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.

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.

This strange existence.

Nobody has experienced anything like the present situation but it has been most interesting noting peoples’s responses to this lockdown. Most are intelligent enough to understand the need and the importance of it all but there are always the selfish ones who just don’t care about others and think they are bombproof. I suppose they are always there no matter what the situation is. They are the ones who play their music at a volume that assumes everyone wants to hear it, who jump queues, who drive like idiots, park inconsiderately, consider they know it all and generally are obnoxious, self centred, arrogant and selfish. The Me-Me ones who just don’t care until something goes wrong. It’s not even a generation thing because they come in all shapes, sizes and age ranges.

But in the midst of everything there are those who are caring, kind and considerate who go out of their way to help others. They don’t do it for themselves and don’t expect thanks but are just genuinely good people; in a way they are another group of the unsung heroes. They too, come in all shapes and sizes and from different generations but all have one thing in common, they genuinely care about others and are prepared to give help when it is needed.

It would be great to think that when this pandemic is all over there could be a better world for us all to live in. Sadly the doomsayers always shout the loudest but we do have a chance to reshape our lives, even change the world and those who have the power to do this need to wake up to the fact that governments should serve the people who put them where they are. Really serve them, really care for them, ensure that there is adequate transport, proper healthcare, jobs available for all and many, many other things that make life better for everyone because that is what a government should be doing. They need to stop the back biting, the one-upmanship, the general in fighting and constant blaming and shaming and instead to the very best of their ability serve the people in this whole country well.

Well, that’s that rant over. It won’t make any difference, the fact that air quality around the world has improved dramatically will be ignored and we will return to the same old situation of the powers that be thinking only beyond their very short noses.

Keep on smiling.

There is no doubt that laughter is the best medicine and some hysterically funny jokes, videos and stories have emerged from this lockdown. They certainly take the mind off the seriousness of what is happening here and around the world.

We try not to watch too much news on TV but inevitably the late afternoon briefing has become compulsive viewing which is no doubt the same for many thousands of people. The AP is tucked up safely in the Care Home and can’t seem to get a handle on this pandemic and according to her no-one is taking it seriously anyway. When I spoke to her this week she asked why had I not been to see her so I explained again that no visitors are allowed. This elicited the response that she had heard me outside in the corridor on several occasions recently and she gets quite distressed and upset when I don’t go to see her. I explained that one of the Care Assistants must have a similar voice because I haven’t been to see her for over three weeks because of the lockdown.

The whole situation left me feeling a little bemused and then of course I realised that she was just reverting to type and it was the old ‘trying to control me’ bullying technique coming into play. Had I really forgotten the dreadful years the LSO and I suffered looking after her? Her utter determination to control and manipulate us whilst telling everyone how wonderful we were. No, I guess that will take many years and it may be that I will never have fond memories of my mother but lately has been easier in that we cannot visit so that dread has gone. Mind you it isn’t something to be thankful for since it is because of the coronavirus that I feel the way I do which is ironic to say the least.

It is interesting to note that for the LSO and myself being tied to the house is not too much of a problem. We had up until last August been forced to socially distance for over five years, unable to go anywhere or do anything for most of that time. So although we had begun to really enjoy our freedom, we equally have been able to settle back into a routine that had been a habit but at least we don’t have the AP causing us grief. She really was a huge black cloud hanging over us, definitely a large bat in the attic.

I am thoroughly enjoying cooking and baking again and have managed a couple of inches of my sweater while the LSO has produced some wonderful lino prints which is good to see again. The AP slowly ground us down, knocking any sense of creativity or love of life out of both of us as we fought to survive her vindictive and malevolent nature. This was something we never saw at all until she came to live with us but bit by bit our love and appreciation of life is returning along with a sense of humour which has always been a huge part of our relationship.

Although I am not lighter I feel lighter but just have to endeavour not to end up being rolled sideways out of the house when some form of normality eventually returns.

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.

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.