Thursday, 2 April 2020

Hand washing and hand wringing: a Lidl liquid soap lookalike, and getting in a lather over lockdown

It's only been a few weeks, but I feel like a veteran of this lockdown lark, having 'done time' in two countries already. And I can confirm that as a person on my own it doesn't suit me at all. I didn't think I would react like this, for I am someone who routinely used to go on solo business trips for two, three, or even four weeks at a time, and I have lived alone for nearly eight years in my present house, and also for long spells in the past. No, what makes the current situation so hard to bear is the fact that you can't see your friends, not even to go for a walk at the appropriate distance, because they are not members of your household. During my solo walks I have encountered large families out together, pushing past on narrow pavements with no regard for social distancing, and have frequently been driven into the road. Same thoughtless jostling story in supermarkets. I have also seen knots of young people milling around shops and standing on street corners, and couples out jogging, and I doubt very much that they are all related. Then I have singleton friends who have rejigged their households the better to cope with the isolation: adult children have come home, sometimes with partners in tow. I don't blame them one bit, and I think I may be suffering from a case of "multiple person household envy". The tennis player Annabel Croft was interviewed on the radio yesterday, and she explained that having so many family members at home at the moment was unusually convivial. It sounded like Christmas every day, though she didn't exactly say so.

What else? There has been much talk in the media of people turning more to drink, haha, which amused me. I have always been an 'in-home' rather than a social drinker, but so far this year have stuck to my New Year's resolution of having three days of the week drink-free, a doubling of the tally I managed last year. Then I spoke to a friend yesterday, who said she was drinking a bit more than usual, and was also starting the day by bingeing on Bakewell tart from the local post office. I can't tell you how much she went up in my estimation for admitting that! And I do reserve the right to play the 'unprecedented times' card and progressively slide off my part-time wagon as the lockdown continues...;)

I have also been dabbling a bit more in exercise - I shan't overstate it, as I am a reluctant exerciser at best. I have mauled my 'vintage' Total Gym out of long term storage - a work out in itself, let me tell you - and stockpiled some cardio and resistance training videos, the shorter the better. I even watched a 6 minute introductory video of Yoga with Adriene, inspired by Tara of A Bottled Rose. All you had to do in that video was breathe deeply three times, and listen to her talk about comfy clothing, but I note that the next episode is nearly 50 minutes long, so realistically I may not get past looking out my mat(!). We'll see...I actually completed a ten minute exercise video I found on an NHS website last night, and today my knee hurts like mad, and I appear to have aggravated the arthritis in my other hand I didn't even know I had. So I guess the moral of all that is moderation in all things, hehe.

I am cooking a lot more, which is a good thing, and am also guiding ex-Mr Bonkers in his own culinary endeavours. He has never done more than open a tin of soup in his 61 years, but the current situation is driving him to buy and 'interact with' a whole range of foodstuffs. His first triumph was baking a potato, swiftly followed by an 'assembly' coup, namely putting a cheese and onion pasty and crinkle cut chips in the oven - requiring different lengths of cooking time and different temperatures! - while heating up baked beans on the top of the cooker. I told him that that meal involved complex organisational skills, and that he had done very well to have pulled it off without recourse to critical path analysis and a wall chart.

Now I don't know if you have found this, but all my usual service providers - energy companies, phone providers etc - appear to be hunkering down behind a veil of non-availability, which has led to some comically spun announcements, the first from British Gas:

"So for now, we can only help with prepay meter issues or emergencies (e.g. no heating or hot water). Please don't contact us about anything else. If you do, we've asked our customer service advisers to politely explain that we can't help right now."

And yesterday I was trying to communicate via Live Chat with Virgin Media. The AI bot didn't understand me for several exchanges, and when it eventually grasped my inquiry, I got the message:

"Just to let you know that we won't get back to you immediately, so you can get on with your day."

Whoohoo, thanks...!

I am still receiving a lot of promotional spam, also from perfume companies, which irks me, as perfume generally - and certainly buying any more - is the last thing on my mind. Le Jardin Retrouve and Diptyque are the worst offenders currently. Diptyque has been annoying me for years, as some readers may recall, and shows no sign of letting up. Oddly for me, all I have bought since the lockdown began is light bulbs, latex gloves, a couple of masks in case the Government guidance changes, and more probiotics, as in a pandemic like this the gut needs to keep up its game!

I say, have you seen any posters in windows asking questions of the neighbours opposite? A friend put one up wishing our mutual friend Kate a happy birthday, which was a nice touch. There's also the poster doing the rounds on Facebook where someone asks the name of a black and white cat in their neighbour's window (Answer: Walter), and I have just heard of another corker:

"What is the name of that pale Edwardian child in your loft window?"

