musingsponderingsandrants

Parenting, profundities and humour

Life ain’t fair…. — August 12, 2020

Life ain’t fair….

When I was a kid and I uttered that oft bemoaned phrase 

“It’s not fair!”  my mum would always reply 

”Life ain’t fair!”

How right she was. As one gets older one realises more and more the fundamentally unfair nature of life. The fairness of who gets the last home made orange lolly from the freezer, you or your slightly younger brother, or who has to clear the table after tea begin to pale into insignificance in the face of the total lack of equality between people’s life experiences. 

My kids are still at the stage where that ice lolly is the most important thing. Even though they are approaching adulthood (in a long and tedious way which seems to involve two steps forward and 20 back) they are still mostly stuck in their own small world.

And generally what a privileged world that is. However it seems that whilst teenagers are able to rationally understand the general unfairness of the experiences of minorities or refugees or those unfortunate enough to be born in countries torn by war, poverty or famine (or all three) they are simultaneously completely and utterly fixated on their own situation. 

And recently we have been playing a lot of the ‘unfairness game’; that is who has been most affected by the current pandemic. 

On the face of it none of my children have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. No one we know has even had it let alone been ill or tragically died. Both their parents still have jobs. There has been food on the table. Love and reassurance a plenty.  Birthday gifts. A staycation. On line school. 

But these things mean nothing to my teenagers. Subconsciously they are probably appreciated although outwardly one would never know. Because these are things they expect. Take for granted. And maybe that is the way it should be. 

What they focus on is what they have lost. Exams, school learning, social lives,  sport, tours, music, the summer following exams and the adventures planned. Pointing out that they have it better than a lot of others does not help. And it feels like a real loss to them. 

And actually it is. These things are not important in the scale of climate change or catastrophe in the Lebanon but they matter to millions of kids.

And I think what they have actually lost most is their sense of security. The sense of continuity. That events will follow a pattern, a time line. And their futures, which seemed mapped out to some extent, are now clouded and unsure even down to whether they will actually go back to school in September or on what basis, or even where.

And all those kids tomorrow and next Thursday getting exam results face an uncertainty no other cohort ever has and I hope (for my next child’s sake) never will. The endless debate and arguing is unsettling and treats these cohorts of children as statistics rather than human beings. 

So actually although in real terms the unfairness of their current situation is small, in relative terms it is huge. 

I/ we need to remember that. 

 

 

Jean Therapy — August 4, 2020

Jean Therapy

lost phone

So here is a thing. That is not my arse….I wish.

Loyal readers and indeed friends will know that, barring temperatures hitting 25 plus as has recently happened for a few days here, I always wear jeans. If you want to understand more about this I suggest you read Let’s Not Skirt Around the Issue– still my most read post of all time….

I have a few pairs of jeans but hitting age 50 and a serious Tyrrells salt and vinegar crisp habit saw me limited to 2 pairs that fitted comfortably.

These pairs are from a well known retailer, are the same size but different colours, skinny fit, high waisted, branded ‘lift, firm and shape’ (and let’s be honest who over the age of 30 doesn’t need help in that department), one pair light denim, one pair indigo.

Until about 5 years ago I was a fan of the boot cut. I still have a couple of legacy pairs of these. One pair that I wore to death now have a slit in the knee which is quite fashionable amongst teenagers but probably a pit passe on a 50 year old but I still put them on to clean toilets. The other pair are my designer ones that I bought at a charity fashion show held in aid of the NCT which I helped organise and was indeed a model at about 2 months after I gave birth to Youngest, so nearly 13 years ago. I can still just about get into them and they are lovely but they are just a bit too long and only really work with 6 inch wedges….so not great on the school run… but I do wheel them out to every 50th birthday party, holiday disco and wedding reception (second times around mainly now). How I was in better shape 2 months after giving birth than now remains a sore point. See my earlier reference to Tyrrells.

I also have a pair of Levi’s. One day about 7 years ago a friend (who is in great shape) persuaded me into a Levi’s shop (when such things were fun) in order to have my ‘curve‘ analysed. Well my curve was described as ‘bold’. Which I believe is £75 a pop jeans retailer’s code for ‘fat arsed’. A perky 20 something persuaded me to try on a 28 bold and then persuaded me into a 26 bold. Even before my Tyrrells habit took hold they were snug. Which is apparently the idea. And they did look amazing with boots. Once I wrestled them over my arse and hips and into place. I had flash backs to my teenage years when jeans were so tight we used coat hangers to pull up the zipper. Every so often I would get them out of the wardrobe and wonder why I had not worn them in a while. I would put them on and once in place be really quite happy with the look. Then I would need a wee in a hurry and remember why I don’t wear them. They are the most expensive jeans I have ever bought £ per wear wise. After a day of wearing them I ache to pull on a pair of joggers. I keep them I think partly as a salutary lesson about the power of a sales person appealing to your vanity by mentioning the number 26 and partly in a semi aspirational way if I ever find the will to make the most of that Weight Watchers subscription (was sort of working pre lock down and then abandoned when everything worth living for was abruptly suspended and the thought of not eating crisps became more than usually intolerable). I will probably never wear them again. Maybe Youngest will.

