It’s all too big. £154 billion for the high speed rail link or borrowed to keep us afloat, a billion pound bail out for London Transport, here a billion, there a million – £5 million for Graham Norton, £1 million plus for Zoe Ball. Yesterday I heard the first sensible argument for the plan that reduces “an Englishman’s home is his castle” to crumpled fag packet. I remain unconvinced. And however good at his job Graham Norton is, his price is too high. To the whinny of “that’s the market price” I’d say – then let somebody else pay it. Ditto Ball. Nobody is irreplaceable.
Small is Beautiful is still on my reading list and maybe, after Dick King-Smith – because after I wrote last week about my son reading his childhood books for reassurance in life’s pressure cooker, I have been reading one a day. Let it rain. I am dry, warm and comforted, not the least by the writing. And they are still running dinnerladies on Sundays.
A friend rang to say that she didn’t want to talk to her grandchildren on Zoom – “It’s not the same” – and last weekend she had found a garden they could visit, she and her husband, the preserved and functioning herb garden of a 16th century fever hospital. The guardian took them round and showed them everything, about a dozen visitors carefully masked and distanced. And then as they were going, presented my sympathetic friend with a bouquet
of some 20 herbs, tied in a red ribbon. When she, thrilled, reached for words, the guardian ran through the herbs by name. I gasped when she was telling me this story on the telephone and she said she had gasped too. “That’s what we need, a small a day…” I said, and you can make up the rest of the rhyme as you like.
When I left the house (newspaper run) I looked to my right – dumped toilet and cistern.
Too heavy for me to fling through the window and you must get the right dwelling if you’re going to do things like that. So I turned left, ducking under the branches of the trees in the street, heading for where my side road adjoins the main road – and there, smack on the corner were two navvies (19th century from the word navigator – Oxford Dictionary) surrounded by red plastic hurdles and warning notices, taking out old paving stones.
And I said delightedly” You’ll interfere with the bikes” and started applauding. They looked at me. “You go right ahead” I said. “ This is a blind corner, I am an old woman and they come down here “ I gestured” and go on to the pavement to bypass the traffic… “ and they grinned. “ Good for you, get in the way of the bikes.” And I resumed my superficially respectable exterior and left them to it.
I went out the other way, the road is blocked and they have a job to do. But when I came back from shopping, there was an enormous wagon parked on the point of the corner and the two men still working, so I asked the nearest one “What shall I do ?” He nodded and dug his spade in, walked out, held up his hand to the admittedly modest flow of traffic and waved me through. As I went past I said ”Thank you very much” and he replied “You gave us a good laugh this morning.” A small a day. Please note: I am all in favour of bikes but not their weaponization.
Buns rang from a secret location – the only way he can avoid constantly offering himself for painting, tidying up, bailing out and monitor duty is to go somewhere he doesn’t know anybody – and in a long and much appreciated telephone call, we discussed how wearying all this is.
Not only the illness and all its preventions and conventions, but constantly having to prethink, which is in itself a problem. I told him the two stories above, and the mantra I had devised.
Don’t talk to me about Christmas, still less the flatulent neo-Victorian blowout which has dominated the past decade. Don’t wish your life away. A day at a time, a small a day …