annanotbob2's Diaryland Diary


Day 62

Today's blog is a copy of the diary I wrote for the Mass Observation Archive - a very detailed account of my day. I'm posting it here to keep it safe in a place I'll be able to find it but I don't anticipate it being of interest to anyone other than historians looking back. Too long, too much detail of not much occurring. Bit of drifting from past to present tense and back again. The mouse stopped working so I can't be arsed to alter it all. But hey, look at the painting I did in Tuesday art group - from a Modigliani - couldn't find it to tell you the title - woman with a long neck probably:



I am a 65 year old woman, a retired teacher, living near the south coast of England with a man who was my friend, then my partner, then friend again, then complicated. We own the house. Last year my elder daughter died, age 41, of Multiple Sclerosis. I have another daughter, who is bringing up her sister’s son, and a son. I have had severe mental health problems since the turn of the century and although I have learned to manage them, I still attend psychiatric day centres and have therapy and counselling. These problems probably have their roots in my mother dying when I was a baby and my having been assaulted several times while young.
I woke up this morning at 8, needing the bathroom - I hoped to go back to sleep but didn’t manage it. Instead I looked at my phone, scrolling through Twitter, reading responses to the government’s new instructions (or the lack of them) regarding how to live in lockdown. I became very angry about it being so clearly about posh people – you can have your cleaner and your nanny in your house – you can play tennis or golf – what about the rest of us?
I kept telling myself I would get up in a minute but it was actually ten o’clock by the time I made it. I came downstairs and the kitchen was a mess, with all yesterday’s dirty dishes and pans spread over the work surfaces and piled up in the sink. I felt like going back to bed, but made myself clear a space, fill the bowl with hot soapy water and make a start.
I decided to treat myself to a good breakfast and put a few small potatoes on to boil, to make into hash browns. I intended to do the washing up while they cooked but found myself staring out of the kitchen window, half watching sparrows flying from the fence to the bird feeders and back.
[I am writing this part at 4.15 and have just realised I didn’t do my morning meditation which has been a cornerstone of my stability during this difficult time so I’m off to do it now.]
Done. I have the headspace app on my phone and do a ten minute meditation every day, which keeps me calm and stops me worrying about things I cannot control. It keeps me very much focused on the present day, not the past and not the future.
So, breakfast was one big hash brown made from grated, parboiled potato, made into a patty and fried, with some avocado, a tomato and two poached eggs. I had a cup of expresso coffee made with a stovetop espresso pot, and took Vitamins D and C and Brewer’s Yeast in tablet form. I would normally have a turmeric latte but I’d forgotten to take a new jar of the paste I make it from out of the freezer, so I had the coffee instead.
After breakfast I intended to finish the dishes but found I had no energy or enthusiasm, and ended up sat on the sofa, crying. For quite a while – maybe half an hour. I’d woken up at 8 and by 11 all I’d managed was to cook and eat breakfast – I hadn’t even got dressed. I was more aware of this than usual as I knew I was going to write about my day in detail, but I feel this is how it has been on many days – more tired than I can explain, more sitting down doing nothing between each activity.
At one point I had a brief exchange of texts and photos of foxgloves with a friend – last year I’d given her some self-seeded foxgloves from my garden and we discussed how they’d all come out pink apart from one white one, how they all revert to the native kind, pink with nice splotches.
On Tuesdays I have a zoom meeting of the art group I have attended for about four years run by a psychiatric recovery centre where I am a client. In normal circumstances we go to the art room and work on whatever we fancy, in a range of media, with help from the art teacher. Now, and for the last few weeks, we have had a zoom meeting run from the art teacher’s kitchen. She sends us a copy of a painting in advance and we all paint it together, her included, following her advice. Last week there were more people than usual and I found it very hard with all the noise, so wasn’t looking forward to it today and almost didn’t go. But I remembered that this is my only real social occasion each week, so went along, before getting dressed or putting my false teeth in. I thought I’d just say hello then leave and go back to bed. But I stayed – we were painting one of Modigliani’s long-necked women and the first sketch I tried, grumpily, turned out to be lovely and I threw myself into it for the next 90 minutes, happy with my paints and the voices of my friends as they painted along, or drew in charcoal or whatever they had to hand. We have a whatsapp group where we all shared our finished work and I was very proud of mine – I think it may be the best painting I’ve done. I’m not an artist – I paint for the relief of forgetting myself for the duration, of being lost in brush strokes. I only realised afterwards that I’d never put my teeth in.
Just as I finished, my son phoned. He’s working from home in North London but was out today, looking at a flat as he pays a very high rent and his lease is almost at an end. We talked about the possibility of him hiring a car and driving down to the coast to see me and, separately, his sister, now that we’re allowed to meet one person. He passed his driving test a few days before lockdown and said he doesn’t think he has the confidence to drive a long way on the motorway after so long not driving.
My turmeric paste had defrosted by this time so I made my latte and took it back to bed, for a little rest before I tackled the washing up. A friend called for a chat. I haven’t seen her since February – she lives alone in a small village and is surprised to find herself enjoying this lockdown, able to read more, hear the birds, not having to drive to London and do socially valuable, but emotionally draining work. We plan to meet on a bench somewhere rural in the next few weeks. During this conversation my daughter calls and I text her to say I’ll call back, which I do, a video call when my friend has gone. By now daughter is making lunch for herself and her nephew (my grandson) – she props the phone on a shelf in the kitchen and we chat while she makes some quorn extravaganza. I have to reassure her that I’m OK when she sees I’m in bed with no teeth in at 2pm.
