Marigold Says...

Random thoughts on travelling and life in general.

Who’s that walking around out there? Supposed to be a lockdown, innit?

Banged Up. The Prison Diaries.

Marigold Says... 

About time I added some wisdom to this blog. I’ll start with something you don’t get from Delia. Secret family recipe for using up old food. Manky bread and butter pudding, I call it.


Cut green bits off bread and any fluff, disregard. Put in any fruit lying about and soak everything in dregs of alcohol collected from bottom of glasses and any empty bottles Sweeten. Or not . Doesn’t make much difference. Milk and 2 eggs. Leave overnight. Cook till crispy.

No actual cooking skills required. Present nicely and say ‘enjoy’ while smiling in a weird way.

We’re able to sit out in our tiny patch of what only an estate agent would dare to call a lawn. It’s peaceful enough, but we’re ducking down behind a bush every time we hear footsteps in case it’s a neighbour who wants to talk. They should be forced to ring a bell and shout unclean every time they go wandering.

It’s not as big a ‘garden’ as our last house, nowhere near, but no embarrassments so far. Not like the last place we lived. We were sitting outside minding our own business. I was downing a large G and T, guffawing whilst reading Adrian Mole.

G wasn’t guffawing as he was trying to mend the sun umbrella with wire, pliers, gorilla tape and super glue. It wasn’t looking good. I was trying to curl my short locks with home made rollers. Do not try this. Cut up a bath sponge into long shapes, dampen them, then sellotape them onto hair. Getting them off was more painful than any operation. I think I may have a curly bald patch.

Suddenly a voice from behind the bushy tree at the back, said “You two OK.” I felt as though I had been rumbled as the local alcoholic and hid my glass.

“Fine thanks, we are coping”. Then wanted to laugh as G came out of the shed, as usual oblivious to what is going on saying some very rude words and throwing tools down, just as umbrella went on the tilt.

I then said “well must get on”.

We found a dead bird on the lawn this morning, and very gingerly moved it, with a garden rake, just in case its cause of death was questionable. Chucked it over next door about 8 metres away. No idea how far eight metres is really, but good to have a bit of detail included.

Can’t stop thinking about food. Said to G they will have to lift us out with a crane at the end of this. We never used to have “treats all the time”.

Ginger biscuits are a staple of our diets morning, afternoon and night. We bought some from Tesco at 25p a packet called Mollys. Whoever Molly is ain’t making much profit. I had G blind test them against McVities. He bit his tongue, so will have to do it again, when it has healed. I think it was the excitement of the task.

Over the road a neighbour has set up a stall with free second hand books. In former times would have rushed across and pillaged. We will not cross the threshold. Went inside and found the binoculars. Marvellous, can pick out the titles. There are 3 books I definitely want.

G asks what on Earth I am doing so I said “looking at the naked man running past”. He just said ok and went off again.

Yogi Berra

G Says...

‘You can observe a lot by just watching.’ That’s a quote attributed to Yogi Berra, a legendary figure in basketball, both as a player and later as a manager, whose often bizarre post match utterances have been passed down through the ages. As with such comments as ‘it’s déjà vu all over again’ and’Always go to other people's funerals; otherwise they won't go to yours,’ we sort of know what he means.

Our observational patterns have been much changed of late. Our ability to watch, to observe, has been manifestly affected. Just a few short weeks ago the world swivelled on its axis. With lavatory paper replacing bitcoin as an alternative currency, people were forced to confront the terrifying reality of a new world order. Will every economy collapse? Can a cure be found for what everyone seems to suggest is an incurable disease?

Certainly there’s no shortage of effort going into the eventual production of what appears the Holy Grail on which all our futures depend – a viable and effective vaccine. How far away this is, who knows? We’re dealing with the unknown. In the words of Albert Einstein, ‘If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research.’

Imminent peril from a pestilence bringing mortal danger across entire continents is bad enough, but many people appear to find their greatest worry is an inability to carry on doing exactly what they want to do.

