Seven Days

I really didn’t know where to begin with this post. July has been a mixed month. A lovely holiday (go to my Insta to see the seal) and then an evening a week or so later, I went to sing and suddenly found myself croaky voiced. I also sang a completely different melody to the rest a few times and wondered why. The next day my throat felt like there was a golf ball stuck in it sore and I felt on the odd side, although not exactly unwell. I was about to leave to go to the city, but thought it might be wise to do a test. It’s pretty obvious to you what I’m going to say, isn’t it? I had my first ever positive. It finally got me.

I tested a few times during the first week and within 2 1/2 minutes that blinking red line appeared. So many people have said it’s akin to having a mild summer cold. Not for me; I felt really unwell for the first four days. Apparently new very contagious variants have developed and here 1/17 have Covid, according to the BBC news app. After the worst part I felt really quiet, not wanting to talk or move much. I read a lot, did some crochet and adult dot-to-dot pages from a book that I found in a charity shop for 50p last month. When I say adult I mean tricky, tiny numbers to 400, sea themed pictures. Not ‘adult’. That would be an interesting book…

So, rather than wade through many photos from mid-June onwards I’ve selected some from the last week*.

I finally got my first negative result at the weekend, after ten days. I’m still coughing well a fortnight later, have a blocked up head and ears, can smell and taste little. It will all pass. I’m dealing with the post-viral fatigue by doing some activity, following by quite a lengthy sit-down-and-read. I’m very lucky to have chance to quietly recuperate.

Bread making continues unwell or not, this is a slightly flat loaf because I got very involved in my book (or maybe it was tv?) and it over-proved one evening! It tasted good, I’m told, which is the most important thing. I use locally grown and produced organic flours: dark rye for the starter, then a mix of white and stoneground wholemeal, often more wholemeal than white, sometimes half and half. I keep reading about the benefits to the gut of fermented foods and have a glow of satisfaction as sourdough is always included on the lists.

I found a new mustard recipe online, it’s Beer Mustard. Tomorrow it will be a week since I made this batch and we will try it.

A few months ago I made my own mustard for the first time, maybe I mentioned it? It was Spiced Honey Mustard from my Good Housekeeping Preserves book which I’ve owned for years. It was made to give as a gift and tasted so good that I made a few more jars for us. One came on holiday as we couldn’t bear not to have it for 10 days!

The giftee liked it so much that he kept sending pics of his lunchtime cheese and mustard sandwiches. That made me grin.

I’m working through the book, I have been for years. There are very few that I wouldn’t want to make. (Harissa and a lemon pickle are probably next.)

Lots of wandering around the garden and admiring my pots, picking up stray fuchsia petals and watching the progress of the very late planted gladioli. Finally razor sharp leaves have appeared above ground. I’m not sure that we’re going to get any flowers, it may be too late, but it’s exciting watching their progress.

I’ve kept the plant saucer of water cleaned and topped up for the birds, patio mouse and next door’s cats. Last week we had some of our highest ever recorded temperatures in the country so sat outside until after dark, reading our Kindles, in the relative cool of the garden. And several nights running we heard a loud rustle and movement behind the shrubs at the back of the garden. We have a hedgehog! On Tuesday evening, when it was furnace like, as the heat had accumulated from the previous days, he spent a long time noisily slurping the water. We were spellbound, holding our breath watching the dark rugby ball shape at the end of the garden. Then he was off, to the ferns and under the silver birch tree. They always move more swiftly than I expect. Magical.

The gifted jalapeño plants in the conservatory are coming on fast (from the cheese and mustard sandwich fan.) No sign of my Thai chillies or sweet peppers yet, sigh. (Isn’t that potted hydrangea outside a thing of deep pink beauty?)

Plum picking! Kind of scrumping. Sort of. Not really. But. I hope I’m not whipped or given hard labour.

I’ve made a plum crumble and also stewed some with orange juice and zest, cinnamon and star anise. I’m told they tasted good. I am eating, although I can’t smell or taste anything. But I do appreciate the colours of summer food.

