Monday, 30 March 2020

Lockdown - Being Prepared

We're nearing the end of the first week of lockdown here in the UK, and it's been an undeniably odd, yet weirdly normal, week. I think most people, faced with a crisis, want to do something, anything, in the hope that they're being useful. Staying in, doing nothing, doesn't seem quite right, but this time it is. For some of us, though, it's not really anything new, and chatting to folk on social media I've come to realise that my habits, my lifestyle, what I read and watch on TV and film, and even the last few personally awful years have readied me for this eventuality in a way I couldn't have predicted.

Apocalypse Now! I've read so many books, and watched so many films, from Albert Camus' La Peste to Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead, in which people have to battle against old-fashioned plague or a new previously unknown virus (Camus is admittedly a little more interested in people's emotional and intellectual response than actual zombie killing, but they all deal with survival against something deadly)  I've worked out where the characters' plans have gone wrong, and have a much better plan of what I'd do if and when the inevitable struck. I've always said that come the zombie apocalypse, the place for supplies isn't a supermarket, or looting a deserted TV/computer store but a camping-supplies shop - they'll have water purification tablets, those self-heating meals, an all-gimmicks army knife, a hatchet (you never know when it could be useful) and Kendal Mint Cake for a treat. That plan hasn't honestly proved really useful in the current situation, but 'don't go out, or, if you desperately need supplies and must leave your safe place, keep a distance from other people' is straight out of the apocalypse survival guide. There's no going down the Winchester this time, but we can all stay home, have a nice cup of tea, and wait for it all to blow over. (Watch Simon Pegg and Nick Frost show you how here)

On a more sensible, practical level, my food cupboard was stocked (it always is), and the freezer still full of last year's allotment pickings. My daughter always says I always shop as if we're three days ahead of the zombie apocalypse; for once it's been a useful trait. I've tried to make sense of this habit  - my mother was in her 20s during WW2 rationing and I suspect that afterwards she never allowed her larder to run empty, during my teen years of the 70s industrial action disrupted supplies - bread, butter, sugar - and the first year I was married heavy snow cut us off from our local shops for days. All of these things I think have influenced me, but whatever the reason, it's certainly proved helpful these last weeks. Other people may run down to their last tin of baked beans, but not me; I'd be uncomfortable and re-stocking long before that. When crunch time came I didn't have to go out panic-buying, and that online delivery slot for three weeks time is fine.

In many ways I'm used to being alone a lot of the time. Apart from a brief period long, long ago, I've been a stay-at-home mum, seguing straight into early retirement, and swapping my school-gate chats to social media twitterings. I have virtual friends who I'll talk to most days, but catching up with 'real' people is much rarer. I'm not quite a hermit but I'm quite content to potter about doing my usual everyday things round the house and garden without seeing anyone; getting used to having another person around all day when my husband took early retirement was odd.

As this lockdown continues I'll definitely miss days out in the countryside, or gigs and theatre trips, but I can manage without for a while because I've had to do it before. Four, maybe five, years ago my parents' health took a downturn, and, although not involved in their day to day care, keeping an eye on them became a priority; evenings out were cancelled, plans with my daughters dropped, I never dared stay away for more than a night, and even that became an impossibility after a while. After months of mourning, just as I was thinking about taking holidays again, the media started talking about corona virus and social distancing. At first I was frustrated that life had to be put on hold again, but I'm used to it now.

So, here I am, resigned to fate, and staying in for the next couple of weeks, possibly months. Normal life will more or less continue for me without drastic changes - just more family video chats, and more social media chattering.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Locko before the lockdown

I've been quietly staying at home the last week or so, but on Monday evening, as if expecting the lockdown to come, I decided to risk going out to nearby Locko Park.

As I've said before, this place is a lovely tranquil spot hidden out of sight of a minor road not far from Derby.

The hall sits at the far end of a lake, and the public have no access (other than on certain charity open days in summer) but a public right of way follows the drive down to the lake and beside it for a while before turning aside.

Fortunately, unlike some of the Peak District over the weekend, it wasn't busy; just the usual dog-walkers in a couple of cars in the lay-by at the end of the drive.

