Posted in Cooking, Junk Shop Finds, Life and Family

Pretending to Follow a Pasta Recipe

This morning I found a pasta and peas recipe before I even got out of bed. On a whim I shared it to the family chat thread, and was stunned when my mother instantly replied that we could try it. I had thought she would object to the peas. She asked if it had sauce, and I said vegetable broth, though I could imagine using a stock cube. Would she prefer a white sauce? A mildly cheesy one, she said.

She adores cheese! You would not be able to part her from a nice sharp cheddar for all of the tea in China, though I don’t think parting people from their cheese is a good idea anyway, not in most cases.

“Is that ham in it?” she asked next, and I said pancetta… but we could use bacon or chicken if she prefers. You know, we can kid ourselves we’re making this dish, but it’s really going to be macaroni cheese with peas and a sprinkling of meat.

My sister arrived in time for coffee, carting a coat stand that I won at auction. It’s nice, if slightly rocky on its feet. It stood rather meaningfully on my toes when I was disinfecting it, so I guessed it was in a foul mood. I told it it was lucky to get a lift in my sister’s car because it would have been in an even worse mood if it had had to catch a bus by itself then walk to our house from the bus stop.

When I was dragging it upstairs, I discovered the entire top lifts off the pole. This discovery almost cost us the hall mirror, but fortunately the pole didn’t quite whack it… just flailed frighteningly about before steadying.

In the late afternoon, I ordered from the local supermarket. I said to my sister, “You’ll notice the only fruit I bought this time were bananas! They picked out terrible, languishing satsumas last time.” They don’t usually send bad fruit, but having been bitten once, it seems rational for me to be shy of being caught out a second time.

I ordered ingredients for the (hem hem) pasta and peas dish, including spring onions and the cheese in the recipe, Grana Padano. I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never heard of it, but now I want to know what it’s like. What’s the point of having a life if we don’t try new things? The recipe includes extra virgin oil — Mum hates olive oil and I’m not all that keen myself. Nevertheless I got a small bottle of olive oil that claims to be mild. We’ll see!

There were other things I bought out of curiosity, just like you might browse the supermarket shelves and pick up stuff you’ve never seen before. I couldn’t leave the bag of gnocci where I found it. “What IS this stuff??” (Adds it to trolley). Jalapeno pretzels? Want!

In recent blog posts I was writing about cold feet when blogging, and today another blogger said it’s natural — we all feel that way. It takes courage, but it’s nice that the world keeps turning and we keep hitting the ‘publish’ button.

Oh, I still think we’re crazy, especially in these hair-trigger times, but I love that thought anyway.

Earlier I’d put my beautiful new coat stand at the back of the computer room upstairs, so naturally went to say goodnight before retiring. It sneered about the untidiness of the room and said it wasn’t terribly homely. I told it it will feel better when the morning sun is pouring through the windows. It might even have the odd pigeon peering in to say hello.

I know… but a little friendly humour in life goes a long way. 🙂

Posted in Life and Family, My Cats

Experiment: Boring a Friend

When I was in Facebook yesterday, I came across an article by Michael Thompson (linked to by Gretchen Rubin) about deepening your connections with friends or family. The suggestion was to write ‘2-minute boring emails’ every day to each other about what you’ve been doing. You start to feel you know each other better and can have better conversations. I expect this is a particularly good idea in the middle of a lockdown! I don’t think it works so well if it’s just one person plugging away — probably better if two or more people like this idea and write to each other. Maybe it’s a case of starting somewhere and seeing what happens! I’m giving it a go.

Monday 19 October 2020

Dear Honey

Hope you enjoyed your weekend. I didn’t realize yesterday it was the weekend; I thought it was the middle of the week!

I keep meaning to change the alarm on my watch because it wakes me too early. If I hadn’t been writing this email, I would have forgotten yet again. Of all the alarms I’ve ever tried, this watch is the best because it buzzes on my wrist. It’s quite a gentle way of waking up.

