Tuesday 27th October 2020

I think I’m feeling a little better today. Less tears. Less earache. Less sore throat. More sleep. Banging headache, but you can’t have everything. I did less today, because the last few days have been rather manic with one thing and another. That’s not to say I lazed about, but a morning of cat wrangling will take it out of a person.

And a cat.

More steroids, more flea drops, but a slightly less eye watering bill for reasons I’m not clear on, but accepting with gratitude regardless.

The house mum and dad put an offer in on and were hoping they could still purchase with some sort of miracle, was taken off the market today as someone who already sold their house wanted it. This is a bit sad making, but I am hoping that it means the universe is lining up a better house for them. That’s the most positive thing I have to say about all this.

Let’s talk about Bake Off.

My main take this week was that I wanted Noel’s jumper very badly indeed. I won’t look it up, because no doubt it will be out of stock, or worse, in stock but £800. He’s like a bohemian John Craven isn’t he? And if you know what I’m talking about, you’re in the right place for cultural references that don’t make you immediately start googling things. Tallulah told me something ‘low key slapped’ the other day and I had to look it up because I didn’t know whether that was a good or bad thing.

Turns out it was good.

Anyway, it was Japanese week this week. Steamed buns were the order of the day, and much like last week’s pasties, I could happily have eaten them all. I didn’t have a steam bun until a few years ago but I have gone from being mildly indifferent to liking them a lot quite quickly. My sadness is that you often get small portions for big dollar. I like lots of steamed buns.

To be fair, I generally like lots of things in the quantity of ‘lots’. I’ve never been much of a minimalist in the food department. Or the life department. The only time I will accept small is when there are at least nine courses.

The technical was to make matcha pancakes layered with white chocolate Swiss butter cream and strawberries and fold it into a kind of virulent green cake. I did not enjoy this. I’m not a massive fan of matcha. It’s a bit like eating grass clippings mixed with dirt. Maybe, like buns I could get used to it and learn to love it in time, but it would take a lot of work for something I can probably cheerfully avoid and still live a full and fascinating food life without. I’m not sure how I feel about green cakes either. It all looked a bit like an old fashioned grocer’s front porch to me, and not in a good way. Or possibly reminiscent of slightly saggy astroturf.

The last round was to make a kawaii cake. Kawaii, as I know from my manga obsessed children, is all the cuteness. I follow a Twitter feed which is weird and wonderful Japanese mascots and they are extremely kawaii. The cakes not only had to look like internet memes come to life, but also had to have Japanese style flavours. I’m not a fan of cuteness unless it’s actual, bona fide real life baby animals, so the cuteness of a cake is not going to do it for me, just like I don’t really like cakes in multi coloured layers with forty trillion sprinkles pouring out of them.

After all these years of bake off and general baking, I realise I am a bit of a cake purist and given a choice I’d stick with a basic, home made cake of some kind or best of all, an entire French patisserie. Who knew?

Mark, who went home, made an avocado cake. He made it with actual avocados, and I know I’ve been out of the cake baking lark for too long because nobody batted an eyelid at this or said, ‘gosh, what a strange thing to make cake out of, aren’t you clever?’ They just nodded, like making a cake out of avocado was the most normal thing in the world.

Now I eat quite a bit of vegan cake these days. Never from a supermarket, because all vegan cake that comes from a supermarket or out of a box, Mr. Kipling style, inevitably tastes like old door mats and should only be offered to vegans you hate as a punishment for crimes against tofu or something. But there are a lot of great bakeries near my house and many of them do splendid vegan cakes. It has been my suspicion for quite some time that those cakes may be as moist and delicious as they are because avocado is involved in some way.

Having said all this, I have never bothered to try and verify my suspicions because even though it might be true, and they are delicious, the thought of avocado in cakes makes me feel a bit uneasy. I’d rather not know, so when Mark started happily chucking avocados into a mixer, I worried. I also worried because his whole cake was very green, and avocado shaped and generally I just worried it would taste like fourteen mashed avocados glued together with butter cream and fondant and that made me sad.

