Hello all and welcome to another weekly blog written under lock down. How has your week been? Done anything good or unusual this week? Been making the most of the sunshine, eating all the things, and doing your best to keep positive? How is your list of “jobs for lock down” looking? It’s okay, I do indeed mean that last one with my tongue firmly in my cheek.
I for one was very pleased it was a four-day week. Work was productive but felt hectic and stressy, I’ve not been sleeping well again, my mind has been all over the place, and so Bank Holiday Friday was very welcome. It was weird having the bank holiday moved for the 75th anniversary of VE Day and then not really be able to commemorate it as was imagined when that decision was taken, but I did see that lots of people had stay-at-home-appropriate street parties (and also others who had not-particularly-stay-at-home-appropriate street parties…), which was at least something. Those living on our street all stood out on our doorsteps at 9pm on Friday evening to sing along with We’ll Meet Again, which was kind of fun but also more than a little bit awkward – it was good to join in though, and it certainly made us all smile.
Anyway, onto this week’s weekly blog. In this episode I want to talk to you about my very normal feeling Saturday, and a couple of nice things I received in the mail…
My Saturday Felt Normal
I commented a few times yesterday and today how much I enjoyed my Saturday. At first I thought maybe it was because I got out for a decent length walk and had our first Chinese takeaway since February. On reflection, I think the reason I enjoyed my Saturday so much was because it felt, well, normal. That isn’t to say that I travelled anywhere, met up with friends or family, went shopping, or did anything else that might be against the current rules. Rather, the things I did do all combined to make up a pretty normal, and very nice, simple Saturday at home.
I started my day with a lovely sunny and warm nine-mile circular walk from my front door. Knowing it was going to be a warm one, I got up with the intention of heading out first thing, which is always something that makes me look back on a day and appreciate it. I headed out of our village and across a number of fields, up a hill, through a beautiful woodland with the last of the bluebells, found a heap of wild garlic, climbed up onto the hill with great views across the valley. Okay so it was a bit hazy but the view was excellent none-the-less (the embedded instagram posts are from my walk). I shared the hill with a few more humans than in recent weeks, but there was still plenty of space for everyone and it was nice to see people enjoying themselves running and walking in the sunshine, and there were still more sheep than people which is a good sign. I headed across the common and picked up a new-to-me footpath over another hill and down across some beautiful meadow and into the village north of ours. Three villages, two hills, two ancient forts, one trig pillar, bits of two waymarked trails, nine miles, 20,000 steps, happy Zoe.
After a suitable post-hike lunch of fish fingers and peas (that road trip to find the best fish finger sandwich in Great Britain still hasn’t happened), I set about giving my garden a jolly good tidy. I deadheaded the tulips, cleared out the (ridiculous amount of) weeds, dug it all over, separated out the sunflowers and courgettes to give them more space (do you think I’ll actually get a courgette this year?), and got a handful of pots ready for our delivery of lavender and geranium that I really hope comes this week, we’ve been waiting a while. The garden really is looking lovely, if I do say so myself. I do need to finish painting the fence – that was supposed to be a job for today, but it’s been chucking it down and is very windy so I’ll carry that one forward to next weekend.
Gardening complete, I spent some time plotting some future local walking routes on OS Maps, watched a bit of YouTube (I’m finding other people’s weekly/day in the life vlogs quite interesting at the moment – do you watch any of these?), sorted through a few photos and posted a couple on instagram, and put my feet up for a bit. To top it all off, we did indeed eat our first Chinese takeaway since late February (more on that in a moment…), and watched Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. We’ve decided to watch all the Marvel films in chronological order, which should keep us going for a fair few Saturday night movie nights! Takeaway and movie night is an absolute staple in our house, and it just felt right, normal and happy.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of this “new normal” and, while I completely understand the reasons all these restrictions (which are set to change again this evening), and join with others being nervous about how society is (and isn’t) coping with the issues created by this virus, I honestly think an ordinary Saturday was massively good for my soul. It’s probably not great that something that felt normal made me so happy, but there we are. I spend most of my time at the moment feeling a bit disappointed with life, bored, unsatisfied, and I am thankful that yesterday in its un-contrived happiness reminded me that life is there to be lived and cherished. More like this, please.
Moving away from the philosophy of how feeling normal is good for me, I return to my lock down habit of consuming way too much television. If you’ve got Disney+ I’ve got two recommendations for you this week I think you should watch.
The first is The Mandalorian, which I finally started watching earlier this week and am five or six episodes in already. I wasn’t sure how good a Star Wars spin-off would be, hence being a bit late to the party, but I am very much enjoying it. Telling the story of an armour-clad bounty hunter, the series takes place about five years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi. It’s nicely made, the music and cinematography is worthy of Lucasfilm, and I quite like having this kind of thing in bite sized chunks rather than as a feature length films, ideal for weeknight escapism. It has the classic Star Wars feel, with plenty of weird and wonderful alien races, lots of action and fight scenes, and even a bit of heart thanks to The Child (commonly known as “Baby Yoda” despite being set after Yoda’s death). If you’re a Star Wars fan (or just have a good memory from when you watched the films), you’ll find plenty of subtle nods to the films, which I always appreciate as it demonstrates the makers have paid attention. Worth your time if you haven’t already seen it. The only thing I find odd is how all the episodes seem to be slightly different lengths.