I nearly forgot to put the bin out the front, but remembered when Mum put her wastepaper basket outside her bedroom door when she went for a snooze. I always see it when I’m in the middle of doing other things because of passing the door at the time… vexing. Every week I check which colour of bin the neighbours put on the street, but they are getting later and later (probably waiting to see what *we* put out) and I’ve forgotten to put ANY bin out a couple of times because I waited so long that I forgot. Today I just looked it up on the council site.

Nothing interesting on TV. Supper was chicken pie with mash, Brussels sprouts and chicken gravy. I ran out of potatoes so used frozen mash. I’ve never made it before so didn’t use enough, and told Mum just to eat the lot, as I had roasted a couple of parsnip sticks for myself. I asked if the mash tasted all right, and she said yes.

I got meat balls out of the freezer then put them back in again when I realized we were out of cheddar cheese. I don’t think I’ve been shopping wisely, lately…

The Little Witness isn’t speaking to the old cat. Mum asked why, and I said it’s because he was over there talking to her last night, and she sneezed in his face. Mum laughed heartily, but I don’t think he will forget in a hurry. Old cat was sleeping till I mentioned her name. She lifted her head and blinked blearily at me, as though to say, “What what?” I don’t think she understands that sneezing all over people isn’t quite the thing. Tonight she abruptly rose out of her sleep and sneezed when I was having supper.

It was raining heavily when we went to bed, but I didn’t realize that till I was closing the curtains in my room. It poured down the windows and gleamed on the black tarmac in the lamplight. I love heavy rain, especially at night, but if I’m going somewhere I don’t want to go, heavy rain is a lot less welcome. Fortunately that’s not the case right now.

Mum knows when it’s raining because she can hear it even with the curtains closed, but I never know till I look outside and see it. I usually feel surprised, happy and disgruntled, as though I missed the start of a film I like that I didn’t know was going to be on. I even feel annoyed with Mum for not telling me, though I know that’s ridiculous.

I stopped using so many exclamation marks because of Mineral grumbling about them when we were at university. I never got over it, and now I have Exclamation Mark Phobia. Sometimes I think it makes my writing a bit hard or morose when I don’t mean it that way. He has a lot to answer for.

Time to sleep now.

Love, Delilah xxx

Posted in Life and Family, Political and Social Issues, Rants

Soapy Satsumas

I wash groceries ordered from the local supermarket but don’t know why I bothered soaping these satsumas. These are the type everyone would leave on the shelf if they were in the store and saw them. Green, yellow, bruised and yet not old. I don’t blame the supermarket itself for sending us these, but the individuals who picked them out showed serious lack of judgement. I tried one and it tasted as pale as it looked — had to be discarded. Mum shrugged and said it’s the risk we take.

Another thing that annoys me is the charge for the plastic bags used by the supermarket for our deliveries. There’s no option other than to find another outlet that doesn’t use plastic bags when delivering to us. I thought the main point of this type of tax was to put people off obtaining plastic bags, not to gouge those who aren’t given another option… a captive clientele.

I sound in a worse mood than I actually am but when I got into writing this my irritation resurfaced! Actually, it’s a bit worse than irritation, more like fury.

Today was very rainy but we had coffee in the garden… in the new gazebo Mum bought. One of the cats sat in there with us while the clouds burst all around. A neighbour dripped up his driveway and didn’t see us, though I waved through the gazebo window. He had no idea we were there.

The whole thing is surreal. In normal times we wouldn’t have thought of buying a tent and sitting in our garden in the rain, but the cat seemed to think it was a fine idea, if a bit weird.

Haven’t been in a shop since early March, with the single exception of a garden centre. Am starting to remember certain places very close to us as though they were in my distant past. I look at the cash in my bag and worry that it might be out of date and unusable now. I don’t like paying by card as I can never remember the code, and I don’t like shopping online in case of fraud… if this becomes a cashless society, that will be a nightmare.

I don’t know, is there anything else to talk about other than the current situation? Even the peely-wally satsumas are connected.

Another blogger was recently writing about being unable to focus on anything, even his books. In the comments someone said many people are feeling this ‘malaise’, and I thought “that’s exactly the right word! Malaise!”

