My grammar is ever expanding, not bad for an ‘oldie’ who has done all he can to avoid using American slang like ‘movies’ or ‘trunk’. I prefer to watch a “film” and I put my dogs in the “boot” of the car when taking them for a walk. So, the phrase ‘self-isolation’ came as a bit of a shocker this week. But what a difference 7 days can make. In fairness I think the Coronavirus has taken the world, not just the UK, by storm. The speed at which it has crossed borders is a little unsettling, but I feel our old friends in the media have stoked this issue up to such a degree we might have lost some perspective.
What makes sensible people become totally selfish? Why race out to bulk buy all sorts of ‘essential’ items that leaves the supermarket shelves empty? What our grandparents would have thought of this god only knows. As things stand, over 70’s might have to ‘self-isolate’ for prolonged periods at some stage in the near future. Thank heavens it’s a generation that will, I am sure, be able to cope with their own company for a couple of weeks. I am not convinced the younger generation will stand up to this enforced isolation quite so well.
It got me thinking, what if a member of my family contracted the virus and I had to self-isolate? My initial thought was no traffic jams for 2 weeks, no having to meet customers, conduct skype meetings wearing my scruffs even with the CEO! Having figured out that I would be able to work from home without too much difficulty my thoughts turned to how I would actually manage the practicalities of being self isolated. This short article is focused more on those practicalities rather than our normal country sport theme. That said, I see rightly or wrongly more of a ‘can do’ mindset from those that live in the countryside than most urban dwellers, although not all.
All in all I do not view 2 weeks self-isolation as too much of a chore. I have a fair amount of game in the freezer, a herb bed that is slowly coming to life now that spring is here and some canned foodstufs in the larder. I am lucky enough to have 4 hens who have recently decided to contribute to my survival after a long barren eggless winter. They owe me! It is however ironic that as the flowers, plants and trees come out to show us their beauty we might have to retreat inside.
The down side to a 14 day isolation ‘sentence’ would be the inevitable ‘to do list’ that we all get presented with when your partner knows you will be home for a few days! How would I fill my time? The old term of ‘Make and Mend’ that I have written about in the past is about to come to the fore. All those small things that you have been meaning to do (or been asked to do) but have been too busy to do cannot now be avoided.
So, get your big boy pants on (or overalls) and get into the garage and find the woodfiller, paint, sealant gun, screwdriver, pliers and whatever else you need to complete these ‘little’ jobs! You might have to tidy the garage first of course! I am the worst DIY man on this planet but there is no escape from these ‘man jobs’ (no offence to any lady reading!), I’m told! Look on the bright side, it will keep you occupied for quite some time and its likely to use up 5 days of your sentence!
This is the time of year to get things ready for planting. My greenhouse is in a sorry state after the atrocious winter. All the glass needs cleaning, the frame needs to be tightened and all the pots have to be cleaned out in preparation for seedlings. I have a couple of bags of compost in my garage and will pop out to the garden centre (while it is still open) and buy whatever I need to plant during my enforced isolation! On this occasion I will actually have time to label every pot correctly and not have to play ‘guess the plant’ in 4-6-weeks time as normal! I also like to ‘potter’, which when translated means walk around the garden in a daydream planning your crop rotation. I only grow veg and herbs! If I could grow red wine and chocolate I could I believe, be completely self sufficient! Getting the garden in some kind of order will, depending on the size of your prison garden, wipe off another 4 or 5 days of your sentence. It’s flying by.
Whether you are a foody or not I suspect eating while self-isolated will be an important part of the day. After all, meal times are when we sit together and talk. This is important, whatever is happening in the ‘outside world’, as you need to be able to discuss with family how you feel. That’s what makes us human. While all those hoarders are eating all the pasta they denied others why not use this time to practice all those things that generally take too much time, like bread making, making proper stocks or baking? Learn some new recipes to use and impress friends post Coronavirus. How many meals can you make from one roast chicken, phesant or venison joint?
You might have already guessed I cannot stand DIY. I do however like gardening (for vegetables),but I absolutely love cooking. Thats not to say I’m a good cook but I find it totally immersive and when I produce something for family and friends that makes them happy, it makes me happy. Food affects our morale but, sadly, in others their morals. In the current climate I feel cool heads are needed not continuous sensational headlines. Surely we can wait at least an hour to see what is ‘breaking’, whatever that means.
Sorry, back to the real world. All of us, regardless of age will almost certainly be affected in some manner over the coming weeks. It is not a time to panic, but rather a time to plan. We can all isolate whether with family or maybe friends. Don’t fear it embrace it. None of us know how long this will last but I feel confident that my family will be able to eat well over this period with the basic foodstuffs I already have in my cupboards and without putting undue strain on food producers.
If you have 2 or 3 joints of meat, of whatever type, they will provide you with a minimum of three main meals for 2-3 people from each joint. A few bags of minced beef will give you the basis of several meals so make a large batch and freeze some. You can then eat them when you want.
What of tinned food? Well, 2-3 tins of tomatoes will marry nicely with the mince to help bulk out a meal or two. Tinned soups, beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, curry, coconut milk, tuna and sweet corn have all been lurking in my larder. Its time to use my imagination. I also have a couple bags of flour tempting me to make bread.
The fridge and freezer, whilst not big, do have a surprising amount of basic ingredients that will help make all sorts of repasts, and I can live with black tea and no chocolate for a while. It might even do me good.
Fresh food is where we are all going to struggle (apart from eggs in my case). That said, potatoes, and root vegetables stay good for 2 weeks. Other veg will begin to wilt after less than a week, so make a soup or a batch of meals using them and then put them in the fridge or freezer for future use. This could see the end of my pet hate ‘sell by’ date labels, alongside the plastic waterbottle (the best marketing tool of recent years). I know when I am thirsty and have learnt to find a tap to quench my thirst! For thousands of years we used our senses of sight, smell, touch instead of a sell by date. Could this be a reall benefit of isolating? I took some of my eggs into work sometime ago for a collegue. When asked a week later about the eggs he told me his wife threw them out because they did not have a sell by date stamped on them! He added that she would not do it again, he was right…..
So to finish, these uncertain times will I hope bring back the ‘buddy buddy’ system I learnt in the military. Lets look out for neighbours and people who might be vunerable. We are more than capable of spending a period of time on our own or just with our families. If you are not poorly, get outside (yard, garden or even a balcony) and do some exercise.
Eat well, keep the morale up and who knows maybe learn a new skill, like making your your own pasta! You never know, this period of social distancing and isolation may actually pull us all closer together.