Sick of the same old, same old…

On our riverside walk today, we spotted a father blowing a dandelion clock for his young son and a family of four litter-picking with grabbers and a big plastic sack. Several couples were exercising together. Perhaps they don’t have the space to do it at home. The paths were choked with cyclists and there were more runners than at the London Marathon – I presume because the gyms are shut and they’ve got to take their exercise however they can. None of them appear to be that great at social distancing, though, and you’re not going to convince me they’re all from the same family or household.

Only the other day, a friend told me of her neighbours, who were holding a barbeque party in their garden and had invited ten people round. Meanwhile, for every idiot out there, others are anxiously following the rules to the letter and not even going beyond their own front doorsteps. Now that Boris has said we can go out more than just once a day (officially; some were doing it already anyway), let alone the other gubbins he spouted, which has left us all even more baffled than before, I predict utter chaos…

At the completely deserted station, the tannoy system was issuing: “A warm welcome to all NHS staff and key workers using our network today…”

Our walk takes in a beautiful, panoramic view of our local landmark: Hampton Court Palace. We feel privileged to live so close to this magnificent building, and it set me to wondering how the ghosts are all bearing up in there right now. For, whatever your own views on the supernatural, there have been many sightings and unexplained events by a great many people over the years, and they can’t all be making it up. I have heard some of the tales myself and I believe them. Something that old carries a great deal of weight from the past and its walls must be soaked with the stories and emotions of all who have been a part of it.

The ghosts are probably wondering where everybody’s gone. (I wonder if we are all ghosts to them? Discuss.) Do they even bother to go through the motions of haunting when there’s no ready audience, or are they forever trapped in a chain of events they can’t break? Where do they all hang out? Do they stick to their designated spots? (I’m not talking about the ones in the supermarkets.) I mean, they could have a lot of fun with the place all to themselves.

What do they make of the actors who wander around in period costume on special occasions? Do they think they’re one of them, or do they think they could have saved Equity the bother and done a much better (and, let’s face it, more authentic) job of it themselves?

This reminds me of the tale I heard recently from one of the guides. An electrician was working in a room and, after he had finished, commented to another guide how impressed he was with the actor, dressed in period costume, who had been standing nearby watching him work and who had “remained in character throughout.” Only to be told there were no actors dressed in period costume in the palace that day…

Everyone’s heard the story of Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, trying to evade arrest (for adultery) from Henry’s guards and running, screaming, down what is now known as The Haunted Gallery. People claim to hear her screams to this day. It’s certainly got a slightly odd atmosphere. What was it called before? Let’s go back, way back, pre-CH and her ghastly fate, and imagine the conversation between a couple of the courtiers:

“Orders from Above. We need to utilise The Corridor. You know, that rather dull area upstairs the designers couldn’t work out what to do with. We’ve tried warming it up a bit with some colour, a feature wall, nice graphics, even, but nothing really works in there.”

“Hmmm, I know what you mean.  It’s such a loooong space – needs breaking up with something. I suppose we could whack a few paintings up and call it The Gallery. What’s missing is a good haunting; that might just work. Turn it into a more interactive, user-friendly space.”

We all know what happened to poor Catherine: she was caught and lost her head. But suppose, mid-haunting one day, she skids to a halt and decides to try another tactic? ‘Sod this for a game of soldiers,’ she thinks. ‘I’m sick of the same old, same old and besides, my throat really hurts with all that screaming,’ as she points to the far corner, yelling: “What’s that over there?!” and makes a break for it while the ghostly guards are momentarily distracted.  It’s a trick I used to deploy with my niece and nephew when trying to pinch some of their food at mealtimes (I was a horrible auntie), but they grew wise to it eventually. I must add they were toddlers at the time, not the adults they are now, though perhaps they’ve forgotten all that childish nonsense and I could try it on them again some time, heh heh heh…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The not-that-great old days…

The queue for our Waitrose shopping today is short and sweet. The other week, a woman read a book while waiting to go in.  This week, a man is showing off his stretching moves to his small daughter, who has no doubt seen it all before, and the rest of us, who are equally unimpressed.

The baking goods shelves are still pretty sparse, though sugar has started filtering back. What’s that I see, though? Some sort of mirage… it’s FLOUR!!!!  I can’t believe my eyes. Hastily, I phone my neighbour – the one we’ve been buying bits and pieces for these past few weeks. “They’ve got FLOUR!” I yell, causing nearby heads to swivel. “Oh, yes PLEASE!” she shrieks down the other end of the line.  We laugh hysterically and I grab both white and stoneground strong bread flour for her before anybody else can get there.

