THE GREEN DIARY : towards Valentine’s Day, 2021.

4th February, 2021 : The Vaccination!

Yesterday we drove up to London to receive the first round of our Covid vaccinations. So exciting. Not just the prospect of immunity but the actual jaunt to London itself; we’ve not been there for several months and found the flat dark, dank but surprisingly un-dusty. It was like going on a foreign holiday and checking into a strange Vrbo apartment; like we’d never been there before.

Our vaccinations were delivered by the Caversham Group Practice, where we are registered – and have been for nearly forty years.  The fact of our lockdown in Mistley nearly a year ago was a happy coincidence since we’d not have wanted to be locked down in London. As you all know, dear friends,  from my endless description of walks and hikes, there is far more breathing space here than in the big smoke where, anyway, everything that we love is shut. 

Except friends – who we miss very much; as I am sure, do you.

Caversham Group seem ahead of the game for our cohort. No such luxury has been extended yet down here and won’t until probably the end of this month. So we are lucky.

Lucky too to be in the hands of such an efficient clinic. We were impressed with the whole process from the invitation to receive to the administration of the actual injection itself. Caversham have mustered retiree doctors and young medical students to corral us in orderly fashion and herd us at the right moment into our surgical stables! My doctor was chatty; she explained everything to me; told me when I’d get the second jab – in about twelve weeks – and produced her syringe and the magic elixir, the Oxford AstraZeneca brand, with a flourish – and in it went.

We went back to the flat to spend the night and woke up this morning feeling rather under the weather : aches, sore throat, tiredness;  indeed, many of the symptoms we remember from a year ago when we had the actual virus itself. They warned us there could be side effects and also said that if we had had the virus we were likely to react more than those who haven’t.

The Estuary at Manningtree.

Here we are back again in Mistley, with threats of snow, back into hunker mode, spirits raised by our adventure and the news that today the virus peaked and from now on things can only get better. 

Encouraging not so?

We’ve been back from Canada just over three weeks though I can’t say really that the routines have much altered.

We love Popcorn. It’s our new snack. I’ve never paid it much attention really until the granddaughters made us promise to sit through the entire Marvel oeuvre.

Friends! Sympathy please!

There are twenty-one of these massive movies filled with incomprehensible plots and so much CGI that you do not know whether you are coming or going! BUT – the best thing was that halfway through each film Libby would disappear and return with freshly made popcorn to which we are now addicted. The salted kind, not the sugary sort. I prefer making them on top of the cooker in a big, non-stick pot with a glass top. Part of the fun is watching it grow from nothing to something in mere minutes. You can’t do that with those microwaveable, brown bags where the action is unseen!

It reminds me of a job I did once in Munich. I was making a series of commercials there being “the IBM man”. It was lovely. Lots of time to explore the city and appreciate all the other privileges of commercials-making in the 1980’s, when we were given such generous schedules.

Popcorn – I was in the studio commissary alone and mind you, having no German (scripts were always learnt parrot fashion!), when an assistant to the third assistant director came in to make coffee and, here is the point, shove a glass bowl containing far too many corn kernels and no lid  into the microwave oven, setting it going and disappearing before I could remonstrate.

The result was a spectacular explosion of white, puff pops that filled the entire oven and then blew off the front door cascading across the commissary in a scene reminiscent of a Laurel & Hardy movie.

There was much sturm und drang I can tell you!

And now a little rant. This time about dog pooh!

Friends, what is it with dog owners and their poo? Can someone please explain to me why -and of course many of you have dogs so you will be able to put me right, I’m sure – why when dogs are taken on walks through our beautiful countryside, their owners, proudly equipped with every luxury known to a dog, from a lead, to tennis ball throwers and black, plastic pooh bags (in Canada some even wear booties to protect their pads from the ice), and the dogs attend to their toilette, the owners unravel these ghastly little black bags and go through the appalling routine of picking the mess up, tying the bag neatly and then – and this is what gets me – hanging the bag on a tree or even leaving it lying in the middle of the path? Why?

These faecal decorations “will be collected on our way back”, say the mendacious dog owners; but they never are. Since the start of the pandemic, the dog population has sky-rocketed – and so have the poop bags!

Why not simply encourage the dogs to crap in the bushes or off the path where their turds can naturally biodegrade? This would obviate the humiliation of collecting the turds by hand and storing them in little, non-biodegradeable (and believe me they are non-biodegradeable), schlocky, skanky blag bags?

To the miserable, selfish and ignorant dog owners who leave their charges’ turds in the middle of the path or outside our front doors along The Green I ask, “Why do you do this? Are you qualified to own a dog at all?”

Can you not see the pooper bins?

But once having tripped over the doggie-doo the walks, though muddy and slippery, continue to be wonderful. We keep on discovering new ones and view our Heimat from different and ever-changing perspectives.

The woods are old. Several of the trees date back nearly a thousand years. Old Knobbly is reputed to be 800 years old and has its own website :

Old Knobbly. Not Tony – the tree!