It made the judges sad too, and home he went.

I do like yuzu as a flavouring and I would like to have gone around and tasted all the yuzu flavoured cakes, just to help out, obviously.

Lottie, who got star baker this week, made a cotton wobble cake. Again, everyone nodded wisely as if cotton wobble cake is a thing. Is it a thing? Am I missing out here on a common or garden cake experience that has just passed Leicester by because of our super extended lockdown? Have you ever had one? What does it taste like please?

If it’s avocado, don’t tell me.

Monday 26th October 2020

Still feeling grim. Still covered in paint. But, most crucially, still here.

Anorak has an appointment at the V E T’s tomorrow. He will not be pleased. I’m not entirely thrilled. There are always so many things not to look forward to with a trip to the V E T looming. Cat wrestling, basket stuffing, cat dragging (out of the basket), invariably some awfulness and then you pay. Every time I go, the only thing I’m mildly thankful for is that at least this is not me with children, or given the current state of health in our family, any of us. I’d be bankrupt within a week.

Tallulah is now in isolation as she came into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID. She is so fed up. More so than Oscar, but that is because she is not obsessed by watching as much anime as humanly possible and seeing how many hours you can get away with playing with your Switch before your mum finds you. She has less naturally lock downable hobbies.

As per Oscar, we checked again, and we are still allowed to roam about freely, even though she isn’t. Despite this, I am still not going to see mum and dad because 2020 is the year that keeps on giving, and I am taking no chances.

As predicted yesterday I did many exciting things today, including tip runs, trips to Homebase and other Monday like errands. Jason and I attempted to gloss the hall, landing and stairs. We made a lot of mess and did 3/4 of it in streaky, sage paint before giving up for the day. From a distance it looks quite good. Up close it is as streaky as hell and there are quite a few areas that need touching up with white emulsion because I am a great one for leaning on various things while smothered in paint.

When I develop the Taskmaster olympics, doing some kind of obstacle course with a paintbrush loaded with gloss in one hand with the object of coming through it without any paint on you or any of the obstacles will be one of my top tasks. I will be no good at it myself but I will be an excellent commentator during the event.

Sunday 25th October 2020

It’s been one of those days where it’s been busy since the moment I got up and I am just not here for that in my life right now. I’m so bloody knackered. Throat still hurts, this time because I am so run down the thing in my throat that was bothering me for a lot of last year has started happening again. It is a bit like a barometer of shitness. It makes a guest appearance about once every six weeks at the moment.

I just can’t keep balance right now. Things right themselves for a day or two, then BAM, something happens and down I go. I get up again (what else to do?) I sort things out. We carry on for a few days and then BAM, it’s something else. My body is rebelling, my mind is rebelling. It’s all hamster wheelish. It’s very Chumbawumba but without the drinking, because I can’t do brutal hangovers and the crushing sense of pessimism that comes after a night on the shandy anymore.

It would be nice to report that I felt fine, but I don’t and lying about it won’t make it any better, so I feel shit, but I’m getting on with things is basically what’s happening.

I was due to go to mum and dad’s but really, what with free range mice and my dad’s bad back, they don’t need me right now. And given that when I got up this morning, Jason had emptied three quarters of the hall furniture into random clumps all over the lounge and was bottoms up in the DIY supplies there was plenty to occupy me here. I had hoped to get round to putting some things on eBay but in order to do that, I had to clear up all the things he had made a start on and then help him move some furniture and paint some walls, and by the time we finished it was nearly four o’clock and I’d lost the will to live.

As it is, there are still piles of things everywhere, they’re just organised piles. These will need to be dispersed to the four corners of the earth tomorrow when everything is open. This, along with calling the V E T because Anorak has started to chew his fur off again, even though his flea drops should still be working, is what my Monday will look like.