We’re all saying, “Excuse me,” “Please,” and, “Sorry,” even more than normal, these days, as we skirt around each other in the aisles and try to remember to keep our distance (doesn’t always happen, though). “We’ve never been so polite in all our lives,” trills one woman as we pass each other with our trollies. “You speak for yourself, missus!” I don’t say. “Some of us have been polite all our lives.” And neither do I need to be told to be kind, by the way – though I may have had a bit of a rant about this before, so I won’t go on about it now.

The nice man on the checkout says it’s only his third day working there. I say, talk about a baptism of fire, given the present situation; though probably not at this particular branch, and he agrees the people are very nice, which always helps.

I’m pleased to see the toilet and kitchen roll shelves completely full again. Phew. I’m pondering what could be next on people’s panic-buying lists. My friend in the Midlands supermarket thinks he knows: apparently, people up there have moved on from loo rolls and wipes to window and oven cleaners. Can they really be that bored? Or are those the very last areas to be “deep-cleaned” (whatever that actually is) in their homes? He adds that the queues are still pretty long, though.

I don’t want you to think I’m an out-and-out slut when it comes to housework, by the way. I’ve mentioned before that I hate dusting, but that’s only because we have so much stuff to dust around. If you don’t disturb it, it’s fine. I have a form of OCD: not too severe, thankfully, but enough for it to have been a right pain my entire life, and to ensure that none of my homes has ever been a tip. They are pretty tidy and organised, in the main. I clean, vacuum, sweep and change all the linens each week. But I genuinely don’t understand all this “deep-cleaning” stuff. Is it more virtue-signalling, perhaps? Like the people who clap for the NHS, then invite their neighbours/friends/family round to sit in their gardens for a nice chat?

Our next, much briefer shopping trip is to the nearby large Sainsbury’s. I need a few things I couldn’t find in Waitrose. No queue at all to get in there. Still busy inside, though. How on earth did we all cope, before Sunday trading? Actually, I can remember, just about and, if there was nothing else to do and no friends around to play with, I was often bored and fed up. So bored and fed up, in fact, I used to look forward to Mondays. If the office had been any closer, I would probably have gone in there on Sundays, as well, if they’d let me. But that’s another story and thank God life’s not like that any more.

Keeping everything crossed, it looks as though I might be able to add “Garden centre” to my weekend to-do list again. (If only I’d had a garden back in those awful, bad old days.) The OH says he can’t find the words to express just how thrilled he is at the prospect…

 

 

 

 

Enough for a splurge!

 

Just a quick trip around the corner, today, where we noticed more people out and about and a few more shops open, as well.  Oh, and the public toilets!  Now that really was a joyful sight, for me.  A member of our local residents’ association was busily planting up a flower-bed.  There were far too many people milling about outside a takeaway fried chicken shop and a huge queue in Poundland (I gave up). In all, there was a palpable air of: “We’re coming out of this now,” which made me feel uneasy, if I’m honest. Despite all the things I’m missing, I think it’s way too soon. The morons out there who are already disobeying lockdown rules will just carry on as before, with added swagger. I’m actually dreading it.

There was no queue to get in to Tesco. Once in, though, people were as confused as ever: going the wrong way up the one-way aisles and one man jumping the queue for the till because he hadn’t noticed the rest of us behind him, politely keeping our distance and standing on the designated spots on the floor. “Sorry, I don’t usually do this,” was his cheery response. “Goodness, where have you BEEN these past few weeks? And are we to assume your poor wife always does it, then?” was what I would love to have said to him. My face probably said it for me, though, as he slunk to his spot at the back of the queue.

No wonder people are still confused. Half the staff in Tesco were wearing masks and half not. We are finding this wherever we go.  We are not wearing masks ourselves – not yet, anyway.

Partly to support a worthy local business and partly because neither of us fancied cooking tonight, we bought takeaway meals – lasagne and beef curry and rice – from a local café. They have got to keep ticking over somehow, and are also doing a fruit and veg delivery service, takeaway coffees, etc. As are many others, of course.

It might too late for our local pubs, though. Some are trying to stay afloat by also offering takeaway meals but we were dismayed, though not surprised, to read that many have had to close for good and are now up for sale. We have visited some of these and passed others on our way elsewhere and could happily live in any of them (though not run one!), but don’t happen to have a spare million or so quid about us at the moment.