It’s more than cabin fever; it’s frustration with everything that’s wrong while impacting us a lot. You start to wonder if anything is worth doing any more.

Posted in Life and Family, My Cats, Teddy Bears

The Little Witness Has a Bad Night

The trouble with the Little Witness is that everyone believes in him. I know that isn’t a bad thing when it comes to witnesses, but I really meant ‘believe in’ rather than ‘believe’, like you might ‘believe in’ ghosts. You don’t have to believe every word that issues through a ghost’s pale lips, or the Little Witness’s either, though he’s a decent soul who would only tell the kind of lies that spare people’s feelings, such as “Delilah, you look as fresh as a daisy in that face covering.”

The thing is, you can’t help believing there’s really somebody there and he’s not just a fake stuffed pig staring blankly at the ceiling. It’s not just me… everybody talks to him, and not just humans. All our cats hug him or stare into his eyes and, if nervous or in a bad mood, might hiss, fluff up, and give him a slap upside the head. My mother’s ancient cat loves him. She loves teddy bears of all descriptions anyway, including a massive ‘wolf’ we had for a while, but whenever she sees the Little Witness, she smiles and purrs, and jumps up to give him a smeary kiss on his nose.

Most of the time he’s a calming influence to everybody whether human or feline, but tonight he had a traumatic experience with a bluebottle. It came and sat on his head and wouldn’t fly away. I’m not sure I can blame it, but it thoroughly spooked him. Mum came and killed the fly because I wouldn’t, then at bedtime gave him a polar bear she had got from somewhere. She didn’t want to retire to her slumbers thinking he was upset with her.

There are plenty of things in the world to stress over and get upset about but we have made ourselves a little extra one.

Posted in Books, Life and Family

Of Books, Brachets and Friendships Gone Bad

30 Sept 2020

Finished Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones) and began The Once and Future King (T.H. White).

I like Diana Wynne Jones books. I haven’t read Howl’s Moving Castle before, but loved the Studio Ghibli animation when it came on TV some years ago. The book was entertaining too, and cozy. I liked the idea of hiding away in that castle, but wondered if the different doorways made it easier to assault than if it had only been accessible from one town.

I read The Once and Future King when still at school. It was enjoyable at first, then I started to struggle, so I don’t remember much about it. I bought it for Kindle when it came up as an Amazon deal, and now I’m reading it again, feeling amazingly happy. It reminds me of the old days when life was simple, by which I mean as a teenager I could sit and read while Mum slaved away in the kitchen — now it’s the other way around, heh. Anyway, I always had a special affection for The Sword in the Stone.

I’m just a few pages in, and already I’ve run into a shower of words I don’t know, most connected with falconry, though I doubt if it will stop there. The Wart is lost in a scary medieval forest at night, but has met a beautiful knight and his brachet. I knew what the brachet was before the Wart went behind a tree to look at it, but I’m not sure where I read the word before. In this same book, maybe, but there are other suspects such as the Dorothy Dunnett books.

I should be sleeping but am wide awake because at teatime I dropped off when the Coronavirus Update was in full swing. Woke and found myself firmly gripping a full mug of tea with one hand clamped over the top. Was enjoying the heat of it tucked against my ribs, but now it was cold. Just lucky I didn’t spill it everywhere while dozing!

Looked at the reporters who were asking questions of the Prime Minister and his advisers and wondered if they ever smiled. Mum turns the sound off when they come on… she used to listen, but quickly tired of them. In fact, they send her blood pressure up so she has to turn them off to calm down.

As I was saying, I should be sleeping now but instead am writing a diary entry cum blog post on my phone using a bluetooth keyboard. I love the keyboard because it makes me feel more in control. I can type at the speed of thought (!) and can go the extra mile. Dabbing things in via the phone’s virtual keyboard is so slow and difficult that I wilt at the idea of writing more than I have to.

My reading lamp’s bright LED lightbulb went phut a few nights ago so the room is pretty dim. There’s a funny little lamp that changes colour from pink through orange, green, blue, pink. It’s soothing, and last night I left it on when I went to sleep.

