Day 123 comes and goes. I have two more poems accepted, pack parcels and make hash for tea. Things happen on the news and I am advised to try jackfruit by a friend. Those are the essentials of the day.
There were 12 Spanish poppies out this morning, which comes close to doubling the number of blooms for the year. I have stopped counting, despite my original intentions, because the flowers seem to last longer this year and I( am having to make sure I don’t double count. I will deadhead again tomorrow and see how many heads I remove.
I may try some tinned jackfruit. I’m not particularly bothered, but it will mean I can put a stop to conversations like the one I had tonight. It’s fashionable, and it’s on a lot of cookery programmes, but it doesn’t really fill a need for me. It’s a bit like samphire – I tried it several times and then forgot it. I don’t like the taste and I don’t see why it has to be imported when we have plenty growing on the coast. It’s full of nutrients and it’s good to have some variety in my diet, but deep down, I don’t like the taste. You can add asparagus to that list too. It’s OK, but if I’m honest, I eat it for variety rather than pleasure.
We started eating more avocadoes for the variety, but we like avocado. This makes up for the carbon footprint involved in importing it. Global warming, as far as I know, hasn’t helped us grow avocadoes in the UK.
It started so well, as I often say. I found the last parking space, and watched as the driver got out of the car that had parked just before me. She was wearing scrubs and a name badge, so the “No Staff” part of the car park sign is still working well (he said sarcastically).
The blood flowed well and took just one try. I had the results by 11.00 – I was a little low but they have adjusted the dose by half a pill a week and given me two weeks before the next test. I’m happy with that.
Julia accomplished her errands safely, despite being forced off the footpath and onto the road by an elderly gent riding his bicycle furiously along the footpath and ringing his bell to make her clear out of his way. Later on her travels she saw him at it again on his return journey.
For lunch we had avocados prepared two ways, as they say on cookery programmes. I had mine with prawns and Julia had hers with eggs. I’ve never seen egg as a natural accompaniment to avocado. To make it worse, she has soft yolks, something I have never liked. We then had chocolate and caramel brownies, which she had bought while she was out.
Of course, that then called for a nap, which became slightly longer than anticipated, and I am now writing this and wondering where my afternoon has gone.
Time for a nice cup of tea now and time to get some writing done.
As I say, it started so well . . .
The picture is Orton Mere in March 2017. Where does the time go?
After making avocadoes for lunch (mashed with poached eggs for Julia, with prawns and pink sauce for me (it got too complicated last time I went into detail1) I settled down to a few quizzes, some conversation and, almost inevitably, a nap. Well, the quizzes are meant to sharpen me up and the conversation is meant to be something married people do, like discussing the husband’s shortcomings and planning to buy new cushions. Life can’t all be about being happy and doing what you want.
I then, having finally managed to find out how to switch the sound on, attended a haibun reading hosted by the Haibun Journal as part of Irish Poetry Week. I think this link should get you there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0r0XxIUnPE&t=3s
That took a while, and was quite enjoyable, though I do get twitchy just sitting there listening. haibun that are quite short on the page seem to take forever when read. Then I spent twenty minutes looking for a notebook from last week – it had some haiku in it that I needed and I’ve ben looking for three days. Anyway, i found them and they are now typed up.
I had a look at Failed Haiku as I’d sent them a submission late last month. It went on the last day of submissions and and I’ve heard nothing back. This unusual, but it seems they have had some internet problems. I’d like to know whether it was late, not good enough or just disappeared, but at the back of my mind is the idea that they do an issue every month and the fewer emails they get from whining writers the better.
Fish finger sandwiches for tea, with potato wedges and tartare sauce for me, with wedges and ratatouille for Julia. Sometimes there is a point beyond which I cannot go and I am feeling all vegged up…
A little more TV, including The Coroner, which I quite like, though it isn’t, I admit, the most complex of shows.
Ah well, I’d better get back to poetry, I need an early night because it’s work tomorrow again.
For lunch we had the remains of the fish pie. I made the mistake of reheating it in the enamel dish it had originally been cooked in. The pie warmed up well, but all the odds and ends of food left from the first day burned themselves onto the dish. It is going to take some washing. Then some more washing.