A little trip out to a garden centre after my first negative result. Current guidance is to isolate for five days and stay away for ten from vulnerable people. But feeling poorly (and still testing positive) I didn’t really want to go out after five days anyway, and who can tell who is vulnerable? I really didn’t want to pass on the virus to anyone at all, it’s nasty even after vaccinations, especially those who might be really adversely affected. Interestingly none of the people I saw leading up to my positive result have caught the virus. Even the 2 guys I hugged. Someone I live with hasn’t either. Good, but it’s odd.

So refreshing to be out. I drank it all in. This is a posh garden centre where the staff are super creative; you never just see a plant stand with …umm plants plonked on it. There are sculptures and carriages, old cars and even merry-go-round horses. The flowers are grouped into attractive displays of colour and form. It’s a lovely trip out, no purchase necessary for enjoyment. The next morning I woke and discovered that I had slept for 11 hours! Post-viral fatigue is real, this was after a 40 minute wander at a garden centre. Oh dear!

A visit to Waterperry Gardens Sunday late afternoon. Still using the Gardeners World 2-for-1 card, so it was £7.50 for two. What a bargain.

On a quest to use up food in the freezer I roasted my first guinea fowl on Sunday night. It was a yellow sticker bargain I picked up a while ago for a mere £5. I cooked it very simply; with half a lemon in the cavity, olive oil all over the skin and a good grinding of black pepper and sea salt, sat on a trivet of slices of onion. I ate it too, with roasted summer vegetables and puy lentils, but sadly couldn’t taste or smell a thing. I’m told it was absolutely delicious. (Sorry, definitely a lot of repetition here.) The third portion was eaten cold with salad on Monday night, while I had a homemade Spicy Black Bean soup. If I could have tasted it I would say it would have blown my head off! I used *a lot* of red chill flakes and hot smoked paprika, along with cumin and mixed herbs. As it was I could taste a very nice buzz which was the first thing in ages. I loved it.

Still trying little trips to be somewhere other than home for a while, I popped to another garden centre on Monday. (My third in as many days, if you count WPG which has a nursery and shop.) They’re good places for recuperation.

The jackdaws and starlings appear within minutes of the mealworm feeder being refilled. Do they have lookouts using tiny binoculars? This means the little garden birds are not getting any of the good stuff. They are ruddy hooligans (if you get the ref? I’m listening to that lots while I do my dot-to-dots!) So I’m on the lookout for a protected small-bird feeder that would be suitable for holding mealworms. Squirrels aren’t an issue in this garden, I’ve never seen one.

More plums! 2.5kg this time. Another gentle walk around the —— on Tuesday evening. (Avoiding whipping or hard labour.)

I’m looking up plum recipes while Someone is lobbying for jam. There are a lot of very, very small plums and it’s super fiddly removing the stones. I could leave them in and fish out as many as I can, I’ve done that before when making damson chutney. But it’s not much fun hanging over a roiling pan….

Lunchtime Spicy Black Bean Soup leftovers. Bliss, I can almost nearly taste it, perhaps things are slightly improving. Catching up on back issues of Inside Crochet and Good Housekeeping magazines as I eat.

Yesterday I had baked beans with masses of curry powder, sriracha and Colman’s mustard powder and a couple of fried eggs. I took a friend to the hairdresser and that protein packed lunch kept me going until dinner at about 8pm. Pasta, lemony salmon fillets and half a pan of roasted veg topped up my 5 a day.

This morning’s loaf, much better shape. It’s a beauty! And with that I’m off to poach a couple of eggs to eat with a few slices, for lunch, or maybe I’ll just spread some with salted butter and leave it at that. Followed by half a dozen small plums.

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Tell me a few things about your last seven days?

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* apart from the crochet picture, that was taken when I was on holiday

Catching up

You know when someone’s been away from blogging for ages and they say they really don’t know what to write, but then just start and it’s okay in the end? I feel a bit like that today, although it’s only been a few weeks. I’m starting with this opening, random photos and seeing where it goes.

