Friday, May 8, 2020

Not Standing Still

According to my calculations, we are now 7 weeks into the lockdown and I'm back in the office 3 days a week, overseeing (from a responsible distance) some essential repairs and not-so-essential decorating at the museum. Once we are able to reopen, we'll be ready for the hordes of people topping up their culture levels.

Once in, my time is split between a deep clean of the collection (yay cleaning, I have said never) and painting the shop area. My painting talents lie in getting the paint on the walls fast and getting it all over myself at the same time. Hair, glasses, nose, clothes, feet and most definitely hands are spackled and spattered liberally within just an hour. 

I've cycled in every morning, legs and knees making very loud complaints about all this exercise so early in the morning. Last Thursday, after a cocktail-based WhatsApp gathering of friends last night, they complained even more loudly than before, while the wind threatened to blow me back to yesterday. But the roads are blissfully free of traffic and it feels like a different world.

That different world is sometimes scary. Walking through empty streets feels a little 28 Days Later and voices echoing suddenly from an alleyway make me jump.

Walking along the towpath, the smell of cow parsley, lilac and hawthorn reminds me strongly of walks down country lanes with my Dad, tiny pudgy hand in his, little feet safely encased in Clarks shoes. Walks, in fact, that I repeated with my own child, 25 years later. 

Said child is now 21 and living in a nearby town with his boyfriend. When I messaged him on Monday, I received the following response "yeah, will do. Oh, and I'm in hospital lol". Lol? LOL?? Thank god it turned out to be to do with his kidneys rather than anything else, and he's home now, but still, that was a wobbly moment when I suddenly became very aware that, were the worst to happen, I wouldn't have hugged him for over 7 weeks. I'll stop now before I wibble again. 

Today is VE Day, 75 years since victory in Europe, which feels a little hollow given the rhetoric we were subjected to prior to the pandemic. Both my grandfathers had very different wars. The paternal one, a rear gunner, shot down over Italy, interred in a PoW camp (Stalag IVb) and forced on the long march by the Russians, hated it, refused to talk about it and would have retreated, were he alive today, to his greenhouse to think quietly among the tomatoes. The maternal one, posted to India, had a fine old time racing around on motorbikes, developing a taste for hot curries that never left him and charming anything female in a 5 mile radius. He would have loved today, bunting and medals out, high tea and saluting the flag with a glass of his shockingly bad homemade wine. I miss them both.

I was awake a little before 6 this morning, so retreated to the spare room, what I call my "woman cave". I've always been an early waker but slow riser, so a room to retreat to where I can read, practise Spanish, draw, daydream and idle away a couple of hours without bothering anyone, or shivering on the sofa downstairs is a bliss I never thought I'd get to have. By 7.30, I was bored of being inside, so headed to the allotment to check on the plants and give them the watering I'd been too tired to last night. 

Oh my, the wisteria on a neighbour's allotment is a sight (and smell) to behold. Draping itself decadently over their shed like a 1940s screen siren, its fragrance whispering husky nothings to your nostrils, it's another kind of wonderful. 

On my plot, no shed but the happy sight of 3 rows of potato tops looking furry and contented above ground. 3 of the 4 squash plants are happy enough but the 4th is pulling a massive teenage sulk and suffering from snails as a result. The courgette plant - of the 10 seeds I planted, only 1 germinated which was more than a little frustrating - has 6 blooms about to burst open. It looked exuberant in the early morning sun. 

I'll be back there later with wine and cake as the plot holders are all having an appropriately distanced VE Day celebration. My best 1950s frock will be on and I'll remember a blanket to sit on this time. There will be no digging for once.   

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go look at the irises in the garden, which are just starting to unfurl themselves. Whatever you find yourself doing this weekend, enjoy. 

This week, I'm...reading Dear Francesca, watching This Country, listening to Childish Gambino's 3.15.20. 


  1. What a lovely post, and so nice to hear about your very different grandfathers. Your woman cave sounds rather divine, I am very envious. I hope you had a lovely VE celebration at the allotments, what a great idea. Have a good weekend.

    1. Thank you! We did have a lovely time and stumbled back along the tow path several hours later feeling quite merry!


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On the way home from the train the other day, I took a shortcut through the dripping allotment grounds, the grass and earth squelching under...