The clocks have gone back so does that means it is really truly the end of summer now? Despite being so late in October, the weather has actually been surprisingly mild here. I go out in a big jacket but after 10 minutes I am too warm. But not warm enough to take my jacket off. And sometimes my neck gets cold if I don’t have a scarf. But if I do have a scarf it’s too warm to wear it. It’s an awkward time of year to know how to dress properly.
This week’s cultural experience On Monday (last day of my holiday – the day I should have been flying back from Switzerland but I’m not crying about that, really I’m not) I went to the Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern. What did I think about it? I’m not sure. Certainly Warhol’s colourful screenprints of famous figures are very well known. And these bright, colourful screen prints don’t feel particularly complex – there’s not a lot of substance there to take in, or at least for me there isn’t.
The exhibition has other examples of his art – installations, videos, sketches. The photograph of the scars on his body from the surgery after he was shot was quite beautiful in its way. But the saddest display in the whole exhibition were Andy’s wigs, displayed under glass, like so many small sleeping dogs. The wigs, without Andy, were at the same time meaningless objects but also poignant.
This week’s exercise There was no running this week, and I realise it’s been two weeks now with no running so I need to kick my own butt about that. It should be easier next week when the mornings are lighter after the clocks change. Instead I took some walks. I met up with my friend-and-ex-colleague who moved in just down the road from me and we took a walk around the neighbourhood. It was good to be out and moving in the golden of the gloaming after a day of constant rain. And on Saturday Husband and I went for a walk in Epping Forest. We were a little disappointed that the forest hasn’t started to turn full autumn yet. I didn’t realise how static I have been this week until my legs started to ache after walking for an hour and a half.
This week’s outrage: Who believes they have the right to shout at strangers in the street? My friend went out to do some shopping. She’s got asthma, and this colder weather doesn’t agree with her asthma, so she has a cough. Someone came up to her when they heard her coughing and shouted at her about having Covid and having no sense of responsibility, and didn’t listen when my friend tried to explain why she was coughing. In the face of such aggression from a complete stranger, my friend was upset and went home and shut herself up in her house, not wanting to go out again. Where is the empathy? Where is the kindness? Where is the thought that you don’t know what other people are going through, that my friend already has a fear of going out after some guy coughed in her face back in peak of lockdown paranoia. She doesn’t need some random stranger coming up and shouting at her when she was making the big effort to go to the supermarket and get food.
This week’s excitement: The big orange lampshade arrived in the post. Having bought two ‘bald’ West German pottery lamps while in Ramsgate (was that only last week?), Husband has been on the hunt for suitable lampshades to fit them. The bold dark green, orange and yellow lamp now has a tall orange lampshade on it. To me, this lamp now looks like a squat person with their hands on their hips, wearing a very tall hat.
We still have another lamp that needs a lampshade but are having an ongoing argument. Everything I like, Husband doesn’t. Everything Husband likes, I don’t. What kind of lampshade would you put on this lamp?
And on other random lighting related observations this week – why would there be a queue of men outside a lighting shop on a Saturday afternoon? I remember seeing hipsters queuing at the craft beer shop after lockdown was lifted, but who is in such dire need of new lighting fixtures that they are forming a queue? And why was it only men? I’d be interested to know what’s the strangest shop you’ve seen people queuing outside.
This week’s food news: We made another batch of a pea and ham soup in the slow cooker, so that’s four frozen tubs of lunch pre-prepared and ready for the colder weather. We also found possibly the easiest cake recipe ever. Four ingredients!
Simple Date Loaf recipe: Make a strong cup of instant coffee (a cup of strong tea would probably work equally well) and pour it over 375g of chopped up dates (pits removed). (This is a big quantity of dates and it would probably benefit you more if you have a Turkish-run supermarket nearby.) (We only had ~200g of dates on hand so we halved the recipe). Leave the dates to soak at least 2 hours, or overnight. (You can probably give them an occasional stir, just to make sure the liquid gets in to all of the fruit.) Stir in 1 tablespoon of ginger and 1 cup of self raising flour. Tip the mixture into a loaf tin (greased, lined with paper) and bake at 160C for 45-60 minutes. It’s a very moist cake but if you test it with a skewer it should come out clean. Delicious warm from the oven; also very nice cold and spread with butter. And did I mention only four ingredients?
This week’s big whinge: My head of team called a meeting for late on Friday afternoon. She asked some general questions about how things are going and got a whole lot of negative responses – this system isn’t working, this process is wasting our time, these new procedures don’t actually work, this team is unresponsive, this work had to be redone, this workload is unsustainable… I don’t know if it was a Friday afternoon thing (everyone tired and fed up at end of the week) or just people are generally fed up and don’t need additional layers of crap landing on them during the busiest quarter of the year. But also cathartic – everyone gets to get things off their chest and go lightly into the weekend unburdened of their grievances. And maybe next time we have this meeting, it won’t be scheduled for late on a Friday!
This week’s personal grooming moment: I finally got a haircut! This was the haircut I was due to have back in March before going on holiday in April, none of which happened. My hairdresser has been reopened since July but I’ve been disorganised about booking an appointment. But I finally got their and now my hair is tidier, all those dead ends are gone. Husband was so jealous of my new look, I had to give him a haircut as well, so now we’re both looking well groomed.
This week’s inspiration: I’ve been in see-sawing emotions this week reading about the number of children living in poverty in the UK and the prospect of children going hungry this half term because the free school meals they would normally get will not be there as a safety net. The government voted against providing free school meals during half term, trying to assure the public that this will be dealt with through the social security system. I’ve seen how the government’s Universal Credit scheme works (or doesn’t work) and I don’t believe it’s the best way to address this issue. I’ve been inspired by the footballer Marcus Rashford and his ongoing campaign against child hunger. Footballers aren’t usually known for supporting good causes but as someone who grew up in food poverty, Marcus knows what he’s talking about. And rallying to his cause are hundreds, if not thousands, of businesses across the UK, who are offering to provide free meals to children this half term. “Come in and ask,” they say. “No judgements.” That’s incredible to see, not just that businesses are rallying to this cause, but because these businesses are probably struggling themselves after various Covid-19 related closures and curtailments on their business this year.
I hope that you and everyone near you has enough to eat this week.