7 April. April and spring have always meant planting time for me. Having sold our house and lovely garden (and greenhouse), I am now limited to a balcony. I had hoped that a gardener who had looked after our garden before would come and help out but he is nowhere to be found. So, banishing all negative thoughts of the future, I ordered planters and pots and potting soil and plugs of some my favourite annuals: petunias, daisies, nemesia, verbena, and more. Rather a lot more! They are not arriving in the right sequence! Deliveries seem to have turned into a lucky dip. Today I got a whole box of seedlings (three dozen) but during the week I have received only one small bag of soil. I spent a happy hour planting them all crammed together in one pot and at least they are in the soil and watered (several trips with watering can). I spent considerably more time (in rubber gloves) disposing of all the cardboard containers and packing material in which they arrived. This was no mean feat. They have to be carried two floors down, banisters to be wiped, entry key pads to be wiped, boxes to be dismantled and conveyed into large bins with heavy lids. Several trips, much washing of hands involved. I plan to pack every part of the balcony with flowering plants and leave only just enough room for a couple of chairs. If this is where I am to be confined, so be it: flowers all around me (eventually, courtesy of nurseries and Amazon) and a view of the park, friends on Whatsapp, and a good book.
6 April. Goal: an empty desk
For years and years I have craved an empty desk. One of the main features of my desk have always been lots of post-its and lists. I have always been a great list maker – and get a sense of satisfaction ticking off the items I have jotted down. This has not been a universally admired ritual. One of my ever patient secretaries once said to me “B, if you would just stop making lists for a few days, we could all catch up!” Another said “There is no such thing as an empty desk. The day you have an empty desk is the day you don’t have a day job. Get used to it.” I now have cause to remember them – and I do so fondly. Thanks to being confined to quarters, mirabilis dictu, I have almost eliminated all post-its. At the grand old age of 76, in March I relinquished my last paid employment – and that too has contributed to the fact that in a few days’ time I will have an empty desk. And then I am going to write a book. But first I am going to admire my empty desk for a while.
5 April. What about the rest of my life?
I have been thinking. (My family is not particularly keen on that phrase!) And I have been thinking that, given my age group and dodgy asthma condition, that when this virus is brought under control (that is, is occurring at a rate that the NHS can handle) it will still lurk around in the same way that flu lurks around. And, as long as it lurks, I will be very vulnerable. So the way I am living now might not be substantially different from the way I will have to live the rest of my life – that is, until a vaccine is found. And then I turned on the inimitable Trevor Noah and his interview with Bill Gates (#thedailyshow) and found corroboration, from Bill Gates, no less. He too says that “The ultimate solution – the only thing that really lets us go back completely to normal and feel good about sitting in a stadium of other people – is to create a vaccine.” I am sure a vaccine will be found. Having worked in a university environment for most of my life I have boundless faith in the ingenuity of the human species and scientists, in particular. The question remains then: when?
And so until then I must get on with it. I have never been to a stadium and have no wish to do so now – so that’s not a problem. I have come to hate air travel so having that option removed from me is fine. I have traveled quite extensively so have no great bucket list in that department. Concerts will have to be enjoyed online and the Met and other orchestras are stepping up to the plate. I am taking more tours of great museums – virtually – than I ever would be able to do in reality and I think I am enjoying them with an intensity I didn’t experience before (cabin fever plays its part). I spend more hours on the phone with friends and family than I ever would have been able to manage if I had to travel to meet them. I play bridge online with friends and with our Whatsapp phones on throughout the game we have just as much social interaction as we had when we traveled to each other’s houses. We might never play face to face again. On the other hand, you still can’t beat a good dinner party. And a lovely long rail journey would be a treat and I love going to see the great gardens to be found in the UK and I love meeting friends in London and enjoying all the city has to offer. And I love walking on the beach and, and, and. Oh dear. I do hope they hurry up and find a vaccine.