Friday, 17 April 2020

The hermit and her hand cream: Lockdown life Part 2

So here we are...three weeks in, three weeks to go. Or an indefinite number of weeks, for the Government is keeping its cards close to its chest, and is terrified of breathing a word to the nation about the possibility of unlocking us for fear of people rushing out of their houses prematurely, lying on park benches in droves, jogging six abreast (accompanied by lots of panting and spitting), and having barbecues for 15 behind (rather symbolically) a row of lock up garages. In short, it doesn't trust the majority of people who have so assiduously complied with social distancing all this while.

Be that as it may, two weeks on from my last post, things feel quite a lot different, mainly in terms of the degree of resigned acceptance I feel about the situation. I guess people in actual prison must go through a very similar thought process - or the bereaved, indeed. Whereas before, my main objection to the restrictions was the isolation from friends, I have since become something of a born again hermit, and the thought of a zoom party featuring headshots of a dozen people (or however many you can fit onto a screen) would feel like a surreal surfeit of stimulation. I am okay with phone calls, but I would find the sight of even someone's head and shoulders strangely overwhelming at this point, and that's not even because of the dire 'wild woman' state of my own hair, hehe. No, I sense I have shifted down several gears, such that occasionally bumping into people - or even more occasionally arranging to drop off food with someone I gaily construe as 'elderly' if they are more or less my age(!), and potentially also 'vulnerable' once they have eaten my cooking ;) - is proving a busy enough form of social life. I am frankly amazed I have got to this point, and perhaps the tide will turn, and I will crave tangible company again.

Police poster on the ground - now technically litter!

Now I don't know about you, but in the absence of face-to-face contact I have been receiving a disproportionate number of emails, messages and texts compared to normal times, many from more distant family and friends, whom the current crisis has galvanised into action. On any given day I owe about ten replies by various media, and this surge in communications is causing an unexpected feeling of pressure I didn't foresee, even though I know this 'reaching out'(!) is well-intentioned, and I am grateful for people's concern. Moreover, each person who writes to me is of course unaware that I am receiving a number of similar inquiries. The fact of the matter is that I only tend to call my elderly friend, which backs up my hunch that I may be getting used to the solitary life.

Coincidentally, there is a beautiful creeper-clad hermitage in Tollymore Forest, Co Down, where my brother and I spent many happy childhood holidays (our parents had a caravan just outside the park). Years ago I decided that I wanted my ashes to be scattered in the Shimna River right below the hermitage. My brother has opted for a spot upstream of me with an architecturally interesting bridge and the added benefit of being a more discreet location for this surreptitious act to be carried out - with it being a national park, I mean. So there's further oblique confirmation of my hermit credentials.


Yes, the social isolation is bothering me less than it was, but meanwhile I can't wait to see my dentist, osteopath and hairdresser again - about my holey molar, sprained foot and pelvis, and mad mane of hair respectively! I am also quietly hopeful that an enterprising tree surgeon will swing by tomorrow to empty my bin of green waste, so that I can get on with gardening.

Though the loneliness may have receded, I remain moderately worried about catching the virus, especially after seeing a programme on survivors. One familiar face featured was Linda Lusardi, who got the illness quite badly and ended up in hospital with complications. When she sought reassurance from a nurse that she would make it, he was rather equivocal and said: "Hmm..well, it's hard to say - you are 61 after all, and this thing is brand new." (I am paraphrasing.) Having seen recent photos of the former Page 3 model, I must say she is looking tremendous for her age, which may have helped her recovery. However, the fact that someone so vital and relatively young in my terms could fall so ill does give you pause.

Are you by any chance doing that thing where if you wake up in the morning and feel a bit hot you start asking yourself if the feeling of heat is the sun streaming through the window, that hot bath you had last night, too much bedding, overly cosy pyjamas, a physical manifestation of anxiety...or could it possibly be The Fever?!! If anyone out there has already had the virus and would like to share their experience, please do let us know, also any tips for managing the symptoms.

The other thing that I'd be interested to know about the lockdown is whether you have found yourself doing new things, sometimes without any conscious decision to do so. Here's a round up of the ones I have noticed recently:

- Drinking hot water and lemon first thing (I have it in my head that this is good for detoxing the liver from all those Cadbury's Mini-Eggs)

- Sleeping longer and deeper (this is completely abnormal!)

- A three hour bike ride, not by design. Good - and God - deed for the day was alerting the vicar of Sandon church to the fact that his security alarm was going off. "There probably isn't a burglar inside", I said to allay his fears of a break in. "My money's on a bat." Hmm, maybe that wasn't the best way to reassure him.

