I am rarely at home for such extended periods as I have been this Christmas. Over the last 10 days, I’ve probably only been out of the house about half a dozen times and only once for more than a couple of hours. What I’ve noticed is that the more time I’m here, the more housework there is to do, and it’s very, very boring.
I also realized that I don’t know what to eat for lunch. I get my lunches from (a) the work cafeteria; (b) M&S. My eating habits at the weekend are all over the place and don’t definitely include three meals a day, so it’s not a problem. The work or M&S foods aren’t necessarily anything I want to eat but I’m hungry so I go with the available intake. I don’t hold quite the same view at home, so I stare blankly into cupboards, close them and then reopen them as though they’ll have been magically restocked with delicious comestibles. They never are.
Despite being just one person who lived mostly on herbal tea for several days, it’s sometimes felt like an endless round of preparing, consuming, washing up and tidying. Even when ill, messiness still distresses me, so I was caught in a web of my own making. I have a dishwasher but not that many pots and pans; it takes a couple of days to get enough dirty dishes to run a full load, but in that time I’ll need half the stuff again. Caught in a mix of lethargy, tidiness and irritation, I indulged in daydreams about how great it would be to be living in an American hotel instead: two enormous beds in the room, wonderful showers, black out blinds and, oh joy, room service. Really, the next time I think I’m likely to be laid low for a couple of weeks, I should just pack some tea and book a flight.
I know I’ve got it easy. I realized yet again that I don’t know how anyone does the whole family thing without paid staff, because surely the vicious circle of chores drives everyone slowly mad?
As I’m finally starting to feel better on successive days, I can tell that a lot of this negativity was to do with how generally low I was feeling. Still, I do remember that even in those long lost days of the run up to Christmas, when I was making marzipan and a stollen and icing for the cake, I felt like I spent most of my time washing up. These were tasks I had chosen to do and from which I did get a lot of satisfaction and yet there was a nagging feeling that the achievement wasn’t worth the clean up.
And probably, for me, on a day in, day out basis, it isn’t. What I’ve realized is that I like cooking and baking as a leisure activity and as a contrast with my day to day business of being mentally occupied at work. Chopping up ingredients at the end of the day, with a glass of wine to hand and the radio on, is a way to wind down. Wrenching open the fridge door in the middle of the day and trying to think of what I could eat from the motley collection contained within, is not.