My watched stopped last night, six minutes before midnight.  Even though I knew the battery had conked out, I shook it but, of course, to no avail. It has expired.  I was reminded of My Grandfather’s Clock (Henry Clay Work, 1832 – 1884)

Ninety years without slumbering/(Tick, tock, tick, tock)/His life’s seconds numbering/(Tick, tock, tick, tock)/It stopped short − never to go again −/When the old man died.

I wonder if my watch knows (knew now I suppose) something I don’t know.  Assuming its demise isn’t some sort of omen, the main inconvenience is that I’ll spend the next few days forgetting it isn’t there and looking at my naked wrist.

Isolated in our top floor flat with no signs of life from the 12 flats below, I thought I’d do my bit as chairman of our residents’ association and attempt to find out if we are truly alone.  I must admit that being chairman has never been onerous. Thus far it has only ever involved alerting the management company when the lift goes out of service or telling them that the cleaning of the communal areas isn’t good enough − oh, and chairing an AGM each year where we’ve had trouble scraping together a quorum.  So, attempting to contact other residents felt like a bold initiative.  It reminded me of prisoners in solitary confinement who tap on walls or pipes in an attempt make contact with other humans.  Alas, there’s no point tapping on our walls because they are all outside walls and under-floor heating means we have no radiators (only now does it occur to me that I could have ripped up some floorboards, but our pipes are plastic so tapping on them would be feeble).  So, I wrote 12 notes (well, the same note photocopied) more or less saying ‘is anyone there?’ and slipped them under each silent door.  A triumph!  Four emails have winged back from people we have never met (and can’t now meet for at least 12 weeks) offering help to us oldies marooned on the top floor.  The community spirit is alive and well in our building!

Actually, I’m exaggerating about the extent of our isolation.  Our daughter, Katie, kindly brought us food yesterday.  She left two bags full, mostly fruit and veg, on our landing and stood at least two meters away for a brief Mother’s Day chat before disappearing in the lift taking our rubbish with her (not a fair exchange).  Timing is tricky when saying goodbye to people as they step into our lift.  You never quite know when the doors will close. Sometimes you’ve completed your goodbyes but the doors remain open and you feel obliged to say something else, only to be cut off mid-sentence. On the other hand, assuming there will be time to say farewells before the doors close is perilous.  They have a wicked sense of humour and snap shut immediately.

I’m so thankful we have a terrace on three sides of the building, east, south and west. I could (but don’t) sunbathe all day by following the sun round.  We have shrubs in pots and troughs out on the terrace so I can even do some gardening.  When I had a ‘proper’ garden I used to have purges, slaving away all day to the point of exhaustion.  When I told my wife I was going to do some ‘gardening’ she reminded me that since I had at least 12 weeks to accomplish the task, I’d be wise to pace myself.  We have 34 pots/toughs (I’ve never counted them before, just shows the absurd things I’m reduced to doing!) so, if isolation lasts for another 12 weeks (I’m not counting the 10 days we’ve done) that means I should ration myself to 0.40 per day.  Yesterday I did 3 (I couldn’t control myself).  Ah well, they’ll all have to be done two or three times.

Jigsaws, exercises, reading poetry, painting greeting cards all beckon (and writing blogs − I’d hate to deprive you!).  I’m also waiting to see if I’m going to get one of those letters from the NHS telling me to do what I’m already doing.



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