At the beginning of this week I’m still struggling with sadness, and waking up in the morning feeling purposeless. My biggest worry is not in fact coronavirus but the future of the planet – we have an incredible opportunity to make something better of our world at the moment (and to pull together more than ever), but instead some people are becoming more isolation-ist, on all sorts of levels, and I’m not sure that the improvements to the environment will continue. On a global level it is, as usual, the really poor who will suffer – the refugees and the crowded shanty towns – and I just don’t know what to do about them.
Making cake sounds superficial in comparison, but allowing my creative baker some rein – now I have flour, yeast, etc. – makes me feel that at least I’m doing something that’s a very small treat for people. It’s nothing in the overall scheme of things but for me there’s something therapeutic about cooking (funnily enough I have just been asked to quote for catering for a hen party in August – I wonder if it will actually happen…).
‘On order’ are Rum Babas (bouchon) for Clare and Colin, a chive and cheese loaf for Clare’s Dad, and another St Clement’s drizzle cake.
I also got out on my bike today. After 3 days of not doing any exercise and not spending long in the open air, it confirmed my belief (and the scientific research) that one of the best things for people is to be outside and exercising. What with the bike ride and then delivering the cake to Jo and Jerry, my mood has been quite restored.
Saturday 16th May
Sometimes I just need to speak to people, and to stop analysing and worrying about whether or not I’m a good mother. Kids can be rotten: and whilst mine don’t seem anxious at all at the moment, they are out of their usual routine and (like me; like us all) not able to see their friends and family. Not only have I been outside exercising, but I’ve also had a socially-distanced walk with my lovely friend and neighbour Laura today, and that was also uplifting. We came across an enormous bank of wild garlic – unfortunately I didn’t have a bag to collect any but I think there will be lots in Gelt Woods for a week or so yet.
I’m going to write elsewhere about yesterday’s 8-mile (13km) sight-seeing run along Hadrian’s Wall but in the meantime the Rum Babas/bouchon are soaking in rum syrup and the cheese and chive bread rolls have been delivered (after I’d tested one just to make sure they were OK). I now have more orders for another St Clement’s Drizzle cake, and am going to make Drunken Raisin ice cream and oatcakes for a friend. Very satisfying.
Pub quizzes and chats
You know how it is when you chat to people: you realise that actually you’re not alone in your thoughts and there are plenty of other people out there thinking along similar lines.
Chatting to my friend Kath on Thursday evening she said “I don’t want to go back to how we were before: I don’t need shops and all this overwhelming stuff”. It reminded me of walking through a store in Bristol around Christmas one year in my pre-children adulthood and feeling swamped by Stuff; it reminds me of shopping in Oxford St. and not being able to find what I wanted because there was too much choice. And, like Kath, I haven’t missed shops: my type of shopping tends to be when I have a specific list and I zip around trying to find exactly what I want before then dashing away again. I don’t particularly enjoy window shopping, and although I like to be able to see some clothes and books in a shop rather than online – and shoes need to be tried on – I do order things online and I enjoy waiting for the postman to arrive.
Having had a chat with Kath I then tried out an online pub quiz in aid of Alzheimer’s Research. I felt quite emotional as the amount being raised went up and up, matched by thousands by a wealth management company; but I also felt sad that charities such as Alzheimer’s (and Cumbria Mountain Rescue, which I have just donated to as well) are having to furlough staff and are struggling financially. It made me think that charities which deal with human life and death are perhaps far more important to society than those which are heritage-based. Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud to work for English Heritage and I absolutely adore (most) old buildings, and love the stories they tell – but at the end of the day, whilst our heritage is important (and an integral part of who we are), struggling human life is more important. On the other hand I also feel that the National Trust and similar ‘landscape’ charities are important from an environmental point of view.
I’ve struggled this week, in my glass-half-empty-this-week mindset, to see how on earth humans will ever change or make the world a better place. We need more kindness, more calmness; less greed and less speed and pressure; but as soon as lockdown was even slightly lifted we were all back in our cars and there was footage of people commuting to work as if life hadn’t changed in the slightest. Easy for me to be critical from rural Cumbria, however.
I will know by Friday 22nd whether I’m being furloughed for longer – potentially until October. Meanwhile a bunch of us from work, all furloughed, met up over Zoom: we’re feeling guilty that we’re being paid to have a lazy time but also finding it hard not to be involved in making things happen and in decision-making.
Whatever happens, I’ve decided I really need to get my ‘glass-half-full’ head back on and enjoy myself. If I’m furloughed for even longer I’ll definitely be ready to do a triathlon to celebrate my 60th birthday – if not before.