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Delivery supremo

I’ve always wanted a world map on my wall and to stick little markers in it for the cities I’ve visited. I have one rolled up under the bed in my office. One day I’ll get round to putting it up. Maybe soon – seeing as I have all that non-travelling time on my hands.

Except, I don’t seem to have time at the moment. No time for writing this week – I’m a delivery supremo!

Over the past few days, instead of a world map, it would have been useful to have a massive street map of the local area with all the care homes, GP surgeries, schools, hospitals and other charity locations to which my sewing group needed to deliver. We seem to have moved proper industrial quantities of our locally crafted goods to such places this week – 3400 in fact.

Oh, the feeling of power (after – of course – the feeling of confusion at the long list of orders packed and ready, and the feeling of panic before any of the drivers accepted my invitation to help).

I was at mission control – choosing which orders to put on each route, deciding which driver to ask to do each one, and then imperiously directing my team of driving volunteers hither and thither. Now we have a WhatsApp group to monitor access to our warehouse, I could see progress as each driver requested the key or checked with the others whether they were already there.

I was a small child again, directing a game. Running the pandas on Z-Cars (show your age, why don’t you?). Or at the control centre on Ambulance (Is the patient breathing??)

Even better, it involved transportation – I always loved journeys and map plotting.

Better still, when the deliveries are confirmed – I mark each order on the spreadsheet Green. I love a good spreadsheet – stats, colour-codes, numbers, targets!

My fellow volunteers are teasing me about this now.

I’ve clearly found my calling. All I need now is a bigger warehouse with robust shelving and a fork-lift truck (or better, an automated picking system) – and DRONES!!!!

Sorry, I’ve gone too far there. How would I be able to have a joke with a drone? 


Give me a tedious mechanical task

Whilst it was too hot to go outside today, and unusually I had the house to myself, I offered to help with packing some face-coverings for the sewing organisation I’ve been working with recently.

Strangely therapeutic. Sanitising the table, careful washing of hands, donning of my own face-covering – then to work with boxes of sealable freezer bags, ready-cut pieces of paper with instructions on usage to insert in the bags, and then the beautiful face-coverings themselves in a box by my side. A tiny production line all of my own. The resulting larger box of neatly packaged items was so satisfying. This was a practical task I could actually do, even with my two left hands – miracle!

People have taken great care in sewing these, to adhere to patterns which give the greatest protection (presumably still giving that protection mainly to others rather than the wearer, but hey-ho) and many of them were so lovely that I wanted to keep them. Some of the material they have used is charming, some utilitarian, some wacky, but if love and care could protect us, then these most surely would.


Lockdown of the azaleas

Isabella Plantation, the beautiful garden in the middle of Richmond Park, is currently closed to the public due to the Coronavirus and social distancing measures.

I walked around the Plantation perimeter today. Outside, of course. There were very few other people there. It was a hot afternoon and it is quite a distance from any of the park gates. Peering through the fences, I caught glimpses of carpets of bluebells and banks of proudly blooming azaleas. No-one around to appreciate them, these plants were still merrily ‘doing it for themselves’.

And, briefly and distantly, for me.

How (not) to Coronafail

Yesterday, on my evening walk, I treated myself to the latest episode of Elizabeth Day’s wonderful podcast (here if you’ve not heard it already)

I was unsure whether to bother because there was no guest. I like the usual dissection of the guest’s three failures and what they have learned, but Elizabeth announced she would be reading Corona-related messages from her listeners and there would be no additional voice at all.  This just didn’t inspire me – but I didn’t turn off at this point because I was in the middle of one of those new and tricky social-distancing manoeuvres – a junction, several pedestrians approaching in and from multiple directions, wary glances assessing the two metre gaps available before making our moves.

By the time I was safely alone on a straight bit of pavement, I realised I was invested in the podcast – so I carried on listening. By the time I reached the Park gate, I was completely absorbed. There were all sorts of fears and failures described, some bigger than others for sure, but all clearly relevant and important at personal human level.

But then, just inside the Park, and fortunately very well distanced from anyone else, I was back to my old crying-eye self. Not just one eye but both, plus actual deep intakes of breath.  A couple of truly moving stories and situations, clearly relatable to our wise host, just set me off. They didn’t relate to my own life experience, but sometimes that simply does not matter. I don’t need to have lived through the same events or situations to feel the anguish. None of this was over-emotionally stated – just placed there, with supportive comments or advice. How did Elizabeth not dissolve in all this? Masterful!

