze Deliveroo’d to the ensemble. I didn’t realise we could be so butch.

How can I make lists more interesting? They’re lovely lists though, signalling a feeling of normality almost forgotten. Best of all are you, Friends!

To Beckett at the British Museum we walked; rather uninspiring we thought, and very pedantically policed, taking forever, as the 69+’s all had to peer in the gloom at every impenetrable icon and cypher. Why do they insist on such poor lighting? Besides, Henry VIII made sure there was not much left of the Saint to show off anyway. We couldn’t wait for Brown’s, and more of you, dear Friends.

And we got you – at Bill’s in Muswell Hill, a duet with Friend Paul (I can mention your name can’t I, Paul? Great to see you.) – then Lennox Gardens for supper in what turned out to be my Grandmother’s flat renovated beyond recognition but, yes, it was the same street number. 

Granny died years ago of course and the coincidence is astonishing. Thanks Laura for a lovely evening. I shall probably get into trouble for mentioning your name but, hey, it’s been so lovely to be in touch and I wish I could mention you all!

Not finished yet by half. Catch-up morning coffees in Tufnell Park; Table Du Marchè in East Finchley for the evening. Such fine food. I never want to cook again. This is so wonderful.

Are you exhausted by this list? We were and staggered home via Hildenborough, Kent, for the aforementioned 80th birthday, where more of you were warm and lovely.

A day on The Green for laundering and repacking thence to Yorkshire, roof down for the sunny, four hour trip, to Thirsk and a week of reconnecting. Thirsk is where my Bridge Club is – also my Bridge Mentor, Cathy. The pandemic encouraged an online membership and I’ve yet to physically meet the other members, and probably never will, though they are still streaming their Tuesday Tournaments for a while longer. Gazing across the green baize in actualitè , real cards trembling in hand, terror-in-heart, has yet to happen, except at Grandson Jabe’s home Cambridgeshire. But that comes later.

Yorkshire is lovely. I’d forgotten. We’ve been there several times in the past : Godchildren at Ampleforth, visiting performances by friends at theatres in York and Scarborough always entailing stays enabling visits to places like Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay and Castle Howard, famous for its Brideshead Revisited association. I remember a particular journey to Scarborough to see Friend Paul (again) in David Mamet’s Oleanna which was well worth the terrifying, endless drive through cold rainstorms and failing light – long before Google maps and Tom-toms! 

So it’s been a while; it’s unlike East Anglia, especially Essex. Almost like visiting a foreign country; even the people are different.

Thirsk sits in the broad valley separating the Dales in the west and the Moors in the east and some walking and driving took us, with Cathy, our Bridge Mentor and dear friend, to a Dale and a Moor or two.

Starting in Lastingham, from the Church of St. Mary, an 11th Century Norman gem, built on the remains of a much earlier (circa CE 690), Saxon monastery and famous for its crypt with an apsidal chancel, we set out on a three hour circular walk through woodland and over moors to Hutton-le-Hole through Spaunton and Appleton-le-Moors. 

Where are the thousands of sheep?

Bracken and heather; high, blue skies, thousands of black-faced, horned sheep in urgent need of shearing, eating or both! Beef baguettes and beer in the hot sun set a slower pace home via the kilns at Rosedale Chimney Bank. Quite steep there; had to change gears!

Harrogate was a discovery for us. Lovely town. Lunched at Betty’s of course – and understood why we know so many who’d love to live here – in Harrogate not Betty’s! 

Home of The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. Thrillers and all.

To Wharfedale for Bolton Abbey, a beautiful 12th Century Augustinian monastery, also wrecked by Henry VIII but affording a wonderful walk along the river and through the grounds.

Turned south in convoy to Stonely-Kimbolton, Cambs., for a Bridge-fest with Grandson Jabe in hot weather. A weekend of 16 Rubbers and much humiliation for me who succeeded in ending the stay far too full of food and wine and 101 down – the outright loser. Still it was a happy family event and at least it was real; we’d have done no other.

It was so hot – the high pressure hose brought welcome relief!

Back to Mistley via more family in Northampton, Aunt Sally and Tony’s Uncle Trevor, now 93, the week somewhat marred by news from South Africa where rioting, looting and murder have caused paralysis and fear in, particularly, KwaZulu-Natal.

