Thursday 31 December 2020

The Distancing Diaries - 30th & 31st December, 2020

I'd just turned the TV on to start my Wii Fit session on Wednesday morning to discover that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine had been approved and I woke Jon with the wonderful news and a cup of tea forty minutes later. I'd had a flurry of eBay sales overnight so wrapped them and, after breakfast, Jon dropped them off at the post office and brought me a magazine back as a treat.

It was another bitterly cold day but beautifully sunny day so I took some stock photos in the garden and spent most of the day posting listings on eBay with a break for noodles.

 The postman delivered a lovely card from a blog reader in Canberra, Australia. Thanks so much, Jo, you made my day!

Working outside meant wearing all the layers. I did have a coat and wrist warmers on but I took them off to show off my Afghan dress, which you've seen about a million times before but this time it's on backwards just to ring the changes.

We cracked open a beer to brace ourselves for the latest government announcement at 5pm and, as expected, we had been moved into Tier 4, meaning that non-essential shops, gyms and hairdressers are closed and we're advised not to travel anywhere unless its for work or medical reasons. One person per household can meet with another person but this must be done outside and in a public space. That means no charity shops or National Trust visits for the foreseeable future so it's back to walking round the block and browsing eBay.

Tea was halloumi with roast vegetables. Accompanied by a few rum & colas we watched the series finale of Wasteland and started on French thriller, The Red Shadows, which was so unspeakably bad we turned it off after 15 minutes and watched The Antiques Roadshow on the iPlayer. 

On Thursday morning I awoke to discover both lads staring at me intently, I'd dared to sleep till 6.35 am! I gave them their breakfast, threw the contents of the laundry basket in the machine, did my final Wii Fit workout of 2020, hung the washing up in the utility room and started to catch up with blog comments. After breakfast I swept the downstairs rugs and took down the greenery in the lounge as it was starting to feel very sorry for itself.

Jon continued with the Kinky Melon accounts he'd started yesterday and, as it was another beautifully sunny day, I wrapped up and took some more stock photos outside. Rummaging through my rails and rediscovering stock is just as exciting as charity shopping, perhaps more so as there's no grotty Primarni tat to plough through.

After a break for noodles Jon decided he needed a break from figures so we trudged up to St Matthew's Church, normally a five minute walk away but with the treacherous ice underfoot it took a little longer.

Being in Tier 4 we're not supposed to travel so it's just as well that there's lots of interesting things to look at on our doorstep.

Although the building standing today was built in 1821, St Matthew's Parish Church has dominated Walsall's skyline since the 13th Century. The inner crypt dates from then but the Norman archway (see below) was built a century earlier.

St Matthews was a big part of my life as a child, Mum's dad (Grandpa) was the church treasurer. My parents married and both my brother Marcus & I were christened there. During my time at Blue Coat we attended services weekly but when I passed the Eleven Plus and went to grammar school my parents gave me the choice as to whether continue attending the church and, following in Dad's atheist footsteps, I chose not to. I've led a godless existence since I was 11.

Recognise the doorway? That's Mum & Dad tying the knot on 30th July, 1966 the day England won the World Cup. I arrived in December.

Like me, both Marcus & Jon went to Blue Coat school but continued on to the senior school which meant they had to be confirmed and attend church until they left school. Other than funerals, neither of them have ever been back.

Walsall folk will appreciate this - the glorious Paddock Flats!  Call me weird but I much prefer a townscape to a rural view. I enjoy the odd trip to the countryside but I'm always happy to get back to civilisation, traffic and tall buildings.

Back at home I wrote listing for my photographs and uploaded them to eBay, selling a couple of things immediately...hooray! Jon decided to abandon the accounts and played in the music room for the rest of the afternoon. 

Wishing all you lovely people who visit my blog a happy, healthy and vastly improved New Year and special thoughts & love to Maryland who commented a few days ago. In the words of Jo, who sent me the card...

We Topped it all a-plenty in Covid 2020,

Let's hope 2021

Is a HELLUVA lot more fun!

I couldn't have put it better myself! 

See you in the New Year, my fabulous friends! xxx


Tuesday 29 December 2020

The Distancing Diaries - 28th & 29th December, 2020

On Monday I looked outside and saw that the garden was blanketed with a thick layer of snow. The lads weren't happy, Frank hissed, took one step outside and ran back upstairs to bed while Stephen did a quick lap of the garden before retreating inside. 

I did my Wii Fit workout and discovered I'd lost 2 lbs since Xmas Day. I wrapped the latest eBay sales and joined Jon in the kitchen for our fruit & yogurt breakfast. Jon did a grocery top-up shop but failed with the Post Office run as neither of us had realised it was a bank holiday. Shopping sanitised & put away, we headed down to the clearance chazza for a rummage. It was so quiet in there that at one point Jon and I were the only customers.

