Where'd She Go?

The Duchess had gone missing- and her three adult sons- who might have been able to tell us where she was- had gone to sleep and couldn't be woken. As the newspaper I was reading in my dream put it, we were suffering from Duchesslessness.

Unreal

"It's all a bit unreal," I say as we drive away from the farm shop.

"That's partly us," says Ailz. "We live isolated lives anyway and while we're at home things carry on much as they always did. Then we go out and it suddenly hits us how 'Twilight Zoneish' things are."

Social distancing at the farm shop is a little haphazard. There are crosses painted on the floor to show where we should stand in relation to the till but then a receipt has to be signed and a pen is handed from one assistant to another to Ailz and back again without anyone bothering to slather it in disinfectant.

The roads are less busy than usual and there are quite a few cyclists about. The blackthorn and gorse are in flower along the A21.

You Never Step In The Same River Twice

I'm trying to avoid using the word "normal" to describe how things were a month ago because all that is finished and won't be restored- which means it was never "normal" in the first place. The sun coming up at a predictable time each morning is normal but our social arrangements never are; they're changing all the time.

Sometimes the change happens slowly, incrementally, so that we don't notice it on a day to day basis- and sometimes- as now- it happens very fast.

Spring Has Been Put On Hold For A Day Or Two

I had hoped I'd done with body warmers for a season or two but the wind has switched from west to north east and I'm wearing one again. We've had brief falls of sleet and hail- and Ailz tells me that when my back was turned there was a flurry of snow. My daughter rang me from the field in Leicestershire round which she was walking the dog and cut the call short because her hands were frozen and she needed to stick them in her pockets.

Hands

The skin of my hands is roughening up from all the washing we're required to do to defeat the virus. The roughness is most marked over the knuckles of my right hand. It's as if I'd been going round socking people on the jaw.

I look at the backs of my hands. The skin is loose and wrinkled, dry and thin; there's even some spotting. They look like desert landscapes shot from a plane or drone a couple of miles up.

Waste Not, Want Not

You may know this already but I didn't.

It you're cooking leafy veg- like chard- macerate the stalks- between thumb and forefinger- before you cook it. This breaks down the fibres and means you don't have to discard the stalks either before or after chewing them for half an hour.

Not So Difficult Really

The government has directed local councils to house all homeless people by tomorrow- and no doubt it will be done- even though the order came through as a simple dictat- without advice on how to do it or any extra money. When you need to do something as a matter of urgency you usually find you can do it- even if it's a thing you've been beating your breast about for decades.

Intractable problem: what intractable problem?

Early Days

We're at the beginning of this thing- there are months and months of it to come.

Like we're easing ourselves into the shallow end of the swimming pool- back in the days when we had only just learned to swim- and it's Olympic size and the deep end looks an awfully long way off and we know that when we get about three quarters of the way we won't any longer have the option of putting our feet to the bottom for reassurance- but that we can do it really- and just think how good we'll feel when our fingertips touch concrete- and we can straighten up and rise and fall with the waves we've made and go "Well that wasn't so bad now, was it?"

It feels strange now- but perhaps it will feel strange all the way through- and even stranger when we've finished- because it'll be a different world we step out into.

Ailz and I don't get many visitors or do much visiting in the normal course of events, so not seeing people is fairly normal for us; the odd thing is realising that there is now a prohibition against visiting and being visited- and it's not just that we won't be seeing family but we can't be seeing family.

Take it steadily, moment by moment, day by day. It helps that we're having such marvellous weather right now- though obviously that will change. Ailz wants to be exercising more so this morning we walked to the bend in the drive. The daffodils and narcissi are still flowering but coming to the end of their season, the willow is in leaf and other trees are almost there. The cat came with us- a little gingerly because this is beyond the limits of his territory. He stopped to gaze through the iron gates of the great house- at their mown lawns and drifts of daffodils and seemed to be thinking, "I never knew the world was this big."

Beasts And Birds

Marlowe chased a shrew into a hole in the wall that turned out to be a cul-de-sac. When I showed up its front end was in the hole and its rear end was sticking out and Marlowe was couched a few inches away, observing it intently. I persuaded him that this wasn't really all that interesting and shut us both in the house. Next time I looked the shrew had removed itself to a place of safety.

The car alarm went off when the car was in the garage. Nobody was near. I'd have been thoroughly mystified, only this has happened before (last spring to be exact) and we actually saw then how squirrels were using the roof of the car as a stepping stone to get from one end of the garage to the other.

There were gulls in the sky this morning. At least I think they were gulls only I had my reading glasses on so they were a bit blurry. But gulls or not they made me think of the sea- and how I'm not going to be allowed to go there for months...

Little White Specks

When a paper tissue gets into the wash it divides itself into many, many parts- which then attach themselves to everything around- and if there's a woolly jumper in the mix they stick to it like burrs. This happens here quite often because my mother likes to secrete tissues all over her person- and even if I search her clothes before washing them (and I don't always) they can be so cunningly hidden - up a sleeve perhaps- that they get through.

Picking little white specks out of a woolly jumper is a long, long task, but absorbing and strangely soothing.