The phone app confuses me… I accidentally scribbled over my text and don’t know how to erase the marks. Shouldn’t have been possible! Why should anyone want or need to do that? Good grief.

I picked up my iPad a few minutes ago and found an email from a friend. She says she’s in a book club and they talk to each other in a chat app of some description. I wonder what books they have been reading? Maybe I could join one too, though it could be annoying if I’m in the mood to read The Once and Future King when they want me to read something else. I was in an informal book club years ago but it fell apart before we ever discussed anything because the leader began hissing like a steam kettle at another member for recommending light novels and romances. I read a couple anyway, as I reckoned if the other ladies liked them enough to recommend them, they could be worth trying. I can’t remember — don’t think they were my cup of tea but they weren’t awful.

I recommended Beverley Nichols’ garden books, especially Merry Hall. One of the members said she tried to get them at their library and they didn’t have them but they ordered them for her. The books were a success with her, so there was *that* positive outcome at least, before our wee book club drew its last gasping breath.

I was wondering why people fall out with each other. My family might get annoyed with each other at times, but we don’t start hating each other or trying to end relations. I wonder what are the factors that cause things to go bad when they don’t have to?

Perhaps someone starts bearing grudges and keeps putting the boot in, using a nasty tone while pretending it’s just humour, and in the end it’s more than flesh and blood can stand. Once I asked Mum if there were good reasons for ending friendships… I was still friends with A at the time so you can see my thoughts were already trending that way several years ago. She said the only reason you could possibly have for ending a friendship is boredom! Much later, A said something hurtful when I was trying to cheer her in a dark moment. Mum advised me not to object because I’d only sound huffy — but I think now that I should have stopped right there. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family, Political and Social Issues

Coffee in a Social Bubble

Was thinking about the Scottish Government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. I wondered if I was imagining things that we were closely shadowing the UK government’s moves but then going further in every instance… tighter regulations for longer. Just after I was thinking this, the UK Government brought in a new rule that pubs (in England) should close at 10 p.m. Meanwhile in Scotland we have that new rule too, but in addition there is to be no further mingling of private households, though there is a ‘rule of six’ which means we can meet friends from only one other household outdoors or in indoors public spaces (like restaurants). Extended households can continue to mingle indoors, but I have a feeling there are going to be arguments on the ground about what counts as an extended household.

People living alone (or alone with children) or who need care can be part of an extended household with another person or group — their ‘social bubble’. As far as I’m aware, that doesn’t change.

We watched the speeches on TV.

“And though it doesn’t feel like it now,” said Nicola Sturgeon (Scotland’s First Minister), “this virrrus will pass. It won’t last furrever, and one day, hopefully soon, we will be looking back on it, not living through it.”

I’m pretty sure that’s what she said in the speech as I had a fit of the giggles, so when I went to check it just now, was confused to find a slightly different version in other sources. “This pandemic will pass,” they quoted. No, I’m sure she said ‘virus’. The TV captioning said ‘virus’. I’m not sure what happened there.

In the summer it wasn’t hard to have coffee in the garden, but this is a cold country now heading towards winter. The weather is often grey and rainy. Sunny blue-sky days are becoming rarer, though with brisk, soaring autumnal breezes. The whole town has been contemplating coffee in the garden while dark gold leaves fall around and aroma of mushroom rises from the dewy grass. Later still we could have coffee (and muttered conversations about the worse-than-useless local council) in rain and snow. I said I wondered if we could set up a shelter of some kind, though not a tent, as I figured that would defeat the purpose of sitting outside in the slightly-too-fresh air. It turned out that Mum and my sister had already been discussing it — maybe tarpaulin or something draped over a trellis as a makeshift roof? Apparently the local ladies have all had the same idea and are snapping up gazebos, garden tents and chimineas. Doubtless when we shuffle up looking for ours, the shelves will be bare.

“Toady town ladies,” I grumbled. “Oh wait! We’re town ladies too.”