I also have a pair of red skinny jeans I bought on a whim one spring day when the sun was shining, they only really work abroad. And I ain’t doing that again anytime soon.

So just before lock down I was down to my 2 old faithful pairs of jeans. Those skinnies as mentioned above.

The indigo pair went fist around the zip. They are still wearable but fragile. Then the light denim pair developed a hole in the arse. I have a bad habit of putting my phone in my right back pocket, sitting in the car, and then getting it caught on the car seat as I get out. This has taken its toll and the pocket became ripped from the rest of the fabric leaving a fairly substantial hole. Enough to show a bit of knicker. My knickers are not worth showing off (M&S high leg, were white not really anymore, a touch of baggy elastic). My husband started to complain.

So the time had come to buy new jeans. Logically enough I ordered 2 pairs of exactly the same jeans in the same size and the same colours. They arrived. And they are just a little on the snug side. Not enough to go up a size but enough to mean I am back in relief at getting into joggers mode. (I am not sure why the font here is so small…it may be a metaphor or something).

I don’t get this. Why change the sizing? It isn’t as if jeans loosen off with wear. In fact I am dreading that first put on after a wash moment. Always tough. Bound to be a right pain with these particular pairs. And yes I have a Tyrrells addiction but these size jeans fitted fine just last Friday….

Anyway I will persevere. I have no choice. I am not going jeans shopping in person in the middle of a pandemic. Jeans shopping is bad enough normally what with all that struggling in and out and having to remove shoes every time whilst trying to avoid looking in the unflattering mirror (all fitting rooms have lighting designed to make one’s cellulite look worse)  just to decide that yet another pair is not quite right. This is why once I find a style, size & brand that fits I just keep buying them. And why it is so annoying when retailers decide to change them.

Please stop. Thanks.

 

 

Beach Snob — July 26, 2020

Beach Snob

No sand…

So here we are in sunny Norfolk. I am being a bit kind here as yesterday evening it was anything but sunny as we sat in our caravan listening to the thunder and the rain pounding on the roof and thanking our lucky stars that we weren’t still in a tent.

Tomorrow, the day before our departure, and hence the day of the great awning dismantling (a virgin procedure at that) torrential rain and 40mph winds are forecast. This has thrown our plans into some disarray. It could be worse, though, we could be in Spain. No really we could be, had we not decided to cancel in April and forfeit the deposit. That is the best grand I ever spent. We would have flown yesterday just before Tui pulled out again and the 14 day quarantine period was reintroduced.

Phew.

Anyway we have decided to ignore the great awning dilemma and have a beach day.

We have had 2 beach days on the holiday so far.

Before I describe those I must take a moment to introduce my husband. It is pertinent here as one of the things you need to understand about my husband is that he is a beach snob.

To my mind the perfect beach day involves sand, sea, tea, icecream for the kids, a fish and chip shop, a lavatory and usually some amusements. I won’t be frequenting amusements currently as I cannot comprehend how it is remotely possible to make them covid secure. My kids missed 4 months of school due to children being considered so covid unsecure and so I resent the fact that a small unventilated room full of shared machines and dirty coins (I used to work in a bank and I learnt there that a frightening amount of coins test positive for cocaine; a virus should have a field day) with staff who usually never venture out of their booths except to dispense one lollipop for 1,569,436 tickets are allowed to open first.

Usually in the UK to achieve such delights one needs to venture to a seaside resort. Like Cromer. I really like Cromer. When I get bored of the beach (usually after I have been required to play around 8 different ball games and been shamed and laughed at thoroughly for not being able to catch/ throw/ hit a ball by my obscenely sporty offspring) I can have a wander round the shops selling shell ornaments, jigsaw and enormous sweets in the shape of dummies. Even with a face mask this is still appealing to miss another round of French cricket.

This holiday my husband had other ideas. He has an aversion to well facilitied resorts. He finds them beneath him. He is a beach snob.

Unluckily for us the Times published a guide to Britain’s best beaches this week and 2 were local to us.

To be fair the first beach day was  not designed to be a French cricket and chips affair. My husband decided we should walk from Cley on Sea to Blakeney point to see the seals. He advised me this was 4 miles.

