Happy Friday! Well the USA has a new President so I guess that’s one good thing in the world. The daily death rate in the UK is appallingly high, and I just heard a member of Radiohead say that it feels as though we are being governed like an essay crisis. Which seems about right…
In January 2009, I watched the broadcast of Barack Obama’s swearing in as the President of the United States . I wrote about it, as I said then, every time I watch an inauguration, I’m moved. (Yes, I still wish to live in a Republic).
Four years ago, as Trump as vowed the he would to the best of his Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, I was impressed by everyone else, they were very worried and rightly so as it turns out. And I thought about George W. Bush’s in I thought Bush Jr. was a bad President, but his speech at his inauguration was about the ideals that the USA espouses, especially this….
Americans are generous and strong and decent, not because we believe in ourselves, but because we hold beliefs beyond ourselves. When this spirit of citizenship is missing, no government program can replace it. When this spirit is present, no wrong can stand against it.
After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: “We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?”
Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day he would know: our nation’s grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity.
We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another.
Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life.
This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.
Like most countries and people for that matter, the USA doesn’t always live up to it’s ideals and that has not been more obvious than in the last four years and the events of the last month have shown us how just how fragile democracy can be.
Joe Biden’s administration has a lot of work to do, but the work of preventing another Trump (or Trump doing a Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th President) isn’t just his. It’s going to be the work of the Republican party and the courts and the media. It’s also going to be the work of the voters, to not listen to conspiracy theories, to truly educate themselves, to read and understand the Constitution, to not tolerate racism.
I say this as someone, who lives in the country where the similar work is needed but today, I hope that the United States can live up to its ideals and not down to its lowest impulses…
It’s Blue Monday today, which is basically the worst day of the year. It’s three weeks into the New Year and no-one has any money, there isn’t another Bank Holiday until April and Christmas feels like a distant memory. That’s in normal times, but we are in the middle of a global pandemic and in the UK, in our third lockdown. So added to the usual misery we are sitting in our houses all alone trying to summon up the will to live and some enthusiasm for work without any actual human contact or trying to homeschool disregulated children and keep all the work/home things in balance. That’s bad, but worse that that is that the situations above are best case scenarios. Other people are having to go out and work in shops (not exactly safe) or have no work and are quietly panicking about how to feed children/pay bills.
I say all this not to make you feel worse but to share a tiny flash that has illuminated all this gloom. My brother send me flowers on Friday and I won the office quiz!
Other things I did to cheer myself up over the weekend. I made marmalade, I changed my bed*, I broke open the sour cherry compote (which was truly the best thing I preserved last year) and I did some other preserving, marmalade (which didn’t set properly – I’ll sort that out tonight!), chicken stock and chickpeas. I also read two books and watched ‘A History of Swearing’ on Netflix. I also reached out for some human connection and called my brother, my mother and some friends. I wrote postcards. I had therapy and did yoga.
This morning, I’m not the most cheerful person in the world (I never am and it’s January!) but I’m more balanced than expected. That’s really my trick, I don’t reach for perfect, I reach for balance. It’s much more achievable than perfect and ultimately better for you!
So that’s what I’m thinking about this week. Balance. Working out what small things will make me more cheerful and doing them. Today that means cherry compote and yoghurt for breakfast, an afternoon walk, doing the ironing tonight and having a bath before bedtime.
That’s all I’ve got. I hope you all have a great week and can think of some small, cheerful things that will give you balance!
*the best housekeeping habit you can ever get into is that of changing your bed weekly. Clean beds are the best thing in the world for comforting troubled minds and bodies and it’s a treat you can give yourself every week. If you can, I really recommend it.
Schools in England told not to provide free school meals at half-term. What is wrong with the government? I’m not expecting them to be brilliant or even good but they don’t have the brains God gave a fucking sheep. We’ve been over this, as a general rule everyone objects to children going hungry. We did this in the summer, we did it before Christmas, we did it last fucking week. Just accept that people think it’s important and sort it out, implement a system that ensures that the 1.4 million children entitled to free school meals get fed in the holidays or when schools aren’t open. It’s not fucking rocket science….
We are now in our third lockdown in the UK, with the way the infection rates are climbing Mum and I have decided that it was better that she didn’t come over on the bus to see me or work on the allotment. Which means that I’m solo on the plot and missing the weeding help.
This weekend, I visited the plot to fill up the birdfeeders and paint the shed.
It will need another couple of coats, but at least it’s a start.
