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.

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.

The reality.

I woke up this morning feeling a bit down, no reason for it, just felt under par. Slept well so that’s not the problem so why do I feel like this? I guess it’s a combination of things which I am sure will be affecting everyone at the moment while existing in this surreal and wholly unnatural situation.

It isn’t so much that the LSO and I want to necessarily travel, go on holiday, see friends, go back to swimming, go fishing, enjoy time with the family, enjoy meals out, invite people to our home, sit in the garden on a warm Spring day enjoying a chat and a drink with friends and neighbours, decide to pop out to do a bit of shopping or drive up to the coast and walk the dogs along the beach. No, it’s not any of that, it would just be good to know we could do all those things if we wanted to.

I don’t think the woolly instructions from the powers that be help either. It was extremely clear at the beginning of this lockdown what we could and couldn’t do and although difficult, most people understood why and complied with the rules, now it is just a mess. People can travel any distance anywhere in England for a day trip only. That’s great advice so spread that virus around England’s beauty spots because there are no pubs or restaurants open and social distancing is supposed to still to be practiced. Sensibly most of these areas don’t want visitors because it’s not as if everything is back to normal or even as is constantly being said, a new normal. I am hugely glad that I don’t have to travel work in a big city but for those who have no choice it must be very worrying.

All this when we are also being told that holidays are on hold and the uncertainty surrounding the opening of schools must be driving parents of young children mad. Would I have wanted my children back at school at the moment? I just don’t know and it is this uncertainty about everything that sits so uncomfortably at the back of my mind except for this morning when it was very much in the forefront of my thoughts.

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.

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.

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!

Bored already.

Today, I suddenly became overwhelmed by a sense of utter frustration as the LSO and I watched the news which as is the norm now, being dominated by the Coronavirus but not with anything particularly definite. Just a string of ‘what could happen’ without any idea of timings. The talk is that the over 70’s which inevitably includes us, will have to self isolate to avoid catching this bloody virus but when! Having been more or less in that position for over five years and having finally got over our sense of being institutionalised we are now facing crawling back into our shells for possibly up to four months.

I guess, in truth that’s a drop in the ocean for us and yes, we can do it. We have hobbies, the dogs and a lovely environment but it is just so very, very irritating and already I am bored at the prospect. Self motivation goes out of the window and that must not become a habit. We had plans to see the family over the Easter break and now that won’t be happening. We have just got back our freedom of movement and have been thoroughly enjoying exploring places again, eating out when we feel like it and doing things at a whim only to have it all curtailed again. At least with modern technology as well as FaceTime isolation isn’t total but I just hope the government are astute enough to organise things in a sensible way. Perhaps astute, sensible and politicians in one sentence are an oxymoron, time will tell. But truth be told we are not ready to depart this mortal coil as yet and we will follow sensible guidelines in order to hopefully avoid catching this virus.

It is mind boggling that there are some selfish members of our society who are stockpiling among other things, toilet rolls. Common sense should tell them that these things, if bought sensibly will continue to be available for all but no, the stupidity continues at an embarrassing rate. It’s nothing new though, we have seen all this before from petrol shortages because people were filling up cars to sit on their drives to panic buying of milk and bread. It really is all so unnecessary, people should stay calm and think more about others and less of themselves.

Well, on that note I think it’s time to get my knitting out, who knows, I may finally finish the sweater I started over a year ago.

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.

A New Year, a new beginning.

Not only a new year but the beginning of a new decade which just illustrates to me the speed at which time is passing by and I seem to have been standing still for years, still ageing but not going anywhere! New years are a time when we tend to take stock of everything about our lives both past and present and always with a sense of hope for the future. Isn’t that why we talk of making new year resolutions, ranging from small things such as clearing unworn clothes from drawers and wardrobes, donating them to various clothing banks, to giving up drinking, being more active and also losing weight. The latter is definitely a resolution I will be making especially after the indulgences of the Christmas period.

Christmas was a really lovely occasion this year with all our immediate family here. It was only marred slightly by one small occurrence which was the AP trying to persuade our son, daughter-in-law and small grandson to stay and have Christmas dinner with her in the care home, not once but three times. It was an attempt to get at the LSO and myself for not having her here but all it did was make them feel guilty and it was just another example of her controlling and selfish ways. She couldn’t have coped with the chaos, the noise or the food and then there was no-one who could return her back to the home in the evening. Sometimes I feel a sense of real frustration setting in, just which bit of ‘Care’ and ‘Home’ does she and in fact some others, not understand. The LSO and myself are no longer able to look after her because the AP needs 24/7 care and just for a change, the lack of her presence did mean that the LSO and myself actually enjoyed Christmas which was a real bonus.

But remaining on the ‘time for reflection’ theme, I really do need to make some resolutions and stick with them. First on the list is weightloss which is essential for my own health and well being so its back to the low carb with intermittent fasting which I know works for me. The next thing that needs addressing is the great clear-out of not just clothes but all the junk in my studio which has been in there for nearly three years. Just thinking of it is exhausting and that comes to the third issue. How often in the past years have I thought of all these things that need doing then sat down, played another game of Gin Rummy or Wordscape or poured another glass of wine? Often is the answer, too often in fact so the third resolution which should probably be the first is to stop prevaricating and get on with things.

Do I feel better now having got all that off my chest? Not really but at least it’s a start. Do I actually believe the idea that a new year brings hope and new beginnings? No, of course not but there is no doubt that clutter is often a reflection of a state of mind so it can’t be a bad thing to tidy up or to have hope for a better future.