We arrived at Cley and set off. Like the majority of beaches round here it is made up of shingle carefully sorted by the sea into size grades based on the difficulty of wading through them. We schlepped for what felt like a couple of days until we reached the halfway house. Which was a quarter of the way…. my husband informed me that the walk back was also 4 miles but inland so easier on the knees.

We finally reached the dunes which are actually a step up walking difficulty wise and ate our lunch. It was at this point that my husband read the second part of the walk and discovered that we had to schlepp back along the beach after all. I lost my sense of humour.

Anyway the dunes were full of amazing dune plants which I had some fun identifying with my plant ID app. And we then walked on some boardwalk (utter bliss) and then on some more dry sand (grr) and finally we reached the National Trust ranger who was banned from sharing his scope so we couldn’t see any of the seals or the 3000 nesting birds except as dots in the distance. He was a font of knowledge though and it was lovely to hear all the birds.

The 4 mile trudge back wasn’t so great. At one point Eldest and Youngest began a Disney singalong to pass the time. That was a low point.

Anyway the day was one of those that you look back on with hindsight and think you enjoyed. Which to be fair in parts I did. I would probably have enjoyed those parts by driving to Blakeney. But there you go.

Anyway our next beach day was going to be a full french cricket and wetsuit affair. We loaded the car with everything required for such a day including no less than 6 sorts of ball and set off to travel the 12 miles to Holkam beach listed as number 2 in the aforementioned Times survey. As is the way in Norfolk those 12 miles took 45 minutes and several near misses with range rovers.

It would appear that there are an awful lot of Times readers currently in Norfolk. I probably could have guessed that from the number of times a range rover has nearly crashed into us head on by driving far too fast down the single track lanes. The car park was rammed. The queue to pay stretching out in a socially distanced conga to somewhere near our campsite.

What the Times had failed to mention about this 2 mile long secluded beach was that it is at least a 30 minute schlepp across dry sand and/ or marsh full of sea lavender (the clue is in the name) and wet dogs off their leads that shouldn’t be) to the sand and then a further 15 min schlepp to the sea. Sea and sand proximity is not good.

And there are no facilities at all. No tea, no shops, no lav. Anyway we made the most of it and I played beach tennis and French cricket and was laughed at as is tradition and 3 of the idiots made the extra 15 minute schlepp to go in the sea and then we all schlepped 30 minutes back (this time through a pine wood which was a little easier). And then we travelled the 45 minutes back to the camp site and the luxury of a wee.

Today is forecast to be lovely. Yet again husband decided we should have a beach day. On a beach that has made the top 10 of Britain’s best beaches in the Times. Overstrand.

This time we drove through Cromer to get here. So close and yet so far. We arrived at the car park where some people were sitting in deck chairs next to their cars. I mocked them. It is such a British thing to do. To drive to a seaside and sit in the car park. Wierd.

Any way this car park had lavs. We used them, loaded up and started to trek down the slope. When I say loaded up imagine every shoulder and hand of 5 people occupied with carrying burdens of various shapes and sizes.

On our route down we saw a cafe. My spirits lifted. Tea and lavs ticked off the list was a win.

It became apparent that there is one massive downside of Overstrand beach. There is literally no beach at high tide. None. High tide was precisely the time we arrived. We are all now sat on the prom/ sea wall waiting for the beach to appear. We are not alone. This may explain the deck chairs in the car park.

There is sand in Cromer.

The prom is nice
Corona Camping… — July 22, 2020

Corona Camping…

So many moons ago, about last August, just after we returned from our summer holiday in France we began the annual ‘Where shall we go on holiday next summer’ debate.

This is a long and often fractious process with wildly differing views and opinions and indeed aspirations.

Suffice to say that Eldest and I won out and we booked 2 weeks all inclusive in the Canaries. We had been to this particular hotel twice before please see Sunbed Wars for further info.

Then the pandemic happened. The quite astronomical balance was due by the beginning of April, (never have 3 kids seriously or if you do never allow them to grow up) people were struggling to get refunds for holidays actually cancelled and it was likely that even if we were able to go by late July all the best bits of an all inclusive (buffets, discos, karaoke, squashing balloons against virile German chests etc etc) were unlikely to be allowed. Add to that booking a pool slot or beach hexagon and wearing a mask in 38 degree heat and the whole idea seemed, well frankly, much less appealing.

So we cancelled. And yes we lost the deposit. But hey if you can afford 2 weeks in the Canaries you can afford to lose the deposit. And someone’s job might be saved.

My husband then began another round of the great and now twice annual ‘Where shall we go on holiday this summer’ debate but with bells on.

