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.

O brave new world, that has such people in’t!

Terraforming – I thought it had been invented by Captain Kirk. There was this film, wasn’t there? And someone transforming some planet into some kind of Garden of Eden on steroids – playing God, in other words – bound to end in tears/flows of molten rock/sky turning purple with yellow streaks/massive explosions.

Unbeknown to all, you see, Spock was on the planet. He was kind of a baby in a space-capsule, lurking the undergrowth and the new planet accidentally got synched to his accelerated growth/ageing process. I’m not sure why it was accelerated, or how he came to be a baby in a space-capsule in the first place, but anyway, it was. And he was.

But it appears the idea of terraforming was around long before Star Trek. According to Wikipedia:

The concept of terraforming developed from both science fiction and actual science. The term was coined by Jack Williamson in a science-fiction story (Collision Orbit) published during 1942 in Astounding Science Fiction,[1] but the concept may pre-date this work.

If I was allowed to rebuild this planet from scratch, to suit myself, what would it be like?

it fits

 It Fits!! : Matt Friedman

I would prefer there to be almost no people in my Brave New World, but not absolutely no people. You need to be able to speak and listen every so often: that’s what keeps your brain alive. I learned that lesson from Mum, though she didn’t realise she was teaching it: partially and then completely deaf, as she got older she wouldn’t wear her hearing aids, even to make things easier for visitors; she would hide behind the curtains if anyone came to the door and would physically drag us away if we bumped into anybody we knew, or she had once known, in the street.

It’s a person’s choice to hide themselves away, of course, but there can be a high price to pay; a kind of Robinson Crusoe Syndrome. The brain gets scrambled without at least the minimum of conversation. Even the least sociable of us are designed or have evolved, mentally, for the interchange of ideas – we are at our best when firing off other people. It’s a bit like the internet, only with squidgy stuff rather than circuits.

That said, I’d be happy to live like the Giant Panda, shambling around in the forest and only getting together with others once a year for mating purposes and a bit of a chat. Or in my case just a bit of a chat. The only downside with pandas is apparently they have to poop forty times a day. Something to do with their diet.

I’d like to live in a wooden hut, with a veranda, and an old wooden rocking chair with a bit of a creak to it. Then when it rained I could sit in my rocking chair and rock, and look down into the forest, observing the raindrops dropping off those great, glossy leaves and a cool breeze causing the lianas to sway a little…

My Brave New World would be fitted with some sort of controls, within limits. So, if it had been raining for three weeks non-stop in your solitary rainforest and you could really do with a couple of days of pleasant sunlight streaming down through the canopy – there should be some sort of control panel – no doubt hidden in the ruins of some ancient Inca civilisation – where you could twiddle a few knobs or press a few buttons to arrange that. But one wouldn’t be permitted perpetual sunshine since this might interfere with the natural environment for all the other animals you were lucky enough to share your rainforest with.

It might be nice if the storm-clouds made music as they passed overhead – or maybe the planets themselves as they circled – something like the music of the spheres. That too would be turn-off-and-on-able. Silence should always be an option. Or maybe just birdsong – some ambient twittering.

What would your Brave New World be like?

tortoise

natural