Follow one crying eye on

Baking hot

I’ve remembered why I don’t bake very often.

It is not because I am rubbish at it. I am competent enough, especially if there is little to be done on the decorative front.

It is because, unless the baking is being done purely for someone else’s consumption, it means a massive calorific overdose which I can, frankly, do without.

On Valentine’s Day, in addition to giving a place-setting full of gummy and chocolate treats (and receiving a box of Maltesers which is traditional gift fare for me – and always welcome, I might add), I thought I would show my wifely skills in an unaccustomed burst of culinary creativity.

One of the small miracles of this, was that I had not only saved a recipe from a recent magazine, but had also succeeded in purchasing the necessary ingredients and – amazingly – remembered where I had secreted the relevant page from the magazine!

Ninety minutes later I had seven rather beautiful banana-choc turnovers. Almost professional-looking, although just sufficiently misshapen enough to pass as my own.

I rather belatedly read the advice that these were best served hot, straight from the oven. There are only the two of us locked down together here – so I valiantly managed to eat four of these myself during the course of the afternoon, admittedly not all whilst they were still warm.

I am informed today that they are actually nicer cold – and fortunately the final pair have disappeared between breakfast and lunch, so the tyranny of eating them all up has gone away.

I’m not sure which emotion has won. Pride and satisfaction at achieving something practical, or annoyance at my greed and over-indulgence. Honours even, I suppose and today is a new day when I can stomp around the park a bit more to try and atone for the latter.

Sunday excitements vs irritations

(1) Our washing machine has lost its bearings – or some such ailment which makes it ridiculously noisy when spinning. After consulting an engineer, we have determined that the costs of repair outweigh the benefit and we are best advised to buy a new one. Irritating because that will be expensive, but exciting because we will have a new machine to play with (and anything to distract us in our currently restricted lives is exciting – perhaps that’s a bit sad).

I spent more than an hour researching what replacement model to buy. Not at all exciting, and completely irritating because they all have very slightly different dimensions and plus/minus points. Gave up in the end, and will no doubt only renew my efforts when the current machine gives up the ghost entirely. Irritated with myself for this, of course. 

(2) We expected snow again today, and sure enough mid-morning there was a first flurry and an immediate ping from the neighbourhood WhatsApp group as someone spotted it. Exciting! But nearly two hours later, the pathetic swirls of tiny flakes continue to wet the ground and serve only to keep us indoors – how irritating even though we should be pleased not to have the disruption a massive dump of snow would undoubtedly entail.

(3) I thought it was lunchtime. My stomach told me it was hours since breakfast. There’s a Scotch Egg in the fridge that needs eating. Exciting. Then I looked at my clock and discovered I still had more than half an hour before I could legitimately accept the time could be described as ‘lunch’. Irritating in the extreme – and had to fill that time with writing this stupid post. 

How to lose a day, or several, in the suburbs

I’ve been wandering around Other platforms are no doubt available. However, this is the one to which I have been paying a not-insignificant subscription for several years now and periodically I feel the need to get my money’s worth. The problem is, once I start looking at the two family trees I have created – one for my family and one for my husband’s – I become completely engrossed and the hours pass with little awareness.

The lockdown and the cold weather – and most probably the promise to myself to do more serious writing! – have combined to push me back onto this website and resulted in the discovery that the electoral roll data is available for large parts of the first half of the twentieth century. I spent several hours happily tracking down those of my relatives, and my husband’s, who were adults in the nineteen twenties and thirties in these registers. Once I had found the addresses, I could then look on Google Earth and find images of the properties as they are now. In the case of some of my husband’s relatives, there were some quite large and impressive properties, in fact, in South and South West London. 

Not like my own family who largely avoided the capital until I chose to move here in 1983. In comparison, even the houses built by one of my mother’s uncles in Cheltenham (which we rather thought was pretty smart when I was a girl) seemed very humble.

Strangely, when I wasn’t glued to my laptop gawping at possible ancestral properties, I was marching around Surbiton for want of anything better to do (actually, more on this another time) and encountering a few rather similar properties, most certainly from the same era.

And when I wasn’t able to march around because of the cold and wet, and I’d exhausted my patience for logging electoral rolls, I was reading a book set in mid eighteenth century London (The Foundling, by Stacey Halls) which clearly evoked the feel of what we now think of as central London and the city. The suburbs just weren’t in existence then, and it was odd to see reference to Fulham as the countryside – ‘four miles from Covent Garden but it might as well have been four hundred’.

So, whether online, in a book, in my walking boots, in the past, in fiction or in the cold-weather reality of the present day, I’ve been all over the place recently.

No wonder I don’t know what day of the week it is today.

Tiring of it now

I’m not quite sure what exactly it is that I’m tiring of at the moment, but I sense I am not alone. 

In the first few weeks of lockdown, we had myriad Zooms – quizzes, games, meetings, singing – but these have gradually dwindled, apart from those which replace actual gatherings which would have happened anyway. My Monday morning singing group continues which allows us to learn new songs and practise old ones. This is good and works well. My husband has a few regular get-togethers in the diary which have replaced the ‘actual’ with the virtual, so that life can go on.

Some days, it all feels fine and I’m proud of my smarter garden and my occasional contributions to our local key worker support efforts.

Other days, it feels as though nothing will ever be the same again. No more booking flights to somewhere new at the drop of a hat. No more reflex trips to Cornwall when the weather looks set fair for a walk. No more live theatre! 

OK – I’m exaggerating now. But I’m starting to get itchy feet or cabin fever or something, balanced by a looming fear of actually going anywhere in company again. The realisation that my public transport habit, previously so laudable as planet-saving, will be not only potentially dangerous from my own health perspective, but also possibly frowned upon as non-essential use in the near-term. 

I think I need another quick look at Daisy May Cooper’s Instagrams to raise a laugh.

Ooh – just had an Insta scroll and my daughter has posted a pic which shows her cat modelling the latest DIY success.

Cheered up now. Sometimes it doesn’t take much.


Sobering times

Hard on the heels of a light-hearted post about Facebook challenges and musical memories, I just heard of the death of a friend’s wife. 

They had been married for 61 years. For the past year or two they had lived apart, after she had to move to a residential care home. Aged 90, he not only soldiered on alone at home, but launched himself into new activities – mostly musical, which is where I met him – to keep his spirits and his mind active, whilst still visiting his beloved wife each day.

The past few weeks, of course, he has been housebound due to self-isolation. He had not been able to visit his wife for at least three weeks before she died and not at the end. The funeral arrangements will be difficult – or at least dictated by current rules and much restricted. 

Such deep sadness and pain, with nowhere to go. We will sing with him on Monday in our rehearsal session. I hope that will help a little.

Follow one crying eye on