Ramblings during lock down

To add a little levity to the Covid-19 situation because, let’s face it, we all need a smile,  I will now relate some things that amused me, or someone else at my expense, in the past months.

The refuse tip

I have been decluttering. I expect many of you have done the same and afterwards, looking at the mountains of filled boxes, wished you had waited until the tip was open before starting.

I began in our family room. It was the repository of items unwanted elsewhere in the house, some too good to throw away but never sold or donated, and others simply dumped ‘pending disposal’, such as a disgusting single mattress (more of this later) and bags of old clothing.

Along the walls in our family room are six Billy the Bookcase  shelves, largely populated by pulp fiction but also containing a whole set of Encyclopaedia Britanica, circa 1960, and a number of glossy tomes that Whizz received when he failed to cancel their automatic dispatch by the Folio Society, about twenty years ago.

Work in progerss. and one more empty shelf on the opposite wall.

We love books, and many of those on our shelves hold happy memories: Presents from grandparents and much loved childhood reads…

Beloved reads

 

but most books we couldn’t bear to dispose of simply because they were books. Now, however, with the convenience of the ebook, these cheap paper versions have lost value in our hearts. Even Whizz agreed that the space they occupied was more precious than the worn copies of Harold Robins and PD James, so I began to box them up.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, a series of appliances chose this period to die. As I write, we have a diminished bank balance and a brand new tumble drier, dish washer and microwave.  The defunct versions of the two former (in both senses of the word) appliances were taken away by the obliging service engineer, but the microwave oven awaited disposal outside our back door along with other objects I don’t even remember. All I know is that the pathway was beginning to look like Steptoes’ yard.

Leaving a pile of boxes in the family room, I moved on to the garage. Our garage is not your usual single width, single storey job but a domineering structure, one and a half floors high, that presents an unattractive view through our new, double glazed, patio doors.

Note the washing line, evidence that the tumble drier gave up the ghost last week, and the Red Kite, gliding above to provide ornamentation.

The trouble with a big house, and a garage that many could live in, is that you have room to simply dump things that are too much trouble to dispose of, or that might come in handy one day. Hence, our garage is home to reels of cable of differing sizes, pots of unwanted paint, specialist cleaning products, ancient weedkiller, a very dangerous circular saw on a metal stand and, pertinent to this story, a huge sheet of polystyrene, a full arms’ width square and 2 – 3 inches deep, purchased to insulate our porch roof and subsequently deemed unnecessary.

A visit to the tip was imperative, so, back in the family room, Mavis, Whizz and I wrestled with the mattress and succeeded in taping it into a giant roll. This provided the item with more giggling and  grunting than it had experienced during its useful life. We hefted it into the car, where it occupied a good deal of the available space, but not too much to prevent the enormous insulating sheet from the garage fitting on top and the microwave and other things being tucked around it. Not the books. They were destined for an unsuspecting charity shop.

Mavis and I set off in Whizz’s car, which is larger than mine (and much tidier, but that’s irrelevant). I tried not to be concerned that  the council website advised that only one person was allowed out of the car at the tip. But I had already wrapped my arms around the mattress and it was quite liftable, and the polystyrene? Well, how hard could that be to carry?

There was no queue at the tip. We had chosen our timing well. Two men were stationed at the entrance: one seated at a table,  issuing guidance to the other who greeted arrivals through their open car windows, peered suspiciously into the back to make sure there were no explosives or illegal immigrants, and yelled a description of what he saw to the guy at the table. This seated fellow then told him the number of the skip in which  the items should be deposited and he (standing man) conveyed this information, which we could clearly hear already, to us. In our case, the port of call was skip number 12, one of the last in a row of huge skips, labelled with their intended contents.

I was delighted to find a space for the car near to skip number twelve, and under the watchful eye of another, hi-viz man, reversed the unfamilliar car into a plastic barrier before coming to rest two inches from it. I lifted the tailgate of the car, squeeked out the polystyrene and with it held in front of me in both arms, walked sideways to permit a view of my destination, skip number 12.

I reached it, gripping the insulating sheet to keep it steady in the breeze, and looked round the edge to gauge my aim.

Curtains. I mean, the whole thing was curtained off – closed.

Helpful Hi-viz shouted, ‘You need to put that in number 2’

What?!!

