How Are You?

Hi there and how are you all? It’s another Sunday, and another week has simply flown by. I thought these days in isolation would drag, but instead they are slipping by so fast it doesn’t seem possible it’s seven days since I last spoke to you. What have I been up to this week? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear I completely spring cleaned my lounge, thankfully – there were still mounds of pine needles behind the sofa and coffee table from our Christmas tree. I’d been meaning to get around to moving the furniture and clearing them up, but somehow, I never had the time. Well, now I have the time, so furniture was duly moved from one side of the room to the other, the carpet was thoroughly swept by hand and then shampooed. Once it was dry, I heaved the furniture back and did the other side.

I found a couple of old tins of Brasso at the back of the cleaning cupboard, with just enough left in them to clean the brass on my fireplace fenders – now this Miss F DID notice had been done, and that they were all “lovely and shiny” but she still refuses to see the difference in all the freshly shampooed carpets and rugs. It doesn’t matter. I saw the colour of the water that came off them, was properly ashamed of my slovenly housewife skills, and know how much cleaner and fresher they are. I also located a tube of Zeebo which still had a tiny amount left in it. For those of you who don’t know, Zeebo is a very old-fashioned product that you blacken your fire grates with. I had just enough to re-blacken the grate in the lounge fire. What with that, cleaning the brass fenders and sweeping my carpets by hand with a stiff bristled brush, I felt like a Victorian scullery maid.

I managed this week as well to get my repeat prescription of hayfever meds, which was a huge relief. I was down to my last two and trust me, you really don’t want to see me not on my meds, especially in the middle of high pollen season. Hayfever affects people in different ways. I don’t sneeze and, apart from a slight irritation, I barely feel it in my nose at all. No, it’s my eyes and to a lesser extent, my throat where I suffer the most. Without the meds (even with them on some particularly bad days) I have a dry, annoying tickle in the back of my throat that makes me cough, a lot. So, don’t want to be doing that in the middle of Waitrose on my weekly shopping trip! But worse is my eyes. This time of year, without the powerfully strong medication I’m on, my eyes are an oozy, swollen, itchy mess and I’m constantly worrying at them with my fingers. Again, not what you want to be doing at the moment.

I had picked up a month’s worth of pills just before we all went into lockdown, so I hadn’t needed to try and navigate the minefield that was getting a repeat prescription until now. Last time I was in town doing my essential shopping, I’d asked at Boots the Chemist if they could fill the prescription. No, they couldn’t, apparently my doctor had to. Try their website, they advised. I went onto my surgery website. No mention of the corona virus at all, other than to tell me to call the NHS helpline if I was concerned about anything. Okay. Thanks.

Then I found a tab labelled ordering online. Brilliant. I went to it. I needed a password and a log in name. Huh? Apparently, I had to be already registered to be able to order a repeat prescription online. Great. How do I get registered? Phone the surgery, the website helpfully informed me. I phoned the surgery. Got a very long-winded telephone message basically telling me not to waste their time but stay at home and either get better or die. And certainly, DO NOT waste valuable staff member’s time answering the phone about repeat prescriptions. They MUST be done online. I went back online, wondering if I’d missed something. Nope. I definitely had to be registered to use the online ordering service and the only way I can register is to call the surgery. I called again. Waited through the whole sermon again and then left a tentative and very apologetic message that I was very sorry I was disobeying orders, but that I really, really, needed my hayfever meds and unfortunately, wasn’t registered to order them online.

I then waited three days. Heard nothing. Had no idea what was going on. Had my desperate plea for drugs been heard by anyone? Had they all rolled their eyes in disgust at the inconsiderate sod wasting valuable staff time by phoning for a repeat prescription?

By this time, I’m completely out of meds so things are a bit desperate. I telephone again. This time I’m almost in tears when I leave my message. I’ve also spotted a couple of email addresses in the small print at the bottom of their website. One to general enquiries and one to the practice manager. Sod it, they both get an impassioned plea.

Finally, after about the sixth time of calling, someone in the dispensary answered the phone. Yes, they’d got my message. Yes, my meds were there waiting for me. And yes, I am now registered to order online. I jump in my car and drive around to the surgery. The carpark is deserted except for a large marquee thing that has been erected, with a rather terse notice on the side telling me NOT to park inside the tent unless I have an urgent, pre-arranged appointment with a doctor. I don’t park inside the tent.

