Summer dreams

Not so much ripped at the seams as the months went by in a blur and I have autumn/winter dreams instead. How is it nearly back to school time? I didn’t even buy a new pencil case yet.

Lockdown has eased, so that’s exciting if you want to get out to Wetherspoons for a pint of plague beer. I don’t, so mostly what it means for me is Sainsbury’s are delivering again. Win. No more clicking and collecting. But, I’ve got my Sainsbury’s need down to monthly, I think, basically by buying stuff from a bunch of different places instead.

Partly, that’s because I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of plastic I buy. So:

Toiletries  – From &Keep, everything I’ve had has been great and none of it has come in plastic packaging. So far, I’ve had soaps, shampoo bars, conditioner bars, body lotion, almond oil, non-cotton buds, and bathroom cleaner in a refillable glass bottle.

Milk etc – From Milk & More, as it turns out that a milkwoman delivers to this area. So now my milk is on the doorstep by 6.30am, in glass pint bottles, like ye olden dayes. Along with juice, smoothies, cheese, bread and washing up liquid in a refillable glass bottle. It’s a great service, and they deliver a few times a week.

Deodorant – From Wild, which is a subscription service. You get the reusable, non-plastic container and the first deodorant stick, and then refills turn up whenever they turn up. It works. I walked 20,000 steps today and did a 30 min HIIT workout, so I’m pretty confident it can stand up to my regular daily activity of typing.

Would I be putting all this effort in if I had to trek round various shops? Hell to the no. But what I realised is that when you are in the house for everything to be delivered to you, there is no inconvenience.

I’m also still getting my fruit and veg from the local fruit and veg stand, and for the last couple of weeks I’ve walked there. It’s about 12000 steps round trip, however far that is. Last week I walked through the fields and braved the cows with calves. This week, I risked the road, which isn’t great simply because it’s twisty-turny and you have to pay constant attention to being positioned so that vehicles can see you. But either way it’s doable, and exercise as a byproduct of doing something else useful is my favourite way to make it happen.

I’m trying to figure out if I can get rid of my car, and walk, taxi or hire cars instead. As long as I’m not commuting, this makes total sense, because I barely go out and if I want a car a couple of weekends a month, then hiring one is still cheaper than owning. If I lived in a more urban area, it would be a no brainer but here it requires more thinking about. There’s no local car hire, no Zip car, so every trip would demand a certain amount of logistical planning. But owning even my shitty car demands about £4k a year and I could put that money to much better use.

Like, for example, Forest Christmas! Which is booked for November and if we’re all in another flavour of lockdown again, well, I’ll get a refund. Unbelievably, my employer is still paying out bonuses this year and on that hinges my plan for Other Christmas, which is to fuck off to the Maldives. This may well be a total fantasy and I’ll end up splurging my entire bonus on a medium sized bar of Cadbury’s Whole Nut (the back up plan) but my goodness, I like the idea. I’m not normally a beach person but for once, there’s something about spending a week in a country with predictably good weather, turquoise seas and white sands that is incredibly alluring. I’ll know this week, and I won’t be disappointed either way ‘cos I’m always happy with free money.


In which I get to stay in the house

All the time! Without even having to make excuses for it!

Here we go, the second weekend of lockdown, although it’s more like my fourth because I had a week off and was pretty much self-isolating out of choice before Coronavirus really kicked in.  I mean, I’d got the new Hilary Mantel (wonderful conclusion to the trilogy, but I miss Thomas Cromwell now), and I was enjoying sleeping in a bit and having leisurely coffees, and watching trashy movies. I nipped into town a couple of times, and I did get out for a day of walking, Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay, when I saw what was coming.

I didn’t expect to be going back to work in the office, so I’d tidied up my study, added a biscuit jar and hung a couple of pictures. And it’s been great. I love working from home. I love the extra half hour I get to sleep in, and the extra time I get to ease into my day. I’m at my desk by 8am and barring a couple of really busy days, I close the laptop down by 5pm at the latest. Work is busier and more stressful at the moment, and it really helps me that I’m at home, where it’s quiet and there’s a cat on the desk.

I know that some people are having a hard time, and I refuse to feel guilty that I’m not. Given that I’ve spent my entire working life adjusting to environments that aren’t great for me, I’m getting the most out of this short period when my work set up does suit me.  My boss already knows it’s going to be difficult to get me back in the office full time and I’ve already said if I have to do it, I’ll need a phased return to readjust to the fucking noise. That is a way more stressful prospect, so I’m not thinking about it.

