Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Country Diary of a Virus Avoiding Monkey

It is LOCKDOWN in the village!!! 70% of people in the village are over 70 (some have dodgy chests etc), and the remaining 30% are either children or adults of other ages.

Things I didn't expect to say, ever: 
"How are you for onions?"
"I'm 17,542 in the queue and it says 4 hours, so you've got time to check."
"But I only ordered one kilo, so why are there carrots in both drawers?"
"Please don't argue - I must insist - these carrots are yours."
"I have left the curry in the greenhouse."
"The starter is called St Francis. He is well-tempered, fed, and by the back door. 100% hydration."
"I haven't stockpiled as such, but I will confess to emergency basmati"
"I'm doing a stock-check tomorrow."
"Is it OK to drink in the week now?"
"I'll meet you for a virtual campachoochoo at 11"
"No, don't worry about the pouch - it's the turmeric"
"Do say if you need spices or anything. No? I'm sure you're not a hoarder... Oh! 12 packets of nutmeg? 1988?!"
"I'm not sure that a ... well no, I wouldn't call that a clinical trial as such ... well no, it's organisational psychology, not virology..."
"Well I could definitely do you a carrot cake, but didn't you say walnuts make him puff up?"

Possible future village crimes:
  • Murder of between 3 and 4 armchair scientists (by their wives)
  • Punch-up between the 3 different vulnerable-people-support networks (probably on the village green) as they struggle to be the MOST helpful* and the MOST caring
  • Midnight destruction/removal of the trampolines, etc, that lead to rambunctious children in gardens across the village beginning to shriek JUST as all staff conference/video calls begin
Desired future roles as noble member of Volunteer Army (if they approve my application)
  • Setting up and running temporary village shop from the village hall (I dream of it), including co-ordinating deliveries, doing stock-take, rationing carrots etc.
  • Meals on wheels 2020 ("well there's that chicken with honey from the first Ottolenghi cookbook - yes, that's it, the hazelnut one - or shepherd's pie, but you know, a sort of IRONIC one - or that wonderful Jamie Oliver chicken in milk ... yes yes, like the River Cafe pork, but CHICKEN!!!")
  • Walking all the nice dogs 
  • Literally doing anything the NHS ask me to do, anything at all.
Also kids, don't forget
Only go out if you REALLY REALLY NEED TO.

Pip pip


* In a cunning pre-emptive move, we have already offered to help our favourite neighbours so that we can get shopping, phone up, do dog walking etc for people we really like, rather than having to pick up teabags for the woman up the other end of the village whose dog left a massive poo outside our front door WHILE WE WERE LOOKING AT HER OUT OF THE WINDOW

Friday, March 20, 2020

Queen Margrethe of Denmark and Anneka Rice

These are strange times, my friends. Strange times. I hope you are all OK. I have no work to do now, but I still like the people who give me work when there is work to do, so I am writing the odd email to try and cheer them all up. Here is the first one.

Things to make and do:

Inspiration from Queen Margrethe of Denmark, who is turning out a fine line in Dachshund masks from the palace (and who also, incidentally, illustrated some early editions of The Lord of the Rings under a pseudonym, is known as ‘Daisy’ and is also a part-time theatrical costume designer and seamstress – what a legend). 

One ALLEGEDLY for small people, but I will be doing it later today:  Draw Along With Rob Biddulph, who is a children’s book illustrator.  

A thing to listen to:

Fortunately Podcast with Fi Glover and Jane Garvey. Start with Anneka Rice if you don’t already listen to it (you will love her by the end of it). 

A helpful thing for strange times:

The A.B.C. of our basic psychological needs: try and do a little bit of each one every day to help through the weirdness (adapted from something shared by one of my marvellous lecturers at Birkbeck).

  • A = Autonomy. Seems REALLY counter-intuitive but we have control over our time even if self-isolating: make a plan, decide what/how much media to consume, what time lunch is etc.
  • B = Belongingness. Social connections and community – get in touch with people, especially those who need help and support. Emotional support, practical support, whatever. Call a neighbour. Meet friends for a drink on Facetime. That sort of thing.
  • C = Competence. Try and develop a skill or learn something new; work on a hobby, do something you’ve been putting off for ages, finish a book … the sense of accomplishment (however small) helps with self-worth, which makes you feel GOOD and less stuck. (Also all these things together can help with anxiety if you are feeling that a bit.)  I will be trying my hand at making cheese.  This is not a joke.

