Interesting Times

I started a blog about Silence but, in the enthusiasm of late night writing, WordPress managed to ‘lose’ several paragraphs. So, I turned off the light, went to sleep and had strange dreams (like many of us are having at the moment). Today, I woke to the ‘new normal’ of nightmarish reality and still I couldn’t find the lost paragraphs from last night.

In the meantime, I re-read an email I’d sent to a friend recently about ‘Home Alone’ life in Scotland and decided you could Follow Grandma’s weekly activities as I described them to her. Life everywhere is changed and times are interesting. So, here goes.

‘Hi G I’m fresh from what is becoming a regular on-line Zoom video call with my girl friends, Mridula and Vijaya, in India. Today I decided to dress up a little and get out of my black leggings and sweater. So I went for fuschia, not my normal colour, but it reslly made me feel good (You get an idea from the photo below). We have  now decided to make ‘dressing for the occasion’ part of our ground rules and entertainment on our Zoom call. Whilst my friends might have the initial advantage of wonderful silk saris, once I’ve rifled through my scarf drawer, competition will definitely be in the air. I have dozens of lovely scarves and I’ve experimented and already had a great time. (I realise this will be an added benefit because it will hide my hair whilst the hairdressing salon remains a mirage).photo on 18-04-2020 at 15.09

We three friends have another mega plan – we’re planning to do some Indian cooking together every Saturday. Vijaya is sending me a list of the recipe ingredients for next week’s Kerala fish dish which includes onion, ginger, cumin seed, fish from Mr Spink’s, (my local fishmonger and smoke house which is still in business), and maybe a few other extras. V is also sharing her family’s special pitta bread recipe. The three of us will dress appropriately, (aprons on top) and then, when the cooking’s done, we’ll sit down together and eat and chat. All on- line. What interesting, edible Saturdays lie ahead.

The exciting part of this video call was searching my cupboards for cumin seeds.  I emptied the cluttered spice shelves in full view of my Indian girl friends. it was a serious quest. “What is this ?” I’d ask, holding up yet another spice container to camera .“Hmm! Yes, it tastes of aniseed” “It’s Fennel!” And so the hunt continued. Finally, as the cupboard became emptier and emptier, the cumin was discovered. The successful identification of spices on-line, by competitors separated by thousands of miles, could become the new game for lock-down.

After the Zoom call ended I looked at the chaos in the kitchen, cleaned out the empty shelves, threw out old spices, starting with nigella seeds  (best before 2004!) which were definitely past their use by date. Then, I carefully repacked  it.  How satisfying that felt!  I’m going to have such clean, tidy cupboards (AGH!) but at least in this case I’ll know what spices and herbs I have for Spice Saturdays.

After all that cleaning a short break with a cup of tea and cake was needed, plus a short nap. That lasted 2 hours (!) and I missed my next Zoom call with old friends in Austin, Texas. These days you can’t say “Sorry I got delayed on the way home ” They know you’re home!  As it happened, Bob had gone for a sleep himself and I didn’t feel quite so guilty. Frances and I exchanged news about our weeks, the latest horrifying Trump behaviour and I updated her on the absence of a Prime Minister here in the UK. My friend Fran, who is an adventurous woman, summed it up in one sentence ” I never wanted to live in interesting times” .

In between India, a mid-day sleep and America, my children have been popping in all week to check on me,  tell me about their activities, extraordinary dreams which are often hilarious and give me updates on life in Oxfordshire and Cambridge.

Over the last week I’ve also heard from a couple of grandchildren in Bristol enthusiastically describing their on-line music and creative arts project, Pitcher Collective. This has been a salutory glimpse into life on the cultural and artistic breadline. Stan and Ted are part of a talented post-university group who are bringing other creative artists and musicians together for recordings, gigs and on-line sessions  The Collective idea is to explore ideas of community, work as a group and support people who are coping with mental health issues. Pitcher was successfully launched with their own music studio, space for composing, creating and recording when Covoid19 overtook everything. Despite lock down they’re managing to continue and had their first live on-line ‘Marma’ session, two weeks ago. (Marma is apparently an ancient therapeutic practice that aims to rebalance energy) 

The session was inspiring.  Late at night I took myself down to my Art Bothy at the bottom of the garden. With a glass of wine to hand, I painted and created some more of my slate work whilst the sounds and music flowed. Amazing to feel the connection. 

I’m intrigued to see Pitcher’s funding model. The events are free. Anyone can join and participants are encouraged to donate a small sum £1 or more through PayPal. It’s a world away from ticket sales but, this is the new world.  Meanwhile, Stan is funding himself with a daytime job, twelve hour shifts labouring and helping to build the new Cardiff Nightingale Hospital. A long way from achieving his Classics degree from Exeter University last summer.

I admire this young generation. Overnight ther life and expectations have  changed drastically and yet they are undeterred and have vision.

The next day was completely different. I was up early, writing soup recipes to go in Food Boxes for people in Arbroath who have no food and are hungry! No work  = no money = no food. As simple and stark as that.

Solution.  HOPE, a local charity I support, grows organic vegetables and fruit and helps people with learning disabilities. Under Government directives, it’s closed to people who would normally shop there. Our vegetables and salad are growing really well so the Trustees have decided to give our produce to the local Fresh Food Bank. Boxes, complete with recipes for ‘Easy Peasy vegetable and lentil soup’, have already been delivered to over fifty houses.  Morrisons supermarket then came on board offering passata, stock cubes and cooking oil. That called for another soup recipe.  I wrote it, Victoria, my graphic designer  in Brighton, made it look very attractive,  I printed it,  laminated it and handed it on to Sandra at Reach Across.  Right now we hope families are enjoying their  ‘Easy Peasy Tomato Soup’ What is so uplifting is that people want to join in with their help. A local Angus farmer delivered ten sacks of potatoes this week and a local chef  re-opened his (Health and Safety approved) kitchen. He’s busy cooking stovies (a well loved local potato dish) and making soups for people with no cooking facilities. One thousand hot meals were delivered in the last couple of days by Reach Across the local organising charity .

Interesting times indeed. 

I think it’s time for another cup of tea. Then, maybe I’ll have my ‘daily allowance walk’ which means once round the harbour. And, I’ll listen to the silence.




2 Replies to “Interesting Times”

  1. Loved it thank you. Isn’t interesting how instead of feeling the emptiness, there are so many ways of filling it… And the contrast of silencenand birdsong is striking…


  2. Thank you dear friend Today I went and sat with my friend Nicole in her garden at a safe distance, between a bush of mock orange and one of highly scented current flowers to shelter from the chilly North-East wind. She’s 88, highly intellectual and totally impractical and as all she ever does is read, go for a walk around the block and watch a bit of TV, so she’s really been suffering of loneliness because her son and family are in France and her daughter is incredibly bush in London and not travelling to see her in Oxford… I hadn’t gone to visit because initially the instructions were not to go and visit – but the sunny weather made it possible to share sunshine and time outdoors. Still rather selfishly enjoying these strange times: every evening, a group of us meet in the next street and sing Amazing Grace for all the frontline workers, and at the end we clap for them and take a minute’s silence for the souls of those who died and their relatives… Rather wonderful in a gentle kind of way… Karine has gone into overdrive, keeps sending me stuff on conspiracy theories, G5 etc. which I confess I rather skim through! But she’s so very much better, and rather enjoying comfortably living in her son’s flat in Mexico City since Tepoztlan is totally locked down and cordoned off from the rest of the world! Interesting ifs challenging times indeed… Joëlle xxx



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