What went wrong?

I am experiencing a dreadful feeling of sadness and it has come over me quite suddenly. I think it is probably a by-product of the current situation that we find ourselves in although it is definitely not helped by the rantings of the press, the railing against the government by all and sundry, the shocking pictures of violence both here and around the world and the huge selfish attitudes of so many about so many different things, not just the effects and worries that are towed along by Covid-19.

I am, like many, quite shocked by the current news photographs around the world of packed beaches, all night raves, violence and large parties where social distancing is a thing of the past, that is if it ever existed for these people. I read articles where politicians are to blame for everything and that appears to exonerate the actions of the many who appear to have no regard for others or even for themselves and I feel sad, a deep, deep sadness because I wonder what has happened to the world.

The LSO and myself were born just after WW2 into the great greyness which was lightened occasionally by a smattering of bottle green and brown in all its various shades. Men had two suits, one for work and it was often the demob one and one for best which serviced everything from christenings to funerals. The Cooperative Society Dividend went towards winter coats and school shoes and food was still rationed so meals were basic and each day of the week was the same each week. Our diet was healthy enough because we grew a lot of our own vegetables and fruit with the luckier ones being able to afford a greenhouse, those who didn’t have a garden could have an allotment for a few pence a week.

But it truly was a grey world, being in the North East it was wet a great deal of the time and definitely colder than the South but as children we were unaware that things could be different. Men back from the war years were glad to be alive although the physically disabled were in evidence on street corners trying to make a meagre living selling matches and other sundry items. Council houses were nothing to be ashamed of and only the really well off like doctors and lawyers could afford to own their own property. Gardens were maintained to a high standard and people took a pride in what they had, gathering at the Community Hut for regular events such as vegetable and flower competitions, cake shows and women took a huge pride in their jam making. There was even a section for children to display embroidery, simple sewing and my favourite was always the miniature garden on a tray with a mirror for the pond.

We didn’t have much and Christmas presents always featured mostly around things that were needed such as slippers and a dressing gown. An Annual was usually included along with a Cadbury’s selection box and I can remember being envious of my brother getting the Eagle Annual, I loved reading about Dan Dare and the Mekon. The stocking hanging usually over the fireguard, was always a sock of my dad’s with a few nuts and an orange but I didn’t feel deprived or wanted what others had because life was just what it was.

After leaving school I went to Art School and met the LSO, a mere fifty-six years ago and life was fun, the swinging sixties were just that for us and in 1970 we got married. We weren’t idealists but we wanted a better life for our children which in truth they got. I am sure much of what I have written will apply to the majority of people in our age group. I resent the comments made about the grey pound population being a drag on the market, we worked hard all our lives for what we have now and paid all our taxes but the difference between us and our own parents is that we had the opportunity.

So what went wrong? I can only put it down to greed in all its forms and sadly that is a hugely distructive element of human nature. It would appear that the majority of people in powerful positions in this world are the greediest, the more gently intelligent members of the human race are being squashed and shouted down.

The other day during a conversation with our daughter (K) who has just had her 45th birthday I asked if she had had a good day and some lovely presents. She said one of the best presents had come from a neighbour who had scoured the internet to find something that she would really like, it wasn’t expensive, just the right thing and K said that those are the most cherished and appreciated presents because someone had really thought about her as a person.

So true and I did feel that we hadn’t got it all wrong as parents but we just need a zillion more people with that attitude to make the world a better place.

Such strange times.

It does seem that everything is a little out of kilter at the moment even the weather is strange, we are either swelteringly hot or being deluged by rain. It does make me feel a sense of discomfort that I cannot pin down. Perhaps this is the same for everyone and just a result of having been trapped in our homes for so long. We still cannot do much and are being told to continue socially distancing and not to go out too often, avoiding any crowded places so any ideas we may have had to head up to the coast or visit a market town are firmly knocked on the head. Not just because of crowd avoidance but what do we do if nature calls and we need to stop. There is nowhere open, we can’t just nip into a pub or cafe, even shops are loath to open their facilities for the public and if they did would I want to use them?

I’m seriously thinking that the only way to venture out is to purchase a full Harwell protection suit and a portable loo!

