Pandemic Pondering #32

London is just as series of small towns and villages joined up by history and development. To the outsider it may just seem like urban sprawl but to people living there each town or village has its own identity and sense of soul and belonging. My village for ten years was Gipsy Hill, I still have very close links there.

Famed for Fanny, the Gipsy Hill Station Cat.Gipsy Hill also has the most amazing corner shop,right by the station, filled from floor to ceiling with organised precision it stocks everything, and is staffed by men who are always happy and helpful. I have never had a corner shop quite so lovely.

Sadly one of the men who works there has recently died of Covid-19. Terrible for his family, friends and colleagues. His loss will be felt by the whole community because Gipsy Hill and nearby Crystal Palace has so much love for this shop and the wonderful men who run it.

Communities all over the world are experiencing the loss of amazing people. Such difficult times. RIP.

♥️London ♥️Gipsy Hill ♥️FreshGo

Since I wrote this the Guardian has published an article on Kumar, the man whose death inspired this blog.I urge you to read this professional version.

This story has a sad but gentle traction. Some one has created a graffiti tribute just outside the store.

Thanks to Rachel Baseby on the Friends of Gipsy Hill Facebook page for this image

Pandemic Pondering #31

Last night we watched Bait an award winning film telling the story of a fishing village. It is well worth a watch.It is a very good film, filmed all in black and white with so many unique techniques that add up to a great cinema experience. Even if , as now, it’s an at home experience. I was inspired to take black and white images myself during a walk around Plymouth Harbour . With added Turquoise for no other reason than I fancied doing something different. It’s a walk we do often in all sorts of weather, it made the walk more interesting to just focus on just one colour .

Pandemic Ponderings #25 Chapter 5

Easter 2020 in Lockdown was an intriguing one. Throughout the world people were unable to gather.

Our Lockdown Easter for two involved chocolate and some lovely home cooking. Pandemic Ponderings #25 gave us the chance to gather together with friends and family, sharing stories and anecdotes using technology. It wasn’t as lonely as I anticipated and the food lasted longer than it ever has, but next year it would be good to get back to normal, I accept that means the weather will be shocking.

Pandemic Pondering #30

Book bags and Woodland walks, featuring dog bums

We don’t forward plan much these days. A firming up of rules on driving to exercise during Coronovirus Restrictions freed us up to venture just a little further afield. The journey also gave us the chance to drop bags of books on the doorsteps of ‘Shielding Bookworms’ , actually members of a local book club,who need to self isolate for 12 weeks. Describing them as I did I made them sound like a covert infestation requiring pesticide.

Cadsonbury Woods, a Riverside walk near Callington has been a favourite walk for 30 years. It has an additional uphill walk to an ancient Hill Fort. We rarely do that because we always have the dogs and the fields are often being grazed by sheep. Without the dogs we would normally sprint up hills of such challenging gradients like mountain goats. Not today.

There were a few cars in the car park but we mostly had the woods to ourselves. Most visitors must have been of the mountain goat variety.

The birdsong was beautiful and recent work, felling trees to protect the river bank from erosion, had really opened up the walk to bright daylight. We even found a Memorial Bench.

There’s a lot of dog bums in the following pictures, some faces, some nature in springtime but I completely forgot to take a picture of the most significant part of the outing.

A cup of tea from a flask and a shortbread biscuit, which we had to share, after a couple of hours of walking in the woods. Bliss in these unusual times.

Pandemic Ponderings #29

Be the nosey neighbour.

Walking the dogs gives us a rhythm to our day and a purpose that we sometimes, in dreadful weather, would rather not have. In Lockdown our walks have become much more home centric. In particular our late evening walk follows a pattern . There is a pattern for the dogs who like to sniff which other dogs have passed that way and a pattern for us which involves graveyards, patches of grass, the backs of a few houses and never other humans.

Yesterday a neighbour came to.see us concerned about another neighbour who had not drawn their curtains.

We immediately knew that all had been fine the night before because the pattern of lights had been quite normal on the last dog walk.

With some trepidation we did nosey neighbour things, realised there was a serious problem and called the emergency services.

I’m writing this because of the trivial things we thought about that might have stopped us doing the right thing.

Fear of doing the wrong thing.

We had previously offered help to these neighbours and were politely declined.

We were not afraid of finding the worst possible outcome. It’s what we used to do in our day jobs and it doesn’t bother us.