It's a place we frequently visit but I don't think I've seen this wonderful bank of daffodils on the private side of the lake before. I rather wished we could have walked round there, or got a boat and rowed across for a closer look.

Nearer to hand I spotted celandines, wood anemones, and another clump of daffodils on the far side of trees

It might be a while before I can go out to anywhere I can't reach on foot but at least I picked a lovely evening for my last trip[ out.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Mothers Day

 I was expecting Mother's Day to be weird this year with everyone more or less staying at home, and it was, but we made the best of things.

 I'd received a card, the previous day, from my 2 year old grandson filled with his best handwriting or maybe a work of art (one from his mum is lost in the post but will hopefully arrive sometime this week), we had a long family video-chat, and of course I went out for lunch with my younger daughter up in Manchester last weekend. Presents are waiting for some intangible future date.

The day itself was lovely and sunny, so I spent it pottering round the garden and picking some flowers.

And to round the day off, I cooked myself an experimental cake. I have enough eggs at the moment but can't rely on getting more, and, knowing there's a way to replace them with the water from tinned beans, decided to try that method. I was a bit too impatient though and didn't cook the cake for long enough, hence its rather hollow centre.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Keeping Occupied

It's a week now since we decided to pull up the drawbridge and self-isolate, in an attempt to keep corona virus at bay. I could go out and about, but my husband is one of the people who regularly receive a flu jab and needs to be more cautious. We've perhaps been extreme, but better safe than sorry is my current motto.

At one level, it's hard to see what's been different about our routine - I've pottered about the garden, and husband's been to the allotment (it's empty midweek) - but on the other it's been a very strange  week. The whole situation seems so uncertain that I find I can't settle to anything for long. With the really vulnerable being asked to self-isolate from today, it's obvious that, no matter how much we'd hoped things would quickly turn round, we're in this for months.

If in doubt, or harassed about getting things done, I make a plan. It calms me, and gives me the feeling that I'm in control (even when I'm not). I'm hoping it will give some structure to my days, and positive things to look forward to, whether fresh vegetables or a new skirt. I'm trying my best to ignore the fidgety feeling that comes on when I realise this state of affairs is going to last for at least three months, that I won't be able to see my daughters and grandson in that time, or pick up the plans I had for summer. Mindfulness and concentrating on everyday things will be my way through this - small things such as bringing flowers and blossom in from the garden to brighten the house, and looking forward to family video chats most evenings.

A (not necessarily so cunning) plan to occupy me ...

continue my blogging here (if I have anything much to say) Usually I blog about where I've been, what I've seen, gigs, theatre etc.  Well, that will inevitably have to change. It won't quite be Pepys' Diary of the Plague Year, but ordering my thoughts to make a sensible blog post helps calm some of the panic I feel from time to time. The next few months are going to seem incredibly long

get back to book blogging over at Our Book Reviews Online. My head's been too full of other concerns to read much, and definitely too full to think of anything to say about what I've read, but trying to get back to regularly posting reviews will give a structure to the weeks.

spend more time outside in the garden. Obviously being active and out in fresh air is good at any time but March is when the garden bursts into life, and it's time to really crack on with seed sowing - everything from cabbages to cucumbers to flowers. There's a certain mindfulness about the preparations for seed sowing - organising seed trays and pots, carefully scattering the seed, checking each day to see if anything's grown. It's definitely helped keep me focused and occupied, plus I feel I'm doing something positive and useful - soon I'll have salad leaves to pick, and by the end of twelve weeks, there might be peas and french beans. The last couple of days have been sunny, and even just pottering about, admiring daffodils and forsythia, seeing what will flower next, has helped settle my mind.

(one for my husband) the house had been getting to need some TLC, wallpaper repairs, woodwork painting, so the wallpaper paste and paint are ready for wet days.

I have knitting and sewing projects I've neglected, and one of my resolutions at the beginning of the year was to do something more creative. A lot of plans will have to be abandoned but that is one that needn't be.