Mind you, with what I’ve saved on haircuts and other appointments, lunches out, books, plants, gigs and trips to all manner of places, I’ve probably got enough for quite a splurge when we come out of this. But not just yet, please!

 

 

 

Passing out on the parquet.

I was fascinated to hear that the friend of a friend’s daughter has started writing letters to everyone he knows. Proper, handwritten letters, to be posted, with stamps on and all. We’re talking teenagers, by the way. You know: that strange breed who spend their days glued to social media, sending pictures of themselves to all and sundry and who rely heavily on text speak. Yes, one of those. I’m impressed!

As for myself, I am heartily relieved I don’t need to write more than birthday or Christmas cards, these days. I have been ticked off for my terrible handwriting most of my life: from being threatened with moving down a grade at school because of it (it didn’t happen, phew), to an ex-boss, many years ago, telling me I would never get on in the magazine I was working on at the time if I didn’t improve my handwriting. I politely pointed out that the two people with the worst, almost indecipherable writing, were the editor and deputy editor of the magazine, and it hadn’t impeded their progress to the top. She couldn’t say anything to that and it was never mentioned again.

While on holiday in Cornwall one year, I thought I’d send a load of postcards to family and friends; only to discover, when I returned home, that none of them had been able to decipher my happy holiday ramblings. And on one occasion, my mother only received a letter from me because the postman finally managed to de-code my scribbles and work out the address on the envelope. “That,” said my mother, as the poor man retreated to have a nice little lie-down in his van, “is the handwriting of someone in a terrible hurry.”

I have to admit to sometimes having trouble reading my own shopping lists, and often find it helpful to draw little pictures of the items next to the words. To confuse myself even further, I have been known to put some of the items in shorthand. My own version of text speak, I suppose. I like to think it keeps my brain active, though it can all get a bit much, when, hours later, after arriving home and unpacking my bags, I discover I’ve bought yet another block of butter, when, on closer inspection and after studying the drawing, my handwriting and shorthand squiggle combined, I realise it should have been a tin of sardines. And to think I passed my Art A-level!

Talking of text speak, I am finding myself slipping into saying aloud such things as: “Atm,” or: “Btw,” or: “Tbh,” or: “Lol,” rather a lot, lately.  Well, it saves so much time, doesn’t it?

I was idly wondering about fly-tipping the other day. There must have been a lot more of it about, recently, due to all the refuse tips being closed. However, at least one of ours is about to open up again, albeit very heavily restricted and with a great long set of social-distancing rules. No doubt bracing itself to receive the results of Surrey’s lockdown clear-outs over the past however-many-weeks (I’ve lost count). I am embarrassed to say that we have done nothing – nothing! – towards the massive sort-out we ourselves need to do, in readiness for selling our house and downsizing in the near-future (long story).

When out and about at the weekend, we spotted a woman offloading a coffee table onto one of the skips currently blocking the entrance to a rather infamous car park adjoining local woods. I won’t repeat what it’s famous for – I have already done so in a previous blog, so you’ll just have to go back and read the whole lot until you find it. That’ll learn you.

Anyway.  The OH and I both agreed the aforementioned table was perfectly vile and not worth rescuing and I pondered over why I have never found anything really nice or interesting, let alone valuable, in a skip in my entire life. All I ever see in them is builders’ rubble and empty crisp packets.  A friend is always finding things, annoyingly, though I have benefitted occasionally from this. I have a thing for old garden pots – 68 at the last count – and some of the nicest have come via her skip forays.

I often read about people who find interesting items of furniture in skips and, once, someone boasted in a magazine about spotting a lovely old Victorian pine cupboard in the middle of a busy main road. There was even a picture attached. (Of the LOVPC, not the BMR. That would have been weird.) I imagined it to have fallen from an open boot, or roof-rack, with the poor driver doing a frantic and highly dangerous U-turn in the middle of said road a little further along, risking life and limb to dash back for it; only to find it had been swiped. (If I were the swipee, or swiperer (?), I think I might have kept quiet about it, tbh  – oops, there I go again).

I always wince at some point when watching the Antiques Roadshow. Someone tips up with a nice old decorative safety-pin they bought in a charity shop for fifty pence, which turns out to have been one of only half a dozen in existence, once used to keep Queen Victoria’s vast knicker collection together, or some such, and worth “at auction” a cool seventy-five thousand pounds. I really feel for the poor person who donated it to the shop, who is most likely staring at the telly in open-mouthed horror, before keeling over and passing out on the parquet.

