Day 8 of Lockdown 3 was a tough one emotionally, not so much for me, but I felt the upset of a close friend who is caught in complicated personal circumstances that were difficult enough without the pandemic. Another friend on the far side of the globe battles health problems unrelated to Covid-19, just as the government there decides it is time to implement strict pandemic restrictions. I think of her too.
A brother has a more practical issue to deal with as winter weather rolls across England, a broken boiler that provides the heating and hot water for his home. He is not at all well and being warm and clean are two of life’s pleasures he really appreciates. Repairs may be possible in about seven days, when a plumber has space for the job.
My eldest son has taken to switching his mobile phone off for days on end so that he is not overloaded by well-meaning messages and an excess of easily accessible information. The hospital has twice the number of beds dedicated to Covid -19 patients than during last April.
Her Majesty’s Government announces another 1,243 Covid-19 related deaths.
As I walk the riverside footpath I see the guy I met on Christmas morning. He is a sitting in the same place he was then and yes, he has started his day’s drinking. We talk about books as he sees me carrying New York to California by Jeremy Page. He recommends Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. He has lost money that he lent a mate, it was went up his mate’s nose and he did not even spare a fiver for the lender, who next gets some cash in on the 18th January. “Never lend what you can’t afford to lose” we agree, but maybe John was trying to be genuinely helpful. He muses on the company he keeps and suggests that he needs to be less trusting, less helpful. As I listen to him I consider whether this is a line he tries. Is this how he gets cash from familiar strangers?
Whatever, I have a note that I won’t be using today. He thanks me and says he’ll pay me back. I am sure he means what he says, but this is less important than maintaining the understanding we hold at this moment of acting as equals.
A teenager comes along to chat with him. The youngster is thin and his clothes are dirty, he looks as if he might be sleeping rough. He starts talking to the man as if I am not present. The man and I signal a farewell and he thanks me again as I head home.
Further along a wren stands on the edge of a hawthorn bush and issues its shrill alarm, but at what I do not know. Everyone is having a tough day it seems.
Of course, not everyone is having a tough day. I get a phone call from another friend who has sorted out a problem that has rankled for nearly three years, three years she repeats. The release of tension is audible in the tone of her voice. I am really pleased for her. She has got a break in what seemed a downward spiral and now has choices too. Forgive? Forget? Move on?
She is still in a state of mild shock at her own news. She needs to get used to the idea of suddenly having some money of her own in the bank.
Another friend sends me a draft poem to read. After an exchange of messages and several hours of radio silence I get the second draft. It is clever, funny and quite bonkers. Nice work Max!
I do what work I have can with my iPod playing through 806 Bob Dylan songs on shuffle mode. If you enjoy Bob Dylan’s music, you’ll understand. It is 03:50 hrs when I switch off and retreat to bed.
The apartment smells of fresh bread which I cover and leave to cool on a rack in the kitchen.