Ease comes with some unease

Things are starting to ease a bit. There are cars in the street (oh joy, oh rapture) and most shops are open. I don’t think the birds, who have become my lovely and steady companions, like this. I saw a distinctly pissed off dove surveying a small traffic jam earlier.

You think you’ve cracked open your cell door and are finally out, only to realize the door opens into a wider cell. People are walking around in their sports clothes with expressions that range from dismay to dulled indifference. I’ve never seen so many track suits in my life. I’ve also never seen so many living room angles revealed by one magic virtual instrument or another. I’ve become so familiar with the look of some friends’ sofas I feel like I’ve been sitting on them all my life. The sofas, not the friends. I know their mugs and their lamps and their slippers and I worry if the fridge magnet in the background is missing. Oh no, whatever happened to your Greek island?

In more interesting news, I’ve been reading Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year. I’m astounded at how little has changed in 400 years. The Lord Mayor’s orders in 1665 are as clear and detailed as the press briefing by the French Minister of Health the other day. Content wise, not much is different. Look:

Plays.

That all plays, bear-baitings, games, singing of ballads, buckler-play, or such-like causes of assemblies of people be utterly prohibited, and the parties offending severely punished by every alderman in his ward.

Feasting prohibited.

‘That all public feasting, and particularly by the companies of this city, and dinners at taverns, ale-houses, and other places of common entertainment, be forborne till further order and allowance; and that the money thereby spared be preserved and employed for the benefit and relief of the poor visited with the infection.

Tippling-houses.

‘That disorderly tippling in taverns, ale-houses, coffee-houses, and cellars be severely looked unto, as the common sin of this time and greatest occasion of dispersing the plague. 

I wonder if I’ll miss all this once we are out and we can once again go to tippling houses and attend singings of ballads.

Will I look back fondly on all the times I stared at my wall in wonderful peace and quiet? Will I think oh give me back those bra-less times, will you God of all things elastic? Entirely possible.

Where Flaubert meets melon votka and crows, much to my gratitude

I owe some gratitude to my virtual friend Tichris (https://tikichris.com/). He’s been publishing 5 good things every day for at least as long as I’ve been here (Five Good Things | #5GoodThings #5GoodThingsCovid19).

This means he has given me about 200 good things so far, which I have enjoyed reading. It also is a mighty number for someone like me who can see one good thing approximately every 42 days or so.

So here is my effort to honor my debt. My 5 good things:

a. Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert

b. A new votka, melon and tonic water cocktail which I (to my knowledge) authored (but may well be wrong. Not a cocktail drinker in normal circumstances. I find them a lot of fuss for not much gain but hey, isn’t that what life is about now anyway?)

c. An email from an old friend who mentioned the Netflix series Shtisel as a must watch. I’d already watched it and loved it. This also made me long to see friends but about that in a less grateful post later;)

d. I wanted to say long walks on empty streets but actually I don’t like that much:) So I’ll say long walks on streets I hope will be less empty soon.

e. This dignified rider on the sandstorm yesterday. It was very windy and there was sand everywhere- in the time it took me to send a text, my phone got covered in dust. I could taste sand in my mouth. And here she is, all dignity and poise.

What really annoys me is that

Some of my friends bang on about the benefits of this.

Oh look at the sky, oh and all this time with my kids, aren’t they sweet as they scalp each other there in the background and am I not the greatest pedagogue alive? Also, look at this vegan lasagna I made out of ethically sourced cardboard when I finally got out of bed at 11. And did you know that my husband is now basically a prisoner, isn’t it fab that he can’t spend his paycheck at the pub and swear at a screen with Everton players all over it? Isn’t this all marvelous?

Nooo, I usually scream at the other end of one virtual channel or another, this is shit.

I am then duly told that I need to get in touch with myself, discover meaning or some other form of nonsense.

If I get any more in touch with myself I’ll leave bruises. If I discover any more meaning to my life, I’ll probably turn into Bhagwan and start a cult from my living room. I have explored every uninteresting inch of myself, thanks. I am more full of meaning that the Oxford Dictionary.

Now can I please go to the pub and scream at Everton?

All the things we forgot

Now I know there is archeological evidence that full stadiums existed once. As did contact sports. There even used to be something called rugby it appears. Many are disputing this, in spite of a wealth of evidence. They simply can’t remember. Some doubt that all of these things could have really existed as they all seem so improbable.

Some of our curious ancestors even had one night stands. Imagine snogging a stranger! Or even worse, being in a crammed club at 4 am with other sweaty bodies pushing against yours.

There are records that some people even engaged in physical fights. People standing at a bar and pushing banknotes towards a busy bartender have also been immortalized in frescoes. Herodotus mentions anti government protests where hundreds linked arms.

You are shaking your head in disbelief, I know. I’m sure there is a well kept history museum somewhere that recreates all that in life-like detail. Somewhere in Canada maybe?

There’s always one who stands back

This morning’s encounters included a cat, a dog, several birds and a professional football player who also owns pigeons.These pigeons here. I love the one standing at the back ready to catch any delinquents. He told me (the football player not the pigeon in charge) that they are making a lot of babies these days and are always on top of each other and he really can’t get their attention like before. While he was talking, his eyes sparkled with a mix of disapproval and envy. Mine with probably more of the latter. Who can blame them. Not even their stern supervisor there at the back.