Vasbyt family & friends there, vasbyt! We think of you all the time with hope. Take great care.

OPERATION SHOEBOX FILES!

The pandemic invents new obsessions, don’t you find? Operation Shoebox Files swung into action last week with the delivery of an Epson FastFoto Digitiser and a solution to the storage and display possibilities of thousands of photographs dating back to 1952.

Just throw them into the rubbish? 

When our heirs comb through our goods and chattels after our departure to Hades/Nirvana, they’ll probably do just that! Chuck it all, along with the gigabytes they have been reduced to.

But then there’d be no project for the pandemic would there? 

Michael and I were old enough for adults’ dinner. To this day I remember the name of our steward, Simon Preston and a 27 year old John Prescott was also in attendance, the Union activist and later minister in Tony Blair’s government.

The machine had to be ordered in advance and space made in the calendar for the hire period.

Friends, there was barely enough time! Nor was I prepared for the emotional and psychological impact of a life literally passing before my eyes. There were moments of darkness I have to confess but also light and humour as the relentless schlick-tack, schlick-tack, schlick-tack of the trusty Epson churned out a lifetime. The Gelopetah-Gelopetah machine we came to call it.

What a life. Could it have passed by so quickly? Is there really so little of it left? Terrifying regret passed over me at moments. Had I appreciated it enough? Did I really do all those things? Were we really there? At such and such in such and such a time and place?

And could we have expended so much money on such badly taken photographs! And bothered to store them in those endless rows of albums in that cupboard – little, Instatmatic’d squares of blurred memories, Polaroid’d pleasantries faded to misty memories.

It has been a tense few days. I undertook the project while Tony was isolating in London before having a biopsy at The Macmillan Centre. It had the effect of heightening the experience somewhat; an awareness of mortality I suppose?

There are some wonderfully photographs, and on balance, I am glad we undertook the project but I was relieved when Envio took away the Gelopetah-Gelopetah machine and glad to have neatly consigned all those pictures, removed from their albums, stacked into elastic-banded years from 1952 to 2021, to a box headed for the attic.

A word of warning, Friends: do not undertake anything similar with Wagner in the background! Especially not Tristan und Isolde!

Done and dusted.

9 Replies to “THE GREEN DIARY : To Mask or Not to Mask…………………..?”

  1. Love you. You looked a bit like Wilhelm in the old days with your big spectacles 🤓
    What a happy life you had. So secure and fun. Love the picture of Granny. Xxx

  2. Can’t Believe you did all that scanning. I tried a few once and said No Way. So glad you and Tony are well and up to your old tricks…

    XXOO. Bonnie

  3. Best ever column! Don’t worry Pete, we all go through the old albums wondering at the point of it all. Existential angst and all that. Actually its quite a healthy activity at the end of the day, I suspect. Like resetting the computer, but perhaps not to the original factory setting. That still lies ahead of us all!

    Your time in London carefully noted in our ‘to do’ diary when we get there next. NoelCoward sounds an absolute must. We know Harrogate very slightly since we spend all of our time in Ilkley close by visiting Andy when up there, but Bolton Abbey has been a regular stop for a walk on our visits.

    David/Joy

  4. Phew! Just reading about(( your hectic visit to London left me exhausted! Where did you find the time and the energy to do, see (and eat!) all the things you did?
    And yes – turning 80 (which I did a year ago) is the best cue to take a sprint down memory lane. We – of that particular age group – were so privileged to have seen and done all the things we did. We were further blessed by being born in South Africa (at least I was!) where I enjoyed the most magical childhood – in the seasonal seaside village of Muizenberg where my father had a hotel – any kid could possibly have. Great memories indeed!

  5. The Mikado is etched in my brain for ever. Sally and I falling in love with the boy who played Yum Yum. A Mark Holiday if I am correct. If it is he, he is an extremely respected GP here in JHB.
    Oh how I loved coming to Michaelhouse and staying at Rawdons – especially after being taught “Rawdons manners” for the trip.
    I love old photos. They bring me joy and sadness of times gone too quickly.
    Lots of love
    Janey

  6. I remember how I used to smoke a cigarette through your ear and then blow smoke up my arse! (I wonder where you got that idea from.)
    I wonder who took that lovely photo of Tony sitting at his typewriter?

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