Someone once found a valuable old dish at a car boot fair, which turned out to be worth many thousands.  It made the news at the time. Imagine being the poor hapless soul who sold it to them!  I think I’d have had to leave the country. It pays to rummage through those boxes which are always half-tucked under the table at these fairs, btw (oops again! See what I mean?). I found a nice old garden pot for a mere eight quid that way.  And a vintage print which, although it cost me a hundred pounds, is worth at least double that. It was mixed up with a load of other old prints in a box. But that’s as good as it gets in this household. None of that: “It’s been in the fam-legh since the Battle of Bosworth Field,” then it’s straight round to the auction house when told it’s worth a hundred thousand pounds, whatever it may be. Sod the “fam-legh” – they can fend for themselves.

The way things are at the moment, I wonder if there will be any shows or fairs to attend, this year. I really hope there will; not least because we are looking to sell things, not buy them, atm (and again!). We had, in fact, already booked and paid for a stand at a local fair later this month, in the hopes of offloading some of our accumulated junk.  Obviously, that’s not going to happen now. Maybe later on this year? Who knows? At this stage, it’s anybody’s guess…

 

 

 

 

One hell of a day at the office!

I don’t wish to start this post off in a morbid fashion, but anyway, I will. It was the 21st anniversary of my dad’s death on Friday and I was idly thinking about how he would have managed self-isolating. I reckon he would have coped with it very well indeed. He lived on his own for many years and was not overly sociable; though he did enjoy other people’s company, he was very content with his own.  So long as he had his fags (until his first stroke, when he had to give up a lifetime’s habit overnight, which was extremely hard for him), his endless cups of tea and biscuits to dunk in them, his papers, Private Eye, sport and sitcoms on the telly and his garden and garage to potter/tinker about in, I think he would barely have noticed any difference.

He loved driving, and it featured largely in his job in insurance.  Even though he used his car quite a bit during the week for work, he still loved to drive about at the weekends. He said he found it relaxing and it gave him a sense of freedom. So it was painfully hard for him to have to give that up immediately, as well, as soon as he had his first stroke.

The father of an ex-boyfriend, who had a very stressful job, would often take off in the night to drive away the frustrations of the day.  On at least one occasion, he ended up in Devon.  I should add that he lived in West London. That must have been one hell of a day at the office!

How would you explain that one away, in the current situation, if the police stopped you to question what you were doing on the road at that time of night?

Talking of stress-related driving and the West Country, I am utterly baffled by the couple who recently drove all the way to St Ives from Surrey, only to be caught, fined and told to turn around and go straight back home again. I know how long it takes us to get there from here – we can safely write off two days from our precious holiday, there and back – so what on earth possessed them?!  (They blamed their impulsive trip on “exam stress” but I feel that’s a pretty feeble excuse in such excessive circumstances.)

When I first heard this, my number one thought was: Public toilets, the lack of, and how did they manage? (It’s a bit of an issue with me.) Closely followed by: Had they really thought this through? What about eating and sleeping? If all they had wanted to do was be near the sea, there are plenty of beaches a heck of a lot closer to Surrey than St Ives, beautiful though it undoubtedly is.

Clearly, their biggest mistake, once they got there, was choosing to park in such a public place (on the pier, apparently).  They were reported by suspicious locals.  As the OH put it, they could have parked in one of the back roads and probably got away with it – for a little while longer, anyway. We are lucky enough to have lovely friends living down there, but I don’t think they would be too thrilled to see us in the present circumstances – even if we did just want to borrow their loo before heading back home again. To go all that way and not be able to do the rounds of meeting up properly with our friends, eating out, shopping, moseying around the art galleries and dipping our toes in the sea, let alone stocking up on pasties, fudge and fairings before heading back “up country” would be a completely pointless exercise for us. Then again, perhaps we’re not quite stressed enough yet… I’M JOKING!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve bitten the bullet…

 

We fully intended to go back to feed the swans at “our” place, today, but it’s lashing down, so that’s on hold for the time being. In fact, we’ve now got thunder, to boot. Sorry, swans; I know I promised. Don’t hate me.