I overheard a remark recently, back in my going outside the door days, which came back to me yesterday while watching journalists and politicians squabbling over something so trivial I’ve actually forgotten what it was. The words uttered by one stranger to another were, ‘everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.’ As with almost every overheard remark, context is all, but that simple phrase resonates now far more than it did when I first heard it.

We revisited Cheltenham a short time ago. The famous spa town with its white Georgian styled buildings used to be a regular haunt back when we lived in the Cotswolds and this return trip was prompted by an offer of two nights for the price of one at a Malmaison hotel. Mal Maison – Bad House in French - that’s a name to make anyone wonder if the person who came up with that idea for a hotel chain remained in the job for very long.

The hotel was full and there was a riotous party going on in the cocktail lounge. Alcohol did not appear in short supply and it was with some trepidation we wandered across to snaffle the last remaining armchairs. As so often happens, a woman seated close by immediately engaged Marigold in conversation.

I can usually manage to avoid eye contact with garrulous strangers, but on this occasion it wasn’t possible. The most dreary man in Europe decided his air of accrue boredom could only be elevated by telling me his life history. He was in his mid seventies so it looked like being a lengthy topic.

As I was hearing far more than I needed to know about his troubled adolescence and the consequent ramifications that haunt him to this day, a woman came over, perched on the arm of my chair and snapped, ‘Gavin, shut up, this gentleman isn’t interested.’

Give him his due, Gavin not only ‘shut up,’ he stood up and walked away. My rescuer made profuse apologies for Gavin, who turned out to be her husband of ‘far too many years.’

‘Gavin can’t help it,’ she said, ‘it’s supposed to be a party, but he can’t bring himself to find enjoyment anywhere. He suffers from anhedonia. Do you know what that is?’ Actually, I did, it’s the inability to experience pleasure even while taking part in what other people regard as pleasurable activities, but if course I didn't say so as she was primed to impart wisdom.

I received a rather lengthy explanation of poor Gavin’s condition only for his wife of ‘far too many years’ to add the rider, ‘well, that’s what his doctor says is Gavin’s problem, but I think he’s just a miserable old bugger and always has been.’

As my new companion dashed off to join a drunken conga Marigold got my attention. ‘He looked good fun,’ she said.

I gave a shortened version of Gavin, his wife and their very different outlooks on life. She didn’t appear to find the topic fascinating so we did what we should have done in the first place and tagged onto the end of the conga line.

I find myself ‘lurking’ online far more these days. I rarely contribute on the vast range of opinions expressed. My reluctance perhaps stems from a similar disinclination to watch television during the day.

Am I missing anything that will advance my knowledge or enjoyment of life?

I think not.

The Internet is a fabulous source of knowledge. The same applies to its propagation of fake news and crackpot conspiracy theories. In my former incarnation as a ‘writer’ I felt an obligation to respond to a few of the many people who were variously kind or disparaging about my novels.

I very soon realised to gain entry to this new medium and pass muster therein I must forget everything I’d ever learned about grammar, the use of witticisms, spelling, good manners and any valid pretence of acceptable literary appreciation.

Boredom has now replaced Brexit as the chief topic of conversation. Marigold and I are baffled. What is this boredom of which they speak? We’re more restricted than most. The NHS, in its wisdom, after careful study of my recent medical records has seen fit to enter me into the register of seriously vulnerable citizens.

I can see their point and under different circumstances being judged ‘special’ could be something to take pride in, but being considered seriously vulnerable, as my letter goes on to say, means I am considered unlikely to survive infection with Corona Virus.

Lockdown for twelve weeks, confined to the house, no contact with anyone apart from Marigold, that’s what I’m faced with. So, where’s the problem? I can’t see any. I get to spend the next three months or so with only Marigold for company?

Bring it on.