- Ongoing unprecedented levels of cooking. Ex-Mr Bonkers has just come to the door and collected a tupperware of vegetable curry I set aside for him on the step. He took one look at my hair - he hasn't seen me for a month or two - and said: "Just accept you are going grey!" Ha!

- Using the downstairs shower (to mix up my ablution routine - gotta get your kicks where you can!)

- Applying hand cream (a lifetime first, which is doubtless related to the copious amounts of hand washing we are all engaged in)

The hand cream in question was given to me ages ago by fellow blogger Sabine, which goes to show how long-kept items can suddenly come into their own. Its realistic mimosa scent - cheery and uplifting in that distinctive sherbety way - reminded me of my first misguided purchase of niche perfume over ten years ago in Paris...L'Ete en Douce from L'Artisan Parfumeur, which Luca Turin so aptly described as "laundry musk on steroids" (I'm paraphrasing here too). The sad fact is that I was hesitating on that occasion between L'Ete en Douce and Mimosa pour Moi, and bitterly regret not opting for the latter. I think I did eventually manage to swap the musky miscreant for something I only wanted marginally more(!), but the memory of Mimosa pour Moi still haunts me...And for now, this Swedish hand cream is a fair substitute.

Ah dear, it seems to be discontinued, judging by the company's website.


PS I have been wearing perfume every now and then when I am in the mood and remember: Serge Lutens Un Lys, Guerlain Lys Soleia, Kenzo Eau de Fleur de Magnolia, original Vera Wang (worn ironically, obvs) and something I fished out from my sample box which just says 'Guerlain' on the vial, but which may in fact be Encens Mythique.


Hazel said...

I am sleeping if anything less rather than more. However, we have newly-delivered German hair clippers, so there will be at least one tidily-shorn Musson (I've watched the video, what can go wrong?)

Tara said...

Hi V
Good to hear the isolation has become manageable. I think after 12 weeks indoors I'll be quite overwhelmed when I finally venture out. It's amazing how quickly you can adapt.
I was having trouble sleeping but daily YouTube workouts and a weighted blanket have helped.
I'm ashamed to say I have taken up Candy Crush as a distraction!

Sarah Waite said...

Hi Vanessa,
Good to hear that I'm not alone in embracing hermit tendencies. Every now and again I attempt to date to bring someone else into my life but I'm so used to hanging out with Joseph that it seems like an intrusion to be with an actual human!
Oh dear...
As for your hand cream, I have the body lotion from the same line. It is rather lovely isn't it? The body exfoliator however is so deeply thick and foamy that it's like scrubbing your thighs with Ciff.

Vanessa said...

Hi Hazel,

The tidily-shorn Musson will be safe in your hands, I am sure! Especially as you have invested in such professional tools. I have tackled my fringe, but only the length, not the weight. Maybe it is time I sought out a video too...;)

Vanessa said...

HI Tara,

I think it will be months if not years before people shake hands again. The streets have become so quiet as well that the noise of the morning traffic will be a shock when it returns.

That is very interesting about the weighted blanket. How is that different from putting on a couple of separate blankets to make up a similar weight? Perhaps you'd be too hot then - there will be a science to it, I bet.

Candy Crush is a popular pursuit in many households, so you are not alone! I don't think I will ever get into games though.

Vanessa said...

Hi Sarah,

Yes, cats almost count as humans, don't they?

What a coincidence that you have the equivalent body lotion! It is lovely indeed, but thanks for the warning about the exfoliator. To be specific, that one sounds like Cif Bathroom Mousse...;)

Anonymous said...

Hah! I was a bit of a hermit before this even started (if one can say one's a hermit with one husband and three cats on hand). I was becoming unsociable and feel relieved that this is required behaviour now. I have to sign some important documents and be witnessed doing so by a solicitor; because of the restrictions it is acceptable to do so without being in the actual presence of a lawyer and do this on Skype (other forms of videoing are available). I am utterly horrified! Obviously I can't just have my hand in shot as I sign the paper because it could be anybody's. I will have to be seen so that I can be identified! I will therefore have to get dressed. Probably have to put some makeup on too as it would be too much for the poor solicitor to see me without .... Ugh. I am camera-shy at the best of times.

As for thinking I've got the virus - the least little cough makes me nervous!

Things that I have been doing: funnily enough, mostly more cooking - of the comfort food variety. Rhubarb crumble, Moroccan tagines, pasta Norma (never heard of it before, but I like aubergines and decided to try it), curries, cakes. We are putting on weight. Which is not good as far as the virus is concerned .... And we are watching the whole of The West Wing again.

That Irish hermitage is incredibly beautiful and magical. An ideal spot to have one's ashes scattered.