The week before last we split the rhubarb and moved the gooseberry bushes and Ma did amazing work on the weeding the front of the plot. So work was done and next weekend, I’ll be weeding, I’m not as thorough as Ma – well that’s what she tells me but needs must…
So as it’s January, I thought that I’d talk about what we are going to grow this year! When Boris Johnson announced the second lockdown back in November, Ma and I panic bought seeds.
Over the last year, with Brexit looming, I took a look at the food I eat and buy. I’ve talked about this a bit, I’ve talked about changing how and where I buy meat, I’ve talked about cooking more vegetarian food, I’ve talked about buying more UK produced food. and so with this in mind, we made a decision to try and use UK produced seeds. I’m not ever going to get it 100% right, we live in a global world but I think it’s important to try as much as you are able given your circumstances. So we most the majority of our seeds from Real Seeds but we are also going to fill in with the seeds we already have and that we get from magazines.
So what are we going to grow next season?
Garlic, onions and shallots are already in the ground. We also have cabbages, kale and chard that will take us through to Feb/Mar and lettuces that may or may not last the winter.
In February we’ll sow the broadbeans (Aquadulce Longpod), peas and carrots, I bought some of the tri coloured ones carrots we had last year from Wilko and we have loads of free carrot seeds to use up. I’m going to do spring sowing and a later June/July sowing to see if we can eek out the carrot season a bit more this year.
We’ve already ordered seed and sweet potatoes this year from DT Brown, the potatoes are Nicola, International Kidney and Acoustic (these are a replacement for the Lady Christl that we ordered) and we’ll grow them in tubs as usual. The sweet potato slips are also from DT Brown, the sweet potato collection, it’s 15 slips and we have purple ones too. I probably won’t plant all 15 slips, but Laura and Dionne will have some and someone else on the allotment site couldn’t get purple ones, so I’ll find homes for them. My lesson from last year is to leave them until well into October, so we’ll see how we go.
Last year wasn’t a great year for summer squash, this year we’re going to grow our usual Summer Crookneck, but also the Early Prolific Straightneck, Benning’s Green Tint Patty Pan and Tondo di Piacenza Round Courgette. All of those seeds can be found here
For winter squash, we already have some ‘Jack be little’ seeds and to that we’re adding Waltham Butternut Squash, Hokkaido, Galeuse d’Eysines, Anna Swartz Hubbard, Sibley Storage Squash, I will harvest some seeds from my candy roaster and crown prince and see if we can get a squash from them but only one from each. We are changing the beds, this year, so probably won’t be growing as many as we did last year. Although having said we had too many this year, Ma and I are watching them go down and wondering if we’ll get through the winter!
We’re going to grow three cucumbers types, two are new to us, Tamra Slicing and Early Fortune and the usual Boothby’s Blonde.
I love growing tomatoes and bizarrely for someone who didn’t eat raw tomatoes until I grew them, I love the big tomatoes and they are the ones I want to grow. Last year we grew tomatoes that we’ve grown before and of those we’ll repeat three, Orange Banana, Amish Paste, Cour di Bue and I may sneak in some Marmande. For new tomatoes we’re going to grow Ethel Watkins Best, Feo de Rio Gordo and Peche Vilmorin Andrieux, this is pink, fuzzy tomato that’s good for stuffing, so that will be fun to try! Ma loves cherry tomatoes, and she eats the majority of the cherries that we grow, this season we’re going to try Gardener’s Sweetheart and Millefleur Yellow Vine, this is a centiflor type and I’m hoping that it’ll prevent the wicked splitting issues we had with the yellow cherries last year.
I do some preserving with the tomatoes I grow, this year all the salsa came from my tomatoes but for canning, I mostly bought tomatoes from the Isle of Wight because of the quantity I needed them in, I did my canning in two section, one of 18kg of tomatoes and another of 9kg. I don’t have the space to grow enough to can with, I’d need another plot and that is not happening especially given how many people we have on the waiting list at the moment. I waited about 18 months for my first half and I think I just got in at a good time, because the grew quadrupled last year!
Finally, beans. We have purple and green french beans saved so we’llprobably use them again. We’re also going to grow Aida Gold Dwarf Beans, they are yellow so we’re growing the spectrum. We’re also going to grow Gigantes Soup Runner Beans, runner beans grown them for the beans not the pods and I thought it would be fun to experiment with beans for drying. We also have some borlotti bean seeds floating about so if I have room, I’ll try and squeeze them in! Although this year I really need to work on bean frames that don’t collapse under the weight of the plants. I was thinking about these, anyone used them before?