As an aside, Derek got caught licking the outside of the Marmite jar this evening. She will probably be sick on the rug later. It is the way of her people. I have had to par boil the Marmite jar. Ronnie P is the only one of the cats I like at the moment, and that’s only because I haven’t seen him all day. Actually, one of the cats did a shit on the kids’ bathroom rug in the night, probably because they were too lazy to go downstairs and use the perfectly clean litter trays, and as Ronnie P is the laziest of all cats, it was probably him. Cancel my affections. I hate them all.

Things got slightly more tolerable when we ran away for a cheeky Nandos’ and came home to watch Taskmaster. Nandos in lockdown measures is very, very weird indeed though, and by the time Jason and the kids had worked out how to log us into the tracing system, how to get the menu up on the App and then create an account to order and pay, I was slightly losing my mind with the stress of it all and thinking it would have actually been easier to roast that pumpkin and make soup after all. I’m not good when I’m tired and I’m worse when I’m hungry and it was only because they let me play Pokemon Go from my chair while they were all arguing about meal deals and how to pay that I managed not to burst into tears. Once I’d eaten half a chicken I started to feel slightly less fraught.

Anyway, chicken and chips was good. Telly was good. A secret stash of chocolate Hobnobs was good. All foodstuffs were basically brilliant. Stupid telly was excellent. Catching spooky Pokemon was soothing. The fact that I have nearly finished reading a very grim book about the Troubles in Northern Ireland is also good, especially because I thought it was a book about nature from the synopsis and I chose it because I thought it would be soothing. It was not soothing, dear readers. It was deeply, deeply traumatising. I am very glad I am on the last chapter.

Saturday 24th October 2020 I see Strictly for the first time

Head, slightly stabby but tolerable. Throat, still sore but other symptoms on the wane. Sleep was negligible. That is the shipping forecast for today.

With regard to the parents. The For Sale sign went up today. Fingers crossed it works some kind of magic. The mouse is still on the loose. My dad has done his back in. I asked my mum what he had been doing for this to happen. She said, in a very fierce tone, ‘Sleeping.’

I think it was more likely that he definitely is the ‘mouse’ and it’s all that scurrying around when mum is asleep, clambering into the fruit bowl.

I felt well enough to manage a fairly normal day today. Jason and I took Oscar to his drama class, where he learned how to do Australian and Yorkshire accents with varying degrees of success. While we were waiting for him we went and had lunch together, like real people who are married and like each other do. Afterwards, I still had time to nip round the local charity shops and found myself a bit of treasure before we had to pick him up.

When we got home we painted the porch the blue I had chosen. I am still pleased with it. Jason still hates it. We are leaving the gloss work to Andy. I hate gloss and he has super steady hands. I’m more of a slosh the paint on and wipe a lot off kind of girl.

I cooked a good dinner. It made a slow roasted tomato sauce for pasta and diced up some bacon, which I fried till it was super crisp, to sprinkle on top. It was a dinner I wanted to eat, which tasted like I wanted it to taste, so that made me happy.

In breaking news, I watched my first, ever, full episode of Strictly this evening. I have only ever sampled individual dances before, mainly out of curiosity. This year I thought, given that we are in the end times, I might try a whole episode and see what happens. I was lured in by the Nicola Adams/Katya combination. I’m all for a bit of gender equality. And, of course, Bill Bailey.

As this is a landmark moment for me, I thought I’d cement it by giving my first impressions.

My very first impression is that I’m very confused by Tess Daley. I try not to be mean to people unless they’re out and out fascists, or Tory MPs, so I will just leave that cryptic sentence to sit there for now. Unless she turns out to be a Tory MP, which I hope she doesn’t. After all, she has enough on her plate being married to Vernon Kay. And with that, I’ve already said too much.

After that I would like to declare my undying love for Claudia Winkleman, who I have adored for a long time and who did nothing this evening to spoil that for me. If she turns out to be a Tory MP I am going to be devastated.