I still find myself planning baking days as a diversion to relieve the boredom of being trapped which isn’t helping my weight loss one tiny bit and food is just so comforting as long as it is laden with carbs and fat. Somehow a poached fish or grilled meat, a salad and new potatoes without butter doesn’t have the same impact or satisfaction and certainly not on a regular basis. I guess that’s why the HFLC diet with moderate protein is so good, added fat certainly does have the knack of creating much richer dishes with depth of flavour.

In the meanwhile our neighbour’s delicious potatoes have just come to an end and I was quietly relieved thinking now is the time to seriously look at dieting when the LSO came into the kitchen carrying a bag of newly dug Maris Peer from our other farmer friend who had planted his later. Oh dear, weak-will prevailed and plans have been partially shelved until these are finished. Hopefully by then the first of the plums will be ready and I can divert myself with jam making.

That will certainly guarantee the return of the stifling hot weather.

A good man.

It’s Father’s Day soon and I found myself thinking of my own father who died quite suddenly at the age of eighty when I was only thirty six leaving me with a lot of unanswered questions. That is now thirty eight years ago and I still miss him. Our own children were very young, our daughter was six years old and her brother only two and life was pretty hectic. He would have loved seeing all his grandchildren grow up and would have been so very proud of them.

My father was born right at the beginning of the Edwardian era into a very Victorian family and he was the youngest of three children, his two older sisters were twins Betty and Maggie. There was almost eighteen years between my mother and father and I never knew my paternal Grandfather who died before I was born and only met his sisters and my grandmother for a very short time when I was young.

My father was a Merchant Seaman and worked as a Chief Engineer with the British India Steam Navigation Company from about 1917 to 1945 when he decided to leave the Navy for civilian life. I don’t think, looking back, that he was ever really comfortable with life away from the sea. He loved everthing about it and had a passion for Indian cuisine and became a good cook, introducing me to curries as a very small child. This was quite surprising given his background, as a child he’d been thoroughly spoilt and doted on by his mother and his sisters and in the Navy he even had a batman on board who did absolutely everything for him. But he loved India, it’s food and it’s culture and although he did sail to other countries that was his favourite destination.

How I wish he was here, I have much I want to ask him but sadly he is long gone and my questions must go unanswered but he left me a great legacy. He really was a good man not perfect by any means but he had a strong set of values. He taught me that it is important to treat all people with respect, that everyone has something to give no matter who they are.

I can’t say I have always followed his advice but I have tried and mostly succeeded in keeping my own council rather than being unpleasant and I really do believe that people come into your life for a reason, some stay and some pass through as not all encounters are positive or necessarily good but they all give you experience.

Turning the sound down.

During a video conversation with our family at the weekend we inevitably got around to how we were all coping with the current situation. For us it is an unwanted extension of the lifestyle we had to adopt looking after the AP and just as we had finally discovered some freedom. Our daughter was interesting about the effect the lockdown was having on her and the family. The grandchildren and the dog are fine, in fact Fizz has never been a more contented Jack Russell, loving having everyone there. Son-in-law would prefer to be at work and daughter says although she wants to get on with life again she is enjoying some aspects of it all, life is simpler despite having to home school the children but more importantly she says the white noise has gone.

Our son too has found much that is beneficial about working from home despite having a one year old child. He and his wife have found it extremely difficult at times but both say they would prefer to work more this way rather than return full time to the city.

Food for thought and interesting observations that I am sure will be affecting many others in this world. But she is right, the constant buzz that is the lot of a working mother is absolutely mind boggling from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning to falling, exhausted into bed at the end of a long and busy day. White noise is an excellent description for it all.

When the children were younger and I too was a working mum, there was little time left to ponder and the pace was relentless. My only saving grace was being a teacher so I had the same holidays but for the LSO there was never that privilege. In fact holidays were a time when he would try to wind down during the first week then start to wind up again in the second, preparing to hurl himself back into the fray. I just felt I was constantly juggling a multitude of balls at any one time trying to catch the important ones and ignoring those that fell to the ground.

We have never had to live with anything like this before so maybe after all this is over or more settled there can be changes for the better to the way we all live our lives. It certainly would be good to have a choice.

