Tuesday 7th April
I bring Paddy (18) a cup of tea in bed. This has happened every morning since the lockdown began, as he hasn’t been getting up for school. Like me, Paddy is an early riser, so the cup of tea is just the job to help him get up and at ’em in the morning. Lately, Reuben the terrier has taken to trotting up the stairs after me, to go in and say hello to Paddy. He is very polite: he sits nicely on the rug by Paddy’s bed waiting for a pat, and he does not jump up, as he knows that Paddy is fastidious and does not appreciate dogs on beds. He gets a pat then leaves for Liv’s room. Liv is 15 and technically Reuben’s owner, and they love each other very much. But this morning Reuben and I have already been outside in the garden because it’s a lovely day. He has found his beloved neon yellow frisbee ring, which he got for Christmas and has barely put down since, and has raced up the stairs with it, in the hope that Paddy will throw it for him. Into his room he runs, growling merrily, and “asks” Paddy to throw the ring. His filthy, slimy ring. “Take your horrible ring and get out,” says Paddy. Reuben does an about-turn, ready to try his luck in Liv’s room. Paddy’s clean pants get hooked onto the ring and Reuben races out, oblivious, with Paddy having a total meltdown over the (recently) clean pants. I wake Liv, laughing so much I am crying.
I promised I wouldn’t draw any more sourdough loaves but people have been extremely kind and asked me to go on doing so. In an effort to make it worthwhile, I will share what I have learned so far in making sourdough: one, it is a much slower rise than regular yeast, and does not collapse if left to rise overnight, but gets bigger. Two, you must feed your starter every day, or it will sulk. Another thing: if you think your starter isn’t looking very feisty and throw in a bit of commercial yeast, the commercial yeast will dominate and the wild yeast in the starter will be overcome by…fumes, so to speak. It works fine – it just won’t have the crunchy crust or sour taste of sourdough.
This chopping board has a line burnt into it: Good Friends, Good Food, Good Times. It was a gift from my dear friend Lorraine. Our two families break bread together a lot, sharing each other’s tables, and I am so grateful for the day we met at the side of a swimming pool fourteen years ago. We walk our dogs together: they are friends too, sort of. We have not walked together, or eaten together, for three weeks and more, and I look forward to a time “when all this is over” and we can enjoy our beautiful countryside, and each other’s wonderful company, once more.
I take a pic of the haircut I gave Paddy the other day. Until now, Paddy has not let me cut his hair. But he and lots of other people have decided that it doesn’t matter if they ruin their hair, as no one will see them until their bad haircuts have grown out. He has asked me to cut his hair, and I am very pleased, since I have secretly believed it would be easy. It turns out not to be as easy as I thought, but Paddy knows exactly what he wants and it looks fantastic. That’s why I take a photo and copy it (Paddy won’t allow a photo of him to go on my blog, but is perfectly happy with a painting). I did try to look at a You Tube of a very pretty blonde American lady cutting her very handsome and rugged husband’s hair on their timber-built porch looking out over a dense woods, but I only got as far as the bit where the blonde lady shows how to hold the hair at the back of the head upwards with your hand, and run the clipper upwards in a straight line. She knows what she’s doing and I would have loved to have watched the whole thing, but Paddy has just seen Ben Affleck in The Town and that’s the cut he wants. In the end he decides to go a bit shorter. We are both pleased with the results.
I teach my wonderful kids on Zoom. I have decided that since sketching nature has touched something in me, there’s every likelihood that it will do the same in the children. So they draw garden birds. I have chosen a goldfinch, a chaffinch and a blue tit for them to draw and paint. There are two classes: one for younger kids, one for slightly older. Everything is going swimmingly and the kids are making beautiful work. I draw and paint step by step and the kids follow suit. “How can you paint so well?” asks one young man. Another lad pipes up. “It’s her actual job?” Then, three quarters of the way through class, my downward camera goes dead. I apologise to the kids (it’s also my actual job to keep my phone charged) and tell them I hope they won’t mind if I hold up the step-by-step painting instead of having a camera trained on it. “Your phone isn’t really dead,” the kids say, “you’ve just got a robot doing the painting and you don’t want us to see it.” That’s the type of kids I have in my class. At the end, the kids fetch their respective dogs again and show everyone. I feel extremely lucky to have the technology to do this with the kids. I started teaching kids about fifteen years or so ago, and in the ensuing years as my kids got a bit older I formalised classes, because I felt that if I didn’t my kids might never learn the basic principles. I never could have foreseen how much the children entertain me as I teach, nor how they have given me an outlet for a very fun creative side that lay dormant.
I go to bed every evening with a sense of frustration at an under-productive day. I am still struggling to concentrate on work with a deadline. My blog flows easily, but everything else is hard to focus on. I am reminded of when I used to be very drunk (in my twenties): if I had a bus to catch to get home, say, I would have to try very hard to concentrate on what number bus I had to get, what time it would arrive, where I had to go to get it…I haven’t drunk like that for nearly thirty years, but that’s what it feels like now. I wonder if it’s because my family is with me all the time. Delightful though they are – and they are utterly delightful – I guess I am in “Mum” mode all the time and wonder who will need me and when, even though they rarely do. I think I am far from the only one who feels like this – not necessarily the mum-on-duty thing, but the total lack of concentration. If it’s the new norm…I’d better get used to it.
There’ll be more beautiful flowers to sketch in the morning.