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.


This week 3

It has been crazy hot weather this week, to the point where one day I just put on shorts and a t-shirt and remembered not to walk around on video calls. Thankfully the house gets a good cross-breeze and so benefits from any cool air going. Charlie has been out most of the time, apparently sleeping under a neighbour’s hedge with only his tail sticking out; but my poor Bellecat has been suffering in all her fluff and sleeping curled up in odd patches of shade.

I’ve been…

Reading – Persephone books, specifically books about houses. I don’t know why, except that it struck me that a lot of the Persephone list is a bit depressing and I couldn’t face anything bleak. The four novels I’ve read have all all been set early to mid 20th century, and they all feature families in transition. It strikes me that if I’d been born earlier in the 20th century I’d have had a grim time of it, not clever enough to get a scholarship and just intelligent enough to realise that there could be more to life than whatever ghastly office or shop opportunities presented themselves. Even if I’d been wealthy, I’d have been a disaster at the round of parties required by being launched into society. Horrors.

Although the Persephone books do also make you feel sorry for the male characters, so often married to fractious, helpless child-women. On the other hand, so often repressive, sexist, bullying and manipulative figures.

Bricks and Mortar – Helen Ashton. Which begins with young architect, Martin, travelling to Rome with the intention of studying the buildings there. Instead, he gets caught by a scheming old woman who is looking for a suitable husband for her fundamentally useless but very lovely daughter. So poor Martin gets trapped and the novel is about his life with Letty, his architectural practice and his daughter Stacy.

Greenbanks – Dorothy Whipple. Has a cast of unpleasant, but of their time male characters, and various women who are struggling to somehow live differently. The house, Greenbanks, is the family home, just about maintained by Louisa, the matriarch. One of her sons-in-law, who looks after her money for her, almost manages it away entirely. Another character called Letty finally inherits some money that will give her freedom at the age of 50; her daughter Rachel, born into a period when women had more freedoms anyway, gets to college and chooses love over familial duty.

The New House – Lettice Cooper. Set over one day (a device I always enjoy), in which a mother, daughter and their remaining servant are moving out of the family home to a smaller, manageable house. The old one is sold, its eventual fate undecided but likely to be either turned into a club or torn down and replaced with terraces. The move becomes a pivotal day for Rhoda, on the cusp of being the dutiful daughter and continuing to stay at home to look after her mother but recognising her last chance to find her own life.

Mariana – Monica Dickens. Not a ‘house’ story, but a coming of age tale that I hadn’t remembered being as wickedly funny as it is. It’s about the eponymous Mary as she grows up, struggles through school, suffers through a truly embarrassing time at theatre school and a near-miss engagement before everything comes good for her.

Sorting out plants – I had bought a planter at the beginning of lockdown and then got overwhelmed by plant choice. And then overwhelmed again by the total faff of re-planting into a planter. Finally, I made a decision, and now I have a parlour palm: air purifying, non-toxic and allegedly difficult to kill.


And a sneaky ivy as well, because I do like a trailing plant. The poem in the frame, by the way, is Adlestrop by Edward Thomas.


I’m inspired to get a few more plants too, but there’s more thinking and planning to be done first. So that’s a next month activity.

This week 2…

Go me with the creative titles. Anyway, I have been mostly…

Reorganising my study… because I had a make do storage thing that was formerly a vegetable rack but was holding stationery and the printer. All of a sudden I couldn’t bear it any more. I don’t use the printer much (once a week for printing out my Greek homework so I can then decode my tutor’s cryptic comments and try to correct my myriad errors) but it does need to be accessible. I have searched and searched for non-horrible storage units and they are to be found if you want to spend £4,000 on a vintage steamer trunk. Don’t tell me about Argos and Wayfair and Dunelm. I try. I really do. I just can’t. Instead, I have shoved the printer under the armchair, discovered an old wicker basket that is just the right size for printer paper, and a second that now holds all the chargers. I’ve topped off the small pile of wicker baskets with a vase of dried lavender.

Reorganising my kitchen… because simultaneous with being unable to bear my study, I couldn’t bear some of my kitchen storage either. There is a ridiculous narrow cupboard that was wide enough for one bottle of wine but I’ve moved baking trays and cooling racks into it, and my wine rack into the spot previously used by the baking trays and now it all makes much more sense. Bonus points to me because the wine rack was formerly in the study, and now there’s room up there for the floor lamp I will need when it starts to get dark earlier.

Finding a handyman… as we all know by now, I am useless for all practical purposes. This means that the small household fixes start to pile up until I find someone who can do them. And lo! I have found someone to change my wall lights, fix the oven door, fix the light behind the mirror in the bathroom and lay new flooring in the dressing room. Also, he gave exactly the advice I wanted about my fridge, which was to get rid of it.

Still re-reading… because I’m still waiting for that Ava Lee book to arrive. I read The Lark, by E. Nesbitt, which has reminded me that I should explore more of her adult novels. And I re-read The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert Parker, which has reminded me to put more effort into finding the rest of the Spenser novels. But it’s a bit like constantly snacking and I need a proper, mental three-course meal. Oh gods, is it time to try Proust again?