I went for a haircut today. Julia’s orders. Because of my lack of dress sense she’s keen on my looking as tidy as possible in case someone mistakes me fora tramp. I was going to do my own hair (it hasn’t been done since the start of lockdown) but it can be tricky getting it right so I agreed. I haven’t actually had my hair cut by anyone else for about ten or twelve years, when I had it done on a whim while was in the barber with the kids. For some reason they would never let me cut their hair. The time before that was about 25 years ago. It’s saved me a fortune. Anyway, after enduring a conversation that hasn’t changed a lot in the last 25 years (despite the fact it’s a different barber from the one that did my hair in that shop 25 years ago), I was then charged a price that hasn’t changed a lot in the last 25 years. To be honest, I may start going there regularly as it’s so much tidier when someone else does it. And I had my eyebrows touched up. That’s when you know you are getting old.
The nurse who took my blood this morning is the mother of a kid who went all the way through school with my kids. He joined the army when he left school, went to work on cruise ships and liked the sea so much he’s now joined the Royal Navy. Quite an adventurous life so far. It was nice to catch up.
I also went shopping. They ask you to be considerate to their staff by wearing a mask (and most people do). Sadly, two of their staff and a security guard couldn’t be bothered to wear a mask. Makes you wonder why you bother. Also makes me wonder what message they think they are sending.
I’m now going to think about trimming my beard. If I’m careful I can tidy it enough to satisfy Julia whilst leaving it long enough to scare small children.
Oh, the shopping? I bought her some flowers. And a quiche. I’m back at work tomorrow and I fancy a slice of quiche. also bought steak. I’m going to cook tonight. Baked potato, steak, salad. Looks good, virtually no effort. That’s my sort of cookery.
Though I’ve had a few days which were mostly pointless, I have managed to get a bit done. I now have seven submissions waiting for decisions by editors. They are all properly prepared and sent out in the form requested, so it’s just the quality that remains to be tested.
Meanwhile I finally got on with the poetry course that stalled when they messed up the passwords just before Christmas. It doesn’t take long to put an end to a habit and it took them a couple of weeks to fix it, which was more than enough.
Last week I completed it, then started another poetry course. Unfortunately that was delayed because I noticed they had short course about Mexican Revolutionary Murals. I like Mexican Revolutionary Murals. I just finished that and will be returning to poetry once more. To be honest, they aren’t great courses, and the wiki article is much more detailed, but It’s a start. I probably wouldn’t have even looked at the article if I hadn’t spotted the course.
Today, I can. I believe, consider myself to be out of quarantine. I celebrated by going shopping and buying fresh bread. It makes things a lot easier if you can buy fresh bread between deliveries sandwich baguettes, rye sourdough, chocolate brownies
It’s an interesting word, because, like so many things, it indicates how much the modern world is a watered down version of previous centuries. Quarantine used to be a period of 40 days (it’s there if you look) but it’s been 14 through the pandemic and it’s now reduced to 10, as people are all complaining. From today the ten day hotel quarantine has started. I tried to read the details, but it’s confusing and as it doesn’t apply to me I decided not to bother. I have a head full of poetry and Mexican murals – there’s no room for anything else.
I have a simple solution to the problems of quarantine. I would simply ban international passenger flights and have done with it. We can do without them for a month or two. Next time there’s a pandemic I’d also immediately ban all flights. People who want to come home, and bring their viruses with them, can wait a couple of weeks then fly home to quarantine. I’d stick them in disused military camps, and when you run out of space I’d stick them in disused hangers or in tents.
It’s a brutal approach, I admit, but what would you prefer – some holidaymaker gets two extra weeks in a tent on Salisbury Plain or one of your elderly relatives dies?
Today’s random photos are seals – taken in the days we were allowed to visit.
Yesterday, I see, brought up the number 2,222 in my stats. It is totally meaningless, but allows me to produce an easy title and gives me a quick start to the post. I don’t know about you, but if I can get the first sentence down, the rest follow. This works even with the most trivial of sentences.
It doesn’t work with “Tonight we are eating salad” or anything starting with “The Government assures me…”. There’s just no coming back from an opening like that. Anything else, though, tends to unlock the gates of blethering, if not actual creativity.
Today, I thought about going to the shop for bread, but thoughts of death and red crosses on the door persuaded me otherwise. While the new variety of Covid is on the rise it pays to be more careful. ASDA was unable to deliver sourdough last week but I’m not prepared to die in the attempt to buy one from Lidl.