He decided to buy a caravan.

My initial reaction was one of horror. This is often the case. I am wont to see the downsides in his hair brained ideas.

Once I calmed down it seemed like a relatively good plan. We were still in the midst of full lock down. But logic and rumour dictated that camping sites were likely to open early on due to them being outside and naturally socially distanced. A caravan with it’s own loo and shower meant that if shared showers we ruled out we could still go.

We are quite good campers and had all the gear. My hips no longer cope with more than 3 nights sleeping on the floor so a caravan would allow for a longer stay.

It cost about 2 lots of the holiday we had just cancelled. And had a resale value.

Hubby did the research, as he likes to do, and found our perfect caravan for sale at a local ish dealer and booked a showroom visit on the weekend that became allowed.

We also booked two campsites. To begin with hubby was keen on north Devon. I reminded him that on our trip to Woolacombe in February half term we had nearly had kittens driving our car down the really very narrow roads flanked by high solid verges and having to badly reverse when meeting a tractor coming the other way. I suggested that our cortisol levels may take 10 days to return to normal if we added an 8ft wide caravan into that mix. We went for Norfolk (flat, relatively wide roads, soft hedging) and Northumberland (A1)…

Again this was a punt. Neither site was open or knew if they would be. However the Norfolk one was doing full refunds and the Northumberland one was for the end of August and cheap as chips it being oop north.

The site in Norfolk was well known to us as we had been numerous times in our tent. We knew the pitches were generous and the site large.

The weekend of our caravan viewing arrived wet and miserable. We took the kids (the whole event had the feel of a carnival as the kids had not been out of our village at this point for 3 months) and even Eldest who remained sceptical was won over by the ingenious cupboards and fridge.

So we purchased, collected a few weeks later and spent 2 hours manoeuvering it onto our drive, emptied our camping trailer into it, sold the trailer and tent and waited for our holiday to arrive.

And now we are here. Thankfully all the planets aligned. We managed to get the van off our drive with only minimal damage (when we manoeuvre it back on the drive upon our return we must park it further away from the fence), tow it successfully and reverse it onto the pitch with the motor mover which I am so glad we bought as our reversing failed spectacularly. As soon as they are allowed again we are booking onto the Caravan Club’s reversing course… I can vouch for the fact that watching you tube videos is absolutely no substitute for doing it in person.

The communal facilities are open here which is fortunate because during the first night we had a spectacular water leak which saw us awaken to 2 inches of water on the floor, sodden carpet and flooded cupboards..not so ingenious now… a repairman and part is coming Fri evening.

We also failed to put up the awning correctly (the instructions made IKEA ones look comprehensive) and so it nearly broke on that first night under the weight of the pissing down rain. But it didn’t and we worked it out the next day.

After 5 days here are my observations about staycating in a caravan (without water) during a pandemic:

The facilities which are usually clean here are pristine.

The site is half empty which means there are no queues for anything. Except the shop. And plenty of space to play cricket, footie, catch etc. And to try to reverse your caravan (badly)…

There is a booking system for everything from pool, to tennis, to moth walks.

This favours the organised. And that is me all over. Before we had even left home I had booked 2 National Trust gardens and parklands.

The National Trust is still doing socially distanced al fresco cream teas. Thank god.

It is the first time in a long while that I have forgotten about the pandemic for hours at a time.

Suffice to say we are officially sold on caravanning. We all love the beds. Eldest loves the fridge as he can eat as much cereal as he wants. We all love sitting in it at night playing poker at a table without the need for thermals or head torches.

We may never fly again. Seriously.

I’m Just a Teenage Dirt Bag Baby… — May 28, 2020

I’m Just a Teenage Dirt Bag Baby…

There’s this thing at the moment. Indignation. We are becoming (even more) of a nation of people bristling at the audacity of ‘other people’. Social media is awash with despairing posts outlining the latest transgressions of various ‘other people’. I live in a village. People here are incandescent with the outrageous behaviour of ‘other people’. Never before have I seen that little red, cross face appear so often on Facebook posts as in recent weeks.

Now some ‘other people’ are quite rightly deserving of our incandescent, bristling outrage. Dominic Cummings for instance. Spam that little red face all you like.

But before we condemn whole parts of our society of ‘other people’ to our outrage maybe we should stop and think. And to my mind a group of society which often comes up against a disproportionate amount of these outraged feelings are teenagers.

I live with 16 and 14 year old boys. As well as a nearly 13 year old daughter. I know of what I speak…. I will relay to you how many a conversation goes with my teens. It may help you understand,

About 9 weeks ago everything my teens knew and understood of the world collapsed. One can argue that it did for everyone. Old and young. But bear with me here. Overnight (literally) everything in their lives was curtailed. School, education, exams, social life, romantic life, sport, music, hobbies, holidays, clubs etc.

