Wednesday, 1 July 2020

The Distancing Diaries - Day 102 & 103

Tuesday morning (day 102) was so dark and dreary that it was nearly 7am before I woke up. After my Wii Fit session, I sat at the PC catching up with comments wrapped up in a cardi as I'd left the front door open for the lads. When I took Jon his mug of tea they weren't outside as I'd thought, they were wrapped up with him, obviously as chilly as I was.

After our fruit and yoghurt breakfast, I cleaned the bathroom & mopped the floor before getting dressed. Jon grouted the tiles he'd fitted yesterday. I'm so happy with them!

 I planted up some basil, parsley & mustard seeds.

And gave the veg plants a liquid seaweed feed.

I'm wearing my 1970s Anokhi pinafore dress, a silk top made from a vintage sari, vintage Rajasthani earrings and an Afghan choker. In the days Before Corona (BC) at this time of year, I'd be carrying one of my vintage straw bags and wearing clogs, these days it's a galvanised watering can and bare feet.

Liz arrived bearing gifts, an iris she'd liberated from the lake and some books to add to our freebie pile (she & Al live on a nature reserve and rarely have passers-by). How times have changed! In the past, we'd have gone upstairs and rummaged through my wardrobe or rifled through the rails in the Kinky Shed. These days we sit outside, watch the birds and admire the patio plants.

After noodles, Jon got to work sawing the planks I'd selected from the woodpile on Sunday and gave them a coat of my DIY chalk paint. Meanwhile, I planted some carrots, fennel and kohlrabi in the patch I'd cleared the other day. To deter any naughty cats or marauding blackbirds I cut down some branches from one of our holly trees and laid them over my planting and to make doubly sure, added my Edwardian bird scaring device.

Our neighbour Florence popped over to grab a couple of Liz's old cookery books from the free pile. We chatted for a while and waved at her husband Ray (the breadmaker) who had been banished to their front bedroom with a paintbrush and a pot of paint. Like us, they're still finding plenty to do during lockdown.

After Jon had worked his magic in the kitchen with the planks he'd painted earlier, he planted the iris in the pond.

Tea was halloumi with roasted veg and potato wedges with a cheeky beer on the side. When Jon had ordered something from Amazon the other day he'd neglected to tick all the boxes so we've got Prime free for the month (it's easy to unsubscribe, he does it a lot). We took advantage of the streaming service and watched Black Book, an absorbing subtitled Dutch film based on the true story of a Jewish singer who became a spy for the resistance.

On Wednesday (day 103) I woke up at 6am to drizzle and was pleased that I'd dragged the garden waste bin out the previous evening rather than leaving it to the last minute. After catching up with blog comments I did my daily Wii Fit session before Jon joined me for fruit & yoghurt in the kitchen just after 8am.

The household chore of the day for me was to pull out the desk, scrub the radiator behind it, sweep the floorboards and clean the window frame. Computers are such dust magnets - or maybe it's just old houses with open fireplaces - I was sneezing like a thing possessed by the time I'd finished.

Once dressed, I turned 6Music on and sat beside the window in the spare room repairing the silk top I'd worn the previous day. It seems to be disintegrating at an alarming rate. At this rate, there'll be more boro mending than actual fabric.

I bought my top from a boutique in Jodhpur just around the corner from our haveli. Jon & I got on with the proprietor like a house on fire and we ended up spending ages weeping with laughter as he insisted on dressing me up in ridiculous outfits and making me pose for his Instagram account. His stock was ridiculously cheap already but he still insisted on giving me a whopping discount (the top was £2).

Meanwhile, Jon finished fitting the new kitchen lighting he'd started before his back got the better of him last week. There are six of these retro glass lamps in all. Considering we ordered them online, not being able to inspect them in person due to lockdown, we were thrilled when they turned up.

That's why I've run out of vintage tea towels, I can't bear to use them. I had to frame this Irish linen lobster!

After a break for homemade spelt bread sandwiches with spicy chutney flavoured Kukore,

I dragged the garden waste bin back through the gates and filled it ready for the next collection in a fortnight.

This morning's sharp showers meant that I didn't have to do any watering.

 I'm still anxiously awaiting the agapanthus - there are thirteen buds waiting to burst open. Two of the crocosmia have bloomed so far, hopefully, the rest won't be too far behind.

Jacob's rapidly on his way to becoming a self-sufficient tortoise. Dandelions and rocket are growing like mad in his new enclosure.

