My Corona – Another Year Another Life

During the first lockdown period in March 2020, Keith Richards started writing the My Corona blog for The Chiswick Calendar – a mix of his observations from his daily constitutionals and the quiet enjoyment of his record collection. Since then he has continued to document the every day occurrences of this most peculiar time. 

“She speaks in a voice almost too low to be heard over the music. But I hear her – I always did. “Who are you, George?”

“Someone you knew in another life, honey.”

Stephen King

Bringing back memories – my first ten days under Lock Down last March, according to my daily blog

Day 1 – Tuesday 24th of March

On the first day, I started what were to be themes that continued during the first lock down. One of them was how fast traders adapted to the new conditions and in particular my travails trying to post a parcel. ….

“So, as I approached the Post Office (on Heathfield Terrace) I could see a couple of people in front of a clearly shut door, straining to make sense of a square of white paper crookedly stuck on it. I kept my social distance until I too could approach the door and attempt to read, let alone understand the scruffy and tiny notice. Despite the website saying the Post Office was open with normal hours the notice was clearly saying it would only be open part-time. But what hours? I leave you to see if you can read it?

Apart from being in a twelve if not ten point font the times have been badly scribbled over so as to be illegible. While I was there a pensioner came over and was visibly distressed and had her face just a few inches as she tried to understand. When I explained and offered to help she wandered off muttering. Many pensioners still collect their pensions and allowances in cash from this Post Office and that notice was thoughtless and unhelpful. I have no problem with them reducing hours or taking steps to protect their staff but they need to communicate clearly.”

“One of the themes of this blog will be that we all need to remember those traders and services who did give a shit during the crisis and give them our patronage afterwards. Those that are not looking after their staff, that price gouge and take advantage should be boycotted thereafter.”

Day 2 – Weds 25th

I was still battling away to post my parcel ………

“Meanwhile, having deciphered the rubbish Post Office signage I took myself down this morning to catch it before it shut at 12 (or was that 12.30- who knows?). Well, today they did have a proper sign outside (was that because I tweeted a copy of the photo to the @PostOffice twitter feed?) but they also had a queue stretching 50 metres down Barley Mow Passage….. but there was a member of staff telling them that they were closing on time and would not be serving even those people already at the back of the queue. Raise a glass to customer service!”

I was learning that some shops had adapted quicker than others, though it appeared that some customers had not!

“Overall, the High Road was significantly busier than yesterday with queues outside Boots and the banks – all orderly and socially distanced. M & S had a very well organised waiting system supervised by a member of staff and my local Sainsbury’s (by the junction with Chiswick Lane) had a less well managed and more informal system. As I wanted some milk, I joined the queue. There are always some tossers though, aren’t there? One guy turned up and went to walk in. On being stopped as the queue was pointed out to him he swore at us and marched off. I exchanged glances, bonding with my fellow pavement dwellers.”

“Talking of supermarkets. Why is everyone rushing to the supermarket and then complaining their shelves are empty when nearly all the small, local shops in Chiswick have plenty of stock? Apart from eggs, which I am told are in short supply everywhere …. I saw just about everything you need in the small businesses that we should be supporting along the High Rd.”

Day 3 – Thurs 26th

It was only the third day but it appears I had an early ‘down day’. Reading back I am surprised that it happened so early. Maybe something unrecorded happened to trigger it but as we were all to learn this was to be an apparently common experience.

“Today, outside my balcony, the sun is shining. The beautiful sound of my neighbours’ four-year old daughter playing on their patio floats through my open window. Yet today my mood is somewhat darker and I may forgo my daily walk. From my conversations with friends, particularly those living on their own, I know that in the coming days some will be brighter than others. I tell you what though. Right now, I feel lucky to be in my Chiswick apartment rather than Lagos, Bergamo or ……. “

Day 4 – Fri 27th

Four days in and I had still not posted that parcel so I changed direction …….

“Having given up on Chiswick’s unwelcoming Post Office I thought I would give the smaller one on King Street (No 168, not the main one in the soon to be Ikea Mall a try). What a difference, whereas Chiswick have reduced their hours, the chap here has increased his. It is a small premises with just enough room for 2 or 3 people inside at properly distanced intervals and was apparently busy early on but at about 12.30 there were just three people ahead of me. “

One my way back I attempted to do what these days is part of my routine – a stroll in Ravenscourt Park. I had almost forgotten that in those early panic days many parks, open spaces and playgrounds were shut down. It was only later that it was recognised how important those out door areas would be for our mental health.

“Just time for a quick rant before I finish. I understand the reasons why Hammersmith & Fulham have closed all the parks but is it really necessary to completely shut the gates. Surely, it would be easy to cordon off children’s play areas, tennis/basketball courts and such but allow space for people to exercise in a responsible socially distanced manner. Like me!

So even though I knew Ravenscourt Park was locked I bought a take away coffee in the hope that I could sit on a bench or walk slowly in the normally empty little jewel that is the garden in Westcott Square. It was not to be. I did chat, properly separated, to a couple of local residents who were taking in the sun on their front door step (because their aforementioned garden was closed) and they assumed the square was shut otherwise the ‘overspill’ from people who could not get into Ravenscourt would come their way.”

Images above: A bacon butty on a bench, but not in Ravenscourt Park

Days 5/6 – Weekend 28/29th

Being the weekend my thoughts turned to the last two weeks of the season that was not to be. As Chairman of Old Isleworthian Rugby Football Club I had been excited as we were expecting to win our Merit Table and were due to play the Vase Final. No such luck as there have been no proper games since. Fortunately, though no more matches were allowed we had done enough to win promotion as champions.

