Lockdown Diary – Day 59

Well, so much for trying to write these entries earlier in the day. It’s 10 to 10 on a Friday night and I am about to pour my third pint of Pilgrim. It’s been a pretty good day. Got up about 7.30 to cloudy, windy weather. It looked like we were about to get a storm but of course we didn’t.

I went for my third run of the week, my second three-run week in a row. You’d think that running this often my times would get better, but you would be wrong. I blame my running shoes, which have 550k on them and have nothing left in the way of support. New shoes should arrive in a week or so.

Halfway through the run the skies cleared and it got a lot warmer than the forecast had said it would get. Came home to great news as Alice had got her Covid test result back and it was negative. Never thought it would be otherwise but good to get it officially confirmed.

Had about an hour to recover before it was time for the weekly adventure of driving to Crawley to get the click and collect from Sainsbury’s. For once they hadn’t screwed up the order or forgotten things so it was relatively stress-free despite being much busier (8 cars waiting) than last week when I was the only one there.

Spent an hour or two in the garden, the went for a walk with Alice so got 18,000 steps in for the day. We had a rare treat of having our supper (pizza) in front of the television. Before this lockdown we only had meals together at the dining room table maybe once a week.

Late breaking news: Dominic Cummings, the government’s official shitgibbon, is in trouble for breaking the lockdown!

Lockdown Diary – Day 58

It’s only 3pm and I am getting an earlier start on this diary today. When I leave it until the end of the day it too often becomes a chore and I feel I am writing it just to keep the streak going. Also easier to remember what the fuck you did all day when you do it earlier!

So I am sitting in a shady spot in the garden after a fairly productive day so far. Stayed up to late again last night, just didn’t get sleepy like I usually do. So went to bed about 1am and was awake at 6.30. So a nap might be on the cards. I say that but seldom actually take one.

Decided to do some weeding in the garden before it got too hot. Started about 8 and was done by 10 and was already sweltering. Got it bagged up and took it and all the other garden waste and rubbish that has been sitting here waiting for the local dump to reopen. At least having waited a week there were no queues to speak of. It was very well organised and no problem as far as social distancing. So glad to have it all out of the garden, which is looking pretty good now.

On the way home I went past the Garibaldi pub, which, not being able to open, has cleverly been converted to an off-licence and shop. It is a community-run pub and so I thought I would show some support for it and our local brewery while rewarding myself for my hard work. So I came home with a mini keg! That’s 5 litres of beer that must be consumed within 3 days of opening. Should not be a problem!

Got an email from the Guardian extending my furlough for another month, until the end of June. So that is a big relief as I was starting to wonder whether I should start asking about shifts, fully realising they are still thin on the ground.

If that’s not enough excitement for one day we are getting takeaway from Lebnani tonight! It will be the first time in two months that we eat something we haven’t cooked for ourselves. Exciting times!

Update: The Lebnani takeaway was fantastic! Won’t be waiting two months to we get the next one.

Lockdown Diary – Day 57

Woke up at 5.30am and took a while to get back to sleep, so my streak finally came to an end. Got up about 7.30 and enjoyed the solitude with my morning coffee. Spent most of the morning procrastinating, if you can really call it that when you don’t have anything to do anyway. Finally went for a run about 11 when the temperature was already pushing 28 degrees celsius. It was more of a chug than a run, my time was so much slower. I do seem to run faster when it is cold for some reason. But it didn’t seem too bad until I got to the park where there was no shade at all. Then it really seemed hot (for England).

I’ve now put more than 500k on my running shoes so I ordered a new pair the other day. They won’t arrive until the 30th so will have to put up with the old ones for a few more runs. They are totally worn out and I am sure running will be a lot more fun once the new shoes arrive.

The big news was that it was pay day and I checked my balance to see that I had apparently been paid two months’ worth of my furlough money in one go! I wasn’t expecting that. So I am temporarily flush, but at the same time have no idea when I will get another pay cheque.

Spent yet another afternoon in the garden but despite my run in the heat I didn’t feel as listless as I did yesterday. Maybe my hay fever medicine has kicked in.

Went for a short walk around the cemetery. It is a fascinating place and a shame that we have spent so little time exploring it. Most of the gravestones are so old that the writing and dates can no longer be read. But there are some very, very old ones there, and no doubt a lot of interesting stories. There are also some very old, very large trees, like this one, a cedar I think.

