The last few days have been days of memories and reflecting on these memories as the First picture shows. In this post’s photo, I was on Braeriach in the Cairngorms . It would have been in the 1070s, probably at Easter, What adventures and what friendships!
I didn’t manage to get anything written yesterday. I had a day of adjusting! It was much like any other Saturday with shopping, joining a friend for coffee, time spent down by the sea – except I didn’t do any of these things. Shopping is only for essentials, meeting with friends doesn’t come under the social distancing and the sea front and the car parks have been closed except to the physically-able for exercise, so that counts me out at the moment. I did some laundry, but apart from that the time seemed to drift into eternity, which is the frightening thing. It would be so easy to lose track of timer and not accomplish many of the things on my to do list. I abandoned rowing yesterday and today, but will get back to it. I’ve pulled a muscle in my dodgy leg because of my enthusiasm, so I have had enough warnings that I must be more cautious. The best outcome yesterday, was making an orange drizzle cake. Baking is an escape, just as it was for my mother. I so wish i could make sponges and meringues as she did.
Today has been another strange day. We’ve spoken to friends on the phone, eaten orange drizzle cake and I’ve cleaned the floors downstairs. This is always a bad sign. If the floor is visible does it really need to be cleaned? I didn’t think it was that bad but once the chore was completed, I knew it was. I treated myself to a gin and tonic. I managed to spray the tonic around the kitchen and the floor had a second wash. Fortunately there is enough of both gin and tonic for a few more days.
The other thing I did, having read Robert Macfarlane’s Tweet about Jan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, was to look at my book shelves and the memories and dreams stored in them. I may never climb a mountain or even a rock face again. I might never be able to ski again, I certainly will never go caving again, but I can get in to the mountains to take photographs, paint, write and just wonder and I can make plans for other adventures.
I’m now thinking that it is time to stay indoors. It would be so easy to become a carrier of virus. I was thinking that I had prepared well. The store cupboard is restocked with enough to survive for one to two weeks. We could do with some eggs, fresh vegetables and fruit and bread flour and yeast, but we can mange without these. (We had run the store cupboard down when work was being done on the kitchen) However, I’m now realising that I haven’t thought about reading material . I am well stocked online and on my shelves with reading to support my more academic writing but it is the lighter reading materials that I am low on. I know I can read things online but this isn’t conducive to reading in the bath and in bed. I had left my watercolour brushes in India, so I’ve ordered some more online.
How am I viewing the weeks a head? A few weeks ago, my initial reaction had been of resentment that I was being targeted as an over 70. I was being stereotyped. That feeling is still simmering, under the surface, but for the well being of others I can understand the need to reduce face-to-face interactions. I’m planning on setting myself a timetables so that I don’t become more of a couch potato than I already am, and I can keep some track on the passing time.
I get “cabin fever” when I am stuck indoors for long periods. I feel claustrophobic, that I must get out. Often my mother and I would be walking along the beach in the early hours. However, I am appalled at the numbers of people flocking to the beaches or hills. Many rural areas are imploring people not to consider self-isolating there and putting a strain on stretched resources (BBC News), apart from not considering that they could also be spreading the virus, so I’m planning to stay fixed and try to row (on the machine) the equivalent of from Portsmouth to Penzance, as the crow flies. This might help me to reflect on an imaginary journey, in the same ways that I would have been reflecting on now cancelled trips to the Orkneys and Cornwall.
My other major concern is that the two of us will fall out. We are used to the luxury of having our own space. we can still do this in the house, but it will still be a pressure. I’m hoping that having a plan and targets will help me, Wish me luck!.
Just two weeks ago, I was in Tamil Nadu. It had been a long slog. Ian’s attention was on building a kiln and completing a first firing. Shankar had been studying the temple potter’s practices, to good effect.
Lighting the kiln
Mine was on getting promotional materials together.This included a photo shoot at the Children’s Project. The young people were wonderful and seemed to enjoy posing. They also picked out things I had not thought of, such as drinking from a jug. Whenever I try this I end up swamping myself. As always, Shankar’s photos were totally different from mine. He certainly has an eye for composition and making the most of the light.
I had also been invited to attend an event to celebrate the pregnancy of one of Samy’s neighbours. While the guests are focussing on the official photographer, I have an opportunity to capture special moments. This is principally a women’s event. Bangles are put on the arms of the woman. There is then a celebratory meal.
Monday was Cow Pongal in Tamil Nadu. This is the day when the cow is blessed for her vital role in the lives of the locals and everyone has new sets of clothes. At Cardamom House, we had four VERY rich Americans staying. We needed to impress them. Good reports to their friends could mean more rich guests. However, their pongal was not turning out as they had expected. They had already missed out on the big Bull Running Festival in Madurai. Their visit to Athoor village with Pandi had been disappointing. The cows had already been painted and few people were around. They were getting disgruntled. NO problem. Farmer Kumar had a cow in calf as well as her two calves. Perfect. All that was needed was a bath for the cow, so that she was sparkling with cleanliness for the ceremony, and then we would all be ready. Pongal rice had been prepared and placed in the house temple. Bananas were prepared and laid across the rice. Fresh incense and paints were bought. Great … … except the cow lost her footing and fell in the tank. She needed to be clean, but she didn’t need to go swimming. There are steps out of the tank, but these are very narrow and covered in ten years worth of slime. Various attempts were made to entice her out – lifting her out supported on a raft, to name but one method. No luck. All she was interested in was eating the straw on the raft the rescue team had constructed. The team tried pulling her out, using a climbing sling that I happened to have in my rucsac, the way you do. They tried pushing her. They tried shoving her …. Eventually the rescue team and growing band of onlookers began to lose interest and wandered away. Shankar contacted the fire brigade, but they said that they only dealt with fires. Plan B for celebrating Pongal Cardamom House Style began. Pandi took the guests back into the village, and managed to find someone to invite them in – wonderful. At least the Americans saw something a bit different from the things they might have seen on a normal tourist trip. Meanwhile, back at the tank, only Farmer Kumar, young Kumar and one other remained, swimming around with the cow. The calm ambience brought inspiration. They decided to fill sacks with sand to make a ramp. To everyone’s relief, brains won over brawn . The cow scrambled up the ramp and continued chewing at the grass as though diving into a tank for a swim was an everyday occurrence. Chris was all for cancelling everything, but Farmer Kumar insisted that the cow had to be blessed. So Pongal Cardamom House Style went ahead. The cow was given a new halter. She was painted – not very artistically. Her horns were painted in a bright blue enamel paint. She was fed with bananas and pongal rice … and for good measure, Jancy, the dog was painted as well.