As Jon was busy with the next project, the lads followed me around, curious as to what I was up to and anxious to get in on the action.

 Another Anokhi day. Today it's the turn of the midi dress with the quilted bodice I bought in their Chowpatti shop in Mumbai back in February. It wasn't my first choice, I'd set my heart on an indigo blue dress with a metallic gold print but after I'd tried every XS dress in the shop, this and a maxi dress I've yet to wear were the clear winners. As is usual with Anokhi, it's fully cotton-lined with French seams. The sales assistant was horrified when I fastened the bodice's top two buttons, Madam, that's not the way to wear these dresses! Lesson learnt.

The Kuchi tribal pendant came from Jaisalmer.

Tea was a tin of baked beans and veggie sausages with a jacket potato and grated cheese. I'm not sure what we'll be watching later but I can guarantee it'll be accompanied by a few rum and colas, it's Wednesday, it's the law!

Stay safe, stay fabulous & see you soon.

Monday, 29 June 2020

One Hundred (and 101) Days of Solitude

When I called the blog post published on 2nd April Love in A Time of Corona, little did I know that I'd be bastardising the title of Gabriel García Márquez's other masterpiece three months later. For someone who lives for festivals, loves pubs and gets twitchy if she doesn't go charity shopping at least twice a week I thought lockdown would have me climbing the walls. How wrong I was! One hundred and one days since we made the decision to self-isolate (four days before BoJo told us that we had to) and we've enjoyed every moment of our lockdown time.

In 2005, after stripping Stonecroft down to a shell, we'd planned to spend months restoring it but unexpectedly we sold our other house to a cash buyer within an hour of it going on the market and had three weeks to pack up everything we owned and move into a building site. We've lived in chaos ever since, half finishing one room and moving on to the next, at first while holding down full-time jobs, then having me out of action for six months following a total hip replacement and since 2007, running our own business. In between, we've dealt with not only losing Jon's Mum but also my Grandma, my Mum and my Dad and had to empty their homes, sell their houses and deal with all the often-complicated legalities associated with the death of close family members.

Lockdown may have robbed us of an income and a social life but it's given us the gift of time. Stonecroft is finally getting the care and attention it deserves and both house and garden have never looked better, Jon and I have spent over three months almost exclusively in one another's company and you know what? We're happy. I have no wish to visit non-essential shops, go to the pub or rub shoulders with a quarter of a million Brits on English beaches.

Today we're celebrating 101 days in solitude!

Anyway, back to lockdown life.......

I was first up on Sunday morning (day 100). Whilst waiting for the tea to brew, I applied a third coat of paint to the kitchen cupboard then took our mugs back to bed and stayed there reading until 8am. It was too late to wash my hair when I'd showered the previous evening so I did it when I got up. Jon made sausage sandwiches using the spelt loaf he'd baked on Saturday afternoon while I painted my nails at the kitchen table.

After watching the Andrew Marr Show I got dressed and put away the washing that had been hanging up in the utility room since I'd rescued it from the rain the previous day. Jon popped round to Tony's as he'd collected our tiles for us, unable to pick them up ourselves due to Jon's back being knackered.

Lockdown nails - Barry M's The Way You Make Me Teal
It was blustery but dry so I headed out into the garden.

WEARING: 1970's Van Allen cotton maxi dress (eBay, 2002)

I dug over the plot from where I'd pulled up yesterday's turnips, raking in some homemade compost and covering it over with plastic to deter any naughty cat using it at as a toilet. I weeded the patch of land by the water butt, cut back the bamboo, brambles and bindweed threatening to engulf the ferns and dug over the area beneath the apple tree ready for planting with something fairly shade-tolerant later in the week. 

It's been unusually windy for June and over the last couple of days, the blossom from the huge lime tree has covered everything in 2inches of yellow fluff - including the cats, the vehicles and us whenever we venture into the garden. Using a hand brush I swept under every pot on the patio and deposited four dustpans of sweepings into the compost bin. Doing it didn't half make me cough, I bet anyone passing by thought I'd succumbed to the plague.

By now Jon was back with the tiles and a bottle of fizz for me (a present from Tony). We had a coffee (most welcome after several hours of physical labour) and, feeling more flexible, Jon sanded down my freshly painted kitchen cupboards, applied a coat of waxed and attached the burnished brass peacock handles we'd bought from the roadside in Goa last year.