As I write this today we are allowed to resume certain forms of non-contact play again and, indeed, social training is resuming at the Wood Lane Club ground on Wednesday.

Day 7 – 30th

By now I was learning that those plans to use the Lock Down productively were not as they might seem ……

“I now have this blog to keep me active and have commenced a new occupation that will keep me busy for a couple of weeks – organising and archiving all the old family photographs that I brought home when my father died about seven years ago. It is amazing how much stuff you amass over the years. Anecdotally, it appears this is a new global corona isolation induced activity but it does have its dangers. At the best of time nostalgia is a drug and as we sit inaccessible and reclusive it is very easy to sit staring at pictures of old family gatherings, departed loved ones and, in my case, short-trousered, polished-kneed, homeknit-sweatered, heavyleather-booted posed back-garden embarrassments.”

Did I complete that task? You know the answer, don’t you?

I also had my early introduction to the emerging Zoom culture – and its dangers!

“This is genuinely a phenomena that is taking off. Already some of my friends – and not just the younger ones – are becoming booked up for days ahead. “Sorry Dad, I am doing a virtual pub quiz Tuesday, am meeting some old school mates Wednesday and having dinner ………..“! I had done a couple of family meals sharing a screen but being introduced to new Apps like Zoom is quite an adventure. In fact, so much of an adventure that some of us got over excited. Yes, that is a bottle of gin you can see on my bar and, yes, it did seem to go down rather well. So much so that the next morning I did ponder that the symptoms of a hangover are not that dissimilar to Corona Virus – though clearly, much shorter lived. Cheers!”

Day 8 – 31st

Wandering in different directions each day tended to focus on the reward of a sausage roll or bacon butty. However, the new rules created new obstacles to the enjoyment of my daily treat …..

“It was blooming cold yesterday and I really felt it after being cosied up in my flat the entire weekend. Nevertheless I was determined to get some exercise and, in any case, I wanted to check out Plum Duff Café at the top of The Avenue. So, as there are no longer tables and chairs outside and we are not supposed to be sitting down on benches I had planned to eat my butty and drink my coffee on the go.

This already proving logistically more difficult than I expected, probably because I also now had a bag of shopping and I am not a wonderful juggler, then it started to rain. And I mean that steely cold, penetrating type. This was not the sandwich experience I was planning until I fled to a bus stop, put my shopping on the weird half seat/half rail thing that many bus stops have these days and gave my brunch the attention it deserved.”

Transport workers were very much in the front line in those early days with a much higher percentage of cases than other jobs until bus companies introduced safeguards.

“The bus that plies The Avenue from the High Road is the E3 and I noted that there did seem to be one every 5 minutes or so and they all seemed to have just two passengers on. I am fortunate that I walk for my joint exercise and shopping excursions but once again, a big thanks to London Transport and allied staff for keeping services open for those that need them.”

On Day 9

I must have thought better of writing on April Fools day!

Day 10 – 2nd of April

Taking a stroll up the gentrified Devonshire Road I mused how in my youth, this was a far from the ‘posh’ area it has become.

“The inhabitants of that part of Chiswick were far from the high-income owners of today…..By the time I used to catch the bus from Hounslow to meet (my friends) in the ‘Packhorse’ or the ‘Packhorse and Talbot’ my memory of Chiswick High Road was of greasy kebab shops. No organic, free trade products in sight. Not that we came this way very often for fear of the ‘Devonshire Road boys’. My usual hang out was the bowling alley in Hounslow close to The Bell Inn. ….. In those days the old Hounslow Town Hall (I don’t believe the building still exists) was the place to go for the ‘Saturday Dance’.

I certainly remember seeing Simon Dupree and the Big Sounds play there and still have the 45-rpm single “Kites” that I must have bought at the time. However, the evening I do remember, for all the wrong reasons was when the singer and Children’s TV presenter ‘Ayesha’ came to play. It turns out a number of ‘The Devonshire Road” had infiltrated (everything was highly territorial) and a skirmish broke out. One of ‘The Hounslow’ was hit over the head with a fire bucket and the skirmish turned into full-on mayhem. I managed to squeeze out and I remember the fighting carrying on into the street.”

So who does remember Ayesha? Well, though she was born in Highgate I found out writing this that she went to Arts Ed School, so can almost be called a local girl. Her first single came out in 1965 when she was just sixteen so a couple of years later when performing at the Hounslow Town Hall gig/punch up she was probably a bit shocked at the way it came to a premature end. I was also a bit shocked to read she was then romantically linked to half the UK music scene including Steve Winwood, Chas Chandler and Rod Stewart (according to Wikipedia) and married Cat Stevens’ producer Chris Brough.

It was as Ayesha Brough she presented the children’s programme “Lift Off’ – sometimes with ‘Ollie Beak”! So here is a sneak view of her, no punch ups or talking owls visible, but as her music guests include Bay City Rollers there is plenty of tartan on view. Trust me, this is the only time I will ever, ever, be guilty of including ‘The Rollers’ on this blog again.

 

Read more blogs by Keith

Read the next in the series – My Corona – Forget 1984 – 2024 is coming

Read the previous one – My Corona – #proudofourkids

See all Keith’s My Corona blogs here.

See more of Keith’s work on his website – outsiderinside.co.uk

Feel free to post any comments or suggestions there or by email to Keith@outsiderinside.co.uk

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