They got on with it. They toed the line. Mine did not leave the village for 8 weeks. Not even to shop as they were too old to be taken to supermarkets as they could be safely left at home. They settled to home schooling.

Now cast your minds back to the summer you were 16. Really try. Think about what you did and where you went. I can only speak of my own experience and maybe I was very different to the norm but I doubt it. Yes I did my O levels. And I went to school. But I also lived outside. I was at home to eat and sleep and that was about it really. I roamed the streets and countryside in a gang of mates. I went to the cinema. I went shopping. I bought illicit alcohol and drank it in the woods. I had a boyfriend and started on a road of (shall we call it) romantic discovery. I was forced on a 2 week holiday with my parents during which I was miserable and probably a complete pain in the arse.

Maybe you did some of these things. Maybe you worked. Or did more wholesome activities. But I can absolutely guarantee you did not spend 8 weeks with your immediate family and only your immediate family. It is not natural. Teenagers need to push against the rules. Explore the world. Expand their horizons.

Is it any surprise, then, that when we release lock down a little these same teenagers want to meet up?

Mine have stuck by the rules. All of them have met one mate at a time outside. Eldest’s friends want to meet up as a four. He asked our opinion on he and his one mate ‘accidentally’ bumping into his two other mates (well not bumping obviously as they would be 2 meters apart) whilst in the park.

And the easy answer is ‘ it is against the rules so not a good idea’. But, and it is a big but, as he said others are also breaking the rules.

This weekend I spent a lot of time in my front garden. Within one day I saw 2 grandparents walking with 2 grand kids. I saw 2 families with at least 2 young kids each walking together. I also know of people meeting in their gardens. I saw three elderly ladies all sitting on a bench together. All of these things are not ‘allowed’. (Unless they all live together in households. They might. It is unlikely but they might. Even so these sorts of things are happening).

And although ‘allowed’ the media pictures of beaches and beauty spots over the bank holiday do not send a message that many are taking their responsibilities particularly seriously. And do not get me started on Cummings again.

Moreover these things are being done by ‘other people’ who should know better. Who are more at risk than my 16 year old. They are in the parts of society he is being asked to protect by drastically altering his life. ‘Other people’ who should be setting an example to the younger elements.

And actually, yes, I do think teenagers and young people are sacrificing the most. My teens are certainly sacrificing more than me. I had my summers in the sun free of responsibility and with my future laid out before me like a glittering prize. Most of us did. They aren’t and may never. Currently they do not even have the basic developed world right to their education. I would happily sacrifice more to allow them a bit more freedom. Because at the end of the day I am at more risk.

So yes there are ‘gangs’ of teenagers out there. There are also daily transgressions by a whole host of ‘other people’. People who should know better. I doubt many are entirely without sin. If you are please feel free to polish your halo. But be honest.

In the end we all agreed that hanging on a bit longer is the way forward. Trying to stick to the rules helps everyone in the long run. However hard and unfair that may feel. But I am not going to condemn others who feel they cannot tolerate it.

Before we cast stones maybe we should actually stop to think and praise our youth for perhaps one of the most altruistic acts of recent memory.

After all they will be paying for it for the rest of their lives.

Sunday — May 24, 2020

Sunday

Some days are just shit aren’t they. Today I had to deal with my disconsolate daughter who crawled in bed beside me and sobbed for half an hour.

She has been doing ok. Like all of us she is sometimes able to settle into the new routine and deal with the day to day of our new reality.

In fact yesterday was a relatively good day. I drove her to a public park to meet up one on one with a school friend whilst I went to the nearby supermarket. They walked 2m apart round the park. She said they talked about the virus and school and the new age and it seemed to have helped. She hasn’t seen her friends for over 2 months. She is 12.

But today she is again struggling. She is struggling with intrusive thoughts. She is struggling with grief. She is struggling with a sick feeling in her stomach. She is struggling with hours of empty time. She is struggling with loneliness.

She is not alone. There are millions of children out there who feel hopeless even if that’s only some of the time. They are impotent. They cannot help. They are the subject of intense debate. They are carriers and spreaders. They are unwanted; at school, in shops, on the streets, sometimes at home. They cause issues. And don’t think for one minute that they don’t know this.

They are children.

It worries me intensely what all this is doing to our youth and their futures which are all our futures.

And apparently children are resilient. Quite often that is not how it seems.

There is no answer. I have no answers for her. I cannot wave a magic wand. I can’t help make it right.