So, instead of writing about our day, I’d like to talk about doing things online. Not shopping! Although, despite what I said on yesterday’s blog about not ordering plants online, I emailed a company today with a view to doing that very thing. (They closed down their phone order lines, as they had been swamped with calls.) I received a very polite automatic response, but I’m still waiting to actually be connected with someone so I can place my order. And, guess what? Now that I’ve bitten the bullet, I may as well try and order some more…

The OH had an acting tutorial on Zoom today and it sounded a lot of fun from where I was sitting. He was reading an excerpt from one of Alan Bennett’s fabulous Talking Heads monologues, alongside an acting friend who is also a voice coach. The OH does a pretty good AB. Years ago, on my old magazine, we published a short story by Alan Bennett and the OH rang my editor, pretending to be the Great Man, and thanking her for making such a beautiful job of it.  She was fooled – for about a minute.

The weekly acting tutorial is just one thing the OH likes to do online.  He also does boxercise classes twice a week and guitar lessons once a fortnight. Work-related meetings and social get-togethers with his work colleagues, on Zoom, where they all bitch about the boss. (I’m joking.  He’s got a nice-sounding boss. In fact, he’s in on those as well.)  The only thing he can’t do on there is his monthly scene study class at The Actors’ Centre, which he really misses. If live bands and dancing is my thing (see a previous blog for more on this), then acting is very definitely his. He always says the happiest time of his life was his year spent working at the Dome as part of the Natural Theatre Company.

This was in the days before I knew him, and I will always regret not taking myself off there to see everything. I listened too much to all the bad press the Dome received at the time and should have just gone there and formed my own opinion. Since then, I have heard lots about it and watched videos of some of their performances, and it was clever, witty, great fun and very playful. He has always said it wasn’t like “proper” work at all and I’m certain he would still be there if it hadn’t closed down first.

The other thing he likes to do is catch up with his mates on Whereby. In “normal life” they tend to do this every three weeks or so. Pub, manly chat (gossip, in other words) and a meal somewhere. Now, though, they can meet up every week if they wish. No need to waste precious catch-up time with the tiring commute, standing around in pubs waiting for each other to turn up on time and making sure they don’t miss the last train home. No lugging heavy work gear around with them, either. It’s straight to their respective computers and they’re away. To make it more authentic, they take drinks and crisps, nuts, whatever, with them and, over Easter, I suggested a bag of seasonal chocolate mini eggs, as well.  They went down a treat; though admittedly were a bit one-sided.  The thought was there, anyway.

A friend “attends” her weekly choir practice and another held a virtual a tea-party in her flat last month. There are online tutorials and videos covering just about any hobby or classes you could want. Our local spiritualist church even hosts evenings of Mediumship. I don’t quite know how that works, but apparently it’s very successful. I think it’s great that people are being creative, connecting with others and joining in with all kinds of activities, even though I don’t actually feel a burning desire to join in with any of them myself! With one exception: I have a daily Zoom editing meeting with a lovely new friend, made through the monthly freelance media group I attend up in “that London” (God, I miss it), helping to oversee the pages of the online magazine she edits.  It’s concentrated work, but it’s also fun, and we natter about all manner of things along the way – once I’ve got past the unpleasant sight of seeing my pasty face and wild hair on video, that is. That’s the catch with a lot of this online stuff.  There had to be one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It wasn’t us!”

We managed to dodge the rain showers, today, to return to our newly-discovered walk nearby. On the way there, I was idly chatting about how great it is that my friends and I are currently helping each other out with local information, ie: which shops and markets are still open and when, the best times to visit for the shortest queues, who has flour (in your dreams) and if there are any reduced Easter eggs left anywhere (in mine), amongst other things. “There’s a word for this, but I can’t think of it,” I trilled. “Coven?” muttered the OH at the same time as I added: “Networking?”

Moving swiftly on… We had the place to ourselves, which was bliss, despite the chilly breeze and hint of drizzle in the air. We had set off quite late, again, so there was not much time for idling, though we took photos of a large family of hopeful swans and promised to bring bread with us next time. (Yes, we’re back to being OK to feed them bread, apparently!)

I’ve resorted to taking photos of dying daffodils, fading blossom and dandelion seedheads for the time being, as there is currently little hope of going anywhere exciting to see any pretty or interesting flowers. In my other life, I would have paid several visits to the stunning gardens at Wisley and Loseley by now, and bored you all senseless with my close-ups of flowerheads and foliage. Be thankful, people!

