Author Archives: quercuscommunity

Too Much Time, Too Many Thoughts

Last night I became pensive. It’s one of those words, like costive, that you don’t see often, and it generally isn’t a good thing. (As a subsidiary thought, I checked costive to make sure I had the meaning right, and was amused to find it had a second meaning, which seems descriptively appropriate – “slow or reluctant in speech or action; unforthcoming”).

This state of mind was caused by an ill-advised look at property websites. I’ve recently been forming an ambition to return to the East of England as my sister and all Julia’s siblings are there. The thought that formed in my mind was that I should sell everything of value to raise money and reduce clutter, and look for a cheap house in Norfolk.

There are two sorts of house in Norfolk – the ones that I can’t afford and the ones that I don’t want to live in (otherwise known as the ones I can afford). I would like the one I found that has several sheds and a private mooring on one of the Broads. Based on current estimates of my worth, including the jar of £1 coins and the stuff down the sides of the chair cushions, I definitely can’t afford it.

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Mencap Garden April 2019

The ones I can afford are generally small, Victorian and badly designed. They normally have a bathroom that was added long after they were built, which is right at the back of the house (having been built as an extension to the kitchen). That’s a long trip for a man with a bad knee and a substandard bladder. They are, in short, great value houses to start in, but not that great when you are looking at somewhere for your twilight years.

At that point I started comparing my life to the one I had planned for myself as a teenager.

Compared to the life I had planned when I was 14, my current life is deficient in sunshine, palm trees, cocktails and bikini-clad women. However, as my bald head burns badly, I hardly drink and I’m married, I don’t really notice these things.

When I was 16 I wanted to be a University Lecturer in History. The dream, by now, featured sunshine, manicured college lawns, real ale and female undergraduates.

I suppose you are starting to form some conclusions about the way my mind worked as a teenager.

The dream came to an abrupt end when I was shouted at by a careers teacher. “Don’t waste my time. Teaching is what people say when they can’t thing of anything else to say!”

I’d said teaching because it seemed less pretentious that University Lecturer and didn’t want to upset him. I’m not sure it worked. To be charitable, it’s possible, as an ex-metalwork teacher who had been moved into careers advising (despite, I feel it is fair to say, a lack of talent for careers teaching) that he nursed a grudge against the profession and didn’t want me to end up like him.

By the time I was 18 I was working on a poultry farm, worrying about money and wondering where my dreams had gone. To a large extent, this is still the same today, though with fewer chickens and more arthritis.

That was what caused my introspection.

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Mencap Garden April 2019

Fortunately these episodes don’t generally survive the sunrise and after writing about it (well, you need to write about something) and eating a bacon sandwich I am ready for the rest of the day. I’m currently watching an item on TV about a woman with a collection of 400 novelty teapots and reading the internet about more people getting into trouble for their comments on Boris Johnson.

This multi-tasking stuff is getting easier as time goes on.

 

The End of the Day

Just a few more musings on things I didn’t cover in the earlier post.

I noticed, while shopping yesterday, that my thoughts were turning more to sugar. It tested my self-control yesterday, enmeshed as I was in a shop filled with cake, hot cross buns and chocolate eggs, but I got through it.

Well, I say I “got through it”. I got through it in the sense that I bought Belgian buns, Battenberg cake, two small chocolate rabbits and a bag of mini eggs. It’s not much for a week as long as you spread it out, and could have been a lot worse. I’m hoping that next week will be slightly more disciplined.

Number Two Son rang Julia. He was trying to reassure her that he was OK and back in employment, this time at a bank call centre. It’s nice to know he’s financially secure but now she’s worrying that he’ll catch something off his co-workers.

It seems a local politician has lost her job over remarks she made about Boris Johnson being in hospital. To be honest, though the comments were ill-judged and discourteous I think things are being blown out of all proportion. She was also inaccurate in saying Boris was the worst PM we’ve ever had – we’ve had far worse, though to be fair he hasn’t really got into his stride yet.

As I write this, I have a massive pan of ratatouille cooking. I carried on buying aubergines even though I couldn’t get courgettes on my last couple of shopping trips. They are now starting to go brown in places so I decided to get them cooked now and then store the results.I’m determined not to waste a morsel of food, though it can be tricky with all the fresh veg I’m trying to store.