This virus has stripped me of my ability to do that.

Call me…. — May 13, 2020

Call me….

Yesterday I rang Sainsburys. I have been an on line customer for years and the owner of a delivery pass for about 10. Recently though I have been charged for deliveries and although I don’t really mind and thought it was probably because of the current unusual circumstances I had it on my mental list to ‘get to the bottom of’….

I went on line and was surprised to note that my account showed that I did not have a delivery pass…weird.

So I called up. I got through to a lovely lady with a thick accent (probably Scottish but may well have been something else). I asked her if she could find out why I had no delivery pass. She said it had expired on 30th March. I asked why it had it not been automatically renewed as stated on their website (still). At this point she got very defensive…

At the beginning of lock down, she said, when they were under the kosh of panic buying and on line slot mayhem they took a decision not to renew delivery passes. They simply couldn’t cope with it.

I was not in any way cross with her. We talked a bit more. She was sitting in the bedroom in her flat using a laptop and a mobile phone that had been hastily issued by her employer when she started working from home. Her broadband was not always up to the job. She lived alone.

She said I should be able to get a new pass. I advised her that the website still said I could not. She said she thought she ‘had read it in the chat’ from her employer sometime this week that delivery passes were coming back. Clearly not yet. She thanked me for the intel.

I said not to worry I would keep looking myself. She offered to book me my slot for next week which was a major bonus as usually I log on 3 times a day searching! She did that and reserved the slot for me.

I thanked her and hung up. Later I got the confirmation email and had a chuckle at the bottle of Moët she had used to reserve the slot. I may forget to untick it when I do the actual order!

The conversation got me thinking about all those call centre and social media peeps desperately trying to help their customers in what can only be described as very unusual circumstances.

The banks are under a lot of this pressure at the moment (and indeed have been for the last 2 weeks) in the wake of the launch of the bounce back loan scheme. The volumes seen have been unbelievable. The scheme was rushed in with IT platforms not tested or in some cases ready. It was right to rush it in. Small businesses need the cash. But it needs to be remembered that the time frames are ridiculous and the volumes astronomic.

And the people at the sharp end managing issues and complaints and understandable frustration are often sat alone in bedrooms on hastily arranged IT with a lack of up to date info. In fact the info changes so quickly that it is hard to disseminate it effectively to staff from the centre especially when those staff are dispersed. They are low earners and are answering call after call in an unrelenting fashion day after day. I cannot imagine how soul destroying that must be.

As is the case in these situations those that are happy don’t say it often enough and those that are not yell loudest.

We need to remember that supermarkets and banks and others are actually a whole lot of people most of whom, in very difficult circumstances, are trying to do their best to help people.

When we finished our talk yesterday my lovely accented call centre lady thanked me for our chat. She said it was nice to speak to someone who was interested in her.

Be kind folks.

Today… — April 19, 2020

Today…

Today is a day just like any other. All days at the moment are just like any other.

Today I am struggling.

Yesterday I hunkered down with my family, binged watched the TV, ate chocolate and knitted very small hats for the local maternity unit.

Today it really dawned on me that we may never get back to ‘life as we knew it’.

Yesterday I was optimistic. The paper was full of stories of scientists banding together, forging unheard of cross country partnerships, to develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs.

Today the paper says we may never have a vaccine.

Yesterday the exit strategy had not been discussed in public at all.

Today the paper says that government sources have said that possible exits involve my older family members staying isolated for 18 months.

Yesterday I listened to the government give more money to local councils to help and thought ‘good for you’.

Today I read that our Prime Minister took an extended break in the weeks leading up to the pandemic getting a hold here and that the UK was so busy with Brexit and cost savings that it let PPE levels run dangerously low.

Yesterday a friend dropped off rhubarb at my door. Clandestine fruit delivered with kindness,

Today the paper is full of vitriol against cyclists and shoppers.

Yesterday it rained for the first time in ages and I stood on the front drive and let it splash on my face marvelling at how out of tune I had got with the natural world.

Today I do not want to get out of bed.

We are all dealing with a huge amount at the moment. I will get up. I will feed my family, hang up washing to dry and probably force myself out on a walk.

Today this is all I feel capable of.

Many many people have it a lot lot worse. But all we can do is deal with our own reality, we can support those who have a worse reality, respect their sacrifice and suffering. But we can only experience our own.

Be kind. Always.

Voracious Hoards..* and ** — April 11, 2020

Voracious Hoards..* and **

* I wanted to entitle this blog Plagues of Locusts but thought that might be a little…off. And although what we are facing globally at the moment does feel, well, biblical my Covid 19 PC alarm went off…Voracious Hoards it is…

**This blog is shamelessly middle class. It is intended as a light hearted read. And in no way detracts from the very real hardships that I know are faced by many, many people at the moment.

