Coleslaw shall not live on carrots alone

It’s all going a bit pear-shaped. Or rather carrot-shaped. I’m getting weekly Government food boxes at the moment, though they keep texting me to inform me that I have said I no longer require them – which I haven’t – and so they will no longer arrive – which they continue to do. I get them because I am shielding and have no other human being (sob!) that I could bring myself to ask to do supermarket shopping for me. The neighbours all have their own problems, and many of them are shielding too.

I am grateful for the food boxes, though possibly not for the reasons the Government imagines. I look forward to Fridays all week because that is the day when Something Happens. Throughout the rest of the week Nothing Happens.

The food box is one-size-fits-all, I suspect, ie I get enough for a family of three. Every week, 2kg of potatoes, plus rice, plus pasta. Well, I like potatoes, in moderation. Every week, a monster bag of carrots. I must admit, I don’t like carrots, but I have been doing my best, because the carrots are free, and waste not, want not. I made a couple of hot-pots every week, eating one third, freezing two thirds, eating another third…until I could not face even opening one  of the little plastic tubs. They gave me wind. This was because of the tin of baked beans that went into each.

I coincided with my neighbour at the bins. She is a little deaf but we mimed and shouted a kind of conversation whilst remaining socially distanced. “Make coleslaw with them,” she said, as if it was obvious. Well, she’s a school teacher and I’m not. I imagined grating that giant bag of carrots – enough grated carrot to fill a kitchen. And then what? No onion, no cabbage, no – anything you could make coleslaw out of. Coleslaw shall not live on carrots alone, as Jesus might have have said, had coleslaw existed in those days.

Also in my box – every week, more or less – a bottle of Lynx men’s shower gel – a black bottle with an impenetrable top and writing so tiny I couldn’t read it. Until I finally wrenched it open, I wasn’t even sure what it was. Something esoteric to do with shaving, perhaps. I’ve tried it out – it smells gruff and medical – the way you’d imagine a man would want to smell – but I’d rather smell of pine disinfectant than sweat. Shower gel every week (my sister suggested I open a shop) but no toothpaste. I suppose if I ran out I could use baking powder. You can use baking powder, can’t you?

Handfuls of teabags kind of scattered randomly throughout, each tea bag in it’s own little paper packet, so you have to undo them all, but then – what else would I be doing? It’s therapy.

Tomato soup and tinned tomatoes. Two tins of each, per week. Tomato pasta sauce, two jars of each, per week. Sadly, though I gather tomato soup is the most popular kind, I simply cannot force it into my mouth. I can get the spoon half way there, then the smell makes me retch. So much tomato. Tomato soup can be made palatable by putting it in a hot-pot. But I am all hot-potted out. Which reminds me of that rather lovely older Scottish chap in Primeval – that series about dinosaurs and monsters falling through a rift in time. Eventually he left the series and the reason he gave was that he was “All Oh-My-Godded Out”. Oh My God, it’s a miniature pterodactyl! – Oh My God, it’s a super-sized flesh-eating futuristic super-killer!” Etcetera.

Six oranges. I wish I liked oranges, because they’re so good for you. I like the taste, but not the dribbly, squelchy texture. I bought an old-fashioned lemon-squeezer on Ebay (that thing you impale the fruit on is called a reamer, did you know? Ex always used to be talking about reamers) and now I squeeze all six oranges and drink the juice, an Orange Vampire.

I could go on. I am grateful for the boxes, for as long as they continue to arrive. Like the curate’s egg, they are good in parts, and those parts that are not good are a great boon to my mental health, providing me with amusement when there is absolutely no other amusement to be had. I tell a lie – this morning I went out with the secateurs and cut back some of the brambles.

