Friday 22 May 2020

Ilkley is the new Italy

Since we bought our house in Lazio almost 20 years ago we have never missed at least one annual visit and after Mr FF joined me in retirement in 2011 we’ve spent the majority of our summers there.  This year the pandemic has put paid to that which is very sad.  I am really missing the cats and our lovely garden however I’m not complaining, if we have to be in lock down our comfy penthouse with communal gardens and our own outside space is the perfect place to be.

Once we accepted we’d definitely be in Yorkshire for summer I decided I needed pots on the balcony, which obviously wasn’t going to be easy to achieve in these strange times.  I know the garden centres are opening up but if I must queue and dodge other shoppers that will only be when I buy food.  So instead of being my usual Vita Sackville West about bedding plants, I’ve been grabbing what I can during my weekly supermarket shops.  I have collected Pansies, Busy Lizzie. Lobelia, Begonias,  all quite garish and blowsy but do I care.
Fortunately I’d bought the galvanised tubs to take to Italy and received at Christmas some lovely solar spirals,  they were all unpacked and put into use. 
Mr FF kindly walked down to Tesco and carried a 40 litre bag of compost plus a plastic trough back up the hill, with a few stops for breath.  If we were here permanently and there was no pandemic I’d have made a better effort, as it is I enjoyed creating what I could.  Its a crazy mis match of plants and pots, too many plastic ones, but I am very grateful to have achieved this display whilst staying alert as Boris asks. Now we need lots of sunshine for sitting out days, we are ready.

Saturday 16 May 2020

Mad hair days

My hair was ready for a cut when we went into lock down and in some ways since we’d all be in the same boat I looked forward to growing it. I felt quite smug because I don’t colour my hair so no problem with roots, I googled average growth per month and visualised a pony tail by now. Normally my style is a very short pixie cut, about 3 cm all over, layered and sometimes razor cut.   In summer my hairdresser shaves it really short round my ears and the back of my neck so it was never going to grow out nice and even.   At present it’s truly awful and I don’t imagine its going to improve. The other day out for a walk with my hair blowing into my eyes, which hasn’t happened for maybe 20 years, Mr FF said I looked like our friends’ dog Yogi who is this breed.
I mentioned this in an email to his owners who live in Scotland and asked if they had any tips based on their dog care experience.  They sent back a photo showing Yogi on a bad hair day wearing his head scarf, made me laugh.
Other residents in our building don’t look as wild as me.  Several have grey roots coming through but generally they look tidy.  On tv news presenters and most MPs look much the same as they did before the salons closed,  I don't understand.
My hair has now doubled in length, I can shove it behind my ears but it just springs out again or my glasses mess it up.  I ordered some colourful stretchy bands to keep it off my face but it’s still too short to do anything but stick up beyond the band, making me look like a coconut.  I have grips to hold the sides back but that doesn’t really work either.
I know hairdressers may be opening in a couple of months but I’m not sure how confident I feel about returning, social distancing will be impossible, cutting round my ears could sever the strings of my face mask, or maybe the over 70s just won’t be let back in.  I read that hairdressing normality may not return for 18 months to 2 years, for goodness sake I shall be resorting to Mr FF's hair clippers well before then or asking Yogi for his head scarf.