I wander over to the surgery building. It’s all locked up but there’s a window open into the pharmacy with a very homemade barrier erected a good 2m between me and the open window through which, by standing on tiptoe, I can see the dark head of one of the dispensing clerks.

“Hello?”

The head turned and peered out at me suspiciously.

“Yes?”

“Umm, I’ve come to pick up my hayfever meds?”

“Name?”

“Julia Blake.”

“One moment.”

The head disappeared. A long few minutes later it was back.

“Address?”

I gave my address.

“Date of birth?”

I gave my date of birth.

“Very good. Now, catch!”

And she threw the packet of pills out of the window. Luckily, I caught them, but was relieved it wasn’t a bottle of cough syrup or something like that, because I know I would have butterfingered that onto the tarmac! But I have another’s months supply, thank heavens, and who knows what the situation will be like in a month’s time. Will we be out? Or will we be even tighter into lockdown due to all those idiots who refuse to take it seriously and keep insisting on having picnics on Brighton Beach? Either way, at least now I am registered and know the system for ordering a repeat prescription.

After last week’s blog where I mentioned the difficulties of finding flour, any flour, I had a fantastic isolation emergency rations pack left on our doorstep by the fabulous Nicky. She is my daughter’s godmother and an old friend of many years standing. This amazing human being had not only managed to find flour from somewhere – I suspect the Black Market, but maybe she has contacts in the mafia – but also a salted caramel and chocolate cake mix, a net of fresh lemons, bags for making ice cubes in and a beautiful bottle of strawberry and lime gin, which is hands down the nicest gin I’ve ever tried. Now, I know Nicky reads “A Little Bit of Blake” every week so I want to say a massive “thank you” to her. You are a star my love, and there will be a signed set of the first three books in the Blackwood Family Saga that are being released next month, ready for you when we meet up after this weird situation is over.

Along with the carpet shampooer, I’ve also had the loan of my dad’s stepladder for the past three weeks so have been doing all those “up high” jobs whilst I had it. The pergola roof has been patched up where the cat fell through it. My light fittings have been cleaned and bulbs replaced where necessary – we have thirteen-foot-high ceilings in our bedrooms, and it makes it a little hazardous doing anything ceiling connected. I’ve cobwebbed all the high up places, washed all the windows inside and taken down the curtains and washed them. We only have muslin hanging in the windows on the street side of the house, so I took those down, washed them and then re-hung them. Even Miss F noticed that they were now white and not the rather sickly yellow they’d been before. Luckily, it’s been a week of absolutely gorgeous weather here in the UK, so perfect for drying heavy things such as curtains and sofa covers.

I’m almost finished with the spring cleaning. One more push next week and it’ll be done. Monday I will make a start on the bathroom, and then it’s the turn of Miss F’s room. Initially very unenthusiastic about the whole notion, she’s now a bit more interested after we cleared a really high shelf in her room – the stepladder went back Saturday afternoon so all “high up” jobs had to be done by then – and she unearthed a lot of things she’d forgotten she had. She had several of those creepy ornamental dolls that her father had given her up on this shelf, and not only were they draped in thick cobwebs, but she’d decided she really didn’t want them looking at her anymore – which I completely understood. So down they came, had a good clean, and went into a spare suitcase under her bed. Her old childhood books all then moved up a couple of shelves, which left her with a spare shelf.

She was been buying a few bits and pieces for her accommodation at university before lockdown, so decided to keep them on this now empty shelf. There was also room for the pet carrier that Napoleon Tortoise goes into when his little house is being cleaned out, instead of it being on the floor. Miss F’s room isn’t the largest in the world, so any floor space we can clear for her is handy. Just these few little improvements to her room have made her keener to do the rest, so that’s what next week will be dedicated to – the bathroom and Miss F’s room. And then indoors will be done and the week after, weather allowing and if we’re still in lockdown, I will start painting the garden fences.

This will be a mammoth task and is not one I am looking forward to. Although I have quite a small garden, there is a lot of fence – a 20’ length at least down one side, a 15’ length down the other, plus several bits of trellis – all needing at least two coats of paint. The job is made harder by the fact the man who owns the house next door to me is a very unpleasant and unfriendly man. He has warned me that if any of my paint drips through to his side – ANY – I can expect a solicitor’s letter suing me for damages to his property. So that means I have to be really, really, careful and not overload my brush but have to paint practically dry, which takes twice the time. And I certainly can’t use a paint spray gun which would get the job done in hours, rather than the weeks it is going to take. Oh well, it needs to be done, so I might as well do it now when I have the time.