The word which best describes a man who dotes on and adores his wife is uxorious. Uxorious is almost always used in a pejorative manner, as a negative action references a man who allows his spouse to ‘control’ him. I can find no corresponding adjective relating to the far more common practise of a wife ‘controlled’ by her husband. Not that such a system exists in our household.

In the days preceding the great lockdown Marigold nipped out to buy a paper from a corner shop where she was being served by a woman in her thirties. ‘Sorry, love, that’ll be £2.70 ‘cos The Telegraph is dead expensive, but I’ll make sure you get a receipt. Do you have to claim the money back or prove how much you spent?’

Obviously the inference being only a ‘boss’ would buy the Daily Telegraph and sending a ‘girl’ out to buy his morning paper for him is exactly what a ‘boss’ would do. I approve of my new found presumptive status almost as much as Marigold accepted ‘girl’ status, but as for expecting Marigold to go and fetch the newspapers as part of her job description - never going to happen.

I read a very serious, worthy and doubtless well intentioned article the other day containing advice in spending all this extra leisure time ‘gifted’ to us by COVID- 19. Not so sure everyone will see it as a ‘gift,’ but let’s not quibble.

Sorry, hands need washing. Back in about twenty seconds. Give or take. 

Hands now freshly boiled in neat Domestos. No virus here. 

Now then, as for those helpful ideas on avoiding boredom. Develop a hobby, learn to speak a foreign language, immerse yourself in house cleaning and home improvements, just a few of the suggestions.
Oh, come on. Be reasonable. Where will I possibly find the time for this stuff?

I climb out of bed in the morning, pad to the bathroom and – absolute priority - wash my hands for twenty seconds, following Government advice to the letter. I’ve tried singing Happy Birthday, more or less silently. That didn’t avoid the scrutiny of Marigold’s exceptional hearing. Isn’t it odd what some people find unbearably irritating? I moved on to God Save the Queen - who could possibly take issue with our National Anthem?

Well, I found one who could and did.

I considered reciting a poem, no singing involved. I swiftly ruled out Eskimo Nell and then the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – far too many verses. At one stage of my life, certainly not recently, I could recite Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in its entirety. Alas, yet one more example of former abilities vanishing for ever.

I did surprise myself by remembering the first verse.

‘In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and towers were girdled round;

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;

And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.’

As for that last line, it grated when I first read it and it still does. Even Coleridge must have read back ‘Enfolding sunny spots of greenery’ and thought to himself, ‘that’ll have to go.’

Maybe he was interrupted before he could get around to it.

I know that feeling.

I reported back to Marigold, having timed the opening verse when spoken out loud at just a tad over the twenty second recommendation. She didn’t offer praise or congratulate my endeavours. Her response was, ‘why can’t you just wash your hands like a normal person?’

I have now reluctantly switched to silent hand laundry, even amidst my ongoing concern that the required twenty second rule may be at risk. After hand washing and other necessary bathroom functions I’ll gloss over for now, I move to the kitchen where my morning feast of medication awaits.

Having swallowed half of a Boots dispensary stock, I make coffee and ask Marigold if she’d like me to make her tea or coffee. I can’t abide tea so my choices are much simpler.

‘I’ll make it myself,’ she invariably replies.

This implied slur on my culinary expertise doesn’t become any easier with repetition. Marigold is a far better cook, no argument there, but surely even a ham fisted buffoon like me can be trusted to make instant coffee or pour boiling water onto a tea bag?

Apparently not.

I make my coffee, well up to Barista standard in my view, munch a banana and go back to wash my hands again. The chance of viral infection since I last washed my hands is somewhat less than zero, but I do it anyway.

I don’t go out, I don’t see anyone else, I am living in a virus free bubble, but I wash my hands.

Again.

For twenty seconds.

Give or take.

Exhausted by my efforts I allow myself to be sent off to a very specific armchair where Previous experience indicates porridge will be delivered at this time of the morning. After that, back for a much needed hand washing and then I’m ready to start the day.

Every morning, on rising, I mutter ‘exercise’ to myself and every morning I remember I should have got that out of the way before the arrival of breakfast. Oh well, can do it later.