What we were, for a moment, concerned about was upsetting people who had politely declined help a year or so ago. We were concerned that someone might be cross with us or upset about us invading their privacy. Thankfully our brains defaulted to working heads and we got on and did the right thing.

Covid 19 is shrinking all our worlds to something more like the 17 th Century except we don’t know our neighbours as we would have done then. All the technology in the world would not have sorted out yesterday’s situation. It just needed us to be nosey, however awkward and worrying that felt at the time.

Pandemic Pondering #28

The inevitable has happened, a friend, who I loved bumping into, has died, not of Coronovirus but something that had got its claws into her long ago. It was undeserved as most deaths are and the world has lost a fabulous ball of energy. Not for me the excoriating grief of close friends or family, more a sort of dull acceptance of the inevitability of an inevitable event.

I suppose I’m describing the loss of someone to whom I was not close close but whose company I really valued when our busy lives coincided.

Our last such meeting was serendipitous, one of her favourite words and one that I stole soon after I met her.

My little town was briefly brought to a standstill by hundreds of motorcycling Santa’s.

I had ‘popped’ out to collect keys from an estate agent,a job that should have taken 10 minutes, two hours later I was using an unusual route to find my car which I had left down by the river.

My friend and I met, I was hugely surprised, not only because she was already terminally ill but because she lived 5 miles away and our little town is never going to be on anyone’s bucket list of things to do before you die.

We hugged and made one another laugh, caught up on each others news and shared snippets of information about our friends in- common that either of us had met recently.

She has never had ‘ an Elephant in the room’ . Her Cancer story was never hidden and her progress, or not ,with it was well known. We shared an update.

” It’s bloody everywhere now”

” That is such a bugger, bastard thing”

We agreed to catch up with some other friends ‘ In the Spring’ . She caught her bus and I walked down a 45 degree hill to find my car.

As usual meeting her had lifted my heart and soul , maybe some sadness but primarily she had, as usual, shone optimism and happiness into our conversation and we had luxuriated in sharing the use of the word Serendipitous, as we always did.

So here I am in April , she has died. Coronovirus and it’s social restrictions have cancelled Spring meetings, even if Cancer hadn’t already done it’s bit to blight our springtime meeting. Coronovirus has shaped and impacted the way us second tier mourners do mourning. I can’t go round to our shared friends and give them a hug, drink tea and wallow in reminiscing, love and happy memories. Hugging is the thing that wordlessly both links and restores us, it feels inhuman to endure bereavement without them. Hugging saves us saying too much or too little and making the misery worse. It also offers the opportunity of sorting out leaking eyes or a snotty nose behind someone’s back.

Not for anyone in the second tier of connection to her and many in the first the chance to gather together to celebrate and mourn the loss of a veritable power house of a woman.

It all feels kind of blunt really. Dreadfull sadness with no ability to hug or share seems to take on a previously unimaginable direction and poignancy.

The power of Hugging, I miss it.

Pandemic Ponderings #25 Chapter 4

Here we go off to Hungary with an artist friend Ildiko who sent me these words and pictures.

“Easter traditions go back to pagan ones. It’s the start of spring, the break from lent. On Easter Monday morning men would draw fresh water from the well and splash that over the young women to keep them fresh for the coming year.
Nowadays this ‘watering’ is done with parfume and is slightly more sophisticated. Boys and men would visit female members of their families, say a short, funny, sometimes rude and erotic rhyme, at the end of which they ask permission ‘to water’ the lady/girl. They get permission and in return they receive an egg. Traditionally these eggs would be dyed and decorated, the must common being a red one, but more often theyare now chocolate eggs and kids get money. All visitors would be offered drinks and food and it’s rude not to take any, so men would return home drunk and bursting at the seams 😅😅 ”

This fresh looking plate is the traditional Hungarian Easter Feast .

Boiled smoked ham with boiled eggs and spring vegetables.

From traditional food to Sam Fords Easter Feast in Lockdown . Sam is a long term friend and ex- neighbour whose honest approach to an Easter Feast suits us @theoldmortuary very well.

“Although it was a specifically religious feast the food itself signified nothing more than a love of kitchen work matched with pretentious tastes!”

“This is a (sort of) lamb shawarma from yesterday. I also stuffed medjool dates with walnut, coconut and cardamom powder”.

