Wednesday, 27 May 2020

I Don't Like Change

There's a Chinese proverb that says, 'When the winds of change blow, some people build walls and others build windmills.' I am most definitely a bricklayer - a builder of proverbial walls. I don't like change. I need routine and sameness in my life.

Take driving. I'm only comfortable when I'm driving along a route that I know really well whereas many people love exploring and driving unfamiliar roads BUT right now I'm hardly doing any driving at all.

Shopping is another example. I struggle in unfamiliar supermarkets. I need to know where everything is BUT I haven't been to a supermarket for over ten weeks and don't get me started on internet shopping! Relying on a once-a-week delivery is creating a famine and feast situation here.

Then there's the gym. I love swimming. I'd go at least once a week, often more than once BUT lockdown has sadly put paid to that activity and I miss it very much.

For someone who hates change this is a bewildering time but another quote comes to mind. Benjamin Disraeli said, 'Change is inevitable. Change is constant.' And so I have to accept that the winds of change are blowing and the only thing I can do about it is to build that proverbial windmill.

What changes are you struggling with during this pandemic?

For those people who love windmills the above photograph is of the windmill at Cley, Norfolk, where we stayed on two occasions - two lovely holidays. They're still in business and their website promises that they will reopen as soon as they're allowed to but I wonder if we'll ever get back there.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

My Lockdown Garden

I'm not a gardener. It's far too physical for my liking. Fortunately Mr A has a passion for gardening and so here is a collage of my lockdown garden:

And here is a photo of my favoured gardening contribution... relaxing on my swing seat:

Tuesday, 12 May 2020


I had thought of handing this blog post over to Mabel the Cat to write but she'd only moan about how the Humans are getting under her paws. She'd reminisce about the days when she could choose her spot for a morning nap without interruption and her afternoon siesta would be spent in blissful silence. Now she has to listen to strangers shouting out from tiny squares on a computer screen, strange sounds from that 'darned piano' and endless discussions about meals. 'Just open a sachet of Whiskas and stop whinging,' would be her advice.

So for all the above reasons I am resigned to writing it myself. I've not a lot to say. I've not stepped out of the front door for over seven weeks. I wake up in the night wondering what the outside world looks like these days. Empty, I suppose. Empty also describes my diary and possibly my life - but is empty bad?

For the first time ever I have had the time to smell the roses - ok, maybe not roses, not yet, but lilac. I've been smelling the lilac every time I walk round the garden - walking and thinking and reassessing. A number of people I know have done just that and have decided that this is not the way they want to live. We all have free will but maybe it takes a major pandemic to make us stop, examine our motives, and decide to move in a different direction. I'm still pondering mine but one thing I know for sure. I never want to return to the manic life I was leading a few months ago.

And now I shall return to my piano practice, never mind what Mabel the Cat says. I'm rather enjoying working my way through my Easy Listening collection and you just can't beat a bit of Phil Collins...

"...You're the only one who really knew me at all. So take a look at me now. There's just an empty space..."

Monday, 20 April 2020

Unprecedented - a poem

Sometimes the only way to work through a problem is to write a poem about it, so that's what I did:

Unprecedented - the word plays on a loop.
Unfamiliar screens morph on the laptop:
your friends and family wave at you
the online food shop states ‘you are in a queue’
and strangely deserted City sights are shared on social media.

You are identified ‘at risk and vulnerable’.
Alone and self-isolating
your front door is a no man’s land
between you and deadly foreign fields
but sanity lingers beyond your backdoor… for now.

There the air is devoid of traffic hum,
the sky is no longer slashed by vapour trails,
a blackbird sings,
a pair of goldfinches feed on the bird table
and a red admiral stretches its newly painted wings.

Does the air smell fresher? Are the spring leaves greener?
Or are your senses fooled by a new normal?
As you consider your response a visitor appears.
It’s a bee, loaded with orange pollen sacs,
and wilfully violating the two metre rule.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Why is this night different from any other night?

This evening Jewish families around the world will be celebrating the start of Pesach (Passover) with a special service and meal called the Seder. It is traditional to gather with friends and family for the Seder meal - the more the merrier. This year will be strange and very difficult for those living alone.

