Thursday, 16 April 2020
From my window
After a frenetic few days organising cat food deliveries, farm shop groceries, arranging flowers to be purchased for our wedding anniversary, planning Easter goodies, painting the garden shed and fence panels I am having a couple of days R & R.
At the top of our house we have a light, bright guest room where not even the internet penetrates. No sky+ box installation leaves the room removed from tv adverts, news bulletins and the general hum of live broadcasts.
Opposite me are my father’s tomes from his days in WW2. He served in signals in the eighth army under Field Marshall Montgomery. Three titles stare out at me ‘Monty’, ‘Monty’, ‘Monty’. My father was always safe in the war as he was in armoured cars with a driver. But at the end of hostilities, in their swing round to Berlin, they were diverted to Belsen. He was part of the liberating army.
My jumpiness about when the next food delivery slot will appear in this time of corona is nothing to the dreadful sites he must have witnessed. He recalled people had been reduced to rag dolls. All muscle tone gone. Too weak to move, and like a child carrying an unanimated toy, each dying body had to be lifted gently by a serving soldier to a quiet place as their spirit left this earth. Dad never mentioned the stench, the smell of death, just the face masks and DDT. And his hatred of racism.
After the war dad took his degree, deferred through war service, but succumbed to pneumonia when he started his MA. He’d always had weak lungs and after serving in the big arenas: El Alamein, Salerno, D-Day and encountering Belsen, doing an MA on top of an active mind but a weary body pushed him too far. He never finished his Masters. I have two. An M.Ed. and an M.A. One of them is for dad.
Today I am resting. The cat has been fed and I will make brunch when I feel more like being active in the kitchen. We have a treat in store. The Fine Cheese Company is a lovely band of people who are delivering their goodies this afternoon: the basics - milk, artisan bread, butter, cheese and crackers but they also have a chef from Hyderabad to delight us with his paneer tikka masala.
Unlike the poor souls who suffered in the war or, today, are sick from c-virus or overwrought from loss of earnings or enforced self-isolation, I can relax. From our light, bright guest room I can see a horse chestnut in full leaf, a luminous, pale blue sky and next door’s chimney pot. Someone, somewhere has work. I can hear birds in the trees and, sporadically, the sound of a power saw cutting through timber.
Evita, the dog next door, has just been let out and is now whimpering to be let in. Our cat hardly ever whimpers but even he, with his panther-like grip, pushed open the sitting room door when I came upstairs with my morning cuppa. He didn’t want to be on his own. But I closed the door on him.
I wonder how long it will be before he discovers the roof tops once more and climbs through the window in the guest room. He can be strangely affectionate and, when he decides, he likes company. Most of the time he is like Greta Garbo and wants to be alone. Self-isolation is no hardship. Providing, like me, he gets his food.
In the guest room sunlight is glinting on old jade-coloured glass bottles unearthed by a detectorist decades ago. Next to it, on an apple-green wooden window ledge, sits an emerald glass sea horse. It was given to me when I was twenty-one by my school friend. I wonder what has happened to her.
All I have to decide, now, is when I will take up position on the sun lounger and do some reading. Self-isolation, while we have space, food and beautiful weather can be a time of peace, for some. Let’s try to remember those who are less lucky.