By this time the wind had really got up and when I turned around to berate him and his kind (in a  quite restrained manner due to me having Buddhahood ‘n’all), the sheet caught the wind and I staggered about like a drunkard trying to tame it. This completely distracted me from my tirade.

With dismay, it dawned on me that the entire contents of the car, apart from the microwave, must be carted to skip two. I couldn’t drive back to it as the system was one-way. The only option was to walk. It doesn’t sound far, but actually, it is quite a long way when you are fighting with large piece of material acting like a wingsuit or lovingly embracing a massive mattress.

Wingsuit. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Richard Schneider from Los Angeles

Meanwhile Mavis watching from the comfort of the passenger seat, was helpless to come to my rescue.

Finally, with a delightfully empty car and the happy anticipation of alcoholic beverage as reward for my energetic and buffetted experience, I drove us home.

Gin and tonic in hand, I made a call Horace to catch up with her news. I related my experience at the tip, and in return she admitted to one of her own.

Did you know that  runny paint is not allowed in landfill? I didn’t, but now, unfortunately, given the number of half used tins still requiring disposal, I do. Horace and Kerching however knew this full well when they buried their tins deep in a plastic bag  under other junk, to sneak into a skip.

But sins have a tendence to find you out and as Horace swung this bag into the landfill container, its bottom caught on the edge and the bag burst open causing tins of paint to clatter to the ground and one to burst open, showering her with bright orange paint.

Her guilty  eyes met Kerching’s and the two of them fled without looking back. Fortunately, their location remains concealed from all but closest family, unless  a reward is offered for information leading to their arrest.

Teaching

I am a T.A, specialising in Speech and Language. The lockdown forced me home, and fear caused by my age and vulnerable status, kept me there. Thanks to the compassion of the school, I have been working remotely, marking maths and, to pass the time and hopefully add value, filming a  Creative Writing lesson or three, making quizzes with a human face – mine, and recording audio versions of the trickier texts the children are faced with in their home schooling.

I learned a lot about recording and editing video during the above mentioned Writing lesson and quickly realised I needed a script and an autocue. I chose teleprompter Premium, and set it up on my phone.  It cleverly allows the script to roll at your chosen speed and font size and sits on the screen beside the camera so that your eye looks almost at the audience.

I had a small barrier behind me to block out the room, which contained all the above mentioned junk, and began recording the first lesson. After a few abortive takes, I reached the end of my performance with barely a hesitation, and loaded the video into my editing tool Hitfilm Express, on the computer.

It was then I realised the teleprompter on my phone screen concealed a view of the disgusting mattress, propped at the end of the double bed. Duh!

One last bit. Evidence of what lies ahead for me and mine

I have made no secret of the fact that I am tipping over the hill. Not completely inept, but conscious of an inevitable deterioration in my faculties.  Up to now, I have reported on the consequences of a decline in my eye sight and memory , but I always knew, given the evidence of my grandfather and mother, that I would end up hard of hearing.

Cn you hear me now?

Lately, and it may be partly due to an increased use of earbuds during Zoom calls and lesson production, I have noticed that people have started to mumble.

Let me also remind you that Whizz and I, on our walks with the dog or in the kitchen while I prepare dinner, have many interesting debates about the state of the world. It was in the kitchen that we were discussing world recession. I was arguing (or fishing for more information) that if the whole world is in recession, why does it matter? We are all starting from the same place; our economies have all dropped, but in relation to each other our positions are the same. I still don’t understand the answer but something Whizz said made me prick up my ears.

‘China,’ he said, ‘Is a combination of Billy Connolly and a police state.’

File:John Byrne (b.1940) - Billy Connolly (b.1942), Entertainer - PG 3323 - National Galleries of Scotland.jpg
Artist John Byrne (1786–1847) link=Creator: wikidata:Q6224220 John Byrne: Billy Connolly, b. 1942. Entertainer Title Billy Connolly (b. 1942) Edit this at Wikidata

I wracked my brain, seeking a link between these two seemingly unconnected entities. I had watched a program about Mr Connolly travelling in Iceland  and I knew he was from Scotland, but could think of nothing to connect him with China.’

‘What do you mean?’ I asked at last.

Whizz explained that because of the size of its economy…

Aha.