It seems entirely possible that this can be a really positive time. I’m trying to build on some of the good habits I started during my week off, and add to them:

  1. Serious reduction in social media – I’m still checking Instagram but mostly staying away from Twitter and FB.
  2. Weaning myself off the news – I really don’t need a death by death coronavirus count and most articles have an inherently negative spin that seems designed to contribute to panic. If an article is titled ‘How to survive self-isolation’ it suggests that the whole thing is an ordeal. What is with that? Where are the pieces on ‘Hey, it’s really not that bad when you get used to it’ and ‘How to make the most of alone time’? I guess they just don’t foster enough hysteria.
  3. Both of these mean less time on my phone. A few times I’ve even forgotten where it is, so I definitely want that trend to continue.
  4. No commuting did mean more time to cook proper meals, until I started running out of proper meal ingredients. I’m getting a grocery delivery today that should cover me for the next two weeks, but I couldn’t get everything so I might have to venture to a store.
  5. I started yoga again, not particularly successfully but I did a few workouts.
  6. My GCSE has been cancelled but I’m still studying Greek. I wasn’t learning to pass the exam, I just like to collect grades so I get the occasional sense of achievement. I don’t think there’s going to be a good solution for private candidates, but if I end up sitting GCSE and A-level at the same time next year, it’s not the end of the world. So I made flash cards to help me really learn the vocabulary and I have all the verbs written out and up on the wall in my study, and my tutor just sent me past papers to do.
  7. It seems like more theatres, and opera houses and galleries and whatever are getting online every day. I haven’t explored any of that yet, but what if I did sit up in bed watching the Met Opera live one Saturday night?
  8. Being more thoughtful about what I cook, so that I’m making the most of the ingredients I have. Plus, they have to cover lunches as well. I don’t think is a bad thing at all.
  9. Calling people. For years, I’ve been texting, like everyone else, but just this last couple of weeks I’ve started getting and making calls again. I may even actually write some letters.
  10. More reading time, of course. Blackwell’s sent me a three for two before they closed, and I ordered some books from a local bookstore.

Does all this channeling my inner Pollyanna mean everything is fine and dandy? No. I’m worried about my parents, one in a locked down care home and one in self-isolation for 12 weeks because of his age. I’m worried about my sister, because she and her husband are self-employed business owners and they’ve had to close. As of now, they can’t seem even to get one of the business loans the government promised, and their insurance company is threatening not to pay out.

I’m worried and a bit scared about being ill when I’m on my own, but that’s just how it is.  Of course my main concern would be the cats, but I have plenty of cat food being delivered so as long as I can crawl downstairs to get them food and water, we’ll be ok. This is out of my control, so I’ll just deal with it if it happens.

But I’m making plans for after all this is over, too. I definitely want a bigger fridge-freezer, even if it has to go into the garage because I can’t reconfigure the kitchen. I’ll be keeping my cupboards just that bit better stocked and going all out on fancy storage jars and boxes because you can’t stack half-used bags sensibly.

If I think bigger, then if I don’t have to commute, I don’t necessarily need a car. And if I don’t need a car, that’s about £500 a month saved. And that, my friends, is part time PhD money right there. With some left to throw into a pension scheme.

So, I guess I’m one of the few people who doesn’t want life to go back to normal. Which is just as well, because I think there’ll be a new normal and it could look very different. You can’t cross the same river twice.


Nature is not playing fair

Or the end of the world is nigh. One or the other.

I have another cold, and while this is as nothing compared to The Illness that beset me while I was on holiday (of course), it’s still knocked me out for a few days. But Nature is not playing fair, the double-dealing bitch, because the deal is that I have the annual illness and then I’m not ill again. Until the next annual illness.

The cats provided succour by sleeping on me, because a mostly unmoving person with a hot water bottle, the whole covered in a fleecy throw, is the ideal spot for a sleeping cat. But, they were rubbish at fetching me hot drinks or tempting me with delicacies. And, of course, if I don’t bring in firewood or make food, then there’s no fire or dinner. This is the downside of being someone who cooks everything. I have ingredients but I don’t have anything that doesn’t require some prep and washing up, and I frankly couldn’t face it.

Before you ask, I can’t get food delivered here. Or rather, I can, but from both of the places that deliver I have to order vast quantities of food and none of it is very good. So, no.

Things I have learned during this experience:

  1. I need some firewood stored nearer the house. The garage isn’t all that far away but on the days when just coming down stairs exhausted me, the garage may as well have been the moon.
  2. Don’t run out of mint tea. I can’t face coffee at all, or tea with milk when I have a cold, so I ended up drinking hot water for a bit.
  3. This is what Netflix is for. I restarted my subscription, binge watched Sex Education, got a few episodes into The Witcher and decided to read it instead, and watched all of Virgin River. Virgin River is terrible, but ‘woman runs away to small town America to rebuild her life, with entirely predictable story arcs and consistently perfect lipstick’ is made-for-cold viewing. I’m not kidding about the lipstick. I’m sure I missed key plot points while fixating on the fact that her lippy was immaculate in every single scene. Not to mention that scene when immediately after crying in a pretty-but-still-mascara-ruining way, said mascara had all been sorted by the time the camera panned back to her a couple of sentences later.
  4. I need some type of instant meal solution. The freezer is also in the garage, so anything frozen is a backup for the backup. Don’t know what this is going to be but I suppose it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s edible. Maybe miso and noodles.
  5. Podcasts are expensive. On Thursday, when I spent the entire day on the sofa, I listened to a lot of episodes of Backlisted. Duly there followed a generous order to Blackwells and books are on their way.
  6. I need to fix or replace my blender. Then I can at least make soup to store in the freezer. I should freeze some bread as well. I’m prepared to slum it with store bought when I’m sick.
  7. It’s possible that the fact that I got lightheaded every time I stood up on Sunday was more to do with three days of not eating very much than the cold itself. Surprising how long it took me to figure this out and eat something. See point 4.
  8. Apple crumble is not enough to keep you going. I mean, I tried.

Onwards and teawards.