First it was clearing out cupboards and sorting out the unwanteds. Then it was heavy TV watching. But after the first couple of weeks at home many started to discover new interests...
When the turmoil ends and reflection begins, some of the things we got up to in the previous few weeks will seem either mighty strange or very unlikely but there will be positives, too. In our house we have embraced vegan cooking, but I am still unconvinced about tofu. I have baked bread in a cast iron pot with a dough mixture that resembled all-purpose wall fillers and one afternoon, while sweeping away another flurry of dog hairs, I fixed the dog with a steely glare and got out the electric shearing machine and gave him a cut worthy of a US Marine. I have taken online Salsa lessons, isolated myself from FaceBook (marvellous) and signed up with the ‘Right to Repair’ movement (repair.eu). It would be wishful thinking to expect society to change into something more benign but at least we as individuals should have learnt something worthwhile.
I have been cooking in the kitchen, dusting off my mother’s recipes and happily recreating Asian meals that were family staples. I am organising a catalogued inventory for our home wine cellar, learning European Portuguese online (practiceportuguese.com), and working hard at virtual fitness training three times a week with Vanessa Baraldi (conceptaryowellness.com). And I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to sit around a table with my husband and sons for lunch and dinner.
I am sooooo happy I have three dressing gowns. Have been playing that old game, one on, one in the wash and a clean one in the wardrobe! Have no idea when I last wore a bra or shoes. We have no dust in the house - not a speck. We don't even have a ‘man drawer’ any longer – you know, that one drawer in the kitchen where he keeps the keys to the fiesta he owed 20 years ago along with every Allen key he's saved from every bloody Ikea purchase "just in case"? Instead I have a tidy drawer full of tea towels, hand towels and clean, ironed aprons. Scarey stuff.
In an effort to be productive, (showing off now) I've finished a novel and submitted it to publishers, have made jam and marmalade, made bread, knitted little hats and blankets for prem babies, washed curtains, planted so much fruit and veg, cleaned out the fountain, (yes, we have a 10ft fountain - pretentious? Moi?) and started playing backgammon online. All in my dressing gown.
But it's not all rosy though; need infills, need a cut and colour, need to stop eating so much and those red wine boxes have become a challenge rather than an accompaniment to dinner. Kids keep ringing wanting my Amazon password and can we upgrade Netflix for them and do I have Amazon Prime and how do you make pastry and Mum, Mum, Mum, so I just keep leaving my phone on silent now and only answer in our family whats app group.
Joking aside, I really believe that having this lock imposed on us will help go some way towards a 21st century renaissance of decency and caring. People in the UK are volunteering to pick the fruit and vegetables which would otherwise rot in the fields because of the travel restrictions on migrant workers; neighbourhoods are looking out for the elderly and disabled, organising shopping and prescription collections; pollution levels are hugely reduced. This is a wake-up call for the world to consider others and the environment and acknowledge how materialistic we are. The virus has shown just how misplaced some of our values are – let’s hope we learn and take stock. I hope but I won't hold my breath.
Believe it or not, I have just bought my first smartphone and thought that lockdown would give me a chance to learn how to use it. Some hopes. There’s no instruction manual and online tutorials go far
too fast. I’m struggling even to make calls, send texts, and transfer photos to my computer, which is all I need it for. Anyone want an almost-unused iPhone?”
I’ve been taking care of business online, and finally succeeded in getting my Portuguese driver’s license! I’m learning new pieces on the piano, studying online Portuguese, and thinking up things to cook using stuff in my pantry. I’ve been contacting friends and family more in Canada, appreciating contact with neighbours from roof top to roof top. When this is over, I hope we can maintain the slowed-down lifestyle that I’m enjoying right now.
High behind our house on the hillside above the Ribeira do Alportel, we have a seating area from which we enjoy a view of the valley and the village. Up there we are now renewing old stone terracing to create a succulent garden on five levels. Next spring, it will provide a colourful beacon in an ocean of cistus, and in the meantime, we shall benefit from the necessary exercise as we look after it.
I must confess I am not very good at sitting still. Since my local gym shut its doors I am restricted to workouts at home. With access to a rooftop terrace with a beautiful view, an online fitness coach and five litre bottles of water as substitute weights, the daily workout becomes my daily highlight. And when I am not working out I am working on getting my online shop running. Finally!
It has been a shock to the system having to self-isolate due to the Covid virus. Nothing like this has hit the entire world within living memory. Even World Wars allowed you to go about your life without having to hide yourself away from society.
So what to do? In my case, as one of the older members of the most vulnerable, I decided to go back about 40 years to the days I played the piano. I had done nothing since and it deserved to be re-incarnated. I had decided to have music lessons every two weeks from a very good teacher, John Evans.
Of course when the shutdown took on a new seriousness, lessons had to go by the way. However, I was seriously determined to re-ignite the old interest. And now I am pleased to say digital memory is still there and with a bit of determination I can enjoy the forgotten art of playing the piano. I play between two and three hours a day, and with all honesty, time seems to fly.
I am spending a lot of time on my computer painting, digitally, flowers in colour. I take an original flower photograph and then, using very special brushes in Photoshop, paint over the image of the flower.
This is the first time that I have time for me. I sit in the sun, sleep a lot and walk my Max. I have been working on Rotary projects during the day – something I would normally do at night. I have started to write my life story, recalling all the cheeky things I have done and the hard work needed to be successful, the travels on my job and with my loved ones. I think if I had to go tomorrow, I would go knowing that I lived my life to the full, and that I am lucky to have two men waiting on heavens door.
I’ve spent some time drawing up lists of the categories stay-at-homers fall into. This is where I am so far:
- The all-day cleaners who bleach everything in sight
- The bakers who make muffins scones and cakes every day
- The horders who still stock up on loo rolls
- Those who drink wine all day, even in their cereal
- The ones who sleep all day and have breakfast at 5pm
- The over-30s who joined Tik Tok
- The DIYers who build anything from scratch, even a shed!
- The house party App-ers who are always ready for Pictionary
- The home school mums who love teaching
- The mums who hate it!!!
- The feeders who are making three meals a day plus snacks
- Those who have watched everything on Netflix. Some twice over
- The paranoid who hear coughing and freak out!
As a marketing consultant, I have worked from home for many years and am used to days without fresh air or exercise, with one online meeting after the other. So what’s different? Well, because of the restrictions I am now going out for one good, brisk walk a day; I am out to buying groceries whereas before I had weekly deliveries; I am stopping for proper lunch with my husband and kids – not on the previous agenda; and I am I am having zoom meetings with friends and family who I have had little contact with in recent years. It is different. And I plan for the ‘new’ way to continue.
AlgarvePLUS would love to hear what you’ve been up to. Email email@example.com
Article by kind permission of AlgarvePLUS Magazine - CLICK HERE to read the complete May 2020 issue.