Not Billy Connelly but BIG ECONOMY.

I am a Buddha

Oh yes.

Unfortunately, my Buddhahood doesn’t always manifest itself, and I give myself a lot of grief and forget this fundamental fact.

So, I decided to send myself electronic reminders from my calendar. A few months ago, before Whizz bought himself a new Apple watch, the messages would appear twice daily on my Fitbit: ‘You are a Buddha’ they would say and give me a nice little buzz on the wrist.

Then I got the handmedown Apple watch. All singin’ all dancin’ with knobs on. Now my messages say ‘You are a Buddha until 10am’.

That, it has to be said, explains a lot.

You’d better watch out…

It is December 10th, 2019, a few days after my mum’s 90th birthday, and I am limping towards my 64th Christmas, my enthusiasm as yet unroused. Mavis is excited though, and this is something to be grateful for in light of the saddest of things that happened on her third Christmas. It probably doesn’t seem that sad to you but I hate to remember it.

Her third Christmas. She was two years and two months old. The first year when excitement might well in her breast at the thought of Santa bringing a cornucopia of gifts and delivering them into a stocking, carefully hung outside the bedroom to avoid the terror of his looming into view in the middle of the night.

On Christmas Eve, Mavis was dispatched to bed with dire warnings that Santa wouldn’t come if she didn’t go to sleep, then Whizz and I clinked together our glasses of mulled wine and waited for the chance to fill up her stocking.  I’m not sure who was more excited, us or Mavis. We couldn’t wait to watch her little face light up when she saw that magically lumpy sack.

image from Fire Art https://www.shutterstock.com/g/piikcoro?studio=1
Cute eh?

The only thing that Mavis had asked Father Christmas for was a blue teddy, and this, with some effort, I had managed to find. Although  rather small, he had a cute face, and after stuffing the stocking with the usual yoyos, dollies, silly games and such, I perched him on the top, peeping out over the edge so he would be the first thing she saw when she opened her door.

Whizz and I went to bed in the expectation of an early awakening, but strangely, we woke up before Mavis. Not wishing to disturb her sleep, we settled back in bed and began to read. After some time, the handle of the door went down and a solemn little face peeped in.

‘Hello,’ I said. ‘Has he been.’

Mavis shook her head. ‘No,’ she said. ‘I been too naughty.’

What? I launched myself out of bed saying, ‘I’m sure you haven’t. Let me see.’

It was quite a large stocking, made by me as a more attractive alternative to a pillow case. Overnight, its contents had settled to such a degree that teddy had dropped a few inches, and Mavis, being small, was unable to see inside.

Picture
Not Mavis

Of course I soon showed her that the presents were there, but her earlier sadness took the edge off my joy, and I think, hers. Aww. I still feel a hollow in my stomach when I think of it.

General Idiocy 3

In my last post I mentioned Aldi. I don’t go there very often, especially of late since learning of the destruction of the Brazillian rainforest, caused by our avid consumption of meat, but when I do, I love mooching for bargains on the non-food counters.

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On the day in question, I spotted matching bottles of pet friendly weed killer. One was for weeds in paths  and the other for lawns. I would like to state here that I no longer use chemicals in the garden but I did then, so there it is. I can’t change what is already done, I can only move on, trying to improve.

A common lawn pest

Our lawn, where the dog hadn’t rendered it to a crisp patch of coir, had more weeds than grass so at the first opportunity, I grabbed the bottle of stuff from the garage and gaily squirted the dandelions and daisies to within minus an inch of their lives. It was only when I put the empty bottle in the recycling that I noticed my error. Not only was it the wrong bottle, the one for paths, but the pet-friendly implication on the label was in fact the name of the manufacturer.

Within a week, the lawn resembled a bristly door mat with the odd patch of green. The weed killer had been amazingly effective. Where once grew deep rooted dandelions, now there were deep rooted cavities. I am not sure what happened to the residents of these holes because they had completely vanished.

Scary.

General Idiocy 2

This story describes one day in my life I would not care to repeat.

At the time, Mavis worked in Duckchester and was dependent upon our deplorable bus service to get her from Pebbleditch to the centre of town. This usually involved a lift from one of her parents to another village about 3 miles away, where buses were more frequent, although not necessarily more reliable. For this latter reason, if I had a need to go into Duckchester, I would offer Mavis a lift, which meant setting out earlier than was ideal, to get her to work by 9am.