I thought today was the day my US passport expires but when I checked it had expired on the 11th. Feels a bit strange not having a valid US passport and not knowing when I will get a new one. Charlie’s expired in February. At least we both have UK passports, thank goodness.

A courier came this morning to collect Alice’s coronavirus self-test. She should get the results in 48 hours. Fingers crossed.

Lockdown Diary – Day 56

Well, it took 55 days but it finally happened. I completely forgot to write an entry so am cheating and doing this one the next morning. But through the wonders of technology it will look like I wrote it yesterday. You follow? Oh, wait! Now I will have to write two entries today! FML! I suppose I could do it this way everyday and anyone who has happened to stumble upon this diary would never know. And in any case, it’s a fucking diary, not a daily newspaper! Deadlines, shmeadlines!

Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, yesterday, I mean today. I got up at 7am after yet another good sleep and went out to check on the blue tits. I could hear loud cheeping even before I opened the back door. And it wasn’t all coming from the box. I found a poor little blue tit had somehow fledged on its own, without any help from its parents, who were still nowhere to be found. How brave! How desperately hungry it must have been to take that leap into the big wide world all alone.

I watched him hop about and could tell that his wings were not yet up to flying. He barely fluttered them or attempted to fly. Too weak? Too young? Meanwhile I could hear another chick peeping and see his head looking out the hole. I knew the fledgling had little chance of survival and I thought about finding a box and taking it inside. But instead I got a few meal worms and removed their heads (just like the parents do) and tried to feed them to the chick with a little plastic ice cream spoon without success. I got a pair of tweezers and they worked much better and I was able to feed the chick four or five worms. My theory was that this would give it strength to get somewhere safe and maybe, just maybe be able to survive, though I knew this outcome was unlikely. But I had to do something.

Meanwhile a jay was flying around, waiting for its chance to grab the chick. I chased it away several times. The fledgling rather than seek shelter in the flowerbed instead came right up to the back door. Having fed it, did it think I was its mother now? It eventually hopped over to where the tap comes out of the house and managed to get up on the rim of a zinc flowerpot before sheltering behind it in the drain. Alice was now up and helping keep watch for the jay. But in the blink of an eye it struck and we could not longer hear the fledgling calling for its mother. It was gone less than an hour after leaving the nest box.

The chick that had been peeping from the nest box had gone quiet too. Had it been snatched from the hole? Had it fledged and flown away? I could not hear it in the flowerbed or nearby trees. I walked to the back of the garden listening for chicks in the trees, just as I had done in years past on fledging days. I couldn’t hear anything but other birds.

I took a photo through the nest box hole and could see at least two dead chicks. So after a few hours I decided to open it up. There were four dead chicks inside. One, probably the one I heard peeping, seeming almost ready to fledge, had died standing next to the hole looking up at it. Since we had only ever counted five eggs and chicks, it seemed all were now dead. Just 48 hours earlier they were all alive, and the male and female blue tits were flying in and out with food. They were all fully feathered and looked like proper little blue tits just a few more days away from being able to fly.

We have no idea why they had been abandoned. We still have not seen more than one blue tit in the area since Sunday evening, the male, so we assume the female must have been predated or just died. Even while the fledgling was on the ground I saw the male on the feeder, showing no interest in the drama that was unfolding 20 feet away. We will never know what went wrong. Having a nest box can bring great joy when things go well. But sadness when they don’t.

I spent the rest of the day in the garden, feeling meh.

Lockdown Diary – Day 55

A strange day, part quite nice, part angst ridden. Slept well again, up at 7.45am. Too early when you have got nowhere to be but better than 5.30am. Unloaded the dishwasher then saw there was murky water in the bottom of it. Oh great! Just what we need, a broken dishwasher. Then I remembered I had turned it off during our family Zoom call as I was doing it from the kitchen and forgot to turn it back on. Never mind, the dishes I had unloaded and put away looked clean enough!

