Self Isolation Week Twelve

Day Eighty-five: It has happened, after many suns have risen and fallen into the sea (thats a visual gag thank you Monty Python) I am ready to share with you the news that… Today I am officially the favourite niece.

I just happened to ring my auntie up this afternoon on the actual day she celebrated her birthday. I would love to say I knew it was today all along, but that would be a lie. I was convinced it was in March for some reason, but no June eight same date every year for eighty years…

lallyOh yes I’m allowed to say that. She told me a story about Grandma Harding, who I never knew, but how she had gone with her into town on her birthday (which town, London I expect) and watched her exclaiming to everybody she met, ‘I’m eighty you know!’ So my auntie has been doing exactly the same today.

I was lucky because early on in the conversation she mentioned receiving lots of cards that morning, and me being quick as the brown fox said , That’s why I rang to wish you happy birthday.’ What is important is that I spoke to her and she felt special.

We then talked about lockdown how she finds the carrots going brown quickly these days. They’ve changed her medicine… actually they’ve given up on her eye medicine for the foreseeable (for see able) so she can see a bit better. It was the eye drops that were causing all the pain and the loss of sight, some kind of over reaction to them. As you know getting through to a hospital is very difficult right now so it took some time to get the change made. Anyway she was going to go and sit in a friends garden, and have a cuppa wrapped up in her coat and blanket. Certainly not the birthday she’d hoped for, but it’s something, better than sitting in her house with her eyes screwed tight, because she cannot bear the pain of opening them.

It was really good to talk to her, she told me how she had prodded our Lottie with a stick on friday – out of sight of the care staff mind – prodding people with sticks is largely frowned upon unless the prodded has been involved in some kind of electric shock. In the event of that happening you are compelled to pick up a stick or broom handle if you prefer and prod the living wotsits out of them. I’m pretty sure in Lottie’s case it was just a gentle tickle so contact was made, which is quite touching I think you’ll agree. Here’s your new normal. And to add just a bit more heartbreak mom and dad are faced with the awful dilemma of visiting and upsetting her – she had another mini-fit after they left last friday – or not visiting and all parties left feeling bereft. Just another awful but real scenario that carers and the cared for are facing during Covid season.

19942641_10154473469441213_468149146332646629_oI’m not sure whether I could make that decision. So we started on a cheery celebratory note, you might say ebullient, and then ended in total anguish. such is the ying and yang of Covid 19.  I’ll stick around for now. You might need me.

Love you all and Happy Birthday Lally.

Day Eighty-four: ‘I don’t want to go,’ the tenth Doctor said and in doing so, broke the hearts of millions of fans across the globe. I’ve not gone yet, and anyway I will still be writing. [Oh if you insist…]

I don't want to go

Swoon some… melt a bit… meltdown!

Trying to explain it today to Barbara, when she kindly brought round a slice of her homemade, most delicious, elderflower syrup sponge cake, with toasted almonds topping – as good as it sounds – I no longer, get the sense we are all in it together. I don’t mean the political classes, I’ve never felt any solidarity from them, I mean the rest of the country. More of this tomorrow. I’m still trying to formulate my ideas.

Today was the eleventh and final Bluebeany Art Club, fittingly the theme was Party.

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Discover more of Beany’s world here: BLUEBEANY.COM

Party. It was during self care Saturday, that I came across the egg box – for that is indeed what it is –  and as I opened and shut it I remembered a story I’d read about an artist, a sort of model-maker who housed their work in suitcases. The suitcases had figures in them and were ornately decorated inside with fabric scraps and mementos, creating portable 3D portraiture: I think they may have even played music. (Anyone recognise the story? I’m sure it was a novel)

So there I am stood in the kitchen holding the egg box and I think, okay what’s going to go inside? I found the picture of the dancer in an old magazine and immediately knew it would be a nightclub. From there it was just a case of finding interesting colours and patterns, and cutting them out to resemble fixtures and fittings.  The highland cow is the same one I rescued from the scrap tray, during Paper Cinema’s production of Macbeth last year, at Hull Minster for Heads Up: he is proudly standing on top of the speakers.  Naturally there is a flamingo and a swan serving behind the bar, and the two punters – it usually picks up around ten – are both wearing face coverings.

I will be keeping all of my pieces from Bluebeany Art Club. the models, the film, the drawings and designs… in the forlorn hope that we get to display them in the real world: I don’t believe photograph, quite convey their individual lockdown charm. Yes, I really like them,  and yes I’m praising my own work… in seventeen years I’ve never reviewed myself. I will do a separate post with a slideshow of all the pieces, to keep them in one place together, and maybe a group shot too.  But now it is time to party…. Cheers Anna!

Monday Night @ CooVid Club

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Day Eighty-three: I cheered up today, I cleared up and cleaned up and made a chilli, read my book, looked out the window, saw it was windy, made a nest indoors and it was good.

I had an idea while washing up and scribbled a few ideas down, I don’t know if its a good idea but I think I can get behind it for a while. You know when you ht upon something because you keep going back to it and adding shape and form, moving parts around until it fits neatly into the shape, you’ve made inside your head.

I avoided the news again today, apart from the News Quiz, which doesn’t really count. I feel this blog series is coming to a natural end… leave them wanting more hey. Don’t hold out for the ill-advised bargain bin posts, as we try to stretch this stuff out before your very eyes. It is probably best if you start looking away now, this ain’t gonna get any better… are you still there. Here’s some images from the cutting room floor.

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Day Eighty-two: Anyone else feel like we are in limbo now, not quite in lockdown not quite out?

The majority of people are going about their everyday with some level of normalcy, some seeing friends and family, others going to work or school or preparing for something. I’m looking back at the last twelve weeks wondering whether I could have done more, should have done more. What more could I have done?

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17th Century allegorical painting: artist unknown

Sure I’ve got a lovely gallery of artwork to show for my troubles and a few thousand words of this… and a few sidelines where I’m still waiting for inspiration to strike. I did a poetry podcast with Yada Yada, I’ve contributed to two WoW online events and also the Writing in Crisis podcast too. I may have even managed to switch one of my biologicals for a substitute drug in tablet form. I’ve felt tired this week.

My tinnitus came back like a roaring sea yesterday so I double dropped my sleepers to knock myself out. I suspect that’s why today I’ve felt groggy, noncommittal, uninterested. If I go on the new drug I still have to be careful about infections. I’ll still have to do regular blood tests and all that, but at least I won’t have to feel at a loss, when I have to ask someone stick me. It might not weird them out, but it does me, the mind is both friend and foe.

In other news I’m annoyed with myself, despite measuring at least three times, I’ve gotten my width and drop mixed up, on my new blinds order. I’ve sent a message but it might be too late I got an email saying they’d gone into production. I’m going to end up with blinds too short for a very wide window that doesn’t exist. I’m cross I couldn’t get that right, it’s simple stuff and somehow I’ve screwed it up. It’s not the be all and end all, but you’d think I could measure a window right?

I could probably do with tidying up tomorrow making the place feel more loved, its amazing how surfaces just get filled with stuff. Okay plan of action, clear the services hoover through – I don’t know why I’m telling you it’s not like you can come in and admire it – wash up yet again, maybe do a candlelit unicorn bubble bath tomorrow night, find some inner peace.

You have to make the effort, when people say ‘take care’ they mean you have to make the effort to take care of yourself, because nobody is going to do it for you. Being on your own, sans relationship, can be masked by filling your life with lots of exciting things, a charade of a busy fulfilled existence. Regular updates online so that everyone says, ‘I see you’ve been busy with lots of stuff.’ Without all that stuff of smoke and mirrors, the mask slips and you might believe you are barely living. I said it on the phone the other day, so much of who I am is bound up in what I do… when I stop doing I cease to exist. I suspect it’s the meds talking or the mind being foe rather than friend.

Nosce te ipsum   

Day Eighty-one: Chickpeas are not the headline act, they might be tolerated lurking inside a curry masquerading as mince, but they are not main cast material. 

I intensely disliked pork and apricot as a child, this was strange fodder indeed for a six year old just out of a kid’s home. Mealtimes were often where battle lines were drawn, I ‘d be tied to the dining chair and told I’d have to eat it or it would be served me again for breakfast, dinner and supper until I had eaten every bit of it. This wasn’t just an idle threat. They did this my parents. I remember clearly being faced with cold leftover lunch, when everyone else was enjoying supper.

Now of course pork and apricot is delicious, rich creamy sauce with mushrooms and succulent pieces of piggy meat… ‘Get in my face,’ as my mate Cherrelle would say. I did not like fish either and this was somehow accepted without challenge, not liking fish was a recognised thing: Mum wasn’t massively keen on fish and maybe she knew that she could hardly force me to eat it if she would avoid it herself.

It wasn’t until being in a place in Hull that served fish and only fish every friday, that I grew to like it. Now I’m very partial to a nice bit of crispy battered cod or haddock. I haven’t had chippy for tea for months, Cave Street was my go to, but I can’t get used to the whole fish and chips in a cardboard box thing; I think it dries out quicker. I long for Bob Carvers in town by the old post office, hot chips with onion vinegar and a can of dandelion and burdock or Dr. Pepper: so good. I remember when I used to review music I’d slip in a food analogy now and then when I was hungry, describing guitar licks as like the perfect dippy egg or some such thing.

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In Zim I had cause to try lots of strange things, impala consommé, very tasty and my first introduction to a clear broth. At camp at Pony Club there was someone who had lychees as pack up. I’d never seen them before but I remember being intrigued by the hard little cases and trying the eyeball-like white fruit inside. You used to be able to get lychee ice cream in Herons years ago, but I think they discontinued it.

Lots of interesting fruits in Zim, things like guava and grenadilla, paw paw, passion fruit and my favourite to this day mango. I got into real trouble for throwing a paw paw that was ripening on the table, at an annoying sibling in Sudan. They managed to dodge the oncoming missile and it split open exploding against the wall. I got chapter and verse, rightly so, on not wasting food for that. We had a paw paw tree by the gate in Zim and bananas in the back garden, we’d regularly have water melon for breakfast or packed in the cool box for a refreshment on the road.

You had to be careful near the bananas because of the spiders, at certain times of the year the garden and some of the paths at the back of the estate, would be off limits because of the sheer density of spider webs. Some species would sling giant webs six eight feet across, but the large ones with the big webs were usually harmless. The one you had to watch for was the brown button spider, that one would really spoil your breakfast, in a rush me to Parirenyatwa General now now, sort of way:  ‘parirenyatwa’ Shona word for with suffering.

The hospital is named after Dr Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa, the first black doctor in Rhodesia. He rose to Vice President in the opposition party ZAPU but in 1962 aged thirty-four he was assassinated, beaten to death by political rivals. I was rushed to Parirenyatwa General, in the back of a pick up, after I was thrown from a horse, when I was nine or ten. I remember being given a ginger sweet to suck on, it tasted horrible but I was too much in shock to say anything. I was fine no broken bones, but I was black and blue for a bit.

What I was going to mention was another sweet treat that might surprise you. For 50 cents you could buy a six foot sugar cane from a chap stood at the side of the road. You would eat it all day, biting the outer casing and stripping it with your teeth, to reveal the soft, pulpy slightly yellowish goodness inside.

The idea was to bite a chunk, chew it and suck it, till it was just woody strands in your mouth then spit it out on the ground: it wouldn’t be there long, it would be snapped up by a rodent or swooped upon by birds for nesting material. I

t was the kind of thing you’d share with friends, breaking uneven sized pieces of the cane, making sure you had a few feet left for yourself. It was frowned upon at home of course, buying food off strangers probably wasn’t safe. He was hardly a stranger I saw him every day in the same spot, as I walked to school.

School song: zuva ndenderedzwa guru, riri mudenga denga

(the sun is a large circle in the sky) 

 

 

Day Eighty: Like so much of this lockdown experience highs follow lows, follow highs, follow lows.

The morning began at half eight with a call from the surgery informing that they should not have done my injection yesterday, and that they will be cancelling the four appts booked for the next month. They gave me a number to ring, which turned about to be the wrong number, that number gave me a number to ring which was also the wrong number. They in turn gave me the number for an answering machine… who will get back to me by next monday: just one day before my next injection is due.

To compound the problem when I enquired about my next delivery of the injections, the delivery company said that I didn’t have a prescription with them anymore. Once again I am left chasing the same two depts over the same issue we had two months ago.

I managed to rise above it, push the panic feeling to the pit of my stomach and move on to whatever the rest of the day had in store. Women of Words did their second online event the theme was ‘Taking it personally’ and Cass, Lynda, Lou and I recorded four very different responses and shared them online with our audience, who we are missing very dearly. And from the comments and reactions we know they are all missing our monthly meet up at the library.

Click Link for more: https://www.facebook.com/pg/womenofwordshull/videos/

In a multimedia filled post, I can finally reveal the special something I worked on with Dr. Barbara Grabher and Dr. Janine Hatter from the University of Hull. Thanks to Critical Fish for hosting and featuring the podcast on their site.

‘Dr. Barbara Grabher engaged in conversation with Hull-based artist Michelle Dee and literature scholar Dr Janine Hatter to learn how the practice of writing links with the experience of crisis.’

Click Link: https://thecriticalfish.co.uk/writing-in-crisis/

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After all, tomorrow is another day

Day Seventy-nine: For the past few days I’ve been having a little panic about getting my weekly injection. It was due Saturday but because my designated carer fell ill, and it wasn’t fair to fall on my back up, I had to try and get it done at the surgery. After a little wrangling and a few phone calls between depts, I managed to get it done this morning. Of course that meant going out, and will mean going out at least once a week to get it done, on top of the monthly visit for blood tests.

A word on receiving medical treatment from a nurse wearing a full mask. If you don’t already have a relationship with them when you try crack a funny, to lighten the mood you have no idea whether it’s registered, whether they are smiling with you: communication it’s a whole new ball game.

So I was out, for a short while then I was back in.

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Seeing as I had been out earlier, my invitation, for tea and cake in the garden in a socially distanced way, from my friend Caroline, was very appealing. The news that the sun-baked days were going to become drizzly damp ones, also pushed me to the decision that I would take a trip outside that wasn’t deemed essential. I would see it as exercise and then a break for refreshments and a much needed catch up with a friend in the outdoors.

Twenty mins each way on foot, was accompanied by the familiar sting in my feet from walking any distance: not felt that for months. Not used to walking on pavements (note to self purchase bouncy soles) During the walk I was wary, I noticed each and every person, I avoided bottlenecks, I looked around corners before taking a wide circle. I crossed the road to avoid groups, and when one guy got too close behind me I looked over my shoulder and gave him a stare which stopped his charge.

I felt the familiar ache in my shoulder from carrying a bag again, I’ve not carried a bag for any length of time, for months too. But I loved those few hours in the garden as you can see; the birdsong; the greenery, the sun on my back; taking the world to task while having a laugh and a lemonade: it was just glorious. I’ve missed that. If it weren’t for the complicated choreography of social distancing it might have felt normal.

Now I’m not about to go gallivanting across the city, but I will be able to repay some of the many kindnesses that people have shown me. By dropping by their doorstep and sharing a few words of support and encouragement I can finally feel like I am doing some small thing to help.

Nothing has really changed, I still can’t go on public transport, go in shops, any enclosed spaces are off limits, but I can do a walk further than the bin a few times a week. I still have no faith in the govt health policy, I am sure they will fudge the figures to reflect whatever aspect they wish to highlight, or cover up. That is your new normal, a govt. who will got to any lengths, including putting the health of the population at risk, to stay in power. If you see me behind my red floral mask, in my outdoor shoes, then do stop and shout hello from a distance, it’d be good to catch up.

Freeeeeeeeedom! 

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