Of course, we're not completely locked in the house (yet). Going out for a walk is considered a reasonably safe activity if you avoid other people, and at the moment my husband is still going to his allotment - if everyone stays on their own plot all should be fine, just no stopping for a chat. I'd hoped to go out to local National Trust gardens but the huge amount of visitors over the weekend, and subsequent closing of all properties, has put paid to that. I'm still hoping to find somewhere close to home, to drive to, park up, and check the coast is clear before risking a short walk, or just look at a different view for a few minutes.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Last Trip Out?

Last weekend we were up in Manchester to visit our younger daughter, on what might turn out to be our last trip anywhere for quite a while. We'd originally intended visiting this coming weekend but with corona virus taking hold we decided to pre-empt any lockdown and go while we still could.

This weekend is, of course, Mother's Day (here in the UK) but in addition my daughter would be at a craft fair selling her synaesthesia art*, and we wanted to go along, support her and see the venue, which she's talked about many times - obviously we couldn't. But, while the 'Stall' craft event is only held once a month, every weekend the venue in Manchester's Green Quarter is home to a street food event, 'Grub'.

So we went along in search of food. I wanted to try something new (who knows when I'll next get a chance?), so while my husband tried Pie and Mash stall for (you guessed) pie and mash, I looked at the neighbouring Mediterranean/Turkish influenced food from The Otto-men. Looking down the menu board, I was overwhelmed with choice! Seeing my confusion the stall-holder talked me through the options and then, as I was still obviously undecided, gave me a sample of just about everything on offer - a wonderful tasting-menu style minifeast.

The food stalls were outside, but it was too cold to sit there, so we went inside to the bar where again I tried something new - a pink sour ale, Raspberry Tart from Fierce beer; great colour, great taste and perfect with my plate of hummus, falafels and 'sexy pie'.

It wasn't quite as empty as it seems from the photo - behind us a there was a fully occupied table, and more people were at the downstairs bar - but it was obvious that numbers were less than they would have been on a 'normal' weekend.

Then it was time to explore Manchester's streets again.

This area is further north than I've visited before, but still had that mix of old and new, that I've come to expect - even an olde worlde pub!

I'm glad we went because virus-related things have changed rapidly in this last week, and now we're in semi-isolation. I'm glad to have one last enjoyable day out.

* you can see examples here on her Instagram feed

Monday, 16 March 2020

Staying in

Yesterday we went up to Manchester to see our youngest daughter - a regular enough occurrence in normal circumstances, but things are far from normal at the moment. We should have been going next weekend, for Mother's Day, but as coronavirus tightens its grip, we didn't think it wise to delay.

From now we're starting to self-isolate, even if it's not strictly necessary yet. My husband has heart and breathing problems which, while not limiting in themselves, could make affects of the virus worse, so we're going to be following the advice given to the slightly older 70 plus age group.

Not everyone can make this choice, but we're lucky in being already 'early retired', so our income won't change, and in having a garden and allotment (which is generally quiet) to get out into and be busy. For now, I have daffodils to admire, and they'll be followed by tulips, lilacs, and roses as spring moves on, and there are always weeds to pull out!

It's frustrating as I'd been starting to get my life back on track after the last couple of dreadful years. I'd had great plans of what I would do this year; places I'd go, holidays I'd take, and I'd even got a festival booked. Now everything is on hold again, but safe is better than sorry. Advice at the moment is that going for a walk is fine, so we might try to head out somewhere quiet - a midweek country walk or similar, maybe just a drive to a viewpoint with perhaps a picnic eaten in the safety of the car. I thought I'd tried the ultimate staycation before when my parents were ill - this will be even MORE of a challenge.

Being apart from my daughters will be the hardest thing, but I can still video chat with them (thank goodness for modern technology) and we're working on ways to meet, at a discrete distance.

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Shipley Daffodils

While it's still possible, I'm trying to get out and about and watch spring arriving, so on Wednesday we headed off to Shipley in search of daffodils - and found hundreds of them!

They're astounding already, stretching under the trees like a carpet, but still not all in flower.

There were other smaller signs of spring around - a bit over shadowed by the daffodils, but still pretty; daisies, celandines, and a small clump of (I think) chionodoxa

and even some very late snowdrops!

Shipley's a place I'm hoping to be able to visit despite coronavirus problems - midweek it's very quiet so it will be easy to keep 'distanced' from other visitors.