For tea we had potato wedges, sausage and chickpea casserole and stir-fried greens. It is, to be fair, a meal made with more enthusiasm than skill, but it worked out OK. There was something about dietary fibre on TV tonight and a meal of chickpeas and greens turns out to be an excellent choice, particularly as I left the skin on the potatoes. It’s because I’m lazy, rather than health conscious, but it all helps.
They also said that the avocado is an ecological disaster as a crop, but when you look at its fibre content it is packed with the stuff. So do I have well-polished innards and a healthy heart, or do I have a healthy planet. And if I give up avocados will people also give up flying to foreign holidays. I doubt it. What will happen is that I will give up avocados and the planet will still fall apart.
Julia has still not had her test kit delivered, which makes you wonder if it has even been ordered. Even if it arrives tomorrow she won’t get the result back until next week, by which time I think we will already have established that she isn’t infected.
It has tried to snow several times since I last mentioned it, but none of the attempts has come to anything. This is good as I am planning at being at hospital for a blood test just after 7.00. They are still draining it at an alarming rate to check on the Warfarin. I am hoping for a clear road tomorrow.
Before lockdown, my old Saturdays were spent in the shop. The morning was a bit hectic because I didn’t have to get Julia to work. This may seem counter-intuitive, but free time gave me the opportunity to make choices, which didn’t help. I was often only just in time, whereas I am normally an hour early when I take her to work during the week.
In lockdown I am free to watch Sharpe. It’s not, I admit, jane Austen, but it makes up in humour and action what it lacks in culture. It’s a reminder of simpler times when good always triumphed (in stories, at least) and we were still allowed to have violence and to look down on the French. Oh, how I miss those days.
Saturday afternoons in the shop were the social times, when people used to come in for a chat, as well as to buy things. I tend to have lunch after Sharp (avocado with prawns and Marie Rose dressing for me, mashed avocado on toast with poached eggs for Julia – the eggs were slightly overdone but at least they held together this week). Then I snooze as Jessica Fletcher rabbits on. I really should do something, but a man needs to recharge his batteries.
Late afternoon, I rose from my recharging and messed about on the internet. It was mainly watching eBay. I lost one lot (being underbidder once more) and secured a second lot for a very reasonable price.
Then I made fish pie in my quick and easy style. Soften some leeks (I had some green tops – you could use onions) and mushrooms. Add flour, add milk, make a sort of white sauce. Add the fish from the pack – salmon, smoked haddock and something white- and throw in sweetcorn and frozen peas. Let it cook gently.
Meanwhile, take the potatoes off the heat (yes, I forgot to mention boiling the potatoes, sorry about that). Mash with a little butter and some mustard. These are not American mashed potatoes so go easy on the butter. And don’t add milk. You don’t need to.
Fish Pie with potato topping – the dark bits are the mustard seeds from the Dijon mustard in the mustard mash
Add some prawns (I had some from the pack we had for lunch), warm them through, pour the sauce into the dish, add the potato on top and stick it under the grill. I did put cheese on top, I confess, just to show off. With hindsight, it added nothing to the flavour and didn’t look as good as a nice pattern of lines browned under the grill.
You can add more seasoning and some herbs but tonight I just kept it simple.
I’m now marking time until I take Julia for her Covid Vaccination . It’s either half past midnight (which I think of as 00.30) or it’s half past mid-day (which I think of as 12.30). Unfortunately the booking site and the confirmation email use both times for the same thing. We will be going down just after midnight and I will report back.
I’m not good at food photography and I promise it was more appetising than it looks here.
I have a number of subjects in mind for the post. As I sit here typing I have a sausage casserole on the go. I can hear it bubbling gently. It’s rich, smooth and looks delicious. If it was human, it would be me. That’s how good it is. Julia has just looked over my shoulder, muttered “Tell them it’s simple too.” and gone off laughing at her own joke.