I said lots of us will be wishing we had verandahs in this country, and Mum said verandahs are cold places. At least a verandah would be shelter from the rain, I said. We would need duvets to keep us warm, said Mum, and my sister said she had old duvets we could use.

In the cold weather coming up we could be sitting outdoors wrapped in these duvets, possibly under some kind of trellis roof (if we’re lucky). The cats will absolutely love that. I suggested history books of the future will say, “…and it was then that people started spending a lot more time outdoors.” All for the sake of continued chat and coffee.

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, Poetry and Verse

We Need Our Old Letters

I used to think of letter-writing as a creative endeavour and always looked forwards to it. I wrote things in different ways depending on my mood. I assumed most people I talked to read similar books, so it threw me once when I wrote a true short story involving my cats as though it was a section from the bible, and the penpal wrote back to say she didn’t understand it, and what was it about? She was too polite to say, “What IS all this nonsense??” but was probably thinking it. I can’t remember what my response was, but was perplexed at the time — how could she not get the literary reference?

Now I’m less creative, probably because I feel less chatty. There’s no point spinning a yarn when you’re no longer sure it’s of interest. I know there are people who understand that — how you begin life playfully writing a lot to people, then one day look round and realize you don’t any more.

It can’t just be about other people; it’s also about a changing perspective. Sometimes you reread something you wrote years ago and think, “What IS all this? Did I really think that??” and it makes you wary of similar nonsense you might be committing to paper right now.

On the other hand, I’ve written about things that I can’t fully remember any more, so if I look through old scribblings and find these accounts, I will be happy. Last night I was trying to remember something specific that happened, then said to myself “Oh, it’s OK, I wrote about it!” — but now I can’t remember what I was trying to remember.

That reminds me; a few days ago when having coffee with Mum and sister, I said “What would it be like to remember absolutely everything?” I can’t even remember what put that question into my mind, but sometimes I look back with the help of a paper trail of sorts and can’t make sense of the things I was doing, though I know there must have been good reason for certain decisions. I wasn’t making mistakes per se — just doing something different from usual, like an antelope twisting in the air when leaping. Nevertheless, what if we could remember absolutely everything… every letter, every word, every comma? The longer we lived, the more there would be to remember, but what if we could remember it all anyway, and look back over past sequences of events with clear-eyed confidence?

My mother said that would be absolutely awful! Who wants to remember everything? Then she started talking about one of her friends, saying she has an amazing memory. She remembers meals in perfect detail, long after everyone else has forgotten what they had. So my sister asked what I had for supper last night, and I said it was stuffed crust pizza, and I ordered it from the supermarket because it was half-price. Anyway, it’s easy to remember what you had for supper the night before!

Now an old poem has come to mind but of course I only vaguely remember how it started, though it was one of those things you’ve read over and over in a childhood book. “I remember, I remember the house where I was born.”

That’s amazing, when you think about it — how many people must have been able to say “I was born in that house!” but nowadays it’s rare. Most people are born in hospital, which is pretty dreary. Whoever wrote or was the narrator of that poem was from a time long gone, and I feel both awed and sad.

After a few minutes searching online — turns out it was by a Thomas Hood, and the poem itself can be found on the Poetry Foundation site.

Oh, I remember a swing too. It was in our garden, and I used to swing really high – what a rush! Mum said the swing was broken one time and I forgot and went on it before anyone could get to it to repair it, and it was fortunate I didn’t have an accident. That swing was the sort of thing I might tell people about, and especially about the army ants that took up beside the swing one time and jumped on me… but I got put off when one day somebody answering my chatty email said “you talk a lot about your childhood, don’t you?” I didn’t realize till then that it wasn’t considered normal. However, now I’m glad I did, because I’ve forgotten an awful lot of it, so it would be nice to have that little glimmer of light into the past.

The other day I was writing a business communication about something, and Mum took a look at my draft email and said, “Be chatty! Sometimes you can be a little terse.” I was taken aback. If anyone was the king of terse correspondence, it was my father, and my mother isn’t too far behind him in that regard, but I was always inclined to chat a little bit, and finish off with ‘Thanks and best wishes’ rather than something shorter and colder like ‘Yours’. I didn’t think what I wrote was terse in the least, especially as the individual I was writing to is one of the dustiest, most dour people I’ve ever had the pleasure to communicate with… so it was comical to be lectured on how I wasn’t chatty enough.