For us, we have just got slower, in fact any slower and we would be in reverse and horizontal. It’s not unpleasant in truth but at our age we need a bit of white noise in our lives to keep us alive. I find myself definitely suffering from that good old manana syndrome, oh tomorrow will be fine, I’ll do whatever it is then!

It’s all about balance.

I mean this in everything. Not that dreadfully boring expression of ‘everything in moderation’ that crops up frequently and is enough to send me looking for the gin bottle and pouring a hefty measure.

But I did discover this wonderful word ‘equilibrioception’ which when I looked it up said ‘a state of being balanced or in equilibrium’. It’s something that our politicians need to get to grips with and understand in order to do their jobs properly and with dignity (an oxymoron perhaps) which is definitely not happening at the moment. I can’t watch the news, listening to those dreadful, back-stabbing, self opinionated, pontificating people who at times become just thoroughly nasty and snide makes me angry. I’ve had enough of all that in my life from the AP. They all need to grow up and get on with what they should be doing and what they are paid to do and stop citing the public as their backing when in fact it’s a tiny fraction of the people who agree with their sanctimonious out-pourings.

But back to balance, the word even looks attractive especially when at the moment it is difficult to find balance in our present situation. I think most people are feeling a little demotivated and are just trying to make the best of their situation. But even in small things achieving equilibrium is possible and in truth a necessity to ensure that our seemingly endless lockdown doesn’t send us all mad.

In order to gain a better sense of balance, I am reducing the alcohol consumption,( no, I’m not falling over), I’m going to drink more water, not bake as much but think more of less carb laden meals. The latter isn’t hugely popular with the LSO or our farmer friend who loves his bi-weekly cake deliveries. I am also planning on sorting my studio out but at the moment it is just too humid and muggy and I’m not a huge fan of hot temperatures and have no desire to rush to the beach to battle sand in the sandwiches and hoardes of noisy families. I’ve never understood the lemming-like behaviour of driving to a crowded place, where you spend more time stuck in the car than at the destination then only to face the same returning home. But I guess everyone to their own: I just need to holiday somewhere chilly!

The LSO has started barbequeing again which is really good news for my diet and I am thinking of different salads to accompany these delights. Small downside though, another farmer friend sells his homegrown new potatoes from his gateway. This is a mere one hundred yards from us and they are delicious, gently steamed and served with a large knob of salted French butter.

Oh well, it’ll be a slow weight loss which according to our Doctor is the best way to do it and who ignores their Doctor’s advice?

A chimera.

A few days ago the LSO and I were sitting outside enjoying a glass of wine and the coolness of the evening air, gazing at the clouds and the shapes they formed in the sky. One particular cloud bore a resemblance to a large ethereal dragon and this made me think of a chimera, a mythical dragon-like creature with the tail ending in the head of a dragon or snake. The appearance of a chimera was considered an ill omen and a sign of natural disasters to come. Can this virus be a natural disaster? It’s certainly cutting a swathe through the world and sadly looks as if could be with us for the foreseeable future.

I cannot imagine what it will be like to socially distance all the time especially with our own family because hugs were always the order of the day and a natural part of our relationships with each other that both the LSO and I miss so much at the moment. But the more I read about this Coronavirus the more obvious it becomes that it will become part of our daily lives.

It has made me think much harder about losing weight because for the past eight weeks I have endeavoured to make our diet as interesting and as comforting as possible which has inevitably meant an increase in baking and an overload of carbs. The time spent preparing and cooking passes the time too which is another negative aspect of endless lockdown for people of our age, boredom. I have really struggled this week with the days, never quite sure when I wake up in the morning just what day it is. The only point of reference is the weekly shopping delivery on a Wednesday. I feel a bit like Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey who asked ‘What is a weekend’ and as for bank holidays, what on earth are they?

But I really do need to lose weight as I am beginning to feel and look like a Toby jug. So what is the answer apart from finding some will power because at the moment there is little to look forward to, just more of the same. It is always easier to diet if there is a goal, that is other than the loss of pounds at a weigh-in and at the moment life is pretty much lacking in that area.

