It always delights me that stinging nettles with their vicious sting can be tamed and made into something delicious. Nettle soup tastes as though it should be doing you good, sautéed nettles even more so. But warm nettle and cheese scones, spread with butter is a completely different matter.
Did you know we had a pet tiger roaming through the house? Who loves to sit with the grandchildren and read stories? You can guess his favourite.
In these days of social distancing, our family WhatsApp feed is filled with quizzes, shopping lists and “Have you tried this?”, the latest being that you can get 3D images of animals in your home. Who knew?
Open Google on your phone and search for an animal like tiger, alligator or giant panda. Scroll down and tap on View in 3D. Move your phone around and the animal should appear. You can resize it or move it around the room and then take a photo.
For years I’ve taken a daily walk through the fields with the dog, exchanging pleasantries or pausing for a brief conversation with other walkers on the footpaths. It would have seemed strange to avoid people (apart from the man with the two Staffordshire Bull Terriers that nearly all the dog walkers here avoid) or not smile and say hello.
In the space of a week, with the introduction of social distancing, it’s become normal to avoid all encounters we can. I scan the path ahead for approaching walkers. Some instantly turn around and retreat as soon as they see another person. Other people start walking in a wide arc so that we make a sort of choreographed pass and I supress the urge to do a little twirl.
I find it easiest to keep going and step aside into the field as the oncoming walker get closer. Time it wrong and we both step into the field necessitating a clumsy shuffle to pass while inwardly I calculate the distance between us and wonder how many steps to take before it’s safe to breathe in.
Just lately several blogs have been brought out of hibernation with short posts about the inconsequential. It’s as if we need to share the ordinary to make sense of all that’s happening around us at the moment but can’t encapsulate it in a tweet or an IG photo caption (apparently only a third of people always read the captions in Instagram anyway).
I’ve always thought that blogs like this can be a little removed from the real world. We witter on about baking bread and taking walks, picking flowers and knitting blankets seemingly without a care in the world, while cataclysmic events rock the world.
I see no reason for that to change too much even though our lives have changed in ways we wouldn’t have considered possible a few weeks ago.
For many of us there are still plenty of reasons to be cheerful; here are a few of mine:
Spring is here and winter is over. The primroses, cowslips and violets are in flower, the fruit trees and blackthorn bushes are frothing with blossom and the birds are singing. The hens are laying, the herbs in the garden are bright and fresh.
My calendar is empty for the next few weeks. No appointments, no obligations, no boring meetings. I can do whatever I like. So long as I don’t leave home.
I have more time to do the things I want to do. All Ruth’s printmaking classes in The Barley Barn have been cancelled, which is not something to be cheerful about, but instead we’re trying out printing projects and other creative things to share on Slamseys Journal. The first post about creative craft distractions if you’re stuck at home is already up and there’ll be more to follow. Also, instead of baking cakes and biscuits for the classes, I can fill my own cake tins.
It’s not raining and the sun is shining. The washing can be hung outside to dry, it’s a joy to get into the garden to sow some seeds and I no longer have to squelch along wet, muddy paths in wellies. Best of all, after a dismal autumn and spring sowing season, it’s finally just about dry out enough for the tractors to get onto the land in a last ditch attempt to drill some spring barley.
I have a knitting project that will last for ages. Last month, I knitted a Gamaldags sweater from Icelandic Knitter, which was incredibly quick to knit and I’ve worn it almost non-stop. I then had a fancy to knit a gansey or guernsey, whichever you like to call it. I have no idea why it seemed a good idea to knit something on tiny 2.25mm needles, which is taking an age to knit. There seems barely any noticeable progress after an hour of knitting each evening and though that seemed a bit of a drawback at first, it now seems a positive thing.
People have started to blog again. We may have to socially distance ourselves in real life, but on the web, we can drop in or open our doors to people all over the world. A virtual seat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a biscuit.
This morning, the house is quiet and unadorned, apart from a tiny circle of bay, thyme and rosemary that hangs in the kitchen so that I don’t have to search for herbs in the dark outside.
Later, I shall get out the boxes of decorations, arrange the nativity scene and slot together the candle fuelled chiming angels. If I can find all the bits. Mistletoe, holly and ivy will be gathered, the Christmas tree dragged inside and the house decorated while listening to carols from Kings College, Cambridge.
Many people might sniff at the naffness of the chiming angels and think that Christmas Eve is far too late to start decorating the house, but I like the family traditions that we’ve built up over the years. They change a little each year but provide a sort of certainty in life that’s needed more than ever in this year of nastiness in politics and social media along with the harrowing stories of flooding in this country and bushfires in Australia.
Wherever you are and whatever your traditions, I hope that you can have a Happy Christmas and wish you a Peaceful New Year.