Sunday 28 March 2021

Brave cold world

 And tomorrow and tomorrow we six can mix in our gardens once more. Except this morning I wrapped up with scarf, beanie and parka just to go out to buy my Observer. It was near freezing!

All our heating went on - including the spare heaters in the hall and kitchen. Who’s going to mix in a six with a gin & tonic or Aperol spritz in their gardens in temperatures still close to 40 degrees?

The seedlings in my new greenhouse will have rotted before they get chance to emerge in to this brave cold world. I haven’t put the heater on in there for more than a few hours at a time and that’s clearly not enough in these late winter-like conditions. 

And in my case the socialising in a brave cold world will have to wait. I appear to be too busy: On Monday I will be socialising indoors with my surgeon. Yep I have an appointment in orthopaedics tomorrow. On Tuesday I’m doing a walk with a friend  on the canal towpath. Water is always relaxing. On Thursday Richard is socialising with his GP then the nurse and on Friday it’s shopping at the co-op and Carers Cafe. The cafe is a good mix of people and we chat and have a laugh. But we are allowed to do that during lockdown too. So that leaves only Wednesday when I can risk catching another kind of coronavirus by getting cold outside in our garden. I think not!

The weather forecast is looking better for early next week, hoorah. A mini heat wave. Until the short-lived sunshine fest gives way to more blasts of cold wind for Good Friday. ( Which reminds me - I must remember to buy Easter eggs.) 

The following week the only excitement in our household is having the window cleaner and a professional here for a post-winter deep clean. Perhaps, if temperatures allow, we can have a fish & chip supper outdoors again.

But the following week we have our rule of six at play in the garden for our 40th Wedding Anniversary. Our Ruby Wedding.

But even that will be so different from the celebrations we organised for my parents’ 40th. Dad, I recall, thought he was going to the garden centre to buy flowers for mum. And mum wasn’t sure what was happening. But we all ended up in my brother’s garden with my parents’ friends, neighbours and family. Looking back it took some effort but it was a lovely sunny September day. And dad was quite moved at the surprise we’d given him. The photographs tell us it was a grand day out.

Meanwhile for our Ruby wedding six of us will be wrapped up in scarfs and rugs on our patio eating a double-chocolate cake from M&S. And with a bit of luck Richard will join us. It is his wedding anniversary too but clinical depression can dampen any event. So not as much fun as my parents’ do but at least we have a few friends who want to share our day! 

The following weekend we are going away. Another friend is driving us to the seaside so that we can truly enjoy our Ruby Wedding. We have a regency sea-facing apartment booked. A few steps’ walk across the promenade from our front door and we are on the beach. Please let the sun shine as we enter our brave new, post-lockdown world.

( It’s too cold for me. After I’ve posted this I’m going to have to switch on the heating again. Brrrrr.) 

Wednesday 24 March 2021

Even the lovely Greta Scaachi

The miniseries ‘The Terror’ is not an easy watch, on several levels. But you can easily detect the Ridley Scott effect. From a purely practical stance, since ‘The Terror’ is set in 1874 in an arctic winter, light levels are very low. We witness marooned seamen in flickering candle light which illuminate their faces as they speak to camera. Which, as a viewer, means one has to concentrate! 

But when the hapless sailors are outside their ship, on pack ice, hunting the monster which is killing their shipmates it is hard to see the action. I’m sure it’s part of the design. Keep the viewer guessing about what lies beneath. But it’s not an easy watch seeing ‘Jaws’-like bits of limbs deposited on white-cum red impacted snow. Even worse the sight of a leaning body which is only leaning because the top half of the torso has been left to dangle over the side of the ship. Its legs are still in place on deck but hacked from the rest of its human remains by the said monster. The legs and torso are in two halves. No. Not an easy watch.

Enter, then, the beautiful Greta Scacchi. No, she isn’t freezing and being mauled to death by a giant polar bear with a strangely human face. She is at home, in Blighty, seeking news of her husband. The crew have been away in extremis for two winters. And naturally she wants to know her husband is well. She learns nothing. 

And we hear no more of her. Greta is merely acting a small part in a tv series about male Victorian adventurers. They are seeking a northwest passage - a passage through the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans through the Arctic. I understand China was the desired destination and a northwest passage there was sought. Greta is, as ever, good but underused.