The things that we usually grow, kale, chard, leeks, cabbages and cauliflower we have loads of seeds for and we’ll not sure if we’re going to grow from seed or cheat like we did last year and buy plugs, to be honest it’s going to depend on the length of lockdown and how much I get done in the next couple of weeks! Things I hope to grow this year, we’ll have parnips and salsify, sweetcorn, spinach, salad, fennel (third time lucky), pak choi and turnips and swedes, Ma also really wants to grow celeriac and if I can find or build, a spare bed, we will.
We’ll have fruit, as usual, I split the rhubarb and moved the gooseberries so I’m not expecting loads of that, but we should have a good-ish crop of blueberries (one of my spring projects is to get some of the plants into bigger pots) and raspberries. I’m not expecting many blackcurrants but a handful would be nice and hopefully, the plum tree is ready for a really good year, despite the haircut it’s going to get in June!
For soft herbs, we’ll grow parsley, basil and dill and I want to get some more thyme plants because I really like it. I’m expecting that the verbena, borage, rocket, marigolds, aramanth and mallow will just do what they do and grow. But I am going to try and grow a row of orache from the seeds I collected last year.
My hope for this coming week is that it’s not as awful as last week. We are 9 days closer to Trump not being President of the USA, unfortunately Boris Johnson and his government of incompetent liars is not going anywhere but let’s hope that the lockdown starts to have an impact and infection rates start to go down before the NHS collapses in a heap.
In other news, going to back to work this week was deeply ok, I had a good year end appraisal and eased back into work, I have a ton of ideas right now, I just need to maintain sufficient focus to implement them. It’s January and right now I feel like I have the attention span of a goldfish!
The tree came down on Wednesday morning but I’ll be hoovering up pine needles at least until April! I have been getting out for a walk most days and trying to establish a routine again after Christmas, which has become really important as January and lockdown seem to be combining almost to produce stress and depression.
I’m ok, because I have strategies in place and I’m good at noticing when I’m slipping. I’ve found this really useful to gauge whereabouts I am and when I need to ask for help. So I’m putting it here just in case it’s useful to you. Bear in mind that not everything will apply to you, but for instance I find that my first signs of trouble are often that I’m more easily overwhelmed or irritated and I get very focussed on control.
The other thing to remember is that although other people may be struggling in ‘worse’ situations (I feel so bad for parents right now), it doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to struggle with your circumstances. I haven’t touched a human being apart from my mother since October, and I haven’t seen her for over a week. It’s ok to find that difficult and if you are finding yourself on the yellow, orange or red place in this please, talk to someone, sooner rather than later.
Last week, I intended to start blogging again but it just didn’t happen. I’ve been busy and the news has been rubbish and I’m having a problem with uploading photos.
Anyway, the week has been full of news, the return of lockdown, an attempted coup in the US (you have to name it to see how serious it is) and all sorts of other stuff, I really feel that 2021 has a lot to do to be worse than 2020 but it’s really trying, hopefully it’ll lose momentum..
I’m so angry. On Saturday night our idiot Prime Minister put all of London and most of the South East into a new Tier 4 lockdown from midnight. Which means that family Christmas is out. We’re ok, Ma and I are a support bubble and will spend Christmas together but I’m very much mourning my Christmas with my brother, sister in law, the nephews and the new puppy and really sad for all the people who will be alone for Christmas and didn’t plan to be.
Anyway, fortunately for us, Ma and I ordered some beef from Dorset Meats, we have all the food and drink we could want (we also went to The Cheddar Deli on Saturday, so have an outrageous amount of cheese too!)
I bought a Christmas tree at the weekend, it’s currently outside in a bucket of water and we’ll put it up and decorate it on Christmas Eve as usual.
Christmas isn’t cancelled, but it’s going to look different for lots of people this year and Johnston could have avoided much of the stress and disappointment that people are feeling right now by being open and honest earlier, when everyone with a clue was saying there was an issue. As ever he dodged it, tried to entirely blame the new variant and now there is a travel ban from 11 EU countries. It’s not just events, it’s the government’s complete inability to understand that actions have bloody consequences.
This week is quiet at work and at home, I’ll just be wrapping things and making cheese stars and mince pies and then it will be Christmas. If you aren’t having the Christmas you planned, I hope you manage to have a peaceful, joyous time anyway!