I found myself completely wrapped up in it all. Maybe it was an escape from the rest of the day? Maybe I am more emotional at the moment without realising it and  these podcast words in the beautiful evening park unlocked that a bit.

I thought I had been finding the restrictions in the Coronavirus lockdown somehow helpful. No choice? Well, that means fewer decisions to make and I am by nature a law-abiding person so I’m comfortable sticking to rules. No escape? Well, that means I can’t just run away on another trip, so there’s no point fretting over what I might want to do next. Scary? Well, for large parts of the day I can avoid listening to or seeing any news, which prevents undue fear taking over.

Maybe, though, there’s more to it than that bubbling underneath somewhere – and so, listening to this was a tonic and a release. And fortunately, distanced by many more than two metres in the middle of Richmond Park, I was in absolutely the right place for it.

When it ended, I confess to needing some soothing as I marched the roads back home. Ah yes, a reassuring Irish voice reading to me from one of my favourite books studied at school, James Joyce’s ’Dubliners’. 

So I returned home refreshed.

And mildly Andrew Scottified again – dammit.


Of tents and gowns

Today has been weird. Most of it spent on the phone or emailing suppliers, trying to source suitable fabric for our local volunteer seamstresses to make into re-usable surgical gowns for the NHS. Yes, I have finally succumbed to the great volunteering effort and offered my old coordination and spreadsheeting services to a friend  who was running out of hours in her day. 

We have been chasing down medical grade fabric, but also exploring options with sail-makers and other outdoor equipment manufacturers.

Of course, the day has been punctuated by the newly-accustomed stream of WhatsApp messages. The latest of these, from a neighbour, requested us to look out for his tent which seemed to have been blown out of his back garden. My first thought was that one of our sewing ladies would have found it in her front garden, treated it as a ‘safe distance delivery’, and quickly fashioned a surgical gown from it.

Might be becoming slightly obsessed with water-proof breathable polyester micro fibre. Need to go and watch some escapism on TV.


Suddenly we were bowling down the A3 towards the coast, green leaf-buds and yellow gorse lining the way. After more than three weeks with nowhere to go, this was an amazing escape.

We’d passed the more photogenic parts, but still – the freedom!!!

It has been frustrating to be unable to do any of the practical tasks requested by our neighbourhood WhatsApp organiser (in particular I cannot sew), so it was a great relief to realise that the full diesel tank in our otherwise idle car could be put to good use in a quick trip to pick up sail fabric from a supplier in Hampshire, urgently needed for those more nimble-thimble neighbours who are creating surgical gowns.

Not sure what was better – the virtuous feeling of doing something useful, or the ‘permission’ and freedom to drive somewhere.

As we drove, we agreed to consider today as one of our holiday days.

Competition – #2

Many people are temporarily unemployed, inactive, downsized or otherwise becalmed at present. I find myself in strangely unchanged times, albeit with more restrictions on my movements outside the house. However, my lack of daily purpose has perhaps become slightly more pronounced – a state of enhanced purposelessness, if you will.

So, following my limited success writing to a deadline recently (here), I thought I’d get a bit of a grip on things, and try writing something else for a competition. This time I had allowed myself a whole week, to come up with 3-4 minutes of monologue. By the morning of the final day, I had about thirty seconds worth – procrastination and self-distraction having engulfed my every waking moment.

Clearly I am motivated by urgent deadlines though. With just five hours to go before submission closing time, I finally knuckled down and completed it very quickly.  This allowed me a short break which was followed by a re-read, a ‘performance’ re-read (strictly in private, but definitely performed, so as to confirm the length) and several ‘final’ edits, before I chucked it into pdf format and sent it off with a mildly whimsical email, the character of which may owe some debt to Daisy May Cooper whose script-writing Instagram broadcasts I have loosely been following over the past couple of weeks. This may, of course, be a mistake…

The satisfaction was immense. I had decided to be kind to myself and not care if I couldn’t achieve the deadline – but hell did it feel good to have done it. It (almost) doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish, and it really doesn’t matter if I’m not selected, but I’m just so pleased and surprised at myself for achieving it at all.