Craig Revel-Horwood – If Jesus Christ Almighty came down on a cloud, danced the perfect Bossa Nova and ascended to heaven in a glitter storm of sequins, he wouldn’t get off his chair, would he? I wonder if he can’t actually get up for contractual/physical reasons? Tight trousers, too much Preparation H to lift everything up? Glue? The unswerving belief that if he did get up to applaud someone he might run amok on the dance floor shouting ‘I’ve won prizes you know?’

CGI effects -WTF?

Contestants this year. All rather good, except for that MP. I know she wasn’t a Tory, but when she came on, I felt very sorry for Anton and very sorry for myself and went and got a cup of tea. I hope she goes out next week. She makes my eye twitch.

I thought Maisie pink feathers was excellent. The American man was nice but he had upsetting teeth. The ten year old with no vowels turned out to be a jive ninja to everyone’s surprise, including his own. Caroline Quentin was lovely but she needs more Kleenex or she’s going to slip over on a river of her own tears and be out by week three. I loved Bill Bailey, which was a given. I loved Nicola too. The others were varying degrees of fine.

I also learned that I can nod off during a waltz, so I don’t think I gave that chap a fair crack.

I’ve also been watching a lot of Task Master this week. I am going to lobby for a Task Master olympics instead of a festival of Brexit. It would be excellent and I think I might be really good at some of the tasks, whereas, the other thing I learned this evening was that I would be absolutely appalling at ballroom dancing. If I were to be on Strictly I wouldn’t get past week one, even though they don’t actually throw anyone off on that week. I’d just be crouched under the bandstand in a sea of moulting feathers, weeping, while Craig screams at me until all the veins in his neck burst.

Friday 23rd October 2020

Absolutely sick of this sinus pain/migraine/headache combo that has been bugging the shit out of me all week. It has, however, taken my mind off the sore throat/ache combo that was driving me mental earlier. I am at that point in the evening where I am very tired, but am not able to sleep yet due to the fact that whatever combination of things I am taking/ doing to stop my face trying to kill me, is not really working very well. The pain is all down the right side of my face, needling into my skull and I am absolutely not here for it in any way.

Nor am I here for the fact that my parent’s buyers have pulled out of the house purchase because their buyers couldn’t get the finances in place to buy their place and now, unless a miracle occurs, my parents will lose the house they want to buy. And this is the second time in eight months that the poor buggers my parents are supposed to be buying from have had this happen to them.

So the parental palace goes back on the market next week and on Sunday, hopefully germ free, I will be going to their house to help them put back into the garage, a lot of the things we took out of the garage after we put all the things into the garage to show the house the first time around. And that’s just too many bloody trips in and out of the garage for everyone concerned.

My house renovations continue apace. When we moved in, there was a lot of magnolia and white with the occasional beigeness to give texture. I say texture because I cannot say excitement. This is because there are very few things in life that are both beige and exciting, and all of the things that are in that crossover group are foods, and not soft furnishings.

Jason likes a neutral palette. I do not. We negotiate this difficulty whenever it is time to decorate something. After Andy has finished the technical side of things, there will be decorating to be done. I have conceded to white walls in some spaces, but in others I just can’t do it any more. The wood work in the hall, landing and stairs is now going to be sage green because I wanted pillar box red, and he wanted white and sage is where we ended up.

I lost out on the William Morris, Axminster stair runner and the beige carpet lives to fight another day. This makes me sad, but there will be a stair runner in my future. I have not given up. I have merely deferred the dream. I sacrificed the runner to win the colour schemes in our bathroom and the porch and I consider it to be a reasonable trade. I have gone for a kind of stormy grey/blue in both spaces. It’s the same colour in different finishes. I have, weirdly, chosen brown gloss for the skirting board in the porch. It sounds terrible, but I think it might work. If it doesn’t, the porch is the dumping ground for everything from wellingtons to golf clubs so it will be covered up in no time.