Despite the pronouncements of this brain-dead mother of two, we aren’t all throwing food away. In the last three weeks we have thrown away a couple of cupfuls of milk that went off. I just couldn’t be bothered to find a suitable use for it. Sorry. I will do better if it happens again.

I note from the article, and the pictures with it, that she “had” to throw stuff away, including Worcester Sauce, Soy Sauce and two jars of pickled onions. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found that those products actually go off. They certainly don’t go off three weeks after they were bought as part of a panic-buying spree.

That, I think, covers the bits I missed last time. Tonight’s tea was roasted veg (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, leek) with a bought-in chicken pie, broccoli and gravy. Tomorrow’s tea will be fish pie, because we need to eat the fish. On Friday we will start on the ratatouille. If we eat it with something out of the freezer we will have space to freeze some ratatouille.

Inn the garden, poppies are getting ready to bloom and the Red Valerian is preparing to burst out.

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Red Valerian, about to flower

A Relaxing Sort of Day

This morning I read several blog posts, did some writing and resisted the temptation to turn on the TV.

We had tomatoes and mushrooms on sourdough toast for lunch (my slightly chaotic buying has landed us with a surfeit of mushrooms), the post arrived (bearing a parcel of tomato plants and woolen twine for Julia) and we are now watching Father Brown on TV.

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The post also held our letter from the government. Just in case we hadn’t heard, it tells us, amongst other things, to stay at home. This has already been covered in so many ways in the last few weeks that this further message is superfluous. No doubt it seemed useful at the time they thought of it, but it’s been a bit slow in coming and is now just waste paper.

Later, I intend to do some shredding and watch Pointless.

Ah, shredding…

It took some doing. I hate to think how many sheets we did, but it took the two of us over an hour to do it, mostly by hand as the shredder didn’t show a lot of enthusiasm for the job.

When I took over managing the youth side of the club my first action was to cut the joining form down from three pages to one. With over 100 junior players that saved 200 sheets of paper straight off. I’m amazed at how much paperwork some people can generate. He, to be fair, was always of the opinion that I didn’t keep enough records. He was probably correct, but I did it for six years, never had a problem and, best of all, saved a few trees from being pulped.

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There are now two bin bags of ripped paper in the hallway waiting to go out. We tried to put it all in one, but there was so much weight in it the bag started to rip.

After that we had tea and Battenberg cake, and relaxed with Pointless as a pigeon on the chimney pot filled the room with cooing.

I’m going to look for photos now, then will plan the evening meal after posting. I have had worse days.

I thought I’d adopt a cake theme for today.

 

An Interesting Day

It’s been an interesting day. I suppose the title gave that away. I, of course, use the word “interesting” in the same way that a prostate exam is an interesting procedure – it grabs your attention and you suffer from flashbacks.

Just after midnight I trawled the internet looking for a supermarket with a delivery or collection slot. Number One Son had told me to try this time as they release the slots just after midnight.

There were no TESCO delivery slots in the next three weeks, so I tried Click & Collect. There was just one slot in the next three weeks – next Wednesday. What I didn’t realise when I started was that I was going to struggle quite so badly with the website (which seems very badly designed) and the speed of my ancient netbook. This meant it took me two hours to place an approximate order. I had to call it a day before getting everything right as you only have a limited time to secure the time slot.

This meant I didn’t get to bed until after 3.00, and had to get up at 8.00. I was in the queue at TESCO just before 9.00 and complaining by 9.02. It seems that there was no queue last Wednesday, but today the queue stretched around 100 yards and, despite being a slot dedicated to “the elderly” was dotted with people who were clearly in their 30s and 40s.

It also went past the door of a pharmacy and people were going in as we queued, sometimes without bothering about social distancing.

Eventually they allowed the line to move and we all went in. They seemed to have been keeping us back so they could let us go in one lot. Not sure why this is seen as better than letting us go as space became available in the shop but I’m sure that TESCO know what they are doing. (That’s an example of sarcasm, for those of you who don’t know TESCO).  The security guards asked a few people to step out of the line until “the elderly” were all in. It seems that the queue was for people of 65 and over. I was rather upset when they let me in, to be honest, do I really look over 65? I’m only 61!

It was quite easy shopping, despite a few people who can’t follow a simple arrow system or work out what six foot looks like (or two metres for you young ‘uns). It’s quite un-nerving to turn round and find someone lurking a foot away, particularly if that person is a member of staff, who definitely should know better. Yes, the staff picking internet orders from the shelves were the worst offenders.

