In terms of runs there weren’t any new routes this week, but what I did do was combine ‘old’ routes together and on Sunday ran 13km locally. Other than that I haven’t done a lot of mileage, but I did have my hair cut.
A few people haven’t noticed as they thought I just had my hair in a pony tail, but on the whole the feedback has been positive. Of course I can’t make it look half as good as the hairdresser did.
It was an interesting experience in some ways but not a surprising one. I had to fill in a form (for track and trace purposes) when I arrived, and use hand sanitiser. I managed to squirt a load of it over the form I’d just filled in. My poor hairdresser had a plastic visor thing over her face which was great for me as I didn’t need to wear a mask, but she was developing a headache. I had to put my coat in a plastic bag and apparently they were washing every gown worn at 60 degrees after each client. It wasn’t how things used to be, but it was nice to see her and it didn’t feel unduly stressful.
Whilst I’ve fitted in quite a few runs, work was also busy: I went to Carlisle Castle for some meetings on Tuesday, Newcastle to the office to pick up some stuff on Wednesday, and Carrawburgh Roman Fort about a grazing licence on Thursday. It was a reminder of how the hours speed away when you’re out on site a lot, and how you then get back in to a load of emails and paperwork to do (I have several reports I need to get out). It’s always good to get out though and it was nice to see real people again, rather than just meeting over Zoom.
On Saturday a small group of us had decided to go swimming in the hidden tarn that Penny and I had previously run to. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t brilliant – it was quite chilly and we all put wetsuits on (and felt cold even so) – but the tarn was beautifully clean, a perfect size for a good swim, and there were no other people on ‘our’ shore. Despite the greyness of the day we had a lovely swim, and the others were delighted with their ‘magical mystery tour’.
We had the obligatory picnic afterwards: all the more special because it was Jo’s birthday. I had made two cakes, which had to be carried up the hill to the Tarn: Lemon and Poppy seed (with a layer of lemon curd spread in the middle) and Cappuccino Squares (with coffee butter icing as well as coffee sponge, partly because I’d run out of vanilla). The chocolate ‘sprinkles’ on the top are lovely Hotel Chocolat hot chocolate, so not any old powdered chocolatey dust but real chocolate.
Otherwise I’ve been doing some singing and reading and am trying to watch some more of the plays on television, as I’ve missed a couple of weeks of the National Theatre at Home now – early on in lockdown that had been my special Thursday night ‘thing’.
I’m re-reading 1599, a book about that particular year in Shakespeare’s life. It’s as enthralling this time round as it was the first time I read it: it relates what was going on in England at that time to the plays which Shakespeare wrote during that year. The Globe theatre was being built: the main structure was taken down at dead of night from its location within the City of London to be established at Southwark, outside the remit of the City. Elizabeth I had decided to send troops to Ireland to quell the rebellious Irish. Led by her once-favourite, Robert Devereux Earl of Essex, it was a bit of a disaster: and the conflicting national feelings are reflected in both Henry V and Julius Caesar.
Reading this made me go away and look up what was on not only on the Globe’s YouTube channel but also the National Theatre’s: and discovered that the BBC iPlayer has ‘Culture in Quarantine’, including some of the Globe Shakespeare plays. I’ve just watched The Tempest and now have The Merchant of Venice, Othello and Midsummer Night’s Dream to catch up on – as well as the National Theatre’s The Deep Blue Sea. I don’t think I’ve had such a rich cultural life for years, if ever. As Jo said, I’ve begun to enjoy staying home in the evenings (though getting out for some exercise, fresh air and vitamin D every day is also a priority).
Meanwhile when Edward’s here we’ve started on another Horrible Histories book, this time Measly Middle Ages (I bought him a boxed set of all the particularly horrible Horrible Histories for Christmas). Reading about the plague of course initiates comparisons with the current pandemic: there were wild rumours about how it was caused (the medieval equivalent of 5G masts); about where it had come from (Arabs, the Spanish, lepers); and there were some wacky cures (powdered emeralds; sitting in a sewer – both probably no better nor worse than swallowing bleach). And somehow the fact that it was spread by fleas jumping off dead rats on to humans seems all too similar to a virus passing from animals to humans.
The other thing about the plague was that people of the time never knew exactly when it was going to go away nor when it was going to come back. We think we’re so much more clever nowadays – and I think it would be true to say that we have far more scientific knowledge – and yet we still seem to be floundering around trying to work out exactly where this virus came from, how it’s spread, and what (if anything) will stop it.
On that point, as I don’t really have anything else to write, I shall stop. This evening I had an extremely pleasant run to Lanercost (a fascinating site with a history which belies its current tranquillity: English and Scottish Kings made it their base or raided it; the Tudors ransacked it in the dissolution of the monasteries but allowed the locals to keep the nave as their church; a local wealthy family then converted part of it into their home) and back with Penny and Tim, the sun finally appearing in time to make it feel like a summer’s evening rather than an autumn one!