89. Life In The Time Of Covid-19 (2)

Good morning class, today we have a special day on home economics, so sit up straight, settle down and don’t fidget. Before we start assembly, we have a couple of announcements. First, to Ed, we didn’t mean to bring back those horrible childhood nightmares of SP (we cannot bring ourselves to put it in full). We hope no other ill effects were seen from the last blog post. Second, a huge well done to JT, who correctly spotted the Dalek ice cube! Have a piece of cake as a reward next time we meet! (We shall ignore the other suggestion made by JT, which should mean five minutes’ detention under other circumstances). The other ice cube was of K-9: there is also a Tardis one but it wouldn’t fit in the glass. This was not actually that difficult a quiz question if you’ve seen my freezer. (I’m not sure if it’s featured in an early post so here it is again if so).

My freezer

Let us acknowledge the patron saint of us all, Sir David Attenborough at the beginning of this long period. He exhorts us to lay aside our foolish ways and save the planet by not wasting anything. Today, in homage, we are therefore going to address how to reduce waste and as a by-product, save money (Possibly, although you may just be driven to drink).

Our first stop is the kitchen. As we are now into week 4 of the lock-down, we have all sorted our spices and herbs into alphabetical order, tidied the wine rack and defrosted the freezer and listed all contents of this and the fridge. What’s that at the back, your wine rack is already empty? You’ve drunk it all in the first month? In these straitened times we all have to apply discipline and exhibit strong morale. Stick to buying one case a week and you can’t go wrong. As a case is only six bottles, you can decide before opening it which day will be purgatory sorry your day of rest.

Full marks if you played the “Chocolate sauce or gravy?” game instead of throwing away the unidentifiable items! We have been able to use up some packets that we found lurking at the back of our cupboards: first some gnocchi from 2013 which made two very nice meals, then a jar of miso paste that went very nicely with some aubergines and finally, top marks to JD for using the jar of butterscotch sauce which we bought in 2004: he combined it with rum to make an extremely nice sauce for some pineapple. Next up, a hardly aged tin of condensed milk (from 2009) from which I shall be making kulfi. Additionally we finished the family pack size of Weetabix that our house sitters kindly left for us. Other food to finish: on his way home at the beginning of this month JD could not find digestives and as an alternative bought Hobnobs. Can anyone explain the attraction of these? I have been forcing myself to have one a day, it’s like having sawdust in your mouth. But we’re not wasting them!

Finished!

Also in the kitchen, try not to waste other things. I decided we are using way too much clingfilm and bought some reusable covers. They are very good but still made of plastic (the beeswax ones seem to be sold out) and resemble nothing so much as shower caps: next time you’re staying in a hotel, remember a shower cap can serve other purposes!

Alternative shower caps

Out of the kitchen, let us go to laundry and sewing. When we iron items, it is SO useful to enable us to go through our wardrobe and highlight those items that could do with a little tender care. I managed to dispose (tenderly) of four tea towels at the weekend when I spotted the holes in them. (These were caused either by extreme age or the mouse that Polly brought into the kitchen and set free some time ago). We are now down to our last 50 (tea towels, not mice), including the one featured in Post 47 way back in September 2019.

Last of all, having done all the ironing and much as we hate to tidy (yes, I’m talking to you), remember all those items you bought and kept the box in case they were faulty and you had to send them back? Now is the time to go up into the loft and find them all and bring them downstairs and throw them out! It is a wonderfully satisfying feeling. Here are (some of) ours. The newest is a mere two years old and the oldest was bought in 2012. All well out of warranty, with some thrown away as unable to be repaired.

Empty boxes from the loft

Now that we have all finished our tasks for the day, how about a little fun before bedtime? Our other patron saint, Sir Robin, has had long experience of self-isolation and has given us handy insights here: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/news/article/insights-from-sir-robin-a-person-who-chose-extreme-isolation. You can have hours of fun learning all the necessary nautical knots before you set off with Clipper next time. https://www.firstclasssailing.com/sailing-knots is a useful starting place but there are plenty of other sites.

And for our final prayer before bedtime, we shall recite “Little Lamb who made thee” by William Blake. On second thoughts, maybe we should leave biology lessons for tomorrow.

85. Is This The Real Life?

Or is it just fantasy?

Greta with a skirt of hair

Before we left for the Clipper Race, we had the dogs neutered to make life easier for the house sitters. Unfortunately, their coats go fluffy and Greta looks like a woodlouse from above. This was my first big job when I got home, trimming as much as I could in ten minute intervals to not stress them or me out.

Day 8. Friday 27th March (continued). Meanwhile, OBB in London went out and had takeaway fish and chips whilst I had parsnip soup. Such is life in the boondocks. I was able to have a long distance chat (shout) about local conditions with Kate and her family, who have sheep in the fields around our house. It would appear that most of Somerset is taking the situation very seriously, John might not be allowed out even to go shopping during the “over 70” hour. The sight of sheep on the hill was most welcoming (see header to this Post), as well as the birdsong in the morning. I am sure that if I was technologically more adept I could add sound to this blog, but sorry, you’ll have to go to https://www.birdsong.fm/ which I have just discovered: it plays birdsong 24/7, or the RSPB website https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning/let-nature-sing/birdsong-radio/.