I’m so incensed by that that I nearly used an exclamation mark. That would be two more than I normally use, and one more than I’m prepared to let by. Surprise, or indignation, is all very well, but I always feel moderation in punctuation is the way to go. Otherwise you start to look like you are writing sale placards for a shop.

It took just over an hour to buy too much food, and find that they didn’t have paracetamol or flour in stock. Again. They did have courgettes (though not many) and cauliflowers, which they didn’t have online when I tried in the early hours. On the down side, I had to have smooth peanut butter instead of crunchy and there was no decent marmalade. More for my list of First World Problems.

It was a bit annoying because I had to unload the trolley from the end of the belt. I prefer to be more organised than that – working from the middle and organising things as I go. It wasn’t even necessary – there was plenty of room for me to have moved along without getting too close to anyone. However, I suppose staff are happier if they feel in charge of their situation.

Some blossom is showing

Some blossom is showing

Looking on the really bright side – it must be annoying to still be working when the erst of us are on “holiday”.

By that time my left foot was throbbing quite badly. My feet have swollen a bit recently, with so much sitting. This means that my foot overlaps the edge of the moulded sole. After half an hour the edge starts to resemble a knife blade, rather than a shoe.

By 10.30, as I limped back to the car, I just wanted to go home to sit down and drink tea.

It was 19 degrees Centigrade (66 F) by this time, which was pleasant, but a bit warm for a man who had dressed for a cooler day. I was becoming dehydrated, as I hadn’t had a drink before leaving home. My theory is that if I don’t have a drink, I won’t need to find a toilet while I’m out. The thought of tea and a nice sit-down became more appealing as I thought about it…

So, you ask, did you give up, you appalling snowflake?

No, I didn’t. I thought of Henry V, I thought of the Thin Red Line (the real one, not the film) and I wondered what would have happened if Captain Oates had been put off by a sore foot.

If they could do it, I decided, so could I. So I battled with the air pump to inflate my tyres, topped up with diesel and went to the pharmacy. I even snatched a few photos, though they are of merely documentary value, rather than being uplifting or artistic. It didn’t seem a particularly onerous set of tasks when put it in context. The pharmacy queue was not as long as last week. It was, in fact, about five minutes, which is better than normal in non-virus times. It would have been nice if they had got things right, but you can’t have everything.

Then I went home for a cup of tea and a sit-down.

The rest of the day passed with TV, blogging, phone calls and a refreshing nap. Well, two refreshing naps, to be honest, one to catch up and one that I would have had anyway. Julia cooked tea (roast gammon, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sprouts, squash and Yorkshire puddings with gravy) and as I finish this off she is running on the spot in the hallway as part of her fitness routine.

I think this is the first time I have written a post over 1,000 words. It’s certainly the first I’ve posted one that length without splitting it up. Sorry about the verbosity, I suspect that blogging expands to fill the available time. Is anyone else experiencing this?

 

 

 

Eternal Sunset of the Trivial Mind

“There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey.”

That’s a quote often attributed to John Ruskin but, as with so many quotes, there is no evidence he ever said it. However, there is definitely no doubt that it describes my buying habits.

About twenty years ago I bought a cheap, low quality shredder. That wasn’t what I meant to buy, but it’s what you end up with when you buy the cheapest.

About nineteen years ago Julia bought a more expensive, better quality, shredder, because she was fed up of my running commentary on the uselessness of mine. It worked well for years, before with, a screech and a smell of hot plastic, it stopped, and never started again.

That is why I’ve just been muttering at the older machine, whilst prodding at it with a screwdriver and unravelling yards of creased paper from the cutters. I fear the blades are not as sharp as they used to be and, despite the supposed five sheet capacity, they are struggling to cut three.

This is not what you want to see when you have a pile of rugby club records to shred. Even after my efforts of the morning I still have a pile of paper three inches thick to get through. A lot of it is pink and yellow sheets from three-part registration forms and a lot of the rest contains personal details so can’t be re-used as scrap paper.

This is what happens when a conscientious man with access to his work’s printer keeps records. I’ve already disposed of various ten-year-old policies and grant applications.

