Day 108 since the lockdown.

As a sentence it sounds a little like the beginning of your stereotypical post apocalypse novel, and I haven’t decided if its veracity is chilling or merely something to shrug off. There’s a lot of talk about the ‘new normal’, of how the ‘old normal’ wasn’t functioning… well let me tell you… I hate that word: normal. What does that even mean? Is it the the voice of the majority? It doesn’t make it right…. Is it what’s comfortable or ‘working’?… that doesn’t mean it’s ok for everyone and should be maintained… I don’t know. It’s too too much for my head.

How are you all? How have you been?

Me? mmhm, a lot of good days, some very bad days and every shade in between. On the bad days I’m thinking… what if this is ‘it’? The beginning of the end, a slow unravelling of the world as we know it, not an end in fire or ice… but a an unstoppable trickle, a tiny leak in the universe that we have built for centuries… ok it’s not that we had created something flawless, but it had its good points you’ll have to agree. On the good days I looked around at my family and felt grateful and full of love. Other times, I put the head down and waited for a new morning.

There were days spent on online lessons, and college assignments were handed in, though I missed sitting in the soft quietness of the library. Lots of books were read chosen from ‘the pile’ or ordered online, though I missed the hushed atmosphere of a bookshop and real letters were written on real paper with real pens, though I missed to see friends face to face.

We cancelled holidays, and that hurts, it still does. I’m so lucky to live where I live, and yes, I am lucky I had holiday to cancel I guess, but the horizon around me has gone smaller and I find it difficult to accept it.

I discovered walking and I truly believe that kept me sane.

I baked sourdough. Twice. Just to say I’ve done it.

We had family movie nights when we took turn to choose … I’m proud to say I survived ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ AND ‘Fast and Furious, Tokyo Drift’… my revenge to the boys was ‘The Two Popes’. They’re not the only ones who can play that game!

I’m also not going into long explanations of why it didn’t feel right to be here… it just didn’t, and maybe the end is near for this little blog of mine after 14 years, or maybe not.

Oh… and we have a puppy. And he’s the best. And you’ll see a lot more of him!

One good thing about this enforced home stay is that even the mending pile, suddenly offers some welcome relief from the monotony of the daily routine. We’re doing ok, we have room to disperse and not be in each other’s pockets unless we want to but even so the ‘openendness’ of the whole affair can drive you crazy if you let it.

Better to keep busy.

So, mending pile… the dressing gown with the seam coming apart? Done. The pyjama top with the ripped button hole and lost button? Fixed. The tracksuit bottom with the broken zip? Good as new.

It didn’t even take that long, just a bit of faffing with different threads and the sewing machine… and then how about fishing off the two sashiko mat that have been languishing on a shelf since last year. At least. Might have been longer. Who’s counting? Time has no meaning at the moment… it’s been suspended… we’re living in a Winnie The Pooh type reality… never mind Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday… it’s today… it’s always TODAY… aaaanyway…

Ta daaaaaahhhhhh! Drum roll.

Cute eh? So cute that I’ve decided to start another one because if we unbalance too much the fragile equilibrium between finished projects and unfinished projects… well, who knows what would happen to the world, and let’s face it… we’re in trouble enough as it is!

And a big pat on the back to me!

I might as well begin another one… it’s not that I have to be somewhere else, right?

Stay safe.

Book club choice. The Cow Book, by John Connell.

Not what I would normally read BUT I am a firm believer that sometimes books choose you and happen to appear at the right time with the right message and this one did exactly that.

Of course, before you all get worried, I’m not going to move to Ireland and start farming cows and sheep… but reading this book while ‘on lockdown’, while the world as we know is changed, probably forever, I found it soothing. Reading about a life dictated by the rhythms of the seasons and practical needs of looking after animals was grounding and brought my attention back to the basics. Also, it’s terrible hard work, I mean I ‘knew’ it was… but it really is.

So what my holidays have been cancelled, right? Priorities, please.

This is a lovely, well written book, with chapters about the hard work required, not romanticised in a silly ‘it’s a good life’ way, alternating with chapters about the history of cows – who knew they had such a varied and important history. Written in the first person, it tells the story of the year the author spent back home in Ireland working on the family farm. It’s about family relationships, and it’s about Ireland too, about a sense of place that roots you and draws you in, of belonging to people and history and the pure geography of the landscape. I love that.

Unexpectedly I really enjoyed it.

Cows, who’d have thought.

Whatever next.

(More about/by John Connell here)

Have you seen this letter doing the rounds online?

Dearest Rosemary,

It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.

The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.

You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.

Faithfully yours,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

… Isn’t it great? Well it’s a fake. I KNOWWWW, very disappointing… I quote from an article on The Independent newspaper today:

The text, which has been shared by many who believe it to be authentic, is in fact a parody letter by Nick Farriella, a writer for humour websiteMcSweeney’s.

Well done Mr Farriella, you got us all!

Have a good Sunday!

Stay at home.

I can hardly take any credit for these… I simply followed the fail proof, fool proof recipe and voila’.

Day 5. It’s Saturday so no school, work and kind of free for all/no need to get dressed king of day, but mother’s guilt is a powerful thing so there I was, baking. I’d like a medal please.

Frankly, it was worthy it. These are totes delish.

The recipe is the one on the back of the choc chips package… I have a vague recollection of an episode of friends with Phoebe talking about her grandma’s special recipe which turned out to be this one… but maybe I’m mistaken, it’s been a while since that aired on tv. I bought the chips on amazon, just in case you’re wondering, I can’t find them in the shops here in England.