With BoJo set to announce further restrictions on Wednesday we stocked up on books just in case we get locked down again and I snaffled a few other things, too. 

This 100% alpaca wool jumper stood out a mile from the bobbly acrylic dominating the rest of the rail. Spirit of the Andes knitwear is mega pricey (this one originally retailed at £259) and judging by the pristine label, hasn't seen any wear.  Alpaca wool is as warm and soft as cashmere and, unless you buy your cashmere secondhand, is more environmentally friendly and sustainable. 

I love a well worn leather cross-body bag and if I was going to India I'd be taking this beauty with me. I'd mistakenly assumed that Radley bags always had dogs emblazoned across them. I'm happy with a discrete logo on the back and a label on the inside. Not bad for £2.

Terrible photo, great price!

MONDAY: Vintage Afghan coat (eBay, 2018), patent leather Doc Martens and 1960s Crimplene maxi dress (both charity shop finds), Aran rainbow wool pom pom hat and wrist warmers (yarn from a charity shop, handmade by me!)

With the temperature hovering at zero °C I was so glad that 2020 was the year I'd finally taught myself to crochet hats and wrist-warmers. 

Lunch was roasted red pepper soup with a slice of bread. Jon noticed Morrisons had the cans on offer for 20p each before Xmas and thought they'd make a good cupboard staple. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up with blog reading. We had a curry for tea accompanied by a beer, sweet potato wedges and half a nan.

Later we watched a couple more episodes of Wasteland before I retired to bed with my hot water bottle to crack on with my latest read which has nothing to do with that chess series on Netflix the world and his wife keep banging on about.

Tuesday got off to another bitterly cold start with The Lads quickly doing their business and scuttling back indoors. After my Wii Fit workout I wrapped more parcels thanks to some eBay overnight sales and joined Jon for breakfast. Amazingly the weather forecast was spot on, with the snow arriving at just after 9am, exactly as predicted. A friend recently mentioned that Lush had good sales so I thought I'd have a look at their website and timed it perfectly, as they'd just slashed some of their goodies by 50% so bagged enough treats to see us through the dark days of Winter.

TUESDAY: 1970s Mongolian lamb jacket (inherited from Mum), vintage satin paisley print maxi skirt (gift from Helga back in 2010), Alpaca jumper, vintage knitted turban, 1960s vinyl & nylon gloves (all charity shopped), Doc Martens (Facebook selling page)

Another cold day! What good timing it was finding that Spirit of the Andes jumper yesterday. 

Eager for a trip out I joined Jon on the Post office run. Running low on logs we headed off to B&M Bargains which often has good deals on hardwood logs and were in luck, snaffling the last few they had in stock. Next stop was B&Q, the DIY superstore, as Jon needed some electrical bits for a rewiring project. Needless to say I couldn't resist scouring the clearance shelf for houseplants and was in luck, scoring a couple of Leopard Lillies for £2, perfect for shady rooms, ideal for our bathroom. I also bought some fertilising sticks which had been reduced by 50%.

Back at home I immersed the lillies in water in the utility room sink before repotting them. We had noodles for lunch and then I cut up the plant food sticks, stuck them in my pots and left them to slowly feed my plants over the next three months.`

Introducing new houseplants means moving stuff around to make space. I needed room on the hearth in the lounge so I photographed my Xmas presents before putting them away.

Liz and Al gave me this amazing vintage Indian block printed waistcoat, a wild bird feeder and some rather interesting looking toothpaste. There were also some cans of real ale for Jon and a packet of retro sweets (which have all gone).

Tony bought me the potted Bonsai tree, The Spice Sultan pack and the Green & Black's chocolate. Jon got a swanky torch, some cat socks and a fancy glass tumbler for his rum. Marcus bought us the box of craft ales (half of which we've already drunk) and some posh pretzels (now eaten). 

The hand poured candle and Snag tights in Beach Bum & Suffragette were from Liz & Adrian, the glass peacock feather coasters from Hazel and the fizz and catnip mouse from Rob, Morgan and Carlo, our nearest neighbours.

It's amazing how much time pottering around the house takes up. I had high hopes for some more crochet this afternoon but by the time I'd finished with my plants it was almost teatime, just long enough to squeeze in some blog reading.

Talking of food, this is what we ate,  Jon's nan bread pizza, topped with spiced butter beans, homemade pizza sauce, gherkins, homegrown basil, diced shallots, cheese and fresh tomatoes. This was accompanied by a half a can of Peanut Riot from Marcus's gift box, a delectable salted chocolate and nut porter.

Stay safe, happy and healthy and see you soon!

Sunday 27 December 2020

The Distancing Diaries - 25th, 26th & 27th December, 2020

Hello, friends! I hope that despite the circumstances you've managed to have yourselves a very happy Xmas. 

