Life in a vacuum.

I actually feel that I can’t breathe properly at the moment. I am in a state of confusion. Why? Well the ‘why’ is because I just have too many grey areas of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ surrounding me.

First there is the coronavirus which has created a vacuum for most people, social distancing, mask wearing and the problems of going out. On it’s own, not so much of a problem that can’t be overcome but then I come to the AP and everything changes.

The home she is in is expensive and because of her total assets she has to be self-funding and her immediate savings are dwindling at a rate of knots despite her pensions going in every month. Although she is 102 years old, frail and definitely dotty she doesn’t fit into any nice little niche for claiming extra money so I am having to contact the County Council for assistance.

The government, in March, instructed all landlords and letting agents to leave tenants in their properties until September even if the tenancy has run out which the AP’s has. The rest of the AP’s care home funding is to come from the sale of her property but even if the rule is lifted in September the tenant has to be given three months notice. Who wants to move over Christmas, heaven only knows when the house can be sold?

In the meanwhile I wait, wait for the Council to come back to me for further details, then I wait, hopefully to hear they will help whilst also waiting to see if the embargo on landlords is lifted, it’s just the uncertainty of it all and it is all so very, very frustrating. When I spoke to the AP on the phone yesterday she came out with the startling revelation that she thought her care in the home was free, that the NHS were paying.

I wish! For over five years we looked after the AP with absolutely no help, in this country there is no place to go, no help given unless you are on the poverty line. It doesn’t matter that you have worked all your life, paid all your taxes, didn’t block beds in the NHS; but is there any recognition of this? No, not a thing, you just go on paying and people like the LSO and myself have to disappear down rabbit holes trying to sort everything out. Now just to put a lid on everything I am being made, by the government, to feel even more uncomfortable because I am overweight and all this just creates an even bigger vacuum. It will take me many, many months in an ideal situation to lose weight but this is not an ideal situation I find myself in.

Did I hear the LSO getting out the wine glasses…..that’ll be a large one for me please!

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.

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.

Another week, another pound on.

Some things are just inevitable and no matter how much you hope something won’t happen it does and it will. The local practice has put out a letter of warning saying that we have been behind the the rest of the country up until now but finally the village has some cases of Covid-19 appearing in the community.

It was going to arrive but I think we all hoped in our hearts that we might have managed to avoid it. Certainly some of the younger members of the community have been ignoring social distancing probably because they think they are bomb-proof as well as some of the older locals. Inevitably the warm sunshine is difficult to ignore and many have chosen to sit out during the more balmy days on the banks of the river that runs through the village. Sadly it’s understandable but not sensible. It really will be a case of watch this space now.

The village is close knit and there are many extended families. Most of the local people tend to live and work close to where they were born and brought up which I guess is quite common in a farming community. The village community is pretty well divided evenly between locals and newcomers and generally it works. But the village people are sub-divided into the farmers and those who work in other industries many of which have a connection to farming. Very few of the young people move on or go into higher education preferring to just follow in the family footsteps.

This does make them a bit insular and they really do believe it will never happen to them but we now have patches of the virus springing up all over the area. The lovely sunny weather does make this lockdown more difficult to endure for a great many people who have been used to heading for the coast or out to restaurants and pubs at weekends and Bank Holidays. But we just have to hope that common sense rules.

In the meanwhile I am beginning to look like a cross between Worsel Gummidge and the Weebles. My hair is getting longer by the day and the cooking regime is definitely not Keto or low carb with my willpower firmly out the window but I have enjoyed resurrecting recipes I cooked when the children were small such as quiches, cheese scones and the good old Victoria sandwich cake. We even ate homemade scampi in a light, crisp tempura batter the other evening and it was delicious with a side of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and baked in the oven and small new potatoes.

But I know I must get my head around losing some weight so after a very short discussion with the LSO we decided to reduce portion sizes for starters. No sudden moves, its bad enough waking up wondering what day it is without adding to the stress of worrying about what is right to eat. One of the problems with this lockdown is the need to have a focus in the day and for us it is the morning coffee with a slice of cake or a biscuit, a lunch that is not too demanding then the evening meal preceded by a G&T or two for me and a beer or two for the LSO and then wine with the food.

I managed to forget the afternoon cup of tea with a scone or a piece of fruit cake. Oh dear no wonder I am expanding.

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.

The meaning of life.

An ominous title but not a philosophical one. I found myself inexplicably humming the ‘Galaxy Song’ from the Monty Python film ‘The Meaning of Life’ . Goodness knows where that came from but I seem to remember that the opening verse was “Whenever life gets you down and things seem hard or tough, And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft, And you feel you have had quite enough.” The rest apart from the end is lost somewhere in my memory banks except something about the Earth evolving and revolving at 9oo miles an hour. That trips easily off the tongue.

You have to be of a certain age to recollect those hysterically funny films produced by the hugely talented Monty Python team and now we have at least twelve weeks of social distancing the LSO and myself might well download them to watch again along with a comforting glass or two of a fine wine of course. This is certainly a time when spirits need lifting and humour does just that.

I also seem to remember that Mr Creosote was in that film too. I think my sub- conscience is telling me something and you don’t have to have an exceptionally high IQ to know what that is; the danger of being trapped indoors and bored is the inevitable attraction of comfort food and overeating and that is something to be avoided. It’s just all too easy to snack on things that make you feel good and these always seem to be sweet or fatty snacks, never a nice light stick of celery or some carrot batons and a dip. No it’s the shortbread biscuit with the coffee, yum, the bag of crisps that is just at hand, that piece of homemade cake, the fine handmade chocolate, even more yummy and lo and behold another pound in weight on, followed by cries of where did that come from!

