A Profound Look Back at the Week: Mar 16-20

It’s damn hard to try and round up a week during which everyone has been talking about one thing and nothing else but I’m taking this challenge because I’ve had enough of this as have, I dare suggest, most people who have not yet become one with their newsfeeds.

A Kind Word for Software

Even though I earn my living through software you’ll rarely catch me saying anything nice about it. I’m a classic case of the don’t understand=hate condition and I’ve learned to live with it. However, now that remote schooling is the norm, I have to say software is great.

Of course, it’s truer to say that Little C’s teachers are the great thing in the situation but I realise software has a big part to play in making school possible even with everyone shut in at home. And making me a witness of the teaching process.

I already know teachers are saints but now I’d like to elevate them to demigods. Unless it’s easier for them to face a screen full of chirping eight-year-olds rather than a classroomful of them. I don’t know but Little C’s teachers have risen to the challenge and overcome it. They are having lessons, they are writing homework and they are doing spring projects. And they are getting scolded for using the chatroom for, well, chats. It does my heart good to see some online disciplining, it honestly does.

I’ve also developed a deeper appreciation of what it is like to be in second grade. What seems so easy to us adults is hard work for our human buds. But, and this is the important part, they are doing it and they are doing it not just without whining but with actual genuine enthusiasm. I will put away this sweet memory to come back to when puberty hits and life becomes hell once more after the Toddler Era.

Upper Body Strength

Planks? Push-ups? Weights? Please. All you need is an overgrown or even partially overgrown garden and a few tools, notably a saw — hand saw — and a pair of pruning shears. Also gloves. You’re all set.

Now, find a wild vine that’s been blocking your view of the village below for years but you’ve never had a chance to kill it at the right moment, i.e. before it sprouts all those leaves that block the view.

Start with the shears. Snip off all those annoying branches sticking out there like the giant skeletal fingers of a dead monster that’s about to wake up if you don’t hurry up. Once you’re done with the branches, kill the body using the saw. Pile them up to dry for the fire and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

Wake up next day with severe pain in your upper arms and back and curse yourself for forgetting to take your training weights with you. Suffer for two days and find another intruder that needs killing. Repeat. Diversify with firewood transportation from storage to fireplace for best results.

Homemade Tastes Different

I like baking the occasional bread for variety’s sake. Nothing fancy, just regular flour, a bit of yeast, salt and water. I don’t usually put too much effort in it because I have a kitchen robot. Life was good and bread intake varied. And then the yeast disappeared because people down here hoarded flour and were, apparently, smart enough to hoard the yeast, too. Before we left the city, there was no yeast left anywhere, where anywhere means the three supermarkets we regularly use and the two local shops we also regularly use. I almost got depressed.

The reason I didn’t was that when we got to the country house — which is just a cottage, nothing fancy, but house is a shorter word — I found I had a whole three packets of yeast. And flour. And salt. And, as it happens, water. Also, I had more time than usual on my hands because plotting and writing while half-watching Seinfeld becomes immensely difficult in the company of a chatterbox on two legs. Which is why I sifted the flour.

I know everything is better with sifted flour but I don’t usually care. I didn’t care this time either, I just had nothing else to do but waste an additional five minutes on sifting. And you know what? The bread I made using almost only my hands (I also used the mixer for the heavy kneading) looked, smelled and tasted differently than most of the ones I bake on a regular basis.

It could be because the sifting exposed a number of tiny little balls of some sort of acid, presumably added to prolong shelf life, which I threw away. It could be because of the cleaner air up here, which is not a lot of up but it is higher than the plains. Or it could be because of both plus my overwhelming joy I could once again bake bread. Joy matters.

I’ve got two packets of dry yeast left. They’ll be enough for two breads, or four, if I stretch it. I was prepared to ration it. I was also prepared to make a sourdough starter, just in case. My hopes, I mean preparations, were cut short by Big C coming home with bread from the village shop. So much for being ready for adversity although, to be fair, I don’t know if I’m prepared to bake bread every single day. In fact I’m lying. I am not prepared for this unless I absolutely have to.

It’s strange, isn’t it, how we would happily do something requiring effort when nobody is asking us to but faced with the prospect of having to do it, we balk. That’s the difference between hobby and work, I guess. And, of course, with bread there is also the flatteringly frustrating fact that it vanishes in half the time it takes to finish one you bought from the supermarket. It must be that home baked flavour.

Other than all that, we sowed some peas and carrots, and for the first time I had the fleeting thought we weren’t just sowing them for gardening fun but possibly for food. Yes, I know it will never get to this but the feeling of self-sufficiency was nevertheless nice. I’m planting shallots tomorrow, for winter onions. Why? Because there were shallots at the village shop, apparently.

Here, have a pear.

2 thoughts on “A Profound Look Back at the Week: Mar 16-20”

  1. Life’s too short to wait for sourdough ? I tried, honestly. I wanted to believe. Not for me, because I can’t eat bread anyway. Household… The first batch crouched in a solid, heavy and very sour smelling lump, with curious top notes of ammonia. The second attempt was no better. The third ? Not worth inflicting on rats, occasionally visiting from a farm next door.

    Coeliac, so home baking bread is a necessity – shop made either like eating paper or in the £££ range…

    Yeast had vanished, and bread, and rice, and everything else, soon after 8.a.m. . … Supplies located at last, but then came the ethical choice. One pack of sachets or two ? Stock up, to be on the safe side ? One – and hope that was the right answer.

    Cultivating the garden ? Every day, from now on, while thinking about the horrors of lockdown in a tower block.

    Like

    1. I only tried it once and while it had the right smell and taste it definitely didn’t have the right texture. But if we’re out of yeast forever (story idea) what’s left to do? We’ll have to go back to our roots and learn. (I think I put too much starter into mine and followed the recipe blindly instead of adding some more regular flour.)

      I saw a video of an empty Tesco, I think. EMPTY. It really was shocking. Hope things are better now because, honestly, that was outrageous. How hard is it to plan ahead? Bulgarian supermarkets could do it. Or we didn’t panic buy as much, it’s possible. “It won’t happen to me” is the second national motto after “Rules are for others”.

      We just sowed the veggies and it started raining, what can I say. We only go out for a breath of air and firewood because it’s also cold. That’s March for you, highly uncooperative.

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