I am pleased at the amount I am getting done during this enforced time of being at home. I know a lot of people are complaining about being bored and stressed, and I would imagine it really depends on what kind of conditions you are isolated in and the company you are forced to keep. Cramped in a small flat with no outdoor space and small children that need to be either home-schooled or kept entertained 24/7, I can only imagine how difficult that must be. I am so aware and thankful how lucky I am that I am living in a lovely home, that is large enough for Miss F and I to lose each other in throughout the day. That we have a pretty and safe garden to get fresh air and exercise in, and that I’ve found enough projects in my home and garden to keep me occupied and happy. I’m also lucky that my daughter is 16, for the most part is self-sufficient and wants to be left alone to talk to her friends and play virtual games online with them during the day, but is still good company in the evening, when every night we sit down at 6pm to have dinner together then an evening of Netflix, films and chat – in front of a fire if the evening turns chilly. I know many are not so fortunate and my heart goes out to those trapped in frustrating, lonely or maybe even dangerous situations.

I know everyone is different and everyone reacts to stressful situations differently. But, and this is just me personally, I know if I simply sat on my backside all day, comfort eating and obsessively watching the news and worrying about what is happening in the world outside and the worst case scenarios of what might happen, then I would go a little bit crazy and I’d be depressed and probably piling on the pounds. I have accepted that there is absolutely nothing I can do about what is happening on the other side of my own front door, but, and it’s a very big but, I do have total control about what is happening on this side of it. So, I choose not to constantly be listening to the news and worrying. Instead, I have made a list of all those jobs I have been wanting to get done for years and I’m doing them! Okay, maybe it won’t make a blind bit of difference in the long run, but at the end of it all, I will have a totally ticked off to-do list and a sparkling clean house. Furthermore, will look back on isolation as a busy and productive time. Whereas all those stressy, sat on their arses doing nothing people, will look back on isolation as merely empty days full of wasted time and will have nothing to show for it. Again, this is only my personal belief, but I think my way is the healthier and saner option.

These are very strange times we are living in, and it seems odd to think that we are part of history in the making. That future generations will look back at this time and maybe even study it in school. I wonder what they will say about our behaviour. Did the human race react to the threat in a sane and sensible manner, doing the right thing not only for ourselves and our families, but also considering the needs of others and restricting our trips outside our homes? And yes, I am looking at you, all those people who crowd onto the beaches and into the parks.

As you know, by the time you read this it will be Sofa Sunday, the one day of the week I allow myself some time off to veg out. I go shopping first thing in the morning as I’ve found there are less people out at that time. I do a few essential chores. Then at midday we both stop whatever we’re doing, meet in the lounge and relax on the sofa with snacks and binge watch films. I chose first and over the past few weeks we’ve watched all of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, then Miss F chose and we’re now working our way through all of the Harry Potter films. Nothing else happens that Sunday except films and relaxing and pizza for tea. We both look forward to it all week and it’s fun, because it is a once a week treat, but if I did it all day and every day then it wouldn’t be fun, it would be boring.

Finally, the book fairs I had planned for later in the year have been cancelled so I have a few copies of some of my books left over. I’ve been selling them on social media so have less now than shown in the picture, but if anyone would like a paperback copy of either Chaining Daisy, The Forest or Eclairs for Tea then please let me know. I will of course sign them and include a bookmark with each purchase. The books are available at cost price plus postage and packaging. The price for Chaining Daisy and The Forest is £10 each and Eclairs for Tea are £6 each. Second class UK postage will be £3.50. Although I am prepared to post abroad, be aware that overseas postage is a lot higher. Payment is by PayPal, it’s on a first come, first served basis, and once they are gone, they are gone.

Right, it’s getting late on Saturday evening and there is laundry to bring in off the line and dinner to sort, I’m also out of things to tell you so will wrap it up for the week. Hope you will all join me again next week for “A Little Bit of Blake” but in the meantime,

Stay safe and stay well.

Julia Blake

2 thoughts on “How Are You?

  1. I enjoyed reading about your life, Julia. I’ve been pretty much doing the same, but my furniture moved and carpets washed several weeks ago when we first went into total lock down. Stay safe!

    Liked by 1 person

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