Pip pip friends, pip pip. Stay safe. 


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Computer science

I say, what a time it's been. This blog - repository of exquisitely honed observations about SOCIETY and the individuals (inc. dogs) within it, cooking experiments, opinions about work etc - briefly vanished. Malware? Phishing? Who knows. To make it visible again I had to get down and dirty (not at the same time) with Ashkar (GoDaddy) and Adam (Google Platinum Member):

Me: Help, no worky, no worky, help me
Them: Computer thing computer thing
Me: Aaaaaargh
Them: DNS??????
Me: I have heard of this thing of which you speak. I am at the forefront of computer science.
Them: Computer thing computer thing coding?? Computer thing computer thing
Me: No comprende
Them: IP? Pointy Pointy?
Me: YES!! (Thinks: anoint my head, anointy nointy)
Them: DNS, IP, pointy pointy, copy paste....
Me: ...that bit? ...
Them: ...NO by all that is holy DO NOT TOUCH THAT!!!
Me: OK this bit?
Them: Yes yes that bit SLOWLY NOW
Me: Like that
Them: YES congratulations
Me: I wonder what happened
Them: Computer thing computer thing computer thing
Me: Oh yes I see anyway it is working now Thank you Ashkar (GoDaddy) and Adam (Google Platinum Member)

The NET RESULT of this is that I am now back.  Subjects on my mind include batch cooking and 'sheet pan meals' (barf), but before I do a whole post on said subjects let me know if you are interested in knowing about anything else, including:

  1. Exploding Christmas Tooth
  2. Weeping Because An Essay Was Too Hard
  3. Alan The Dog
  4. The Vicar Who Said Father Christmas Was Not In The Bible
  5. Shenanigans At The Pub
  6. Marmalade
  7. That Programme on ITV With People Dressed Up As Massive Singing Lizards and Trees
  8. Mature Student Latest

Pip pip!


Friday, November 29, 2019

A Guide To Country Dog Owners And Their Dogs, Part 1

My adoring readers and/or fans will be aware that I am now the adjunct of Cairn terrier called Alan.  Alan is keen on walks and gets a couple a day. This means that I have, for the least year, been exposed to the wide range of dog owners (and dogs) in this particular part of Britain (Cambs/Herts/Essex border).  Here is my guide (Part 1).

"Well, Poppy is a WORKING dog"
Poppy is a spaniel with dead eyes. She constantly looks anxiously up at her owner as owner marches along, eyes peeled for unruly behaviour in other dogs. "Well THAT won't work", she says, snatching the lead out of a fellow walker's hand and tugging at their dog unbidden.  "You need a CHOKE CHAIN. Pull her back sharply every time she walks in front and she will heel within the hour".  Poppy sighs sadly and tries to yawn, but she cannot; her head is encased in harness that holds her mouth closed. "Did you go to puppy training?", she asks, watching Alan eat some badger poo. "Yes". "Who?" I tell her about Miranda, dog handler, actor, writer, ex-bouncer, the love of Alan's life. "I have never heard of her", she says, and marches off with Poppy.  "You're going to live with her if you don't behave", I say to Alan. Alan yawns.

"We've ALWAYS had Labradors"
Fall into 3 broad types (pls. inform me if there is another I have missed): 
  1. Yer classic Sloane Ranger of the old school who really HAVE always had Labradors. They have framed, faded photographs of dogs past and present on the piano that have equal weighting as pics of grandchildren (wearing scruffy ski suits), Mummie sailing in 1963, Ollie on his gap year in India and headshots of blonde daughters. "Ben was a wonderful dog", says the usually reticent husband of the dog owner sadly, looking at the headshot of a broad-faced, open-mouthed black lab with the wind in his ears. "So much easier than ... people." 
  2. Social climbers in Range Rovers ("I just feel so much SAFER"); park across two spaces in the station car park; wear brand new Barbours; get two Labrador puppies who are never trained and spend most of the day at home alone chewing things (including the Barbour dog bed and pristine Aigle boots) next to the brand new 5-oven Aga. Blame 'the breeder' or 'the trainer' or 'the stupid dog' if anything goes wrong.  
  3. Proper country people who just get on with it and whose dogs are very well behaved, sleeping perfectly contentedly on an old blanket, rewarding any attention with slow but very loud tail thumps.