The original recipe is from the Hairy Bikers. Onions, garlic paste, beans, sausages (ready browned), tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, a stock cube, Worcester sauce, Cajun seasoning. The recipe called for chilli and herbs but I had Cajun seasoning. Can’t see that one small alteration will change the fine dining experience much. And yes, she’s right, it’s not complicated. This is particulalrly trie as I just prodded the stock cube into the mix, added a splash of water and simmered for about ten minutes in total – quicker than the original recipe. Actually, now that I look at the recipe, I see I may have left a few other bits out. It was still, very good, despite this.
I imagine it would be good without the sausages too, and as tins of chopped tomatoes and tins of beans are good store cupboard items this will make an excellent quick and easy meal for unexpected visitors. Or the times when you get the shopping list wrong, as I did this week. And I thought I’d done so well…
We will be eating it with the last of the cheese and tomato bread Julia made during the week.
We toasted the cheese and tomato bread with the lunchtime avocado and poached eggs. I make it under protest because Julia likes it. And I refuse to have an egg with it – it’s neither use nor ornament. Avocado without prawns and Marie Rose sauce (aka mayonnaise and ketchup) is a complete waste of time. I also hate poaching eggs, there’s always some new disaster associated with them. This week they seem to have welded themselves to the pan and ladle. (I thought I’d try containing them in the ladle again as it nearly worked last time.) It seems like a good idea but it hasn’t worked out either time I’ve tried it. However, at least it wasn’t as bad as the time before when I swirled the water etc.. That ended up looking like an explosion in an ectoplasm factory.
No photos of the avocado as it’s too sad to record. Have I really become the sort of man who eats avocado on toast? The photo of the sausage casserole could do with more sausage showing, as it just looks like bread and beans. I thought there was plenty of sausage to see, but in the camera they seem to have merged with the beans.
Saturday 2nd January has proved to be a quiet day. After writing my first post of the day I edited some of my notebooks, browsed some on-line shops and washed up. I moved on to editing my notebooks – typing out three haibun and twelve haiku. They started off as seven haibun and twenty two haiku but some of them were rubbish. I think I must have written one of the haibun while I was asleep as it made no sense at all, and one of the others was so tedious it was probably the one that had sent me to sleep. Several of the haiku were just alternative versions, so one of them had to go.
And, I confess, two of the haiku were unreadable. I think I’ve covered this before. My writing is so bad I( cannot always read it shortly after I write it. Some of these were weeks old and I didn’t have a clue what they had originally been about. I came close to abandoning a haibun too, but there were enough legible/guessable words for me to reconstitute that one.
My Orange Parker Pen
That was all the useful work I did. I made lunch after that, using a pack of four small avocadoes. One, which I had tested, was ripe. The other four turned out to be a bit less than ripe, so needed dicing more than mashing. Julia wanted hers with a poached egg so I boiled the water, swirled it round and gently tipped an egg into it. I think the egg may have been a bit old, and the water may have been swirling a bit too fast as the whole thing seemed to explode in the minute I was away from the pan. I just had a pan of highly dilute scrambled egg. The second, was better, but I cooked it in the bowl of a metal ladle just to be on the safe side.
Fried eggs would have been better but a poached egg seems de rigueur in smashed avo circles so who am I to disagree. I had prawns in mine with a dressing made from ketchup, mayonnaise, lemon juice and black pepper, because I am firmly rooted in the 1970s.
Back to the writing for a moment – for the benefit of new readers, I write using a fountain pen whenever I can, because the words flow better. Even a cheap biro is better than typing. I can rarely type haibun and haiku when I am composing. Magazine articles and essays are fine, but poetry seems to demand a proper writing implement. That’s why I have to accept losing a percentage to illegibility. Better to lose a few that way than to sit staring at a computer screen writing nothing, or writing things which I then edit into nothingness. It may seem inefficient at first, and I have tried to streamline the process, but it just doesn’t work any other way.
For the rest of the day I watched TV, chatted to Julia and dreamed of pizza. Then I woke up, cooked tea (we had steak as a New Year treat) and started writing this.
Failed Haiku Number 61 is out. Mine are about 40% of the way down under “Simon Wilson”. I’ve got so used to my accidental penname on WP that I feel very dull having an ordinary name. I could make it easy for you by just printing them here, but that doesn’t seem fair to the editor and the other writers. Scroll down until, you see the red feather – I’m a few pages under that. Or you can wait for a month and remind me – I will copy them and paste them in the blog once the new issue is out.