Sunday 10 May 2020

Learning from the lock down

I read a brutally honest and very sad post recently, it wasn't comfortable reading but basically the writer felt that since lock down she had discovered she didn't like herself very much. 
She had realised how much money she had squandered each week, I got the impression she didn't have a lot but still went out regularly for coffee and bought things she didn't need.  Now her income is reduced yet her spending is restricted so she is no worse off but surrounded by the 'stuff' she bought and doesn’t want that visibly demonstrates her waste.
She had also recognised how lazy she is, that this is the reason her house is never clean or tidy and that she really needs to start making a big effort to get up and do more.   
I think lock down has accentuated our bad habits and we are fearful they may get out of hand, that we will end up never getting dressed, snacking all day long, making no effort.  I hope this person will make improvements for her own sake, there is no reason not to and she will be a more content person.  If you are happy with your ways, slovenly as they may be, that's fine but if you don't love yourselves you probably imagine no one else can. 
It made me think about my own lock down experience which I am pleased has been OK so far with no meltdown or howling.  
At one time I could have identify with the wasteful spending.  In my latter years at work when the mortgage was paid and we were financially comfortable I used to tell myself I deserved little rewards, a magazine, extra toiletries, a treat with my household shopping.  I soon got rid of that way of thinking and since retirement I have seriously downsized and bought very little.  I'd be even happier if I could wear out some of my clothes and get to the capsule wardrobe stage.
I don't think I am that lazy though I am no ball of fire.   The penthouse is always clean, I like cleaning,  and fairly tidy, but I have learnt about time and that actually I do have plenty of it.  I do have time to put things away and to keep cupboards and wardrobes sorted.  I have time to complete a daily online language course, Italian naturally, and to dispose of a lot of unnecessary paperwork.  I have time to write at length to friends and family, by email or post.  Since I wasn't working before lock down I already had this time and I could have done more of these things long ago and regularly, I know that now.
I have surprised myself how well I have coped with lock down.  It helps that I am not that sociable, I really enjoy my own company and am happy to send Mr FF off on lone holidays now and then so I can have a week or two alone.    I welcome anyone into my home, I enjoy visiting people and trips out but I am not a great one for going to restaurants, cafes and bars, at least not in the UK, so I haven't missed any of that.  I much prefer small gatherings and hate large noisy events so I don't long for a night in the pub or a post pandemic party.
Mr FF on the other hand is my opposite, he will strike up a conversation with anyone and he has become very restless.  He misses having a couple of beers and a chat at the bowling club every week and his explorations on the local trains and buses.  He wants to be out and is not happy covering the same ground on his daily walks, although he has the expanse of the moors available from our doorstep he wants to discover new areas.  I don't share that ambition, I feel quite content within my confined little world, seeing how the landscape changes on my regular routes and I am patiently waiting until we can go back to Italy, which I accept may not be this year.   
I’ve felt no great despair about the pandemic, despite not being a particularly positive person it seems I am an accepting one.  I have obeyed the lock down rules, I am not desperate to know what happens next or when shops and services will return.  I am of course sad and worried by this awful event but it doesn’t ever overwhelm me.
I am sleeping really well, better than I have for years, which may be because of my regular exercise.  I decided to start walking again before the virus struck, mainly because things beyond my control were driving me mad and it was the best way to disperse my rage.  I fished out some old running gear and took off. I move my limbs vigorously, raise my heartbeat and get sweaty. I love it.  A neighbour who spotted me out said I looked very professional and I often get positive comments from people I pass, probably surprised to see a woman of 71 powering down the street in such a lather.  
I haven’t started over eating or taken to drink.  I put on weight easily and know how hard it is to get off again.   I have a glass of wine several nights each week but also have several nights without, no snacking and the emergency chocolate is still untouched.   I am even managing a bit of yoga. If we love the NHS as much as we say perhaps we have a duty to help out by keeping our bodies in good condition not just during lock down but always.
Let’s balance this out with a few less positive things, I am no a saint
I often find it difficult to concentrate and after the morning housework is done rarely settle down to anything.  I cannot seem to get into a good book but instead am reading simply to clear the shelves of books that have been there far too long, at least its a decent pile to recycle when I can.
All the exciting paperbacks I collected to take to Italy are untouched.  
I spend too long flitting around on the computer, sometimes putting items I won’t ever be buying in my shopping bag or watching annoying people on you tube.   I could use this time writing better posts and taking nicer photographs for you.   I follow the news too much but try not to get obsessive about it.
I am knitting the most stupid jumper that I will never wear.  
I’ve had the yarn for years, I think it was a gift, its a dreadful shade of apricot and turning out far too big, massive in fact, but I keep going.  I could be knitting socks or something that gives me pleasure and what the hell will I do with this jumper when it’s finished.
I am not dressing for dinner, or setting a beautiful table, wearing make up or any of that stuff, but I do get dressed every morning and light a candle every evening.  I’m not cooking new exciting recipes, the weekly shop is hard enough without sourcing special ingredients.
I hope the good things that I’ve learned lately will change me.  Life will be different, it already is, and we oldies could be the last to come out of lock down.  I’m not anxious about that, I’m fed and well, happy and as sane as I ever was.   I’m getting by just fine, I hope all of you too, that you are being kind to yourselves and reading better books and knitting better things than me.  

Monday 4 May 2020

My favourite lockdown walk

A circular three miles of walking from the penthouse.  
Along the streets past beautiful houses and gardens, 
through the bluebell woods,  

over the river.  
Past the most beautiful house is in town, our grade one listed property designed by Edwin Lutyens for a wealthy Yorkshire wool merchant. Even on a power walk I have to stop to stare and admire, it is fabulous.  .
Speaking to a neighbour recently who only walks round our lake garden she told me how wonderful it was to have time get in touch with nature.  She is older than me, nature has always been here, its always been available and I am seeing the best of it.