This has the added benefit of stopping me buying chocolate brownies, pain au chocolat and croissants, which all tend to appear in my basket as I drift past the bread counter. However, the main benefit is in stopping me coming into contact with a shop full of people who don’t wear masks. Julia will be using public transport for the next few days while the car is in for repair, and I’m hoping that nothing bad happens as a result. It’s very noticeable that the younger, less “at risk” staff at MENCAP have all run for the hills and are “working from home”. Julia wasn’t given the option, she was just told she would be required to go in to work.
I’m not even sure they should be working in groups. Most of the clients live with family or in homes, and the rest have carers going to visit. As they have at least four times the death rate of the average population (possibly six depending on how you look at the figures) it would seem to be a good idea for them to isolate rather than mix.
So there you go. I started with 2,222, moved on to creativity, bread, Covid and differential mortality rates. That’s enough for now.
IIncluding checking on eBay, looking up a couple of things on the internet and adding a few groceries to the order (mention of ASDA reminded me) an hour has now gone and it’s time to move on to another activity.
In fact it’s time to move. I need to move round more and do some exercise.
We left for Sheffield just after lunch and returned under cover of darkness. It wasn’t planned that way but there seemed little point in rushing about. There had been reports of South Yorkshire Police stopping people to see what they were doing but we only saw one police car on the whole journey. I think that in reality they have plenty of work on without stopping motorists to see if we are breaching advice on travel.
It was interesting that as we left there were a lot of unfamiliar cars parked down our street, which clearly indicated that some people were entertaining visitors. But there should be no visitors on 26th. You can however, it seems, stay in rented accommodation overnight on 24th and 25th as part of your journey plan. This means that travelling home on 26th is within the guidelines, so today’s journey was almost within the guidelines.
As we passed Sheffield the car parks at Meadowhall were crowded, with thousands of people travelling to shop and, I suspect, get closer than six feet. I know of at least one person who is planning to travel there to shop in the next week, so I’d like to know how officialdom would be able to justify telling me my journey was unacceptable but a trip to a toyshop is OK.
I offer this information not as an excuse for my breaking of the rules, but as an example of the actual situation when someone researches the Covid Pandemic in twenty years.
It’s not the first time I’ve broken the law. I have, in the past, driven too fast, accepted payment in cash (which I may have forgotten to note down properly) and sung drunken rugby songs in public. I am, like many other people, neither a shining light of moral rectitude or an habitual criminal. By the time this blog post is used as an historical document all these things may well have gone the same way as the dodo. I saw someone caught in a speed trap today (they are getting very efficient), cash is out of favour during the pandemic and rugby is under pressure from people worrying about concussion. Like coin clipping, recusancy and frame breaking these are all crimes that may be impossible 20 years from now.
I think we’ve finally made the breakthrough in decluttering. It’s cost us many arguments, the serious erosion of my book mountain and, in my case, a very stiff back, but yesterday I could finally see it was beginning to look clear rather than simply redistributed, and I felt free. Well, freeish. There’s still a lot to do, but we are getting there. Even moving the car insurance is part of the new life. At one time I would have paid the exhorbitant rise simply because I don’t like change.
For those of you who noticed it, I’ll go back to my spelling of exhorbitant in a later post.
Today I dropped Julia off at work and went shopping in Lidl. I normally go to Aldi (the other budget German supermarket) but I thought I’d give a recently opened branch of Lidl the once-over. I needed a loaf of sliced bread. Bear that in mind as I describe my shopping technique.
My first stop was the bakery, where I selected four croissants for tomorrow’s breakfast, because they looked inviting. I bought two pain au chocolat because Julia likes them, a sourdough boule, a , some cobs for a sandwiches over the next couple of days, and, finally, a brown sliced loaf. I( sound very middle-class, don’t I? Apart from the fact that Lidl isn’t the natural home of the middle-classes.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d stopped there, but I added sea bass (I hate fish but Julia loves it, and I’m still trying to make up for the lack of birthday presents, which are still in the post somewhere). Plus ham trimmings (which are a good, cheap sandwich filling), chocolates (see previous comment regarding birthday presents), butter (necessary for the sea bass), paracetamol (just in case of shortage) and some quinoa in microwavable pouches. Yep, definitely middle class…
I doubt I’ll go back. It was a poor shopping experience, despite the bakery. Too many customers with no masks, bossy checkout operator with no mask and a bad attitude, poor stock levels and obstruction of the aisles by staff.
I’ve also decluttered, written, drunk a bottle of Lucozade and filled the shredder, though I have stopped it before jamming it this time.