The lack of craft content is a big factor. It’s so frustrating that many times I’ve thought about just putting this on hold, without a big announcement or anything, but then I pop online and read a few of other peoples’ posts and enjoy just catching up with their news. Seeing what’s around in their gardens or neighbourhoods, what the weather’s like, what they’re eating, let alone what they’re making that I don’t really think it matters. It’s just natter without the knit, isn’t it?

The thing is I’m still being contacted by PR people for yarn companies and magazines. This week it was for a prominent High Street magazine who wanted me to do a How to Crochet series of pictures and instructional posts for their website. I love the compliments about my blog and that they really love the content, but it makes me wonder how recently they looked because I don’t think crochet has featured since last year. I shall look forward to seeing which blogger gets the gig!

This morning I’ve also had a dodgy looking email about some blogger awards. If I thought it was kosher I wouldn’t jump on my own chances by writing this here, but you know when the grammar is so odd and the website and email address are iffy looking that you just think ‘Ha ha, probably not?’

Do you know by the way that I always dictate my posts on my iPad now? So if there’s any very strange looking mistakes it’s Apple technology, not Rachel technology! Although I do keep being told off for not proofreading my messages. I sent the most bizarre instructions for baking sourdough this morning which included putting the sprinting on the third gravestone from the top…

I went to see the Hand Therapist last week. I’ve had to do a lot more lifting and carrying recently and it is she said: “A soup of ickyness and not anenomes.” Not quite the way I would’ve put it, although that description did make me laugh, but I get the message. I’ve got to go back to see the Hand and Wrist Consultant. I am resistant to anything invasive, but it does look probable as it’s not improving.

Beautiful Valentines Day flowers. Just gorgeous aren’t they, but unfortunately we kind of missed them, more about that later.

Snowdrops have appeared everywhere. Beautiful, but you do have to lift up the flowers to see how pretty they are on the inside, there are so many varieties, the variations are amazing.

Hyacinths from last year in one of my favourite blue pots. I know that second year bulbs don’t necessarily come back in flower very well, but I took the lazy approach and thought I would suck it and see. Probably not the best expression I use, picked up from an Australian. But I do like it!

Tulips. I have no idea what colour these were last year, maybe purple? Queen of the night variety? I could look in my notebook; but I quite like the idea that I’m going to get a surprise. Fingers crossed. What’s been nibbling them?

I think these are going to be Paperwhite narcissi.

I think I’ll never apologise, content-wise, for my sourdough pictures. If they annoy you then just imagine I’m smirking at you! Having said that I’m not sure I’m going to post anymore for quite a few weeks. Right now they’re flatter looking, because neither of us can lift up the cast-iron pot I bake them in. They tend to flatten out more when tipped out of the Banneton onto a baking sheet. Still taste good, but not so photogenic.

Have you heard that we had the hottest February on record? We had temperatures of 15° – 16°. T-shirt weather. I even saw a few people in shorts and sandals. It has been amazing, though ever so slightly bizarre for this time of year.

The spring flowers are out in force and it’s really lovely spotting croci, snowdrops, daffodils, grape hyacinths, blossom on trees and flowers on heather. I love the close-up I took of Mum’s little pink heather flowers.

And the reason we kind of missed my Valentine’s Day flowers: they drooped and dried out as the underfloor heating was still going on without us breezing in and out of the room or moving them to a cooler spot while we were away…

I’ve always fancied a ride in an ambulance; thought the flashing lights on while speeding past the traffic in a swift ride would be kind of cool. Yes I know, I’m a moron! Don’t think I’d really thought it through properly. Not so fun have to call it for a loved one at 2 AM, who is in pain, with all the worry and scary thoughts alongside that.

There were some funny moments, in retrospect. It is not a comfortable ride; it is noisy, the suspension is awful and both of us said they haven’t *even* put the lights and siren on! No need as at that time on a Monday morning there is nothing to slow down the journey. I find it interesting that having been woken from a deep sleep of only two hours that the things that I grabbed were his two phones, my iphone, my charger, my mascara (!) and I hid the whisky bottle in the cereal cupboard! We’d had a couple of drinks that evening, after a nice Sunday with family. There is no deep-seated problem or associated guilt, but for some reason I popped it behind the pack of Fruit and Fibre.