Our own garden is looking a little bereft of flowers, although some of the foliage is quite colourful. I’m missing the garden centres hugely. As a friend put it, there’s always mail-order, but she cherishes the choice and spontaneity while browsing around a well-stocked centre, and so do I. I ventured online to one of the nurseries, this morning, to check out their catalogue. Big mistake!  I’m only up to ‘D’ and I’ve already covered two sides of a large post-it note. We really don’t have any more room!  Well, OK – maybe we could widen the borders a teeny-tiny bit more… And I’ve got a couple of nice pots I could fill…

I’m reluctant to order plants online, though, having had a not-so-great experience with a delivery several years ago. In any case, when I checked, I was appalled to see that they are, unsurprisingly, inundated at the moment and I wouldn’t be receiving my order until early July!

Ooh, a bit of excitement in our little road just now. Several police cars and vans turned up and a load of children dressed in grown-up uniforms went into a house a little further along. I don’t mean to sound rude, by the way. I think the police do a terrific job and I’m grateful. It’s just that they really do all look about 12! A few minutes later, they came out with a bloke in handcuffs and bundled him away in a van. I just happened to be upstairs, working on my computer, so I had a bird’s-eye view of most of it. I must admit to feeling slightly miffed that one of the police cars chose to park right in front of our house, so that everyone who walked past was gazing curiously up our driveway. I was tempted to hang a big notice up at the window: “It wasn’t us!”

Or perhaps they were really looking for the coven that, rumour has it, exists somewhere in this area…

 

 

 

 

 

Plenty of village idiots out there…

We woke up to heavy rain today and my first thought was: ‘Hooray! That’ll keep the idiots off the streets.’ I got soaked going outside to put our bins at the bottom of our drive for collection day, and startled an elderly couple striding past, clad head-to-toe in heavy-duty rainwear. This was at 6.30am, by the way. I was impressed. Especially so at the moment, since I seem unable to get my act together to get myself washed and dressed much before mid-morning, and today it was shockingly a lot nearer to lunchtime before I could bring myself to do so. I blame the change in the temperature.

As a friend has just said to me, we all need some routine and structure to our lives right now. Our structure here is for the OH to work in the morning, while I fiddle-faddle about doing not very much, then we try to get out somewhere at lunchtime, for a walk or a bit of shopping, or maybe combining both, then it’s back to more work for the OH and more fiddle-faddling for me. I have a Zoom online editing meeting, for an ongoing project I have become involved in, late afternoon every day. This gives a useful “full stop” to my day and makes me feel as though I’ve achieved something!

So, at lunchtime, we walked up the road to the station, for my copy of Tuesday’s Metro, which contains the homes section I love. However, it’s getting thinner by the week, which is a bit worrying. (I’ve already mentioned my concerns for my beloved magazines and the publishing world in general in another blog.)  There were a fair few cars about, but not so many people, unsurprisingly; apart for one rather forlorn-looking young lad standing next to his bike down by the river, as though waiting for his friends – which, of course, we’re not supposed to be doing at the moment, or we’d all be doing it, I’m sure.

The other thing we’re not supposed to be doing, is going out on the river in our boats. But there are still people doing this. It puts the rescue services under even more pressure, should anyone get into difficulties. The Environment Agency puts it politely as “…a gentle reminder (not to do this)…” I think that’s far too wishy-washy (excuse the not-very-good pun). My own “gentle reminder” would be to stand on the riverbank with a loudhailer, to make sure that everyone in the vicinity knew what was going on. Name and shame: that’s my motto.

If it were down to me, I’d bring back village stocks. We would need quite a few, these days, to cater for all the idiots roaming around out there. Still, it might help one or two struggling local businesses to diversify: “Your pop-up, pop in, pop out, one-stop village stocks shop. We cater for all sizes of idiot. Special offers on rotten eggs and tomatoes.”

We passed the stationers, with its eye-catching huge pencil door handles, and stopped off at the newsagent for my weekly TV magazine. No ice cream fix for the OH today. Far too cold. It’s back to heavy jackets and boots. What a difference from the weekend! I’m not complaining, though, as we really needed the rain. Our water butt was completely empty.

Anyway. That’s our thrilling day done and dusted – or perhaps not so much dusted, as lightly skirted around. If you bothered to read my blog from the other day, you’ll know exactly what I mean by that. If you didn’t, you missed out on my top housekeeping tip. Your loss.

Oh, and I made a banana cake when we got back.  Who says I can’t do useful and productive?

