THE GREEN DIARY : Wednesday, 26 August 2020.

A Friend in Wilderness, South Africa sent me this poem, which I felt was hilarious considering where we all are today, surrounded by U-turns and indecisions.

I won’t arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
I’ll sanitise the doorknob and make a cup of tea.
I won’t go down to the sea again, I won’t go out at all,
I’ll wander lonely as a cloud from the kitchen to the hall.
There’s a green-eyed yellow monster to the north of Katmandu
But I shan’t be seeing him just yet and nor, I think, will you.
While the dawn comes up like thunder on the road to Mandalay
I’ll make my bit of supper and eat it off a tray.
I shall not speed my bonnie boat across the sea to Skye
Or take the rolling English road from Birmingham to Rye.
About the woodland, just right now I am not free to go
To see the Keep Out posters or the cherry hung with snow
And no, I won’t be travelling much, within the realms of gold.
Or get me to Milford Haven. All that’s been put on hold.
Give me your hands, I shan’t request, albeit we are friends
Nor come within a mile of you, until this shit show ends.

FROM A Brisk Walk through a Pageant of English Verse

Though to be fair our new regimen of what we call Quartet Luncheons & Dinners has gone some way to breaking the ice in our isolation, so-to-speak. These are Two+Two affairs observing the niceties of distancing, always only four of us.

But much excitement into the big smoke we plunged to visit Friends Penny & Nick, one of our BridgeBase-Online partnerships in East Sheen. It seemed so naughty driving there, not playing live bridge but spending a lovely evening in actuality not virtuality. 

Thanks Friends it was a lovely evening. A Quartet dinner of note.

Home to sad, dusty Leverton Street . It needs love and a lick of paint I think. The windows remind me of scenes from Miss Haversham’s failed wedding night in GREAT EXPECTATIONS; but I am just too fat and unsupple to do the deathly window ledge balance and clean the acres of dirt & diesel off the glass! Oh where is the wonderful window man?

This is Falkland Road just before you turn into Leverton Street. It has become very colourful. Perhaps because Sir Keir Starmer lives in the neighbourhood. He is our MP.

Hampstead Heath was surprisingly not crowded; perhaps it wasn’t the finest day. We walked our usual circuit up from Parliament Hill to Kenwood House and round down to the Ladies’ Pond, the Boat and Men’s Ponds to catch a 214 down the hill home and were distraught at the sight of all the diseased Horse Chestnut trees, their leaves brown with some sort of fungus.

The autumnal effect is in fact some sort of bacteria or fungus. This is the lane near the Ladies’ Pond. In summer!

What do you think will happen to them? Can they fight off this disease or will they go the same way as the beautiful Dutch Elms that were so ignominiously expunged from the English landscape? It’s a tragedy.

A Sestet birthday party of note in Clapham changed gears slightly. Friend Edward’s 69th. Soixante Neuf. An excellent position we think! The 88 bus took us all the way from Camden; it was immaculately clean and empty; alighting at its terminus in Clapham Old Town we were surprised by the over-flowing cafes, bars and restaurants filled with unmasked, careless twenty-and-thirty-somethings for whom there seemed to be no worries. For us hayseeds this came as a shock.

So, the ‘burbs are busy but the West End and City glumly uncrowded, we found.

This is where the bus stopped but it was not like this! Clapham Old Town.

Two more Quartet Luncheons last week and Quartet Martini & Campari Locktails of a sunset : except we were blown indoors! There is a lot of wind at present, the weather has cooled appreciably but none of this changed the taste of the martinis, I can tell you!

Tyger, Tony and Fin : Lovely Lallies all three!
With Tyger and Fin gathering lots of blackberries. Jams and Puddings have been forthcoming.

Two grandchildren came to visit and stay the night. We took them blackberrying and then wined and dined them at the Thorn Hotel round the corner where an extremely brisk trade has taken advantage of England’s new Staycationing habits. In fact on Monday last when our lovely Polish Ladies came to dust us down (they like the house to themselves), we went for breakfast at the Thorn where the special discount is still in force. Friend David McKay, the owner, stopped by and told us that they have never been so busy and were run off their feet; its impossible to get a booking; that even if there were no discount they would still be just as busy with people who have found they need not be in London to work and play. The empty cafes, bars and restaurants there are gains for the provinces.

This was brought home to us when we went for a Quartet Luncheon with friends in Thorpeness, near Aldeburgh. We have never seen so many cars and people there before, even in normal times. It was astonishing. Some friends who’d been up to Cromer and visited the north Norfolk coast told us that there were at least 20,000 cars at Holkham. Everybody is holidaying at home and there is no room at any inn anywhere. All this chimes with what David told us. Their Enoteca in Manningtree, Lucca, is chockfull too.

I rehearsed and played in my first Webinar last week too, playing Colonel Lukyn in Pinero’s THE MAGISTRATE. This seems to be the new way forward with much theatre now, streamed events whose virtuality never quite adds up to actuality but is great fun nonetheless. 

Some work well: we watched ALBION from the Almeida and though quibbled with some of the writing and one or two over-busy performances,  thought it was riveting and extremely good. It’s still available if anyone is interested.

Have a look, Friends.

On the television two major documentaries have struck us. ONCE UPON A TIME IN IRAQ, a five-part documentary shedding a terrifying perspective on that unhappy country and the effects of the invasion. 

So very sad. 

What we liked about it was that ordinary people from all sides gave their views and described their experiences. No politicians with their spin and their dishonesty. You can find it on catch-up as you can too the amazing full length film, due for theatric release next month, COUP 53, about the cynical involvement of the CIA and MI6 in the overthrow of the Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, in retaliation for his nationalisation of the Iranian oil industry which was hitherto wholly owned by British and American interests.

Ten years in the making and much material is still in secret archives, which MI6 will not yet release. What struck us most about the film was the ripple effect down the years that that sponsored coup d’état had on the whole region and how it has negatively affected so much there ever since, never mind any trust between the Middle East and the West. It was like watching a political thriller with the consequences of the action still to play out in our future.

And now I have added another book to my growing reading list, all being read simultaneously. Get a grip! Why can’t I get rid of this reader’s block?  LADY IN WAITING, Anne Glenconner’s fascinating story of her “Extraordinary Life in the Shadow of the Crown” may finally have achieved an unblocking. It’s wonderfully amusing, but dark too as much in her life was not easy. There was much tragedy. I can’t put it down.

I think she may have dictated it into a recorder because it has the directness of a speaking voice; quite a feat. It rollicks along at a rate of knots.

An end note for today – Tony and I have been together for just over thirty-five years and many of you, our Friends, have asked how we met.  If you are interested I have written a piece about it elsewhere on my site and if you click on the link a new story will open to entrance and amaze you (tongues in cheeks!).

Ha! Ha! See you all soon……………!