Moving on, I cut my fringe the other day - with qualified success, it must be said. It is out of my eyes, but looks a bit wonky, and is still quite thick - my hairdressing skills are not up to 'wispifying' aka rendering my fringe 'choppy'. (Picture not available on request. ;) )

Hmm...I am also finding the lack of physical touch particularly's been four weeks nearly since I touched another person, and it is sad not to be able to put my arm round my elderly friend, which I am sure she appreciated. I can't even cross her threshold.

Oh, there was another happy consequence of the current situation: the gentleman with a keen interest in genealogy who kindly spent several years researching our family tree, decided to cast his net one more time and scooped up a bunch of Very Old Mussons from Freeby in Leicestershire, a village not previously on his radar. We are now back four more generations to c1550 and I have a new great great (etc!) grandfather called Valentine. A family tree 'freebie' indeed. He went on to recount his elaborate quest to find yeast, bemoaned the complete lack of eggs and sketchy supply of blueberries, and gave me a tip about 'ply splitting' paper proucts, assuming they are thick enough to start with. (FYI, I still haven't seen loo roll in the shops, though I believe there have been further supplies delivered - and possibly gone straight out again. Hand sanitiser is also something of a retail unicorn.)

Which leads me finally to the aforementioned Lidl Citrus & Herb liquid soap, a cunning fusion dupe of The White Company's bottle and the classic Jo Malone 'Lime, Basil & Mandarin' fragrance. It doesn't smell of much - which may be less an indictment of the product and more to do with my having symptoms of the coronavirus, though I hope not! - but it is incredible value for the not very much money it cost, whatever that was.

I would be most interested to hear your own lockdown stories, whether you are coupled up or on your own and not doing very well either! How you are passing the time, whether you are washing your shopping, leaving post for three days before opening it, and implementing other strange but strongly recommended Coronavirus measures.


Tara said...

You're such a people person V I can see how hard you'd find this situation. Plenty of couples and families will be during each other up the wall though. It's the sensible thing for me to move in with my parents but I know after a week I'll be craving my own space.

30 Days Yoga with Adriene is definitely not 50 mins! I hope you give her another try.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

I will try to imagine that multiple person households are not playing happy families all of the time, like that royal Christmas video of three generations stirring Christmas puddings. ;) You do tend to lose your sense of reality in this desert island state, which I have been in for four weeks now in fact, because of going to France and dropping straight into their lockdown. I am sure your parents will appreciate having you on hand if they get ill. And they are lovely people and you get on so well that I am sure it will work out.

Okay, that Adriene video was 43 minutes, though I note that the later ones are under half an hour!

Anonymous said...

I just want to give you a hug!

Love that message about the Edwardian child ... creepy ... someone has a warped sense of humour.

I am having the last laugh about my hoarding habits. Whenever there is a liquid soap that I like that is about to be discontinued I buy several bottles; I was ashamed to find dozens scattered in different rooms around the house, but now am feeling quite proud of myself for "having the foresight" to stock up long before the pandemic. Particular favourites are Tisserand hand washes. I won't mention my stocks of shampoo ....

I've had a tsunami of emails from companies offering free delivery and huge discounts. Some are touching - those are the ones from little companies that I have known for years and who are trying to sound upbeat, but for whom this crisis could spell the end.

Gosh, Vanessa, please go carefully, especially with your sore pelvis. I've done my knee in - not through trying to be fit but by performing DIY; the tap in the en suite basin was leaking and the plumber said we needed a new one. So I ordered a tap online, it failed to come and then the lockdown happened. Then the tiny leak became a huge puddle, so I fixed it (after giving myself some YouTube tutorials). But at the expense of my poor old knee because of all the scrabbling around in awkward angles on the floor(I should have known better). So take it easily. Maybe you could get Truffle to walk over your back in the same way that people have goats giving them massage while they do yoga.


AustralianPerfumeJunkies said...

Hey there Vanessa,
Sorry this isolation is getting you down.

Jin is still working because trains are essential services. That's good news because we can survive happily for a while with only his income. He is in the middle of 6 days off right now, very lavish having him here so much. We are eating like kings because we have so much time to home make.
For the first time since 1985 I am off but my life has always been odd hours and unusual bibs & bobs so I'm hardly noticing a change. The thing that really used to take up my time was APJ and having closed that a couple of months ago I'm revelling in the spare time. It hasn't got to the point that I'm doing anything positive with the time but I imagine that will happen in the fairly near future.
Fortunately we have the dogs. They need walks in the morning and evening, and often get an afternoon wee break as well. That means I'm able to at least hit my 5000 steps minimum without much extra trouble.

I have been going through my old decants. So many of them have dried out a lot. So I'm keeping a few but also did a couple of big giveaways on our Aussie FB group. Things that had maybe 2 or 3 wears left in them. I'm glad they went to new homes.

Now you're all caught up.
Hugs and love
Portia xx

Ines said...

It's not a proper lockdown here, I go and visit my parents each weekend but I can either walk there or take a cab because there is no public transport in the city.
I actually like spending time alone so I'm not bothered by it that much, the only problem I have is the fact that as I'm working from home, the balance between work and non-work life is slowly disappearing. I actually feel like I could benefit from some vacation days even though it means spending them at home.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

I love your image of goats giving massages! Truffle is not eminently trainable, but I do like the idea.