I rather love it when we start tackling a load of house based jobs. It kind of makes me fall back in love with the house all over again, because you have to look at it with fresh eyes, and move a load of crap and that’s no bad thing. Especially this year when l coped with lockdown by largely ignoring the house. It needs a bit of TLC.

So do I, but that’s a different story.

Thursday 22nd October 2020

I woke up this morning feeling less ghastly. The aches had gone, which meant they were brick related and not flu related. The sore throat and earache were less bothersome, so the day only really required the odd nap rather than a full on day in bed.

The house is in chaos at the moment as we have our friend Andy, who does repairs and general house maintenance round. We have had an ongoing snagging list for months, and we decided that before the really bad weather sets in, and possibly lockdown two, the revenge, we should get him to come and look at, and hopefully fix all the niggling problems that might end up being massive problems if we continue to stare at them in bafflement. He is dangling off ladders and hitting things with hammers etc. I just keep putting the kettle on and manoeuvring around him.

That’s the sensible news. Other things which have occupied my mind and conversations today include a discussion with my mum and then the kids about an episode of Grace and Frankie I watched last night in which Frankie lobbies for a helper monkey to come and live with her. Obviously I think this idea is brilliant, as I spent many years of my early childhood lobbying to be allowed to have a pet spider monkey, which I was going to call Jemima. If I could make that dream come true in my old age by teaching it to make me cups of tea, I’m totally in.

The discussion we had was based on what monkey you would ideally want as your helper monkey and what kind of helper monkey hierarchy there would be. Everyone (except me) was in pretty solid agreement that spider monkeys were too small to be fit for much. I fought for them on the grounds they could get into awkward places to find keys/ television remote controls etc. Also they would look very cute in a cowboy hat, riding the cats around the decking like a cat/monkey rodeo. Apparently that’s not very helpful. I think if there’s one thing that lockdown has taught us it’s that you can’t put too high a value on entertainment when it comes to getting you through troubling times.

The general consensus was that chimps would be most useful. Tilly was telling us about a kind of monkey where, when the men monkeys fight for monkey supremacy, the losing monkey has to proffer up a baby monkey to the winner. Apparently it is only a token, and after the winning monkey has inspected the baby it is given back to its mother. I wanted to know what happened if the two male monkeys having a barney were doing it outside of breeding season? Is there a non-baby monkey substitute? Perhaps a coconut, or maybe a bush baby?

These are the things I need to know about. I have a list of questions for David Attenborough now.

In other, animal related news. My mum still has a mouse on the loose, despite the smorgasbord of delights it has been offered in the humane traps. It shuns anything in a plexiglass box, which proves it is not David Blaine who has had an evil spell cast on him by a local witch woman. It’s a free range mouse, who, according to my mum, ate a nectarine out of the fruit bowl last night.

Now, I have two theories about this:

Firstly, that it is not a mouse at all, but my dad, wandering about in the middle of the night, absentmindedly nibbling on various fruits.

Secondly, that it is not a mouse at all, but a bat, and that the reason that the traps aren’t working is because the bat is too busy nesting in the roof and its sonar keeps bouncing off the boxes.

Something for us all to think about in that blog update, surely?

Wednesday 21st October 2020

I was supposed to be in London today. Some extremely lovely friends of mine had tickets for an exhibition they couldn’t go to, and they gifted them to me. Yesterday I knew I wasn’t up to going, so I sadly cancelled my plans. This morning I woke up with a sore throat, earache and aches all over. I wasn’t sure how much of the aches was due to me manhandling eighty house bricks yesterday and how much was what felt very much like the beginning of a cold.

Obviously, because we are in the Rona Times, my first, horror stricken thought was that I might have it. I don’t have a temperature. I do have my sense of smell and I don’t have a cough, so I am assuming it is the usual run down, winter nonsense.