Furry Adie

Instead, in these drear days, try listening to John Finnemore’s Cabin Fever on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhTBp1DRfx4. It helps if you know the Radio 4 programme Cabin Pressure, with Benedict Cumberbatch before he was Sherlock. Another good site to make you smile is a week of Georgina’s Isolation Diaries https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7p-owybihQ by comedienne (or is it comedian these days?) Anna Morris. Every day she gives you a different song to sing when you’re washing your hands. At bedtime, we found out that there were no Bonio biscuits left: calamity! The dogs have one every night as part of their routine. I know they should clean their teeth afterwards but they’ve not yet managed to wield the toothbrush.

Tidy feet (untidy tail)

Day 9. Saturday 28th March. Got up late. Trimmed dogs’ feet. Spoke with a few pals. Wandered around reminding myself what was growing where. Noted that we have plenty of rhubarb so won’t starve. (But may get bored and vitamin deficient). Emergency supplies of milk, Bonio and the weekend FT brought over by Barry. Found out that the internet had gone down, very annoying. Realised that I had not missed all the daffodils, spring is later here than in London.

Day 10. Sunday 29th March. Still no internet so JD emailed our provider. Apparently a mast had come down so I need to be patient. Made spinach, garlic and ginger soup from items left in the fridge. Trimmed dogs’ tails. Found out that the kitchen radio has decided to play Classic FM only. I don’t mind this but it seems that after every piece of music there is a long ad about coronavirus and washing our hands and not going out and swinging a broom at people to make sure they are not too close. Or something like that.

At 5 pm I had a virtual cocktail party with Victoria. She made a yummy sounding “cupboard cocktail” from The Telegraph involving marmalade and a spirit of your choice. As I had been bequeathed some coconut water in the fridge, I found a cocktail that used that (rum, mint and coconut water). That plus the soup meant I had a rather limited eating programme today. Where are the Kit-Kats when you need them? The good news is that the clocks went forward so I only had to endure 23 hours of today.

Spinach soup anyone?

Day 11. Monday 30th March. I spoke with the chap who inserted our internet as it still was not working. I did the old trick of turning it off and on again: no response. He told me it was not reporting back to their system but the mast was no longer an issue so maybe the power was not working. I went to the barn where it comes into the property to find out that some idiot had turned it off. Turned it on and, behold, back in the technical world of the 21st century! I have to break it to you that there was only one person at home at that moment. Assuming that neither the dogs nor the cat have learnt how to turn things on and off, the idiot has to be me. Oops.

To celebrate having the internet I went onto all the major supermarket sites to see if I could order anything. Some of them (Tesco, Morrisons, Asda) had no delivery or click-and-collect slots as far as the horizon. (The click-and-collect would be no good as I’m without transport but I thought I could click then get a pal to collect on my behalf). The others (Sainsburys, Ocado, Waitrose) didn’t even let me onto the sites to see if they could help me. There are a few local farm shops around here that will deliver so I might have to go down that option.

Coconut Mojito (of sorts)

Day 12. Tuesday 31st March. Our house sitters emailed to say they would not be coming back. A great relief, I could finish off the spinach soup (and coconut water) without a guilty conscience. I started to go through the kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what items we had and what we would need to buy. Some rice, some pasta, a little flour, Weetabix amongst other foodstuffs. Enough for a few days. John’s logbook turned up so he prepared to come home and to go shopping on his way back. My last day of solitude.

Day 13. Wednesday April 1st. Despite going very carefully through the papers and BBC website, I could not find a single April Fool. Either life is too serious now or my sense of humour has fled. I chatted with a few more pals but did not trim any parts of the dogs today, we all had a break. In the middle of The Archers John arrived. I was told that Clipper would change him and so it proves. Prior to the Race he would never miss an episode, and had been known to drive around the block before arriving home if he needed extra time. I’m happy to report that his car was loaded with more clothes and equipment from London plus enough food to keep us going for a week or more, with a selection of things, not just rhubarb and spinach!

Honey, I’m Home!

I’m going to stop recording the day-by-day experience as it will become monotonous very quickly (got up late, trimmed dogs, phoned pals, made soup). Instead I’ll give you uplifting pictures of the countryside to cheer you up when you’re sitting on your own. wondering if you can really be bothered to watch your favourite box set again, or get out that jigsaw that you never managed to finish, or the jumper you started in 2001 when you were a size smaller and had different taste. You will come to appreciate that you really do want to live life like this, quiet and slow and satisfying. Or not. As the song says, it doesn’t really matter to me. (Of course it does, I rely on my audience, every one of you!)