In fairness, despite my chaotic organisational skills, I do exercise. Indoors. I cycle, feebly, on an exercise bike I bought off Gumtree. I got it home and almost immediately realised why the previous owner wanted to get rid of it. It has two settings, well there are many settings but only two of them are working.

Setting number one is virtually freewheeling, a gust of wind could turn the pedals, while the only other viable option is set at the equivalent of ascending the really, really steep section of Alpe D’huez.

I settle for the easier setting and pedal away for five minutes or so while keeping a wary eye on my heart rate. The smart watch, so called, I am wearing tells me my heart rate at any given moment, how many steps I walk, the depth and quality of my sleep and many other things I have absolutely no interest in knowing.

Stress level readings, for the day, for the week? Theoretical calories used up by my cycling efforts? I’m happy to remain ignorant of all this, but my inability to work out how to reduce this flow of information means I’m stuck with it. It took me half an hour to reset the time when the clocks changed recently and I only noticed later this action had already been done as part of the ‘smart’ watch’s pre programmed tasks.

For the rest of the day I chat with Marigold, write the occasional email, read the newspapers online and do ‘jobs.’ This could be tidying out my bedside drawer, arranging pants and socks into neat piles, rearranging the clothes in my wardrobe – sweaters, tee shirts, trousers, polo shirts – in order of likelihood of ever getting worn, it’s pretty full on this lockdown lark.

As I’m not venturing forth I must confess I have lowered my previous dress standards. Yes, even more. This may surprise people who know me who are surely wondering how it could be possible to drop down from such a lamentable lack of style.

My three pairs of track suit trousers, all suitable only for wearing when putting the bins out at midnight, have found a new lease of life. I wear them in strict rotation to preserve their lifespan. Add a sweater rescued from a bag of stuff intended to go to the tip and that’s my look du jour.

Fortunately, Marigold does not have a judgemental nature. Or has finally given up with trying to make me look ‘smart.’ Pause to wash hands. I learnt a new word today. I was wondering if there was a means of expressing my only real concern about being confined to three small rooms for at least the next four months: a fear of running out of things to read.

The word I was seeking is abibliophobia. It’s not in the Oxford dictionary, yet, but it’s a recognised word all the same. I have a couple of hundred ‘old style’ books here and many, many more on Kindle, but I do have a pretty prodigious reading habit to indulge. I’m okay for now, but in four months time I may have resorted to re-reading last week’s newspapers or, unlikely as it seems just now, even plodding through the local free paper’s recommendations for non surgical beauty treatments available in our area.

Several friends have suggested this imposed isolation may provide the impetus to write another novel. It’s about time.

Apparently.

There’s reasons aplenty in favour, but I’m still not yet prepared to devote another entire year to a book project. Been there, done that. I wrote a Young Adult novel recently, far less taxing than writing in my usual genre, with a storyline centred on a viral outbreak becoming a pandemic.

Yes, pretty spooky as this was all done and dusted way before any indication from the Far East that there was a new virus raging out of control. Given the subject matter I sent the manuscript to a couple of publishers.

The last time I grovelled at the feet of a publisher I said ‘never again.’ Older, but no wiser I wait with barely concealed excitement for their reply.

In other words, I haven’t given it a moment’s thought.

Que sera, sera. What will be, will be.

I did spend an hour or so composing an author biography, as requested by one publisher. It’s been a while since I did one of these and I still find it hard to treat the subject, namely myself, seriously. The preferred format is to refer to oneself in the Third Person which is in itself hardly conducive to taking a serious approach.

Here’s a typical sample: ‘Since attaining adult status he’s never been a financial burden to his parents or the State. This may be his only redeeming feature. Even so, he frequently regrets scorning those lost opportunities.’

Anyway, that will have to do for now. These hands won’t wash themselves.

 

We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome, some daaaay

Arty Farty Marigold

Probably my favourite photo.