I have spent the majority of the day in bed, and most of that time asleep. It was not unwelcome. The world is much, much easier to bear at the moment, when you are asleep. I know this because this evening when I got up and was able to eat something, I made the mistake of mooching my way through Twitter and immediately wanting to hurl myself off a cliff.

I have now given up on news and being wakeful, have been reading instead. If you are festive minded, like well-written cook books that also tell stories and enjoy reading about books, can I heartily recommend Kate Young’s ‘The Little Library Christmas‘? I hate Christmas and most Christmas associated foods and I still thoroughly enjoyed this, because she is an engaging and charming writer who likes books and food in equal measure. Even Grinchy old me was able to find a few recipes I would actually like to try, so it was an all round win.

I also finished reading Hunter S. Thompson’s ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,’ which is something that has been on my shelves for decades and which I finally felt the need to get round to. It’s another classic I can tick off my list. I felt about it the way I feel about many classic novels to be honest. That it was not all that.

I totally get the idea of Gonzo journalism, and how exciting and liberating it must have been to read (and live through) something that wasn’t ‘Seventy five things to do with the leftovers in your fridge.’ I get that it set the tone for the journalism of the future, blah, blah, blah. I understand that it is a huge, cult classic for those who wonder what it might be like to drive around in the desert, off your tits on mescaline, towing a huge, illegal gun in your wake. Especially if you live in Swindon and you feel that life has passed you by.

I get all that, and yet I feel compelled to say that the answer to what it is like, is that it is mostly incredibly boring.

I have read quite a lot of books about drugs. I have read quite a lot of books about alcoholism. I have read quite a lot of books about excess and rebellion. For the large part my take on it is that it is much more fun to be doing it than to be reading about it. And that it is only fun to be doing it for short periods of time when you have an extensive team of people to take care of you when things inevitably and messily go wrong.

Otherwise it is a lot of extreme paranoia, physical inconvenience of one form or another and a great deal of incoherence which is welded together with repetition and stress to create a rather exhausting time.

I mean to say, as far as I could make out, the book consisted of two journalistic assignments, neither of which ever got completed and a lot of grinding of teeth, eating grapefruit and vomiting with a side order of screaming, driving fast and frightening the living crap out of the poor people who got in the way.

I applaud Thompson for having the constitution of an ox and being able to turn his excuse for failing to actually do the work he is paid for into the work he is paid for. I’m also glad his book was short.

Tuesday 20th October 2020

Let’s do the crappy stuff first. Head was like a raging bin fire this morning. I had a session with my brilliant friend Kim who is a kick ass, ninja empowerment person when she’s not mucking around with me having stupid adventures. Anyway, today we zoomed and she ninja empowered me and I feel quite a lot less bin fire-y now, although I have a crashing headache and can’t entirely string a full sentence together.

Tilly and Oscar went to pick up a chest of drawers from someone in Nottingham today. All social-distances duly observed. It was only when they got there that it became apparent that the drawers wouldn’t fit in her car. because the front seat sliding mechanism wouldn’t slide. They went to a garage to see if they could fix it and they couldn’t. When they got back to the house to say that we would pick it up for them at the weekend, the people said they would rather sell it to someone else. So that was nice.

The day was saved because they ate a lot of burritos and ice cream, but it was a long way to go for burritos and ice cream.

I managed to sell something. I managed to empty my car of bricks and drag them through the house and down the garden. I managed to go to the post office. I managed to cook a dinner. I even managed a shower. But that was it. Peak efficiency was achieved.

So let’s get to the meat of this and talk about Bake Off. I hated last week’s episode, so there was a lot riding on me enjoying this week. Thankfully, it was much better, with only one bonkers bit and I was cheerful enough by the time the bonkers bit happened to roll with it.