Anyway, that’s enough rambling for tonight… time to sleep. 🙂

Posted in Christmas and New Year, Life and Family, My Cats, Notepad Conversations

Feeling Our Oats in Partial Lockdown

My iPad takes me straight to the last email I received from the family friend who died. It’s not my most recent email, but the iPad is old and glitchy and jumps to old emails halfway down the list. There’s nothing unusual about the email itself, but it makes me sad every time. I keep thinking she’s still out there and we will see her soon.

I was on a chat thread to my sister and mother this evening:

Me: “I feel like having a peaceful Christmas rather than a frantic one.”

Mum: “Are we having one?”

Sister: “Did we have one last year?”

Mum: “Yes”

Me: “Of course. I went mad cleaning and putting plastic hooks on the bannisters. Each one demanded to be pressed on for a minute before moving on, then we had to leave them a while before hanging the lights. Then on Christmas Day I could barely keep my eyes open.”

Mum: “At least they are mostly still there”

Sister: “I think the idea is not to do everything last minute. Ha.”

Me: “Are you writing your letter to Santa now, then?”

Sister: “Still summer.”

Mum: “Give Santa time to write back and say sorry out of stock”

Sister: “Maybe we will all be locked down”

Mum: “Glasgow now”

Sister: “Yes”

Mum: “Goodnight.”

END OF CHAT

I suppose there won’t be crowds in rainy streets to contend with this Christmas, lockdown or no.

Was thinking how I had thoughts and reactions to each bit of the chat but voiced none of them. “I remember watching various things on Christmas Day — there was a Finding Nemo sequel that I thought was awful, though I loved the octopus. There was an animation about a snail and a whale who went on a trip together — I loved it but Mum was bored by it. I ordered things from China in December and they didn’t arrive till early January — a frog brooch, a nightie with a tropical design, gold organza gift bags (for the frog brooch) and an unusually pretty blue scarf. And whadya mean the hooks are mostly still there? I thought they were all still there! Don’t tell me some dropped off? Still summer? Not here… it’s dark, cold and rainy. The autumn winds are blowing and I’m thinking about Halloween. Hey, that’s funny — even Santa will have trouble sourcing goods. He’ll go through the catalogues and everything will be greyed out like on the supermarket website.”

We order food from the supermarket and my sister collects it, but last time when I was looking through our favourite items, a large number were out of stock. Scott’s Porage Oats; Green Giant tinned sweetcorn; shredded duck pancakes; croissants; Tiramasu dessert; cream-filled doughnuts; Tunnock’s caramel wafers; Mum’s favourite bottled water; the better varieties of tinned fruit. I messaged my sister and said, “There isn’t another rush on supplies, is there??”

“Not that I’m aware of,” she replied.

There better not be. Some of those are near impossible to get anyway, but I got worried at the oats and water disappearing. Perhaps people are starting to stock up for Christmas… certainly can’t do this at the last minute this year. My sister found the oats somewhere else, though, so all is fine. It’s just that supermarket that had sold out.

It wouldn’t surprise me if we were the ones buying most of it! Mum has porridge every morning, and it has to be Scott’s Porage Oats. I bought different ones once and she wouldn’t finish them… I had to.

A cat deprived us of our supper last night. It was macaroni cheese and he licked it when we weren’t looking. He didn’t even eat it up, snip snap — Mum said we wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t seen him do it! Tonight we had ham hock gratin, which I covered with an upturned dish. The cat used to think our food was awful and wouldn’t touch broiled fish or roasted chicken, but his taste buds have matured with the years. Next he’ll be helping himself to Mum’s Scott’s Porage Oats. Though perhaps that’s why we get through it so quickly…

Time to sleep.

