We’re still here under strict lockdown conditions, unlike those with a death wish still hankering after treats such as a trip to the tip. It said on the television regional news - that’s the one where the presenters appear far better suited to working in radio broadcasting than television, adopt experimental hairstyles and bizarre mode of dress and usually have indecipherable regional accents – there are two hour queues at our recently reopened local ‘tip’ – it’s not all fun and games out there then.
A recent Government pronouncement invited us all to take part in unlimited exercise. Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill had very clear views on the subject of exercise.
‘Never stand up when you can sit down and never sit down when you can lie down.’
It didn’t take long for that advice to permeate down to the majority of British people and yet now we’re told we need to exercise more. Exercise can even be ‘unlimited.’
It’s a suggestion, not an enforceable edict, but even so I can think of many people I know who will have to look up the meaning of the word ‘exercise’ in a dictionary.
Not Marigold or I, obviously, as we’re both physically unchanged by lockdown.
My somewhat unfit for purpose heart requires exercise. It’s a muscle after all and quite an important one. The regular bumf I get from Cardiac Bloke* at Hospital - *not sure that’s his proper title – always refers to my ‘Myocardial Ischemia’ which certainly sounds impressive, but it basically means an inefficient pump - the heart version of ‘leaves on the line’ - hence its only working at about 33% of capacity.
A part time heart in layman’s terms, so I put it to work. I have my (pathetic) 25 step walking routine, access to a (even more pathetic and useless) exercise bike dominating our ‘spare’ room and a pair of hand weights (roughly equivalent to lifting a bag of spuds) which take up part of my day.
As every aspect of my life is governed now by heart rate I have to constantly check my pulse at every stage on a very clever app on my phone.
I vaguely remember being considered rather fit once. It was a while ago now, but as Lee Trevino once said about his golf prowess, ‘The older I get, the better I used to be.’
I read about top sportsmen worrying about their fitness levels since Covid–19 took effect and fretting about resuming competition in less than perfect shape. ‘I’d be ready,’ I mutter to myself, self delusion being just one of the effects of increasing age.
Now ‘free time’ has become the norm I find I can get an immense sense of accomplishment from doing nothing for a whole hour. Doing as little as possible is okay, at a pinch, but it’s not right up there in top spot.
In this period of tremendous upheaval it’s obvious changes will have to be made to what was once regarded as ‘normal life.’ Gloves, masks, social distancing and so much more. Life as we used to know it will soon be a forgotten memory.
Marigold said this to me the other day, but I insisted we are made of the right stuff and will still remember the olden times. ‘I even remember a time when pesto and squashed avocado weren’t classed as essential to a balanced diet,’ I said. She just looked flummoxed. Maybe I’m just imagining life existed in the pre pesto era.
Earlier today there was an ice cream van in the road, playing March of the Mods very loudly. No idea if there were any customers but there were three deafening bursts of his ‘music’ so he’s pretty eager to sell his wares.
Does hearing March of the Mods - hardly cutting edge music – convey the idea of ‘Ooh, ice cream’ to Millennials? I doubt it.
I wonder if there’s a shortage of ice cream van jingles. Are they the ‘third wave’ of shortages following on from toilet rolls and then self raising flour? Very odd mixture if true.
I’m reading a book set in Russia, (Moskva by Jack Grimwood if you really need to know) as today’s contribution to my ‘One a Day’ regime – books may not have as many vitamins as fruit but provide longer lasting enjoyment.
The Russian word for 'solitude' means 'being with everybody.’ Russians called poustinikki would withdraw to the desert (poustinia) and live in solitude, but not actually in isolation. Poustinikki relished living alone, but turned up in the nearest settlement from time to time for a brief dose of wine, women and song and then toddled off back into the desert wastes to recuperate.
That sounds a fair life balance.
Marigold not too keen on my latest suggestion for keeping Corona virus at bay. They’re telling us the inability to detect smells is a symptom, but my new health check method obviously needs a bit more work. I blame those beans on toast for giving me the idea.
Now we can’t go out to shop, ordering food – better make that ‘requesting’ – to be delivered requires great tactical planning. We need a list, an approved strategy and hitherto untouched levels of organisation. None of these actions is easy for us.
Marigold writes a long list of all the meals we’re going to eat and the ingredients each one needs. Then she rips it up, laughing in a rather unsettling fashion.
We just don’t function like this.
We end up with a list for the butcher and another for the greengrocer. How simply marvellous, I hear you say, supporting local tradesmen. Well, yes, but there is also the matter of the sheer impossibility of getting a delivery ‘slot’ from the major supermarkets.
Frustrated in my hunter gatherer prime, I tried the ‘locals’ and they’ve been as good as gold. Fruit, veg, meat, bread, milk, we can get it all. Okay, we don’t always get what we asked for but it seems churlish to mention that the substitution of a cucumber for a pack of oranges, for example, is even remotely close to what was requested so we just get on with it.
A supermarket delivery would be cheaper, no doubt, but ordering online would deprive Marigold of an opportunity to have a laugh with the veg man when she phones in our order.
Order? Better make that a wish list.
They’ve never met, but what would for anyone else be a quick two minute phone call takes at least a quarter of an hour and Marigold gets to hear all about the veg man’s ingrowing toenail. Even Waitrose don’t offer that service.
Friedrich Nietzsche, amongst many other pearls of wisdom said, ‘the most common form of human stupidity is forgetting what one is trying to do.’
Freddie, you got that right.
Incidentally, I do try to check any quotes I use here that pop into my head as being deemed relevant to what I’m writing at the time. It’s someone’s actual words after all; better get the words in the right order. The Nietzsche quote I wrote down then went to check on it.
Nailed it, exactly word for word. Gold star.
I do find it a little alarming how accurately I can still recall quotations, snatches of poetry, obscure facts hoarded in my memory many, many years previously yet struggle to write today’s date and month with any degree of accuracy.
Years? I’m not too bad on years. It’s 2020 and has been for quite a while now. I’ve got that bit sussed. Months are a struggle lately and as for knowing what day it is, one of them will have to do. They all seem the same now anyway.
Anyway, back to Friedrich, I was attempting to trim my wilderness man beard into something bearing an approximate resemblance to ‘smart’ the other day while pondering on matters of great importance. No idea what those were, but when I reconnected with reality I noticed I now had a bushy left sided visage and a bare right side. It’s easier to subtract than add in situations such as this, so I was forced to complete the job and am now clean shaven.
It’s been a while since I looked at this fresh faced, apple cheeked youngster in the mirror so it was with a sense of expectation I wandered into the kitchen to find Marigold.
‘You look awful,’ she said. ‘How long before you can hide all that away again?’ If beauty really is in the eye of the beholder it’s a most unfair system. I almost wish I’d retained the option of retaining a stub of moustache. I don’t imagine Adolf Hitler was ever banished and told not to reappear until his face was once again covered in a three day stubble at the very least.
Of course, this isolation situation, it’s nothing new to us. Quite a while ago now I wrote in this blog about the year we spent living in a ruin, at that stage not even worthy of being called a house, in a gloriously remote region of Southern France. That year in the Corbieres was true solitude, we didn’t see anyone at all as there was nobody there to see. Birds, snakes, scorpions and the occasional wild boar, that was it. We both agree, it was the best year of our lives.
If you’re interested and haven't read it before, or even if you have, that blog post is called Living Like Hermits. There are links to all the posts at the top of the page. It's one of the early ones.