And the content was, in itself, something of a self-explorative narrative. So that was liberating too.

My reward was to spend all morning on Easter Sunday sitting in the garden reading the newspaper. With no guilt. Hurrah!


Not a proper neighbour?

It turns out I’m not on the neighbourhood WhatsApp. Not sure why – probably my own oversight somewhere along the line.

They have apparently been asking people to help out with a number of things. I have already been asked if I would like to be on the cookery rota. I declined. I’m not a great cook, but more to the point, I don’t actually know what other people eat these days. If it’s cooking for old people I could have a bash, but not for the young NHS family – they’d be horrified, I’m sure.

And now they want us to sew mailbags, or maybe it’s pillowcases for nurses – or some such. Sounds great, but I don’t have a sewing machine or the skill needed to go with it. Call myself a woman? Another polite no.

Aaarggh. There must be something I’m equipped to do apart from sit at my laptop drivelling on.

Shopping again

I risked the supermarket again today. 

Last week we offered a ‘vulnerable’ person the option to ask us to do his shopping. He initially declined, but rang us yesterday to see if we could do a shop for him. He can get about, but should not visit big public places like supermarkets – he’s elderly and a former cancer patient.

I was more than happy to have a valid excuse to get out of the house. He dropped a typed shopping list through our door last night and we called him to verify a few things before I went out. I have never met this guy before: I was very nervous about understanding his preferences. I know almost nothing about him!

Anyhow, I managed to get everything on his list. He claims it will last him four weeks. It included some fresh fruit and veg (although the fruit will not eke out for a month, I’m sure) and some meat for roasting, lots of tins, bread, milk – but nothing I would class as a treat. It all cost £46. Six bags, very heavy. For forty-six quid!

So, there’s a lesson! 

He refused to let me drop the shopping off, preferring to come to our door and pick it up (in a reverse manoeuvre from what I have seen on other people’s doorsteps when their supermarket delivery has arrived). I suppose he wanted some sort of an excuse to put his coat on and drive a short way to get away from his own four walls.

I have been feeling I should volunteer for something now I’m pretty sure I’m clear of any travel-acquired nasties. So that’s done me some good too.



This appeared on our doorstep yesterday, wrapped in black plastic and clearly addressed to my husband.

Unexpected delivery

We think it’s some sort of pond (probably upside down in this pic). 

We did not order it, but initially suspected our daughter of random-presenting. She denies this, and an online family discussion revealed that none of the other usual suspects who might have misaddressed one of their own orders was to blame.

Although we have been thinking of creating a pond in our garden (hence our suspicion regarding our daughter’s possible gift), I’m not sure this quite fits the bill. And it’s a large and unattractive addition to the indoor household in its current state.

It caused some amusing debate on our family WhatsApp though. Given our potential boredom in the upcoming few weeks, perhaps we can think of novel uses. The current front-runner is creating our very own Tracy Island model. But do we still have the toy Thunderbirds to go with it?

Starts extensive search…

Coming clean

I have mostly been fortunate enough to employ a cleaner for a weekly visit to my house. I always felt odd about this, as my parents never countenanced such a thing, but times change I suppose: I mostly worked full-time (or nearly) and was financially able to do it. Apart from a year when I didn’t work, when I nobly wielded the duster myself as penance, I have learned to get over my stupid guilt and pay someone else to do most of the dirty work for me.

In these interesting and isolating times, we have ‘paused’ the agency clean (which had recently been reduced to fortnightly in my end-of-financial-year budgeting spreadsheet recalibration exercise) and today I determined was this week’s Cleaning Day. Alone in the house* apart from the irritated cats – and whilst the other occupant took his chances with ‘going out once for exercise’ – I merrily cleaned surfaces with anti-bac, dusted and vacuumed. I believe I have achieved a reasonable level of cleanliness, if not to a fully professional standard.

This cheerfulness and positivity will no doubt not last – but I will make the most of it while it does. 

*Being alone for this exercise is important. It allows me to sing loudly and repetitively throughout. I believe this is a family trait inherited from my mother’s side. My granny sang hymns constantly whilst tidying, cooking or sewing. Today, inexplicably, it was the Birdie Song. Trying times.

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