A Profound Look Back at the Week: April 13-17

Another week, another step closer to the next season, be it summer or winter. Movement is good. Movement is exercise. We should all move more.

The best thing about the home office

It’s strange but now that everyone is working from home I’m discovering new benefits of this work arrangement thanks to my unhappy friends forced to stay between the four walls of their houses. The biggest? Eating discipline.

I haven’t been much of a day eater since my teens, so I may not be the best example but still I’ll use myself and Big C as examples. My friends are complaining that they have been overeating on a regular basis since we all got locked down. It’s most likely the change in routine. With an office work you know you have a time for breakfast and a time for lunch and you don’t really have time for cravings in between these. Also, there is the element of transportation, which takes time that you can’t fill with eating once it gets freed up.

I know how they feel. Now that I have two more hours in the morning because I don’t need to take Little C to school, I have two more hours to work so I could finish early and… I would smoke more. Heets may be a lot better than regular cigarettes but they still cost money, so that’s not a good idea. Which is why I’ve been finding things to occupy myself with to avoid excess. I have only had partial success. But I’m not overeating.

Eating discipline is probably as important as time management only more important because overeating could cause a lot more problems than missed deadlines. Big C is my golden standard in this respect. He only eats as much as he needs to stop being hungry. He eats at lunch, snacks in the afternoon, and has dinner, that’s it. Occasionally he has late breakfasts and that’s the only exception to his eating routine. Objectively, he’s underweight for his height. Subjectively, he’s healthy despite the close to zero body fat. Also subjectively, I’m so envious of all this I’ve turned green.

This has a lot to do with the eating habits we were all taught as children. Unlike me, he was never told to clear the plate because wasting food is bad. I understand my parents did it with the best of intentions but I did end up with a tendency to overeat that took me years to beat.

Yet home officing helped, too. If I eat, I get sleepy and if I get sleepy I can’t work well. It didn’t matter so much at the out-of-home office where I, like millions of people, had no way of making all my eight hours fully productive but it matters at the home office. It’s easy to control your cravings if you know giving in to them will make you feel droopy. Not that I starve myself, far from it. I try to listen to my body, so when it says it’s hungry I give it a bite of something or other. A bite doesn’t make me sleepy and slack. I guess we all live and learn.

Self-sufficiency milestone #3: yeast

After planting a variety of vegetables and setting up an emergency supply of water, the next milestone in what appears to be my self-sufficiency quest was conquering Mount Yeast.

I’ve tried it before: French sourdough starter, rye sourdough starter for my favourite Danish rugbrod, regular white flour starter. They all turned up nicely but  the breads I made with them… not so much. In an uncharacteristic bout of stubbornness (I’m the least stubborn person on this planet. I really am. Rumours to the contrary are false.) I decided to give it another try, helped by anxiety about the supply of industrial yeast and by a Twitter thread by a microbiologist who told the world there can never be a shortage of yeast.

That lovely man encouraged people to experiment. As long as you put something with sugar in the mix, yeast will thrive. So I put some beer in with the flour and the water. It kind of grew but not too much. Since I may be stubborn but patient I’m not, I cheated. I added to the mixture the dregs of yeast I’d put in a regular bread (my last bit of ready-made yeast).

It worked like a charm. It’s quite educational to watch bacteria at work, that is, bacteria multiplying because they have no other work. Educational and possibly a little scary if you think the bad ones do exactly the same as the good ones only in our bodies… That’s not a good direction for a conversation on food.

Anyway, my yeast grew and bubbled, and I fed it (yes, it’s my new pet), and it grew, and the other day I finally dared making a bread with it. It’s not the best bread in the world but I’m getting there. The best thing, of course, is that now I’m safe in the knowledge that if all the yeast disappears from supermarkets, we will still have leavened bread. What? We eat a lot of bread. We must make sure we have an adequate supply of the foods we eat the most. Don’t think I haven’t considered planting my own wheat because I have. Robinson Crusoe was one of my favourite books when I was little.

