Friday 15 January

“What day is it?” Rod said this morning. “Does it matter?” I replied. I think one of the biggest problems in this third lockdown is inertia. There is no need to know what day it is, or to have any plan, or not to put off till tomorrow what you might have done today. Like the ironing. My least favourite household task. I did exert myself to do my fitness video, in my pj’s, and so was not washed and dressed till 10.00. In former times I would have regarded this as the height of slackness and laziness. So future students reading this blog in order to analyse social trends in early 2021, please note the deterioration of standards.

It also seems perverse to wake up thinking about what you might have for dinner that evening, there being little else to look forward to. However, I did exert myself marginally, and did some tidying up in the garden for the first time for ages. As I went out there, a large dog fox ambled across a few feet from me. “Hello Mr Fox,” I said, and he batted not an eyelid. They are getting very bold. Rod and I managed a walk around Oaks Park too. It seems a popular venue for professional dog walkers, and there is an awful lot of yapping, and not only the dogs.

Another achievement today was to finish my book, “Agent Sonya” by Ben Macintyre. It had a great deal of publicity around Christmas time, but just to summarise. It is the story of a German Jewish woman who was a fanatical communist and a secret agent for the Soviets. Active from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, living in different countries, with 3 children by 3 different partners, she ended up in the Cotswolds, making scones for the local ladies, before defecting to East Berlin in 1950. Macintyre is a brilliant researcher and very readable, I have found the entire story gripping. He has some incredible anecdotes. One of the funniest was about Alexander Foote, a spy who worked with Sonya (real name Ursula Kuczynski) in Switzerland, but who went to Moscow when things got too hot. He was given an alias, and a minder, until they had worked out if he was a double agent. One day he was stopped in the street in Moscow, by a militiaman, who angrily demanded he identify himself. Foote told him slowly and precisely to “F*** off.” A phone call sorted things out, but subsequently whenever Foote went out for a walk, he was cordially greeted by the militia as Comrade Fukov.

Perhaps we might be tempted to think about holidays, if we all get vaccinated? But there won’t be flights for 50p!

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