All in all, it’s not a bad morning, though I’m now starting to wonder if my new found energy is down to the psychological boost of decluttering or the 45g of sugar that the Lucozade label tells me I’ve just consumed. That’s 11 teaspoons according to the internet. Oh dear…
I’ve had two acceptances in the last few days, which has put me in a good mood. I’m now balanced on 50%, having had five out of my last ten submissions accepted. Last week it seemed like everything was sinking fast, with a small run of rejections but after a couple of acceptances it all looks a lot better. Such is the fragility of the writer’s ego.
Last week I was on the way out, and the frail bubble of my success was about to burst. Now I’m full of it, and full strength smugness is once again looming on the horizon.
At least I have ASDA to bring me back to earth. This week’s deliveries featured a number of items that I thought I had deleted from the order, and as a result I now have enough high fibre cereal to last until the New Year and enough ingredients to make ratatouille for a rugby team, though I’m not sure if rugby teams eat ratatouille.
Before you suggest it, the freezer is full, and has been crammed with all the extra bread that arrived.
It won’t pay off for them in the end, because I will cancel next week’s order and will do a small shop in person to buy the things we need, as we eat the last bits of this week’s order. Apart from ratatouille, my future is likely to feature quite a lot of vegetable soup.
We even got celeriac this week, after five unsuccessful attempts, which means I now have two, as I bought one on Tuesday.
One of my memories of 2020 is going to be the ups and downs of internet grocery shopping, mainly the downs, as it rarely fails to disappoint in some way. However, it does mean we don’t need to shop in a room full of coughing geriatrics and snotty kids, so it’s generally a good thing.
We had the standard soup using the bag of ready chopped veg and followed it up with a ham sandwich made using rye and sprouted grains. It was healthy and filling, though I will be adding a few stewed apples later just to top up.
I’m now blogging and watching Mastermind. I’m a bit slow tonight. I’ve often thought of applying for a TV quiz but never get round to it. This is partly because I’m lazy, but mainly because I doubt that my armchair brilliance would be repeated once I got to the studio.
It has now changed to Only Connect, as I am doing all sorts of things, apart from writing (in case you were thinking I was being slow. I’m not a great fan of the show as I don’t generally do well. However, it’s good mental exercise.
And even as I write that it ends and University Challenge starts. It’s a real quizzing fest tonight and I’m only getting away with it because Julia is distracted. Normally she puts her foot down and won’t let me watch three quizzes in a row. It’s a good night if I answer more than two or three questions. I’ve already answered three out of four, which is one more than the students. Could be a good night – sometimes I can watch a whole episode without even understanding a question. I’m now on six from eight. Things are looking up…
They are on chemistry questions now. I don’t even know what they are talking about.
Anyway, you don’t want a running commentary on me watching TV.
I just answered a chemistry question and am now doing badly at poetry. Just goes to show you never can tell.
I’m not honestly sure I have much to add. I went into two supermarkets today as I needed some specific things before we go into lockdown. In TESCO there were three staff without masks and the spotty teenager working as a greeter kept pulling down his mask to talk to people. At Sainsbury’s the greeter didn’t even have a mask. Two staff on the tills had no mask, a manager was working with her mask pulled down under her chin and the four teenagers at the Argos counter were clustered together chatting with no masks.
I must admit I woke with worries about the Cats of Salmon Brook Farm. I know they were packed and ready to move as the fires advanced, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them all. Ideally the fires will magically die out as they get closer to the farm but I fear this may not be the case.
Julia had set her clock for 6.30 and I wasn’t able to get back to sleep, which allowed me more time to listen to the news. It seems that this country has sunk so low that even American politicians feel able to take the moral high ground from us.
I Googled “honest politician” and did find this man, so all is not yet lost. I do love this quote:
“People of Kentucky, you deserve complete honesty, so here it is. I don’t care about you. Unless you are a donor, a lobbyist who can write a big fat check, the result that you get from voting for me is negligible.”
If the Americans don’t want him, can we have him for the UK. I’d happily vote for him. As for the rest of them, I’m seriously thinking of giving up voting as it only encourages them.
We sold one thing overnight on eBay and another during the day, the second day in a row this has happened. It’s not good. We also got two stupid offers from people. I was on my best behaviour when I declined them, even though they were just wasting my time.
I then went shopping, ate chips, fell asleep in the chair and woke up just in time to post.
I’ve just had a cold sausage sandwich for lunch. It was made with seeded brown bread and Branston pickle. It was the second of the day as the first one had been so nice. The second was nicer, but I did feel guilty whilst eating it. I am, in case you hadn’t guessed, considering the idea of losing weight.