It's sad that L'Artisan have discontinued Mimosa pour Moi. I wore it when it was first launched and it is a perfect perfume for spring. At one time they had a home fragrance range called Mimosa Marin, which was virtually identical and which I adored. No other companies' mimosas were similar, and spring isn't spring without it! My house would love to be smelling of mimosa right now.

Please take care. Sending very best wishes.


Tara said...

Yes, you'd need a lot of blankets to make up 10% of your weight. This is pretty thin with glass beads sown in.

Vanessa said...

Hi Jillie,

That is interesting about the solicitor and witnessing documents. I had heard that due to the virus the elderly in particular (many of whom are confined to barracks) are now making wills, and there are stories of people witnessing them by peering in the kitchen window etc. So your talk of getting your whole top half in shot rings a definite bell with me!

You are not working from home, I take it? That would require you to video conference with colleagues from time to time. My work latterly was simply the business of having paying guests, so sadly that has gone by the board.

Love the sound of the dishes you are cooking, and I am also very drawn to comfort food. I wanted to bake some banana bread yesterday as I have three bananas at the optimum stage of slightly too ripeness, then remembered I had no flour, and that no flour is to be had at the moment.

I have never got into home fragrance before, but right now I'd be glad to score some Mimosa Marin if there was any of that left knocking around. Funny how so many of the best gear gets the chop.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Thanks for explaining that - I was imagining a very heavy army blanket type of thickness, but this sounds lovely and I am glad it is helping.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any rum - or indeed any alcohol? Slice the bananas, cook in butter, sprinkle with sugar (preferably golden or demerara) to taste, pour a good slug of liquor in then flambee it (or just heat up). Very tasty. Wish I could cook for you!

Nah, don't work.

Vanessa said...

Thanks, Jillie, you have inspired me to bake bananas, but I will skip the flambee-ing aspect, or anything involving alcohol. I do like gin, but only with tonic and never mix it with food. Have found recipes for banana flapjack and ice cream too, so will be sure to use the bananas after all!

Anonymous said...

Spending spring indoors finds me reaching for light perfumes, such as Eau Parfumée Au Thé Bleu. Last year I received a decant of Mimosa Pour Moi from a kind perfume person, and while it would be nice to have some now I don't regret my Use It Up policy of the past while. It was pretty while it lasted....

New activity: last week I baked scones! It took about three weeks of looking for the various baking ingredients, but I did justice to a friend's recipe.

Oh, a suggestion for those awkward pauses in video-meetings: there's usually a chat function, which can be used as an icebreaker/parallel conversation.


Vanessa said...

Hi AnnieA,

That's not a Bvlgari I know, and I do like a lot of theirs. It is one of the mainstream houses I have a good hit rate with, like Kenzo.

Congrats on the scones! I can well imagine it might have taken you ages to assemble the ingredients, given the patchy supply situation in stores. I made flapjack with the mashed banana today! I didn't have half the ingredients for that, but it was a pretty forgiving recipe so I could easily effect substitutions of figs for apricots, and nuts for raisins etc.

I am not going to get involved with video calls if I can possibly help it - for work or leisure indeed. ;)

Undina said...

Candy Crush is my guilty pleasure in the last several years: it’s a great distraction when I need not to think about anything else.

Undina said...

A. was also looking into getting such a blanket: we need one for summer - to be not too warm but heavy enough to sleep comfortably.

Undina said...

Being an extrovert, I’m amazed at how much I enjoy staying at home. I mean, I’m worried about the economy and consequences of everything that is going on. But other than that, it doesn’t bother me much. I even figured out how to color my hair with results that I find quite acceptable. Though, if it goes for another 3-4 weeks, I’ll have to figure out how to cut A’s hair.

Since we visit stores approximately once every 10 days, I don’t wash hands much more often than before. But I wouldn’t mind getting some nice hand cream since my hands are always slightly dry, especially during night (I wonder why).

Last Sunday we did a video-party for our friend’s birthday. As much as I don’t like video calls and try to avoid them even for work, This one went not bad. Knowing people for 20+ years and good wine helped :)

Keep being good to yourself!

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Another Candy Crush fan like Tara. :) Interesting that you guys are also thinking about getting a weighted blanket. It can feel weird not having enough covers on in summer.

I am glad that you are adapting so well to staying at home. Good luck if you decide to cut A's hair in due course, and I am pleased that your hair colouring has gone well. I am definitely quite settled in this strange state, while still having all these wider worries - it is a funny mix.

Yes, you only need to do the hand washing thing when you come in from outside, which I do do quite a bit I guess. Oh, and also after handling mail.

You know my thoughts on Zoom and the like but that's great that your virtual birthday party went well!