Posted in Life and Family, Notepad Conversations

Keeping Track

We sat outside today — nice and sunny. It’s strange how the great outdoors has a cheering effect on a person — must be all that Vitamin D streaming down. My sister has been hard at work getting the garden neat and tidy, whereas I tend to do the indoor chores. I told Mum one of the things that drives me nuts is putting a thousand-and-one bits of cutlery into the dishwasher, then putting them all away again when they’re clean. She said it used to drive her bats as well. It helps to leave the cutlery basket out and put cutlery straight in while waiting for the dishwasher to fill up, but then everything collects again on plates and in dishes when the dishwasher is running, so it’s not something we can do all the time. Maybe I can get a spare cutlery basket from somewhere and exhort people to put their own cutlery in.

Just when everybody was saying lockdown would be a great time to start keeping a diary, I stopped writing mine. I’m not a consistent blogger either but could try to combine the two for a while. I’d like to write a little every other day.

I was saying in my last blog post how we haven’t been out, but when people from another household were allowed to visit if they kept their distance and preferably if we sat outside, we had a friend over for coffee in the garden — not today; a little while ago. Like the one who died, she took us out for coffee sometimes before the lockdown, and wrote conversations with me. I enjoyed these because we have similar political views and she has a good sense of humour. I had a notepad with me at the patio table but mostly kept quiet and let them talk. Joyce wrote a note to say they were talking about how easy it is to lose track of the days during lockdown. I sat and thought about this for a while, then wrote that if Death in Paradise wasn’t on TV, it was probably Saturday. She smiled and went on talking with Mum, and after a while I wrote on the pad that if there was a bucketload of Columbo on television, it was more likely to be Sunday. We smiled, then laughed a little, then disintegrated and laughed a lot. I didn’t intend it to be that funny, but we got a little hysterical. Probably anything would seem amusing when we finally got company!

Sometimes I worry I live too much in my own head — for instance, if there is a group of people online and a few people talk while others read and remain silent, you think maybe everyone agrees with those who are speaking. You think if they didn’t agree, they would say so. I don’t think that is true, though, and we have to keep alternative realities in our heads as we go along. Perhaps the people speaking are the only ones who think something while everybody else is just ignoring it and letting things pan out. I found myself wondering about this in the empire-building game today. A few people were being quite outspoken about how things should be arranged in the group. I thought the leaders might object, but they said very little. One person left without a word, but I suspect he was planning to go somewhere else anyway. Did he leave because of what the other people said, or did it have nothing to do with it? Lacking any kind of feedback, we can’t make assumptions, but I have a bad habit of constructing narratives of what might be going on. Perhaps we can’t help but do that in trying to make sense of our world, but we stumble through the fog and make wrong turnings.

I used to wonder why people would listen to things they didn’t agree with and say nothing whatsoever, but one of the reasons could be that they wish to avoid it turning into a slanging match. Debate rarely seems to work and people never change their minds — at least not when others are looking! Actually, I’d be wrong — people do change their minds, but only if they find new information that they trust.

The game developers brought in a new feature that was unpopular. The very first day it appeared, I called it a hamster wheel, saying it was too much work to be fun. One of the group leaders sounded a bit cold, saying more advanced players needed something extra to do, and the feature was optional — we didn’t have to do it if we didn’t want to. I had to acknowledge that was true, though secretly I was disappointed by the unfriendly response. I kept quiet for several days, then suddenly the same person accepted a bunch of my trades. He’s been a bit absent and hasn’t been playing the game much, so I wasn’t expecting it — wondered if it was an olive branch. I don’t know. I’m probably guilty again of sketching out a narrative that isn’t true! Maybe we all do, all the time. Maybe he didn’t mean to sound cold just as I didn’t mean to sound grumpy, and maybe he needed these goods for something.

It’s just a game anyway; I don’t take it that seriously. It just interests me how it shadows real life, causing me to think about human interactions.

Time to sleep.

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought

The Year That Never Was

Summer has gone, more or less. It’s raining a lot and cold winds are beginning to blow. A Hercule Poirot drama about a Halloween Party was on television this afternoon. It felt right for all sorts of reasons. At the end he said something about Halloween being a time to light the candles for the departed, and I liked that. We make it into a horror event, but perhaps it’s more about peaceful contemplation and acknowledgement of all those who have gone before.

