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Life Chez Dee Episode #56: worry, prepare and eat cake

I took a day to myself today. It’s not often I take a day off from all my charity work; I’m either answering emails, making phone calls, visiting businesses, groups, organisations, banking, admin or planning. But with the exception of one little errand, and a couple of answered messages, I’ve had the day to myself. Nothing planned. Nothing particularly achieved. But a day of nothingness ish. I’m worn out lately. I’m tired and I’m a bit stressed, and William has definitely pushed one too many buttons, and my patience and tolerance levels have depleted somewhat. So having a day to do what I need to do has been lovely.

Of course I can’t get away from the general panicking, and talk, and worry which Coronavirus brings. COVID19 is here … and however, much you try to distance yourself from the public frenzy of extra hygiene and over buying of provisions and listening to the daily updates of infection, death and survival statistics … you just can’t get away from it.

I popped to the shop this morning to buy a few bits … I needed fruit and I needed milk. I popped to Booths and found a huge packet of loo roll on the reduction shelf … well of course I picked it up and bought it … a 16 roll pack of decent quality loo roll for £4 was a bargain I thought … although why in this time of “loo roll gate” it was reduced, I have no idea. I’m glad in a way that I’ve got this though. We now have no fear of having to be ripping up newspaper as a loo roll substitute! I’d thought to myself a few times about what would happen if we were left without loo roll, and I thought about all the times my dad went on about having to go to the outside loo, and clear away the spiders, and use newspaper for loo roll … how he said my mum was posh as they used the radio times at her house! Well as I queued with my Andrex under my arm, thinking to myself that I could put the newspaper sheets on hold for a while, I could feel all eyes were upon me, burning into my back as I stood near the kiosk waiting my turn. Our family is ok now for a while, but I don’t envy the families who run short of loo roll and have to go out and buy … as you are clearly watched, scrutinised and judged in the minds of all who see you putting this item in your shopping basket.

It is worrying situation, and I think the worry is getting into the minds of people like a virus, and is affecting more people than the virus itself will in fact. Coronavirus isn’t like flu though, as so many people are saying. There will be deaths; there will be victims. It’s worrying as to whether our hospitals can cope and it’s worrying that it will come to them playing God with treating the younger and healthier people, and turning away the elderly and vulnerable. I worry that based on what has happened I other countries, we will know people who this virus will kill. I worry about Justin’s mum and my parents, who are elderly, and certainly in my mum’s case, who has underlying health issues. Keeping her away from bugs and germs has been hard enough when she was on chemo, but this is on another level. Although, worryingly, I'm not sure that my dad's version of keeping my mum germ free in cafes is going to work ... I'm not sure I'd want any doctor or surgeon sterilising equipment his way. You don't tend to find dipping a teaspoon in a latte, and wiping it on a serviette in Booths cafe is up there when it comes to destroying bugs ... but hey, that's just my opinion.

It came up in conversation with a friend, when we were discussing stockpiling of food … were we doing this? I’m not in fact going out to buy copious amounts of groceries for the record, but it did get me thinking about what in fact I had in terms of supplies in my fridge, and indeed in my freezer and we really needn’t worry. I have loads of stuff in the cupboards, and in the freezer … I always have had. I always keep a larder full of stuff, and a freezer stocked with plenty, mainly because I never really know what we’re having for meals, and tend to decide either the day before, or on the day what we’re having, and its usually down to either what we feel like, or what will fit in logistically with what the boys are up to that evening. I generally cook from scratch and therefore need a variety of meat in the freezer, and store cupboard essentials. I’m not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, nothing flashy here, but there is always a home cooked meal on the table … shepherd’s pie, fish pie, bolognase or curries .. and I always make loads … enough for that night, and enough to freeze for another day. A sort of homemade ready meal for those crazy nights when we’re all busy.

To be honest if we need to self isolate due to coronavirus, we’ll manage fine for provisions for a 14 day quarantine … and I’d go as far as saying we’d probably scrape through a 14 week quarantine, except for maybe running short on bread, milk, fruit and veg … I do have a few bags of frozen veg, and frozen fruit though, so those emergencies are covered … milk is more of an issue, and I will need to pop out for this … I really don’t want to give up my milky tea fix.