This was my view for several days and I did the thing of buying some lovely refreshing fruit (grapes are traditional, I went for melon and mango) for any time Someone felt like nibbling something. Of course those times were rare, it was all about lots of liquid morphine, codeine and paracetamol via IV. Incidentally I did ask the nurse if I could have a bit of that, because I had a cracking headache on the Tuesday after being up the previous night and the following day. She laughed and said “Absolutely not, do you realise how expensive it is given this way?!” Apparently it’s incredible, in a matter of minutes it’s taken effect.

I also was rushing about like a headless chicken and hadn’t had breakfast one day so did the classic thing of having to apologise when he did feel hungry for the first time, because I’d eaten all the melon! Oops.

There is a real club that forms when you’re part of a situation in a ward where everybody’s been rushed in without warning and are awaiting diagnosis or emergency operations. The patients are usually too unwell, sleepy and high on painkillers, but the families are really supportive of each other. I ended up chatting and waving to people all along the ward and in the lift, every time I popped out to get something. There is such a camaraderie and fast track relationships, albeit brief, are formed. I still wonder how some of them are and what happened. Maybe we’ll bump into each other in a cafe or shop one day. Fingers crossed all works out for them.

I know this is a horrendous picture of my hand but for me it sums up the black humour you can find in situations. There is a triage part of the ward and so at the end is a waiting room for about 10 people. There are clearly very unwell people waiting to be seen; they all had dark circles around their eyes, faces so pale it looked like stage make-up and nobody ever picked up a magazine. Some were there for hours and hours and I really felt for them. It’s not somewhere people chat. I think they’re just focusing on getting through so they can see a doctor. Then they get antibiotics to take home, or are admitted to the hospital.

Why a picture of a water bottle? This water machine was one of a kind. I kept on going down past the bays of beds to keep my legs moving and to keep myself hydrated. Can you see the tiny trickle going into my bottle? I’m actually sitting down to fill that water bottle. Honestly it took so long (about 10 minutes to fill 500ml) that at one point in a full waiting room I could feel 10 pairs of eyes on me and suppressed mirth. Far too much in pain and poorly to actually laugh out loud, but the atmosphere certainly lifted.

I want to give huge thanks and appreciation to the paramedics who came when I called 999 at 2 AM, the A&E team, ESU ward staff and the surgical team, anaesthetists and all the others who looked after my husband. NHS staff are AMAZING.

Home again now, taking it easy, he is well on the way to recovery.

I loved being outside for a walk again, enjoying the surprise sunshine after the trauma of the last week. I can’t leave without telling you what I’m reading. I’m listening to this audiobook and really enjoying it. Read by Juliet Stevenson it’s such a good story, the only downside is her voice is so soothing I can’t listen to it lying down; because I’m asleep in 10 minutes.

Yesterday I finished two books: The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven and Tin Man by Sarah Winman. Both very good.

If this is natter, without the knit then this definitely needs your comments! How have your last few weeks been, what have you been doing, has it been sunny where you are and what are you reading?

Taking Stock – July

Making : smoked salmon pate – recipe here

Cooking : all things sourdough, still. Flatbreads and pizza happened this weekend. Hobbs House Bakery sourdough recipes are excellent. I’ve tried crumpets, flatbreads, pizza, no-knead sourdough and have a few more things bookmarked to try. The HH boys are from a long line of English professional family bakers, and their recipes are A1

I left the dough an hour while I faffed around, before shaping, it made really light and holey pizza. The rectangular pizza was much thinner and crispy. I like both thin crust and deep pan

Adoring: no-knead sourdough cooked in my charity shop treasure. The moisture in the bread means it cooks in its own steam. You then take the lid off for the last bit to burnish the top. It needs to be just this side of burnt for the flavour and crustiness.

