Thursday, April 16, 2020

Staying Home - The Luckiest

Home Sweet Home

The days come and go. Some good, some not so good. When life is compromised, as it is now, your mind plays tricks. You go to bed, either exhausted and worried but fall asleep immediately, or you lie there over-thinking, tossing and turning knowing sleep will be a long time coming.

What do you think about? 

More bad news and high numbers. What's left in the cupboard to scrabble together for a decent meal tomorrow. Are your family, friends, neighbors really healthy, or will they become ill. Are you really healthy yourself. What about anyone sharing your daily space closely. How will you know.

What will you do if you both get sick?

Yes, too many questions, so you get up again each morning, not caring what time it is. You feel OK once you start moving. If the sun is shining it's better - it was damp and cold here early morning but has now warmed up and the sun is breaking through the clouds. He asked, "What are you planning to do today?" I answered with just a sideways glance and almost laughed, words didn't come. Today however will be a cleaning house day as the pollen is just about gone. He will be mowing the grass. I'm thinking of making a lasagna as I do have a stock of pasta and sauce, and I did remember to buy ricotta and mozzarella when last at the grocery store. . . . . which already feels like eons ago.

Speaking of grocery stores - 

I pulled out this amazing book to re-read after thinking about how shopping for food was much worse for my mother long ago. The late Marguerite Patten, worked for the British Ministry of Food during World War II. Her job was to help families prepare nutritious and appetizing dishes with their weekly rations. She became the doyenne of English cookery writers and was probably one of the world's first 'celebrity cooks'.  In case you're not aware, although the war ended in 1945 (I was born in 1943) food rationing in Britain didn't end until 1954!  

Growing up in that time, I also recall how most houses had a 'Victory Garden' where we grew a lot of our own vegetables, also some fruits such as strawberries and raspberries.  My mother was the gardener at our house, she definitely had a green thumb and, although she always worked full time, somehow made time to grow healthy foods and cook delicious meals with what was available from the shops. Many of my friends and neighbors now have a version of a victory garden also.

Currently I have a very small kitchen garden - just four tomato plants, two Roma, a German Johnson and a Better Boy. Also tucked in there are some squash seeds - and scattered around in sunny spots, several pots of basil, dill and parsley seeds which are just starting to germinate.  My neighbor also grows tomatoes and peppers and shares with me, so I'm thinking Italian dishes will be plentiful this summer!

Do you find yourself playing more music now isolated at home?

I listen mostly to soothing background music - piano, classical, chorale.  I love VOCES8, the a cappella octet from the United Kingdom - they can sing just about anything. If you haven't heard them you should, I think their music is wonderful for this time when we need beauty around us in so many ways. Linking one of their modern pieces - the amazing Ben Folds' (he's from North Carolina) song, The Luckiest 

. . . . . and to their stunning version of Sir Edward Elgar's - Lux Aeterna (Nimrod)

I hope your day is good. I'm going out to walk around the garden, then
do the cleaning!


  1. I am still waiting for my tomato and basil plants I orders from Burpee online so I didn't have to risk being in a garden center filled with people. They should arrive in the next week or two. My herb garden from last year of parsley, chives, oregano, thyme and rosemary are coming back alive after a winter's sleep. I wish I had my large garden I had at the house where I had the blogger brunch!

  2. One of my teaching colleagues put up a link to some of the VOCES8 youtube songs and I was thrilled to hear them. So lovely. I like to put on classical music when I'm cooking dinner these days. It is calming and fills me with beauty. My garden is slowly growing. It's too early for tomato and pepper plants, but the snap peas are about 3 inches high, radishes need to be thinned, and I've put in onion sets, beets, spinach, and carrots. More to come in May when all danger of frost is gone.

    We can learn much from those who went through difficult times in the past. In many ways we've become wasteful, although I always try to use up food, as I can't bear to throw it away. I think of those living in countries where food is so precious.

    Have a good day cleaning, Mary. That's my task for tomorrow and the weekend. A thorough clean up!

  3. No garden here (as you know), just a potted parsley which is yielding a small handful of chopped leaves every night for my salad.
    I'd go nuts if I weren't allowed (or able) to go walking every day after work. Sometimes, just for fun, I turn the "runmeter" app on my iphone, and am always surprised at how all of a sudden I have walked 8 or 10 or even 12 km. After spending all day in conference calls and staring at a computer screen, I simply need the exercise - both for my physical and my mental wellbeing.
    Fortunately, the nearest supermarket with a very good fruit and veg department is less than a 5-minute walk from my house. They have not run out of stock of anything I need or want, so it is more about "can I be bothered" than about "what's left to eat".