It occurred to me the other day that, given the Underlying Health Condition, etc etc, I cannot safely un-shield, ie emerge from lockdown, apart from my weekly engine-boosting circuit in the car, until there is a vaccine – and there might never be a vaccine. Even if there is a vaccine – I did the math – I keep forgetting how old I am – by the time there is one, and I can get my paws on it, I may well be seventy. I cannot imagine being seventy. I cannot imagine being under house arrest until I am seventy, though equipped to survive, after a fashion, being solitary by nature.

Some days it feels like the ending of “2001” – that bit where he goes through the whatever – all those tedious lights, some kind of wormhole – and ends up in an olive-and-other-shades-of-green mansion of incredible dullness, being studied by unseen aliens – or possibly not, who knows? – whilst growing older and older (and older and older) and eventually dying, whilst reaching out to that blasted monolith yet again! What was that all about? Does anybody know? Does anybody care any more?

And some days it feels like all my Christmases have come at once. Sitting out in the sun on my plastic garden chair, an unread paperback and a mug of bitter-tasting Government coffee on the pile of paving-stones beside me; looking down the garden at a lawn somebody else has just mown for me; looking at the ratty old roses, now visible where the brambles have been thinned out; listening to the birds – so many birds – and the silence, otherwise; imagining what the world would be like if entirely emptied of human beings, if I was the only one left…

At those moments I am mercifully thinking of nothing, at one with the sunshine, thankful and at peace. At last my torment is over. The outside world is leaving me alone.

7 thoughts on “Coleslaw shall not live on carrots alone

  1. Carrots here in Costa Rica being decidedly cheaper than spuds, Higher Authority used to keep buying vast quantities…coleslaw quickly loses any enthusiasm I could once have mustered for it…hotpots seem to go on for ever…the chicken curry with vast amounts of grated carrot cannot be eaten more than once a week…carrot soup with coriander coud do without reappearing too often….I draw the line at carrot cake…luckily I am now doing the shopping thanks to his health problems and the carrot mountain has receded…the rabbits are the only beings unhappy about this
    Having seen the boxes distributed here i am glad that we are not in receipt of same…rice, beans, sardines, soya oil….even carrots woud be preferable..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, that’s interesting – the carrot mountain transcends national barriers. I had assumed they must be cheapest because in season. I just long for something green – a small cabbage, a handful of runner beans…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Is it possible to trade the carrots and tomato soup with neighbors who might want it, in exchange for something you’re prefer to eat…or toothpaste? Yes, these are strange times and you’re right in that we have no idea when a vaccine will be developed. All we can hope is that this virus sort of drifts away, or at least becomes less prevalent. The lock-downs are hardest on the elderly (not you) and those with other health issues, (sadly, you. I’m glad you can enjoy the time in the garden and having someone take care of the outside projects for you, but hope you can get back to a more normal life soon. We really need to figure out a way to live with this, I think!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankfully I am not solely reliant on the weekly food box, as I can (now) also get some supplies online. Ideally bartering would be the answer, and I did ask my clever-clogs neighbour if she could use the carrots. A rather quick no, to that one.

      The difficulty when shielding is that you are not supposed to leave your house or interact face to face with others, so it would be difficulty to ask. Meeting my neighbour by the dustbins was a coincidence, and we made sure to stand apart from one another. I had to hunt down an awful lot of internet cat food and litter at the beginning, which cost a lot. The (useful part of the) food parcels means I can spend less on human food for a while.

      Fingers crossed for a vaccine, eventually. Linda


  3. I enjoyed reading this – you may not have intended it, but my “take away” is “watch what you wish for.”

    I know for a FACT you will never wish for carrots.

    I’d make steamed carrot pudding along with those spuds – but then you’d need raisins and flour and brown sugar and lard…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must admit, after a four or five week struggle to be sent “the letter” and subsequently the food boxes, I felt I had won a small victory. However, I didn’t quite see carrots and tomato soup as my prize. I think I may have solved the carrots. According to the internet the occasional finely-chopped carrot is regarded as a special treat by a pet rat. I have rats, and mice, at the bottom of my garden…

      Liked by 1 person

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