One of the spin-offs from losing over five years of our lives looking after the AP was that we both lost interest in the activities and hobbies that had become part of our retirement. The LSO has done well to start his lino printing up again. I used to draw and paint, not particularly well but I enjoyed it and I am trying to get back to spending time sketching to begin with because my studio has become a storeroom and needs clearing out. Once some slightly cooler weather comes, next week, I must persuade the LSO to give me a hand. I will have to send him in as the advance guard because spiders have taken up residence in there and I have a real horror of these mostly harmless creatures.

So it is a case of watch this space, by the time I write again my studio should be up and running and perhaps the weight-loss will have begun.

It’s truly biblical.

Today I found myself standing in the hallway looking intently at nothing in particular and humming that banal little ditty ‘I want to go a-wandering among the hills so green’. Now that is worrying and obviously deeply psychological. What shall I do? First things first, decide what to have for lunch since the decision has already been made for dinner tonight. At the moment I don’t feel like cooking so it’ll be pasta with tomato and chilli sauce. Well that’s another decision made but lunch isn’t for another two hours or so, how shall I fill the space before then?

How many of us around the world are feeling the same? Thousands possibly even millions of people I would imagine trapped in this strange limbo land.

For the LSO and myself this will be a long haul because of our age whilst those younger and less at risk will eventually be able to go out as long as they keep socially distancing. It’s going to be a slow process and I wonder how much will actually change hopefully for the better. I am not so much bored as feeling trapped. Having been trapped for over five years whilst looking after the AP we really had found our freedom only to have it taken away again.

The LSO would like to be sitting on a riverbank watching a small red float drifting past lily pads but I just would like to feel that I can go out at a whim. Perhaps shopping or to lunch or meet up with a group of friends, see the family. Now that really is a miss. The grandchildren are all growing up, our own children are growing older as we are and we can’t visit them or them us. Then just to rub salt into the wound when eventually we can meet up we can’t even cuddle or hug any of them. Cruel world indeed.

I had an email from a friend in Australia who has survived the drought, the terrifying fires, then the floods and now this. It is all truly biblical and I keep looking out to see if we have a plague of locusts approaching. That reminded me of an occasion when the LSO and myself were visiting friends in North Norfolk in 2011 and we heard something like hailstones hitting the car. They were in fact Ladybirds and there were thousands of them. People were rushing around trying to brush them out of their hair and there were piles of these insects lying in the gutters. When we reached our friend’s house we scurried indoors to find the lights on because the windows were black with these invaders, apparently the swarms had been blown across the Channel from Europe.

I have since discovered that these foreign insects are responsible for the demise of our own native species.

All food for thought.

Keep hope close.

Hope. There are so many meanings for that small four-lettered word. It can mean something that you want to happen; it can be a feeling that good things are coming or you can be given hope. As a verb it can mean to strive for or wish for something in the future. At the moment all we can hope for is an end to this pandemic and hope that the world will be a better place for everyone.

In the meanwhile I find myself dwelling on the need to keep to a sensible diet mostly because I don’t want to see the LSO having to open the double doors to get me outside when this is all over. The diet has to have some special features because these are unprecedented times. For instance I need to bake but why do I need to bake? I guess it’s a way of coping with adversity and it is a very therapeutic exercise from the preparation through to the cooking and then the end product also the LSO loves eating them so I feel I have fulfilled some of my wifely duties. Inevitably I need to sample these luscious morsels, just to test them of course but that is never going to be a useful addition to a weight loss diet.

I have always loved cookery books and have rather a large collection which tends to spread around the house but I can read them like others read a magazine. Cooking is alchemy and I enjoy sampling foods and flavours from around the world and on top of that it really is fun. My kitchen cupboards are full of spices, flavourings and sauces for all manner of different dishes and my latest book by Yottam Ottolengi is just a joy. I find cooking a calming exercise and even get enormous pleasure from seeing the colours of a mirepoix of vegetables sautéing in a pan. My first thought of the day is usually what will we eat today and I can spend happy hours reading recipes and trawling the internet if the books don’t help.

That of course, brings me back to the beginning of this post, the inevitable need to hope that I will find a balance with food and enjoyment that answers all the problems that occur during this lockdown.