Jon decided to tackle Gilbert's solar panel as it wasn't working properly while I rummaged through the woodpile behind one of the sheds for some planks to use in the kitchen. 

I think it'll be a while before we need to buy any wood. Fly-tipping is a massive problem in the UK (and Walsall in particular) but occasionally the inconsiderate bastards who do it leave us with something useful like the pile of pallets that were chucked over our garden wall a couple of years ago (we've used three-quarters of them so far) or the empty 15kg bottle of butane gas dumped outside our gates last month, which will save us £15 when we take it to the camping shop to be refilled.

Planks sorted, I cut back the ice plants that were going crazy in the window boxes - the experts tell you to remove these at the end of the season and throw them in the compost bin, I've no idea why, this is their second summer and they look fine to me. Next, I decided that the patio plants could do with watering. Within minutes of finishing it started to rain. Good old British summertime.


Tea was pizza and oven chips. Before episode three of The Luminaries, we watched Black Panthers, Vanguard of the Revolution on the BBC i-player where we were rendered speechless by J Edgar Hoover's cointelpro infiltration of the movement using blackmailed provocateurs and the murder of 21-year-old Panther's leader, Fred Hampton by the Chicago Police acting on tips from the FBI. Well worth watching.

Here's my alarm clock, which Jon brought back from touring Japan with The Charlatans back in 1990, now thirty years old, it's officially vintage. It went crazy during the first week of lockdown and, regardless of what time it was set, Winnie The Pooh started shouting in Japanese at random hours throughout the night (any idea what he's saying, Allie Jane?) Not that it matters, I was always awake before it went off anyway and now, during lockdown, I seem to wake up even earlier. This morning (day 101), it was another 6am start.

After my weekday Wii Fit session, I dusted and swept the lounge and mopped the hearth and had just finished when Jon came downstairs to join me for our fruit & yoghurt breakfast.

After our record-breaking temperatures, today had plummeted to 12°C so it was back to long sleeves.

WEARING: Vintage Indian block printed cotton maxi (eBay)

The garden was still damp from yesterday's showers so there was no need to wrestle with the hosepipe.

Anything new in the garden to report? I'm still anxiously awaiting the blooming of the crocosmia and agapanthus but two of the four dwarf french beans I planted last weekend have sprung into life, the Empress of India nasturtium which I thought bore red flowers instead is a spectacular combination of yellow, orange and red.  The delphinium has another pretty blue spear and the common poppy which appeared out of nowhere a fortnight ago has flowered once more.

The trailing geraniums we planted in pots on top of the trestles we'd rescued from the parental home are just beautiful (thanks for the recommendation, Eileen!) and Mark's marigolds provide us with a daily reminder of India.

Too windy and cold to stay out for longer than necessary, I decided to play around with the shelves in the kitchen, staying out of Jon's way as he was busy tiling.

Terrible photo. One of our legendary buffets back in the days when we used to have house parties (remember them?)

These shelves are part of Project Coffee Table, Jon's quest to upcycle the beast made from an antique Rajasthani door, that was far too big for the house and had languished under a tarpaulin in the garden ever since we'd replaced it with the glass-topped G-Plan Galaxy table we bought for £1 from a jumble sale in 2011.

Using the ornately carved edging strips from the sides of the table, a couple of planks from the top and the chunky rivets that held them in place, Jon made me some rustic shelves.

You've already been introduced to my Indian brick moulds. Before you tell me not to put plant pots on wood, I promise you that they are completely dry & I've laid plastic underneath as a precaution. The verdigris metal Buddha was an Indian flea market find back in the noughties and the Swedish Dala horse was out of the 50p bucket in the clearance charity shop.

The Rajasthani wooden merry-go-round is one of a pair, my Grandparents bought them for me back in 1972. The papier-mache chap (Kashmiri, I think) has a loop at the back and tips his basket up over his head when you pull it and was another 50p charity shop find. 

After our lunchtime noodles, Jon finished the tiling while I had a lazy afternoon, repotting my Chinese Money plant and the remaining two basil plants I'd grown from seed (the rest got eaten by slugs), catching up with blog comments and letting the lads in and out about a hundred times as neither was sure about the weather.

Tea was salad, cheeses, olives, pickles, coleslaw and some of Jon's homemade spelt bread.

Tonight we'll be watching the final episode of the Art of Persia with the heating on, it might say June on the calendar but it feels more like March.

Stay safe and keep in touch!