Well done for grappling with your tap, though I am sorry it had the undesired effect of knackering your knee. I think the hospitals are worried in case too many of us take to doing DIY during the lockdown. Mind you, it is difficult to get tradespeople, so there is a natural temptation to have a go yourself.

I do worry about the millions of small businesses who won't survive this crisis. I can't generate income from having paying guests anymore, sadly!

I am impressed at your squirrelling away of liquid soap - its time has come, no question...;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Portia,

Thanks for sharing the Aussie perspective, and am glad to learn that Jin is still working. I can quite understand why your job is not possible at the moment, and I think you deserve a bit of time off, as you must have been very busy before, especially keeping up the blog on such a frequency.

You may have inspired me to go through my decants - some of them are probably not in the best shape, if they haven't evaporated altogether indeed!

Unfortunately Truffle walks (by) herself, or I would be fitter, I sense. ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

How interesting to hear how things are in your part of the world. I sense quite a few people are finding the work/life divide at home a bit strange, but having been a freelancer since 1991, it comes naturally to me. ;) I'd find working in an office totally weird!

Glad you can still see your folks - I wonder if things will get tighter with time, as seems to have happened elsewhere.

Undina said...

Vanessa, I'm extremely sorry for the isolation part you're experiencing. I know that I would have been completely miserable on my own: I hate not being around people. I do not even mean A. - in general, I rarely do anything on my own, be that sport, shopping, traveling, etc. So, I really sympathize with your situation.

These days I... mostly work :) Same as Ines, I'm slightly loosing that previously already chimeric divide between work and everything else. I keep telling myself that I should try that yoga (Tara!!!) but I'm afraid to harm myself: since we started walking 30-40 minutes every evening, my back and sciatica started bothering me a little again - so I'm not sure how slowly I should take anything else not to create a situation where I require medical assistance.

We kind of wash what we buy, leave mail for several days and have some other rituals we go through related to all the precautions. But I think it all works as long as nobody around is sick. Let's wait and hope it'll all pass before everything goes down the drain.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

I am happy to be on my own a lot of the time - but all of the time is too extreme, I realise!

As far as keeping a divide between work and everything else, it does help if you have a dedicated 'office space' in your home, whether just a corner or a separate room, which I am lucky enough to have.

Between your sciatica and my sprained pelvis, we have a lot in common and both need to be careful about what exercise we do. I have been a bit gung-ho this week between the floor workout I've been doing and the routine on the Total Gym, and today my upper body was aching so much I decided I needed a break. ;)

Ingeborg said...

I seem to be rather good at staying on my own,so have little trouble so far except for keeping a good daily routine, I'm a night owl at the best of times! I'm happy my sister and her husband pop by sometimes with supplements of things I need. I have had to use another company than I usually do to get groceries, since the one I prefer haven't been able to meet the sharp increase in demand for home delivery (over a week to wait for an open slot for delivery). Toilet paper is no longer very hard to get hold of, but wipes for the bathroom, desinfectants of all kinds, certain pastilles, fresh yeast, flour and so on are some of the things hard to find. Mostly supermarkets tell you you cannot buy more than three of each kind in certain categories.

It helps having a secure job, for sure. We are getting very good at video meetings. Those with children at home sometimes feel they get little done and seem frustrated. The authorities plan to open kindergartens again on April 20, seems a little early to me.

We can still walk outside (no groups of more than five)and also with people not in our own household, just keep two meters apart.Some people don't respect the rules, and there's been a bit of noise about how the tabloids report on that situation.I do think it must be easier to live in a smaller town now, Oslo has a much higher rate of infection than most other regions here in Norway. It is worrying that what started with a massive influx of people infected in Italy, and not least Austria, now is a virus infection spreading to the parts of the city where people live in much smaller flats, where isolating at home will be very difficult without infecting family members.

My stepmother had to isolate for 48 hrs and then get tested for the Corona virus. Luckily the test came back negative, she had an ordinary cold. She only got tested because she's working at a hospital, teting capacity here is somewhat limited. We now plan to spend Easter at my father's house together, 4 or 5 family members. Non-essential journeys are adviced against, but getting to a house with a garden will be so good, plus it feels important in these uncertain times to be together on his birthday. We have all stayed at home as much as possible, even if shops other than supermarkets are partly staying open. Again, keeping a distance in shops can be tricky.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ingeborg,

Thanks for giving us an account of how things are in Norway. Quite a few parallels with the situation in Britain, including the very same items that are tricky to get from supermarkets, and the lack of testing facilities. That said, Norway seems a little more relaxed in terms of numbers of people who can be together outside, say. Sweden (for the moment) is even more relaxed, I know.

Glad your stepmother wasn't ill from Covid in the end and that you can look forard to spending Easter with your dad for his birthday.