So definitely a warning and not just to the curious, beware the handy snacks!

Finally the last bit of the song. ” So remember when you’re feeling very small and insecure, How amazingly unlikely is your birth, And pray there’s intelligent life somewhere out in space, ‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth!” There’s certainly a lack of toilet rolls, kitchen rolls, tissues, tinned food and flour to name but a few!

Feeling disconcerted.

Suddenly all focus is on the latest global virus which has become an ever-expanding problem. I had not particularly worried about it at first because I guess having a mother still living at one hundred and one, soon to be one hundred and two, does give me a different perspective on the LSO and myself, certainly in terms of how old we are.

But with the general focus being on the vulnerable and the elderly I was quite shocked to find that we are in the latter group of people. Up until now I have never thought of myself as elderly and it has left be feeling somewhat disconcerted. But I suppose heading towards three quarters of a century is definitely in the zone. In fact with a history of chest problems and diabetes I am not only in the zone but actually at risk apparently. Goodness, how did that happen!

I then started taking more notice of news flashes and reading more about how to avoid infection, so we are armed with wipes and gel but not a mountain of toilet rolls! Panic buying does not come with the territory for me but being of a certain age means I do have a small stock of essentials in all the time. It’s an ingrained habit that comes from being a child in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s when rationing was still around and even then I was aware of how little everyone had after WW2. Old habits just don’t go away.

It is probably why I find dieting so difficult. I resent giving up the things I really enjoy and for many years now we have had a pretty comfortable existence for which I am hugely grateful. The coming months will be a strange ride for everyone until this virus burns itself out. But I shall still continue dieting because more than ever I need to become non-diabetic again.

The case of the hopeless dieter.

This title sounds like a story from Sherlock Holmes but sadly the problem will not be solved as easily. My body is not responding to the low carb diet, I am not gaining weight but neither am I losing any. My glucose levels aren’t brilliant either so maybe the new drug isn’t working as well as it should or maybe it just needs to be a higher dosage.. it’s early days and my next set of tests are two months away. The LSO sent me the picture above which he called “Skinny Pole’ which is definitely not me. Funny B…. but you have to laugh.

Maybe I need to look at portion control and use a smaller plate for my meals, it’s certainly worth a try. I also am aware that this long, cold and wet winter is not helping. I hate mud so I am not walking the dogs with the LSO which is something I need to address but this little voice in my head says ‘when the weather improves’ but I have been listening to that voice for several months now.

The imposed institutionalisation as a result of being the AP’s carers is difficult to shake off and I am aware that I have become disinterested in a great deal that made my life tick before she came to live with us. Five and a half years of being trapped have taken a heavy toll. Her nastiness, vindictiveness and her cunning controlling ways have left a permanent scar that isn’t going away easily. The fact that we have to visit the AP in the care home has become a necessary chore and something the LSO and myself both dread. We never quite know what we will find when we get there, today she was in bed, in a deep sleep so we left her requested boxes of tissues and came home. There is no point in waking her as we have found to our cost in the past because all we are met with is confusion.

She will be one hundred and two years old on April 30th. Will she make it, who knows? She is just a bag of skin and bone, drifting in and out of a kind of dream world. It’s sad really because although she is well looked after she is just existing, waiting for the inevitable to happen. Being cynical, I guess it’s in the care home’s interest to look after her well as it guarantees another week of fees which are going up in April a mighty 5.9% from £1070 to £1133 a week.

I wish our pensions did the same!

At a standstill.

I feel at times that I am on the road to nowhere when everything seems to come to a standstill. Nonsense really as life is continually moving on even if we don’t think that’s the case.

I was feeling quite saintly about my week’s dieting but come the weigh-in and frustration took over. Not only had I not lost any weight but I’d actually put some on. How, came the strangled cry! It certainly is a mystery and a real pain in the neck because I had actually been enjoying cooking and experimenting again only to find it was not working. Do I change to a low fat diet such as Slimming World or WW? I’ve tried those in the past and indeed I have lost weight only to put it all back on again many times and just like all diets I get bored; so where do I go now? The low carbs certainly make a positive difference to blood glucose levels, that is a fact. The moderate protein and high fat are not easy to handle and I think my problem probably lies with an imbalance there. I am now going to look further into intermittent fasting because I am becoming more and more convinced that it is the best way to go.

So it’s back to further research, planning and recording.

I am also aware that the AP is still hovering in the background which dampens the spirits and in turn lowers the will power. Will I ever actually think fondly of her? But I cannot blame her for my difficulties in losing weight although the AP was part of the reason for the gain in the first place. No, I must clear my mind and focus on what needs to be done although part of me is silently screaming for all the foods I like eating which are not the most sensible for weight loss. It would be wonderful if there really was a magic pill that caused all the unwanted fat to just melt away. I guess everyone with a weight problem feels like that and it’s that very feeling that promotes these rubbishy pills being produced that supposedly aid weight loss. They promise everything, cost a fortune and just don’t work: it’s just people on a get rich quick scheme using the despair of those who are overweight, to encourage them to try these things. I hate to think what’s in some of these products. Actually I feel much the same about these official organisations that take money and also encourage people to buy their slimming products instead of eating proper food.

Oh well, I need to come down from the soap box, I guess its back to reality and determination.