It’s quite an odd thought that a blog about walking and trekking comes to you from the boudoir this week for I am in bed feeling a bit tired, but without a cough or a temperature so there’s no need to panic. Pip and I attempted to put out a blog on a Wednesday and a Saturday giving, you, dear readers a double dose of cynical joy. However, we realised it was too much like hard work and anyway not many people read the Wednesday one, so you’re now back to once a week. Some people would be delighted to get it once a week, but that’s an entirely different story.
How I imagined my enforced self isolation might look
Then there’s the reality.....
We’re all in a state of new normal now. From the eye-popping experience of seeing a complete stranger‘s Lulu Lemon clad midriff during a live streaming of yoga to Ever Patient Husband’s sudden desire to ‘help’ in the kitchen, I’m adapting rapidly to this new state of being.
Our usual yoga instructor was away doing something else so the substitute lady took an eager bunch of women of a certain age, plus token bloke through their Ashtanga paces one Saturday morning. Quite out of the blue, the sound went and the eager, yet invisible audience could no longer hear soothing tones inviting us to breathe, but were treated instead to a full frontal view of cornflower blue stretchy top and leggings from the arse to the bosom of a complete stranger.
A flurry of desperate messages were sent through the chat function urging this poor unfortunate woman to check the bottom left of her screen to switch her own video off. She had not seen the messages and spent the next five minutes fiddling with her computer as we all got an eyeful of her ample cleavage as though we had found ourselves in an IMAX experience of breasts.
I refrained from messaging her and watched with interest as the other participants became more and more frantic. I was waiting for her to break wind to complete the farce. Sadly, this did not happen and we were returned to our substitute yoga instructor who was oblivious to the entire episode and had carried on merrily without us.
The Zen calm I seek from my yoga practice was sadly lacking that day, which was a shame because it was the day Ever Patient Husband had decided to ‘help’ in the kitchen. After twelve fucking years of cooking for five, sometimes, six (ex-boyfriend of eldest often stayed with us for long periods of time) people at least four nights a week, I often get heartily sick and tired of preparing the family meal. Things improved when the two eldest left home and we employed the services of Hello Fresh because we only had to sell half a kidney to feed three, instead of a whole one. It really is very expensive. It also gave me a break from cooking because Youngest Daughter delighted in the fact she could cook the evening meal and follow the instructions all by herself.
I blame Jamie fucking Oliver. He’s a nice family man who likes to think he’s down with the kids, even though he’s now middle aged and ought to be investing in beige slacks. There he was cheerily appearing on our TV screens very helpfully telling us all to ‘Keep Calm and Carry On Cooking’ - some of us Jamie, never twatting stopped cooking. Even as I watched Jamie throw his ‘put whatever meat you want into it or beans if you’re a veggie’ hotpot together I was crying inside for I knew what was coming next.
”That looks good doesn’t it?” Piped up Ever Patient Husband.
If I don‘t answer, I thought, he might just forget the hot pot and continue to not notice I’m here.
”Look Bec! Look how good that looks.”
My thought went ‘fuck off, I’ve been making shit like that for over a decade and now fucking Jamie wanking Oliver is making it, you suddenly think it looks delicious’ but the actual words out of my mouth went “Yes dear, it does.”
”Why don‘t we make that?” Came the inevitable question.
Where do I begin with that sentence? Let’s start with what he actually meant, which was, “why don’t YOU make that just like Jamie has all delicious and golden and yummy.” I am wise to his ways and retorted with,
”What a good idea, YOU could make that because I bet the recipe is online.” And followed that with the voice in my head saying, “even you dear, with the culinary ability of a toadstool could manage that.”
Silence. Ever Patient Husband hadn’t ever in his entire life planned for such an event and clearly needed time to process this novel idea of actually cooking a meal (BBQ’s DO NOT COUNT AS FAMILY MEALS).
I left an appropriately polite gap in time so as not to appear huffy in any way before I left the room and went to play Jane’s Journey on my phone (the only game I’ve ever played on a computer except Scrabble and in the very early days, solitaire).