When I first saw Greta Scacchi on screen she was a great beauty. But in some ways I am heartened when I see her in films or on the tv now. She is still a beauty. But even Greta Scacchi has become rotund. And, after weeks of lockdown#3 with no swimming pool open to me, I too have run up the pounds. Yes I’m gardening and walking but with a gammy knee I need a weight-supporting activity like swimming to keep me fit.

I try to diet, of course, but walking and swimming are my friends. Now my knee needs a partial replacement that essentially leaves swimming as my go-to exercise. No prizes for guessing that my weight has gone up over the course of the pandemic.

I well recall this time last year, when Italy’s covid death rate was soaring, one Italian journalist saying ‘You will get bored, you will put on weight’ meaning what would happen during lockdown in the UK. Covid had only just reached our shores at that point.

With the best will in the world - and I don’t have a lot of self-will when it comes to exercise - one is limited to local walks during lockdown. And when it’s cold outside there is little incentive to get active.

So here I am. Getting fatter not fitter. Even Greta Scacchi has put on weight. I’m sure she and I are not the only two to pile on the inches. She’s still good to look at. There’s still hope. But after a three-hour walk yesterday my knee has throbbed at times today. And I loved the walk along the canal in the March sunshine. 

I’ll just have to keep taking the painkillers...

Monday 8 March 2021

International Women’s Day

 It was no coincidence that ‘The Glorias’ was shown on Sky Cinema yesterday. The life, travels and travails of Gloria Steinem, from little girl through to footage of the real self protesting at Trump in 2016, was powerful and a joy to watch. 

It was not an easy early life, especially for the teenage Steinem. But she was a wanted child and was loved as a little girl. And it made me, the viewer, still feel the impossible is possible. A great film, directed by Julie Taymor who was behind ‘Frida’, which I recently rewatched. Strong women, all.

‘The Glorias’ is a non-sensational telling of Gloria’s writing and feminist-activist life. I was ahead of the curve. I read about it in the reviews as the one to watch in praise of International Women’s Day. But, after working in the garden, depositing gravel and bark and re-digging the veggie plot, I wanted an early afternoon Sunday treat. I didn’t get to the reviews until after I’d seen it. Richard was truly engaged, too. And it dovetails aspects of ‘Mrs America’ - where Rose Byrne plays Steinem. Steinem herself preferred the depictions of her in ‘The Glorias’. All credit to Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander and Julianne Moore who are Steinem at various stages of her hardworking life.

I was shocked, yes, truly, that as a woman in a man’s office she was considered to be the coffee provider for the male newspaper journalists. It shows I’m from the next generation along. Steinem is a pre-war baby. I was born almost a quarter of a century later. And no man, in the working environment, has asked me to make him coffee. Ever. So fuck off.

It is with thanks to Gloria, Ms, Rosie Boycott et al at Spare Rib and Dame Carmen Callil and others at Virago that women my age have read about the fight - and enjoyed the profits of those fights - to have choices over our working conditions and reproductive lives. I didn’t have to go through an abortion, as did Steinem and countless other activists in the 60s and 70s, because the pill was prescribed for me when I was in a long-term relationship. Easy. But only easy because others before me had made it so.

As a teacher I enjoyed equal pay from day one. And it is only now, now my husband is ill, that I cook for him every day. For forty years he was the chef in our household. 

A significant part of ‘The Glorias’ shows Steinem’s connections with Indian low caste women and their physical struggles with never-ending childbirth and brutality within marriage. Later she is a scribe for Native American women at a women’s convention and presides over one of their leaders’ ceremonies: This Native American speaker becomes a female chief of her tribe. Hoozah! Steinem is also part of a discussion group of Asian American women who felt their voices were not being heard. To say nothing of black African American women’s fights for equality.

Steinem didn’t shy away from being an advocate for these groups. In this way she is truly an international spokesperson for International Women’s Day.

‘The Glorias’ was so involving and, at 2 hours 20 minutes, a long watch; it deserves another viewing. When I’m not cooking or making coffee. 

I loved the way Steinem walked out of one of her jobs because she was asked to post some letters. As Bella Abzug said - she wore a hat so she would stand out and wouldn’t be mistaken for a clerical assistant. We owe these women. But the fight is not yet over.

Happy International Women’s Day. Take nothing for granted.