One of the prayers said during the Seder service begins with the line "Why is this night different from any other night?" As far as I know, never before and hopefully never again have entire communities been obliged to hold their Seder meals in isolation so this night could not be more different from any other night, ever!

During the Seder service we tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. It's the one about Pharoah, Moses and the ten plagues. We eat bitter herbs to represent bitter times and dip parsley in salt water to represent tears and we try to imagine how the Israelites might have felt. We may not be slaves in Egypt but this year we are certainly experiencing our own bitter times and tears.

The picture above shows the centrepiece of a traditional Seder table with the Haggadah (the special prayer book for the Seder), matzo (unlevened bread eaten for the entire eight days instead of bread), goblets of wine (we're asked to drink four each during the evening), and a plate with egg, bitter herbs, salt water and charoseth (a mix of ground nuts, wine and dried fruit to represent mortar).

Before the main meal it's traditional to have a starter of hard boiled egg in salt water to represent new beginnings. Here's hoping that it's not long before we can all experience new beginnings.

An explanation for anyone reading this in years to come: we are in lockdown because of a worldwide Coronavirus Covid-19 epidemic and it's frightening.

Friday, 3 April 2020

Scrabble's weird and wonderful words

Words are amazing. We use them in so many ways.

Talking - my friends say it's non-stop in my case.

Reading - but am I the only one who sniffs a books before reading it?

Writing - I certainly do lots of that.

Playing games - do children still play hangman?

TV programmes - how many years has Countdown been running?

Crosswords - especially cryptic ones.

But this blog isn't about any of the above.  It's about SCRABBLE.

I play friendly Scrabble. No way would I want the stress of championship tournament Scrabble. I'm not good enough anyway. These championship players know all manner of unusual words that are included in the UK Scrabble lexicon.

Did you know that:

FALAJ is a water channel

QANAT is an underground channel

CEZVE is a small metal coffee pot

VUGH is a small rock cavity

DOHL is a drum

AROHA is a Maori word for love

If you've too many vowels then how about:

EOAN relating to the dawn
ZOEA crab larva

If you've no vowels how about:

PFFT to suddenly disappear
TYG a two-handled mug

If you have any satisfyingly obscure Scrabble words to add to this list then do please share...

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Bird Watching

There are so many thoughts, opinions, reports and updates out there that no one needs to read my thoughts on our current situation so I will look out of the window instead. 

We've been feeding the birds a new mix that contains fat pellets this year and the extra cost has paid off. We now have a far wider variety of bird visitors. Watching them reminds me a bit of the children I used to teach, endearing but unruly and I have to keep my eyes peeled or I would miss some of their more outlandish antics.

Here are some of my favourites:

The blackbird, male with a stunningly orange beak, who waits for us to appear every morning and runs across the path to be first at the 'breakfast' bird table. Why he runs I really can't say. It would surely be quicker to fly and I have to say it would be more elegant. His bottom certainly has an ungainly gait when running!

The long tailed tits with their delicate pink stomachs flit to the hanging feeder and flit back into the nearby Rowan tree. They move so quickly that my binoculars can hardly pick them out but when they do linger their elegant tails and pink feathers are a treat to see.

The robin, a regular and a pretty little bird, but he hangs around the bird table in a sinister way and he is somewhat lacking in table manners chasing off the poor dunnocks.

A pair of adorable goldfinches who spend just long enough at the feeder for me to study their amazing markings through the binoculars.

A greater spotted woodpecker who visits occasionally, boots the others off the feeder and angles his large body sideways so as not to fall off. When he's finished he flies to the Rowan and gives its trunk a couple of taps. He's a real character.

The bully-boy wood pigeons who are not really my favourites but I have to include them. They crowd round the bird table and our little blackbird is forced to move aside or he would be trampled upon for sure.

Yes, I know, I've missed out loads of them, like the countless tits who come and go so quickly that I can hardly make them out and the magpies with their raucous calls plus an occasional Jay, and I've no photos to post up because they won't let me get near enough but watching them all certainly helps to pass the time during this strange period in our lives.

Stay safe everyone.