After that I took out some worms for the blue tits, and that’s when the day turned bleak. One adult blue tit, probably the male, appeared but didn’t show any interest in the worms. Instead it sat just outside the box and called and called for about 10 minutes. Seemed like it was calling for its mate to come out, but who knows? Then it flew away. The female never appeared at all. Had she been predated? So spent the day watching the nest box and waiting for the parents to return. But no sign of them, and could not hear them when I went out in the garden. What I could hear was the hungry little blue tits chirping and chirping and chirping in the box. By noon still no sign of mum and dad and it was starting to look like the box had been abandoned.

Meanwhile, I went for a run, my fourth in 7 days! It was quite warm but still had a decent time although the Nike Run app was being weird again so who knows? About 3.30pm Alice and I drove to Bletchingley to have a walk along one of our favourite routes. It was her first time out since the dizziness started on Friday and it did us both good. Everything was so green and beautiful. We saw a wild duck with three ducklings swimming in a little pod, heard a cuckoo and saw two deer in a field. But it was just the change of scenery and the sound of the wind in the trees that made it so nice. In the past we seldom saw anyone on this walk but today we saw half a dozen others plus another half a dozen cyclists.

We got back home to find Alice’s Covid self-test had arrived. It looks very complicated so she will wait until tomorrow to do it. After supper (fishcakes) we sat in the garden, listening to the little blue tits calling for their mum and feeling sad knowing that they would likely die in a day or two without food. We could see their little heads peering out the hole. Just as I tried to take a photo one popped its head out (below). They look nearly ready to fledge but not without the encouragement of their parents.

Suddenly at 8pm a blue tit appeared near the box and eventually went in. It didn’t make any sound. No calling to the chicks, no sound at all as it went in and out a few times. It didn’t really take in any worms and eventually came out and flew off. We were glad that they had not been abandoned though it still seemed very odd, and still no sign of both parents. Maybe they will return tomorrow, or maybe the chicks will just fledge on their own. Fingers crossed. I hate thinking about having to clear out a nest box full of dead chicks. Hope it doesn’t come to that.

Lockdown Diary – Day 54

Today was another one of those low-energy days. Despite getting a good night’s sleep I just felt exhausted most of the day so accomplished very little. Charlie fixed his very tasty corned beef hash for breakfast. We had run out of mini meal worms so I drove over to Pets at Home. Still no wax worms so I got two boxes of the meal worms, which should nearly get them to next weekend when they are likely to fledge. Had to queue for about 10 minutes and afterwards went to BP to check the air pressure in the tyres as they didn’t feel quite right and I had been meaning to check them for a while.

Alice was feeling much better until she got a message from this Covid Symptoms app she has been using saying they wanted to send her a test. I don’t think there is any chance she has it as she hasn’t been near anyone but Charlie and I for two months. I suppose it was because she was putting in her symptoms for whatever it is that has been making her dizzy. It’s a self-test so that should prove interesting. I certainly won’t be sticking a giant q-tip halfway into my head!

She felt well enough to cook a fantastic garlic roast chicken dinner while I snoozed in the garden. I really could not stay awake all afternoon, might be hay fever or maybe I need to start using that app too! Got a good look at the blue tits when the sun was at the right angle to shine in through the hole in the nest box.

Zoomed with the family in the evening, which is always nice. Hope I have more energy tomorrow.

Lockdown Diary – Day 53

Slept like a log. Got up about 8am and before I knew it it was nearly 3pm. Alice has spent the day in bed although she does seem to be getting a bit better. Hasn’t been sick anymore and seemed to sleep OK. But she hasn’t eaten much for the last two days.

I faffed around knowing I wanted to get a run in but did my best to delay it. It has been a much nicer day today. A lot warmer when the sun was out but still cool when it went behind the clouds. I eventually went for a run about noon and it was OK. Not to many people to avoid although the park was busy.

Tried again without luck to see about my $1,200 stimulus payment from the Trump Organization. But like thousands of other American expats I can’t get on to the system. Maybe the postman will eventually bring a cheque around.

Charlie and I had a nice supper, burgers, sweet corn and courgettes. Alice didn’t feel up to it, though she was feeling well enough to come downstairs in the evening. Tonight would have been the Eurovision Song Contest, always a big night in our house and across the continent. But as it had been cancelled they put on Eurovision: Europe Shine Light, which we found so depressing we switched off after about 20 minutes.

The skies cleared in the late evening and as the golden hour coincided with wine o’clock, I spent it in the garden with an Australian friend.