The hateful brain

The national lockdown has been tightened ahead of Easter weekend (orthodox Easter’s a week after Catholic and Protestant Easter). Why? Because it’s a national tradition to spend the holiday with your extended family, which in a lot of cases is from another city, town or village. Apparently, the tradition spans the genetic extended family of the Balkans and other countries in the region are also tightening their lockdowns. One even instituted an 80-hour house arrest of sorts, I forgot which one it was.

We planned to pop into Sofia to water our plants, pay the monthlies for my oligarchical firm and have the car checked (it’s an obligatory annual check you have to do if you want to get insurance.) It took me about five minutes to change the plans because after reading about the tightening of the lockdowns — basically not letting people out “on business” because it’s a four-day weekend. What business? Besides, the police have been catching people lying about travelling on business and now it’s payback time. For all of us. Because, well, people are idiots.

My brain is currently enjoying itself by writing horror scenarios such as: we leave, sooner or later but before the end of the state of emergency. They let us through the local checkpoint. They stop us at Sofia and don’t let us through. We try to come back here. They stop us at the local checkpoint and don’t let us through. We end up stranded on the highway. Okay, I know it’s ridiculous. I know it, rationally. But my brain hates me and I sometimes feel like scooping it out and replacing it with a fresh brain. If anyone’s discovered a way of silencing the bastard that doesn’t ruin the rest of your body as well, feel free to let me in on it. Thank you.

Your call is important to us

You know that sitcom trope about a character spending hours on the phone waiting to be connected to the right extension or whatever? Yeah, I’ve always thought this was not so much funny as scary. As much as I hate phone communication I hate phone communication with an automated humanless system twice as much. And as luck would have it I had to experience this sort of (lack of) communication this week.

I placed an order for a second Iqos device. I noted it should be delivered between 21 and 24 of April. They ignored that and the emails started coming. Your order has been dispatched to the delivery company. Your order will be delivered on Friday. For three days I tried to get in touch with the delivery company to tell them to re-direct the bloody thing. Guess what? Yep, their automated system took me straight to customer service (Press 1, 2, 3-70 for…) and I could not do this to myself. So I waited for them to call.

Sure enough, the guy who was delivering the package called on Friday. I apologised profusely, relieved to be speaking to a human, and asked if they could stash it at the local office and I’d pick it up when I got back. He said they could only keep it at the office for seven days. Fair enough, I said, seven days works.

The calls started on Monday. At precisely 6.35 pm an unknown number called me. At first I disconnected the call. Then, a minute later another call came from the same phone number. I picked up. It was an automated message about me having a package to collect from office XYZ.

Did the call give me options to get in touch with a human being? Maybe. I never listened through to the end. It was too horrible. On Friday, the calls stopped. I assume they’ve sent the package back because we never made it to Sofia this Friday. The city’s sealed off because of all the idiots who rushed out for the Easter holidays. I’m not sure what I hate more right now, automated phone systems or however they are called or selfish people disregarding every possible rule just to avoid getting out of their rut. Anyway, better to stay far from everyone while they spread disease across the country.

To end on a positive note, I finished the first draft of One Last Cigarette. It’s a most wonderful feeling, this mixture of relief, a sense of accomplishment (76,000 words!), and joy that the story is finally out. On to other adventures in writing now although I suspect my next adventure will be in editing. Life’s not all about fun, after all.

2 thoughts on “A Profound Look Back at the Week: April 13-17”

  1. Iqos problem certainly cuts a locked-down laptop in Little Germany down to size …
    Speculating , now, about post-covid, how much unused office space can be used to resolve the alleged housing crisis…
    Only alleged, current houses are just in the wrong places. Emergency water? Something else so familiar, our entire valley isn’t on the mains.. Time for some fun, designing a thumbnail cover.

    Liked by 1 person

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