26.20 – the middle of the year

We are crossing the midway point of the year – the longest day has been and gone. It’s strange to think the days are getting shorter, especially when the evenings still feel so long, and the hot weather of the past week means the nights also feel long.

This week’s exercise: Walking Yes, we’re back to walking again. It feels good to get out and walk on sunny mornings, and even on un-sunny mornings it’s nice to get out and walk. After the mini-heatwave passed and we woke up to a cooler and rainy Saturday, we still went out to walk, but with an umbrella instead of sunglasses. We were out for three hours on Saturday but it felt like three days. Through the park, up past the Oasis Cafe (where we stopped for a coffee from Mustapha), then up towards the old church, skirting the edge of “the Village”. From here we turned into the mini-industrial estate where several microbreweries are located. Some of them are open for takeaway sales but not at 11 o’clock in the morning. Another place that wasn’t open was The Blitz Factory. We’ve been to God’s Own Junkyard in this estate several times (and often take visitors there as well – it never fails to amaze and impress) but The Blitz Factory is like GOJ’s little sister venue.

Obviously venues are closed right now but we happened to be walking past as the owner arrived to open up for a photo shoot, so he let us come in and have a look around. Normally this venue only opens for private events – photo shoots and weddings or birthdays – but they are looking to open up for the general public when the Covid restrictions are lifted. Certainly it’s a gorgeous venue and could be worth thinking about for a party venue… if we were the sort of people who booked venues for parties.

After there, we passed a fabulous new piece of street art for the NHS and found ourselves down near the Portuguese Deli, where a large crowd was gathering waiting to start a Black Lives Matter march. Last time we passed by the Portuguese Deli was some months ago and it was closed, but now it was open, and I am as partial to a pastel de nata as the next person, especially if the next person is Husband, so we went in and – it was a sign – we got the last two custard tarts!

NHS wall mural

We walked on further and found ourselves approaching the food shop we had originally been heading for, except – look! – the market is open again! We’ve walked through this area a lot lately, but usually early in the morning when things are closed and also many things were closed because of Covid anyway. So walking down this street when things were open felt like another whole place and took a long time because we had to keep stopping and looking in shop windows. How long has that clock shop been there? Is this this Indian place we ordered home delivery from last week? That hairdresser isn’t open is it? Oh, no it’s just having a refurb. Coffee shop, coffee shop, cafe, coffee shop, cafe – how many coffee shops does one little street need?

This week’s social activity: I had an online lunch with two of my colleague this week. We used to meet up once a week and go for a walk together at lunchtime to get away from our desks, get away from the building and de-stress a little bit with some walking and talking. I felt a bit behind – both the other two have taken up jogging since lockdown and are now able to do 30 minutes of running so I found myself thinking again about Couch to 5k. Another ex-colleague who moved in down the road last year came by for a visit on Saturday. Despite having had the virus back in March, she has recovered fully and is back to running 5k again and said she would run with me if I was unsure about what I was doing. So the signs are there. I have to give this a go.

What I found I was saying to myself was, “I can’t run because my trainers are old and crappy. I will get new trainers first, and then I’ll try running.” But my trainers aren’t that crappy. What I am now saying to myself is, “If I can get through the Couch to 5K and find I like running, then I can get new trainers.”

This week’s weather: Heatwave. Any time the temperature gets above 30C (that’s mid-80s for anyone who speaks Fahrenheit) we don’t cook and have snack dinner. This week’s heatwave meant we had three nights of grazing on a series of snack/mezze while sitting outside on the patio and waiting for a breeze. The heat makes working from home a challenge – the room I work in was freezing back in March (I still have my wool shawl in there that I used to wrap up in) but when it gets hot, it heats up and somehow retains the heat, and while I can just about cope in the morning, in the afternoon when the breeze drops to nothing and the humidity seems to reach 100% it is very hard to stay focussed and/or stay awake.

This week’s cultural activities: The National Theatre had Small Island on their live streaming for the week. I read the book some years ago and enjoyed it so was looking forward to the play. It was a long one, at something like three hours, but it was a thick book, so that was a good sign they were being loyal to the original text. And yes, they were loyal and yes, it was great as a play just as it had been great as a book and I felt for Hortense in her horror at arriving in England and finding it so uncivilised. One basin for washing yourself, washing your dishes and cleaning? The racism of the time (1940s/1950s) was depicted in all its ugliness and ignorance.

This week I also watched two movies – The Blues Brothers (on a mistaken assumption that this week was the 40th anniversary of its release) and Ladies in Black, an Australian film set in the early 1960s in a fancy department store in Sydney, showcasing a different kind of retail experience, the limited options for women at that time, and the attitudes towards ‘new Australians’ or “reffos” as they also called them (abbreviation of refugees – Europeans who came out to Australia after the war). I have only seen the Blues Brothers maybe three or four times in my life, and it improves each time I see it. Ladies in Black was entertaining and sweet but a lot of the characters were a little bit too stereotyped and two-dimensional.

This week’s music: CDs Yes, I’ve been listening to CDs this week instead of streaming Spotify, but not actually listening to the CDs themselves, after all our CD players is getting old and temperamental and only deigns to play every third disk you offer it these days. No, this week I was listening to CDs loaded onto a tiny MP3 device which I usually use for travelling (hmm, not needed for that purpose any time soon). It was great to hear some different music that I haven’t listened to in a while – Abba, Florence and the Machine, Thea Gilmore, the Beatles.

This week’s big panic Because of the hot weather, I have had the windows open in the front room, hoping to catch a breeze. Our cat, who likes to hang out in the backyard but who we never let out the front of the house, decided he would enjoy the breeze and jump up to sit on the windowsill. I looked up and suddenly he was gone. So at 10pm Husband and I rush out on the street, calling for the cat who was disappeared. I saw a cat shape at the end of the street running up and down looking anxious and confused. I called him but he mustn’t have heard me. Luckily he came back down our street and hid under a parked car. We called him again and he shot out from under the car and back towards his own front door and into the house where he looked stressed and shaken. We chided him for thinking he could be a street cat and I had to give him some cuddles until he calmed down. Now when we open the front window we open it from the top only and don’t give him any opportunities to get out. Not that he would, I think he got enough of a scare from that little adventure.

The cat in a more relaxed mood

This weeks food experiments: After the success of the beetroot hummus, this week I used some roast butternut squash we found in the freezer to make beetroot hummus. It worked very well and is very tasty. To fill the space that left in the freezer, I have cooked up two half bags of out of date lentils that I will freeze and season to eat later, or add to a batch of soup at some point in the future.

So as we cross the halfway point of the year, I hope the second half of the year brings us all more good news and positivity than we had in the first half of the year!

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