All this stockpiling of food though that people seem to be doing though isn’t surprising really. If they’ve been told that the expectation is that people will need to self isolate for 14 days, then obviously people are going to be buying in 14 days worth of supplies. I remember as a kid, seeing bags of sugar piled at the back of my grandma’s wardrobe. Not just a couple of bags … I’m talking a dozen or more bags of sugar … clearly having lived through two world wars, the mentality of knowing that sugar would be rationed was enough to have her prepared in the event of another war.

It’s been a bit of a stressy week if I’m honest. Justin has been working away in the US all week … and then tired and under the weather (no it’s not COVID19) he did lots of hard graft on the campfire #forEdward at Fylde Scouts DHQ. William had told me that he had to be taken to Chorley for a band rehearsal, and so after he’d had a piano lesson, I whizzed him over to Chorley. Typically, William isn’t great when it comes to organisation, logistics and communicating details regarding such, and today was no exception. The music rehearsal turned out not to be on, as he’d got the wrong week. A wasted two hour round trip to Chorley was not really something I was happy about, not to mention the petrol, and all the other stuff it took me away from doing at home. The following day, I get a phone call from the school to say he should have been at a rehearsal for the college production of Les Mis 15 minutes ago and everyone was sitting waiting for him to arrive. I apologise profusely to the teacher stating that I had no idea it was on and that I’ll chivvy William, and I tell him that I will get William there by about 11am given that its 10.15am now. William is still in bed … by this point I’ve already been rolling my eyes on the way upstairs, and by the time I get to William and find him in bed, my explanation of the phone call turns to a shout and a lecture. He still doesn’t rush and eventually get up and starts faffing in the shower. We set off to college at 10.45am and 10 mins into the journey, he announces that we’ve set off without his trumpet. We drive back home to collect this, and set off again, with me eventually dropping him off an hour and a half late for his rehearsal ………. All this doesn’t do a great deal for my mood.

It’s funny … but not funny … and were it not for the fact that this is another couple of incidents in the long list of stuff that comes my way I might laugh … but I don’t laugh … I’m annoyed and I’m exasperated.

So what to do today when stress is high …. make cakes of course … banana choc chip muffins … yum. Nigella’s recipe of course … always a winner. Not that these will do anything for my ever expanding waistline, which no doubt will send me into another dip and cause me more worry and stress, but hey … I’ve always baked when worried or stressed … some folks go for a run or go to the gym …. I turn to cake! I don’t know if there’s something in the subconscious which goes back to all the time I spent with my grandma as a kid, and the baking I did with her … buns … buns they were called, not muffins. I don’t really like the term muffins … just add it to the list of other Americanisms I’m not keen on. I know I’ve called these cakes I’ve just made Banana Muffins, but I’m just quoting the recipe as Nigella calls them here so don’t all jump down my throat at once! I make banana muffins quite often if I’m honest … we’ve always got some bananas which have gone past that point of no return … they’re very yellow, very speckly, and I really can’t eat them when they’re at this stage. I can’t waste them, I really don’t like waste, and so they’re repurposed into this batch of deliciousness.

My Grandma baked, she baked cakes, she made puddings … always had “a pudding in the oven” if we were visiting …. rice pudding, bread and butter pudding, eve’s pudding, apple pie, or crumble, and always birds custard. She always made pastry … so there were always pies, puddings, tarts on the menu … and she made the best meat and potato pie, in a deep dish, with the homemade pastry crust on top and the ceramic chimney in the middle letting out the steam. To this day I can be transported back to relive so many memories which go hand in hand with that meat and potato pie, and the huge brown pot it was cooked in.

My grandma could fix everything with tea and toast … and she made the best tea too. So is it this nostalgia and these memories which throw me into my deep rooted, and subconscious survival mode of baking a cake when I’m in need of a bit of me time and therapy?

It’s not long now until I collect Oliver from school, and he’ll no doubt demolish some cake upon his return … so too will William when he gets in … and Justin will happily oblige with eating several … so maybe my waistline will be saved somewhat.

The house smells wonderful, homely and cakey … and at the moment, in this time of uncertainty, my cake making will fix nothing, but it’s comforting. We have no idea what we will face with this coronavirus, but I’ll deal with each day as it comes and leave the worrying to those who are paid to worry about this. Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” And on that note it’s time for tea and cake.

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