First up, Cornish pasties that no true Cornish person would give house room to. Particularly Linda’s, which were just samosas. She didn’t even attempt to make them resemble a pasty in any way. That’s not to say they didn’t sound delicious, because they did. In fact, I would happily have eaten one of each of the offerings, sitting at the front, with a huge platter and a gingham table cloth tucked into my vest. It made me properly hungry, and that’s what I want from my baking shows.

At the end of the signature round, it was all to play for and then everything turned to manure in the technical round where, instead of beautiful raspberry cream and salted caramel eclairs, most people managed to create flattened banana skins full of split cream. It was spectacularly terrible. It kind of reminded me of those videos of fainting goats, where one goes and then the rest go down in sympathy. It was not good. Nobody should be able to cut an eclair in half, tip it up and watch the cream pour out onto the plate.

The show stopper this week was absolutely bonkers. They had to make a sweet tart in some kind of baked, pastry cage. I refuse to believe that a ‘caged tart’ is a real thing, except perhaps in a brothel, where those flaccid eclairs may well have found a use as a faux Georgian prophylactic. A caged tart is the cheese dream of 2020. That is all.

Monday 19th October 2020

I had to make a time line recently, to help my parents (and me) track what’s been going on with my dad’s health. The picture has shifted so often that we were all getting confused. Then I realised that I blogged every day for 130 odd days during lockdown, so I revisited the blog to put the pieces together. It was a very odd experience.

I rarely read back what I blog. Usually I slam whatever is in my mind down and exit through the gift shop. Occasionally I edit pieces. Mostly I don’t. So it was strange to read the entries back. They seem like they happened another lifetime ago and yet also only yesterday.

It did make me aware of how useful this kind of record can be, for things other than nostalgia, so I thought I’d try and write a bit more regularly again. Although, now that I’ve said that, no doubt something will happen and I will disappear for months. It is the way of my people.

To pen the more mundane things first. I didn’t sleep again. I’m trying to reclaim the night by inching to bed earlier and earlier in incremental stages, mainly because 4.00 a.m. – which seems to be my mind/body’s preferred time, is shit. I’m down to about 2.00 a.m. now, which is not too bad. Or it wouldn’t be if I could actually sleep when I get up to bed, or stay asleep once I’ve got there.

I woke up early because Helen, my lovely gardener was coming this morning. I showed her my efforts with the path and she was very kind about it. I’m not making her do anything path related. That would be mean. She got the fun jobs today. I gave her all the bulbs I’ve been stashing away and all the plants I’ve bought but haven’t had a chance to actually put in the ground yet. She also did things with compost, so it wasn’t all frivolity. Although some people do get excited by compost. I am not one of them.

I started the day with a sinus headache. It made its presence felt in that semi violent way where you think you’ve sorted it and then suddenly it skewers into the side of your face. I’ve still got it and it’s mostly made me rather tetchy and woeful. I blame all the fresh air I’ve been getting from gardening and social distancing. I’m still not convinced fresh air is good for you to be honest.

Despite being sleep deprived and grumpy I managed to stick some things on eBay, go to the post office with some things I’d actually managed to sell, and go and help my mum sort out her pantry.

She has a mouse, which she believes fled the garage when we cleared that out, and which has taken up a peripatetic existence centred largely on the kitchen. This has caused her to need to sort things out sooner rather than later in the getting ready for the removal men process. I was interested to see that she had two cafetieres and four of those hob top Italian espresso makers in various sizes, along with two slow cookers and a rice cooker that none of us have ever seen before. I believe the mouse might have brought it with him as a sweetener.

Anyway, we redistributed the coffee pots, sorted out some more things to go to charity and boxed up some things for the movers. We also singularly failed to find a mouse. He was probably living it up in the lounge, watching Bargain Hunt and basking in the glow of the electric fire. She has bought some humane traps and has been baiting them with different snacks every day. So far it has spurned Christmas cake, peanuts, butter and tomatoes, although it did eat the tomatoes which were not in the trap, which suggests it’s rather smart.