On Xmas Day Jon was up first, while he was in the kitchen I snuck downstairs and brought the presents I'd bought him back upstairs and we opened them in bed, drank tea and read for a while. It was a gorgeous day, bitterly cold but blindingly sunny.

From me to Jon: Nordic socks, a set of hand blown chai glasses, fountain pen and ink cartridges, a hand-painted Indian postcard, a 1940s biscuit tin from Kashmir, a vintage Indian glazed clock cabinet.

From Jon to me: Posh ayurvedic incense, handmade Fair Isle socks and an antique statuette of a Hindu solider.

We opened our other presents in the lounge listening to 6Music, ate a slice of toast and had a thoroughly lazy morning. I read the Sarah Jane Adams book Lynn and Philip had bought me for my birthday and Jon watched a Carry On film before kicking off the dinner preparation. 

At midday we cracked open the wine to help the proceedings along and we toasted absent friends - both our real-life and virtual ones!

Xmas Day: Jon wears Gabicci, I'm in a silk maxi dress made in Delhi in the 1970s

Tony arrived at 1pm and we ate at 2pm accompanied by Jon's special music mix - which, I'm sure you'll not to be surprised to learn didn't include a single Xmas song. The boys had chicken with pigs in blankets and I had a nut roast.After lunch we opened presents and chatted until 7pm when Tony walked back home (he was due in work in the morning ready for the Boxing Day sale). We washed up and cleared everything away. We wouldn't be eating again.

We started to watch Wasteland, a grim Czech crime thriller, but all the excitement of having company (and seven hours of boozing!) had us admitting defeat at 9.30pm and we went to bed.

On Boxing Day Jon was up first, he brought mugs of tea back to bed after seeing to The Lads and we read until 8.30am. As it was Saturday (and in our world, just a normal day) I stripped and changed the bed, loaded the washing machine and joined Jon downstairs in the kitchen for a slice of toast - we'd considered the usual Saturday morning sausage sandwich but after such a big dinner yesterday, decided against it. We were expecting a violent storm later so went for a long walk before it hit, wandering around the old industrial quarter, an abandoned 17th Century burial ground and through the narrow alleyways of Georgian Walsall, passing Blue Coat Infants School where Jon and I were in the same class for a while. I was considered gifted back then and put in a higher year (not sure what went wrong!)

Back at home we had a bowl of noodles and watched another film based on a Le Carre novel, The Little Drummer Girl (neither this or the BBC 2018 drama are a patch on the book although Florence Pugh's hippie wardrobe was a million times better than Diane Keaton's '80s wet look perm, stilettos and shoulder pads) then spent the rest of the afternoon reading an excellent Nordic Noir.

After cheese, crisps, olives and crackers we poured ourselves a large rum and coke and watched Monsoon, a quasi-film documentary set in Vietnam on the BBC i-player. I broke the habit of a lifetime and watched something with Celebrity and Christmas Special in the title - the festive edition of The Great British Sewing Bee - I'm not quite sure why. We watched another episode of Wasteland, grim and bleak being far more our thing, and retired to bed. Storm Ella had arrived and the sound of torrential rain and gale force winds kept Jon awake until the early hours.

On Sunday I was up first, watered the houseplants and brought tea back to bed, finishing the book I'd started yesterday. Breakfast was banana porridge. After the overnight storms the glorious sunshine came as a most welcome surprise as did the lack of damage after a cursory inspection of the garden.

At 10am swathed in layers aplenty & armed with a flask and some mince pies, we got in the car and headed over the border to Staffordshire (also in Tier 3) for a wander around the splendid Biddulph Grange on the outskirts of Stoke On Trent, a series of themed Victorian gardens established by James Bateman who, from 1841, spent more than twenty years collecting plants from all over the world. We last visited in July, 2020 (HERE).

Connected by a series of subterranean tunnels, each leads you to another part of the world.....

 From a Himalayan mountainside,

To a Scottish glen.

To Imperial China.

You'll wander past crumbling castle walls...

And the other-worldly Stumpery,

Past an Italianate villa....

Before finding yourself in Ancient Egypt.

Strolling alone through the Arboretum beneath the giant Sequoias with the winter sunshine shimmering through the trees it's hard to imagine that there's a worldwide pandemic raging.

We even found Santa's grotto, hijacked by a deranged bloke in a Swedish Army parka and a pompom hat.

After mince pies and mugs of tea we headed back down the road to Walsall where we spent the rest of the afternoon doing very little. 

Thank you so much for all the kind comments and messages, I've loved hearing what you've been up to over Xmas and look forward to catching up with Blogland tomorrow. Right now there's a glass of rum and a film waiting for me in the lounge!