So here I sit on Day, actually I do not know what day, of lockdown; pondering. All the days currently merge into one. It is a bit like that time between Christmas and New Year but not as fun and with less twinkly lights. It is especially difficult to tell what day it is as my husband has not stopped working 12 hour plus days for about 3 weeks. Yes he is an essential worker. But you won’t be clapping for him on Thursdays because he is (whispers) a banker and so will probably at some point be blamed for the pandemic. So far it is bats, pangolins, the entirety of China. I am sure banks, some of whom are mostly owned by the tax payer (every article you read about banks says that…journalists have it on auto type…they click their £ symbol to type it automatically), will finally be found to blame. As he has hardly left our spare room for 3 weeks (once I had assembled the hastily ordered desk and chair and removed the double bed which now sits on our drive way in pieces, unsold due to lockdown, making us look like weirdos to the not inconsiderable number of people now walking by daily) the days are bleeding into each other. I actually do know it is Friday today because it is Good Friday. And therefore a bank holiday although this year it ain’t.

Anyway as I was saying we are on Day unknown of the lockdown. And mostly during these few weeks I have been focussed on food.

I own 2 teenage boys. Quite what I thought I was doing having 2 sons 18 months apart is beyond me now. And then I thought I would throw in a daughter too.

I can also tell you that teenage boys are basically eating machines. They open the fridge, inhale and £150 of food disappears.

In normal circumstances I can cope. School picks up a meal a day. They take snacks in that resemble complete packed lunches for break time. They eat a cooked meal at school (although the portions are apparently scandalous) . Then I do another cooked meal for tea and then they shovel cereal down until bed time.

When the food shortages hit and were coupled with the request to shop only infrequently I turned into a complete food control freak.

I can now hear the opening of a fridge from 3 rooms away. The rustle of a chocolate bar from the back garden. The clinking of milk bottle on cereal bowl from half way through my walk round the village. I can be heard shouting repeatedly,

“Please take some grapes off the bunch instead of standing at the fridge shovelling in a whole punnet almost absent mindedly”.

“Let that meal register before you eat anything else”.

“What happened to the 18 chocolate bars I bought yesterday?”

“How can you be hungry again.”

“Put your hands up and back away from the biscuit tin, slowly…I said slowly…no sudden moves”

Etc, etc, etc.

I now pack up the snacks they would have taken to school and ban all other snacks from being consumed. In case you think this is unfair Eldest has the following ‘snack’ daily at break time:

Apple, banana, 4 mini sausage rolls, bag of crisps, dried apricots, chocolate bar…I eat less for a pack up.

Yesterday for breakfast he ate; a fried egg and slice of toast, a huge bowl full of fruit with yogurt, a bowl of porridge and a bowl of granola.

He was back in the snack bag in an hour.

I currently spend my life planning, queuing, shopping, cooking and clearing up food. Making other food out of any food leftovers (and here I mean carcasses and bones not actual food). Scouring recipe books for new ideas. Stopping people eating the wrong food on the wrong day. Carrying out fridge patrol. Cooking meals from scratch twice a day which linger on plates for around 5 minutes (except the butter nut squash and quinoa chilli that lingered on plates a lot longer…). Trying to find eggs. Trying to find flour. Trying to find flour and eggs together.

And to make matters worse I detest cooking. I know a lot of you out there are relishing the time to experiment in the kitchen whipping up all sorts of gourmet meals. I am not. Cooking is more of a large scale and unwelcome logistical exercise here. No fun is had I can tell you.

I do like to bake and had vague ideas of working my way through the Mary Berry book I got at Christmas. But I refer you to my earlier comment viz lack of flour. Or eggs. Or both.

To start with I couldn’t even buy my normal weekly food shop due to restrictions. I buy 4 packs of 6 yogurts a week to last a few days. Every time we have beans on toast for lunch we use 4 cans. I am not stock piling buying these amounts of food. But I was not allowed to buy such vast quantities.

Now with restrictions mostly lifted I struggle to physicslly wheel such amounts round the supermarket. I no longer shop on line saving those slots for self isolaters and the vulnerable. I cannot shop weekly, dear government, as I literally cannot fit the amount of food in a trolley or push it whilst maintaining a safe distance in the aisles. If only I could take a teenager to help. But I cant

My food bill has almost doubled. Luckily I am not paying for school meals and my husband is not spending his daily coffee, porridge & sandwich money at London prices so we are probably no worse off.

So if you want to know why supermarket supply cannot keep up with demand that will be all the teenage boys at home eating their way through the stock.