Earlier in the day I dropped Julia off at work, bought a new battery for my micrometer (better than a ruler for measuring coins and medallions), went to Hobbycraft to buy some art supplies for Julia and decided to have a ride in the countryside.
Perspective is everything
Classic sign photo
Cancer of the Countryside
I selected the road between East Bridgford and Kneeton because it’s a pleasantly rural road which reminds me of the countryside where I grew up. Unfortunately the verges have been cut and it wasn’t a great day for plants and pollinators.
I did take some pictures of a bee and a few flies but that was about it. There were quite a lot of white butterflies about and one brown one, but nothing stopped long enough for a photo. Same goes for birds. Rural pigeons don’t sit still when people point things at them and apart from them a few swallows were the main birdlife, but again, they are a bit quick for an old man.
One of several ex-windmills in the area
Summer Day with Wires
I will be back later to add more details and photos. Until then you can think on the curse of modern villages – the building of expensive homes that nobody local can afford. The posh new people who move in then start complaining about the noise and smells from farms. They think that the countryside is a massive playground when it’s really a factory with no roof.
This isn’t really a surprise as most of the newcomers think food comes from Waitrose rather than out of the ground.
I have just set my alarm to wake me when it is time to collect Julia. Based on last week my planned “cup of tea in front of the TV” could be accompanied by closed eyes and snoring.
This isn’t the post I said I was going to write, you’ll have to wait for that. This is the post that covers what I did today after posting the previous post and making breakfast.
We had people in on Monday to dismantle the sheds and associated ivy/brambles/honeysuckle at the back of the garden. It has been a great aid to security, privacy and wildlife over the last thirty years, including highlights such as the fox cubs and breeding blackcaps. There’s never a year goes by without at least one nest in it and this year it is great tits. It’s difficult getting anyone at the moment as everyone wants work doing after lockdown and it’s two or three weeks before they can get back to finish off. This fits in well with the great tit family which should be fledged and away by the time we destroy their habitat.
When it’s all done I’m going to plant a mixed hawthorn and blackthorn hedge, which should provide a good habitat over the coming years.
For the moment it’s left a bit of a hole in the fence and though we’ve plugged it, it isn’t very elegant. As the house is home to a curious beagle I was going to make a better job of it today, so after breakfast I set off. I’ve just been told to increase my dose of Methatrexate to the maximum level. It seems to be working as I have use of my hands and my feet are a lot better too. However, it does mean that I worry about the effect of suppressing my immune system.
When I got to my first call in search of stout stakes and chicken wire I was presented with a queue of people which was positively festering in a shopping centre with the micro-climate of a tropical butterfly house. To be honest, it’s just the atmosphere a virus needs to spread, so I left.
The next shop I tried had a longish queue and I tried two builder’s merchants too. The queue at one of them contained more people than I’d ever seen in the shop before (I used to be in regularly when I was a jobbing gardener and it rarely had more than six people in. There were 18 in the queue. All these queues were outdoors, but after my activity on Monday when we took the shed down my knee is still a bit tender and doesn’t respond well to a lot of standing.
Before returning home I went to Aldi where the usual bunch of idiots managed to get into my social exclusion zone, including one of the managers who entered via the exit as I was leaving and was so close I could feel their slipstream. I bought ripe avocados, which were made an excellent lunch.
After that I emailed the lady behind us to say I’d be a day or two later than planned with the fence, clipped the front hedge (I said my hands were better – I couldn’t have done this two weeks ago) and dead headed the poppies.
I tried to order the posts and wire I wanted online but, just like a supermarket, they take the order and then, as you pay, tell you that two items are out of stock. I was only ordering three items, so I wasn’t impressed.
I had to take Julia to hospital for a scan as a follow-up to the pre-lockdown episode and, when I returned there were two emails and a brown envelope for me (marked as being from the Tax Office).
The news is that the lady behind us has offered to do the patching of the fence, which will save me a lot of hassle because I’m working Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They could find no immediate fault with Julia, though they may find fault later after properly examining the results. The Tax Office want to give me £16 back, as I have over-paid.
This is all good, and a welcome lifting of the gloom that has been gathering around me over the last few months.
The second email was from a local literacy project (I emailed them last night to make sure I actually volunteered instead of just intending to volunteer, as I so often do). They aren’t doing much at the moment, but will be in touch when they are ready for more interviews and training.
Then, just to settle myself down after all this happiness, I spent an hour on the computer arranging tomorrow’s grocery delivery. This is an improvement on last week when I actually forgot to do it. Fortunately we had plenty in to last an extra week.
Only a few repeated photos, I have no new photos to share.