My walk has a very well established routine. I get a coffee, I feed a very clever cat I befriended recently, say hi to a dog who lives behind a green gate, I stare in the distance a bit, then check that I haven’t lost my keys (I don’t know why, but that would represent the final straw:) Ok, I’ve lost my keys. That’s it. Descend into the abyss.

Anyway, today’s novelty was that I stopped to look at the pigeons who were doing extremely disciplined and acrobatic runs in the sun aiming at this lady’s ecstatic neck. I was lost in contemplation when the football player appeared from under the pigeons’ terrace and explained their current spell of sauciness.

This has opened up a vast new line of inquiry. So captivity breeds desire but then it also very cunningly does the opposite. Right? Which wins? How?

Show me the way to the next date bar

In a rare explosion of human contact which lasted about 3 minutes, I received this as an Easter present from a fellow inmate 🙂

Which created an opportunity for some philosophical inquiries. I do have a bit of time on my hands you know.

Did the Easter Bunny hear me saying please please, I need a bar? It’s been tooooo loooong!! Here you go daughter, you’ve been so good. And while I’m at it, have a date too.

Does anyone even remember what these words could mean in our previous life? Around 100 BC*? Will all the bars I see in the near future be small and yellow and easily fit in my pocket?

More importantly, are you getting any bars behind your respective bars?

*Before Corona

Gat on a cold tin roof

This is a long weekend. Made longer by the fact that we are under complete curfew. No going out at all. Miss the potato run – that splendid and now unattainable trip to the grocer. Oh, crossing paths with other masked potato lovers.

To get over that barrel of melancholy, I decided to give myself a treat. Gin and tonic in a mug on a rainy roof!

Now the advantages of this approach are as follows:

a. It allows me to enjoy the rain and a breath of fresh air while also

b. Sheltering my drink from the sensibilities of potential non-drinking neighbours and

c. Making me feel very spoiled to be having a drink before my own alcohol curfew is usually lifted (at 6 pm – the sirens make time-keeping really easy these days)

So here is to all of you- cheers& stay safe!

What I miss

I don’t mean the obvious- my family, life as we know it, sanity, hope, human contact, hugs etc. Everyone everywhere is missing all that.

I mean small things I never realized were golden until I lost them. OK, I had a feeling they were pleasant at the time, yes, and I engaged enthusiastically, but never stopped to think wowsers, am I lucky or what.

Here goes my nostalgia top 3:

  1. Watching Premier League matches in a pub. There’s nothing quite like sipping a drink at the bar and shouting instructions to players who can’t hear them and even if they could, they wouldn’t give a toss, and for all the right reasons.

2. The smell of good coffee made by someone other than yourself on a working morning. You know that moment, the barista hands it to you and says ‘see you’ and you depart giddy with flavoured excitement.

3. Wearing a skirt (ok, I realize I can still wear a skirt so I guess I mean wearing a skirt and seeing any point to it).

Stellar. Much missed. RIP. Leave behind a loving follower.

The eternal sunshine of the germless queue

There are many things I love about the Arab culture. They make amazing coffee. The concept of shawerma is a masterpiece. Their generosity puts the rest of us to shame. I love their dark, illusion-less humour. Their directness cracks me up (most of the time). They are passionate, warm, real and madly hospitable. The way the elderly are treated in this society is a lesson to us all. And so on.

But God forbid you ever find yourself in a queue.

First of all, you are never actually in a queue. You are in a pulsating, sweaty scrum of crazed humanity. You can clearly feel the anatomy of the person behind you indelibly imprinted on your own. You are actually doing the exact same to the person in front by sheer virtue of physics. Intrepid new arrivals constantly infiltrate the scrum from innovative sideways attack positions. People lie bare faced about having been there all along when they obviously just materialized out of the thin air in the form of annoying little queue jumping entities.

In fact, most people here enjoy physical contact with the same desperate craving I enjoy my morning coffee. I have often entered nice restaurants with friends who gave a quick inspection, then decreed we should leave immediately because the place is not full. What lunatic would want to sit where we can’t squeeze together like happy sardines? Off we go in search of the next chockablock opportunity.

Now take this and add Covid and a curfew to the mix. Plus falafel withdrawal. And then try to go to the local shop for a quick, careful shopping trip post a 48 hour total curfew. I’ve had to surgically remove a fat loud woman who was hugging me from behind while the grocer was weighing my bananas. I told a guy off for practically trying to snog me while offering a bag. As I was leaving, a happy family blocked the entrance for an urgent discussion about whether they need tomatoes or not.

Long story short. How do we quickly import some queue-ness? Has anyone got some spare?

For their contributions to life, sanity or the pursuit of ordinariness, I want to thank

a. My neighbour who wears perfume and make-up to go and buy potatoes and who wants to know if the ‘t’ in ‘often’ should be voiced or not

b. The husband of the said neighbour who interrupted our impromptu stretching class in the street and yelled ‘get inside, people are watching’

c. The gas man who drives around every day and plays the same reassuring tune as before

d. R or whoever left this bag of bread in the street for those who need it

e. A scrawny young man sitting on the pavement with a solitary coffee who gave me a half- hearted whistle as I walked past

f. The owner of this unexpected small island of green I made into the destination of my otherwise purposeless walks

g. An old shop keeper who called me daughter and advised against buying one of his products

h. The graffiti artist who created this man about to swallow a car

i. Whoever had the idea to call this educational hut for experience, culture and future the Oval Office and made me laugh out loud

j. Tim Berners Lee