It’s not as if they are really my responsibility – I was landed with a box of them by a man who is clearly smarter, and more cunning, than I am. After several years of trying to pass them on I have admitted defeat and started to shred. It is not going well, as you can probably tell from the reference to the screwdriver. There is, I can confirm, a small margin between a shredder and a device for screwing up paper in tight folds.

When I buy another I am going to buy an expensive one and hope the price reflects the quality.

The header picture is shredded paper – I took it myself. I did originally take the lazy option but the image search offered a single picture, which was actually a cheese grater. I’m beginning to think that my early enthusiasm for this feature may have been misplaced.

The lower pictures are sunset, taken from the back of the house.

Tales from Lockdown

“Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.” – Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) noted in 1980

Julia has had a lecture from Number One Son. She let something slip about her trip to hospital and he wanted to know why she hadn’t told him. I’m beginning to know what my grandparents felt like when my parents told them off for various misdemeanours (like the time we called on my grandmother and found her standing in the kitchen sink to replace a light bulb).

I have a fairly hands-off approach to the care of the elderly and, as with my child rearing, feel that they turned out well despite my neglect.

Anyway, Number One Son and his partner sent Julia flowers. That is what is in the picture. I’m not actually sure whether partner is accurate, because nobody ever tells me anything. I’m considered to be “tactless”. However, he’s been hanging round with her for several years now and she hasn’t applied for a restraining order so I deduce that they may be an item.

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We bought the curtains at a car boot about 15 years ago

Then it was my turn, as he texted me to make sure we had enough food in.

Ha! Do I look like I’m going to let myself starve? I read a quote recently – you can see it at the top of the post. It applies to many other things too. The fight against coronavirus shows how important it is to have the right equipment. The food shortages show how important it is to have strong supply chains.

Anyway – I have enough food to eat well for the next two weeks. After that I will run out of bread and milk, so will have to have black tea and make porridge with water (yes, I know that’s the proper way, but I do like milk). After that I have food for two more weeks eating out of cans and packets – including Spam and canned haggis. I’m pretty sure there are enough odds and ends for a few days beyond that too, but they really don’t bear thinking about.

At the moment I still can’t get a food delivery for this month, so I’m going shopping on Wednesday morning. TESCO has a Wednesday morning slot for the elderly and infirm. If it cuts down on queuing I have no pride.

The top two pictures show the flowers and, regrettably, the Car Boot curtains we bought about 15 years ago. Garish, dated, but functional and cheap.

The other shows roasted veg (carrot, parsnip, leek and broccoli) with cauliflower and cheese sauce. I made the sauce like Welsh Rarebit, hence the yellow colouring – it’s from the mustard.

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My tea tonight

 

 

In Praise of Potatoes

One of the better events of my week was the purchase of potatoes last Sunday. We had run out and although we don’t eat a lot (I’m trying to cut down on carbs) I was uncomfortable relying on rice and pasta. Although I like rice and pasta they will never replace potatoes.

We had mashed potatoes tonight, with butter, mustard and spring onions. Whilst I was looking up ways to jazz up the mash I read a recipe (if you can call it that) where the writer said “I’ve never used a hand masher before”.

What!?

(That’s an interrobang, by the way, it is, a proper punctuation mark with a fifty year history, and not just something I’ve made up. That doesn’t excuse it, but on the other hand , how do you express the proper degree of incredulity at someone who writes recipes but has never used a hand masher. How have they been mashing their vegetables until now?)

We are getting into ring-pull territory here? Do you remember that? It was 2017 when someone posted on Mumsnet with the opinion that only poor people used can openers. Well-off people bought cans with ring-pulls.

I, needless to say, have a can opener and buy the cheapest cans. That makes me poor, though if I were really poor I’d buy my chick peas in bags and soak them myself.

Interesting events tonight as the Chief Medical Officer of Scotland has resigned after admitting visiting her second home, against her own advice. Hypocritical? Yes. But if she’s one of the best medical brains we have, is her resignation the best thing for Scotland or, as we are attached, the UK?

I had to laugh though, when I read a Twitter comment asking if Prince Charles will be warned for going to his Scottish holiday home to self-isolate, instead of staying at home in England.

As you can see, the free photo resource is not the be all and all. I searched for “Prince Charles”. This what I got. Thank goodness I didn’t search for Prince Albert.

shallow focus photography of a cavalier king charles spaniel

Photo by Steshka Willems on Pexels.com