Sam works with a Bristol Charity One25.

Visit the charities website to see the amazing work this charity does.

This chapter is top and tailed by artist friends.

Check out this cake from Janet Brady.

Love in cake form.

Pandemic Ponderings #26

Who needs a beach? @theoldmortuary we are pretty close to many beaches, during Lockdown it’s not appropriate to visit them.

We live close enough to the coast for seagulls to be a problem, the current problem is that they are a bit bored with no tourists to steal chips from. To brighten up their days they have chosen our car to practise aiming their copious, glutinous poo.The best way to get it off is an automated car wash, there is something about the chemicals used and the flagellation that gives Seagull poo the brush off.

The perfect self isolation activity, the automated car wash gave us an added bonus today. Tropical coastal outlooks.

Pandemic Ponderings #25 Chapter 3

Chapter 3 finds us in North London where an Easter tradition of 18 people gathering has shrunk to just two this past weekend. Two flatmates isolating together, one of whom is a friend from The Heart Hospital. The numbers might have been down but the creative effort was high.

The day was lubricated with a Hix Fix, surely one of the easiest cocktails in the world to make. Two teaspoons of Cherry Liqueur in a saucer style champagne glass topped up with Champagne or sparkling wine. I’m loving the Pandemic twist with this one. No one shopped for the desirable but non essential Morello Cherries.

Googling has informed me that TV chef Keith Floyd drank two of these at The Fish House, Lyme Regis, just before he died.

It was his Last Supper.

This is hugely relevant to this blog as this exactly where Nic experienced her first Hix Fix and thankfully survived. Hugely relevent too because I go off piste a bit with this blog.I promise I will pull it all together in the end.

This is where I take some time out and share a family anecdote. This is getting just like a gathering of friends and family.

My Dad knew that he was dying, he had terminal bowel cancer . He remained mentally alert during his increasingly rare periods of wakefulness. He had a schedule of Last Suppers that needed to be fulfilled, each with its own tiny guest list. Shamefully I only remember the ultimate and penultimate ones although I believe afternoon tea with his cousin, Gwen, was also one. As anyone, who has spent a lot of time with someone who is dying, will attest not only the earthly guests attend these gatherings. My grandmother had afternoon tea with my Dad and his cousin, something that slightly bothered him as he was eating in bed. The fact that she was dead was not a bother at all. The next day was scheduled to be an Indian Takeaway, with a very specific order from a particular Take Away, it was to be shared with one of my Dad’s much loved work colleagues called Gordon and his wife Doreen. It was a surprise to us all when my husband’s Dad turned up. Not only was he too dead he didn’t much like Indian Takeaway.

The actual Last Supper was Smoked Salmon Sandwiches and Prosseco and was attended in the earthly sense by Dad’s friends Margaret and Tony, myself,my husband at the time , Steve and my Uncle Peter. The three of us had been my dad’s only carers in the last week and were the fulfilment department of food dreams and guest lists. My mum was about but sadly she was already terminally ill herself and had a rare neurological disorder.

The guest list at the actual last supper went wildly out of control. Nothing wrong with the earthly participants but the deceased ones went crazy. There were people there we didn’t even know were dead.

In the morning we discovered that amid the uncleared plates and unfinished Prosseco glasses my dad had slipped off with the uninvited guests.

Now that is why googling in the middle of a blog is a risky old business. The Hix Fix knocked me completely off my chosen path. My apologies to Nic and her house party for two and those of you who were waiting for the next course.. No more googling for today.

To be fair Nic has suggested in her email to me that the Hix Fix may have knocked her slightly off the path of culinary perfection but like everyone who has worked in highly challenging environments in the Health Service she was prepared and she knew what had to be done.

Here we are back on track.

Big, fat, succulent , scallops on a pea puree with crispy Iberico Ham.

Followed by

Chicken Mole with Rice.

I am just going to have to slip off to Google . Mole!!

Wow. South American Chicken Stew with many gorgeous ingredients. This is going to be a Lockdown learning experience.

Here is the desert, slightly improvised because Nic had a broken oven. Lime and ginger posset with sesame things. It should have been served with home made sesame shortbread.

Thanks Nic Delahunty that was amazing food , thank you for taking the time to share.

The plan was to head off to Hungary next in Chapter 3 but I’ve probably given you enough for today so tomorrow that’s where we are off to.