I have barely been out since lockdown hit, and it’s hard to believe the year is nearly through. So much happened globally, yet so much has not happened at all. My mother said she sometimes forgets about Covid-19 and all the restrictions, and it takes an effort to remember. I find the same, but at the same time we have been so locked away that it’s been a year of almost complete blankness… that’s not normal. It’s as though everybody we knew died long ago and are now just existing in our memories.

When somebody does die, the lockdown makes it worse. A friend used to take us out for coffee. We talked about how we would all go out for coffee again when the lockdown was over. I got emails from her, offers to shop for groceries, even flowers for my birthday, but haven’t seen her in person since January or February. Suddenly she’s gone — died during the night. She was one of Mum’s friends, around the same age, but would write me conversations when we were out — very sweet, bright and cheerful. I feel a real sense of loss. It complicates it that we were going to meet again when life started to get back to normal, and I looked forward to it, but now that coffee will never be.

I didn’t even realize how much I looked forward to it till it was gone… you just take it for granted it will happen, the same way you assume you will be getting up the next morning.

I asked Mum why Anne was so kind to so many, and she said maybe it’s because she’s a writer; used to be a journalist and is curious about people. Many will miss her.

Recently I’ve been playing an empire-building game online. Despite my determination to play my own game and keep to myself, I find myself increasingly drawn in to the community there. Somebody I never spoke to but who was part of our group suddenly announced today that he had gone so far in the game that there was nothing left that was new or fun, and he couldn’t do it any more. He was henceforth leaving, but he bade us all a kind farewell and hoped we would all continue to play and enjoy the game.

Nobody said anything in the public threads, and just carried on with normal business, which was reassuring… a form of ‘life goes on’. I looked at this name and that, thinking “I’m glad X, Y and Z are still here!” It really felt as though he had thrown himself off a cliff (which of course he hadn’t… he just went back to normal life and found something else to do and people in his own environment to talk to).

As the day went on, I grew more and more gloomy, thinking about Anne, my father, grandparents and others who have gone. It’s as though the game player’s departure had triggered those thoughts, which is apt, as his username is Trigger… what else?? I went to look at his city to make sure he hadn’t deleted it outright, but it’s still there. I don’t know this person but don’t like being left by anybody… life is cold enough. The more people who leave for whatever reason, the worse the world seems. Is that normal, though? It’s the normal state of being, isn’t it? We can’t all be there for everyone forever.

I feel distant from everything — from my past, my old hobbies, from people and from everything that used to matter. It’s struck me that big families are important. You need to have a big, supportive family who know you very well, preferably not living halfway across the world from you. I know this is an ideal scenario and some people might feel their families are not that supportive or kind, but life isn’t perfect and it’s still the ideal.

I find it difficult to write on my blog because I get cold feet even when I’ve written something I was happy with. Sometimes it’s difficult because I re-read things and wonder “why do I always sound morose?” or “I sound more angry there than I actually felt”… which is bad writing, perhaps. I wrote a post about books I was reading, then couldn’t bring myself to publish it, but that was because of recent political events.

I said a few paragraphs back that I feel distant from everything that used to mean anything to me, so perhaps it says something that I still blog now and then. My blog is a big part of my life despite the multiple cold feet I grow here. 🙂

For several days the song in my head has been Son of My Father. I used to play the song a lot as a schoolgirl, so it’s a link to a time when life seemed straightforward.

When I was younger, anything dramatic seemed wonderful or unusual. Life was ordinary and nothing spectacular happened to anyone, so if anything happened in my life that seemed like it was out of a book or a film, I had to tell everyone about it. Now it seems entirely the other way, and nothing is worthy of note, least of all my own thoughts. What was light and normal with rare notes of dark and drama is now chaos and darkness with brief flashes of light. That’s how it’s always been, but I didn’t have enough experience to see it.

Thank goodness for Poirot with his ‘light the candles’… We can take that thought with us into the dark, and yes — I will light mine.