Jamie Oliver now firmly back in his box and removed from sight, our life in lockdown continued with the minor irritations, large gardening projects and me working all day and then cooking.
Sunday arrived and we had a roast dinner. Nothing strange or unusual about that you might say, but EPH had an idea. He’d been hovering in the vicinity of the kitchen making ‘helpful’ suggestions about the way I cook and I had been gritting my teeth, avoiding sharp knives and yearning for the time when the family couldn’t give a flying fuck about the hours I spent in the kitchen alone, listening to interesting things on Radio 4.
”Let’s make stock from the bones of the roast!” He suggested.
Now, this was not the first suggestion he’d made of this kind in our twelve years together, it’s just that his total and utter lack of interest in the workings of our kitchen had meant I’d been able to ignore this particular ‘helpful’ suggestion over the years and managed to never ever boil the bones of the roast to make stock. Everyone knows that stock made from boiled up bones is horrid and you’re much better off buying that fantastic modern invention, the stock pot or stock cube because they’re 100 times nicer and don’t make your house reek of dead animal carcass. And I don’t care what Jamie says on this subject.
”Then we can get some pearl barley and make some hearty broth.” He added, even more helpfully.
”Oh, my fucking God! Hearty broth! Hearty wankering, twattish broth!! You are having a laugh, you don’t know how the grill works, never mind have the skills needed to make a stock from scratch, soak the barley overnight, prepare the veg and make a hearty broth.” I screamed in my head and actually said,
”That’s a good idea, why don’t you do that?” I will receive a Damehood for my enduring patience after this.
”Do we have any barley?” He asked.
”No.” I replied, trying not to sound curt and in my head added, “you’d know that if you spent any time in the kitchen at all ever, apart from putting things in your secret snack cupboard and taking them out again and growling at anyone who goes near your sacred cupboard of the snacks.”
”We shall go to Costco tomorrow and buy some.” He pronounced.
”Oh, joy! Costco.” I said this out loud and managed to disguise the feeling of dread. Whenever Ever Patient Husband goes to Costco, he always returns with Peking Duck, a new BBQ, a large TV or an unfeasibly disgusting amount of oversized muffins and absolutely no ingredients whatsoever that can be used to create sensible meals for a family of four. I usually then have to go to a proper supermarket to do the weekly shop and he then moans about how much money we’re spending on food. It is a Kafka esq nightmare of out of town retail sheds.
We find an industrial sized sack of dried broth mix and bring it home along with six thousand tangerines and some eggs (at least I can make omelettes). The stock had been boiling the night before for about two hours and sure enough the house stank like a wet market in China. Now totally bored with the idea of making a hearty broth (reader, you suspected as much didn’t you), I am left with the task of soaking the dried broth mix overnight. Meanwhile, the greyish, brown liquid he calls stock sits in the pan where EPH left it and remains on the hob congealing happily in it’s suspended state of animation.
Instead of going to work, EPH is now a full time gardener in his own garden. He has found an endless number of Important Projects* to complete which all seem much more important than making hearty broth, so I tackle the insipid stock, which is now smelling much worse than it did two days ago when EPH boiled it to death.
Within the space of twenty minutes, I realise the stock has gone off and the vegetables I prepared and lovingly softened, along with the pre-soaked dried broth mix have all come to nothing because if we eat this particular hearty broth we will surely die. It is laden with bacteria that even in the current climate seems lethally toxic and so I make the executive decision to bin the lot and make a simple lentil soup.
EPH appears at the patio doors, emerging Mellors-like from his day in the garden doing Important Projects and makes a final helpful suggestion,
”I knew we’d left it too late to make it, you would’t let me go out to buy pearl barley, we had to wait to do the big shop which meant the stock went off.”
”Yes dear.” I said.........
* examples include the purchase of 30 strawberry plants despite the fact I’ve just cleared several flowers beds of those bastarding ornamental (pretty, but utterly useless as strawberries because you can’t eat them) Alpine strawberries that spread everywhere, but apparently these edible strawberry plants (all 30 of them) won’t be such a nuisance.