The other programme I recommend, is Prop Culture. This documentary, which is very American in style, follows prop collector Dan Lanigan as he revisits classic Disney titles and discovers how props helped to shape and create their most magical moments (it is Disney, after all). It’s so interesting that in the early days the props weren’t kept in archives as they are now, but rather were taken by cast members and film crew to keep as mementos, meaning they are not always easy to find. I’ve not watched the whole series yet, but so far, the Mary Poppins and Pirates of the Caribbean episodes have been my favourite – I guess because they both feature in my favourite films list and so I have an interest in them already. You can definitely tell that Dan Lanigan is a props fan – apparently he spent over $169k on a Ghostbusters proton pack and $270k on Deckard’s gun from Blade Runner – his enthusiasm is a little addictive. I shan’t be starting my prop collection any time soon based on those prices, though! It’s easy watching, with classic clips and interviews with original cast and crew, and is worth a watch by anyone who loves a Disney classic.
The Chinese is Open!
I’ve been singing the virtues of home cooking in my last few weekly blogs, but I didn’t want to you to think that I’m one of those people who cooks food from scratch three meals a day every day. Oh no. I certainly like and appreciate home cooked fayre, but I rather like my food delivered, too.
While those in cities have been able to get take away and delivery food with ease during lock down, those of us in smaller towns and villages have found it much harder. Of course, I completely understand the reasons that our local takeaways closed and the restaurants decided not branch out and offer delivery (or decided not to deliver as far out as ours – we’re not covered by Deliveroo or Uber Eats here), but it’s been a very nice thing indeed to have a couple of our favourite places reopen over the last week or so. I know takeaway food is not particularly healthy, it is also not cheap eating, but it is one of life’s pleasures and our once-a-week take away habit now has a lot more choice once again. Hooray!
Last week we had Indian from our favourite takeaway after they reopened, and this week we had Chinese from our favourite after they reopened. Both were stress-free, social distancing appropriate, well organised, and, most importantly, tasty. One was delivery, the other pick up. I hope these and our other favourite local eateries feel it’s worth it to continue, this period must be a huge strain on such local family run businesses. I know it’ll be a while before our favourite burger place can have us sitting-in, but this should keep me going for a bit. Apparently a local catering company is offering Thai takeaway as a special offering at the moment, so I think that’s on the menu for next weekend.
The other thing we’ve been doing to save me having to think about what to cook every night is ordering food from The Indian Guy. We’ve had his meals before now and they have always been excellent. We’ve had curries, chilli’s, an amazing mushroom stroganoff, dahls, and his signature pau bhaji. All vegan, freshly prepared, and delivered ready to either reheat or freeze for later. If you’re local to this area I highly recommend The Indian Guy, and if you’re not, then be jealous! There are lots of local outfits offering prepared meals and meal kits at the moment, and it’s great to support someone local and have something a bit different for dinner.
In the Mail
I seem to have a lot of parcels delivered this week, with huge thanks to Royal Mail and various couriers continuing to work hard, but most of them aren’t for me thanks to lots of family birthdays coming up over the next month. I have had a couple of nice deliveries I did want to mention, though.
The first was a pack of soap from Friendly Soap. We’ve been using bar soap at home for a good while now because it is much better for the environment than liquid soap that comes in plastic bottles. Some even say it’s more hygienic, as there isn’t anywhere for bacteria to grow (you’re not touching and then re-touching the plastic container). I’ve been buying The Body Shop soap for the longest time, but recently found Friendly Soap when looking to see if I can do even better and get something without palm oil and that is completely plastic free (cardboard packaging wins for me!). They’re also cheaper than The Body Shop, it turns out, which is a bonus. I bought their selection box of four soaps, and they smell amazing – I’ll let you know how long each bar lasts as I know that’s important when it comes to hand soaps. I already had a Lush order on the way with my current shampoo bar and face wash bar of choice (which hopefully will arrive soon…), or I’d have also ordered their versions of those products to try out too – next time I need some I will give it a try.
The other nice delivery was a box of noodle posts from Mr Lee’s Noodles. These are a gifted item, which is why this week’s weekly blog is marked as such, but I don’t mind talking about them as they I already know they are very good – I’ve featured them here on Splodz Blogz before, and have been very pleased that the company has regularly put noodles in our Outdoor Bloggers gift bags. These pots are gluten free, contain nothing artificial, and are made from freeze dried vegetables rather than dehydrated ones to apparently lock in the flavour and keep the vitamins in. The six varieties are all low in salt, sugar and saturated fats. They are, for all intents and purposes, healthy. The reason I have them now is the recipes have had a bit of a refresh, and so I’ll be giving the updated versions a try over the next few weeks. Of course I probably won’t be taking them camping, but they will make very easy at-home lunches. If you’re interested, the Hong Kong Street Beef has been my favourite up until now, I’ll let you know if that changes.
I think I’ll give this week’s question this week a miss, but I would still like to hear from you in the comments if you’ve got a minute after finishing reading my weekly blog. Tell me something about your week and how you spent this unusual bank holiday weekend.
PS: I’m now 166 miles into my virtual Coast to Coast walk. Nearly there!
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