Look at the texture! All the folding and stretching every 30-40 minutes was well worth it

Drinking: too much cider. Lots at the Mock Mayor celebrations while we watched the Abingdon Morris Men, heard the speeches and sang along to the excellent Indie Band. Head not so good in the morning, but sometimes it’s worth it…

Reading: The Eve Network and The Dust that Falls from Dreams still, the first is set in WW1, the other WW2. It’s tricky at times not to get mixed up

Wanting: another pint of jasmine tea

Playing: with dough every few days

Deciding: not to for a bit

Wishing: bread wasn’t so calorific, it’s so good

Enjoying: Victoria Wood as seen on TV – on Netflix

Waiting: to remember what I wrote the first time, before my iPhone lost my draft …argh! You just know the first draft was wittier and more interesting. Soz, you’re stuck with this one

Liking: my photos from Saturday’s meet up with a good friend at Cliveden. The hotel is where Meghan Markle spent the night before she married Prince Harry

Wondering: whether I can go for a walk again today. I’ve been having double physio as my knee has been painful for a few months too. Craft and walking longer distances have both been banned, it’s been slightly tedious to say the least, but happily I think I’m coming out the other side now

Loving: Unforgotten on Netflix. I’ve only seen the first 2 episodes of series 1 and it’s so good, really quality TV. I’m behind as usual – series 3 is on tv at the mo

Considering: a clothes shopping trip

Buying: tomatoes. I have a row of bowls with tomatoes at various stages of ripening. It’s a very good summer thing

Watching: Poldark, I’m 3 episodes behind the current series and it ended on Sunday night. I don’t want to hear any end of series spoilers, so need to catch up soon
Hoping: for more rain, the animals, farmers and gardens need it

Marvelling: how full the water butt is after a day of sporadic rain on Sunday, but it’s just a drop in the ocean

Cringing: –

Needing: another car

Questioning: lots

Smelling: the roses

Wearing: linen trousers, rolled up at a jaunty angle and a stripy tee which I feel emphasises the rolls of a sourdough loving body rather too much!

Look at the dryness of that grass, can you see how little rain we’ve had in the last few months?

Pondering: when I’ll be able to knit again. I have tried but it’s just too painful, crocheting in short bursts seems okay though. I now have a referral with an orthopaedic consultant pending

Following: The News

Knowing: that song ‘Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think’ is apt

Thinking: I must get my reading back up to speed

Admiring: how I always used to read a book a week without fail

Sorting: my crochet; I unravelled my pineapple crochet last night. I can never see a time when I will actually use a string crochet pineapple bag. I’d rather be seen dead than carrying one in real life!

Getting: keen to find some interesting crochet patterns. Even if it’s restricted to 10 minutes every now and then, I’d like to be making something I love

Bookmarking: any exciting looking patterns

Coveting: one of those big colour change balls, you know; by that company that no one can spell or properly pronounce beginning with Schj? Maybe with that song in mind, I’ll just buy one!

Disliking: wildly fast drivers who assume that no one else is on the road, crossing the road, living by the road

Opening: my Ravelry library

Giggling: at Mamma Mia 2 although the change of timeline was perplexing

Feeling: amused about the above, whenever I make bold statements like that things usually change… Look out for me and my re-crocheted pineapple string bag in the near future

Snacking: on the usual – no prize for guessing

Helping: a friend with local dinner recommendations

Hearing: an aeroplane

Mixing: courgette tzatziki

Worrying: that I haven’t eaten enough fruit and vegetables in the last few days, this is unusual. More carrots!!!

Grabbing: a stitch holder for my hair, it did the job keeping it up! Sign of a true crafter?!

Slicing: cucumber & carrots to go with homemade hummus later for lunch, maybe

Celebrating: summertime

Forgetting: at least three things, no doubt

Winning: tonight’s EuroMillions lottery draw?

Sneaking: around at night watching for the hedgehog(s)

Embracing: the lovely people around me

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Thank you for sticking with a craft blog which hasn’t been able to feature any craft for several months now!

How are you doing?