  4. The love of gardening quote is wonderful. I learned about Britain's food rationing when I read C.S.Lewis' autobiograhical books and how excited he was when American fans sent him food packages in the postwar years. He was excited at one point to receive a canned ham which he carefully shared out. That book would be of interest to me.

  5. Such a beautiful, thoughtful post Mary. Your words are calm and soothing. These are strange times but I am trying not to think about it too much. My grandparents, like your mother, went through much worse. At least we know we are safe in our homes. Books and music help.

    I'm currently reading 'A Thousand Days in Venice' by Marlena de Blasi and her poetic prose is a delight to read. I started the book yesterday and was immediately drawn into the story, which is the author's memoir of how she ended up living in Venice.

  6. Dear Mary,
    I was born when WWII began. It wasn't the war that was so devastating. You were either unlucky and were killed, or you were lucky and dodged the bullet. It was the many years thereafter when there was no food that was difficult. My mother was a country girl and knew how to grow a fine vegetable garden. Every house I have owned had to have at least an acre of land. It makes me feel good to know that I can survive.
    Dear Mary, try not to worry too much. You have each other. Find peace in that. I am convinced that things will get better, and soon.

  7. This such a strange coincidence Mary - apart from the similarities in our current sleeping habits.
    My soprano Granddaughter graduated fairly recently following 4 years of study with a first. She applied for the position of one of the two sopranos in Voces8 never expecting to get very far at this stage in her career. Several hundred applied and she was in the last 100 that were auditioned in London. She was one of the 20 applicants chosen for the final selection which was due to have taken place in London during March. Sadly it had to be cancelled due to the current lockdown. We are all on tender hooks now not knowing when it will finally be able to take place. Even getting into the last 20 makes us feel very proud of her even if she is not lucky enough to get the post.

    1. Congratulations to your granddaughter! This is very exciting.

    2. How absolutely wonderful Rosemary - I hope so very much your granddaughter is successful and gets to sing with VOCES8. But yes, even getting to the final 20 is more than enough to be so proud of her accomplishment. I will keep fingers crossed and hopefully later this year you will be able to share more news on her career.
      Hugs, Mary

  8. Hello Mary, it is very hard these days to steer clear of the bad news. The good news is that there seems to be an "end" in sight, although I think it will mean different things for different people. We will not be traveling any time soon, and I think that we will probably wiat for a little while to see how things play out after the lockdown is lifted.

    Mary, before you go to bed make a small cup of cocoa or golden milk, get a book that makes you happy and sit for a 1/2 hour and read. Let yourself relax.

    I know it is worry some, I am the same way some night but I can not let this virus get me down every day.

  9. Your days sound much like ours - that is, on the days Brian is home. He is still working; as a 911 dispatcher, he's an essential worker. When I read things about WWII and the food rationing and such, I realize how good we have it here during this pandemic. I can't imagine how your mother worked FT, dealt with the food rationing and feeding her family, and growing a garden!

    I can't wait to get my little garden started this year. It's still too cold here though. We're even getting more snow overnight again! Hopefully, in a couple of weeks we can finally get started.

    I listen to about the same amount of music in the house as I always did. I enjoy a lot of different types of music...rock (esp 60's & 70's), Motown, disco, Frank Sinatra, folk, jazz, bluegrass, guitar and piano instrumental. Might've missed a few others! The only music I don't care for is opera, rap, and extreme country.

  10. Yes, walks in the garden. Isn't it interesting that it doesn't matter what time we wake in the morning? So many growing gardens now too. We have seeds started in the greenhouse, but it is too early to plant tomatoes. Oh I remember those victory gardens and making do when I was little. For some reason I don't turn the music on, but sit too long online trying to connect with people.

  11. A lovely thoughtful post dear Mary. I too have been thinking about the war years, and the post war rationing which I only just remember, very slightly. Recipes were simple, but we were never hungry, and as you say, nothing was ever wasted. Many of these habits became so ingrained in me I use them to this day. It is weird the way our mind behaves, and I am doing just the same: some nights are full of vivid and anxious dreams, other nights I have fallen into a 9 hour sleep of exhaustion. It is great to see you little kitchen garden - we are hoping to start some tomatoes and lettuce this weekend. What fun to eat the fruits of our own garden :) xx


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