Then I finally get up properly and do the washing up, which has loomed over me all morning. It only takes ten minutes as last night’s dinner was leftovers – we tend to still cook family sized meals and eat them two days in a row – this was a leftover day so not many pans. Quiche with jacket potato and baked beans – comfort food – school dinners. When it’s done I feel better, seeing the counters clear, but depressed that I was unable to just do it hours ago.
Next it was time to take the dog for a walk – we have a good sized garden which she chases herself about in so she wasn’t desperate for the exercise. She hides when she knows a walk is in the offing – it makes me crazy because she loves being out – this is a game but it’s one I don’t want to play. I am old and slow, she is young and fast. Today I just felt too tired for it so Bloke caught her for me and put the lead on. Then she comes out quite happily, tail wagging, head held high, making me want to smack her. I wear a mask. I don’t expect to come into close contact with anyone but it stops me touching my face and my mouth. I have long hair and it’s usually windy – no matter how well I tie it back, bits escape and blow into my mouth and I take them out again. I think I won’t touch anything while I’m out but I might. I had pneumonia last year and don’t want this virus.
I set the timer on my phone for 30 minutes so that if I turn round when it goes off that’s my allocated hour of exercise, although I don’t have to do that now – or is it from tomorrow? We walk along a village road parallel to a big dual carriageway which has been quiet enough recently to walk across. There’s much more traffic today but when we reach the crossing place we only have to wait a short while before there’s an empty road to cross. On the other side of this road we’re in countryside and walk up a lane with fields full of sheep and lambs on either side. The alarm goes off and I suddenly remember I have a patch of skin that’s had a chemo-type treatment for pre-cancerous cells and I’m meant to put factor 50 sun screen on, but I forgot. There’s nothing I can do. The sound of the traffic is loud again – the silence of the last few weeks has gone.
As I walked back along the narrow footpath, brushing against cow parsley and elder, I texted my son for advice on getting my grandson some fitness equipment for his birthday. He’d been going to the gym until lockdown and would like this but I have no ideas what to get. My son thinks I’ll be lucky to find anything as there’s been such a rush on of home equipment.
When I get home, there’s been a delivery of strong white bread flour which we ordered what seems like ages ago. There’s been none in the supermarket and Bloke has been making sourdough for the first time with wholemeal bread flour, which has been bricklike and inedible (in my opinion if not his). I hope this will be better. After washing my hands and hanging my mask on the line in the sun (UV light kills the virus after three days, so I’m told) I call another friend and we both get cross about the Prime Minister’s speech – the things that annoyed me this morning - cleaners and nannies, golf and tennis – who is he for? We arrange to meet at her allotment tomorrow to exchange seedlings – I have heritage tomatoes, she has basic ones and courgettes. It is such a relief to be able to make these arrangements – we will keep safe – she had cancer a few years ago and has a weakened immune system – neither of us are taking any chances. We will keep our distance, wear masks, wash our hands as soon as we can after getting home.
Next is dinner, which Bloke cooks. We have an organic veg box delivered and often eat vegan or vegetarian meals – we always cook from scratch, though at the moment he does virtually all the cooking. Tonight he uses a Riverford (veg box company) recipe – a salad of green lentils with spinach, courgettes and halloumi in a lemony dressing with Jersey Royal potatoes, followed by an espresso coffee and three chocolate biscuits – Hobnobs since you asked. Eaten in front of Eastenders, the only television watched today. No news, no politics. I catch up online – I don’t want to hear their voices.
I then get into a frustrating and incomprehensible situation with a live video thing featuring a story by my daughter, but not appearing on my page though everyone else could see it. I become both angry and upset. Eventually the admin woman sends it to me via dropbox, I watch it, my daughter is brilliant, I calm down and write the rest of this.
When I have finished I will go to bed.
I know I am lucky to live out lockdown in this way. Writing this has reminded me. My concerns are petty in the scheme of things. I am able to choose not to dwell on what others are going through. I have a big garden, access to the countryside and also the beach which I go to for walks at low tide. I don’t have to work and have enough money to pay bills and make a few choices with the bit left over. I have friends and family. I have had bad mental health problems which is why I keep myself busy – I could go downhill very far and very fast if I allowed myself too much thinking time.
When I look back on the last ten years, death has been a major factor. In this period I have lost many friends, my brother and my daughter, and all but a few went before their time. I have felt that I had my tent pitched in the shadow of the valley of death, never mind walking through it. When my daughter died in September, that feeling lifted for a while, but now we find ourselves in a global pandemic. I thought at first that I couldn’t do this – that I was done, exhausted, no resources left to keep going in such difficult, demanding circumstances, but as I didn’t kill myself (which was the only other option), here I am, still going, somehow. Maybe the last ten years have given me the tools I need to get through this. I choose not to consider the next ten years – I hope we come out of this pandemic and make a better world but I fear things will have to get a lot worse before that becomes a realistic prospect. I have hopes of being published – I’m working on things but probably lack the persistence to push on through.

11:37 p.m. - 12.05.20


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