And I really really want to know where all that food that should have gone to schools and works canteens and hotels and bars and restaurants has gone? I don’t care if the beans are in 2kg tins. That would do around one meal here. Send a few dozen my way. Please.

You and I… — November 22, 2019

You and I…

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My love affair with Queen began with a love affair. To be precise my first love affair.

That sounds a whole lot more romantic than it was. I met the boy in question at his friend’s 16th birthday party because the friend was quite the geek and had no girls to ask and my friend was his sister.

I had my second kiss on the sofa in that friend’s lounge. I was 14. (My first kiss was at the school disco the previous summer whilst having my first slow dance to Hello by Lionel Richie. That boy dumped me after one day. I was quite the geek too and his street cred couldn’t take it. I tried to think it was his loss but it wasn’t until October that I got back in the game. Or maybe the game passed me by for all those months. Clever, geeky girl in sensible shoes and glasses- not really that attractive to your average 14 year old boy)…

After some time fraught with tortured teenage angst and misunderstandings that boy and I became an item.

We spent 2 and a bit years together. There was a lot of walking, making fires, meeting him from his Saturday job at Waitrose, watching Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, jealousy, long land line phone calls in hushed voices in the hallway, RPG, art, flat caps, crunchy sandwiches, the Sunday Mail, woods, snogging in the lighting gallery, that sofa, jumping in canals, …well actually that only happened once and it was him. Not me. Nutter.

He had a record player and precisely 3 albums. We would stack all three up and listen to them in turn before turning them all over to their other sides.

One was The Riddle by Nik Kershaw. One was Innocent Man by Billy Joel and one was Queen’s Greatest Hits.

I was smitten from day one.

I was brought up in a house where the LP collection mostly consisted of classical recordings, a few Beatles albums, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and steam engine noises. Yes I kid you not entire long playing records of steam trains.

Queen, then, was something else.

During our dating period Highlander was released and we had a whole new album of Queen songs from the soundtrack. The Live Magic tour happened. We didn’t go. My mum thought I was too young at 16 for Wembly. That’s a decision I regret to this day. Queen never toured again.

My next boyfriend (he was also at that party and a friend of that geeky brother of my friend) was also a Queen fan. During our time together at Uni between us we completed our entire Queen LP collection. We catalogued the songs according to which member of the band had written them. I still have that list. And half those LPs. We tried to decide who of the 4 was our favourite composer . An almost impossible task.

We mourned Freddie’s passing. We went to the tribute concert. All three of us.

We discussed the merits of different album styles. Was Hot Space really such a mistake. Could you beat the old stuff?

Because although my first experience of Queen was that Greatest Hits album, with all the classics oft belted out by drunken revellers at work’s Christmas parties or bellowed at football matches, it was the lesser known stuff that appealed to me more.

Recently during my endless taxi-ing I have been revisiting my Queen catalogue, now all on Spotify, and rediscovering some of my favourite tracks.

And at the moment that favourite is You and I.

Everyone should listen to You and I. To be honest everyone should listen to the whole of Day at the Races but I hold back from recommending that as the 5 minute long odyssey of White Man puts some people off.

You and I is accessible. But quintessentially Queen. It opens with the piano. I have a soft spot for Freddie’s piano. Maybe because I am a pianist. Maybe because he plays an actual piano not a keyboard. And he does it so well.

Next the drums crash in. I love Roger’s drums. Genius.

There is an excellent bass line for John. I am also a bass player and love a good bass line. Although before you think I can’t really have been all that geeky I played double bass. In orchestras. I tried to pretend I could play electric bass. I really couldn’t. The frets are confusing. And it’s sideways. I did once jam with boyfriend number 3 whose older brother was excessively cool but I was awful. Boyfriend number 3 once saw Queen live. He’d gone to see Status Quo at a gig and Queen were also there. Imagine going to see Quo and getting Queen. By accident. I never really forgave him for that.

Anyway there’s also a good guitar riff for Brian. There are wonderful sung harmonies. It switches between speakers (listen on headphones for the proper effect). There is a false ending. Cymbals in the bridge tap tapping away. All good Queen stuff.

But the star of the show is Freddie’s voice. It often is. I adore it.

And I love the sentiment. No more questions. Let’s enjoy tonight.

I am still friends with that boy who introduced me to Queen 35 years ago. (And with the other two). Some people think that’s wierd. It isn’t. No one needs to be jealous. The romantic part was over literally a life time ago. It was in another life. And yes we meet infrequently and don’t pick up the phone enough. But we are friends.

And that love of Queen he started. That’s still there.

Teo Torriatte my friends.

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