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Author Frank Hank
Will the bus never come?

On this occasion, I had an appointment at Duckchester hospital to check my blood clotting levels (Thanks to advances in medicine, I no longer need to do this). My due time was 10am so after delivering Mavis to M&S, I decided to drop in at Aldi and pick up a few groceries at a bargain price.

When I came out, the traffic pointing left – the direction of the hospital – was at a standstill, so I decided to turn right. I would find an alternative route.

I will pause here to explain that as well as being careless and forgetful, I have a woefully inadequate sense of direction. My plan was doomed from the outset.

I turned right, then left, then left again. Then… where could I be? To cut a long story to sensible proportions, I made it to my appointment with seconds to spare, managing to feel fortunate that they weren’t going to check my blood pressure.

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After my thumb had been jabbed and my INR pronounced acceptable, I set off towards home still feeling discombobulated. I was almost at the front door when a reminder popped up on my phone telling me that I was now supposed to be at a friend’s house, 20 minutes away in the opposite direction.  Needless to say, I was late. Her amusement at my excuse and subsequent suggestion, prompted my writing this series of self-depricating posts.

When I returned home, I was greeted by the expectant wag and pleading eyes of Milo (he’s my dog!) His walk was due and how could he be refused?

I stuffed my phone into a breast pocket – my new hand-me-down phone with a nice big screen. My new phone that I actually use because I can read what is on the screen. My new phone onto which I had not fixed a screen protector. Can you tell which way this is heading?

As Mavis was due to be collected from her return bus in about an hour,  I took Milo to the park near her bus stop, and sent a text telling her where to find me. After pulling up in the car park, I released the dog from the back of the car, threw the ball towards the middle of the grass to get him away from any moving cars, and locked the doors.

By the time I reached the concrete path that led into the park, Milo was trotting towards me with the ball in his mouth.  He dropped it expectantly at my feet and I bent over to pick it up.  You guessed it. The phone slipped from my pocket and the screen smashed on the hard pathway. This was not turning into the best day of my life.

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Not my phone but you get the idea

We circumnavigated the park, me throwing the ball and Milo hurtling after it. I lapsed into daydreams, throwing, ambling throwing ambling then… where was the dog?

There he was, in the distance, sniffing, cocking his leg, sniffing, cocking his leg.

Where was the ball? No idea!

‘Milo!’ He looked up but didn’t move. ‘Where’s the ball?’ I yelled. He looked about hopelessly. ‘Bring the ball,’ I insisted.

He put his nose to the ground and retraced his route. This of course involved more sniffing and cocking and then, yes, his nose darted to the ground and he lifted his head with a ball in his mouth. ‘Good boy.’ I put my hand in my pocket for a treat and he trotted towards me with his ears pricked,  dropped the ball at my feet, did his beast sit and gulped down his gravy bone. I looked at the ball. It was a sad looking thing with a hole in it. ‘Milo, this isn’t your ball. Go and find your ball!’ He cocked his head to one side, trying to understand then wandered back to the middle of the park to search. He is actually quite an intelligent dog as you can tell.

By now, given the stressful nature of my day thus far, I was feeling a little grumpy. I went to help, but we failed to find his ball. A cheerful lady appeared, rather too cheerful in my opinion, and shared her joy at the beautiful day. I didn’t exactly snap at her but pointed out that mine was possibly not as enjoyable as hers – not sure where my Buddhahood was at this point. When she heard about the missing ball, she insisted on helping me search. Such a lovely lady. I wish I could meet her again and thank her properly.

Despite her help the ball didn’t turn up, so I put the dog on his lead and headed back to the car, where I expected that by now, Mavis would be waiting.

My phone buzzed and I squinted at the message on my damaged screen: ‘The bus hasn’t turned up yet,’ advised Mavis. I sighed walked on and there, right in front of me by the entrance to the park, was Milo’s ball.

Mavis arrived about an hour later.

Dinner was a hurried affair, giving me time to get the house ready for a meeting. I scooted round putting things away, putting out glasses of water for the guests, calming my breathing.

Another buzz on my star spangled phone: ‘Buddhist meeting… at Mary’s.’

‘What?!