 

I scream, you scream…

 

After yesterday, we had things we needed to get on with around the house and garden today, plus the OH had to work, so we took a brief trip out at lunchtime, back to where we had been shopping on Saturday. I had been given the wrong tablets in Boots and needed to replace them. While he was waiting for me, the OH treated himself to an ice-cream, which seems to have become his “thing” now, whenever we go anywhere. It could be a lot worse.

We noted there were no queues whatsoever outside all the supermarkets we passed, so there you are, folks. Do your shopping on a Monday lunch-time. You know it makes sense.

After our little bit of shopping, we were sitting in the car park, waiting for the OH to finish his ice-cream, when a mini came in, music blaring from the windows. I had only just been saying how lovely and peaceful it was, too.  The driver screeched to a halt, then leapt out of the car to go up to two young women who he obviously knew, and proceeded to give them both a huge hug.  They stood about, talking, and we decided to leave. I pondered leaning out of the window as we passed, to yell out: “You silly sausages!” or words to that effect, but decided against it.

In the newsagents, the assistants were wearing medical gloves, but were still leaning right over the counter to address a couple of small children who were waiting with their mother. In other places, such as Boots, they are much stricter in adhering to the rules, which is good, of course, but all this inconsistency isn’t half confusing for the rest of us.

Driving back home, we passed a house with a large array of colourful toys outside; presumably originally destined for the charity shop.  Those charity shops will be feeling the pinch, when (if) they all re-open, I’m sure. Everything they would usually be receiving, apart from clothes and shoes, is piled up outside people’s houses, with notices begging others to help themselves.  Although, one thing the shops might find themselves inundated with when this is all over is jigsaw puzzles.  Everyone’s doing them to while away the time, it appears. Not in our household, though: I have zero patience for anything puzzle-like and the OH would much rather be watching old black and white war films. We could be sorting out our cupboards and doing all those jobs we always say we’ll get around to doing one day. I have a pile of untouched magazines and books and, much as I love reading these – see my blog from two days ago – I just can’t settle to looking at anything very much at the moment. A pity, in a way, as we will most likely never have this opportunity of so much spare time again.  We hope!

 

SUNDAY SUNDAY…

We had legitimate cause to travel quite a bit further than our usual weekly jaunt to the supermarket. We had our reasons ready, in case we were stopped by the police, but, although we saw several police cars driving around, nobody stopped us as we crossed the border into another county. I repeat, we had valid reasons for doing this, but that’s all I’m going to say on the subject for now. However, the following are my observations on a bit of a strange day, number one being: IT FELT FANTASTIC TO BE OUT. PROPERLY OUT. OUT, OUT, IN FACT. OUT, OUT, OUT!  That’ll do, Cooper. Settle down now. Deep breaths.

Number two: We passed several motorway signs which read: STAY HOME. ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY. SAVE LIVES. On driving away from our house earlier on, we saw an astonishing number of people out and about: cycling, running, dog-walking and just walking.  There are lots of complaints on our local social media groups about people not distancing from each other and going about in groups, etc, and I’m afraid that’s what we have witnessed, as well.

Number three: It was lovely to see the May blossom in the hedges lining the roads and the fields of bright golden rapeseed in the distance. You do tend to miss the seasons when living away from the countryside; though admittedly, thanks to global warming, the seasons are all merging into one and we barely need to swap over our winter and summer duvets any more. (I used to know someone who had winter and summer curtains, which fascinated me.  She would have been running herself ragged, these days.)

Number four: There was a fair bit of traffic about, but nothing like the amount you would normally see where we were driving. Having said that, there was a much higher number of roadkill than usual. Perhaps those poor animals were getting a little blasé about things – much like the people in point number two.

Number five: A man waved at us as we passed under the bridge where he was standing. We waved back. I wondered if he stands there all day: making contact with total strangers from such a place being infinitely preferable to no contact at all.

Steve Wright played some beautifully wistful and poignant songs on his radio programme, including The Kinks’ Waterloo Sunset with the extremely pertinent line, sung by Ray Davies, about looking at the world through his window.

Also on the programme was a piece about which hobbies make you more attractive to others. Stand by!

Dancing around the living room – or, indeed, any room.  See my blog from the other day about me and dancing; though I’m not at all sure that anyone would find the way I dance particularly attractive. They’re probably far more likely to give me a very wide berth. Good! I always like to have plenty of space around me when I dance, and hate feeling hemmed in. Me and crowded, sweaty nightclubs have never got on.