I’m now in what I find to be the toughest bit of the process. Writing is simple. Editing it into something readable isn’t too bad as long as you remember not everything is useful and allow yourself to throw stuff away. Editing for submission – the honing and perfecting, is a bit tricky, as I’m not a great judge of quality. Editing after submitting is quite easy – the editor suggests things and I do them. It’s about publication. I will agonise about my artistic integrity later – there are plenty of words and nothing to prevent me writing another version of the poem I want to write. This one is an example – it’s half the poem I originally submitted and misses out what I thought was an important point. However, it is also good like this and the cut down version is more elegant, so I’m happy to make the cuts.I have, however, rewritten another version of the longer poem, which will be submitted to a magazine this month. Even coping with rejection isn’t the worst bit. It’s an inevitable part of writing for publication, so there’s no point taking it personally.
A Tranquil Pond I once wrote about.
No, the most difficult bit for me is submission. I was sure I’d written about this in the last few days but I can’t find it so I may merely have thought about it, or I may have edited it. Sorry if I’m repeating myself.
Once I have things written and (in theory) edited to near perfection, I have to send them out. There are nearly always more places to send poems than I have poems to send. I have seven places for submissions in january. This means I need 16 haibun and twenty haiku.
In theory I have around 40 haibun ready to go, but in reality some of them aren’t good enough to go. A few of them have been returned by one or more editors, so it’s not just me who thinks that. I have, sensibly, about twenty, but then I have to decide which one suits which magazine. The best ones could go almost anywhere, the les good ones need to be placed where they will be most appreciated. At that point I start to ask myself if I should send anything apart from the very best. It’s like a massive circle. Eventually it all sorts itself out (a looming deadline tends to help concentration) and I start on the next lot.
I’ve now one over a thousand words, which I always think is too many, so I will leave it there.
Breakfast didn’t quite go according to plan. I was going to treat Julia to avocados on toast with poached eggs. It’s not much of a breakfast but she likes that sort of stuff. Unfortunately the avocados were starting to brown and didn’t look good.I cut a few bits off, mashed it up with lime juice and green bits and it is now waiting to be spread on toast for lunch. It is just about acceptable like that, both in colour and as a foodstuff.
Plan B was poached eggs, beans, and sourdough toast. Still a bit trendy for my liking but such is life. Life can’t all be sausage, bacon and black pudding. Well, it could be, but I’d like to retain the use of my arteries for a while longer.
Unfortunately the eggs were also a little past their use by date and the first one spread across the whole pan. The second was OK, but the mess was made. Although one looked like an egg, with a degree runniness to the yolk (again – something she likes) the other looked like a yellow blot. That’s the trouble with advance ordering in lockdown.
We seem to be commemorating the Battle of Britain this week and there were some insultingly easy quiz questions on TV this morning. That set me off looking at trivia about the Italian Air Force in the Battle of Britain (yes, they were there) followed by biplanes in WW2 (yes, there were some), Jeremy Vine, the Curse of Strictly Come Dancing and, finally, about SMART Planning.
I have to admit that I haven’t heard of all the ‘celebrities’ caught by the curse and, as Rachel Riley and Pasha have just had a child I’m not sure it’s really a curse. As all parents will know, it’s a mixed blessing, but not really a curse.
That’s the trouble with ‘working from home’ (as I am describing today, because I have things to do) – always so much distraction, plus cooking and washing up.
Just before I sat down to start work the post arrived. It contains notice of a planning application from the people next door who want to extend their lower storey half way across their drive to accommodate a downstairs toilet and extended kitchen. It will involve noise, disruption and, possibly, a loss of light, but on the other hand it won’t really affect us in the long run and I can’t be bothered to object.
It took me half an hour to find the plans online (the letter from the council lists a council webpage that no longer exists) download the plans and examine them.
Considering that they have asked me to cut down a tree in the garden because it shades some of their garden for some of the day, I can’t help feeling that I’d like the same concern from them relating to the light in my kitchen. Such is life.
It’s now 12.23 and the last phase of my day has not really seen anything that could be described as work. Oh dear!