"He's just pleased to see you!"
Owners of absolute fucking lunatic, gigantic, pulling, jumping, out of control dogs (usually golden Retrievers) who, if they hit you at full pelt, would knock you on your arse and/or break your leg. Known for jumping up when covered in mud. "He's just being friendly!", says the owner, as you brush unknowable brown stuff off every part of your body and remember the washing machine is on the blink.

"She's NEVER done that before"
But she has, hasn't she. Your dog is a known terrorist with a particular penchant for the ears of ancient spaniels and old lady terriers and a fondness for yapping endlessly, all day and all night. You can apologise all you like, and you can try and tell us she's never done it before, but The Walkers Of The Big Field talk, and we know the truth.

Coming next week: small dogs, terriers, rehomed dogs, rare breeds, the dog that licks its own wee, and more!

Pip pip!


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

I am 50

Word up, homies. The three magic words that say: I may be fifty, but I am still very much 'with it'. In celebration of this most recent of birthdays, I am going to share some of the things that give me pleasure. I am not sure if they say anything about my age, but I will let you (my adoring readers and/or fans) be the judges of that.

Electric blanket
Chill in the air? Autumnal nippy nip snapping at your cheeks? Pop yourself upstairs and put that blanky on half an hour before you go to bed (10pm latest) for ultimate comfort. Fall asleep listing to "You and Yours". Wake up on fire 30 minutes later. Menopause? Blanky turned up to 11? Who can tell.

"GOOD NEWS! Your delivery is on its way!"email re:
  • new slippers (with orthopaedic support soles)
  • any smock-type garment "that looks great with jeans or leggings" (usually from the Seasalt sale)
  • support socks for my insertional achilles tendinopathy*
  • multi-pack of jam jar lids
  • mouse traps
  • special pencils 
  • more beans for the beanbag
  • this magical garment that makes me look like a potato trying to smuggle itself into a hot water bottle convention

Glasses on strings

It is life-changing (never lose glasses, can read at all times); it is also very ageing, in a particularly Brexit-y "back of The Telegraph Sunday Magazine" way. I do not wear them in public. I have other glasses for 'going up to London', a.k.a. going to work, going to parties that aren't in the village, etc.

Sleeveless puffa jacket
Bought from the garden centre, 25 quid.  Does not do up. Has large pockets.

Both of the these items look good with...

...Any sort of dress/tunic thing with patch pockets on the front
I am by no means alone in this, I realise, but the sweet and everlasting joy of being able to skip about the place with your phone/old tissues/dog poo bag/broken pencil/weird bit of cellophane picked up off floor/Bendick's Bittermint wrapper within easy reach is one that cannot be matched.

Doing the online grocery shopping
Doing it, receiving it, giving the bags back to Errin in the Onion Van, then unpacking it and not remembering having ordered 3 different types of beetroot and some tweezers.

Being out for a walk with the dog and seeing someone you like (and their dog that your dog likes)
I will write another post on the Dogs In Villages scenario (complex socio-political forces at work), but the pleasure I get from seeing a cheerful person who walks at the same speed as you and can talk about (for e.g.) dog biscuits for 40 minutes while your dogs leap about is a rare pleasure. Most of the time you are ducking behind hedges to avoid Jennie, her endless drivel about damsons and her wet spaniel that "doesn't like to play" (i.e. is a canine psychopath).

I am pretty sure I am going to think of more things to add, but in the meantime I am 100% interested in hearing what your versions are of these.  I do realise that commenting in web-logs etc is a bit 2007, but then I am a bit 1969, so who cares?

Pip pip!


* has anyone got any tips on this? It is fucking agony and I am fed up with it.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin