Friday 15 May 2020

Hiding in plain sight

Well this is rather tedious, isn’t it? Three months locked down; predicted to go on for a lot longer; masks, gloves and paranoia; impending financial meltdown; governments that can do no right; world recession - it's hard to see an upside really? That is, unless you sit with the window open and listen to the birdsong for a while?
It used to be only in the dawn hours that the privileged few could really do this, but now we all get to appreciate nature all-day long, as the roads and crowds are still. Moreover, thankfully, we get the time to do this too, as we are not out being stressed at work, or spending hours getting there, or scrummaging around in shops buying things we don’t need to top up our material kingdoms. Or going to the supermarket everyday, as we are not organised enough to write a full weekly shopping list like our mothers and grannies used to. We eat and drink at home, for a fraction of the price it costs to queue for Costa-lot-latte or a seven-quid glass of Chardonnay in the local Beefeater beer-garden. Surely we eat better food too? Boil the spuds instead of greasing them up; maybe throw in some greens, or make a curry from things in the fridge instead of paying fifteen quid each for a Bhuna and enduring all that awful eastern music and carpeted walls? Who needs a new car, when we don’t use it? We don’t spend a couple of grand on holidays, because, even through the darkest days, we can't really convince ourselves that we are tired, worn-out or deserved of two weeks of lavishness at the seaside - even if we could. Instead, we go for walks everyday rather than twice per year, to places on our own doorstep we hardly knew existed, and we do it willingly, and enjoy it. And, unlike the monthly membership at the gym, it's free. It always was. Including the weekly quizzes and catch-ups on Zoom with friends and relatives.
And it was always there. All of it. Hiding in plain sight.
I am no guru. In fact, my constant flippant remarks in this column generally have very little substance, I am the first to admit that. But this month, I really do believe something rather good may have unexpectedly come out of this disaster. Even when it's over, millions of people will still experience the pleasures of a ‘work-from-home’ environment. Thousands of offices will close as the realisation sinks in that we don’t actually have to be all in the same room for meetings, or bickering around the coffee machine. Children, older ones anyway, will continue to be able to school online, as well as learning valuable life-lessons of self-discipline. Without this overly-closeted environment, maybe we will all stay healthier. Let alone passing on Corona virus, even the common-cold should be contained.
Town centres will see an evolution of unprecedented proportions, as high-street shopping spirals past us into history, as it was always destined to do since the invention of the internet. So will high-street banks. We won't even need the cash-machines any more. In fact, it won't be so long before we are explaining to the next generation what a fiver looked like, and how a fifty pence piece had corners on it! And, with all this comes a massive financial saving, surely? Hell, if we don’t spend so much, and don’t need to go out to impress everyone else, perhaps we could work less hours, or even part-time? And if we all worked less hours, theoretically, there would be more jobs? Am I sounding like a politician now? I hope not.
And here’s another thing, while I am at my lectern of eternal optimism: what about all that global warming malarkey? Hasn’t it been a pleasure not to have Chris Packham spouting his drivel on every headline, telling us that our cows are killing the planet? Or that irritating school-child in her yellow plastic mac accusing us of stealing everything? And all those sanctimonious Vegans? Don’t get me wrong - I am not saying climate-change and its problems will suddenly go away, but it certainly feels like its slowed down a little, if only because it can't get a word in edgeways, while Laura Kronenberg and her BBC cronies spend their time character-assassinating the government at every opportunity. But without cars, planes and business travel, I believe those in the know are suggesting the difference to the environment is starting to show in just a few short months. Surely we can benefit from that knowledge? Incidentally, Mr Monnibot, there are still just as many flatulent cows in the world! And, while we are on that subject, as well as clapping our hands for all the doctors and nurses out there doing their job, let’s hear a should-out for our farmers out there doing theirs? No, we don’t need to stand and clap for them too on Thursday night - just buy your food locally, that’s the reward they deserve.
OK. Before you say ‘who wrote this, and what have you done with the Fraz we know and laugh at?’, I just want to remind any of you insomniacs out there, there’s only three sleeps left until Christmas!
As my local baker says : Stay Sane - Save Loaves!

Pomp to you too

   Firstly I have to sincerely apologise for my column last month. Tucked away on top of the Pyrenees mountains, I grossly underestimated this deluge we were about to endure, which by the time the R&DN went to print two weeks later had escalated beyond all belief. We arrived back to France on Friday 13th March and I have been out of the gate only once since then, on my old tractor to mow the grass verges in the village.  Wendy gets our weekly shopping and drops some in for a few of our older and more vulnerable friends, en-route. As yet, this part of the world has seen only one case of C19, but still we obey the rules and bunker down.
   Like everyone else, I have glanced at the TV News from behind the sofa, seen the cases and death-toll rising with both dismay and sadness. I am sure this subject will be discussed in more detail than I am prepared to offer, and for once will keep my offensive comments to myself about those without enough intelligence to stay home, lock the door and keep this wretched thing in confinement.
    Meanwhile, back on the ranch, our daily exercise consists of 'best of five' competitions of table-tennis, non-stop gardening and beating a path to the fridge, much the same as it has done for the last 14 years. We have also taken to amusing ourselves with 'bored-games' such as Rummikub, Backgammon and Scrabble, the latter being played online 'With Friends', something that irritates me when folks take ages to play their move! How can it take her 24 hours to come up with POMPADOUR, and what the heck does it mean anyway?
   Out in the fields, one of the best crops of lambs we have had in a while continue to grow themselves into freezer condition although, as I write, we are in desperate need of rain. Early potatoes in 'Le potager' won't be long now, as the last of the frosts disappear, and I have re-opened my old potting-shed this year, growing dozens of seeds, as young plants are not available from my usual supplier. I have to admit it is quite therapeutic, although my first attempt did fail due to my planting from out-of-date packets - a lesson learnt. It may be a few more months before we see tomatoes, but I am sure they will be well worth the wait.
    With the aid of modern technology, we keep in touch with friends and families through video calls, all of whom, I am glad to report, are safe and well. However, a few weeks ago my niece was having a 'house-party' and dialled me around midnight. Rudely awaking from my sleep and assuming something was wrong, I flicked on the light and hit the green button, only to hear the gasps on the other end as my naked body was displayed on the screens of some twenty or so other guests! Hopefully a few weeks of alcohol-therapy will help them get over the shock! 
   Stop of today, we are in extended lockdown here in France, until May 11th, by which time I suspect it will start getting a bit tedious, and I will more than likely need a haircut.  Due to my previous life as a cattle-hairdresser, this is something I am quite happy to contend with and using my electric cattle shears in the mirror has been commonplace for me over the last few decades. However, not so with my wife who is a regular client of one of Edinburgh's more exclusive salons and takes a lot more pride in her appearance that this author. Inevitably the day is getting closer when she will have to relent to my skilful coiffing efforts. But little does she know I always secretly fancied Sinead O'Connor?
   Ha! POMPADOUR is just an eight letter word?