The peanuts and the butter were because I said that I’d read somewhere that mice like peanut butter. She didn’t have any, so tried peanuts AND butter, which made me laugh a lot. I treated her to a jar of actual peanut butter today, so who knows what mouse antics will take place now?

One the way home I dropped round to a friend of ours who has a huge pile of knackered bricks on his drive that he has gifted to me for my path project. I was very brave and managed to shovel about seventy bricks into the back of my car and didn’t squeak much at all the spiders and wood lice and the odd slug and I ruminated on how far I’ve come as a person, despite my other short comings. I was so impressed with myself that I didn’t scream, throw the bricks in the air and accidentally knock myself out. Imagine if they’d come out of their house to find me bleeding gently all over the block paving.

The kids had gone out for lunch and Tilly popped round for a cup of tea afterwards. I gave her a cafetière from granny and a tiny, paper thin bird skull I found when I was digging the path yesterday. She was very pleased with her treasure and I was pleased that she has grown up to be the kind of woman who is pleased by coffee pots and bird skulls. We discussed going walking with Alpacas together soon. That also pleased me.

I have spent most of the evening wrapped up on the sofa with a hot water bottle clutched to my face, reading a book called Sweet Dreams by Dylan Jones. I got it from Netgalley. It charts the decade from 1975 to 1985 and covers the end of punk and the birth of the New Romantic scene, finishing with Live Aid. It doesn’t just cover the music though, there’s a lot of social commentary, a lot of talk about fashion and magazines and culture. The rise of MTV and pop videos. I found it fascinating, albeit weighty. It clocks in at 600 pages. Most of it is made up of interviews with people who were directly involved in the scene at the time and it made me rather nostalgic for my young self. Although I’m very glad that certain things have moved on since then. Also that I no longer feel compelled to wear a ra-ra skirt.

I talk about cake quite a bit

It is the day after the boy’s birthday and the house is full of cake. We are all clearly still in lockdown/hoarding mode here at Boo Towers. I bought two Colin the Caterpillars in case one wasn’t enough, even though only Tilly and Bred came round. My brother sent a huge cake through the post and Tilly brought emergency profiteroles. I also bought five tubs of ice cream, just in case.

Of all the mottoes our family has ever laid claim to, ‘Never knowingly under-served’ is the one we lay true claim to and will adorn our coat of arms, which will be a plate, loaded with sausage and mash and a crossed knife and fork. Cake rampant.

He had a good day. It never fails to be weird that we can’t all get together, but needs must and all that and we celebrated loud and long and he got many splendid gifts which made him very happy, including a disgusting box of Japanese snacks that are mysterious and so far, mostly terrible. It all looks very exciting but I tried something that was basically a giant, sweetcorn flavoured Wotsit, and although it wasn’t the worst thing I have ever put in my mouth, and I finished it, it did live with me for several hours later and has not left me with the desire to try anything else, no matter how alluring it looks on the packaging.

After promising myself that my path would be finished this week, I got out into the garden this afternoon for the first time. I managed to do quite a lot, although there is still absolutely bloody loads of it left to do. You can see that progress has been made though, and I’ll take that as a win. I’ve created some borders, planted some things and generally made it look less like a bit of waste ground, so that’s good. I’m now aching and sore and tomorrow will probably see me creaking around shouting ‘oohya’ a lot.

I suspect that’s what Monty Don does the morning after filming Gardener’s World, so I’m in good company.

Life has been pretty brutal this week and I am finishing my week feeling somewhat washed up and battered by everything. I did feel rather hopeless earlier in the week. It feels like every time I reach a point of even vague normality, the universe throws me an unexpected curve ball and it all goes out the window again. Having said all that, I am still here. I’m warm and fed and there is cake and books. I think I might enter myself for some kind of prize for resilience and flexibility in the face of adversity. I’d definitely win. Mind you, I’d only really be interested in entering if the prize was a cake, so maybe I’ll just cut myself another slice of Colin and put the kettle on.

Already winning, you see.