On one walk we came across signs warning us of poisonous snakes. Astonishing. I know there are adders about and have seen them a few times but they are timid and, compared to the snakes of my South African childhood, not very poisonous. Perhaps the signs are to discourage walkers, some farmers would do almost anything to sabotage our rights of way, or perhaps they are to warn horse riders?

Are the farmers putting off the hikers or warning the horse riders?

And the streaming of course continues apace. Several series are occupying us, Your Honor, Spiral, All the Sins, Call My Agent, Traces, The Serpent, to name a few; but without doubt it’s been It’s a Sin that has had quite an impact.

The Guardian reviewed it and says it better than I can and I unashamedly copy some of it here : 

“Russell T Davies’s new drama, It’s a Sin is something of a companion piece, 20 years on, to his groundbreaking masterpiece, Queer as Folk. The latter was the riotous celebration of gay urban life as led by three friends broadly representing different stages of exploration as they embraced life as hot single men. In essence it was a gorgeous fantasy, designed to counteract both the historic worthiness and prejudice surrounding such depictions.

What it did not do was look much at the darkness out of which such freedom had emerged and which still shadowed the lives of its Canal Street party people. It didn’t, in short, deal with the effects of Aids on the gay community.

It’s a Sin does. It follows the lives of three young gay men, Ritchie, Roscoe and Colin who move to London. They evolve into a family (along with Ritchie’s university best friend Jill) as they commit themselves to the enjoyment of every freedom the city has to offer.

But the group arrive in 1981*, just as the first reports of a new disease are making their way across the Atlantic. 

The shadows are starting to gather by the end of the first episode, which is mostly devoted to establishing the characters and their relationships in full measure. It is Davies’s great gift to be able to create real, flawed, entirely credible bundles of humanity and make it clear, without even momentary preachiness, how much they have to lose.

The most hedonistic are Ritchie – who has left a loving, unthinkingly homophobic home in the Isle of Wight to study at university – and Roscoe, who had to flee a deeply religious household set on driving the homosexuality out of him even if they had to return to their native Nigeria. Colin, from the Welsh valleys, is quieter, thrilled by his new job at a tailor’s and befriended by an older colleague, Henry a sweet, gentle man who has been living with his partner, Pablo, for 30 years.

Henry and Pablo both fall ill at the same time with … cancer? Tuberculosis? Pneumonia? No one really knows, but Pablo’s mother forces him home to Portugal and Henry is left brutally isolated in a hospital ward. 

At one point, the doctors think it might be psittacosis, a lung disease contracted from, among other birds, parrots:

“You haven’t got a parrot though, have you?” says Colin. 

“Of course I haven’t got a fucking parrot,” replies his friend.

This all takes on a special resonance, of course, in the time of Covid. We can empathize that bit more with the fear, uncertainty and responses rational and irrational to the emergence of a new disease. Ritchie favours denial. Jill, her slight distance from what was seen by many as “the gay plague” giving her a different perspective, begins to arm herself with knowledge. We can also identify with endless, mindless joys coming to a painful halt, the jostling within oneself of reason and unreason – and perhaps in episodes to come, the wrestling with woefully inadequate and incompetent government responses to a proliferating crisis.

As the series moves through the decade, the subject matter naturally darkens but never loses its funniness or fleetness. It’s possible some will complain that Davies does not treat the subject as sombrely as it deserves. This is nonsense. Fleetness and funniness are the essence of life, and only by making them as central to characters, as Davies does, can you convey the depth of the tragedy about to unfold. It’s a Sin looks set not just to be to Queer as Folk’s companion piece but its companion masterpiece.”

Petshop Boys: It’s a Sin!

*I couldn’t agree more with this review and watching the series has brought so many unexpected and not always pleasant memories of coming out, of loss and of the sometime discomfiture and struggle that being Gay has meant.

And then there was Pygmalion:

The Oxford & Cambridge  Club usually conduct readings and other cultural events live in the club in Pall Mall but because of the dreaded lurgy we are now streaming online instead. Not nearly as smooth or easy as in real life I find, but fun. 

Pygmalion  has been our latest event. I gave my Colonel Pickering, probably one of the least challenging and most boring characters in the whole Shavian oeuvre! He is so ineluctably nice. It’s also nice to be in the company of friends though I am dismayed by how badly I read these days. I seem to have lost the knack somehow and made some faux pas during our webinar last week. Please forgive me, Friends!

I look forward to the next project, Lady Windermere’s Fan.

That was the week that was and it’s Valentine’s Day to end it!

Thank you, dear Friends-all, for your loyal support of my blog. It’s gratifying especially when you respond. What other way is there of keeping close in these strange times? I am flattered when you respond and rather surprised! I am always slightly embarrassed when I post; it’s rather inconsequential when weighed in the scale of contemporary affairs and the appalling suffering of so many. I am lucky anyone reads it at all and grateful that they do.

Much love – Pedro