It’s 30 minutes to midnight and Julia has worms. That, I think, is enough to provide me with my required 250 words.
I would have more time but by the time I’d read a few comments and checked in on a few blogs I realised I had 32 minutes to post. The missing two minutes were spent explaining to Julia that the title was going to bring her loyal fans flocking to the post. I have no illusions. After thirty years of marriage I realise that the majority of people who speak to me, or read the blog, are more interested in her than they are in me. It’s probably because she likes people, speaks to them and positively encourages them to talk about themselves. I don’t. lockdown for me has been one of the best times of my life – I’ve been paid to stay at home and eat bacon sandwiches and I haven’t had to be nice to anyone. The only way I’m ever going to become a “people person” is if cannibalism becomes socially acceptable.
Wormery in a wheelie bin
The worms in question are all safely contained in a wormery made from a wheelie bin and donated to her by a local group who make wormeries to give away. I’m not sure why, but it’s a useful thing to have, both for gardening and for teaching about ecology. The woman who delivered them has some experience of the farm where we used to run our group, and the two of them spent a happy half hour comparing views.
She also told Julia that the worms like avocado skins as they curl up inside them. The mind of a worm is a mystery to me.
That’s 280 words. I have hit target and will now add a link, and post. The photos will be loaded later. I may get them on before midnight but I have to download them from email, which can take time when an idiot is doing the downloading.
The day started badly when I woke at 6.20 am and found that my hopes regarding my knee (which had become very painful during the course of the evening) had come to nothing. Despite having rested, it was still painful. Fortunately I had taken a walking stick upstairs and was able to make it to the bathroom without too much cursing.
I took ibuprofen, even though they interfere with the warfarin and went back to bed. I couldn’t find any paracetamol and the ibuprofen gel was, inconveniently, downstairs.
At 8.10 I woke again to find that the ibuprofen had lived up to my expectations and done bugger all to alleviate the pain.
That’s what I find about painkillers these days. The ones you can buy at the supermarket don’t do much to help with the sort of pain I get as old age creeps on, and the ones that work, like laudanum, are out of favour. You can’t read a depiction of Victorian life without tripping over gallons of the stuff but, despite the insistence of the Conservative party on returning to Victorian values, you just can’t get hold of it.
By the time I got downstairs the post had been, as had the bin men, and there was a letter waiting for me from the anti-coagulant service. I have, once again, managed to hit target with my recent blood test and have been rewarded with an appointment in August.
This amazes me, as I have a bad habit of often taking the pills either too late or not at all. My phone sounds an alarm at 8pm and I tend to switch it off with the words “I will have to take my pills in a while.” There are always better things to do at 8pm.
A quick shout out for the posties and bin men here – they are doing a great job keeping civilisation going, but they aren’t complaining and they aren’t getting the thanks they deserve.
We had a TESCO delivery last night at 9pm (because it’s cheaper at that time) and it was much more accurate than the ASDA delivery last week. As a result we were able to breakfast on bacon sandwiches made using croissants and our new supply of brown sauce. Life does not get much better…
I also picked up my new warfarin prescription from the pharmacy and took advantage of that to buy a box of co-codamol. It’s not laudanum, but as I write, ten hours after taking two tablets, I have nothing more than a dull ache in the knee. You are only supposed to take it for a maximum three days but I’ve never needed to take more than a couple of doses before it’s sorted me out. Strangely, despite the three day stipulation, it comes in a box containing enough for four days.
I then made lunch, consisting of sourdough rye bread and avocado – I seem to have become much more middle-class during lockdown – with finely chopped wild garlic leaves which Julia had foraged whilst out walking in the local park.
After that the day became less interesting.
Avocado and Wild Garlic
Yes, it’s the same picture, but I like to add two photos where I can. Note the square plate, which I always consider a sign of gastronomic sophistication. I bought several in my abortive bid to become a food blogger.
It’s really avocado, wild garlic, coriander leaves (and stalks) and black pepper. The rye sourdough was a TESCO substitution for ordinary sourdough, which, after last week’s bread substitution from ASDA suggests that TESCO is a better supermarket for home deliveries. At least they understand bread.