Yoga. Yes, I know what’s going through your grubby little minds! It makes you more bendy.  True; it can do this if you are any good at it. However, if, like me, you faithfully attend weekly yoga classes for years and still can’t get your legs to stretch behind your ears, you’ll never be much use to anybody, so don’t even go there, OK?  I can’t help it if I was born short-limbed, can I?  The teacher said yoga is much harder for short-limbed people to do, so there. I got him to write me a note. On the other hand, he used to say that there is no competition in yoga, while getting his smug star pupil to show the rest of us how it’s done. She wasn’t popular.

Yoga is supposed to be calming and therapeutic. It’s supposed to leave you feeling chilled and relaxed and in another zone entirely.  Clearly, my heart just wasn’t in it enough, though I really did try, honest to God. I used to lie back during the supposedly relaxing meditation part at the end of our practice, listening to the gentle snoring (sometimes farting, as well) around me, pondering what I was going to eat once I got home, and mentally reciting my shopping and to-do lists for the following day.

In one class, the teacher was taking us on a meditative journey up a mountain, through beautiful scenery (“Who left that crisp packet there?”) with stunning, panoramic views. At the very top, we had to visualise a small hut, and were asked what we saw outside it.  I could very clearly see something – what was it? I moved closer. It was a note, pinned to the door, and it read: No milk today.  There was nothing very spiritual about what the poor, weary milkman said next, I can tell you. The teacher probably would have preferred me to think of something really uplifting like, I don’t know: Be yourself. Everyone else is taken. (Oscar Wilde said that, btw. Not me. I wish!)  Or: Live, laugh, love, eat, drink, pray. Take a chill pill. Have a nervous breakdown. (That was me, not Oscar.)

The second yoga teacher I tried (the first left the area altogether. It was nothing personal, I’m sure), tended to pick me out as an example to the rest of the class on how not to do the poses. I have to say that she was a prime example of how good yoga can be for you: slim, supple, no make-up, thick, long, tawny-coloured hair. I took her to be in her forties, though she kept mentioning her grandchildren. I just assumed she must have started very young; no doubt due to her extreme bendiness. In fact, she had recently celebrated her 60th birthday. Makes you sick, doesn’t it?  However, even this incentive couldn’t persuade me to continue with her classes, which were held in the local church hall. Then they knocked it down and built a block of flats there instead. It was a sign, I’m sure –  though not a very spiritual one.

Cooking. Bugger it. I’m not doing very well, so far, am I?! I hated cookery classes at school. I liked eating, but I didn’t enjoy the preparing-the-food bit you had to go through first.  I can remember bringing home some truly appalling concoctions, usually white fish in a sauce (because it was easy), slopping about in a big tin. Surely my family didn’t feel obliged to eat them? Thankfully, the (many) years since then have erased the finer details from my memory – theirs, too, I hope.

The only cooking I can remember actively enjoying was – surprise! – making the cake for Sunday tea. My limited repertoire consisted of just three recipes: Chocolate brownies, flapjacks and Victoria sandwich. Not all at once, obviously. I had to give my poor family a fighting chance to recover from one weekend to the next. My repertoire has expanded a little since then, though admittedly not that much (I’ve added banana cake), but chocolate brownies remain my favourite.

Football skills.  Not much I can say here, since I have never been able to abide football, or indeed anything even remotely sporty – maybe horsey-type stuff, but that’s about it. I find them all so boring. I used to know people who took the entire two weeks off work for Wimbledon, for goodness’ sake! At school, I hated all sports, but I quite liked running.  (They always caught me, though.) I am completely missing the sporting gene and have never been attracted to anyone sporty. Bet they’re relieved and delighted, too.

Photography.  I have always enjoyed taking photographs, starting off with my mother’s old Box Brownie, which I still have, and progressing on to the point-and-shoot-style compacts. That was as far as I went, though. I didn’t fancy lugging great big lenses and heavy camera equipment around with me. My handbag is bad enough, thanks. It would have been brilliant if phone cameras (and indeed the phones themselves) had been invented back then. They are just perfect for me, though I’m aware I’m never going to get the range or the pin-sharp results that “proper” cameras have. A friend who runs a camera shop in Sussex said he was pleased to see film cameras making a comeback after so many years of digital. I feel much the same way about “real” books versus Kindle.

Anyway.  You’ll have to excuse me now. After our epic journey, I’m with Ray Davies: going back to looking at the world from my window. Though I have to disagree with him over the not needing his friends bit. I’m needing mine more than ever…