The boys have already halved the qty that came out of the oven. We took some to the boy who lives opposite us and some to my dad, because we are nice like that.

They won’t last long, one is simply not enough…

You’re welcome.

Ok, day 4 of the lockdown. Isolation is weird, especially because I was more isolated before when everybody went to school and the office and I had the house for myself for hours on end during the day. As a matter of fact I crave isolation at the moment! We’re lucky we live in a big house and we can choose not to see each other but there’s music playing from every room, and people walking about and people demanding food/eating/watching tv… It’s noisy. And I like silence.

I went for a walk yesterday afternoon – Boris said we can leave the house once a day for exercise, so I downloaded a couple of podcasts and off I went.

Bliss.

The weather was perfect, not a cloud in the sky, mild temperatures and nobody about. The odd walker like me, a nod to each other from a distance, polite road crossing in order not pass too close to one another. The city seemed in a state of suspended animation, like an empty movie set in between takes.

And it’s amazing what you notice when you start slowing down and ‘seeing’…

Maybe, at the end of this, the lesson will be to slow down, to look up and look down and notice the beauty that surrounds us, or the ugliness so we can fix it, and appreciate the minutiae and the serendipitous. Maybe we’ll remember to walk down the little lanes at the back of houses, to take the long walk home for the simple pleasure of enjoying the fresh air and the sun on our face.

I refuse to believe it is all happening in vain.

Song

by Allen Ginsberg

The weight of the world 
is love. 
Under the burden 
of solitude, 
under the burden 
of dissatisfaction 
the weight, 
the weight we carry 
is love. 
Who can deny? 
In dreams 
it touches 
the body, 
in thought 
constructs 
a miracle, 
in imagination 
anguishes 
till born 
in human-- 
looks out of the heart 
burning with purity-- 
for the burden of life 
is love, 
but we carry the weight 
wearily, 
and so must rest 
in the arms of love 
at last, 
must rest in the arms 
of love. 
No rest 
without love, 
no sleep 
without dreams 
of love-- 
be mad or chill 
obsessed with angels 
or machines, 
the final wish 
is love 
--cannot be bitter, 
cannot deny, 
cannot withhold 
if denied: 
the weight is too heavy 
--must give 
for no return 
as thought 
is given 
in solitude 
in all the excellence 
of its excess. 
The warm bodies 
shine together 
in the darkness, 
the hand moves 
to the center 
of the flesh, 
the skin trembles 
in happiness 
and the soul comes 
joyful to the eye-- 
yes, yes, 
that's what 
I wanted, 
I always wanted, 
I always wanted, 
to return 
to the body 
where I was born. 

I’ve been trying to be really busy trying not to think too much and I got to the point I am actually all caught up with the laundry (and the ironing!)… and don’t think that’s ever happened before so yesterday I was almost bored and felt quite bereft at the sight of silent washing machine. That’s not a good sign.

Ta dahhhh, enter THE POD…

I’ve used these babies before and as long as you don’t attempt to dye too much fabric in one go, the colour you get is really intense.

So.. I changed the life of a Cos t-shirt of one of the boys:

the stitching is obviously synthetic and didn’t change colour, but it’s ok, it’s more of a feature now but it still looks good

Then I dyed THE Zara dress, white, black dots… the one that everybody had last year… do you remember? I just couldn’t bring myself to wear it after a while, it was kind of like a joke… so maybe now I can wear it again. It’s a very flattering shape!

what do we think? different enough? nahhh chuck it?

AND finally, and the biggest success, I dyed a gorgeous charity shop find… a vintage crochet thingy that looked really dated and now doesn’t anymore!

The colour you get will vary depending on the material and its thickness, but I’m really pleased with the evenness (is that a real word?) of the results. It’s a simple process too, you wash the items, leave them in the machine wet and add the pod on top (try to remember to remove the lid… just saying…), wash at 40C as normal, then add detergent and wash the items/fabric again, and then run another cycle at 60C to clean the machine properly … It’s not the most environmentally friendly thing in the world, but if you can revive old items and not buy news ones… it pays for itself like that I think.

I have two more pods… what else… what else…

200ml single cream

250gr caster sugar

zest of one lemon

3 eggs

150gr plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

Recipe from the lovely Constanca Cabral. It’s super easy to make and really delicious.

I know I’m not the only one that has taken up baking… it fills the time right? it keeps the mind occupied and away from the news.

How are you all coping? Are you worried? scared? sanguine about the current situation? To quote one of my favourite poets, Robert Frost…

in three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on

No 1 son is at home, watching his plans of round the world trips scampered (bar a miracle) and has taken it really well… much better than me frankly, three trips cancelled and counting… at least we got to go skiing for a few days, right? Sons No 2 and 3, are wondering whey they’re the only children in the world who are still going to school, whilst all their hockey matches have been cancelled. I’d like to know that too.

Someone keeps spelling rude words with the magnetic letters on the fridge… to be honest it could the husband… a puerile relief from all the work worries, it’s not easy to make a living at the moment.

My parents are getting used at their forced ’12 weeks house bounds status’ and are moved by the message of kindness received from many neighbours. Mum has bought an exercise bikes and plans to put in in the green house… a sort of home made peloton… dad is busy in his shed restoring our outdoor table and chairs.

We watched ROMA the other night. A bit late to the party as usual, but what a gorgeous movie. Not at all what I expected, but was pleasantly surprised and totally loved it. Have you seen it?